One of the most interesting ways that historians study the past is through the so-called “great man theory”: the idea that history is shaped by the lives, decisions, and legacies of specific individuals.
Alexander the Great, Jesus, Darwin, and Churchill are just a few of the many politicians, religious leaders, scientists, philosophers, authors, inventors, and generals who transformed our world in ways that still resonate today. Now, with this unique collection of 36 lectures from our extensive course catalog, meet the remarkable people without whom the world would never be the same. Their lives, accomplishments, and legacies (for good or ill) are a testament to the enduring idea that individual men and women have the power to shape not just their own generation but succeeding generations as well.
And while revolutionary figures have been the subject of fascinating lectures across many different Great Courses, what single course (or professor) could cover all of them? Now, with 36 Revolutionary Figures of History, enjoy a unique collection of 36 lectures from our extensive catalog of courses—a collection that offers piercing insights and great lessons on some of world history’s most transformative figures. This Great Courses collection takes you across time and around the globe, and puts you in the presence of ancient kings, medieval poets, modern prime ministers—and even some figures you may not have considered to be as revolutionary as they are. Without the contributions of these remarkable people, the world as they knew it (and as we know it today) would never be the same.
Fresh Perspectives on History’s Heavyweights
Every lecture in 36 Revolutionary Figures offers an intriguing window into why individual men and women had such a profound, irrevocable impact on the course of world events. But this collection isn’t just a laundry list of accomplishments; rather, it’s a vibrant compilation of different perspectives on revolutionary figures.
You’ll examine the world that was dramatically reformed by a particular individual, or plunge into a defining moment in an individual’s life, or learn how an individual went on to influence some of history’s other great revolutionaries. Most important: you’ll come away with a thorough understanding of why human history is so indebted (for better or, in some instances, for worse) to these 36 epic figures.
- Socrates: He’s considered one of the most radical and revolutionary minds in Western philosophy. But why? Travel back in time to ancient Athens and explore the pre-Socratic world that was shattered by Socrates’s eye-opening views on politics and morality.
- Jesus: Investigate how Jesus’s idea of “the kingdom of God” posed a challenge to the people of his time and place. Also, come to see his teachings and miracles as transformative ideas that disrupted pre-established moral codes.
- Queen Victoria: Under the reign of Queen Victoria in the 19th century, the British Empire expanded around the globe and evolved into one of the signature world powers of the modern era. Who was this enigmatic individual, and why was her leadership so effective?
- Abraham Lincoln: For a unique take on one of American history’s greatest presidents, study a pivotal moment in Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, in which the political genius overcomes military weaknesses and orchestrates the landmark Emancipation Proclamation.
- Mohandas Gandhi: Some of modern history’s greatest civic leaders (including Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela) are indebted to Gandhi’s teachings of nonviolent resistance and peaceful protest. Unearth the roots of iconic ideas and traditions that still inspire people today.
You’ll also encounter some figures that you may not have considered to be so revolutionary, including
- King Narmer, the ruler who unified upper and lower kingdoms of ancient Egypt, establishing the world’s first true nation;
- Roger Williams, whose radical ideas about religious liberty brought about a remarkable explosion of religious diversity that transformed colonial America; and
- Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the best-selling novel that lay bare the horrors of slavery to everyday Americans.
Great Figures Explained by Great Professors
It takes a great professor to help you truly understand what makes an individual so revolutionary. For 36 Revolutionary Figures, we’ve assembled individual lectures from some of our most highly rated and beloved professors and instructors. Drawn from a range of academic fields (including military history, science, literature, religious studies, and philosophy), each of these professors lends his or her expert knowledge and teaching skills.
Among the great professors you’ll learn from in this Great Courses collection are:
- Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland of the Yale University School of Medicine, who explains why doctors are forever indebted to the work of the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates;
- Classicist and award-winning professor Elizabeth Vandiver of Whitman College, who serves as your guide into the lasting influence of the Roman author Virgil and his Aeneid;
- Georgetown University Professor John L. Esposito, an expert on Islamic studies who explores the historical importance of the faith’s founder, Muhammad;
- Dr. Don Howard, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, whose work on Albert Einstein makes his lecture on the iconic physicist so captivating and authoritative; and
- Author and professor Richard Baum of the University of California, Los Angeles, an expert on modern China who reveals the terror of Mao Zedong’s revolutionary regime.
An Accessible, Rewarding Intellectual Adventure
Pairing some of the world’s most radical individuals with some of academia’s most engaging teachers, 36 Revolutionary Figures makes for a unique opportunity to probe history’s “great man theory”—and to explore some of the many exciting learning experiences you can have with The Great Courses. Maybe you’ll discover new avenues of intellectual exploration. Maybe you’ll encounter a professor whose unique teaching style speaks to you. Maybe you’ll rethink your previously held views on individuals and concepts across multiple disciplines.
Countless adventures await you with The Great Courses, and this carefully crafted collection’s look at titanic historical figures makes for an accessible and rewarding first step.