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A Brief History of the World Lecture

A Brief History of the World

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Publisher's Summary

The construction of the great pyramids of Egypt, the development of democracy in ancient Greece, the glories of ancient Rome - these stories are familiar to students of history. But what about the rest of the world? How do the histories of China and Japan, or Russia, India, and the remote territories of Sub-Saharan Africa and South America fit in with commonly known accounts of Western traditions?

Learn the rest of the story with these 36 riveting lectures that survey the expanse of human development and civilization across the globe. From the invention of agriculture in the Neolithic era to the urbanized, technologically sophisticated world of the 21st century, you'll apprehend "the big picture" of world history. You'll examine and compare the peoples, cultures, and nations of Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas to understand how, throughout history, peoples all over the world have connected and interacted, traded goods and technology, and conquered and learned from each other.

As you travel around the world and through time, Professor Stearns provides surprising insights that will overturn many of your assumptions about history. For instance, you'll see how the invention of agriculture brought with it a number of drawbacks, such as a new inequality between men and women and greater exposure to epidemic diseases. Fascinating episodes like these will give you a deep appreciation for the human experience as it was lived throughout the centuries.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2007 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2007 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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3.9 (132 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Tad Davis 12-05-13
    Tad Davis 12-05-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Global"

    In the beginning of this course, Peter Stearns goes to great lengths to define what he means by World History, and talks about it as a recent development. But haven't we been studying World History all our lives? Not really, he argues. What we were doing is Western Civilization, treating it as the only part of World History that mattered. What he's doing here is showing the Other Side of the Story, and this particular way of doing World History IS a new thing.

    Inevitably, there's some imbalance in the approach. He tries to keep Western Europe and North America in the picture with a lesson here and there, but his main focus is on East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. The perspective he brings is truly global: Rome and Western Europe may have been in tatters, he says, but during that same period China and East Asia were thriving, so let's talk about what THEY were up to.

    Inevitably, he glosses over some events, even some that would illustrate the issues he's discussing. For example, one of the lessons deals at length with slavery and its abolition. In the course of the lesson, he touches on the North American abolitionist movement and the difficulties faced by freed slaves in the latter part of the 19th century; but he never mentions the American Civil War. This isn't just chauvinism on my part. Nearly a million people died in that war, and the war's chief aim was the destruction of the South's slave-based economy. What could be more relevant to the point at hand?

    It should also be noted that this is not a narrative history; it's more of a sociological and economic history. There's a lot of emphasis on trade, and not so much on the Great Men (and Women) who ruled the countries engaged in that trade.

    Stearns has blocked out broad periods of time: the great river civilizations, prior to 1000 BCE; the Classsical period, from 1000 BCE to 500 CE; the Post-Classical period, to 1450 CE; the Early Modern period, to 1750 CE; the "long 19th century," up to the beginning of the First World War; and everything else since then. Within each of these periods, his treatment is more often thematic or geographical than chronological. He'll have lessons on Revolution, for example, or Gender Relations, or Globalization; and mixed in with these will be lessons that focus on Latin America or China.

    Personally, I would prefer a juicier narrative. But Stearns is well-informed on all the topics he discusses, and he always has a packet of unusual facts, comparisons, or connections up his sleeve. (Who got most of the silver from the New World? If you said Spain, you'd be wrong: it was China. Understanding how that came about is one of the pleasures to be had from the course.)

    Stearns has an unusual way of speaking that took some getting used to. Many of his sentences consist of lists - each item in the list ending with a rising inflection, like a question. Eventually I settled into the rhythm. The fact hat his lists are consistently interesting and well-organized helps.

    22 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Justin 08-20-13
    Justin 08-20-13 Member Since 2016

    Nurse. Foodie. Spiritually Motivated.

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    "Great Learning"
    What did you like best about this story?

    It was enlightening to close one's eye's and picture the story of world history in the mind. It allowed for a greater depth of understand over such a vast period of time.


    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 02-11-14
    Michael Walnut Creek, CA, United States 02-11-14 Member Since 2016

    I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "History at 30,000 feet"

    This is a quite academic and high level lectures on world history which tries to treat all countries equally, but ends up covering everything from such a high level as to separate the history from the humanity. This breaks up history into periods with clear themes and historical theoretical models are proposed and argued. There are virtually no readings from original texts, no quotes of historical figures, and very few specific examples of historical activity to bring the history being discussed to life. There was very little actual analysis of why things happened the way they did. There were tiny references to Germs, Guns and Steel and the like, but so superficial as to be almost funny. I like history a lot, but this kind of history leaves me cold. For me the best history is a thoughtful non-auto biography, the next best is a thoughtful treatment of an event or movement or time of change, less good are chronological histories of a country, this history was of everything (which became largely a history of nothing).

    There were a few moments of interest, but far too few. The lecturer makes many references to “quite interesting” stories, people and events, but does not waste any time on these interesting things, instead he must continue to describe the very broad thrusts of history (of course giving equal time to every culture and every country an award for effort). I really like alternative histories and histories from non-western perspectives, but I want history that is rich with ideas and art and action and sweat and blood and greed and passion with quotes and poetry, art and science, examples and quantities.

    I find “Uh”, “OK”, and “Alright” thrown in audio books really quite annoying. Each of these ‘OK” and “Alrights” seemed to me to say “there, I have finished that section, not great, but let’s move on.”

    This is not really bad, just really not my thing. It reminds me of any average college world history class needed to meet the general-ed requirement. I did finish it, and it did not put me to sleep, but I certainly would not recommend it or listen to it again.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alex 09-16-15
    Alex 09-16-15 Member Since 2015
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    "A course on how to teach a world history course"

    It took me until near the end to realize that this isn't so much a brief history of the world, but a framework for how to organize your own course in teaching world history. Much of these lectures focuses on justifying the inclusion of certain material in a world history course as opposed to simply teaching the material outright. The actual history was interesting, but would have easily fit in a 6 hour lecture series. I do not recommend this to anyone hoping to lay a foundation for their own history knowledge as I was, although it's probably great for those who have a good foundation in world history and are on a career path toward a world history teacher or professor.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Synesthë 04-25-15
    Synesthë 04-25-15 Member Since 2014
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    "This was great!"

    Very interesting. I love the great courses. I majored in history in college, but even though this wasn't any new information for me I still found the lectures very interesting and enjoyable. Great for anyone with no background in history or for someone who wants a brief refresher.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    scott h. 01-31-14
    scott h. 01-31-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Another Great Option From Audible"
    Have you listened to any of Professor Peter N. Stearns’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I wish he had some of his other books available in audio format.


    Any additional comments?

    The lecture is broken down into nice 30 minute segments / topics. He covers history in both a chronological order and then he comes back with topics that emphasize specific points. I enjoyed the lecture as much as a good history book - a nice additional option fro audible.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PJ Long Island, NY 09-19-16
    PJ Long Island, NY 09-19-16 Member Since 2013
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    "Feel like a scholar"

    Truly step into the classroom. Do your homework and love the lectures.
    A great opportunity realized.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul 09-18-16
    Paul 09-18-16 Member Since 2015
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    "A refreshing take on world history"

    I appreciated this set of lectures, particularly because of its use of the lens of social history in the discussion of world history. These discussions are worth noting, for example: the rise of patriarchy at the dawn of civilization, the development and decline of serfdome from medieval to imperial Russia, and finally up to Globalization as a social force translating into legal policy. The lecturer gives an exhaustive and detailed presentation on the complexity of the subject. Truly delightful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J_Direct 07-13-16
    J_Direct 07-13-16
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    "The Politically Correct version of History"
    Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Peter N. Stearns?

    No


    What was one of the most memorable moments of A Brief History of the World?

    Good Overview and reference for Teaching World History; however, it is very unfortunate that Professor Stearn has taken the mandate of "US World History" as a politically motivated vindication of the West, and everything Western. Many, many examples throughout the book, leave it understood that Stern is a product of the 60's generation in the US, and as such, a good representative of that counter-cultural bent. Listen to this for content only, ignore the opinion.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Peter N. Stearns?

    Perhaps, but not with Prof. Stearn's interpretation and bias.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from A Brief History of the World?

    Take each instance of interaction with the West and critique for Stearn's biased opinion. One example: He mentions the Enlightenment. That is it. He spends a considerable amount of time discussing why he is not going to pay attention to the Enlightenment, but he does his absolute best not to show any worthy qualities of mankind's advancement attributable to the West. This theme of doggedly undermining anything attributable to the West is indeed his central theme.


    Any additional comments?

    Given the accolades bestowed upon Professor Stearn, taking a significant amount of time at the beginning of this recording, one can only assume that Professor Stearn is indeed a good representative of the World History movement and Association. This said, a good reference to Professor Richard Bulliet from Columbia University is in order (paraphrasing): World History (as taught in the US) is a direct result of the 60's generation anti-establishment surge, along with the Feminist movement. Thus, whereas Professor Stearn appears to be well read, from a historiography perspective, his opinion and interpretation, as well as that of the World History Association, is significantly biased. History itself shall illustrate this. Unfortunately, Professor Stearn will not be one to consider adaptation.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edmundkw Singapore, Singapore Singapore 05-06-16
    Edmundkw Singapore, Singapore Singapore 05-06-16 Member Since 2015
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    "Not as interesting as I had hoped"
    Would you be willing to try another book from The Great Courses? Why or why not?

    Yes - I have enjoyed listening to The Great Courses and learnt much from some of the lectures.


    Any additional comments?

    Kind of basic and the Prof seemed to be stretching to make some of the connections. It was boring at some points, and I felt that more detail to support the arguments would have been nice.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Dr Ibrahim Nasr
    9/26/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "This is not a brief history of the world"
    Would you try another book written by The Great Courses or narrated by Professor Peter N. Stearns?

    I would still read and listen to The Great Courses books BUT NOT any book by the author


    What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    To start, he should have written and narrated a proper history with names of rulers and dates, then started to give his unfounded theories


    What didn’t you like about Professor Peter N. Stearns’s performance?

    He was overbearing in forcing his false theories on the listener. All his chosen examples were biased and do not reflect the other opinion


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from A Brief History of the World?

    Practically I would have asked him to re-write the whole book


    Any additional comments?

    He should either include history in his book or change its title into (exhaustive biased theories on human history)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Andrew J Nolan
    12/31/15
    Overall
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    Story
    "Enjoyable"

    This is a history of trends and inter relationships rather than events and the big names. I found it a very enjoyable look at the history of the world from a global viewpoint.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Clayton
    9/18/15
    Overall
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    "Would have enjoyed more depth"

    Very good and well structured. I was hoping for more depth and detail, but that isn't the author's intention.

    None the less, this is an extremely good overview of world history

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • MR F.
    3/26/15
    Overall
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    "Obviously not required"

    The presenter seems unable to say more than a few sentences without using the word 'obviously'. I was hoping that as the material went on that either this word would be used less frequently, or I would find it less irritating. Unfortunately, neither was the case.

    As for the material itself, I don't normally do history so was hoping to be engaged and pulled in. However, it didn't happen for me and was glad when I finally got to the end. Obviously, the overuse of the word 'obviously' did not help.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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