Five Turning Points in American History

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Duration 01:06:23

College of the Holy Cross

Edward O’Donnell is a professor of history at College of the Holy Cross. He is the author of several books, including Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age. He frequently contributes op-eds to publications like Newsweek and The Huffington Post, and has been featured on PBS, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and C-SPAN. O’Donnell also has curated several major museum exhibits on American history and appeared in several historical documentaries. He currently hosts a history podcast, “In the Past Lane.”

 

 

Overview

What Were the Turning Points in American History?

In the relatively short history of the United States, there have been many turning points and landmark movements that irrevocably altered the direction of the nation and signaled the dramatic start of a new historical reality. Some took the form of groundbreaking political and philosophical concepts; some were dramatic military victories and defeats. Still others were nationwide social and religious movements, or technological and scientific innovations.

What all of these turning points had in common, is that they forever changed the character of America. Sometimes the changes brought about by these events were obvious; sometimes they were more subtle. Sometimes the effects of these turning points were immediate; other times, their aftershocks reverberated for decades. Regardless, these great historical turning points demand to be understood

Turning Points in American History

  1. The first and most crucial turning point for the newly independent United States was the presidency of George Washington. His leadership unified the country and set the model for democratic executive leadership in the modern world.
  2. The Civil War posed the most profound threat to Washington’s vision, and it is the second great turning point in American history. The Union victory in the Civil War gave way to decades of uncertainty and corruption.
  3. The Progressive reforms in American domestic and foreign policy during the early twentieth century transformed the United States into a modern world power — our third turning point.
  4. The Great Depression, the Second World War, and the early Cold War — the great mid-twentieth century crises — were a fourth turning point, as profound as the Civil War in many ways.
  5. The lecture will close with reflections on 9/11/01 and the subsequent “War on Terror” as a fifth turning point in American history that conditions our current economy, society, and troublesome presidential election. Each of these historical turning points has important lessons to teach us about our future as a nation, and the precarious continuity of the American Dream.

You can purchase Five Turning Points That Changed American History by Edward O’Donnell here.

Learn More About the 5 Turning Points in American History

Learn more about the turning points in American history by visiting our online history lectures library. With new educational and entertaining history lectures every week, we’re constantly adding great history courses to our library. Listen to history and political courses online & on-demand, including courses in history, politics, & international relations, political theory courses, political psychology courses, and some of the best online history lectures from top professors in the country. Below are some recent additions as well as some student favorites, including 6000 Years Of Religion, American Democracy: Where Are We Now, & FDR & The Evolution Of An American Ideal.

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carolyn.atkinson

Turning Points

This lecturer was very interesting to listen to and really kept your attention. The turning points in history that he chose were fascinating. I wish that I could hear the rest of his turning points that he mentions that he did not have time for.

6 months ago
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