Rated 5 out of 5 by red72 Superb Presentation
This is by far the best history course I've ever taken and it's taught by a passionate charismatic, very erudite professor. You can't ask for anything more.
I was impressed that it was so intellectually stimulating rather than being 'dumbed' down as some other TC offerings are. Yes, some lectures are hard but isn't that the whole purpose here, education rather than entertainment, or if we're lucky both in the same presentation?
The fact that he covers the social history rather than political history as written by the 'winners' is a definite plus, so much more interesting and informative than conventional courses.
Some reviewers called him a communist, he is not, but even if he was - can we not entertain a different point of view? And can we not then make up our own minds? Or are we stuck in the rhetoric of the 50's.
And what other history course includes discussions of Dante, Boccaccio and Chaucer as a guide to the way society deals with illness and other slings and arrows of 'history'? His lecture on Dante alone is worth the entire course.
I would like to see him teach a course on the Golden Age of Spanish Literature & Art, Cervantes, Goya, the poets, etc. With his insightful observations and passionate love for his subject this would be a mind-blowing presentation.
In all other respects, I agree wholeheartedly with Silberg whose review is among the ones at the top.
This course is one to watch again and again there is so much to absorb and to enjoy. Professor Ruiz is one of the very best lecturers in the Teaching Company roster, along with Daniel Robinson and Elizabeth Vandiver. I would like to see more by him along the lines I've already suggested to the Teaching Company. He sets the bar so high it's difficult to know who and what to watch following his courses.
November 18, 2011
Rated 5 out of 5 by PilgramMarpeck Really understanding Medieval Europe!
I just finished listening to the audio of this course and wanted to write some words about how great it is. Professor Ruiz really knows the subject well, and this course helped me have a much greater understanding of this time period and its pivotal nature in history. He tackled a huge subject and made so many good points -- I know I will want to listen to his lectures multiple times to digest all he said. I came away with so many insights into what life was like during the time period discussed. I wish he had been able to have more time. Having enjoyed this course, I am encouraged to look up his other Teaching Company courses, and I certainly will give them much higher consideration when deciding which courses I can afford to purchase.
I think Professor Ruiz is really gracious to offer to answer any questions we may have if we write him care of The Teaching Company. How many professors are willing to give of their time in this way?
To be fair, I will admit that Professor Ruiz has an accent, but I believe it is well worth the slightly extra effort to understand him (it did not take me long to get used how he speaks) in exchange for all the benefits of this course has to offer. I applaud the efforts of The Teaching Company in capturing and preserving lectures such as these for many to benefit from.
November 30, 2010
Rated 5 out of 5 by msalvatore Middle Ages Explained
I have listened to this course several times over the years - it was one of the first TC courses I bought. After hearing the TC's trilogy on the Middle Ages by Dr Daileader this course, which I always thought of as excellent, seemed even better. Dr D's course provides the story of the Middle Ages wonderfully told. Dr Ruiz gives an elegant explanation of the medieval period. This course enriches the understanding of both the medieval period and the times that followed.
Some reviewer's found Dr R's accent distracting - I did not.
This subject matter and presenation will enhance your knowledge the Middle ages and Western History. Like its topic this is a course that has aged well.
June 5, 2009
Rated 5 out of 5 by Challenger Fascinating and profound
The lectures are quite different in their orientation and perspective compared to almost all history courses I have taken under the TGC: with few exceptions the lectures are not narrative, but analytical in nature; and they focus on sociological and cultural evolutionary processes that occurred during the late middle ages (fourteenth and fifteenth century). They are definitely more on the rigorous-academic side of the spectrum than on the entertaining side.
One fascinating topic that goes under the microscope was the chivalric role in war. Professor Ruiz analyzes the manner in which the diminishing role of the knights in combat in the hundred year war between France and Britain, was due to the most banal of reasons: the British king did not have enough funds to keep the knights occupied in a war of attrition in France over an extended period. The result was that he had to settle for using lesser Celtic long-bow warriors instead – because of budgetary constraints. The outcome was that the British could cut down the larger, and on the face of it grossly better trained French army, long before the two armies even came close one to the other to engage in knightly combat. The French suffered a series of stinging defeats and gradually realized that knightly combat, along with the long rigorous training that went with it were simply no longer effective in the battle field. This, naturally, caused a huge sociological upheaval since the nobility, whose primary duty was to fight, no longer had a differentiating advantage. The nobility had to reinvent themselves; and indeed they did so – as courtiers.
Another no less profound analysis had to do with the sociological and economical after-effects of the black plague if the mid-fourteenth century. Professor Ruiz tells us that a huge percentage of the Western European population (between one half and two thirds) was obliterated. This had the demographical effect that there was now land in excess – and so its price decreased. At the same time labor was at a premium. The nobility and some parliaments tried to keep the price of labor down by legislation but the market dynamics were just too strong. The price of labor did in fact go up and the repercussion of the legislation was to cause peasant revolts such as the one thatoccured in Britain. Land could now more easily be had by those who were not by birth part of the land owning nobility. A new class of wealthy peasants developed as a result, and these quickly became employers of other peasants who were now not exactly serfs, but landless peasants all the same. Serfdom, as a consequence, disappeared almost completely from Western Europe. Many other profound processes are analyzed, including the changing attitude towards women, the changing of the political system, and the movement towards secularism.
This is the second course I have taken given by Professor Ruiz, the first being "Other 1492". The first thing that is immediately evident is that the course is old. I am not sure exactly when it was produced but apparently some time during the Clinton administration (he makes reference to it). The lectures are formatted in forty five minute lectures instead of the current standard which is thirty minutes. I actually had a bit of a hard time with that – habits I guess… As a previous reviewer noted, some of the extremely negative reviews the course received were quite superficial, ranging from an aversion to the professor's accent (which I personally did not have a problem understanding and found quite charming), to anti-socialistic sentiment. I thoroughly enjoyed this course and Professor Ruiz's lecturing style. The whole course is a description of long, evolutionary, sociological processes of late medieval Western European society. This focus is really quite unique within the repertoire of TGC history courses, at least the ones that I have heard so far. It describes fascinating, subtle and pivotal processes in Western Civilization evolution, and the insights are really quite profound. This is certainly one of my favorite history courses so far in the TGC.
March 23, 2015