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The History of Christian Theology
- By: Phillip Cary, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Phillip Cary
- Length: 18 hrs and 56 mins
- Original Recording
In this 36-lecture course, you'll find an engaging way to explore profound religious questions and the many responses believers, scholars, and theologians have developed over more than 2,000 years. Through this series, Professor Cary reveals the enduring power of the Christian tradition-as both an intellectual discipline and a spiritual path.These lectures begin at the very dawn of Christianity, as you examine some of the earliest examples of scripture recorded by the first communities of the faithful.
Been Waiting for This
- By Slinksterchic on 09-25-13
Excellent First Half; Second Half Lacking
I feel like this course trailed off as it progressed (although the last lecture did regain some of my interest). The first half, concentrating on Christian theology in the ancient world and medieval times, was stellar. The topics were engaging, the lectures captivating, and Professor Cary was at his best. At worse it was four star material but closer to 5.
While the second half opened up strong (lecture 20 on the differences between Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism was one of the three highlights of the course; The other two being lectures 9 (Philosophy and religion) and 10 (doctrine of the Trinity)) it began to fade. Lectures spent too much time on different views of how a Christian is saved and the nature of God’s grace and the professor didn’t articulate the differences well enough in some cases. I know this was a theology course vs. worship but I would’ve preferred if he spent more time explaining other differences between the various protestant denominations (i.e. how does a Baptist worship session differ from a Methodist one vs. a Catholic, etc.). I would give the second half three stars. Three and a half stars would be my ideal rating for this course but Audible doesn't let us rate in half stars :-(
Areas of the evolution and history of Christian theology covered in this course:
- Theology taught in the New Testament books themselves (Paul and the gospels)
- Creation of orthodoxy (and its triumph over differing early Christian schools of thought such as Gnosticism)
- Incorporation of elements of western philosophy
- Doctrines of the early church fathers in the first few centuries AD
- Medieval Christian thought
- Eastern Orthodox views/great Schism
- Reformation: Lutheranism, Calvinism, Anabaptists, Anglicans, and Puritans
- Protestantism in modernity: Baptists, Quakers, Pietists, Methodists, Revivalists, Pentecostalism, Deists, Liberal Protestants, Neo-Orthodoxy, Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism
- Catholicism in modernity including Jesuits, Dominicans, and Quietists
Some other minuses:
1- I was a little surprised that the formation of the Christian scriptural canon wasn’t described in more details (what books were deemed scripture and when)
2- There are times in which I wish the professor would’ve explained something in different terms to help me “get it” vs. just repeating a point numerous times (for example I wasn’t exactly following some of his descriptions of some of the differences between Lutheranism and the Reformed movement and though he would dwell on explaining a specific description, he would repeat the point in the same way for the most part without saying it differently to aid comprehension)
My ultimate assessment of this course mirrors another one of his courses: "Philosophy and Religion in the West": outstanding start making it hard to stop listening but by the second half I was left more times than not asking, "just what did he mean there?" But I still leave with a positive impression for both courses and would still recommend them. Professor Cary is a great presenter!
A Brief History of the World
- By: Peter N. Stearns, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Peter N. Stearns
- Length: 19 hrs and 1 min
- Original Recording
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.
- By Tad Davis on 12-05-13
A Different Type of History Course
I had alot of reservations about this course after seeing one of the lowest average review ratings for any of the Great Courses. But a course encompassing all of world history was something that intrigued me enough to give it a shot (even if going in I knew it wouldn't be able to go into much detail).
I am glad I didn't let the negative reviews stop me. I can certainly see the shortcomings that would prompt one to provide a poor review but on the whole I did not think this was a bad course at all and certainly not deserving of a 3.3 average rating.
I thought it offered an innovative approach to studying world history. Instead of discussing one civilization in one full lecture followed by the next civilization in the next lecture (typical of other history courses in general and Great Courses in particular) this course's approach truly involved a synchronistic comparison of multiple civilizations or religions that were contemporaries of one another....all in the same lecture. I thought this was one of the main (only) negatives of one of my all-time favorite courses: "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective". It was excellent in covering any given specific empire but often did not provide perspective of what else was going on in the world at that time (contemporary empires would be discussed in the next lecture but the full picture of world affairs at a specific time was lost).
This approach allows one to truly get a history of social interactions, connectedness, conflicts, and trade/economies in humanity's time on earth.
He focuses discussion on political, economic, cultural, and social trends in these defined world history periods:
o Classical period (1000 BC to 500 AD)
o Post Classical period (500-1450)
o Early Modern period (1450-1750)
o The Long Century (1750-1914)
o The Contemporary Period (1914-present)
Highlights for me included lecture 9 on the collapse of the classical empires and lecture 14 on Japan, Russia, Southeast Asia, and Western Europe imitating more developed societies in the post classical period.
While I give the approach and identification of general themes an A, unfortunately, the delivery leaves alot to be desired and I think this is where the poor reviews come in.
While Professor Stearns certainly brings some interesting discussions to the table, the fact of the matter is his teaching style is simply not very engaging or full of much personality which means when there are lectures that do not involve a topic that is interesting to me, it is hard for him to keep me engaged or draw me in. I hate judging a professor by whether he/she makes things interesting or not but the reality is this stuff matters in assessing my feelings on a course. Learning is the mission here but so is a desire to be entertained in a way so as to make an 18 hour journey worth my time. He just doesn't bring things to life.
Professor Stearns goes out of his way to talk up non-western civilizations and talk down western civilizations especially in the early going. While I understand a World History approach is not supposed to be slanted towards western civilization specifically, he goes overboard resulting in the pendulum swinging way too far the other way.
He especially seems to consider ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and western Europe as inferior in just about every way to China or India to the point it seems to pain him to say anything good about them or when he does he qualifies it such as calling it “dumb luck” or never failing to remind us that the west "stole" certain innovations from China and used them for their own purposes---yet there is no acknowledging their adaptiveness. In trying to provide a balanced view he does the opposite and one is left wondering when a balanced view of the west will be provided.
How many times does he have to remind us this is not a western civilization course? We get it. We're adults. Tell us once. We don't need the qualification/warning multiple times. I think we can appreciate a lecture or discussion without him needing to remind us time and time again that there are other parts of the world than just the west.
He obviously uses the word “obviously” so many obvious times, even when the point he is making is not necessarily obvious, that I am obviously annoyed!
There are better history courses out there: "Big History" excels in discussing world history pre-agriculture and "History of the Ancient World" will provide much more details of civilizations/bring things to life but for what this course sets out to do (identify greater historical trends across time periods by comparing contemporary civilizations) I have to admit it does indeed succeed and is a very solid, good course.
The African Experience: From 'Lucy' to Mandela
- By: Kenneth P. Vickery, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Kenneth P. Vickery
- Length: 18 hrs and 18 mins
- Original Recording
The story of Africa is the oldest and most event-filled chronicle of human activity on the planet. And in these 36 lectures, you'll explore this great historical drama, tracing the story of the sub-Saharan region of the continent from the earliest evidence of human habitation to the latest challenges facing African nations in the 21st century. By learning with these lectures, you'll finally be able to bust myths and correct potential misunderstandings about Africa.
- By Logical Paradox on 03-12-14
Travesty This is the Only TGC Course on African Hi
While I'm glad TGC offers a course on African history, it falls extremely short of any kinds of expectations. It is sad that this is the only course offered on African history. What bothers me is that we keep getting course after course on ancient Rome or Greece crammed down our throats but TGC only offers one course on Africa. Not only was it produced 12 years ago but the topper is it has a 3.9 review rating! Shouldn't that be a signal that there is a serious gap in TGC's catalog on this wonderful region? Executives, I suspect there is an audience out there that would jump at a new course on African history. Take a gamble and go for it!
Okay here are my specific gripes:
1- The professor could’ve fit more information in the limited space he had but there were long pauses in the delivery of his sentences, and tangents that while sometimes interesting, seemed out of place for an introductory course on Africa that had a lot of ground (literally) to cover with not a lot of time; He even acknowledged this course format would be a new experience for him so I wonder if this just wasn't him at this best; He had a particular annoying habit of grasping at straws for the last word or two to complete a sepcific sentence/point and you can tell it was a main point he wanted to emphasis but he would end the sentence with some common generic word that would add nothing to what the earlier words of his sentence conveyed; The struggle for that last word made me think it would really drive the point home but instead it was superfluous...so why waste time kicking out 5 "uhh"'s searching for it?!! (sorry for the vent)
2- Not enough on pre-European colonization civilizations (the main topic of interest of mine since I know little or nothing of ancient African peoples); While I acknowledge written historical documents from these civilizations may be sparse compared with other areas of the globe, I am stunned there was next to nothing on the rich mythology from this region at least
3- A lot of topics are spoken about in general, ideological terms vs. specifics that relate to specific African nations or historical events; For example he spent multiple lectures discussing and defining European colonialism and African nationalism in abstract terms yet he spent little time discussing the specific European colonies themselves or what actually happened (which country colonized which area, their names, the sequence of these colonial expeditions, an overview of what the map looked like during this time, etc.); And while he did spend some time on how some countries became independent (Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Namibia) most of the time he did not (for example he would only give the year specific colonies became independent nations but no details of how it came about)
4- Not enough history: he would spend way too much time defining banal things like what the word “watershed” means or how European colonialism required not only the willingness to do it but the ability to do so (he explains how grocery shopping is the same: you have to want to do something and the capability to do it---I couldn't believe a professor actually spent previous minutes discussing this point and example) to the point that I think he realizes he is running out of time in the lecture and would quickly relate the historical events he meant to cover like they were secondary; Yet that is what we want! We want to know about African history and events and not how to define "watershed"!!
For me the only real highlight was lecture 29 (explanations for why leaders of the newly independent nations turned more and more authoritative in order to hold onto power). It was one of the few times I found myself full engaged. I can't give this less than three stars because there is some historical content present that is lacking in other courses so I won't be deleting this one from my library (primarily because there is no other African history course!).
In case you are interested, the following peoples/kingdoms were covered:
- The first humans
- Hunters and Gatherers
- The first agricultural people
- Ancient Egypt
- Cush (in Nubia which is modern-day Sudan)
- West African kingdoms (Ghana, Mali, and Songhai)
- Swahili of East Africa
- South African empires (Great Zimbabwe, Dutch colony, Zulu, British colony, and Lesotho)
- European colonies and their independence movements to nations (although they were discussed in general terms and not a lot of time spent on specific ones; Exceptions include Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Namibia)
- Modern day South Africa
- Modern day Ghana and Zambia
- Rwanda (the 1990's genocide)
I wish I had an alternative course to recommend (as I usually do when I provide anything less than a 4 star rating) but there just doesn't seem to be any. I hope TGC rectifies this situation sooner than later.
- By: Patrick N. Allitt, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Patrick N. Allitt
- Length: 18 hrs and 36 mins
- Original Recording
This series of 36 fascinating lectures is a chronological journey into the story of Victorian Britain, from the unexpected ascension to the throne of teenaged Princess Victoria in 1837 to her death in 1901 as the Boer War neared its end.Presented with all of Victoria's strengths and foibles left intact by an award-winning teacher and author, the lectures invite you to reflect on both the positive and negative aspects of her reign.
Very good introductory course
- By Dulce on 10-08-13
Death by Quotation
This is my third course by Professor Allitt. "History of the United States" did not draw me in but I thought "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire" was wonderfully done. So I suppose this course was going to be the tiebreaker/rubber match in some respects. Unfortunately, it did not deliver according to my expectations.
I think the best way I can sum up my assessment is a comment from another reviewer: this course felt like one long collection of antcedotes. It seemed to be lacking in "teaching" and narrating political history. Instead it was like the professor just wanted to share a number of stories he had collected concerning first hand accounts of very specific individuals vs. providing general information on a topic or event. His summary comments of what these quotes were supposed to illustrate seemed forced or squeezed in at the last minute like they were secondary to what one specific person thought about something and had written.
While I think some of the recitations certainly helped paint the picture of what life was like, the sheer number of them and the time dedicated to the quotations left me wondering if I had purchased a course on "Short Story Accounts of Victorian Britions". It felt like a majority of the lecture times were spent reading someone's quotes and the endless flow caused me to forget what topic was being discussed or what point the professor was trying to illustrate with the quote. I would've preferred more analysis/conclusions/teaching.
Another shortcoming was the way the professor opened and closed lectures. He would start off each lecture by providing a preview of a major historical event or time period that he was going to discuss in more detail later in the lecture. But he wouldn’t frame it as such which resulted in me thinking that was the one and only time he’d describe something and I was left wondering why he didn’t provide more meat to the event and why he was moving to the next item so fast. If he would’ve explained it was a preview and he would get into further detail later in the lecture then some of the relation of the events wouldn’t feel so disjointed. This approach wouldn’t leave any real drama relating to the result of the event to hold your attention (such as which side would win a major battle) so it was like you had all the answers in a minute and all that was left was repeating it by providing details
The professor often concluded his lectures in a somewhat abrupt manner: there wasn’t much summation of the key points of the lecture or a preview of what the next lecture had in store so there were times when the professor would make a point and suddenly there’d be applause to mark the end of the lecture without any warning that it was winding down! I understand 30 minutes is short and less time on summation means more can be squeezed in but how long does it take for one to mention "in summary..." or "in conclusion..."? 30 seconds? Small price to pay to avoid those abrupt endings/annoying applause at weird times.
There were highlights: lectures 1-5, 12, 15-19, 29, 31, and 35. Specifically I thought his analysis on British attitudes towards the American Civil War was excellently done and well worth my time.
My goal going in was to get a sense of the political history of this period, what everyday society was like, how the nation was transforming, and what factors actually constitute "Victorian Britain" (i.e. what makes it different from other periods). While I think most of those goals were met (a little less on the last one), the way we got here was not what I'd expected at all. But every professor has their own style and this one may resonate with you. For my money though if you are looking for information on this time period I would recommend Professor Allitt's other course: "The Rise and Fall of the British Empire" and "Foundations of Western Civilization II - A History of the Modern Western World" by Professor Robert Bucholz.
The Irish Identity: Independence, History, and Literature
- By: Marc C. Conner, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Marc C. Conner
- Length: 18 hrs and 41 mins
- Original Recording
Many political and cultural events sent shock waves through the Irish world in the 19th and early 20th centuries as Ireland gradually shook off the shackles of British rule. Alongside a long and painful political process arose one of the greatest flourishings of literature in modern times - a spirited discourse among those who sought to shape their nation's future, finding the significance of their bloody present intimately entwined with their legendary past.
Need to recommend a prerequisite
- By ELG on 11-13-16
A Masterpiece from Professor Connor
I can't say enough god things about this course. I have been known to be a notoriously tough reviewer but I honestly struggled mightily to identify any kinds of flaws in this masterfully produced course. Perhaps the only minus is the lack of Irish history narrative from 1940's to the present (especially the resolution of the struggles between the Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland) even if in summation for completeness sake (the political narrative seemed to end in the 1930’s). But this was not the focus of the Irish Identity/Renaissance of the late 1800's and early 1900's.
I've taken one other course with Professor Connor: "How to Read and Understand Shakespeare". And while I thought that was an excellently produced work, this course was just as brilliant and has elevated the professor in my pantheon of favorite instructors which includes Professors Elizabeth Vandiver, Gary Gallagher, and Jennifer Paxton.
I will admit I am much more interested in history than literature and I had some reservations purchasing this course because I knew it would be difficult for anyone to hold my attention through lectures on literature. But I bought it thinking at least I will retain 10 or so lectures on history and just "get through" the literature lectures as a necessary evil. While he knocked the ball out of the park on providing excellent narration of historical events surrounding Ireland from its first inhabitants in the Stone Age to independence in the 1930’s, I was amazed that his lectures on literature also kept me enraptured. He really knows how to capture the human condition.
This course focuses on the Irish Renaissance (the formation of the Irish identity in the late 19th and early 20th century). Its main theme is how Irish literature is inexorably tied up with politics and the search for independence from their English overloads. The historical narrative included (but was not limited to):
o The first inhabitants
o The Celtic people
o Christian missionaries/monasteries
o The Vikings
o England's dominion of the island/union
o The great famine
o The home rule debate
o The Dublin Lockout
o World War I
o The Easter Rising of 1916
o The War of Independence
o The Civil War
Another theme the professor does a good job of positing is the connection between the poets and the land of Ireland itself as if the history and culture is embedded in the soil itself.
For those of you interested in the breakdown: lectures 1-6, 18-19, 23-24, and 35 have a good mix of historical narrative and literature/poetry. The remaining lectures were strictly literature discussions.
Professor Connor has a great voice for lecturing. He has great command when presenting and communicates in a clear and easy to understand style but provides enough detail and color to draw you in to the narrative. He describes the atmosphere of certain events in such a way that makes you feel like you were there yourself. He superbly painted a picture of the land of Ireland and what the Irish identity truly entails.
Even the music that accompanied the intro and endings of the lectures was pleasant and soothing and seemed to fit the general theme of the course: optimism around the preservation of the Irish identity with a hint of sorrow reflecting the struggles and often heartbreaking history of the Irish under British rule. Does anyone know if there is a longer version for purchase anywhere??
It goes without saying that I would highly recommend this course to anyone with even a flicker of interest in history or literature. In fact even if you don't I would suggest it just so you could listen to how a great professor presents and teaches. Textbook stuff.
Please, please, please sign up Professor Connor for another course (hopefully on Shakespeare). And then a second. And third. And...
Jesus and the Gospels
- By: Luke Timothy Johnson, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Luke Timothy Johnson
- Length: 18 hrs and 30 mins
- Original Recording
For most of the last 2,000 years, questions about the figure of Jesus have begun with the Gospels, but the Gospels themselves raise puzzling questions about both Jesus and the religious movement within which these narratives were produced. Is it possible to shape a single picture from the various accounts of his life given us by these Gospels?
Thorough wideiranging overview of scholarship
- By Jacobus on 08-02-13
Just Not Enough Insight
I had high hopes for this course fueled by my interest in any kind of assessment and discussion of the Gospels. But for whatever reason it did not live up to my expectations. Too many times I found myself zoning out unable to be drawn in by the discussion. Something just didn't click. I guess I was expecting a different approach. I think it is fair to say this isn't an introductory course or at the very least it can be said the professor assumes the listener has a certain level of knowledge going in and not just around Jesus but also of the ancient world. He's one of those professors that at the end you "get" what he's trying to say but the effort to understand the journey/delivery he takes you through can be harrowing. You wished he would've just said things differently!
At first I had a hard time adjusting to the professor's presentation style. The cadence of the delivery of his sentences at times felt a little odd: Sometimes it is too slow to the point you lose interest mid-sentence. Other times he emphasizes what seems to be the wrong word based on the intent of his message. Other times it sounds like he is dragging something out as if he is talking to a group of small children.
There were quite a few times in which I had a hard time grasping a point he was making and I hoped he’d follow it up with “In other words...” or "for example..." and repeat it in a different way. Instead he would just move on to the next topic or point.
However, I did warm up to him as the lectures went on. In fact the way he laughed through lecture 27 (Infancy Gospel of Thomas) as he told the story of the unruly boy Jesus was endearing and I was finally starting to feel a connection to his approach. It just didn't seem to hold up.
Highlights for me included lectures 5 (the early spread of Christianity), 8 (assessing the synoptic problem), and 25 (process of canonization and an introduction to the apocryphal works). Other than that I had a hard time walking away from a lecture thinking "that was indeed worth my time". Don't get me wrong: he does provide great insight at times but it is scattered across 36 lectures in dribs and drabs. It is hard to rate a course higher than 2 stars when that happens. 18 hours is a huge time committment to only walk away with a half dozen or so moments of "wow great insight".
Ultimately though I wouldn't let my review keep you away. You may very well find his delivery and approach more suited to your learning style even if it did not resonate with me. I would just rather listen to Professor Bart Ehrman on Christianity and the Gospels.
The Peloponnesian War
- By: Kenneth W. Harl, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Kenneth W. Harl
- Length: 18 hrs and 2 mins
- Original Recording
The Peloponnesian War pitted Athens and its allies against a league of city-states headed by Sparta. The ancient Greek historian Thucydides captured this drama with matchless insight in his classic eyewitness account of what was arguably the greatest war in the history of the world up to that time. These 36 half-hour lectures draw on Thucydides' classic account as well as other ancient sources to give you a full picture of the Greek world in uneasy peace and then all-out war in the late 5th century B.C.
Enjoyable, not for Greek newbies...
- By The World's Greatest on 04-26-16
Alot of time on introduction and minute details
Unfortunately, this course did not meet my expectations. I am very much interested in the war and this time period in history but you had to get through HALF the course to get to the actual war. I think a much better title of the course would be "A History of Athens and Sparta from 490 BC through the Peloponnesian War".
Don't get me wrong: this is not a bad course. It had adequate historical narrative covering the Peloponnesian War as well as other major events in the Greek world involving Sparta and Athens from 490 BC to the end of the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC (with a quick recap of major events in the Greek world until 338 BC).
I thought lecture 7 (Greek-Persian wars) was a clear highlight of the course.
But too much time was spent on minute details without much understanding of how sometimes they all fit into the big picture of the narrative.
And there were too many introductory lectures to the actual war: background information is crucial but 18 lectures seem a bit much! If this course is seen more as a history of Athens and Sparta since the begining of the Persian wars then it makes sense but a lot of the factors that led up to the Peloponnesian War could’ve certainly been summed up in much fewer than 18 lectures.
Another thing that struck me as odd: After many lectures of in-depth details of strategies and play by play minutiae details of individual battles, the discussion on Sparta’s decisive victory to end the war was surprisingly sparse on details and info. In fact until that point we had heard of very few Spartan victories throughout the course and all the momentum seemed to be with Athens. And maybe the sources were light on this reversal but it just seems odd the professor would spend lecture after lecture creating and building a narrative and then introduce a Spartan total victory that was out of character with it and with few details.
If you are interested in the ancient Greek world of the 5th century BC, know alot about the war already, and are interested in learning more then by all means purchase this course. But if you are interested in only the war itself and don't have alot of knowledge on the topic then I feel like you may get more out of another great course: "History of the Ancient World - A Global Perspective".
War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500-2000
- By: Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius
- Length: 18 hrs and 41 mins
- Original Recording
For much of the past five centuries, the history of the European continent has been a history of chaos, its civilization thrown into turmoil by ferocious wars or bitter religious conflicts - sometimes in combination - that have made and remade borders, created and eliminated entire nations, and left a legacy that is still influencing our world.This 36-lecture series from an award-winning teacher and honored scholar pursues an explanation for this chaos that goes beyond the obvious ones of political ambition, religious intolerance, the pursuit of state power, or the fear of another state's aspirations.
A real quick-paced ovrview
- By Torsten Will on 12-11-14
A fascinating ride through 500 years of history
I have always been fascinated by European history and the intricate relationships between the various powers. So when I saw this course in the catalog I almost started drooling. A no-brainer to purchase. However, I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my high hopes and standards. Turns out I had absolutely nothing to worry about. This was indeed a Great Course.
It had fascinating historical narrative covering the history of European diplomacy, war, and peace from 1500-2000 including the rise and fall of numerous powers throughout the period and the various ever-shifting relationships between them.
The professor did a good job of explaining the often times complicated diplomatic relationships and actions by nations in an easy to understand manner.
A plethora of intriguing topics were covered: balance of power, maintaining an empire vs. nationalism, rebellion, colonialism, isolation, world war, and Cold War.
Although much of the course is focused on the big five of Britain, Prussia/Germany, France, Russia, and Austria the professor also included major events involving many other European nations. To name a few: Italy, Spain, Greece, Netherlands, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, and Czechoslovakia.
- Sometimes the professor’s explanations or rationales behind a country’s diplomatic decisions or alliances seem too oversimplified; Only one possible rationale is provided when these decisions are likely much more complicated and intricate and deserve multiple considerations/hypotheses
- The professor sometimes tended to use long winding sentences and because he would sometimes pause to either formulate his wording or avoid “filler” words there were times when it was difficult to follow his meaning or I’d forgot where he was going with something because it took so long to get out that I had forgot the beginning of the sentence!
I also wish a little more analysis could've been provided on the fall of the Communist governments in the late 20th century.
But these are minor gripes and the good far far outweigh them. The mark of a great course for me is one that has me enthralled so much that I can't stop listening from one lecture to another vs. taking breaks to allow a lecture to sink in or balance with other listening options. This one definitely passed the test and I would recommend it to anyone with any type of interest in European history, war, or diplomatic relations.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Human Prehistory and the First Civilizations
- By: Brian M. Fagan, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Brian M. Fagan
- Length: 18 hrs and 9 mins
- Original Recording
Where do we come from? How did our ancestors settle this planet? How did the great historic civilizations of the world develop? How does a past so shadowy that it has to be painstakingly reconstructed from fragmentary, largely unwritten records nonetheless make us who and what we are?
These 36 lectures bring you the answers that the latest scientific and archaeological research and theorizing suggest about human origins, how populations developed, and the ways in which civilizations spread throughout the globe.
Great Conceptually But Becoming Dated
- By Amazon Customer on 09-25-13
First third of the course is fascinating
After the first third of the course I was utterly engaged and wondering why this course had such negative reviews. By the time I had experienced the last two-thirds of the course I could see why it is currently rating an overall score of 4.0.
One of the main reasons I purchased this course was to learn more about the origins and evolution of early humans prior to the adoption of agriculture and civilizations. And the first 12 or so lectures definitely delivered on that front. I found these discussions fascinating and enlightening. The only criticism I can muster would be that little was said about the social structure of hunter-gatherer societies prior to agriculture; How big were these groups? How were they comprised? What type of interaction or organization existed? However, overall these lectures were the highlight of the course.
But then the last 2/3 of the course (origins of agriculture/farming settlements and the first civilizations) was much less interesting and engaging. Can't exactly put my finger on it but a few general observations on the minus side:
• The professor seemed to spend way too much time discussing the theme of inter-connectedness involving the first urban civilizations in Europe and Asia (how trade drew all of the cultures closer together into a web of economic connections) when more time could’ve been spent on the individual civilizations’ histories and rulers
• Without a map it was difficult to follow some of the lectures including the one on innovations on sea travel between the Mediterranean world and India
• The scope of the course may just be too wide. An astounding amount of time is covered: from our species' origin millions of years ago to the 15th century AD); I like the approach of covering all corners of the globe when discussing the first civilizations but that is alot of ground to cover and maybe the course should've stopped with prehistory or after the very first civilizations in Asia.
A nusiance more than anything: the professor would constantly refer to the Mediterranean region or Near East (middle East) as "Southwest Asia". It kept throwing me off since my first thought when I hear any reference to “Asia” would be China or India so I had to keep orientating myself to "oh he means the middle east".
But I hope you don't think this is a negative review in general. There certainly was good in this course: it is unique in some ways in that it included discussions of empires and civilizations that are not typically well known or covered in other courses including African cultures, the Khmer empire of southeast Asia, and North American cultures. I do give the professor credit for trying to cover such a broad spectrum of time, topics, and civilizations.
In general areas of focus of the course included:
o The first hominids including: Homo habilis and Homo eretus
o Movement of Homo erectus out of Africa and into Asia
o Movement of Homo erectus from Asia to Europe
o Neanderthals in Europe and Asia
o Modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens) and their movement out of Africa and into Europe (Cro-Magnons), Asia/Australia, and the Americas
o Invention of human art and spirituality
o Origins of agriculture- food farming and domestication of animals which led to a transition from a hunter-gatherer society to a sedentary one
o The formation of farming settlements in the middle east, Asia, Europe, Pacific islands, and the Americas
o The formation of the first urban civilizations:
• Harappan/Indus Valley
• Mauryan empire
• Chinese dynasties
• Khmer (in current day Cambodia)
• East African coast
• West Africa
• Pueblo cultures of the North American Southwest
• Eastern woodlands of North America (mound builder cultures)
• Mississippi cultures in the North American Southeast
• Mesoamerica including Olmec, Maya, Monte Albán, Teotihuacán, Toltecs and Aztec
• South American Andean cultures including Moche, Tiwanaku, Chimu, and Inka
If you're looking for a study of human prehistory (before agriculture/civilization) and the various controversies and theories behind aspects of this time period then I definitely recommend this course. If you're more interested in the origins of civilizations and their histories you may want to instead pick up "History of the Ancient World - A Global Perspective" which I thought was an excellent course. Or "The History of Ancient Egypt" or "Foundations of Eastern Civilization" which I also thought were well done.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Plato, Socrates, and the Dialogues
- By: Michael Sugrue, The Great Courses
- Narrated by: Michael Sugrue
- Length: 12 hrs and 2 mins
- Original Recording
These 16 lectures bring the Socratic quest for truth alive and explore ideas that are as vital today as they were 25 centuries ago. Ideas about truth, justice, love, beauty, courage, and wisdom that can change lives and reveal the world in new ways. Here, you'll delve into the inner structure, action, and meaning of 17 of Plato's greatest dialogues, making these lectures an indispensable companion for anyone interested in philosophy in general or Platonic thought in particular.
Easily the best audiobook in my collection
- By ADRIAN on 02-03-14
Seemed Too Advanced To Me But Professor is Awesome
This is the most unique review I have written for the Great Courses: I could only rate this course two stars and could not recommend it but I was mesmerized by the Professor's speaking style! I would've loved an opportunity to take one of his courses in person. This is the only series in which I've heard people in the audience laughing. He is very animated, passionate, contemporary, and must be a master at working a crowd. I just wish I could've gotten into the content better. Maybe because it felt too advanced a course for me but for specific content I would recommend "An Introduction to Greek Philosophy".