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Alistair Cooke’s America

A Personal History of the United States is a 13-part television series about the United States and its history, commissioned by the BBC and made in partnership with Time-Life Films.

It was written and presented by Alistair Cooke, and first broadcast in both the United Kingdom and the United States in 1972.

The producer was Michael Gill, who had the idea for the series and chose the presenter.

It was followed by a book, Alistair Cooke’s America, which sold almost two million copies.

The series was a great success in both countries and won a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA.

It also resulted in Cooke’s invitation to address the joint Houses of the United States Congress as part of the Bicentennial celebrations.

Cooke said that, of all his work, America was what he was most proud of;

it is the result and expression of his long love for the country.

(Once, asked how long it took him to make the series, Cooke replied “I do not want to be coy, but it took 40 years.”)

This certainly seems like a personal history and one very much from the perspective of the early 1970s.

The New Found Land begins by asking who was the first white person to set foot in America.

Other parts are focused on the problems with the welfare state.

This is not quite what we emphasize in American history today, but it was an important precursor to important documentaries, such as Ken Burns’ The Civil War.


Part 1: The new found land

Part 2: Home away from home

Part 3: Making a revolution

Part 4: Inventing a nation

Part 5: Gone west

Part 6: A firebell in the night

Part 7: Domesticating a wilderness

Part 8: Money on the land

Part 9: The huddled masses

Part 10: The promise fulfilled and the promise broken

Part 11: The arsenal

Part 12: The first impact

Part 13: More abundant life


See BBC Promotional page for Region 2 DVD set.

Nick Clarke Obituary: Alistair Cooke, The Guardian, 31 March 2004



“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence;

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The shift from manual workers
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TO knowledge workers
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profoundly challenges social structure


Managing Oneself (PDF) is a REVOLUTION in human affairs.” …

“It also requires an almost 180-degree change in the knowledge workers’ thoughts and actions from what most of us—even of the younger generation—still take for granted as the way to think and the way to act.” …

… “Managing Oneself is based on the very opposite realities:
Workers are likely to outlive organizations (and therefore, employers can’t be depended on for designing your life),

and the knowledge worker has mobility.” ← in a context



More than anything else,

the individual
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“Making a living is no longer enough
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It may be a step forward to actively reject something (rather than just passively ignoring) and then working out a plan for coping with what you’ve rejected.

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