Monday, February 9, 2015

How Radical Change Occurs: An Interview With Historian Eric Foner

For thirty years, Professor Eric Foner has been teaching his popular Civil War and Reconstruction history class to undergraduates at Columbia University. Foner has written seminal books in the field, including Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, on the ideology of the Republican Party before the war, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, the definitive study of that time period, and The Fiery Trial, about President Lincoln and slavery. The themes running through his work—race in America, the influence of radicals on history, and economic oppression as a force of white supremacy—have never felt more relevant.

He is also an amazing lecturer. I know this because I've been following the class via a massive open online course (MOOC). Foner wanted to document his last time teaching the course, and he's teamed with edX to present it as three online classes. The first, The Coming of the Civil War, is over and available on Youtube. The second, on the Civil War, recently concluded, and the third, on Reconstruction, starts at the end of February. All three will be available on iTunes afterward for posterity.

I sat down to talk with Foner about what it's like to teach the Civil War and what his experiences with working online have been like.


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