Red Dead Redemption Is Being Used To Teach A College American History Class

The class is one of the first of its kind, running at the University of Tennessee in the fall.


History professor Tore Olsson is combining his love for history and his love for games in a new history class at the University of Tennessee titled "HIUS 383: Red Dead America." The class will use both Red Dead Redemption and its sequel as jumping off points to explore the 1899-1911 period of American history.

In a Twitter thread explaining what the class's syllabus will cover, Olsson admits that, taken alone, the games are "often historically inaccurate," but still provide good jumping off points for the discussion of numerous historical issues including colonialism, racism, and the rise of monopoly capitalism.

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Olsson has credited fellow historian Jonathan S. Jones for inspiring him to develop the class, after Jones wrote a feature for Slate examining how Red Dead Redemption 2 depicts and lets players interact with the U.S.'s racist past.

Olsson says that the course won't require owning the game on PC or console, though it will assume that most of the students will have played the game before. In a subsequent tweet, he explains that he hopes the unorthodox handling of history will help attract students from non-history majors. Olsson also hopes that his class will inspire other professors to think about game-oriented classes that'll appeal more to young students than a traditional syllabus might.

Gamers who are lucky enough to attend the University of Tennesee Knoxville will be able to take the class in August, while the rest of us will just have to hope Olsson releases the syllabus online for those of us wanting to follow along from home.

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