Online Courses 1-18 Weeks in Slender Threads of History, Civics, Comparing Cultures, and Alternate Paths

Commit to lifelong learning of global history and culture with these big picture retrospectives. These posts are an antidote to the “tyranny of now” — a cultural obsession with learning the latest news, much of it trivial, while completely at a loss in sorting the significant from the insignificant, essence from the trivial and peripheral, historical perspective from simple distraction.

This blog attempts to capture at least part of the explosion of online resources on historical topics, especially the fire hose of videos now available on and other streaming services.

Students will ponder the great issues and trends of history and “civilization” as well as the role of the individual,  answering “what if” and comparative questions. They will also identify turning points of change.

Become A Historian

Quotes from History to Reflect Upon

Authors Explain Philosophies of History

‘History Grounds Us’ + 20 Lessons on Tyranny

Why Study American History?

Overview of the Course of History, Particularly American History

Collective Action By Average People Can Change History As Much As Strong Leaders

Video Lectures and Well-written Text

I draw on 80 Crash Course Youtube lectures on World History, 40 on American History, 40 on European History, 30 on Philosophy; a critically acclaimed one-volume history of America by Jill Lepore called “These Truths“; the lectures and interviews of popular historians H.W. Brands and Jon Meacham that are posted on, more than 20 “What If” books by prominent historians, dozens of movies, documentaries, books, articles, essays, multiple textbooks, teacher powerpoints, worksheets, handouts and quizzes, and have created many original materials myself.

I also draw on my own travels to more than 40 countries, living and teaching abroad for eight years.

Testimonials from Readers.

Perhaps you took American or world history years, even decades ago. Believe it or not, history has changed, or our perspectives have changed on it. My friend who scored a perfect score on a national history exam in 1969 thought he knew history down pat until I introduced some of the elements of this course. He is learning new perspectives.

Work requirements for online courses: read about 10 articles, take one comprehension quiz; answer two thought questions; and participate in online discussions with at least two posts or engagements per week to receive credit for each section. Students can work at their own pace, at home. These lessons are designed to take an estimated five hours in a week, so that students who are working full-time or have many other responsibilities and distractions can learn as they go, by setting aside five hours today or this week.

To come: Exploring topics in more depth by watching movies, TV series, reading books, taking comprehension quizzes and participating in online discussions and producing commentary. These activities may take an additional 10 to 40 hours in a month for which there will be additional course credit.

About the Tests…

My general belief is that online tests of historical facts, graded automatically,  can cover the basic material through multiple choice, true-false, matching, and fill in the blank quizzes. Essay and “thought” questions must be graded by a real person, an instructor. I also believe students should take notes, routinely answer questions in warm-up exercises, and engage in other thought-provoking exercises to be graded.

But when it comes down to the universal student question, “Will this be on the test??” I love the answer given by John Green of Crash Course:

“Yeah, about the test…The test will measure whether you are an informed, engaged, and productive citizen of the world, and it will take place in schools and bars and hospitals and dorm rooms and in places of worship. You will be tested on first dates, in job interviews, while watching football, and while scrolling through your Twitter feed. The test will judge your ability to think about things other than celebrity marriages, whether you’ll be easily persuaded by empty political rhetoric, and whether you’ll be able to place your life and your community in a broader context. The test will last your entire life, and it will be comprised of the millions of decisions that, when taken together, will make your life yours. And everything, everything, will be on it.”


Part I. Introduction and overview of the trend in identifying “slender threads” of history and culture, turning points, alternate history, counterfactuals. 1. Why I fell in love with this topic. Quiz and discussion. 2. Introduction to the trend and growing genre. Quiz and discussion. 3. Philosophical underpinnings for study. Quiz and discussion. 4. Authors,  historians, videographers and filmmakers explain perspectives. Quiz and discussion.  5. Not just perspectives of dead white men of European descent. What if history is not just written by winners? Alternate histories about indigenous peoples. Black history. Women’s history. Agreeing on a shared past is still important.

For Educators: 6. Lessons, units, and activities for students; quizzes and tests.

Part II. Compare, contrast national histories and cultures of the world based on travels and readings.

1. Comparative questions can make history, politics, cultural studies come alive.

2. Studying history and the alternatives: Cure for hyper-partisanship?

3. Religion is one of society’s foundations, yet religious history was fragile. What if… 

4. 1860 to Present: Comparing Russian and American History.

5. 1700-2010 Comparing, Contrasting South African and US History

6. 2500 BC to Today: Comparing, Contrasting Ancient and Modern Empires

10. Critical Thinking Questions About Wars in American History

11. Search for Your Modern Tribe

12. Comparing American History to French and South American History

13.Sectionalism, Secession Remain Worldwide Phenomena; US Lucky It Doesn’t Have More Conflict

14. Why History and Culture Are Relevant to Teenagers

15. Contrasting Labor Movements in US, England, Europe, Australia

Part III.. Mini-courses can be divided up into new perspectives on

African History

Alternate Histories: Military; War

| American Independence

| American Political Parties and Partisanship | American Civil War

| Abolitionists |

Asian History

Biographies: Churchill | Hitler | Lincoln | Kennedys | Roosevelts | Truman | Wright Brothers |

Black History

Civics| Christian History |

Cold War

Centuries: BC to 1400s | 1500s | 1600s | 1700s | 1800s | 1900s

| Colonialism |

Decades: 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s

Divine Providence, Destiny and Chaos Theory



European History

| Historians & Methodology: Gingrich, Lepore

| Inventions

| Labor History

| Latin America

| Media

Middle East



Political Philosophers

| Religious History

| Student Activities | Teaching Social Studies

Turkish/Ottoman Empire

US Founders

| World War I

| World War II

| Women’s History

Part IV. Creation of the contemporary world, 1944 to Present. The “slender threads” of contemporary history that make us who we are, along with historical alternatives and possibilities.

1. 1940s: Nazis Win WWII; FDR Is Limited to Two Terms; Republicans Do Not Over-ride FDR Veto of Social Security; Socialist Henry Wallace Becomes President in 1945; No Cold War; No Marshall Plan; Cataclysm in Berlin; Chinese Nationalists Beat Communists, Become Western Ally. India-Pakistan Is Not Partitioned; Truman Backs Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam; Golda Meir Fails to Raise $50 Million for Israel;  Truman Doesn’t Back Israeli State; Arabs Win 1948 War.

2. 1950s: Korea is Nuked; North Vietnamese Successfully Invade and Occupy South; Gen. MacArthur and Senator Joe McCarthy Topple Truman and Establish Military Dictatorship in US;; JFK Defeated in Massachusetts Senate Race; No Cold War; No Space or Arms Race; Ike Dies from Heart Attack, Nixon Becomes President in 1957.

3. 1940s – 1960s. If the Civil Rights Movement Failed…

4. 1940s-70s: Wars in Vietnam: US Backs Ho Chi Minh Against the French; US Withdraws in 1965; Communists Take Over by 1968 or 1970; US Nukes North Vietnam; US Salvages South Vietnam, Establishes Korea-like Peace.

5. 1960s: Nixon Wins 1960 Election; Racial War; No JFK Assassination: Mandela as South Africa’s Martin Luther King;; Nuclear Catastrophe in Goldsboro, NC; Cuban Missile Crisis Cataclysm; JFK Impeached; LBJ Jailed for Corruption; Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy Live; RFK Wins; Progressive Era Into 1970s; Moon Landing Fails.

6. 1970s: No Chappaquiddick, or Jail for Teddy; No Watergate; No Fox News; Reagan or Ford Win 1976 Election; Cartercare Instead of Obamacare; No Iranian Hostages; Inflation Whipped.

7. 1980s: Reagan Assassinated; Hillary Divorces Bill, Establishes Independent Political Career; President Gary Hart.

8. 1990s: Cold War Doesn’t End; No Gulf War; Clinton Out, Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

9. 2000s: President Gore, No 9/11; No Iraq War, No Obama.

10. 2010s: Presidents Romney and Hillary; Different Supreme Court Decisions; Trump Runs As Democrat; Russian Cyber-warfare Thwarted. 

11. 1940s to present: Cold Wars Old and New.

12. 1900 to Present: Middle East and Turkey.

13. 2010-2020: Could the Arab Spring in Egypt and Gulf States, Gulen Movement in Turkey Have Been Successful?

Part V. Ancient to modern history, BC to 1945. Identifying the sparks that ignited the conflicts,  invasions, insurrections, battles, wars, migrations, revolutions, technology, disasters, cultural assimilation and annihilation that make us and the nations that shaped us, who we are, along with historical alternatives and possibilities.

1. BC: 2000+ Years Ago and Its Relevance to Today.

2. 0 to 500 AD: Ancient Empires. 9 Short What If Videos

3. 500 A.D to 1400 A.D. Dark Ages or Early Middle Ages. 7 Videos, 3 Essays, 30 Questions

4. 800-1600 North American What If’s

5. 1500s: Protestant Reformation, Spanish in North America. The defeat of the Spanish Armada. What If Questions

Part VI.  American history, 1600 to 1945. The “slender threads” of American history that made us who we became up until the 20th century, along with historical alternatives and possibilities.

1. North America: 1600 to 1900. What if Mayflower never set sail? Europeans never colonized America? Indian Wars were averted? George Washington was shot dead early in the struggle for independence, as he easily could have been? GW agreed to become king? Revolutionaries were persuaded to stay part of England? Independence was avoided? Frontiersmen died, failed, did not conquer the wilderness. Britain won War of 1812. Monroe Doctrine was never adopted. American Indians won wars against Europeans. Mexico became a world power in the 1800s. Texas became part of Mexico or an independent nation. Industrial revolution never happened.

2. 1776 to the Present: Social Movements, Evolutions, Revolutions. Leaders as Gamblers.

3. 1824 Election: What If ‘Corrupt Bargain’ Was Not Struck?

4. Civil War. Prelude and Postlude. Avoidable? 1830 to 1900. What if Lincoln hadn’t died? Reconstruction: what if it hadn’t failed? What if Promise of Reparations for Slavery — 40 Acres and a Mule — Was Kept?

5. Bicentennial of Birth of Frederick Douglass Inspires Books, Alternate Histories

6. Gingrich: US Civil War ‘What If’s

7. Progressive Era 1900-1920. Could It Have Been Repressed?

8. 1900-1940 American What If’s, Not Including World Wars or International Events.

9. 1880s to 1920: Prelude to World War I. By No Means Was It Inevitable.

10. 1920s-1930s: Prelude to Apocalypse of WWII.

1940s: Defeats and Ultimate Victories Not Inevitable.

Part VIII. European. Asian. African. South American. Middle Eastern. Turkish history.

Part IX. Turning Points in History. This is a more conventional approach to studying history than asking plausibly “what if” things had happened differently. But identifying a “turning point” depends entirely on today’s perspective and how closely one zooms in or out. During the Cold War, the Russian Revolution of 1917 may have looked like one of the most important turning points in world history. Today, not so much.

Turning Points in History: Perspective is Key.

a. Turning Points in American History. How one thing led to another. Building blocks. Causality. 1930s to Present. 1600 to 1900.

b. Turning Points in World History. How one thing led to another. Building blocks. Causality. Age of Exploration by Land –> Migration –>Tribes/Nomads/Empires –>  Age of Exploration  by Sea–> 1st Globalization –> Colonialism –> European Competition for the Americas and Africa –> New Empires –>2nd Globalization —>Competition –>World Wars –>Independence Movements –> Bipolar World/Cold War –> American Economic Predominance –> 3rd Globalization –> Modernity and Backlashes of Terrorism and Nationalism. 1945 to Present: Cold Wars, Old and New. 

Turning Points in

  1. Christian History.
  2. Jewish History.
  3. Islamic History.
  4. European History.

This site now consists of more than 1300  posts on world history and comparative cultures, with links to popular movies that help illuminate the study of a particular era. Subscriptions to Amazon Prime and Netflix are not included but may be necessary for easy access to films. Online rentals may also be available from,,, HBO Now, PBS Passport, or other streaming services.

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