20 November 2010 | andrew-lyall
Supeficially attractive, but the many flaws greatly outweigh the merits.
I declare an interest. I am British, so take what I say with a pinch of salt, or tea, if you like. The history is more like propaganda for an idea of American history than an assessment of it. For example, General Colin Powell makes the pint that African-Americans fought in the Revolution, on the side of the colonists. True. But it is also true that more of them fought on the British side and for a very good reason. It was clear that the British were moving towards abolishing the slave trade and slavery itself, after the Sommersett case, whereas the colonists were clearly going to keep slavery. In fact the theme of the series is the "story of freedom", or rather the American project to achieve freedom for all, based on individual character, hard work etc. But why did it remain a "project" for so long, rather than the reality? The slaves worked hard, but they didn't get the reward. And the US was the last country but one in the West to abolish slavery, the last being Brazil. The film is no doubt well-intentioned and believes in its own theme. But history is always more complicated than simple narratives can convey. The truth is that the colonists were more concerned with breaking out of the 13 colonies to move West, taking the Indians land in the process. The colonists had been confined to the 13 colonies by the royal decree of George III which declared all other land to be native title. And the southern states fought to preserve slavery. And why contributions from actors such as Michael Douglas? because he played the president in a film? Why not have professional historians, even disagreeing with each other? And it curious that more he positive points are not made: that in the nineteenth century the US was the most democratic country in the world?