This was a very thorough and enjoyable overview of Chinese history. The professor does a great job touching on many important subjects and nuances in Chinese history, including even an overview of Chinese geography, which I think is essential for understanding the history of any country. Like all history it can become a little dry or hard to remember or distinguish all the different peoples and dynasties at some points. I would highly recommend these lectures to anyone looking for a good, thorough overview of Chinese history from the earliest times to the near present.
This book is a good overview of the rise and conquests of Alexander the Great, his Macedonian Empire, and the Hellenistic empires that took over his conquests after his death. The lectures go from Alexander's rise to the fall of the final Hellenistic kingdom with the conquest of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt by the Romans. The lecturer covers the major kingdoms of the Seleucids in Syria, the Ptolemies in Egypt, and Antigonids in Greece as well as some of the smaller Hellenistic kingdoms to rise during this age. He follows a relatively chronological pattern.
One strength of this professor is his ability to cover not just the political history but also other parts of culture, including social, intellectual, and artistic changes. The only thing that prevents me from giving this series a five star rating is this author's thoroughness. I like listening to history books that leave me feeling like I have had a comprehensive overview on a topic (within reason) and also knowing that the author covered any major well-known sub-topics that deserve attention. Having listened to this lecturer a few times, I know he has a tendency to skip over content in his effort to focus in on specifics or controversies. So for anyone coming to the topic for the first time, there are probably important things he will skip over or not mention. I felt this way particularly in his section on Alexander the Great. There were so many well known events and stories that he skipped or barely talked about, which left me disappointed. So if you are buying this book to learn mainly about Alexander, look elsewhere.
Overall I would recommend this series to anyone interested in the topic. I believe you will learn something and enjoy it!
This is a great book. I can highly recommend anything written by the author/lecturer Professor Kenneth W. Harl. He is thorough and engaging with any topic.
This book is an overview of the History of Rome with a focus on its interactions with the Barbarians outside and inside their empire. He begins with the rise of the concept of the "Barbarian" in Greek culture. He then follows the ever shifting Roman frontier and barbarian groups encountered by the Roman empire, from Italy, to Spain, Africa, Gaul, Britain, Germany, the Balkans, Asia Minor, as well as Persia and the Levant.
He not only describes the political and military history between Rome and these peoples, but also analyzes how they interacted with each other. The barbarians were changed and shaped by their encounters with the Romans as the Romans were also in turn changed and shaped by their encounters with the barbarians. The history is also not just one of war, but also of trade, culture, assimilation and differentiation. It is a fascinating overview and well worth the read of anyone interested. He of course ends in the final portion of his lectures with his analysis of the fall of the western Roman empire and the interesting role the barbarians played in that process.
One highlight for me was learning about the mysterious iron age culture of the Celts, who at one time had spread their influence over most of Western and Central Europe, a far greater scope than the cultures of Ireland and Scotland we think of today.
For those interested in this topic, I can also highly recommend "The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians" by John B. Bury. This book is also available on audible, and it does an excellent job covering the barbarian invasions of the later Roman Empire and their cultures. It adds many details not covered in this overview, and will be an excellent complement to this read.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic. You will enjoy the ride, and learn a lot on the way!
The professor who does this series is brilliant and those who have some familiarity with ancient Greek civilization will enjoy the insights and interpretations he offers. I highlighted the fact that the author does A LOT of interpreting in this series. Because of this, while he does cover all of ancient Greek civilization from its origins in Minoan and Mycenean civilizations to its radical change in Alexander the Great, he is not as comprehensive as I would have liked and leaves some gaps and much material untouched. Those of you who are looking for a good, first, general overview of ancient Greek civilization should look elsewhere. However, if you've already had your overview and would like to hear the perspective of a well established scholar on the ancient Greeks, then this book will be right for you.
This is a good read for anyone who wants a broad overview of the history of Rome. The lecturer does a great job delivering his content and he covers Roman history from its origins in myth, legend, and archaeology as a series of settlements on the banks of the Tiber and continues its journey through its monarchical period, the Roman Republic, the Imperial period, and ends around the fall of the Western part of the Roman empire in the 5th century AD. He is thorough and roughly chronological in his presentation.
However, anyone who considers listening to this should understand that this audio book is "broad" in the fullest sense of the word. The lecturer makes no attempt at being comprehensive and tells his listeners time and again that he cannot and does not make an attempt to treat any topic in great depth. This means that anyone looking for a thorough overview of any aspect of Roman history and culture, such as literature, art, architecture, religion, military history, political history, or even the careers of indispensable figures such as Caesar himself should look elsewhere. This was my only "disappointment" with this book. I entered into it hoping to learn much more about many of these specific elements, but left feeling like I had learned only a very little about a very lot of material. I do not think this is any fault of the book or the lecturer though. There is so much potential content to cover that one has go to more specialized studies if you want to go into any depth. So in summary this book will give you a good overview, but only an overview. Those who already know a lot about Roman history will find little to learn here, but those who don't or have only a vague sense of it will definitely benefit.
All told this is a good overview of Roman history and a worthwhile listen. Enjoy your travels to the ancient Mediterranean!
Are you a lover of history who seeks out those rare books that explain those often mentioned but little known peoples and places of the globe? Have you ever wondered who the Huns, Turks, or Mongols were, where they came from, and why they did what they did? Then this book is definitely for you!
The excellent lecturer gives a mostly chronological and comprehensive overview of the various peoples or "barbarians" that lived on the eurasian steppes and played a major role in world history. In fact, they play such a large role in world history that I left this read convinced we do a great disservice by not giving them a more prominent role in our textbooks. This book covers a serious blind spot in most of the world's history books.
He starts from the steppes earliest Indo-European inhabitants and moves through the archaic period with peoples such as the Shueng-Nu, Scythians, and Huns, discusses the medieval period dominated by the Turks, and ends discussing the terrible and glorious legacies of the great Mongol conquests and the subsequent disappearance of the steppe way of life with the advent of the modern age. The series is thorough and detailed and will leave you with few major questions once it has been finished.
Perhaps the most enlightening part for me was how the lecturer explained so clearly the geography and dynamics of the eurasian steppes. The unique environmental factors of the world of the steppes did just as much to shape their history, and that of the world's, as did the amazing lives of those who lived there. This feature alone makes this a worthwhile listen.
I cannot recommend this series highly enough to fellow history addicts or those who are just curious. You will not be disappointed. It was definitely one of my best reads this year. Enjoy!!!
This is an excellent overview on a history of the middle east. Let me highlight its strengths and then explain any of its limitations or my reservations.
This is a very thorough overview of the history of the middle east. It was written by two authors. The authors make a strong effort to be fair to all parties involved in their discussions. The book covers a history of the middle east from the 7th century to 2009 (which stops just short of the very recent Arab Spring Movement). It also devotes much material to the modern middle east and thoroughly covers its biggest concerns, including the Arab-Israeli conflict. They make a concerted effort to highlight some of the primary roots and causes of the turmoil in the middle east today. The performer does a fine job and the book will be interesting to those who are interested and don't mind a history style (as opposed to "story style") book.
Now for a few notes on and limitations of the book. The book really only covers middle east history from the rise of Islam in the 7th century to the present day though it does provide some background to these events. Also, the authors' chosen definition of and focus on the middle east generally leaves out North Africa w(ith the exception of Egypt), the central asian states, and Pakistan except when the material is relevant. I would also say the history is Muslim and Arab centered. While this group, as the dominant group for the past millennium, deserves the bulk of the book, I was a bit disappointed since other cultural, religious, and ethnic minorities are important to the history of the middle east. They made up the majority in many countries until the year 1000 and still constitute important minorities today. They were not left out completely, but I don't feel they got the attention they deserve. Also, while the authors' do attempt to be fair and scholarly and let readers make their own decisions about events, I believe most readers will find that they lean more towards supporting the Arabs in the Arab Israeli conflict and that they are not in favor of some of the policies of the recent Bush administration and the war on terror. Some of course will and will not appreciate this perspective, but I still think they do a good job covering the major events regardless of your perspective. These limitations made me give the book a 4 rather than a 5.
Overall this is an excellent overview and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the topic, keeping in mind some of the limitations listed above. I learned a great deal and it is an excellent resource for anyone looking to better understand the history of this important region of the world and the roots of modern day events, conflicts, and issues. Enjoy!!!
I highly recommend this book (or should I say, lecture series) for anyone interested in this topic. It offers a very thorough overview of the French Revolution from its inspirations and beginnings to the fall of Napoleon and Waterloo and subsequent historical events and trends. It also highlights other important players in the French Revolution beside just the French nation, including the process of the creation of the modern state of Haiti as well as important countries that played a role in the French Revolution or were greatly affected by it. I have listened to a number of Great Courses, and this is definitely one of the better ones I have listened to. The lecturer makes the series interesting to listen to but also does not sacrifice on content. It is also a longer series than normal, so it is well worth a credit. If you are interested in the topic and in history in general, you won't be disappointed!
This lecture series (the great courses are a lecture series rather than a strict audiobook) was a good overview of the first half of Christian history going from the world of Christ to the reformers and reform movements just before the time of the Protestant Reformation. The lecturer as a Christian himself, a biblical scholar, and a capable historian has a fairer perspective on the events than some more purely academic religious scholars might. Anyone who is interested in the subject will benefit from the content in this book. As someone who has read widely on Christian history, I did have a few small disappointments. The content did not seem as thorough or capturing as some of the books I had read previously on the subject. I also found the lecturers voice and style to be a little boring at times. I should also note that those interested in learning about some of the "outside" groups in Christianity (Coptic Church, Ethiopian church, oriental church, etc.) will find these groups mentioned, but not expounded on in great detail. In summary this is an interesting and fair introduction, but I do think you can find better books for those new to this subject or interested in learning more. If this had been my first book on Christian history, I don't think I would have been as eager for a second... but I am sure those who are interested will enjoy the read and scholarship it represents.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this series. It is one of the best Great Courses I have listened to so far. For those who may not be familiar, the Great courses are a series of lectures by distinguished professors, not necessarily an audiobook per se.
This would be an excellent introduction for most into the topics of Prehistory and the first civilizations. I enjoy learning about history and have more prior knowledge than many would going into this book, but I still learned a great deal and think it would be appropriate for most who are interested in learning more. I was skeptical at first about cramming both topics listed in the title into a single series, but, to my joy and astonishment, the lecturer managed to fit both topics in and still manage to be thorough, detailed, and comprehensive in a relative sense. The series goes from discussion of man's earliest ancestors, through archaic humans and neanderthals, to modern humans, and then covers the development of the earliest civilizations all over the world, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, Europe, India, Africa, China, and the Americas. Roughly half of the course covers prehistory and half of it covers the first civilizations, but, believe me, you will leave this course feeling that you have had a thorough introduction to both. The professor is very knowledgeable, articulate, and organized and he proceeds through the material in a roughly chronological manner. The material may be dry for some who aren't used to historical content, but I think the professor did a good job of keeping you engaged with the material and making it comprehensible.
Just as an inside joke to those who have already listened to this, two unforgettable phrases you will hear time and time again are, "We don't really know," and "How did they do this?"
If you are at all interested in the topic, I can't recommend this more. My guess is that you won't be disappointed.
This was an enjoyable listen, but I would only recommend it for some. Essentially the teacher takes the listener on a journey of South American History (Note: Not Mesoamerican, Central American, Aztec, Mayan, or any other American/New World History). He starts with the earliest evidence of human life and continues all the way through the Inca and the Spanish conquest and ends by touching upon a few modern day connections to South American peoples afterwards. It is a bit shorter than most great courses (11 hours compared to 8 hours). This is not your typical history overview but really a highly archaeologically/anthropologically based overview. Much of the time is spent discussing archaeological sites and artifacts uncovered and what they might tell us about the people that lived back then. If you are not looking for something technical or you prefer a narrative style, I would not suggest this book. The professor is very knowledgeable and does a good job of presenting his topic in an interesting and enjoyable way. He has a few non-traditional perspectives which he emphasizes, but he also does a good job highlighting the latest discoveries as of his recording (2012 I think?). If you are interested and don't mind a slightly technical listen, I would recommend this book.
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