I am not a fan of history via personalities, preferring to approach via impersonal forces like trade and technology. This is not to deny the validity of Steinberg's approach, though sometimes he carries it to extremes.
He is at his best describing attitudes of peasantry and intelligentsia later in the course, using anecdote to exemplify movements rather than to imply singular causality. He is weaker early in the course, when it seems all Russian history bends to the will of a single person, turning on a dime each time a new tsar takes the throne--a very disjoint narrative. In one absurd case, he spends an entire lecture on Pushkin only to conclude that Pushkin is historically irrelevant. An odd choice, then, for a history course.
International relations get short shrift. Russian imperial ambitions (a warm-water port, pan-Slavic leadership, clashes with Britain in central Asia) and their implications get no attention. The Russo-Japanese war is covered in two sentences, and apparently there was some kind of war going on in Europe while Lenin began his revolution. Again, a valid approach to a course devoted specifically to Russian history, but listeners should know what they're getting.
Even among great lecturers, Steinberg has an excellent delivery, with a beautiful voice and few of the verbal tics one notices after 18 hours listening to a single person.
The exploration of sociopolitical ramifications was particularly rewarding, a theme I would not have appreciated in my youthful fascination with battle. Professor Liulevicius has a strong delivery, and the intensity of his interest in WWI's aftermath as well as its progression shows.
Listeners who liked this should definitely try Liulevicius's lectures on Terror and Utopia in the 20th century, also excellent. His lectures on European diplomacy 1500-present are decent but less engaging.
Among the generally excellent Great Lectures, I found this one outstanding. I respectfully disagree with Saud and Bobbie, feeling there was a strong arc, hammering hard on the theme of ever-greater desperation in a race against internal collapse as much as defeat by the enemy.
A mere chronology of interconnected battles would have been relatively unenlightening and uninteresting, especially in light of trench stalemate. The real significance of WWI lies in its mutual exhaustion, social reaction to that, and the surviving institutions originally designed to combat it. The "theater" approach here, explaining how each theater fed into total war, contributing to stalemate, exhaustion, and collapse, serves the subject well.
Report Inappropriate Content