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Development of European Civilization

Development of European Civilization

Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett Ph.D.
University of Toronto
Course No.  8215
Course No.  8215
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Course Overview

About This Course

48 lectures  |  30 minutes per lecture

For anyone living in the Western world, Europe is so much more than just a varied mix of travel destinations, an inspiring example of different cultures living side by side, and a set of historical events that forever altered the history of Western civilization. Europe is, in fact, as much an idea as it is a place.

Understanding how Europe evolved is essential for anyone seeking an in-depth grasp of both the history of Western civilization—and its future—for a variety of reasons:

  • Almost all of the West's important political, social, cultural, and economic institutions and ideologies either came from Europe or evolved in reaction to it.
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For anyone living in the Western world, Europe is so much more than just a varied mix of travel destinations, an inspiring example of different cultures living side by side, and a set of historical events that forever altered the history of Western civilization. Europe is, in fact, as much an idea as it is a place.

Understanding how Europe evolved is essential for anyone seeking an in-depth grasp of both the history of Western civilization—and its future—for a variety of reasons:

  • Almost all of the West's important political, social, cultural, and economic institutions and ideologies either came from Europe or evolved in reaction to it.
  • To witness how European civilization developed is to understand why and how the entire Western world became who and what it is.
  • Finally, such an understanding is essential if you are to have a nuanced grasp of the important events that dominate the daily news.

In short, and in almost every way that matters, historical Europe was the laboratory in which the world you now live in was conceived and tested. And you'll be living with the consequences of those experiments for the rest of your life.

The Development of European Civilization leads you through the doors of that laboratory and guides you through the development of Europe from the late Middle Ages through the eve of World War II. In these 48 lectures delivered by University of Toronto Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett, whose award-winning teaching skills have been evident in the classroom, in books, and through video lectures for more than 30 years—you'll finally grasp the amazing results of that European laboratory over more than 600 years of history.

Experience the Mosaic of European History

As you follow Professor Bartlett through the dramatic story of European history, you'll learn

  • the major ideologies and "isms" that bubbled forth from Europe's constantly fermenting cauldron of debate and conflict, including absolutism, scientism, rationalism, capitalism, nationalism, liberalism, and totalitarianism;
  • the forces that intermingled to create the Industrial Revolution and the accompanying economic and social upheavals that would, in turn, create so many more;
  • the changing technologies of communication and transportation that would spread the European experience and ideas far and wide;
  • the European ideologies of government, including the rule of law, the concept of "the consent of the governed," taxation, an independent judiciary, and other concepts;
  • the new roles for religion in European life, from the end of the traditional union of altar and throne to great upheavals such as the Protestant Reformation and the Great Schism; and
  • the evolution of the European class system, which influenced the social forces that swirled around it just as much as it was influenced by them.

With The Development of European Civilization, one important idea will become crystal clear to you: Although history may well be made up of events taking place over time, the true meaning of history can never be discerned through a linear recitation of those events. That's because history, as every lecture of this remarkable course proves, is a mosaic—and to grasp that mosaic's meaning is to learn to see history in its entirety; to understand the ways in which ideas, institutions, and social forces have interacted to paint each tile, set it among the others, and, when necessary, shatter them into fragments to replace them with others.

Change the Way You Understand History

To learn to see history in this way requires a course designed to teach it this way, and Professor Bartlett's lectures take an unusual and profoundly thoughtful approach that make The Development of European Civilization an ideal complement to more traditional presentations of European history.

Rather than offering you a laundry list of dates, events, and famous individuals, Professor Bartlett leaves you instead with an understanding of historical and social causality and a stronger appreciation of just why events took place. You'll learn why and how institutions evolved as they did, and what the ideas, culture, and institutions born in Europe have meant—and will continue to mean—to the rest of the Western world. More important: You'll experience Europe's development from a European perspective, further enhancing your existing understanding of both modern Europe and Western nations outside Europe, whose own traditions and institutions have drawn so much from the European experiment.

Although key events and individuals are included in these lectures, they take their importance in this course from their impact on the ideas of their time and the roles that they played in bringing about the key ideas and forces of the events that were yet to come. You'll learn how to see names like Diderot, Calvin, Darwin, Marx, Luther, Mill, Newton, Robespierre, Hitler, Mussolini, Wilson, and so many others in startling new ways. These and other figures, you'll discover, are not only participants in history's great pageant but characters created by forces beyond themselves—forces whose resonances would echo well into our own time.

Witness History in the Making

Each lecture focuses on a particular moment in time and analyzes the circumstances that would drive the evolution of the ideas, forces, and institutions that created European history.

  • The Crusades: These fierce medieval wars were far more than a series of religious conflicts. They were perhaps the single most important cause of the shift away from a manorial economy to a money-based economy. Moving knights to the Holy Land required massive concentrations of capital, the establishment of trading cities, and the mobilization of vast numbers of skilled people. None of this could have happened without reliable coinage and systems of commercial law.
  • The Industrial Revolution: The consequences of the Industrial Revolution in England reached into almost every aspect of life. This period's great gears meshed not only with the machinery of the economic world but also with that of urbanizing populations, the flow of information, changing beliefs about social justice, new religious freedoms that made practical and scientific information available to nonconformists, and new laws designed to enhance this unprecedented explosion of progress.
  • The Dreyfus Affair: The unjust accusation of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, for selling secrets to the Germans in 1894 was a defining moment in the history of modern France. In this single case of military justice gone awry, you see the intersection of forces such as anti-Semitism, military insularity, religion in public life, and support for monarchism.

An Accomplished Professor, a Masterful Historian

One of Professor Bartlett's greatest accomplishments in crafting The Development of European Civilization lies in his ability to sustain his focus on ideas, institutions, social forces, and other abstract concepts without ever being dry, and without losing sight of the human beings around whom those abstractions swirled.

A terrific storyteller, he teaches with great enthusiasm and flow, making his lectures a pleasure to watch or listen to and making it plainly evident why his teaching skills have won him numerous awards and accolades, including the 3M National Teaching Fellowship from the Canadian Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and the President's Teaching Award from the University of Toronto. Moreover, as he effortlessly leads you through general historical trends and specific defining events, Professor Bartlett never leaves you stretching for understanding.

Simply put, Professor Bartlett is an accomplished teacher and a masterful historian. With The Development of European Civilization, this popular Great Courses professor has crafted an extraordinarily integrated learning experience that is sure to be one of the most pleasurable and informative experiences of historical learning you'll ever have.

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48 Lectures
  • 1
    The Idea and Place of Europe
    Begin your understanding of Europe as not only a place but as an evolving laboratory of ideas. Learn how these ideas—whether adopted, transformed, or the source of opposing tensions—continue to animate human life not only in Europe, but throughout much of the world. x
  • 2
    Feudalism and the Medieval World
    Gain a firm foundation for understanding the medieval world with this introduction to feudalism. Learn how the need for protection and justice became paramount concerns with the disappearance of Roman rule and the absence of a central authority's ability to impose rules and order. x
  • 3
    The Three Orders of Medieval Society
    Plunge more deeply into the medieval world by grounding yourself in its three components: the "first estate" of the clergy, the second of the nobility, and the third of everyone else—the vast majority of whom provided all of society's labor. x
  • 4
    The Manorial Economy
    See how insufficient coinage and localized allegiances made the organization of agriculture the economic foundation of most of the continent. This lecture explores life on the manor and prepares you for the transition from feudalism triggered by the growth of towns and the emergence of money. x
  • 5
    The Growth of Trade and Towns
    Many forces coalesced to ultimately doom feudalism. Learn how factors as seemingly disparate as the Crusades, the collapse of two great banking houses, and the Black Death helped redefine the balance of power and pave the way for a new era of great cities and their influence. x
  • 6
    Humanism and the Italian Renaissance
    Empowered by the enormous wealth generated by the Crusades, a powerful merchant class made Italian city-states increasingly independent of the feudal barons who ruled the countryside. Learn how the merchant class's need for a different kind of ideology led to the cultivation of humanism and a breathtaking cultural movement. x
  • 7
    Crisis in the Church
    A detailed examination of both the Babylonian captivity and the Great Schism brings the forces dividing the church into sharp focus, preparing you for a firm grasp of the causes and impact of the Reformation that was to follow. x
  • 8
    Christian Humanism
    A discussion of the lives and writings of both Erasmus and Thomas More—and the importance of Gutenberg's new moveable type to making their thoughts widely available—highlight this exploration of the ideas that needed to take root before that Reformation could become reality. x
  • 9
    The Ottoman Threat to Europe
    Follow the aggressive expansion of the Ottoman Empire, with many Europeans reacting in terror at the transformation of the Mediterranean into a "Turkish lake." Learn how fear of both the Turks and Islam drove the later voyages of discovery to expand not only Europe's influence but also that of Christianity. x
  • 10
    The Expansion of Europe
    Learn why, with the collapse of the Italian trading monopolies and the dangers of sailing Turkish waters, Europe was forced to seek new trading routes and different opportunities for expansion. In the new world, especially, expansion meant conquest, and the gold sent back home shifted the balance of European power. x
  • 11
    The Continental Reformation—Luther
    A discussion of Luther's teachings offers insight into the full context—not only theological, but political and social—in which his religious rebellion took place. You grasp how it opened the door for further protests against not only the Catholic Church, but Lutheranism itself. x
  • 12
    The Continental Reformation—Calvin
    The breaching of Catholicism's walls allowed new voices of change to emerge. This lecture focuses on two of them, the Swiss priest and Christian humanist scholar Ulrich Zwingli, and the French lawyer John Calvin. See how the reforms advocated by each would have devastating consequences. x
  • 13
    The Wars of Religion
    The Roman church sought to address the challenges posed by Protestantism. But its reexamination largely rejected Protestant demands, and the founding of the Jesuit order revealed a new zeal in preserving orthodoxy. This lecture examines the permanent rending of European Christianity and the terrible violence that resulted. x
  • 14
    The English Reformation
    Discover how, while the continental Reformation and wars of religion fragmented the continent, England embarked on its own reformation. England's, however, was driven by the intricacies of royal succession, which in the fullness of time would breed the seeds of England's own religious wars. x
  • 15
    The English Civil War
    Explore the different forces—religious, political, and personal—that doomed the reign of Charles I. Those forces drove England into a cycle of civil war, repression, and royal restoration that would ultimately produce a nation very different from the one Charles had first ruled. x
  • 16
    The Thirty Years' War
    Gain a new understanding of the causes and results of the most terrible of the internal religious wars that ravaged Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. After these conflicts, during which religious causes were ultimately superseded by dynastic, political, and strategic concerns, Europe stood transformed. x
  • 17
    The Absolute Monarchy
    This lecture offers fresh insights into the idea of absolutism, beginning with the theory as set forth by Thomas Hobbes and concluding with an examination of absolutism in practice—the France of advisers like Richelieu, Mazarin, and Colbert and their monarchs, Louis XIII and Louis XIV. x
  • 18
    The Scientific Revolution
    The Scientific Revolution provided a way for extending knowledge and discovering truth without reliance on the church. Focusing on the thought of Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Newton, and Locke, this lecture places the Scientific Revolution in context with the religious revolutions already studied, as well as the subsequent intellectual and political revolutions it made possible. x
  • 19
    The Enlightenment, Part 1
    Deepen your grasp of two of the Enlightenment's most influential voices, Voltaire and Montesquieu. Although French, they were deeply influenced by their observations of England. Written in the lingua franca, their work—especially Voltaire's—was vital in spreading the ideas of thinkers like Newton, Locke, and Bacon. x
  • 20
    The Enlightenment, Part 2
    Continue your exploration of the French Enlightenment with Denis Diderot's Encyclopédie and the impact of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau's upturning of the ideas of Hobbes and Locke would, a decade after his death, make him in many ways the ideologue of the French Revolution. x
  • 21
    France in 1789
    A deep look at each of France's three estates in 1789 sets the stage for understanding the revolution that would follow. Ironically, the active beginnings of that violence would happen at the same time as many of the reforms demanded were being put into place. x
  • 22
    The French Revolution
    Although the early policies of the revolutionary government reflected a commitment to measured and reasonable steps, they were soon overtaken by violence. This lecture traces the creation of a radical republic and the revolution's descent into the period known as the Reign of Terror. x
  • 23
    The Age of Napoleon
    Gain an appreciation of the extraordinary accomplishments of the minor Corsican noble and artillery officer who became a military hero, self-crowned emperor of the French people, and architect of enduring societal change in not only France, but all of Europe. x
  • 24
    The Congress of Vienna
    Learn how, after the downfall of Napoleon, the leading powers convened to award compensation, arrange a balance of power, and, above all, restore deposed monarchies. But the allies understood—their victory notwithstanding—that there were still Napoleonic reforms that could never be undone. x
  • 25
    The Industrial Revolution
    The French Revolution had altered the face of Europe forever. Yet the consequences of the Industrial Revolution were even greater. This lecture reveals the many agricultural, social, technical, and economic forces that came together, especially in England, to forge one of the transformative events of European history. x
  • 26
    The Industrial Working Class
    Just as the Industrial Revolution was altering the shape of England's economy, so, too, was it altering the lives of the working-class laborers who were powering it. You examine not only those often-miserable lives, but the many factors that worked against any easing of that misery. x
  • 27
    Capitalism and European Society
    Follow along as the Industrial Revolution forced the development of new credit and banking systems and remade the face of capitalism. But even as a changing society created a swelling middle class, pressures on the working poor increased, with little solace offered by religious and societal structures that blamed them for their own plight. x
  • 28
    The Middle Class
    As the middle class grew, so did its self-awareness, especially in England and France, where it had a powerful political and economic influence. Learn how that self-awareness expressed itself, particularly through the presentation of one's home and inherent values and the class identification of one's clothing. x
  • 29
    Liberals and Liberalism
    Enjoy a detailed exploration of liberalism and its defining principles, focusing first on the work of John Stuart Mill and then on the core tenets of the liberal movement as set forth by L. T. Hobhouse in his classic Liberalism. x
  • 30
    Liberal Government
    This lecture explores the translation of liberal principles into liberal policies. Examine the different paths the transformation took in England, under the leadership of figures like Disraeli, Bright, and Gladstone, and in France. There, Napoleon's nephew, Louis Napoleon, instituted progressive change, first as president and then as Emperor Napoleon III. x
  • 31
    Science and Progress
    The 19th century reinforced the Enlightenment idea of progress, with the world now envisioning change not as a means of restoring what had been lost, but of moving forward. Learn how science, exemplified by men like Comte, Pasteur, and Koch, led the way. x
  • 32
    19th-Century Optimism
    Grasp the full impact of science, technology, and liberal concepts of social responsibility as you see the lives of Europeans—even the poor—become progressively better. But even as the wealth of nations increased, so, too, did the competition among them, precipitating a headlong rush toward imperialism and empire. x
  • 33
    Nationalism and 1848
    Another driving factor of the 19th century—one that would ultimately lead to the Great War—was nationalism, the belief that people of similar backgrounds and traditions should rule themselves. Explore how this force, sometimes combined with powerful cultural movements like pan-slavism, kindled mid-century revolution throughout Europe. x
  • 34
    The Unifications of Germany and Italy
    Europe's 19th-century nationalist movements unleashed powerful programs of self-determination. The two discussed in this lecture created new states linked by language, culture, and ethnicity. One, however, emerges as a great power; the other as weak but ambitious, with its national mission still incomplete. x
  • 35
    Darwin and Darwinism
    If political and social progress had posed a fundamental challenge to the foundations of European thought, the challenge posed by Charles Darwin was no less than seismic. Explore the ideas that would come to define European thought as either pre- or post-Darwin. x
  • 36
    Social Darwinism
    Darwin's theory opened a Pandora's box of social, political, and racial attitudes among Europeans, who applied it to situations it was never meant to describe. Grasp how it was misused to justify imperialism, brutality, lack of social concern, and, ultimately, Europe's darkest hour. x
  • 37
    Socialism and Utopianism
    Explore some of the pre-Marxian images of Socialism, including the imposed equality of Francois Babeuf, the terrorist urgings of Louis-Auguste Blanqui, and three very different visions of utopianism as set forth by the Count Henri de Saint Simon, Charles Fourier, and Robert Owen. x
  • 38
    Marx and Marxism
    Enjoy an intimate look into Karl Marx's world and gain new insight into his difficult personality. Learn how he developed his theory of "scientific Socialism" and observe his involvement—and constant dissatisfaction—with those who attempted to achieve in practical terms what they believed his ideas to be. x
  • 39
    Reactions to Rationalism
    The Enlightenment had promoted the application of reason to the problems of society, but the belief that reason and science would point the way to progress was far from universal. Gain fresh perspective on the opposing view through examples drawn from science, literature, and music. x
  • 40
    Fin de Siècle
    Grasp the situation in Europe as it makes the turn into a century that would soon explode into unprecedented violence. Reviews of the situation in Britain, France, Germany, and the Habsburg Austrian Empire reveal a continent fearful of what might come, but unprepared to do anything to prevent it. x
  • 41
    World War I
    Understand the Great War by an appraisal of its nearly incomprehensible impact. By war's end, at least 15 million of the 70 million who had taken up arms had been killed, and the European continent had been changed more profoundly than by any event since the Black Death. x
  • 42
    The Treaty of Versailles
    Determined to impose total defeat on Germany and her allies, Britain, France, and the United States ignored the lessons of the Congress of Vienna. The terms they dictated set into motion forces none could imagine, missing any opportunity for a workable peace. x
  • 43
    The Disintegration of the Established Order
    Explore the chaos that descended on Germany as the war was lost, peace terms were imposed, and order and the economy collapsed. Learn how the tensions and violence that overran Germany set the stage for the rise of a young Army corporal named Adolf Hitler. x
  • 44
    The Bolshevik Revolution
    A review of Russia's history during the 19th century sets the stage for enhanced understanding of Russia's role in World War I and its subsequent vulnerability to takeover by the Bolsheviks—first led by Vladimir Lenin and then by his successor, Josef Stalin. x
  • 45
    Fascism in Italy
    An examination of post-unification Italian history explains why Fascism arose in what would seem to be a country ill-suited for it. You also learn why its embrace of Fascism was led by a man who had begun public life at the opposite end of the political spectrum, a radical Socialist journalist named Benito Mussolini. x
  • 46
    The Nazi Regime in Germany
    Find new insights into why the Nazis were able to gain power. In addition to viewing Nazism from the perspective of a perversion of many themes examined in the course, the lecture also addresses the question of why a sophisticated people could allow it to happen. x
  • 47
    Europe between the Wars
    Europe between the wars was hardly a celebration of democracy. A look at life in its various states reveals not only the dark forces affecting the vanquished, but also how many on the victorious side had come to believe that the sacrifices of WWI might have been in vain. x
  • 48
    The New Europe
    The course comes to a close with an examination of how each of the major forces discussed has left its mark on Europe's nations, and how those forces will shape the Europe still to come. x

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Kenneth R. Bartlett
Ph.D. Kenneth R. Bartlett
University of Toronto

Dr. Kenneth R. Bartlett is Professor of History and Renaissance Studies at the University of Toronto, where he earned his Ph.D. and has taught for the past 30 years. A distinguished teacher, Professor Bartlett has received numerous teaching awards and honors. These include the 3M Teaching Fellowship-awarded by the Canadian Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education-and the inaugural President's Teaching Award from the University of Toronto. He also received the Victoria University Excellence in Teaching Award, the Students' Administration Council/American Public University System Teaching Award, and the Faculty of Arts and Science Outstanding Teacher Award. Professor Bartlett was also a finalist in TV Ontario's Best Lecturer Competition, in which students' favorite instructors competed against one another in lecturing charisma, clarity, passion, and conviction. An expert in European culture, Professor Bartlett is the author of The English in Italy, 1525-1558: A Study in Culture and Politics and The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance, and the coauthor of Humanism and the Northern Renaissance. He is also the coeditor or translator of four other books and the author of more than 35 articles and book chapters on European history and culture.

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Reviews

Rated 4.3 out of 5 by 16 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Understand Europe the Way It Understands Itself This course traces the conceptual underpinnings which acted as the engines for change in European society from the putative fall of the Roman Empire in 476 BCE to the dawn of WWII in 1939. Historical events recede into the background and the ideas which transformed Europe from the manorial estate to the market economy of the Renaissance to the emergence of the modern European state take the vanguard. You will learn in these lectures how the mutual tension between revolutionary ideas fomented by changing social structures and the received order of society inexorably redefine what it means to be European. The course is difficult for a couple of reasons. First, it is very much concept oriented, not simply a matter of remembering names, places and dates. The focus then is more theoretical and thus lends itself more to understanding than brute memorization. Second, Dr. Bartlett's nonstop, rapid delivery style does not afford one the time to pause and momentarily reflect on what is being said. One's attention must be glued to the lectures for their entire length or they will seem to lack cohesion and direction. Nevertheless, one's time and trouble are deeply repaid for the effort for the ideas in these lectures lie at the very foundation of European society and are essential to understanding the development of Europe in European terms. November 6, 2014
Rated 3 out of 5 by In Need of an Editor I am about a third of the way through this course, and I commend the lecturer for his ability to bring so many diverse factors together in painting a picture of how and why European civilization developed. But the clarity of his presentation would be much improved if he would leave out his favorite conjunction: "In fact." About every other sentence is marked by this conjunctive phrase, without any discernible reason. After a while, its repetition becomes tedious, distracting, and somewhat confusing. Then there is his overuse of the word "circumstance" when either a more concrete noun or perhaps none at all would be preferable. I can accept that (apparently) Canadians pronounce "peninsula" as pen-IN-shula (the "s" in the word sounding like the "s" in "sure"). All that being said, the professor has mastered a great deal of history and culture and has prepared a very workable outline for presentation. November 3, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Numerous "Best" Lectures Prof. Bartlett treats us with a tight set of info dense, logically presented lectures. The professor has the gift of absolute clarity. I thought the lectures gained steam as the course progressed. Is there e.g. a better explanation than Bartlett’s rendition of August Comte's positivism and proposed use of science and the relation to early 19th century concepts of progress and the then prevailing style of progressivism . Those who enjoyed Professor Robinson’s Lectures in Philosophy, a course that sets the TC’s highest standards, will be pleasantly surprised to find this course a worthy match. If you pay attention you will come out of this understanding the relationship between Thomas Moore’s Utopia from the 16th century with it’s concept of creating a social and political utopia and what it takes to get there, Montesquieu’s blue print for a rational society by constitution, the taking up of all this by the philosophes, and then the French Revolution brilliantly tied together by this professor. One might kibitz here and there and say that Bartlett might, particularly early on, might have done a better job of stating broad themes and spending more time in summary and tying the lectures together. Fairly obviously late Roman history and early Medieval is other than Bartlett’s area of concentration as the beginning lectures contain a number of questionable generalizations. I will decline deducting any stars for this since there’s a quite brilliant recovery as the lectures continue into Bartlett's areas of great expertise. If you question early on, persevere and be richly rewarded! My advice is to ignore negative reviews. Anyone that rates these superb lectures negatively either failed to go through the course, pay attention, or has some particular axe to grind This is a truly superb set of lectures at the highest levels. July 3, 2013
Rated 5 out of 5 by Well Worth Your Time Another winner from Professor Bartlett, who gave us that splendid Italian Renaissance course. He is a great lecturer, not perfect (who is? )and makes it his business to hold one's interest. You will truly learn a lot from this course. Don't be scared off by those few nay-sayers -- over the years I have done over 250 Great Courses and can confidently recommend this one. June 6, 2012
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