What a thrill to come home from our trip to Los Angeles to find a box from Norton & Norton waiting for me. Inside were the first books I have ever ordered for a college classroom. Up unto this point, my college teachings required that I teach certain tomes: most of which were too bland, heavy on the politics, and somewhat devoid of context.

But no longer.

I happily ordered Eric Foner’s Give Me Liberty for my History 17A course I am to teach at Yuba College beginning in March. I want my future students to obtain an ability to understand America’s founding and consequential growth within a global context. Eric Foner’s book was written with that goal in mind. I also want my students to understand the nature of the word “liberty,” to understand its many European roots, and how the American colonies took that libertarian heritage and morphed it into something altogether distinctive. The attraction to the British colonial system, including Canada and the Caribbean, operated on a different level than those of Britain’s competitors. Certainly, more immigrants arrived in the British colonies than those of the French or Spanish colonies. Did the English version of liberty have something to do with that? If so, how? Eric Foner’s book may help to answer this question. Foner concentrates on finding out whether it was “God, gold, or glory” that drove the curious forms of European freedoms which in turn led to the scouring, settling, and exploitation of the Americas.

Additionally, I also ordered the Frederick Douglass Narrative; the one from 1841. This Norton publication also comes with some mind provoking essays, and thankfully, from reviews by Douglass’ contemporaries as well as latter twentieth-century criticisms by historians under the influences of new schools of historicism.

Last, I’ll toss in some additional primary documents and attempt to steer the class to answering the following big question from Eric Foner: which of the three “G”s, “God, Gold, or Glory,” defined early colonial and then United States history, and why? (so open, I love it!) Linda Colley once offered a clue about eighteenth-century Great Britain; that is was driven by the ideals of one Protestant ruler, one legislature, and one “system of free trade.” Well, God and Gold certainly fits in there, so what do we make of the “glory” that Foner talks about? That’s the fun in studying history then, eh?

I’m sure as I formulate a syllabus, I’ll be adding to this blog. I’ll try writing more often… promise.

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