C-SPAN Comes to Campus

By Dave Maley, October 5, 2023
Public affairs TV network will broadcast professor’s lecture.

A classroom lecture on colonial American history will get a much broader audience when it is broadcast by C-SPAN. A crew from the public affairs network’s Lectures in History series visited the IC campus last month to tape a presentation by professor of history Michael Trotti.

The lecture will air on C-SPAN2’s American History TV on Saturday, Oct. 14, at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Time. In addition to the live broadcasts, the lecture will be available to view online at the C-SPAN website.

“The series lets people go back to school for one class, to be a fly on the wall so viewers can get that classroom experience for one day,” said American History TV Coordinating Producer John McArdle. He notes that there is no dearth of college professors in the Washington, D.C. area—where C-SPAN is based—who they can feature.

Lectures in History logo

“Michael came on my radar from his new book, ‘The End of Public Execution,’” said McArdle. “We’re always trying to find new faces and new places, and I saw that we had never been to Ithaca College before, so as we were formulating our series for the fall, I looked up his course and syllabus. I reached out to him to see if he was interested in having cameras in his classroom and if he had a good idea of what would be a good lecture to feature.”

Trotti’s teaching and research explore a range of issues in the American past—political, economic, and social—but he is particularly interested in pursuing the social implications of change. Once he agreed to the taping, Trotti tailored the syllabus for his Founding a Nation: U.S. History to 1877 course so it would fall on his lecture titled “Colonial Wars and Tensions,” in which he spends the first half of the class in the persona of a British citizen before switching to the perspective of a colonist.

“I chose this lecture for the C-SPAN taping because it is a particularly apt example of the way that people with different perspectives can look at the same events in entirely different ways,” said Trotti. “The British experienced the run-up to the Revolutionary War interpreting every event differently than did colonial folks, and exploring that is a very helpful way to talk about the complexity of history and perspective. Students find the British view both surprising to have laid out in front of them and more convincing than they are comfortable with.”

Professor of History Michael Trotti.

Professor of History Michael Trotti

Trotti acknowledges that he was a bit anxious to have cameras in his Friends Hall classroom.

“I have been teaching at IC for 24 years and teaching this particular topic since my first semester here in 1999—before our current students were born. I have a comfort level with a room of students and historical discussions. But I’ve never had cameras in the room like this before, and never had an audience looking on that could be most anyone. That is a strange experience.”

Despite his apprehension, Trotti was pleased with the response of his students.

“The students were great. They showed up, participated like it was a normal class, and altogether represented IC in a really nice way. If our teaching is getting plaudits in the press, it is in part due to the energy and hard work of our students.”

The Lectures in History aren’t limited to the television screen, as McArdle says they are also one of C-SPAN’s most popular podcasts.

“These are what people want in a podcast: someone well-versed on a topic, with a little back and forth and Q and A with the students, and it lasts about an hour—about a commuter-length drive. People get to learn something new each time.”