Starting with the Renaissance, the culture of the West exploded. Over the next 600 years, rapid innovations in philosophy, technology, economics, military affairs, and politics allowed what once had been a cultural backwater left by the collapse of the Roman Empire to dominate the world.
But how—and why—did this happen?
- How did the decentralized agrarian principalities of medieval Europe remake themselves into great industrial nation-states?
- How and why did absolutism rise and then yield to democratic liberalism?
- How did Western science and technology create the first industrialized economics and reduce the power of superstition and disease?
- How did these centuries create the framework for the escalation of revolutions and the frequent wars between civilizations?
- Why was colonization—either the conquest of indigenous populations or the transplantation of societies to new territories—such a prevalent enterprise, and how did it fall apart?
- Why did Europe produce two great antagonist systems: capitalism and Communism?
- Most importantly: How did we get to where we are in the 21st century?
Foundations of Western Civilization II: A History of the Modern Western World explores these and other riveting questions. In 48 lectures, award-winning Professor Robert Bucholz of Loyola University of Chicago teaches not only the history of Western civilization but also the meaning of civilization itself.
Offering profound rewards to everyone, this course is
- a grand narrative of the past five centuries;
- a coherent context for the period's events and trends; and
- an analysis of what these five centuries have bequeathed to us.
How Was Our World Shaped?
The story of the West detailed in Foundations of Western Civilization II is the road map that tells you where we came from and what challenges we have created for ourselves in the journey ahead.
For all its diversity, modern American society—in particular its assumptions and forms of expression—is very much a product of the last 500 years of European history and culture. Our system of government, our economic structures, our science and technology, and much of our literature, art, and music are based on or react to European models forged in the crucible of modern Western history.
The history of Europe, moreover, is not just the story of "kings and queens, or their ministers, or their relations with diets, parliaments, or estates," according to Professor Bucholz. "It is also the story of every man, woman, and child who lived, loved, fought, and died in Europe during the period covered by our course," he says. "The story must be told from the bottom up as well as from the top down."
An Extraordinary, Comprehensive View
This extraordinary and comprehensive view of history explores the ideas, events, and characters that modeled Western political, social, religious, intellectual, cultural, scientific, technological, and economic history during the tumultuous period between the 16th and 20th centuries.
Your journey begins with a close look at the backgrounds to the modern Western world and an exploration of how Western Europe transitioned from a medieval mindset to the modern path that would take it through the next 600 years. In addition to looking at the critical role played by factors like climate, topography, and natural resources, you chart the six developments that destroyed the old medieval worldview:
- the development of Renaissance Humanism
- the rise of centrally governed nation-states
- the discovery of the New World
- the creation of the printing press
- the Protestant Reformation and its subsequent religious wars
- the rational and scientific revolutions
From there, Foundations of Western Civilization II plunges into the progress of Western European history. You immerse yourself in the crises of the 17th century, the development of absolutism and constitutionalism, the whirlwind of revolutionary fervor that consumed the West during the 18th century (specifically the American and French revolutions), and the subsequent spread of liberal ideals.
As you emerge into the 19th century, you understand the critical impact of various nationalist movements in Western history, as exemplified in the dramatic stories of the unification of Italy in 1861 and that of Germany in 1871. Nationalism also paved the way for increased tensions in and among nations, and carries us into the violent turmoil of the 20th century and shocking events like the Great Depression, the rise of Fascism and Nazism, the two world wars, the Russian Revolution, and the rise (and fall) of the Soviet Union—all events that would forever alter the course of Western history.
Throughout this historical survey, you get a larger understanding of the political, social, and cultural history of Europe. In addition, you explore the ramifications of these and other events on the rest of the world, including the United States.
Different from other surveys of Western civilization, Foundations of Western Civilization II puts the history of the West into a cultural context as well, with looks into amazing works of art and culture that range from the King James Bible and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling to Impressionist paintings and Modernist literature like James Joyce's Ulysses.
Venture Inside and Outside the Corridors of Power
Throughout the course, Professor Bucholz pauses at many points along the way to show how Western civilization was shaped by the low as well as the mighty, the practical as well as the artistic. As you would expect from a survey of Western history, those at the seat of power—whether through birth, election, or revolution—take their turn at center stage, including
- Louis XIV: Known as the Sun King, his reign was a constant demonstration of what Professor Bucholz calls "Louis XIV's Five Rules of Absolutism," with the king always being godlike, in control, wealthy, able to enforce religious conformity, and in possession of an army.
- Napoleon Bonaparte: The brilliant battlefield tactician and magnetic leader whose dreams of unifying Europe through military conquest were foiled, his values of liberalism and nationalism nevertheless spread throughout Europe.
- Otto von Bismarck: A meticulous diplomat and the architect of German unification, his carefully derived system of interlocking alliances—designed to maintain Europe's balance of power and prevent war—could not survive the swaggering ambitions of the Kaiser who fired him.
- Vladimir Ilyich Lenin: A fiery leader, he spent much of his youth imprisoned or exiled but returned to Russia to lead a revolution, topple a government, and lay the foundation for decades of Soviet Communism.
- Winston Churchill: An author, soldier, and statesman, he emerged from the political wilderness to become Britain's inspirational prime minister during the darkest days of World War II.
But those who had their hands on the clay as our civilization was shaped came from outside the corridors of power as well, including
- theologians like Martin Luther, an Augustinian priest and professor of theology whose 95 Theses opposing the sale of indulgences by the Church led to the launch of the Reformation when he nailed them to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg
- Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, whose greatest works revealed new ways to see the individual through their portrayal of real people with real histories and feelings
- Enlightenment thinkers like Charles Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Denis Diderot, the energetic thinkers known as "philosophes" who built on the work of earlier philosophers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke
- Musicians like Beethoven, who redefined musical styles and produced iconic works that we still cherish today
An Essential Toolkit
Oxford-educated, Professor Bucholz has frequently taught a comprehensive Western civilization survey course at Loyola. He has received numerous awards for his teaching, including the Sujack Award for Teaching Excellence (the highest such award presented by the Loyola College of Arts and Sciences) and, twice, the Honors Program Faculty Member of the Year Award. Among his published books are The Augustan Court: Queen Anne and the Decline of Court Culture and Early Modern England, 1485–1714: A Narrative History (with Newton Key).
Taught by an expert historian, Foundations of Western Civilization II is essential to your understanding of the larger depth and breadth of this unprecedented period in world history. In Professor Bucholz's words, the course is "a toolkit for any citizen of the West, a survival kit for any citizen of the world. It is essential equipment for those of us who wish to become civilized and remain so."