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Through the HistoryThroughArt program, you’ll learn to see history in a new way by combining the abstract lessons of history with the visual power of art!

Aren’t you tired of history books that bombard you with too many facts? Having trouble seeing the “big picture”? Are you convinced that understanding history is just not something you can do as an adult? If you’re like me, you had a terrible history education. (Who among us actually liked history in high school? Who among us learned anything of value?!)

After graduating from college, I started to really learn history for myself. I had to…I was teaching it! I already had a love of art as well, and these two passions slowly came together. For the past three years, I’ve been using art to enjoy history even more and to help my homeschooling students across the country better understand history as part of the HistoryAtOurHouse curriculum.

The verdict is in. Students and parents agree: it’s awesome! Art really helps bring the past to life. In fact, it has worked so well, I decided to pass on the the unique benefits of this program to adults.

Why learn history through art?
History is about the past. As obvious as that is, to recognize this simple fact helps us to understand why history can be so difficult to learn. There’s no way to experience history directly. The only way to learn about the past is to read about it. As engaging as some writers can be, it still takes a ton of reading to piece together the story of the past. Even if you’re willing to make that effort, and even if you are able to assimilate all of history’s stories, what you’re left with in the end is a lot of abstract information that isn’t easy to connect to your life here and now.

That’s where art can help.

Art has the ability to show us the past in visual form. Simply put, art lets us see history. In some ways, art can function much like photography and film do today. But art can also do so much more than document history. As we’ll see throughout this course, art can represent much more than just a moment in time. It can depict the meaning of history.


This is where the power of art can transform our awareness of history. The value of history lies not in its myriad facts, but in their meaning. In most instances, however, the meaning of events is the most difficult thing to grasp of all. After you’ve performed the research, you still need to do a lot of difficult thinking. Although there are no short cuts or “quick fixes” when it comes to this challenge, there are tools for facilitating the process. Art is one such tool. Through art we can see history’s meaning.

It’s a cliche, but it’s true: a picture really is worth a thousand words! In fact, when it comes to history, a picture–if it’s a great work of art–might be worth a lot more than that!

Program Details
History Through Art for Adults will operate in the same way as A First History for AdultsTM.


  • The program will operate on a three-year rotation: Ancient, European, and American history.
    • This year, the program will focus on European history.

    • Students will have two options for attending: live lectures, via conference-call and/or on-line recordings.

    • The program will run from September to June, with two seminars per month.

    • That’s 20 lectures in all!

    • Classes start September 2nd!
      • Each interactive seminar will last 1 hour to 1.5 hours.
      • Students will receive images and links via a dedicated class web page.
    • Live classes will be held Wednesday evenings at 8:30 PM Central Time (9:30 PM Eastern, 6:30 PM Pacific), usually on the first and third Wednesday of the month.

    • All lectures will be recorded and made available indefinitely for listeners to download for repeat listening.


    In every lecture, you’ll get an essentialized history lesson to help you learn the story or recapture the context. Then we will examine works of art that help us visualize the characters and events–and that help us grasp and retain the meaning of the story. Every lesson will combine the power of history and art!



    Can’t attend Wednesday nights?

      • You can listen to the lectures on-line, anytime.
      • Lectures can easily be downloaded to an iPod or other portable player.
      • You can listen as many times as you like.
    • Like A First History for AdultsTM classes, History Through Art for Adults classes are recorded.


    Program Cost

    History Through Art for Adults is available for only $20/month!

    • That’s less than the price of a movie per lecture! (And it’s better art!)


    Want to try it, before you buy the whole course?

    • Click here, and select a single month of lectures.



    The HistoryThroughArt program has been one of the most successful components of the HistoryAtOurHouse homeschooling curriculum of Powell History.  Combined with the unique pedagogical methods of A First History for AdultsTM, I’m certain that you will be amazed by how much you enjoy learning history!  Explore your registration options here.
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    Hurricane Ike can’t keep a good history program down!

    The Ancient History webpage for Powell History’s fourth installment of A First History for AdultsTM is finally up!

    Classes start October 8th!

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    The biggest problem with most history classes is that they are simply boring (as anyone who took history in high school can attest). Out of those that manage to be engaging or at least entertaining, the biggest problem is that you, the student, don’t retain the material you have learned: you may remember a few individual facts, but not the material as a sum. These classes are little better than storytime.

    Powell History solves both problems, easily putting it in the top 1% of history lectures or writing I have ever encountered.

    First, the lectures are engaging. Scott tells history for what it is: a grand, dramatic narrative, an epic tale literally about the fate of the entire world. He carefully chooses the characters and events to focus on, and explains the causal connections, the link from one event to another.

    Scott shows you the connections between the people, places, and events of history–not only the causal connections in a sequence of events, but also, through his patented “periodizations”, the connections between events in a period, such as the Reformation, the American colonial wars, or the growth of the union in the period before the Civil War. The result is that each period becomes a meaningful mental unit and a means by which the student can remember history.

    One of the great virtues of Scott’s periodizations is that they are hierarchical. There are only so many dates you can put in a period–say, the Age of Discovery–before you start forgetting them. Scott solves this problem the only way it can be solved: by organizing events in a logical hierarchy. Thus, the student learns to put a series of dates of individual voyages together under the heading “the circumnavigation of Africa”; another series of dates under “the discovery of America”, another set under “the circumnavigation of the globe”, etc. Then, only a handful of subheadings like this go to make up the higher-level integration of “The Age of Discovery”. Taking this a step further, the Age of Discovery can be combined with other periodizations at the same level–the Copernican Revolution in science, the Italian Renaissance in art, the Elizabethan Renaissance in literature, and others–to form the grand heading of the Renaissance, a historical “abstraction from abstractions.” In this way, Scott renders history intelligible and retainable.

    This is why, when I took the first session of Powell History, I felt that I was learning history for the first time, despite all my previous study of it. I now know, for instance, the significance of 1066, the meaning of the Reformation, and the content of the Monroe Doctrine. (If you took history in an American school, you probably recognize all of those words–and know none of the content behind them.) I also know the challenges faced by the Founding Fathers to keep the nation together even after they had won the Revolutionary War, thanks to Scott’s explanation of the “Critical Period.” I understand the impossible compromises made in the decades leading up to the Civil War, and why they were futile. I know what made the Roaring Twenties roar.

    In brief, I’m thrilled with Scott’s courses. They are what I have been seeking ever since high school: a way not just to hear about history from someone else who knows it, but to learn it for myself.

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    In preparation for my upcoming Powell History course, the Islamist Entanglement (coming February 2008!), I’ve decided to create a blog series on relations between the West and the Middle East, entitled “Milestones.”  It will be a weekly feature on PHR, providing historical insight into the modern-day situation in which America now finds itself entangled.

    The first of the Milestones I’d like to present extends back to 1204 and the Crusades. Although one could easily go as far back as c.500 BC to find relevant material on the subject of East-West relations (that date marks the beginning of the Ionian Revolt which brought Greece into conflict with the Persian Empire), I’ll confine myself to the more modern period, in which European civilization began to assert itself with a new level of confidence and large segments of its population first ventured from that continent.

    The Crusades are a famous example of the violent conflict that characterizes the interface between Western civilization and the Middle East throughout history. In that series of religious wars stretching from 1095 to 1291, the powers of Western and Central Europe, then the most progressive elements in Western civilization, attempted to claim the Holy Land for Christianity.  This is, of course, the basic storyline that most people are familiar with.

    An episode from the Crusades from 1204 that I suspect most people don’t know about, however, demonstrates another long-running, trend in East-West relations, namely “West-West” backstabbing.  Too often in the history of Western civilization, its own leading representatives have demonstrated a disturbing and tragic failure to grasp the unique virtues of their own Civilization, to see the fundamental values they share, and defend them.  Instead they have acted to secure short-range benefits, usually at each other’s expense.

    In 1204, this is exactly what happened.  The Venetians, upon whom the Crusaders were relying for passage to the Holy Land, refused transport to the Western army because the Crusaders could not meet their price.  Then, finding a convenient excuse in a contested succession at Constantinople, they convinced the knights to take the city on behalf on one the claimants, and by this means derive their desired profit.

    The result was the sack of Constantinople, not by the Muslims, but by the Christians. The astounding outcome is related by historian Speros Vryonis:

    The Latin soldiery subjected the greatest city in Europe to an indescribable sack. For three days they murdered, raped, looted and destroyed on a scale which even the ancient Vandals and Goths would have found unbelievable…The Greeks were convinced that even the Turks, had they taken the city, would not have been as cruel as the Latin Christians. The defeat of Byzantium, already in a state of decline, accelerated political degeneration so that the Byzantines eventually became an easy prey to the Turks. The Crusading movement thus resulted, ultimately, in the victory of Islam, a result which was of course the exact opposite of its original intention.

    Of course, no American army has sacked, say, Paris on the way to Baghdad in the modern era, and yet the same kind of antagonism between Western powers that was prevalent during the Crusades continues to handicap the West in its relations with the Middle East. France, for instance, is a notorious provider of technology–including weapons and nuclear technology–to the Middle East.  All the European powers provide moral sanction to America’s enemies through diplomatic channels.  And, in perhaps the most telling parallel, the United States has attacked Iraq instead of Iran, its most heinous enemy. The big picture, it seems, continues to elude Westerners.

    Looking back on the Fourth Crusade, one can, however, find one bright light.  It is the individual effort of a western scholar named Willem van Moerbeke who later made his way to the Latin Kingdom at Constantinople, and undertook the translation of the works of Aristotle from Greek to Latin on behalf of Thomas Aquinas. (It’s amazing and heartening to see how in every dark phase of history, one can always spot a flame!)

    Interested in the Crusades?  Powell History offers a 20-lecture introductory program on the  “History of Europe” (now available!).

    Interested in the “Islamist Entanglement”.  Learn more here, and sign up for the …

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