Free Online American History Courses

July 4, 2018
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Watch graduate-level American history courses on your own time and schedule

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History’s Self-Paced Course series offers graduate-level courses taught by eminent historians, available to watch or listen to at your own time and pace.

Courses in the series range from early American history through the end of the 20th century and feature some of the nation’s foremost American history scholars.

Each self-paced course includes

  • Digital labs, and pedagogy sessions
  • MP3 audio recordings of each lecture
  • Primary sources and readings that create a deeper understanding of the material
  • An online quiz to review your knowledge
  • A certificate of completion for the course. Gilder Lehrman can also send a letter verifying that you have completed 15 contact hours per course. (Note: if you are interested in graduate credit options, please visit our online course homepage.)

Amazing Grace: How Writers Helped End Slavery

James G. Basker examines the antislavery writers and reformers of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries whose passionate words formed the vanguard of a global movement. The course explores the poetry, fiction, sermons, slave narratives, and songs that helped end American slavery and make human rights an expectation of people throughout the world.

  • Lead Scholar: James G. Basker, Richard Gilder Professor of Literary History, Barnard College, Columbia University
  • Features: Six seminars, a roundtable discussion, four pedagogy sessions, seventeen guest lectures, and a course reader of 26 texts

The American Civil War

Allen C. Guelzo examines why the Civil War has had such a hold on the American imagination, as well as the ways in which the nation continues to wrestle with the issues the war left unresolved.

  • Lead Scholar: Allen C. Guelzo, Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era, Gettysburg College
  • Features: Seven seminars, a virtual tour of Gettysburg battlefield, four reading discussions, a primer on Civil War research, and a collection of 77 primary source documents


James Oakes explores the complex process of emancipation and the efforts of thousands of men and women struggling for freedom before and during the Civil War.

  • Lead Scholar: James Oakes, Distinguished Professor and Graduate School Humanities Professor at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
  • Features: Six seminars, four pedagogy sessions, dozens of key primary source documents

The Global Cold War

Jeremi Suri examines the origins, strategy, and consequences of the Cold War from a global perspective. Participants will explore the Cold War’s many complexities, twists, and turns and consider the latest scholarship interpreting what we now know—a generation after the fall of the Soviet Union.

  • Lead Scholar: Jeremi Suri, Mack Brown Distinguished Professor for Global Leadership, History, and Public Policy, University of Texas at Austin
  • Features: Six seminars, a panel discussion, three guest lectures, and three pedagogy sessions

The Kennedy Presidency

Barbara Perry examines why John F. Kennedy’s brief presidency continues to be the focus of scholars, educators, biographers, journalists, politicians, advertisers, students, and citizens of the nation and the world.

  • Lead Scholar: Barbara Perry, Senior Fellow and Co-Chair of the Miller Center’s Presidential Oral History Program at the University of Virginia
  • Features: Six seminars, three digital lab sessions, five guest lectures, and 10 virtual tours

The South in American History

The South has played a central role in American history from the first permanent English colony through the United States of today. Edward L. Ayers traces that role across four centuries, using video tours to interpret key places in the story.

  • Lead Scholar: Edward L. Ayers, Tucker-Boatwright Professor in the Humanities and President Emeritus, University of Richmond
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