Professor Robert Garland's Other Side of History takes us on a journey through the history of Western Civlization as seen through the eyes of common people. Much of what we read about in history books focuses on kings and politicians, wars and conquests. And while these elements are present in this lecture series, they're put into the context of how they affected ordinary people.
Make no mistake, this lecture series takes the broad view -- I was anticipating that every lecture would be dedicated to a single person, but Garland jumps around from woman to priest to senator to slave, frequently speaking from a second person viewpoint. The series is very long, however, and covers a lot of ground, enabling us to zoom into the details of the lives of many races and classes of people. Garland takes us from prehistoric times right up through medieval times. A few lectures are devoted to prehistory, a few to Egypt, and there's a smattering of lectures on Mesopotamia and Hellenistic Egypt, among others, but the bulk of lessons revolve around Greece, Rome, and Britain, as these are our chief sources of Western Literature. (I was just a tad disappointed that we never covered Eastern or African History, but that is for another course, I suppose).
Garland uses this literature, along with archaeological findings, to paint a dizzying array of characters. We learn a little of classical ancient figures like Cleopatra or Chaucer, but mostly we learn about how women, slaves, merchants, elderly, farmers, soldiers and the like lived.
We learn that maybe the Vikings weren't so bad after all; that Egyptians really liked their cats; that Romans employed an unusual method of oral hygiene; that women are almost universally oppressed until quite recently; and that some slaves had it better than others. Garland takes us into the streets of a violent, stinky, overcrowded metropolis and plants us in the shoes of everyday people, enlightening us as to their worries, hopes, rituals, and religious beliefs.
All in all, this is a fascinating series and I highly recommend it. I warn that sometimes we're given information that is extrapolated from possibly unreliable sources (for instance, Canterbury Tales plays a large role in Garland's interpretation of medieval times), but since much of what we learn of the past comes from the roughly ten percent of literate (i.e. not ordinary) people, we'll never know for sure what everyday folks really thought. However, most of what he teaches is historical standard, albeit focused on a different side of history than we're used to seeing.
A note on the performance: Professor Garland's lectures are well done and he's a good public speaker. But be aware that he has a very slight lisp and also that Often times. He. Speaks. In. One word. Sentences. Maybe. It's. For Emphasis. I didn't notice either of these things until well into the series, and they were never severely distracting, but once you notice them they're in your head for good.
A greater understanding is what I seek. With this I hope to enrich my knowledge of life and my legacy. Why Dad?Well here's a head start son
long enriching listen
The evaluation of the Egyptian pathos.
It would have taken me much longer to make it threw.
No way. The span of time in each chapter is great. A pause to reflect on them; in hind sight, is suggested.
I know it would be a separate course all together and to trying to break it down would be an enormous task. However; I would have enjoyed a greater look in to Asian history.
My first Great Courses was wonderful, so I was inadvertently misled into thinking they were all going to be like that (well, obviously it would have to be a topic you have some kind of interest in, but based on how great the first one was, I assumed they would all be up to the same standard.) Unfortunately, that is absolutely not the case here. This gentleman is an awful narrator. The content itself could be presented in a much more interesting way, so the "story" only gets 3 stars. But his reading is atrocious. He first goes so slow you can't stand it, and are tempted to put the speed on double to make him sound like he's talking normally. But then in sporadic starts and jumps, he will speak very quickly, so if you are on double time, those sections are too fast to absorb easily. It is possibly one of the worst history Great Courses, and I absolutely do not recommend it.
NA. This is a history book. There is no "ending" per se
His reading is atrocious, as I mentioned above.
NA. Again, it's a history book.
This is a well presented narrative which was 48 or so chapters so wasn't something you finished in one or ten sessions and I am sure I missed a lot. The very British Professor Garland divided up his lectures into distinct categories and in chronological order (that was amazing) and you felt like you were part of the scenery. You could visualize the hearth, the castles, the burials, the rich, the desperately poor. His lectures carried you through the Middle Ages and that was a surprise.
Hard to say who the favorite character was because there were so many. The Author cited Geoffrey Chaucer a lot so his insight on Britain was one of the best listens. Also enjoyed piece about Cicero and his riveting oratory. Pope Leo who organized the first Crusade, Peter the Hermit who got lots to volunteer to go fight, and so many more.
This work is about the lives of ordinary people. Very little about the kings, queens, princes, and rulers. This was not their story. You could visualize yourself in ordinary peoples homes, join them for their ordinary routine of daily living. Somehow, with the lack of pictures, telecommunications, even paper, people survived and Professor Garland made it come to life. His narration was quite good which was a big plus in a book (lecture) this long.
The long story on slavery was a bit difficult to absorb. We know it existed in ancient times but didn't realize the extent it was entrenched in civilized society. This was so well established that no one, not even slaves themselves, could imagine life without servitude. The effect of the Black Death on all of Europe was so tragic. It truly defined the "Dark Ages" and scapegoats and prejudices became more solidified than ever.
I am proud to get through this and thanks to the Professor for loving history so much. If you like to learn the history of those you don't hear about in text books, get these lectures.
I really enjoyed this collection of views into the world of the history that never gets told! It has given me many wonderful hours of reflection and perspective. I have found this to be a wonderful addition to my library and a valuable asset to completing the big picture of our greater story, which, perhaps, may lead to an even grander version of humanity.
Comprehensive, deep, frustrating
Professor Garland is obviously expert in this field, and the material itself is outstanding. But throughout the lectures, the cadence of his speech is so disjointed and seemingly random that it makes it hard to follow. He speaks in 3 and 4 word bunches, with pauses in mid-phrase which make no sense semantically. It's as if... the narrator thinks of... only a... few words ahead... of time and then... feeds them out as... they are ready.
This lecture series truly delivers -- it was fascinating, fresh and shed light into some of the shadowy corners of life in the ancient world. Professor Garland used highly visual language to depict unforgettable scenes of lost eras and empires: I can't shake images like the one of the Roman slave tossed into a pool of lampreys because he broke a cup, or the terrified Celtic monk tossing his precious illuminated manuscript into a peat bog while being chased by Viking marauders. Wow. Garland has really delivered on a commitment he clearly made to himself, remembering to tell stories of men, women, soldiers, nuns, and more slaves than you can possibly comprehend. Terrific and truly enriching.
Yes, gives a nice view of everyday life in a number of ancient civilizations.
The narrative surrounding death in an ancient Greek household.
The story of an Irish Monk being pursued by a viking.
It was very moving in places. Garland is a very compelling speaker.
My one qualm is that after the 4th century or so, everything was viewed through a Britain-focused lens. I would have preferred to spend some time going back to Rome in the time of Constantine, or learning about life in the Byzantine empire.
I have a greater understanding of the similarities and differences between how people lived in ancient civilizations and how we live now. I could listen to this several times.
I love history and was excited about this book but only got about half way through it and gave up. I did give it 3 stars because it does have some redeeming qualities in that there are interesting snippets here and there, but the author tends to focus too much on the negative - slavery, war, torture, hardship. And frankly the narrator was dry and boring, not engaging at all.