President's Report Masthead
March 31, 2013

History professor’s class appears on C-SPAN

Jonathan Cohen
History Professor Douglas Bradburn works out details with the C-SPAN film crew.

History Professor David Bradburn, who also serves as the History Department’s director of graduate studies, was featured at 8 p.m. March 2, on C-SPAN3’s American History TV. The “Lectures in History” series broadcast a talk on the development of colonial politics that Bradburn gave last November in his upper-level Politics and Society in Colonial America class. The lecture aired again four hours later and at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 3.
Bradburn was recommended to C-SPAN by fellow history professor Stephen Ortiz, who was featured on the series in November 2011.

“(C-SPAN) wanted something to do with colonial America, but not anything dealing with wars,” said Bradburn, who wrote the 2009 book The Citizen Revolution: Politics and the Creation of American Union, 1774-1804. “So I pitched a lecture on the making of American politics with an emphasis on the colonial period. It’s really about the fundamentals of political thought and political practice.”

In the 75-minute class, Bradburn took his students — and viewers — through the early 18th century, examining why Great Britain had political stability while colonial American politics were fractious and unsettled. This political development would   lay the foundation for the American Revolution.

Bradburn and the students then discussed “The Candidates,” Robert Munford’s 1770 comedic play about Virginia elections. The lecture continues with a look at New York politics in the 1730s, as historical figures such as William Cosby and Rip Van Dam (“not to be confused with Rip Van Winkle or the guy who kicks people,” Bradburn said jokingly to the class). The class ended with a discussion about the Zenger Trial, in which a printer was accused of libel after criticizing Cosby, New York’s colonial governor at the time.

“What you see is basically what I do in every class,” Bradburn said of the lecture-discussion format. “I want to take the students through the documents myself because I enjoy that. One of the exciting things about getting students engaged in history is having them read the texts from the past, struggle with their meanings, realize how different these people are from them and then try to articulate that in class itself.”

C-SPAN’s “Lectures in History” usually features a Q&A session from students at the end of a class, but Bradburn said he told network officials that he leads the discussions in his courses.

“C-SPAN said, ‘We just want you to do what you normally do,’” Bradburn said. “C-SPAN was great. They were easy to work with.”

Bradburn said he thought the class went well and that his students agreed with the assessment.