A few cogent moments are drowned in misinterpretations colored by bias. Wit without wisdom highlights the lack of deep understanding.
Every other Great Course has had merit except this. It should be removed from the library.
This tour-de-force overview over several hundreds of years of popular views on human history is, content-wise, well selected, easy to follow and gives a great first introduction into what historians believe to be next-to-true about "people like you and me living throughout the times".
Since the course only gives a broad overview, a lot (and I mean A LOT) of details are left out, variances in people's life and believes are ignored (and have to be).
Mr. Garland says his area of expertise isn't the "middle ages" (roughly about 1000 years of enormous changes to the way people lived), on the other hand reliable knowledge about people before that time is very limited, no matter how convinced Mr. Garland may seem to know.
So the lectures have to be taken with several spoons of salt.
What bothered me the most was the - sorry for the word - arrogance of a "modern Christian guy" seriously JUDGING the way other people, especially in times long gone, believed or saw the world. Passages like "there couldn't be a more absurd way of believe system" (this aren't his exact words, it is just what I FELT he was saying) about a multi-god-believe-system are absurd themselves, since the very concept of "any god" isn't exactly science. But it isn't just the believe-systems, but also the "state of mind" people were in. The constant comparisons between ancient ways of thinking and modern "we know what is right" attitude made the course hard to follow at times.
Mr. Garland ... separates ... every ......word ......from ......... the ......... next ...(you get the picture, don't you?)
His intonation stays very alike throughout a lecture. It sounds as if he is more or less reading from a script and, although he sounds excited about what he is saying, the CONSTANT excitement along with the ... separation ... of ... words ... without ... any ... professional ... dramaturgy ... would make me fall asleep if I listened to Mr. Garland in a life lecture at university.
I converted parts of the audio book to mp3 and used an audio editing software to narrow down the gaps (without speeding up the actual spoken words), which allowed me to follow the content a lot better.Mr. Garlands narration is, unfortunately, a typical "university professor style":
He knows a lot, he loves his topics, he WANTS to take people part in this and the energy he puts into his efforts to drag students along is overpowering him.Yet: He DOES love his topic and he DOES have a lot to offer. I am very interested in reading his books now and I'd love to chat with him :-)
My original verdict was "1.5 stars on performance". That would have been unfair, there are, by far, worse narrators present on Audible. Mr. Garland is easy to understand, he does not derail from the topic, he gives a lot of good examples and tries to match limited time to an enormous amount of content.
On the negative side my most intense reaction was that the constant "judging" of non-Christian believe-systems along with a very, VERY limited distance to the "modern western" religions shocked me*.
The lack of pointing out a lot of POSITIVE social achievements (that the Christian churches have destroyed by force), especially along the lines of equal rights for men and women, but also regarding the understanding of what a slave is, was sad, it's not as if human society only has improved over the last 2000 years.
On the positive side Mr. Garland tried hard to make "every day life" as understandable to a modern "next door guy or girl" as possible without getting into too much detail. You do not need ANY knowledge of history to understand what he is talking about (this may be part of my issue here).
It is the broad picture, the parallels throughout thousands and thousands of years of human history that gives the listener a glimpse of what "history" is about.
* As an example: Mr. Garland puts Aristoteles, Platon and Sokrates in the same sack, although those three present such fundamental changes in the "image of what a human being is" (including slaves and women). One could easily say that, the closer we get to "modern times", the "worse" (in modern understanding) it got, while nowadays "ethic and moral" are mainly based on the later philosophers (Aristotels in particular), it's exactly those later theories that are racist, sexist and ignorant. But, pointing this out would have contradicted the (unmentioned) theory of the course that "things constantly got BETTER throughout the times" ...
Did Mr. Garland succeed in making me understand how "the people on the other side of history" thought, lived and changed (meaning those of whom the history books do not tell you)?
This course covers too large a time span to really make me UNDERSTAND what a Roman Citizen "ticks" like or what a peasant in 1300 in North-England really believes in.
Mr. Garland takes it as granted that "there is but ONE GOD" and that believing the Christian way is the "natural order of things". NO, he is not teaching religion here, don't get me wrong! He just assumes that his listeners "know their god".
Many - seemingly strange - ways of living in the past are very closely related to the respective religion and/or philosophy. Mr. Garland concentrates on describing official practices (such as sacrifices), but did not succeed in making me understand how people could believe one way or another and let this (religious) believe actually govern their whole lives. I _do_ have some grasp of that topic from other courses (real life) and some decades of personal studies, but I still find it very hard to really comprehend.
To be fair, I can only repeat: It is the span of time this course covers (topic-wise) and the strong simplification owed to that fact that leaves me unsatisfied. 48 lectures seem like a lot, but to really understand the life of someone you just need more than 15-30 minutes of arbitrary examples from every day life.
As the title indicates, this is unequivocally one of the best listens I've ever had the delight of finding here on Audible!
Knowing a thing or two about anthropology, I had one or two very minor quibbles with one detail or another, (specifically whether pre-Neolithic Revolution life was characterized by fear and suffering, where fossil evidence shows the rampant rise of malnutrition and disease afterwards indicating a lower quality of life for several millennia) but there are always debates in this field. These are, however, far, far, over shadowed by Garland's profound humanity, conscientiousness, and care. There were a number of times his heartfelt compassion for right's of men, women, children, and the disadvantaged literally brought tears to my eyes. There were a few times I think Garland had tears in his eyes! His critiques of the discriminations of ancient attitudes towards sexual identity, culture, class, etc., are canny, and obviously informed by a genuine empathy and open mindedness. They are not the natural insights of someone who is posturing these qualities, and it was refreshing to hear.
Garland himself has a staggered sort of way of speaking, one brought on I think by fervour, and which I found quite charming. He is entertaining and articulate.
The course often employs a second person narrative, and this walkthrough of ancient life was almost like a dramatic exercise or hypnosis. It draws you right along, puts you right in the shoes, and is very effective, absorbing, and quite fun.
The information fed my curiosity for the minutiae of day to day ancient life, while also providing enlightening geopolitical context. It was also lovely to hear such up to date information, including homonids like the recently unearthed Homo Floresiensis.
This course was engaging, educational, entertaining, inspiring and insightful. I can say something of this series which I think to be the truest compliment, that is that I've learned so much by it. I've come away with more from this course than many of the myriad books I've read collectively, and never felt my mind stray for a moment. Garland has only two courses here on Audible, the other of which I gobbled up immediately, sincerely cannot wait for his next.
I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio.
I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't amazing. The focus on the nameless masses of history was interesting, though there was little that was really amazing or surprising.
If you like Great Courses, like I do, this one is not bad. Decent. Worth it if you find the topic intriguing and want something to listen to for a while during otherwise boring tasks.
This lecture series is packed with very interesting information, and professor Garland is very easy to listen to. If you're at all interested in history and what daily life was like in the past, I would heartily recommend it to you.
The author's unique perspective on history...i.e. from "the other side".
I felt as if I was a part of history again...loved it!
No, it was better broken up into manageable chunks...gave me time to chew over what I'd just heard.
Wish Professor Garland had more similar lectures...
Truly worth a listen or two. Kudos to Prof Robert Garland, he provides a rich listener experience.
Personable, relate-able, fascinating
His recitation of Chaucer in Middle English, I enjoyed hearing what I would guess to be an authentic accent to how the language was spoken.
His quips about his personal feelings or how we would personally feel if we lived during those times.
I laughed at his story when he was 6 and burst out singing the hymn for the holy crusade in the middle of a restaurant with his family.
Maybe a theme that I've discussed with my friends about how he stresses how dangerous life was in ancient times, especially during Greek and Roman times, how easily it was to become sick or injured and how often those occurrences could leave you permanently disfigured or dead.
I'd enjoy meeting this professor.
I was excited to find this book, but I was eventually disappointed in that selection. Don't get me wrong. I thought it was a good series. It just wasn't what I surmised from the title. I have taught introductory courses about the ancient world. I know about ancient cultural practice: religion, class, labor, concepts of the world, gender roles, etc. What I was hoping for was a clear picture of daily life. Where did these people sleep? What did they do when they got up in the morning? What did they do during the day? At night? How exactly, really, specifically, did the daily life of a king differ from that of a laborer, for example? I wanted to be able to see individual people living their lives.
His voice was pleasant, easy to listen to.
Ancient History, philology, non-fiction.
Because of the Professors skillful delivery I'll definitely be giving this title another listen. This lectures series will round out your timeline with useful details that make it easier to parse the bigger picture.
Highly recommend this title to anyone who loves History.