January 10, 49 B.C.: Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon River into Rome, igniting a civil war that leads to the birth of the world's greatest ancient civilization. October 12, 1492: The Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus, weary after months at sea, finally drops anchor at the island of San Salvador and takes Europe's first steps into the New World.
September 11, 2001: On a calm Tuesday morning, a series of terrorist attacks on the United States of America ignites a global war on terrorism that continues to this day.
History is made and defined by landmark events such as these—moments that irrevocably changed the course of human civilization. While many of us are taught that anonymous social, political, and economic forces are the driving factors behind events of the past, acclaimed historian and award-winning Professor J. Rufus Fears believes that it's individuals, acting alone or together, who alter the course of history. These events have given us
- spiritual and political ideas,
- catastrophic battles and wars,
- scientific and technological advances,
- world leaders both influential and monstrous, and
- cultural works of unparalleled beauty.
Without them, human history as we know it today would be shockingly unfamiliar. In short, because of these events, our world would never be the same again.
Such is the approach of The World Was Never the Same: Events That Changed History, a captivating new course in which Professor Fears—a master storyteller and one of the most popular instructors on our Great Courses faculty—provides you with 36 of the most important and definitive events in the history of the world. It's an intriguing and engaging tour of thousands of years of human history, from the creation of the Code of Hammurabi (1750 B.C.) to the Battle of Lexington (April 19, 1775), to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream"speech (August 28, 1963), and beyond. And it's a chance for you to learn new insights about world history at the hands of an engaging historian.
An Expert's Guide to History's Greatest Moments
So what makes a particular historical event so defining?
Guided by his decades of immersion in the study of the past, Professor Fears narrows down the massive span of human history into 36 of its most powerful events. Using his expert knowledge and his impressive ability to draw out invaluable lessons from the past, he has chosen the events for The World Was Never the Same based on these three criteria:
- The event in itself fundamentally changed history.
- The aftermath of the event changed history.
- The event and its impact still resonate with us today.
The result is a comprehensive and authoritative selection of events, each of which played a crucial role in transforming human civilization. What's more: Professor Fears avoids the common pitfall of treating his subject as a mere catalog or laundry list of events—instead, he takes great care to make these lectures feel like a grand, epic narrative of human history.
36 Defining Events, 36 Captivating Stories
Right from the first lecture, Professor Fears takes you back to the dawn of civilization; from there, you hopscotch across more than 3,000 years of history around the world, from the ancient city-states of Mesopotamia and Greece to medieval Europe and colonial America to revolutionary Russia and China. In each instance, Professor Fears weaves a captivating story about each event: what led up to it, how it unfolded, and how the world was changed as a result. More important, he uses these 36 events as guides for both understanding the past and learning from it.
With The World Was Never the Same, you'll learn about the importance of events that seem like logical choices, such as these:
- The trial of Jesus in A.D. 36, in which the spiritual message of this religious leader was forever immortalized and would lead to one of the world's greatest world faiths
- The discovery of the New World on October 12, 1492, which ushered in a profound era of exploration and conquest that would revolutionize the economic and political balance of Europe and lead to the creation of the United States of America
- The Battle of Gettysburg on July 1–3, 1863, a pivotal battle in the American Civil War that would turn the tide in favor of the Union and the freedoms it sought to preserve
- The dropping of the first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945, which brought World War II to a swift conclusion but also signaled the start of the atomic age.
Professor Fears also makes compelling cases for events that you might not have considered to be so revolutionary:
- The creation of the Hippocratic Oath in 430 B.C., a pledge (still taken today) that reflected the intellectual freedom of Athens and the sacred mission of a doctor
- The opening of the University of Bologna in 1088, which was Europe's first university and whose structure provided the blueprint for many modern universities
- The inspiration for Dante's Divine Comedy on May 1, 1283, when the Italian poet first laid eyes on his beloved Beatrice, the woman who would lead him to write one of the greatest poems in the history of Western literature
- The Battle of Vienna on September 12, 1683, which pitted the Ottoman Turks against the Holy Roman Empire and laid the groundwork for today's tensions between East and West
Whether it's an obvious or not-so-obvious choice, Professor Fears takes great care to tie each event to the 21st century, pointing out just how influential these and other moments were in shaping who we are and how we live. As Professor Fears states at the start of his course, "The best reason for studying history is not the accumulation of facts. It is to use the lessons of the past to make decisions in the present and to look into the future."
History Taught by a Master
If you've taken a Great Course with Professor Fears before, then The World Was Never the Same is his most impressive course yet—the perfect way to reconnect with him and his unique perspective on the past. And if you haven't yet had the chance to learn with this master teacher and winner of more than 25 teaching awards, then prepare yourself for an engaging experience cherished by so many of our lifelong learners.
Witty, engaging, and always informative, Professor Fears is the consummate history teacher. He draws you deep inside each event with his storytelling abilities; in many instances, he makes you feel as if you're actually there alongside the ideas as they're being discovered, the conflicts as they're being fought on land and sea, and the powerful speeches as they're being delivered to crowds of thousands.
Perhaps the greatest reward of these lectures is that they provide fuel for further thought and discussion. Listening to Professor Fears's impassioned explanations of why these particular events rank as the most important in human history is sure to prompt you to think about how you yourself understand and interpret the past.
So join Professor Fears on this grand tour of history's greatest events. It's an intellectual journey that proves how a single event can forever change the tides of history.
More than just learning about history, you'll feel as if you're actually engaging with it.