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.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
©2007 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2007 The Great Courses
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.
I focus on fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, science, history, politics and read a lot. I try to review everything I read.
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.
Nurse. Foodie. Spiritually Motivated.
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.
I wish he had some of his other books available in audio format.
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.
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.
Someone who is having trouble sleeping at night or a dead person.
No, I enjoy history books. The narrator ruined this book by going off topic so much that you can't follow anything he's talking about...forget about retaining anything useful.
He is incredibly boring and ruined every single topic by cramming in so many useless personal thoughts instead of just stating historical facts and moving on. I really wanted to like this book and I can't believe I stuck through to the bitter end, but this was by far the worst audio book I've tried so far. This f#$king guy just couldn't stop going off on tangents and completely losing me. I was really focused on my long commute to work each day and I honestly could not follow most of what he was saying because he kept cramming in useless additional information. What a let down...wow! It really upset me that I wasted this much time on this book.
Please don't waste your time with anything by this author/professor. He is painfully dull. If I had this guy as a professor in college I would have dropped the class after the first 5 minutes. He reminds me of that annoying relative that just won't stop talking and loves to give his boring opinion about everything. I can never get this time back...
I would not recommend this book to anyone. Find another lecturer!
It is presented as an educational work and offered very challenging conclusions about the world's major civilizations - Western Europe, Russia, Islamic countries, India, China, Japan, South America, and the US - but there are little or no facts? No examples? No evidence to back his provocative conclusions? The lack of such evidence, even just some simple points, undermines all credibility in his arguments.
I will continue to listen to the Great Courses and particularly their history lessons, but never again material by this author.
If this his style of teaching, then I would never take another course from Professor Stearn.
The professor states early and often how he is presenting views of world history that will and do differ substantially from commonly held beliefs, yet he generalizes those conclusions without offering any facts or examples to back his "hypotheses?"
- He spends several entire lectures discussing the advanced state of scientific, cultural and economic affairs in 6th century Islamic Caliphate, but doesn't offer a single "hard" example of such advancements?
- He discusses the progression of South American literature in the late 19th century, a fact which is easy to support, but doesn't provide a single author or work as proof?
- His presentation of Chinese advancement in reading and writing during the Western "dark ages" is so emphatic you would believe that not a single person outside of China could read until paper was "stolen" from China. Which it was and he could have easily discussed in some depth but made as a "matter of fact".
Bottom line - the Professor either knows his material so well that he ignorantly believes people should "just know these facts" so he doesn't need to present them, or he believes that as an "authority" of history we should just believe?
I really wanted to learn from this program and listened to the entire offering in hope of just some useful facts and concrete relationships about the world. I am left with a single man's opinion of World History according to him, with little practical application and a system of unsubstantiated cultural relationships that leave the listener with nowhere to go next? Is not the learning of history intended to teach us those systemic relationships so we can better understand today and possibly forecast the path of the future?
If you want other ideas, look for "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective" by Professor Gregory S. Aldrete
No, when I want to learn about history I am looking for facts, not a biased view of history.
Facts, facts, facts without the biases.
The performance was fine
All the parts with the writers opinion instead of just the facts
Not sure I would trust great courses or even try another course.
"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.
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