The course begins with an overview of war and terms and definitions as they will be used throughout the course. The detailed history covers the rise of the nation-state, the ancién regime of France and the French Revolution, the American Civil War and its economic and political consequences, World War I and the Russian Revolution, Mussolini and the fascists and Hitler and the Nazis, World War II: European & Pacific theaters, the building and dropping of the atomic bomb, and the holocaust of the Jews and American Indians.
Dr. Shermer then explores the proximate and ultimate causes of all wars, employing psychology, anthropology, and evolutionary theory to explore political and economic solutions to the prevention of war.
©2009 Michael Shermer; (P)2009 Michael Shermer
This program is a recording of a lecture series so you should be aware of this before you make the purchase. Don't expect it to flow like a book.
My main concern before deciding to purchase this program was whether he might have made some errors or misquotes since he does not have the benefit of an editor to review the written transcript. But after listening I got the impression that the professor gave an accurate picture of the subject. He was able to make it clear when he was unsure of a specific detail or unsure of the exact wording of a quote. I came away with a better understanding of the subject.
I enjoyed listening to the real-time lecture. In addition to the written material I got to hear and assess the personality of the speaker while delivering his own material. I heard how he responded to the occasional comment or question from his students. This livened up the recording.
I also heard what he thought was funny or ironic. Several times throughout the program the professor would break into a short laugh at something that was not exactly funny. It took me a few times to get used to this as being one of his quirks. For example when he was discussing how the 'kill rate' of the atomic bomb was 54% he said, 'So, 54% was good news if you are a weapons maker [short laugh] bad news if you're on the other end [another laugh].' This comes up often enough that I thought it would be worth mentioning - not to discourage a would be listener but rather to give a heads up as to what can be expected.
Also, there were a couple of classes towards the end of the program where the recording was a bit fuzzy. I was still able to understand it well enough but I can imagine someone getting upset at the inconsistencies of the sound quality.
It's not like an audio book. But hearing how much the lecturer is into the subject he is teaching it made it a worthwhile listen for me.
Shermer's lectures were not well recorded (could not hear either him or the questioners at times). His lectures give details of history (which I love) but did not weave them into a wider fabric of meaning (which is what he states he is doing at the outset of the course). I'll not buy another book like this again (set of lectures).
I purchase this book for the idea of the title. Although the theme was great, I got really annoyed with the misquotes that the author had throughout the lecture. He has to check his facts and how he used them. Because of this problem, it is not the worth the time to listen to it.
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