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36 Revolutionary Figures of History

36 Revolutionary Figures of History

Taught By Multiple Professors

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36 Revolutionary Figures of History

Course No. 9003
Taught By Multiple Professors
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Course No. 9003
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Course Overview

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.

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36 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
  • 1
    King Narmer - The Unification of Egypt
    (from Great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt, Lecture 1) How did ancient Egypt come to dominate the Near East for over 3,000 years? Find out in this exploration of the life and work of King Narmer: the revolutionary conqueror responsible for unifying Upper and Lower Egypt, and for establishing a political schema that created the world’s first true nation. x
  • 2
    Confucius - In Praise of Sage -Kings
    (from Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition, Lecture 6) Examine the rich intellectual tradition of China’s first philosopher, Confucius. As you’ll learn, this sage’s collected sayings (the Analects) became the most influential book ever written in the Chinese language, and laid down a comprehensive worldview that guided students in East Asia for 2,500 years. x
  • 3
    Socrates - A Revolution in Thought
    (from Masters of Greek Thought: Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle, Lecture 2) Without a doubt, Socrates is one of the most revolutionary figures in Western philosophy. How did people live in a “pre-Socratic” world? Why was Socrates’s shift to moral-political questions so groundbreaking? And what can an ancient Greek comedy by Aristophanes reveal about this great mind’s influence? x
  • 4
    Hippocrates and the Origins of Western Medicine
    (from Doctors: The History of Scientific Medicine Revealed Through Biography, Lecture 1) Meet Hippocrates: the veritable father of modern scientific medicine, whose radical views dramatically altered how we think about illness - and how doctors treat their patients. Discover how this ancient doctor abandoned superstition in favor of groundbreaking medical concepts, skills, and ethics still in use today. x
  • 5
    Artaxerxes II - The Longest-Ruling King
    (from The Persian Empire, Lecture 21) Artaxerxes II was the longest-ruling king of the entire Achaemenid Dynasty. So why is one of Persia’s most important kings one of its least appreciated? Rediscover the dramatic impact of a king who defeated revolts, negotiated peace with the Spartans, and stabilized an empire’s hold on the ancient world. x
  • 6
    Alexander the Great and the Shadow of Rome
    (from Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire, Lecture 36) Almost every revolutionary figure in history is indebted to Alexander the Great. In this lecture, get a fascinating assessment of Alexander’s contribution to military history. Also, take a closer look at just how much the Macedonian king’s career influenced later generations of conquerors and leaders. x
  • 7
    Virgil - Romes Epic Historian
    (from Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition, 2nd Edition, Lecture 19) With the Aeneid, Virgil created one of the most influential texts in ancient Rome - and all of Western civilization. Here, read between the lines of Virgil’s psychologically complex epic poem (inspired by the works of Homer) and get a better sense of its critical role in our literary tradition. x
  • 8
    Caesar and the Conquest of Gaul
    (from Famous Romans, Lecture 9) Where can one find the roots of what made Julius Caesar one of ancient Rome’s most revolutionary figures? Join an award-winning historian as he recreates the story of Caesar’s career and his dramatic conquest of Gaul - which would transform both the future of Rome and western Europe. x
  • 9
    The First Emperor - Augustus
    (from Emperors of Rome, Lecture 4) Fascinating, intriguing, opaque - Augustus is arguably the single most important figure in all of Roman history, and a giant in the history of Europe. In this lecture, delve into Augustus’s evolution from avenging revolutionary to senior statesman who ushered in the glory and grandeur of the Augustan Age. x
  • 10
    Jesus and the Kingdom of God
    (from Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, Lecture 21) Why were Jesus’s ideas about God’s kingdom as an earthly reality so groundbreaking? How did his parables and miracles disrupt the apparent order of the world and spark a movement that would become one of the greatest religions in human history? Find out in this insightful, illuminating lecture. x
  • 11
    The Christian Emperor - Constantine
    (from Emperors of Rome, Lecture 35) If the transition between the ancient and medieval worlds had a spark, it would undoubtedly be the reign of Constantine. The effects of his achievements would cascade into future ages, influencing events from the Great Schism to the Crusades. But this lecture asks an intriguing question: How much of Constantine’s conversion can be attributed to religious principle and how much to political expedience? x
  • 12
    Muhammad - Prophet and Statesman
    (from Great World Religions: Islam, Lecture 3) Muhammad’s dual role as God’s messenger and a living model of the Quran’s teachings had a major influence on religious history and international politics for more than 14 centuries. Learn how Islam’s central figure guided the military, political, and social development of the new Muslim community. x
  • 13
    William the Conqueror - England Transformed
    (from Turning Points in Medieval History, Lecture 9) Few turning points in history are as immediately transformative as the Battle of Hastings - a clash that dramatically altered the future of Europe on a single day in 1066. In this lecture, you’ll hear a blow-by-blow account of the battle and meet the conqueror whose power, ambition, and will sparked this definitive moment in the history of the Middle Ages. x
  • 14
    Thomas Aquinas - Christian Aristotelianism
    (from Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 3rd Edition, Lecture 3) Western thought would be radically different without Thomas Aquinas, who adapted Aristotelian thought (including logic, epistemology, and teleology) to the specific needs of Christian questions. What did this mean for the future of philosophy and theology? Grasp Aquinas’s significance in his time - and ours. x
  • 15
    Geoffrey Chaucer - Cosmopolitan Poet
    (from History of the English Language, 2nd Edition, Lecture 10) The English language as we know it is forever indebted to Geoffrey Chaucer. More than just the author of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer brought together Latin, French, and English into a fascinating synthesis of regional dialects. Learn how this medieval poet deployed new words, rhythms, and attitudes in his writing that would forever alter communication in an increasingly interconnected Europe. x
  • 16
    Martin Luther and Modernity
    (from Luther: Gospel, Law, and Reformation, Lecture 24) Many scholars attribute the start of the modern era to the dramatic split in Christendom that began with Martin Luther. Luther and the Protestant Reformation he inspired shook the religious landscape of medieval Europe. But what do his ideas and legacy mean for us today? x
  • 17
    Nicolaus Copernicus and the Moving Earth
    (from Great Scientific Ideas That Changed the World, Lecture 12) History’s greatest scientists are forever indebted to the radical reconceptualization of Earth’s place in the cosmos formulated in the 16th century by Nicolaus Copernicus. In this lecture, you’ll explore the Earth-centered beliefs of Copernicus’s time, consider some of the issues behind his theory of a moving Earth, and see how his followers dramatically transformed this theory in the century after his death. x
  • 18
    Galileo Galilei - The New Physics
    (from History of Science: Antiquity to 1700, Lecture 29) The early 17th century was a fertile - and tumultuous - period in the history of physics and astronomy. And the contributions of Galileo helped to undermine preconceived notions of how the physical world behaved. In this lecture, take a look at Galileo’s groundbreaking discoveries about motion. Then, experience one of the most intense moments in the conflict between science and faith: Galileo’s confrontations with the Catholic Church. x
  • 19
    Freedom of Worship - Roger Williams
    (from Turning Points in American History, Lecture 3) The concept of religious liberty is at the core of what made the United States of America such a radical political experiment. But few people know the name of the man who first codified religious freedom in the American colonies: Roger Williams. Learn how this man’s ideas brought about an explosion of religious diversity in America and influenced the Founders in creating the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. x
  • 20
    The Force of Isaac Newton
    (from History of Science: Antiquity to 1700, Lecture 34) Isaac Newton is the culmination of the Scientific Revolution and the prototype of the modern scientist. Strengthen your appreciation of this brilliant mind and the way he drew together several strands of science (physics, mathematics, cosmology, and astronomy) to create the “Newtonian synthesis.” x
  • 21
    Antonie van Leeuwenhoek - Microscopic World
    (from Turning Points in Modern History, Lecture 7) Although microscopes had been in existence for decades, in 1676, the Dutch merchant Antonie van Leeuwenhoek used them to see, for the first time, the microorganisms teeming all around us. His discovery of a world invisible to the naked eye was, in many ways, a moment in history on par with the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus. Meet the man who revealed to modern science the fascinating world of blood cells, bacteria, mold spores, and other microbes by the score. x
  • 22
    Thomas Paine and Common Sense
    (from Origins and Ideologies of the American Revolution, Lecture 23) Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, published in 1776, was a veritable blueprint for the American Revolution and the subsequent creation of the United States of America. Get the full story behind this iconic work’s key arguments - and the master propagandist who wrote them and inspired one of history’s greatest revolutions. x
  • 23
    Samuel Slater and the Industrial Revolution
    (from Turning Points in American History, Lecture 11) America’s Industrial Revolution had a vast impact on the nation and, indeed, the world. It shaped everything from agriculture and gender roles to public education and entertainment. And it all started with Samuel Slater. How did his textile manufacturing establishment unleash such a tidal wave of progress? x
  • 24
    Immanuel Kants Copernican Revolution
    (from Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida, Lecture 8) Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason radically altered how Western philosophers approached the theory of knowledge. Look at Kant’s revolutionary ideas as laid down in this profound intellectual work. How can one know necessary truths about reality? It’s a mind-boggling question, to which Kant, reacting to the work of his predecessors, would provide a novel response. x
  • 25
    Napoleon - Rise and Fall of an Emperor
    (from Long 19th Century: European History from 1789 to 1917, Lecture 5) Any consideration of the world’s revolutionary figures would have to include Napoleon Bonaparte: the adventurer, the general, the conqueror, the egomaniac. Follow the story of the rise and fall of this captivating individual, whose marred legacy dominates European history like almost no other. x
  • 26
    Karl Marx on Alienation
    (from Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 3rd Edition, Lecture 55) Communism, one of the defining ideologies of the 20th century, stems from the ideas and writings of Karl Marx. And the root of his views was a pervasive sense of alienation from the economic and political systems of his time. From his connections with Sigmund Freud to his creation of The Communist Manifesto, survey the intellectual development of one of modern philosophy’s boldest, most influential minds - the man who would go on to inspire future generations of radicals and revolutionaries. x
  • 27
    Charles Darwin and Natural Selection
    (from Darwinian Revolution, Lecture 24) The revolution sparked by the work of Charles Darwin had powerful, far-reaching implications for science, philosophy, and religion. Here, take stock of the Darwinian Revolution by focusing on its interaction with religion and its repercussions for science in the 21st century (specifically evolutionary theory). x
  • 28
    Harriet Beecher Stowe - Galvanizing a Nation
    (from Great American Bestsellers: The Books That Shaped America, Lecture 5) Can a single book reshape an entire nation’s attitudes? Find out in this lecture on American author Harriet Beecher Stowe and her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. You’ll learn how this bestseller drew America’s attention to the injustices of slavery and how (more than 150 years later), it still provokes debate. x
  • 29
    Abraham Lincoln - The Emancipation Moment
    (from Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Lecture 9) Revisit one of the most pivotal and revolutionary moments of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency: the linking of the Civil War to the ending of slavery. You’ll focus on Lincoln’s relationship with the strategically lethargic General George McClellan and the development of the Emancipation Proclamation. x
  • 30
    Queen Victoria - We Are Not Amused
    (from European History and European Lives: 1715 to 1914, Lecture 31) Queen Victoria’s role as head of the British monarchy was so influential that an entire era of history was named after her. Get insights into her life and her history-defining reign, which included radical transformations in the British political system and an ever-expanding empire that stretched around the globe. x
  • 31
    Albert Einstein and Special Relativity
    (from Albert Einstein: Physicist, Philosopher, Humanitarian, Lecture 5) Go inside Albert Einstein’s radical special theory of relatively, which changed how we see the world (and also gave us the signature equation, E=mc2). No other single contribution to physics, before or since, would be as important (or as culturally celebrated) as this one. x
  • 32
    Hitlers Foreign Policy
    (from History of Hitler’s Empire, 2nd Edition, Lecture 8) Even history’s greatest monsters can be recognized as among its most revolutionary figures. A case in point is Adolf Hitler, who would plunge the nations of the world into total war and give modern history a new definition of evil. Learn why Hitler’s aims were about more than just world domination, and how they pushed nations toward a cataclysmic conflict. x
  • 33
    The Legacy of Churchill
    (from Churchill, Lecture 12) Great statesmen like Winston Churchill are a rarity, which makes it essential to truly consider what made this man so indispensable to the course of human events during World War II. Take a closer look at Churchill’s political career, including his principles, his views on liberty and democracy, and more. x
  • 34
    Mohandas Gandhi - Soul Force
    (from Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition, Lecture 31) Nonviolent resistance and peaceful protest have been instrumental in civil rights moments around the world, and Mohandas Gandhi was first to use these strategies in the modern era to capture the world’s attention. Delve into the story of this revolutionary thinker, getting at the roots of the ideas that would helped win India its independence - and go went on to inspire civic leaders from Martin Luther King, Jr., to Nelson Mandela. x
  • 35
    An Appraisal of Mao Zedong
    (from Fall and Rise of China, Lecture 28) How do we make sense of Mao Zedong, the complex (and contradictory) revolutionary who was a brilliant statesman and strategist - but also a ruthless man who enacted incredible damage on the people of China? Here, attempt to appraise Mao’s historical legacy by reintegrating these two divergent views. x
  • 36
    Margaret Thatchers Counterrevolution
    (from The Conservative Tradition, Lecture 30) Follow the unlikely journey of Margaret Thatcher from shopkeeper’s daughter to the “Iron Lady” of Britain’s Conservative Party. It’s an engaging look at a recent revolutionary figure; a provocative examination of the first female prime minister in British history; and a fitting conclusion to this collection. x

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Your professors

Dennis Dalton Thomas Childers Robert M. Hazen Elizabeth Vandiver Seth Lerer Bob Brier Garrett G. Fagan J. Rufus Fears Brad S. Gregory Kenneth W. Harl Patrick N. Allitt Lawrence M. Principe Steven Pollock John L. Esposito Mark W. Muesse Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius Allen C. Guelzo Shalom L. Goldman Sherwin B. Nuland Stephen A. Erickson Peter C. Mancall Thomas Williams Robert C. Bartlett Don Howard Peter Conn Richard Baum Jennifer Paxton Grant Hardy Edward T. O'Donnell John W. Lee Suzanne M. Desan

Professor 1 of 31

Dennis Dalton, Ph.D.
Barnard College, Columbia University

Professor 2 of 31

Thomas Childers, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania

Professor 3 of 31

Robert M. Hazen, Ph.D.
George Mason University

Professor 4 of 31

Elizabeth Vandiver, Ph.D.
Whitman College

Professor 5 of 31

Seth Lerer, Ph.D.
University of California, San Diego

Professor 6 of 31

Bob Brier, Ph.D.
Long Island University

Professor 7 of 31

Garrett G. Fagan, Ph.D.
The Pennsylvania State University

Professor 8 of 31

J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma

Professor 9 of 31

Brad S. Gregory, Ph.D.
University of Notre Dame

Professor 10 of 31

Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D.
Tulane University

Professor 11 of 31

Patrick N. Allitt, Ph.D.
Emory University

Professor 12 of 31

Lawrence M. Principe, Ph.D.
Johns Hopkins University

Professor 13 of 31

Steven Pollock, Ph.D.
University of Colorado, Boulder

Professor 14 of 31

John L. Esposito, Ph.D.
Georgetown University

Professor 15 of 31

Mark W. Muesse, Ph.D.
Rhodes College

Professor 16 of 31

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee

Professor 17 of 31

Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D.
Gettysburg College

Professor 18 of 31

Shalom L. Goldman, Ph.D.
Emory University

Professor 19 of 31

Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D.
Yale School of Medicine

Professor 20 of 31

Stephen A. Erickson, Ph.D.
Pomona College

Professor 21 of 31

Peter C. Mancall, Ph.D.
University of Southern California

Professor 22 of 31

Thomas Williams, Ph.D.
University of South Florida

Professor 23 of 31

Robert C. Bartlett, Ph.D.
Boston College

Professor 24 of 31

Don Howard, Ph.D.
University of Notre Dame

Professor 25 of 31

Peter Conn, Ph.D.
University of Pennsylvania

Professor 26 of 31

Richard Baum, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles

Professor 27 of 31

Jennifer Paxton, Ph.D.
The Catholic University of America

Professor 28 of 31

Grant Hardy, Ph.D.
University of North Carolina, Asheville

Professor 29 of 31

Edward T. O'Donnell, Ph.D.
College of the Holy Cross

Professor 30 of 31

John W. Lee, Ph.D.
University of California, Santa Barbara

Professor 31 of 31

Suzanne M. Desan, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dr. Dennis Dalton is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University. He earned his B.A. from Rutgers University, his M.A. in Political Science from the University of Chicago, and his Ph.D. in Political Theory from the University of London. Professor Dalton has edited and contributed to more than a dozen publications and has written numerous articles. He is the author of Indian Idea of...
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Dr. Thomas Childers is Sheldon and Lucy Hackney Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been teaching for over 25 years. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Tennessee and his Ph.D. in History from Harvard University. Professor Childers has held visiting professorships at Trinity Hall College, Cambridge, Smith College, and Swarthmore College. He is a popular...
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Dr. Robert M. Hazen is Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Earth Sciences at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, and a research scientist at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Professor Hazen earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned a Ph.D. in Earth Science from Harvard University and did post-doctoral work at...
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Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver is Professor of Classics and Clement Biddle Penrose Professor of Latin at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She was formerly Director of the Honors Humanities program at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she also taught in the Department of Classics. She completed her undergraduate work at Shimer College and went on to earn her M.A. and Ph.D. from The University of Texas at...
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Dr. Seth Lerer is the Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of California, San Diego. Before taking this position, he was the Avalon Foundation Professor in Humanities and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. He also taught at Princeton University, Cambridge University, and Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Lerer earned his B.A. from Wesleyan University, a second B.A....
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Dr. Bob Brier is an Egyptologist and Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. He earned his bachelor's degree from Hunter College and Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Professor Brier has twice been selected as a Fulbright Scholar and has received Long Island University's David Newton Award for Teaching Excellence in recognition of his achievements as a...
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Dr. Garrett G. Fagan is Professor of Ancient History at The Pennsylvania State University, where he has taught since 1996. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, and educated at Trinity College. He earned his Ph.D. from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, and has held teaching positions at McMaster University, York University (Canada), and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Davidson College. In all of these...
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Dr. J. Rufus Fears was David Ross Boyd Professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma, where he held the G. T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty. He also served as David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Professor Fears was Professor of History and...
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Dr. Brad S. Gregory is Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Notre Dame. He earned a B.S. in History from Utah State University; a B.A. and Licentiate degree in Philosophy from the Institute of Philosophy of the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium; an M.A. in History from the University of Arizona; and a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University. Before taking his position at...
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Dr. Kenneth W. Harl is Professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he teaches courses in Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader history. He earned his B.A. from Trinity College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Recognized as an outstanding lecturer, Professor Harl has received numerous teaching awards at Tulane, including the coveted Sheldon H. Hackney Award. He has...
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Dr. Patrick N. Allitt is Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1988. The holder of a doctorate in history from the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt-an Oxford University graduate-has also taught American religious history at Harvard Divinity School, where he was a Henry Luce Postdoctoral Fellow. He was the Director of Emory College's Center for Teaching...
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Dr. Lawrence M. Principe is Drew Professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. Professor Principe earned a B.S. in Chemistry and a B.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Delaware. He also holds two doctorates: a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Indiana University, Bloomington, and a Ph.D. in the History of Science from Johns Hopkins University. In 1999, the Carnegie Foundation chose Professor Principe as the...
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Dr. Steven Pollock is Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He earned his B.S. in Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his master's degree and Ph.D. in Physics from Stanford University. Prior to taking his position at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Professor Pollock was a senior researcher at the National Institute for Nuclear and High Energy Physics. In 2013, Professor...
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Dr. John L. Esposito is University Professor, Professor of Religion and International Affairs, and Professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He earned his B.A. at St. Anthony College, his M.A. at St. John's University, and his Ph.D. at Temple University. Professor Esposito is Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding: History and International Affairs in the Walsh School of Foreign...
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Dr. Mark W. Muesse is W. J. Millard Professor of Religious Studies, Director of the Asian Studies Program, and Director of the Life: Then and Now Program at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned a B.A., summa cum laude, in English Literature from Baylor University and a Master of Theological Studies, a Master of Arts, and a Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from Harvard University. Before taking his position at Rhodes,...
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Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford...
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Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and Director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Among garnering other honors, he has received the Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He is a member of the National Council on the Humanities. Professor Guelzo is...
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Shalom L. Goldman is an Associate Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature in the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University. He completed his undergraduate work at New York University and received his M.A. from Columbia University. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in the study of Hebrew and Ancient Near Eastern texts from New York University. Prior to taking his position at Emory, Professor...
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Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland (1930-2014) was Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Yale School of Medicine and Fellow of the university's Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He served on the executive committees of Yale's Whitney Humanities Center and its Interdisciplinary Bioethics Project. Professor Nuland was a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, New York University, and the Yale School of Medicine, from which he...
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Dr. Stephen A. Erickson is Professor of Philosophy and E. Wilson Lyon Professor of the Humanities at Pomona College, where he has been teaching for more than 40 years. He earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University. Professor Erickson has received awards from the National Endowment of the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Earhart Foundation. He is the recipient of Four Wig Awards for...
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Dr. Peter C. Mancall is Professor of History and Anthropology at the University of Southern California and Director of the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute. He earned his A.B. from Oberlin College and his master's degree and Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before taking his position at USC, he held teaching positions at the University of Kansas, the University College Galway in Ireland, and Harvard University....
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Dr. Thomas Williams is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of South Florida. He earned his B.A. in Philosophy from Vanderbilt University and his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. Professor Williams's research interests are in medieval philosophy, theology, and the philosophy of religion, with a focus on Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and Duns Scotus. Before joining the faculty at...
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Dr. Robert C. Bartlett is the Behrakis Professor of Hellenic Political Thought at Boston College. He holds an M.A. in Classics and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Boston College. Professor Bartlett's principal research concerns the history of moral and political philosophy, with special attention to the political thought of classical antiquity. His books are The Idea of Enlightenment: A Postmortem Study (University of...
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Dr. Don Howard is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Director of Notre Dame's Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science. A graduate of Michigan State University's Honors College and its Lyman Briggs College with a B.Sc. in Physical Science, he earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Philosophy with a specialization in the philosophy of science from Boston University. Professor Howard has served as...
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Dr. Peter Conn holds the Vartan Gregorian Chair in English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has a secondary appointment in the Graduate School of Education. Since 1993, he has served as a visiting professor at the University of Nanjing. Professor Conn earned his Ph.D. from Yale University. Professor Conn is the author of numerous works on American literature and culture, including The American 1930s: A Literary...
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Dr. Richard Baum was Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he specialized in the study of modern Chinese politics and foreign relations. He earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Baum lived and lectured extensively throughout China and Asia. He served as Visiting Professor or Visiting Scholar at...
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Dr. Jennifer Paxton is Assistant Director of the University Honors Program and Clinical Assistant Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. She was previously a Professorial Lecturer in History at Georgetown University, where she taught for more than a decade. The holder of a doctorate in history from Harvard University, where she has also taught and earned a Certificate of Distinction, Professor Paxton is...
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Dr. Grant Hardy is Professor of History and Religious Studies and Director of the Humanities Program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He earned his B.A. in Ancient Greek from Brigham Young University and his Ph.D. in Chinese Language and Literature from Yale University. Professor Hardy has received a wealth of awards and accolades for both his teaching and his scholarship. At the University of North...
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Dr. Edward T. O'Donnell is Associate Professor of History at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. He earned his Ph.D. in American History from Columbia University. Since 2002 Professor O'Donnell has worked extensively with the federal U.S. Department of Education program Teaching American History. He has served as the lead historian for several grants and has led hundreds of workshops and seminars and delivered...
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Professor John W. I. Lee is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He grew up in Southeast Asia and Hawaii. After studying history at the University of Washington, he earned his Ph.D. in History from Cornell University. Professor Lee's research specialty is the history of warfare in the ancient world. He has published on ancient mercenary soldiers, Greek and Persian armies, women in...
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Dr. Suzanne M. Desan is the Vilas-Shinners Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of WisconsinñMadison. She specializes in the history of 18th-century France. She earned her B.A. in History from Princeton University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley. She has received several teaching awards, including the University of Wisconsin Chancellor's...
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Reviews

36 Revolutionary Figures of History is rated 3.2 out of 5 by 6.
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Poor Idea for Me I've been enjoying The Great Courses for years now. This particular collection doesn't work well for me. Many of the individual lectures don't stand alone very well. This collection just doesn't flow for me. I can't fault the lecturers because they did each of these as a full lecture series and each lecture flows into the next that way. I'll not buy another "collection".
Date published: 2016-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Variety of Flavors The course was constructed by taking chapters of thirty-six other courses, each having a figure that can righteously be considered revolutionary, and assembling them into a time ordered sequence. Because it was assembled this way, it lacks the continuity we have come to expect and enjoy in these courses. This only becomes an issue when the lecturer refers to other chapters in the source series, either commenting on topics already mentioned, or advising that some topic will be covered in some future lecture. The individuals featured were well selected. Of the thirty-six, you would know most them as part of the common culture of the western world. A few, Confucius, Gandhi and Mao, for instance, although not “western” as we usually consider it, have still left their marks on western history and some knowledge of their contributions would be expected of anyone who considers themselves historically literate. This is not to say that this material is all “old hat.” I have taken many of the source courses. Some of the lectures were pleasant reminders, but others are people I didn't know, or know well. For instance, I knew of Roger Williams and his contribution to modern American government, but had no idea of the details of his travails. Of Samuel Slater, I knew of his history, but have never known the name of the man. I have enjoyed these professors immensely. Many of them are my favorite lecturers. This series of lectures has given me a determination to go back and repeat a few of the lessons in the various courses and has added at least one course to my list of courses to acquire. It is only available as an audio course. And there is one point that is a minor dissatisfier. It doesn't come with a course guide. Because of the way the course was constructed, it wouldn't have made much sense to paste the corresponding chapters into a common binder, The course guides often reference other chapters in the same course, appendices or timelines, all jarring notes to someone having only sample chapters to read.
Date published: 2015-03-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Course Guidebook Needed The lectures are interesting, informative, and entertaining; however, the potential value of the course is substantially reduced by the absence of an accompanying written course guidebook. The guidebooks are useful for quick review and reinforcement of lecture content and also for verification of spelling of important names and other items which may not be clear when only encountered in the spoken words of the lecture. Since these lectures are recycled from other courses, it should have been relatively easy to recycle the corresponding written outlines from the guidebooks for the original courses,
Date published: 2014-12-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good, but recycled This is a really interesting collection of lectures on influential figures in history. One of the best parts of the course is the variety of professors and their different styles. Each lecture has a different tempo and feel to it. The prospective purchaser should know that the lectures are recycled from other courses. Not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes disconcerting because the professors refer to other parts of their course, which won't be available to you unless you go looking for it on TGC. All in all a good value. Kept me interested through many hours on my commute.
Date published: 2014-11-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Rewarding Adventure 36 Revolutionary Figures of History is like ordering a sampling tray at your favorite restaurant. You get to sample a little of everything from controversial figures like Mao Zedong to other giants that you read about but did not understand from reading a newspaper as in the case of Margaret Thatcher's Counterrevolution. The lecturers of 36 Revolutionary Figures of History are experts in their field and are excited to tell their story of what they know. These lectures are not your typical monotone, boring college lectures. These lectures will have you Googling for additional information. It is interesting to me how people think or the cause and effect of something like a book as in the case of the lecture about Harriet Beecher Stowe--Galvanizing a Nation. I highly recommend this course to wake up your brain cells and start your rewarding adventure.
Date published: 2014-10-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing collection of prior releases This is a collection of 36 lectures taken from other courses. There is an assertion that each is a "revolutionary" event, but there is no interesting or underlying theory of revolution that ties these together. It is better seen as a sampler with no production costs and thus no charge to customers and used to develop interest in the purchase of those courses.
Date published: 2014-10-02
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