Eric Foner on the Civil War and Reconstruction Part One

Columbia University’s Dewitt Clinton Professor of History Eric Foner has a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) covering the Civil War and Reconstruction.  Professor Foner is not only an outstanding historian, but he’s also an outstanding lecturer.  Those who are looking for a great way to start studying the Civil War, or who are still in the beginning stages, will find this a most profitable way to spend your time in terms of the organization of information and the learning you’ll do.

Here’s the first part of the course.  There are 71 videos, most of them around 10 to 11 minutes long.

That’s followed by a “Hanging Out” session with Professor Foner taking questions.

There’s a conversation differentiating between slave societies and societies with slaves.

There’s a conversation on whether the Antebellum South was capitalist:

And a conversation about Karl Rove and Professor Foner’s books:

This is why he started the course with the Mexican War:

Next is a conversation on the agency of enslaved people:

And a discussion on the Lincoln-Douglas Debates:

As well as a discussion about John Brown:

And finally, a discussion about economic elites and political power:

There are also a couple of discussion sessions between Professor Foner and his teaching assistants:

Here’s Professor Foner giving the conclusion of the first part of the MOOC.

Thanks to Pat Young for the video conversations and discussions.



  1. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

    I took all three of the courses in the series and found them to very engaging. The difference between Foner and a younger professor is pretty clear. Both lecture, but Foner’s long history of studying and writing about the era has him speaking in a conversational manner whereas younger professors often are “lecturing.” The forums were some of the best I’ve seen in a MOOC as well. Foner and his assistants were active in them which was a refreshing change of pace from previous MOOCs I’ve taken.

    Those online forums are the heart and soul of any online course. When students engage in those, the class comes alive and synergy develops which transforms the level of learning. It was also nice to see Foner take down one particular student who tried pretty hard for all three courses to ridicule what Foner was saying. By the middle of the third course we were all ignoring the individual’s rants on Reconstruction. Some people just want a history that didn’t happen.

    I am always interested in who takes these MOOCs on various subjects. In the case of these courses, I wanted to see who would show up and try to complain about biased history, revisionist history, attacks on heritage, etc. That group pretty much did not make an appearance. Many were challenged and from what I can see only one accepted it. I think that is indicative of their mindset. There are those who want to learn history and those who refuse to learn at all.

    I for one was very happy that these courses were offered. The Reconstruction course was outstanding for me personally in that I needed to learn more about that particular event. Foner’s discussions with students were very good and his interviews were often the best part. I looked forward to each week’s lectures and even borrowed things from them for use in my own teaching.
    I was very happy with the actions of the class at the very end of the last lecture in the Reconstruction course. I won’t spoil it, but it was spot on.

    1. Thanks, Jimmy. I’m preparing the other two parts for posting as well. I do have a problem with Part 2 of the course, which I’ll talk about in that post, but I agree that the MOOC was pretty well done.

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