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!!!
This was an excellent series, and well worth the listen. Professor Philip Daileader is a great scholar and an excellent lecturer. This is part three in a three part series on the middle ages taught by him and published by the Great Courses. Listening to all three are great, but you can listen to one as a standalone course and also benefit from it.
Professor Daileader takes you on an overview of the late middle ages, which he describes as roughly 1300-1500 AD. You will learn about the major political events and personalities of this time as well as social, intellectual, religious, and economic changes. Learn about the early humanists who gave birth to the Renaissance. Learn about how gunpowder change the weapons, armor, and architecture of Europe. Learn about the final collapse of the Roman Empire in the East with the fall of Constantinople. Learn about the dynamic personalities of Ferdinand and Isabella and their leadership in the reconquest of Spain, the institution of the Spanish inquisition, and the sending of Columbus on his fateful voyage in 1492. This is just a small taste of what you will learn here.
Professor Daileader also takes time to introduce you to the historiographical aspects of studying the middle ages and his personal opinion on the length and impact of the middle ages.
I could not recommend this series more highly, especially as way to learn about the time bridge between the high medieval age and the Renaissance, Reformation, & Enlightenment eras that took the west by storm soon afterwards.
This was an excellent read! Professor Philip Daileader is an excellent lecturer and scholar and you probably won't be disappointed by anything you get from him.
This lecture series takes you from the late Roman Empire around the time of Constantine and traces the transition of Europe from late antiquity to the middle ages. You will learn about the collapse of Roman rule in the West, the continuation of the Roman empire in the East through the Byzantine rulers, the Barbarian invasions of Western Europe, the rise of Islam, the emergence of the Carolingian Holy Roman Empire, and the eventual splitting off of that empire into what would become the modern states of France and Germany. He covers all major historical events to about 1000AD.
If you would like to learn more about how Europe went from a unified Roman empire to the divided and complicated state it is in now, I cannot recommend another resource more highly. You will learn about the foundations of all the modern nation states, including England, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. This was an invaluable read for me as it helped me connect all of those dots!
Also, the professor tries to highlight not just political history, but also cultural, economic, religious, and social aspects of history in his overview.
This is part one of a three part series offered by the Great Courses that will take you through the entire middle ages up to the year 1500. I highly recommend the whole series.
If you are at all interested in the topic, and enjoy a good read about history, you will not be disappointed! Enjoy!!!
This lecture series is an excellent overview of the crusades. The lecturer, Professor Kenneth W. Harl, is an excellent teacher and I can highly recommended anything produced by him. If you are a lover of history he offers traditional history teaching at its best.
This series covers the era of the crusades from their origins to the ending of the era of the "canonical" crusades after the 8th crusade of King Louis of France in North Africa. One strength of this lecture series is that the author does a great job looking at the crusades from the perspectives of all of the three great civilizations involved, Western Europe, the Byzantine (Or East Roman) Empire, and Islamic Civilization. This series gives you and incredible sense of how all three civilizations interacted during this era and were influenced and changed by the crusades.
I had a few small disappointments in this series. The author does a very thorough job covering the first four of the eight canonical crusades and their surrounding events. He only really gives an overview by comparison of the last four crusades. As far as other crusading movements, he does give some treatment on the "children's crusades" and the crusade against the Cathars/The Albigensian crusade in Southern France but other crusading events such as the Reconquista of Spain and the conquests of the Germanic peoples and Teutonic knights in Northeastern Europe are given very little if any real treatment. I also think he could have drawn out some of the longterm implications of the crusades a little better. So this series will not offer the comprehensive overview that some might want, but for anyone interested in the topic it will definitely offer an amazing supplement in helping you understand this era in world history. He pulls out details and sides to the topic that probably many other authors miss.
Overall I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the topic. Enjoy your travels in "outremer"!
I have listened to Professor Kenneth J. Harl many times and have never been disappointed. He delivers the traditional historical experience at its best.
This series of lectures covers the origins of the Byzantine Empire (or East Roman Empire) from its background and foundations in the late Roman Empire and its birth through the dynamic personality of Emperor Constantine the Great around 300 AD. It then provides an overview of that history right down to the empires final collapse in the epic and moving siege and fall of the city of Constantinople to it's Ottoman Turkic attackers in 1453 AD.
Those who are looking for an in-depth treatment of the topic should probably find a more thorough book to read. Those who are interested in getting an overview of the topic and enjoy listening to history will not be disappointed.
This was a great overview of a history of Asia Minor (or Anatolia), what today would essentially be the area of the modern Republic of Turkey. Far from being an obscure topic about an obscure region, this little area is packed with history and was a major player throughout it.
You will go from prehistory and the earliest Hittite Civilizations through the continual cycles of change the region experienced. As the natural crossroads of East and West, this region continually felt the pulls of the great cultural traditions of both East and West, a dynamic which continues right up to the present. This area was constantly "remade" as it went through phases of Greek, Roman, Celtic, Byzantine, and eventually Barbarian Steppe culture. The series ends with an look at how those Turkic speaking barbarians entered and remade this peninsula one last time into what would eventually be the heartland of the Ottoman Empire and the foundation of what we know as the modern Republic of Turkey.
The Professor is amazing. I have listened to many of his works and he offers his listeners traditional history at its very best. If you enjoy a good history book or class, you will learn from and enjoy this series.
This was a masterful survey of the British Empire. It is a lecture series from the Great Courses series. The professor is intelligent, well organized in his thoughts, and very interesting to listen to. He takes you on a sweeping survey of the British empire from its beginnings in late Medieval Europe to its dismantling after the Second World War and beyond.
What it Covers: The lectures are thematic with a generally chronological progression. In them you will hear about every major part of the empire and its story, including the American Colonies, Canada, the Caribbean, India, South Africa, other African ventures, the British presence in Egypt and the middle east, Ireland, British East Asia, as well as the colonization and development of Australia and New Zealand.
Some Highlights: The professor is thorough and engaging in his covering of the material. He is great at highlighting and bring out the different major personalities that were important to the British Empire such as Cecil Rhodes and Winston Churchill. Touches like this bring life and character to his overview. Likewise he also gives some mention of the arts, especially literature. I also think he was very fair in his approach to the morality of the British empire. He tries hard to be balanced and recognize both the blessings and the curses of British rule. Also, as an added treat, the last few of his lectures go on to talk about Britain in the modern era since the loss of its empire.
Some Limitations: As an overview, the professor covers everything in brief but few things in detail. If you are looking for a deep history on any one area, such as the history of British rule in a region, in depth political or military history, or an overview of British monarchs and government, you will be disappointed. But, if you are looking for a general but thorough overview you will be satisfied. There were some personalities, places, and events that were left out. For example, little was said about Britain's scattered island possessions, save some of the Caribbean islands and a brief mention of the Falklands, or British Guyana.
Overall this was a very enjoyable and worthwhile listen. Anyone who is interested in the topic will leave with a nice overview of the history of the British empire... and probably enjoy the ride! : )
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!
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