Hope, dissapointment, horror
The Chapters on the events in Rwanda and how they were misconstrued internationally was informative and incredibly disturbing. The level of cooperation with the genocidaires displayed by Rwandan church leaders was disgusting... an affront to religion itself. On top of all that we sent the belligerents billions of dollars in aid money.
Professional but forced
Learning about the religious and demographic makeup of Nikgeria and the former Sudan makes it much easier to understand the violent conficlt that has been ravaging those countries for years. In many African states, an ethnically and culturally diverse group of people were forced to coexist within borders drawn by European imperialists. These countries were simply time bombs waiting to go off.
This is a great work of epic proportions. Meredith divides his history of the continent into periods beginning with the initial euphoria and hope of independence to the power plays of the Cold War era all the way up to the modern day. He focusses mostly on the personality of the leaders_Nkrumah, Haile Selasie, Nasser, Mobutu, Mugabe and Mandela to name just a few are covered extensively in the work. Meredith succeds in making The Fate of Africa into a story about human nature. The lesson that absolute power corrupts absolutely is one that many African states have learned the hard way. Because of this era/personality based approached (rather than a traditional geographical approach to history), I do think it can get confusing with all the jumping around from country to country, but one will eventually start to connect the dots and begin to see how events in one state led to changes in another. This is probably one of those books that would be easier to follow in print. One thing that helped me follow the events of the book was looking up most of these leaders online and connecting faces and maps with the story. The narrator must be commended for his comptency, Meredith's work is packed with words and phrases in various Romance languages as well as a plethora of difficult to pronounce African propper nouns. I would not have been able to even pronounce most of those words. However, I think most listeners will agree with me that many quotes in the books are read with a bit too much sarcasm. The narrator also ocassionaly slips into a lackluster imitation of an African accent when quoting African leaders. Unfortunately the prevalence of quotes in this book made this presentation annoying to listen to initially. However the story itself quickly sucked me in.
Despite being hopelessly biassed at times Livy manages to give us the Roman side of the story in a beautifully written and dramatic account of conflicts both political and millitary. Unfortunately Livy starts off slow. After his account of the reign of the kings, which was interesting, his descriptions of the early republic pretty much boil down to a seemingly endless recounting of election results and millitary conflicts with little or no critical commentary. Things get intriguing again at the end of Volume I with the rise and fall of the Decimvirs.
Frankly I would recommend listeners to start with Volume II or III of this work unless you really want to understand Rome's early political development. Initially, Livy seems to pretty much stick to his sources and not add much of his own to the story, but towards the end of Volume I and really beginning in Volume II, he begins to give differing accounts and his own critical analysis of events and becomes much more interesting. In volume II, the battles get much more interesting and the listener is taken step by step through Rome's domination of Italy. Volume III can be summed up by the name Hannibal.
What I got got out of Volume I was a deeper understanding of how the idea of a Republic came into being and how the Romans viewed society. While there are a lot of things that Livy doesn't state outright, much can be inferred by "listening" between the lines. The picture of early Rome presented by Livy shows the hard and often bloddy struggle between partisans of Democracy and Oligarchy (ie the plebs and patricians) which eventually produced the system that came to dominate the modern Western world. Their system had many of the same problems ours does today, notably the tension between political elites and those skilled at populist rhetoric.
Charlton Griffin is a master narrator, nothing more need be said.
No wonder this was one of Ben Franklin’s favorite books.
In Plutarch’s Lives, the listener is introduced to a selection of the most famous Greeks and Romans of the classical world, including men like Caesar, Alexander, Pompey and Cicero (part 2) and Lycurgus, Themistocles, Cato and Romulus (part 1). Plutarch succeeds in incorporating many of the accounts and anecdotes of his day to give us instructive portraits of the men, faults and all. As the officiating priest at Delphi, Plutarch had the perfect moral and social credit to make judgments and comparisons among these heroes (or villains) and gives us his honest judgment in each case.
While certain credence is given to providence in determining the fates of men, Plutarch focuses on the character traits and decisions that led to success or failure. He is refreshingly honest; when his account relies upon myth (such as with Romulus) he tells the reader plainly.
What really struck me when listening was how little has changed in 2,000 years. Despite the long years and obvious culture gap there is still much we can relate to. Just like Lycurgus, visionaries of today still strive to realize socialist utopias on earth. Just like Timoleon and Philopoemon, men today are still willing to fight and die for the cause of democracy. Just like Themistocles, Crassus and Alcibiades the talents and charisma that lead modern celebrities to fame so often conceal equally great character flaws. Just like the rabble of old, the masses today are still fickle and willing to listen to whatever crazy theory that the Tribunes (or congressmen) feed them. This is a book that is still wonderfully relevant to the modern reader.
If I had to complain, I wish the biographies had been organized into a continuous historical narrative. I’m something of an amateur history buff and still had trouble jumping among characters from the Peloponnesian, Persian, Punic and Social wars. In addition, I know that much of Plutarch’s work has been lost but still felt that many important characters such as Augustus, Hannibal and Socrates were sorely missed. Finally, the John Dryden translation is classic but many listeners may not be comfortable with 17th century English.
B.J. Harrison was a great choice for this production; his voice is lively, engaging and confident, allowing the reader to be absorbed into the narrative.
After living in China for four years I didn't think I would learn much from this book, boy was I wrong!
As a journalist with insider access and as a long-time China hand, Evan Osnos is uniquely qualified to share his insights on what is fast becoming the world's most dynamic country. In this work, he provides striking insights from personal interviews conducted with Chinese from all walks of life, from movers and shakers in China, like Hu Shuli, Han Han, Ai Weiwei and Li Yang, to more obscure individuals, such as nationalistic doctoral students, corrupt officials and aspiring poets moonlightling as street sweepers. At the same time, Osnos brings the listener up to date on most of the major events in China over the past 5 years and makes a solid analysis of why the country has thus far not complied with Western expectations of Democratic reform.
For me, learning more about well-known figures like Han Han and AI Weiwei was a treat. In China, one could frequently hear conversations about Ai's conviction or Han's latest post, but rarely could I find a local who knew much else about the disidents themselves. I had no idea that Ai became a disident after the government corruption revealed by the Sichuan earthquake I was also pleased to be introduced to some I had never heard about on campus such as the editor of Caixin Hu Shuli. Now I know one more source of Chinese news when I don't feel like reading propaganda.
It was also nice to get caught up on current events, I used to watch Chinese news every night, but only had a partial picture of what was actually going on due to censorship. Osnos filled me in on all the details I missed from the Tibet protests in 2007 to the fall of Bo Xilai last year.
The Narrator for most of the book (which is not Osnos!) is a wonderful reader, but I can only give him 4 stars due to his unreliable Mandarin pronunciation. True, he's lightyears beyond most narrators on Audible when pronouncing Chinese propper nouns but he tended to botch the phrases throughout the book. He also didn't do well with some of the names of major characters, such as his annoying habit of pronouncing Han Han as Haan Haan. This could have been overlooked if only Han wasn't mentioned multiple times every chapter. In short, if you are a fluent Mandarin speaker this narrator's occasional mistakes may bother you a little, but otherwise he was a fantastic choice for this production.
Boy was this a treat! As noted, the title is misleading, rather than being a general history of the Mediteranean, this book actually concerns the events that brought the Roman Republic to its zenith--the struggle and eventual triumph of Rome over Cartharge. This work is difficult to follow without more background information, I recommend the listener first try a general introduction to Roman history, such as The History of The Roman Empire, (one of The great Courses), which also happens draws heavlily upon Polybius. With a little more info this book becomes a fantastic listen!
Polybius recounts events from the aftermath of Alexander's conquests to the end of the Punic Wars in a style that is unmistakably modern. Polybius does tend to ramble and go off and tangents, but his analysis is based on well reasoned, logical analysis. He paints a believable picture of the Mediteranean world, free of warring Olympian gods,flying snakes, racial generalizations, tabloid gossip and so many other quirks present in the works of other ancient historians. Better yet,Polybius makes things fun by sprinkling the narrative with snarky comments about the work of other historians and poignant analysis of what history is and is not. According to Polybius, the true historian reports on the evidence he has, he doen't try to psycho-analyze historical figures, put words in their mouths or paint them as caricatures. Whats more, the true historian actually visits the historical sites in question to get a feel for the terrain and evaluate which of several accounts of events was actually feasible.If historians today followed his advice, I think us history buffs would be a lot better for it.
The work really shines in its descriptions of the campaigns and final defeat of Hannibal. One can almost feel the awesome fear his rag-tag international army must have inspired: naked Celts decked out in gold chains, swarthy Carthaginians, seasoned African Cavalrymen, Indian elephant riders and Spanish conscripts. Its amazing the man held them together as long as he did. One other treat was the account of Archamedies using mathematical and scientific know-how to fend off waves of Roman invaders.
Polybius succeeds in coming across as impartial, I finished the book feeling more admiration for Hannibal than for Scipio, which is an amazing feat as Polybius was basically an employee of the Scipio family.
Charlton Griffin is a master narrator, If i could nitpick though, sometimes he comes across as unecessarily evil-sounding when the text doesn't require it.
Sadly, while part one of this audiobook is more or less a seamless narrative, part two resembles the leftovers of a newspaper after it was used to light a beach bonfire. While many interesting tidbits do make part two worth listening to, its really quite furstrating to get involved in the narrative only to find the next four chapters are missing.
A real qualm I had with the book was the total lack of any notes to help modern readers get their bearings. I wish footnotes had been inserted into the text at critcal points, I had no idea where most of the places or barbarian tribes were located and a short (" note, modern day Slovenia") would have been great help . In addition, the essay at the begining was far too critical and made me want to not listen to the book, they should have put it at the end or read one that was more flattering of the work.
Mr Skousen brings us a solid, comprehensive and thoroughly entertaining history of modern economic thought from Adam Smith to the present day. Skousen succeeds wildly in making esoteric economic theories accesible, and draws in the reader/listener with quirky stories about each of the economists: Why did Adam Smith Burn all of his clothes? What was the story behind J.M Keynes's hand fetish? Who fathered Marx's housemaids child? These are just a few of the high points of this work.
Admitedly, Skousen is strongy biassed towards a Neo-Classical/Austrian viewpoint, and holds some quesitonable ideas, but don't let that turn you away! The author does a great job explaining each Economists viewpoint in a clear, concise, logical way; I was even able to get a good handle on some of Marx's important formulas from Kapital while driving on the freeway. This book is that good! Skousen is very careful to completely present each Economist's bio and arguments first and only then move on to a critique on their more questionable assumptions.
In regards to the narrator, I have no idea what the other reviewer is talking about. Hughes speaks clearly, pronounces German and French words well ans seems honestly excited in his narration. In fact, to me he seemed so excited that I initially thought it was the author narrating his own book.
Overall, having listened to some of Sowell's audiobooks and a few of the great courses on Economics, I have to say that this is the best choice on Audible to get readers excited about Economics. Well worth the credit!
Professor Liulevicius gives an engaging overview of 500 years of the politics that changed the course of world history. From the Holy Roman Empire, to the rise of Napolean (and his not so successful nephew) to the emergence of the United States as the dominant "European power". The professor spruces up his lectures with plenty of biographical information and historical anecdotes. Stories about Charles V's obsession with clocks or Frederick the Great's excessive coffee consumption, or even retellings of bizzare events such as the "defenestration of Prague" make the course that much more exciting. Liulevicius is obviously obsessed and his passion for diplomatic history is infectious.
One of the new things I learned from this course was the crucial role of the ubiquitous Hapsburgs in European affairs. It seemed that behind every major turning point in European history there stood a Hapsburg; the family played a major role in events first as Holy Roman Emperors, then as kings of Spain. In addition, the French-Mexican War, the Seven Year’s War and even WWI all started or ended because of tragedy in the family.
My only complaint is that I wish the course had been longer; treatment of WWII and the Cold War seemed a bit rushed in comparison to his recounting of prior periods. However, at 18 hours, this course is already considerably longer than many of The Great Courses, we can at least be thankful for that.
Getting a breakdown of events across the globe decade by decade gives the listener a unique perspective on major happenings (mostly catastrophes) of the century. After finishing this work, one can see how difficult it is for modern historians to sort through the sheer volume of information to find some thread of reason behind it all.
As I lover of world history, I was surprised to find so many critical details I had previously missed. For example, other works originally led me to think that WWI was sort of everyone's fault. 'However, after listening to a blow by blow progression of events the Kaiself himself seems to deserve most of the blame. . In addition, I had no idea that so much upheval occurred in the Soviet Union during the interwar period.
He kind of grows on you after a few hours, but I initially felt that he wasn't enunciating properly. He does well with pronunciation and really deserves at least 3.5 stars.
No, its fairly engaging but you really should limit yourself to one decade a day. Otherwise its easy to lose focus and end up Leopold's Congo thinking that the author is still discussing Republican China.
I think this work should have been shortened to only focus on its strong points_ politics, international relations and war. The terse references to developments in science, art and popular culture also seemed somewhat out of place,One other thing I could have done without was the author's bizarre obsession with automobile-related fatalities for which he provides almost yearly statistics.
This work feels like it was meant for Audible. During the several days it took me to finish listening, I never felt bogged-down by names, dates or factoids. Instead, the author gives us almost lyrical descriptions of the Arabian landscape and paints a living portrait of Ibn Saud as well as figures instrumental in his rise to power. The book is filled with entertaining anecdotes and personal details that help the reader/listener become emotionally invested in the narrative.
I was impressed by how accessible and easy to follow the narrative Was considering the vast scope of the work. Beyond covering the life of Ibn Saud, this work goes into great detail on Bedouin customs, the formation of Islam and the geopolitical climate of the era. Even though they wern't central to the story, I felt like I better understood the importance of figures such as T.E. Lawrence, Churchill and the Hashemite kings in shaping the modern Middle East after finishing this work.
This wasn't that kind of book, but if I had to pick a favorite person portrayed in the narrative it would be Captain William Shakspear. He seemed worthy of the veneration that figures such as T.E. Lawrence were later to inspire more through publicity than by actual exploits.
Yes, it was that good.
Certain passages of this work, especially of those related to Ibn Saud's personal religious beliefs and his control (or lack therof) on some of the more fanatical Wahabis in his service seemed a bit biased. But no book is perfect.
This course is a great introduction to anyone interested in the history of US-Middle East relations which has so shaped the world we live in today. From WWI, the resulting fall of the Ottoman empire, to the Iranian revolution, the Oslo peace failures and 9/11, Professor Salim Yaqub gives us a balanced and insightful narration of events.
What really caught my interest in this presentation was Professor Yaqub's recounting of the reasons that lead to the Iranian revolution and the extreme feelings against Americans in the region. I was already aware that our strong support for the rather unsavory Shah was a main factor, but some of the finer details suprised me: for example, I had no idea that bad driving by our GIs resulting in ridiculous levels of death by vehicular manslaughter was one of the sparks that set off the proverbial powder keg.
Really the one qualm that I had with this presentation was the Professor's extremely slow reading speed. Even at 1.5X speed the recording still seems to run at a pace slower than normal conversational speed. He could have gotten so much more information in 12 hours.
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