“A classic from what now seems that the golden age of TV documentaries, Alistair Cooke’s America (United States: A Personal History of the United States) was first broadcast in 1972-3 and is, along with The current world war, an example of how documentaries should be.
There’s nothing flashy editing, shaky camera work, more intrusive music or costumed antics on the way Simon Schama demanding History of Britain, for example.
Here there is only a landscape, a map or picture pair and – most importantly – Cooke himself and unhurried speaking directly to camera.
1. The first impact is a personal memory of Cooke’s infatuation with the United States – through contacts from a child and as a visiting professor after college – and its effect on your life.
2. The Earth has found new follows the lives, settlements, and the influence of the Spanish in the west and the French in the east.
3. Home away from home is related to the colonization of America by the English dissenters and adventurers in the ages 16 and 17, the settlement of Jamestown to the Pilgrims.
4. Making a Revolution is in the War of Independence, the struggle for liberation from British control.
5. Inventing a Nation tells the forging of the nation through the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the great debate between the governments of individual states and national.
6. West has been the pioneer, Daniel Boone to the “forty-nine”, the expansion through the Louisiana Purchase, and the dispossession of Native Americans.
7. A Firebell at night talking about slavery and life in the southern states and events, causes and effects of the Civil War.
8. The domestication of a wilderness refers to the great push westward by settlers, including the Mormons, the journey from the mainland by rail, the myth of the cowboy, the domestication of land by local people and foreigners, and the conquest Native American final after many wars.
9. Money in the world refers to the rise and the effects of business and technology, playing Chicago, the reaper, Edison, oil, Rockefeller and Carnegie, and the moneyed classes.
10. The huddled masses covers the rise and influence of mass immigration in the ages 19 and 20, and the power of “melting pot”.
11. The promise fulfilled and the broken promise of life surveys, prosperity and politics in the 1920s, leading to the Great Depression and the rise of the New Deal.
12. Arsenal examines the rise of the reluctant United States to the world military power, the growth of the United Nations and the United States as a nuclear power.
13. The abundant life comes to the conclusion of the series looking at America in the 1960′s and early 1970, and the way in which they had departed from the original aims of the settlers, and their hope for the future.”