The Tapes: In these unforgettable “bootleg lectures,” taped by students in defiance of his strict instructions, legendary University of Wisconsin¬Madison professor Harvey Goldberg plunges his rapt student audiences into the struggles of their day, instilling them with an understanding that history is not a musty mélange of dates and facts but a call-to-arms for social change.
The Legend: Harvey Goldberg began his academic career as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the early 1940s and stayed on to pursue a Ph.D. in French history. He began his teaching career at Oberlin College and Ohio State University, but he returned to Madison in 1963. At Columbus and Madison, Goldberg captivated countless thousands of students with his spellbinding and politically powerful lectures. He quickly outgrew the moderately sized lecture hall he had been assigned and moved to the massive auditorium in Wisconsin’s venerable “Ag Hall,” where 600 students hung from the rafters in rapt attention to his orations. Becoming one of the most popular professors and public figures in Madison, Goldberg worked to instill in his students an awareness of the historical struggles by the weakest for justice and to engage the social issues of their day. Harvey Goldberg’s teaching profoundly affected the lives of a student generation, and though he passed away in 1987, his legacy lives on today in the struggles of his former students.
The Lectures: Harvey Goldberg’s lectures were meticulously crafted performances. In these lectures delivered mainly to his famed “Contemporary Societies” class, Goldberg applied the lessons of history to analysis of the contemporary world, ranging from Europe, across north Africa, to Asia and America. While they were based on the extensive research many scholars reserve for their published work, Professor Goldberg delivered them with an actor’s sense of timing and emphasis. For all the drama of his performances, we should not overlook the message Professor Goldberg offered in these lectures. He drew mesmerizing lessons about courage and commitment, risk and responsibility, and the role of individuals in effecting social change. For his students, Goldberg’s teaching would prove to be a transformative experience, stirring the minds and consciences of a generation.
The Disclaimer: These recordings may contain extraneous noises and inaudible passages that reflect the circumstances of their production by students in a cavernous auditorium and their storage for 30 years on unstable media. Recordings are digitally enhanced to improve audio quality but defects remain. Copyright © 2007 Harvey Goldberg Center and Harvey Goldberg Memorial Fund, Madison, Wis.