Churchill

Course No. 807
Professor J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma
Share This Course
4.3 out of 5
216 Reviews
78% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 807
Audio Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

Winston Churchill is arguably the greatest leader of the 20th century, and one of the greatest democratic statesmen ever. His friend, colleague, and esteemed political foe Clement Attlee memorialized him as "the greatest Englishman of our time—I think the greatest citizen of the world of our time." Churchill is eminently worthy of study because he is proof that a single individual can change the course of history for the better and make of life a blessed and noble thing, despite public and private trials too numerous to name.

A Champion of Freedom

At an awful hour when freedom and right stood in mortal peril before tyranny and brutal terror, Churchill, with his great-souled courage, genius, and eloquence, rallied the British people: "Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ' This was their finest hour.' "

He stood alone against the Nazi onslaught. And from there he led his people to victory, which puts us all in his debt.

Who was this extraordinary man, and how did he accomplish this amazing feat? How was it that this achievement was just a single part of a long and fruitful life?

A Life of Stunning Accomplishment

These lectures will introduce you to:

  • A successful politician who won his seat in Parliament at age 26
  • A statesman of vision and principle
  • A brilliant orator who invoked timeless concepts of valor, honor, and freedom when the civilized world needed them most
  • A brave and resourceful soldier in battles large and small
  • A gifted public servant who helped his country in a variety of key cabinet posts, never shirking a tough assignment or dodging a tough issue
  • A military innovator and strategist who outpaced his contemporaries in his grasp of the impact of technology on warfare
  • An eminent bestselling author who won the Nobel Prize for Literature, whose biography of Marlborough has been called the greatest historical work of the 20th century, and who had already become a millionaire through his writings when he took his seat in Parliament
  • A gifted painter of landscapes whose artwork, which hangs today in major museums, brought him a considerable income
  • A loving son, faithful husband, and doting father who won the devotion of his children.

Remarkable Literary Output

In his writings alone, Churchill completed five works that would, in Professor Fears's words, "each be a life work for most academic historians today":

  • Lord Randolph Churchill, 2 vols. (1906)
  • The World Crisis, 6 vols. (1923–31)
  • Marlborough, His Life and Times, 4 vols. (1933–38)
  • A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, 4 vols. (1956–58)
  • The Second World War, 6 vols. (1948–53).

And as we've already noted, those writings were far from "alone" in the accomplishments of his life.

Exceptional Subject, Exceptional Teacher

To condense the rich words and deeds, works and days of this multifaceted genius in a single lecture series is a daunting task. But we think you'll agree that Professor Fears is a man superbly suited to the job.

The winner of 15 awards for his outstanding teaching skills—including University of Oklahoma Professor of the Year three times—he frequently leads study trips to historical sites in the United States and Europe.

Of these tours, "Winston Churchill and World War II" is the most popular.

The lectures will clarify why this is so as you experience Professor Fears's learning, his deep understanding of Churchill, and his command of the lecturer's art as he brings his subject to life with dramatic flair.

Professor Fears begins at the supreme moment in Churchill's life, as he spoke to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, declaring to the world that Britain "shall never surrender."

As Churchill later wrote, his whole past "had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial."

And you will learn how Churchill, despite the grave ordeal he and his nation faced, met this trial with buoyancy and hope by drawing on his heritage of courage and his store of principle.

The Four Supreme Qualities of Statesmanship

Drawing on the most recent historical scholarship and richly documenting his lectures with material from Churchill's writings and speeches, Professor Fears argues that there are four qualities that merit for Churchill the title of statesman.

In fact, Professor Fears goes even further. He argues that Churchill belongs with Pericles of Athens and Abraham Lincoln as one of the greatest statesmen in the history of democracy because of his:

  • Bedrock of principles
  • Moral compass
  • Vision
  • Ability to build consensus to achieve that vision.

These qualities, Professor Fears claims, are intimately related to Churchill's lifelong faith in the ideal of liberty under law and to his belief in absolute right and wrong. That belief enabled him to discern, name, and denounce the wickedness of Hitler at a time when such a stance was far from common.

Twin Ideals of Liberty and Justice

For Churchill, ideals of liberty and justice were best embodied in history by the twin bastions of Britain and the United States.

Those ideals guided him through all the issues and challenges over the decades, and led him to become a friend of social justice but a foe of socialism.

He remained a fearsome enemy to both Fascist and Communist tyranny, even though he was willing to bring his country into an alliance with the latter when the former presented the more immediate threat.

No Stranger to Controversy

Throughout his life, Churchill never shrank from controversy—and never lacked critics. Many of his personal qualities tended to provoke controversy, including his refusal to "stay in his box," compromise his vision, or avoid difficult decisions.

Professor Fears evaluates some of the most influential criticisms of Churchill, many of which were first heard during his lifetime.

He explains why historians representing a range of political opinions have assailed Churchill, and sketches briefly how these critics may be answered.

In the end, perhaps the spirit of this indomitable man is best captured by some advice he gave in the fall of 1941 to the boys of Harrow, his old school:

"Never give in," said the old lion, "Never, never, never, never!"

He never did.

Hide Full Description
12 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Heritage and Destiny
    On June 4, 1940, Winston Churchill spoke to Parliament, rallying a nation during the darkest days of history's most awful war. To see what brought him there, we must begin, as he would have, with the legacy of heroism and public service he received from his ancestors, above all the great First Duke of Marlborough. x
  • 2
    Young Churchill
    Despite his high birth, the "troublesome boy" Winston showed scant promise of greatness. His school career was uneven; his parents distant, even harsh. Yet as he later noted, "the solitary tree, if it grows at all, grows to be strong and sturdy." His own blossoming began at Sandhurst, Britain's Royal Military Academy. x
  • 3
    On the Empire’s Frontier
    Churchill began manhood as a soldier of the British Empire, which he would always see as a force for good. His service was noted for its "valour, courage, and resolute spirit," and he wrote successfully and well of his perilous experiences in Afghanistan and Africa. x
  • 4
    Political Beginnings
    Churchill burned with a strong sense of ambition and family honor. Already a war hero and author, he won a seat in Parliament at 26 (his second try) as a voice for "Tory democracy." He would be a top Cabinet minister by 34, and First Lord of the Admiralty by 37. x
  • 5
    Churchill and Controversy
    Mediocrity distrusts genius. Such distrust contributed to Churchill's fall from the Cabinet after the failure of the Dardanelles campaign. His own response to adversity revealed the nobility of spirit that enabled him not only to survive, but to triumph. x
  • 6
    Post-War Challenges
    Returning to the Cabinet as Minister of Munitions—a testament to his organizing skills and "can-do" spirit—Churchill pioneered a new weapon code-named the "tank," becoming a founding father of modern armored warfare and paving the way for victory on the Western Front. x
  • 7
    In the Wilderness
    Churchill returned to the Tory party and the Cabinet in the 1920s. By decade's end, he would resign over India. There followed years of political exile lightened by his warm family life and copious, brilliant literary output. x
  • 8
    The Nazi Menace
    For most of the 1930s, Churchill was widely considered washed-up and out of touch. Undaunted, he stood nearly alone as he persistently and eloquently made the case for British rearmament and resistance to Nazi aggrandizement. x
  • 9
    Rallying the Nation
    Why did Churchill, at last named Prime Minister during the stern days of May 1940, feel that all his life "had been but a preparation for this hour and this trial"? How did he resist pressures to negotiate for peace with Hitler, and instead rally his fellow Britons to meet "their finest hour"? x
  • 10
    The Tide of War Turns
    In a war of powerful leaders, Churchill proved to be the supreme strategist. What were the skills and experiences that made him so successful? How did he meet the numerous and awful challenges with which the burden of wartime leadership confronted him? x
  • 11
    Champion of Freedom
    In 1945, Churchill was determined that freedom's victory not be squandered as it had been in 1918. With the war barely won, voters gave him "the Order of the Boot." In his last years his health failed but his judgments remained astute (even prophetic) and his principles shone undimmed. x
  • 12
    The Legacy of Churchill
    In what does Churchill's greatness ultimately consist? What did he understand by liberty and democracy? What role did he see for government? Where did he learn his principles, and how did he uphold them so unswervingly over a political life of more than 50 tumultuous years? x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 12 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 88-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 88-page printed course guidebook
  • Maps
  • Excerpts from Speeches
  • Suggested readings

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

J. Rufus Fears

About Your Professor

J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma
J. Rufus Fears (1945–2012) was the 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 the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. He earned his PhD from Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Professor Fears was a Professor...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor

Reviews

Churchill is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 217.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course about a great man! This short lecture series on the life and times of Winston Churchill is well-worth the investment of time and money. While there is no doubt that Professor Rufus Fears was a great admirer of Winston Churchill, that should not dissuade one from buying and listening to this highly entertaining lecture on one of history's great figures. The late Professor Fears quite obviously was politically and socially 'in tune' with Winston Churchill (as was Ronald Reagan), and this unstinting admiration comes through in this short lecture series. But that does not detract the quality of the presentation and the in-depth life study of this truly great person and leading luminary of the 20th Century. One of the best 'easy-listening' programs the Learning Company has offered and a great addition to the more studious courses.
Date published: 2013-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Story of a Great Man Professor Fears is an entertaining and engaging story teller who brings the life and times of Winston Churchill alive. Great anecdotes, quotes and quips make this an enjoyable survey course of the life of one of Britain's most famous statesmen.
Date published: 2013-11-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Never give up... Audio download. Dr Fears' presentation is flawless, as well as very entertaining...I flew through the set in two days. However, this is a short set of lectures, only taking about 6 hours to get through, so it does not go into the necessary depth to really understand Churchill's true impact on history. There have been other courses and books, of course, that paint the man in a less flattering light, describing a man with unbounded ambition and hubris that, if he had lived in Athens during the Golden age, might have gotten him banished, or worse. Yet I believe that Churchill truly is one of the greats in all of history and Dr Fears turns on the positive spotlight on him in this wonderful set of lectures.
Date published: 2013-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Greatest Briton Winston Churchill earned this honor in a 2002 British poll and Professor Fears no doubt agrees. Churchill was a man who as a child was virtually ignored by his father, yet he revered him. Churchill struggled in school until he attended Sandhurst Military Academy and discovered military strategies and history. He went on to become a war hero in the Boer War and the youngest Member of Parliament (MP). As Lord of the Admiralty he absorbed all of the blame for the disaster at the Dardanelles during WW1, even though he was cleared in an investigation. Consequently his career stumbled between the wars until May 10, 1940 when Hitler invaded Belgium and France and Parliament realized they needed Churchill as Prime Minister to have a hope of surviving the war. They were right as Churchill led the country through its "finest hour", to an alliance with the Americans and eventually to victory. Churchill had great affection for America and its freedoms, beginning with the heritage of his American mother. Yet he was committed to the preservation of the British empire, which led to conflict with his benefactor FDR as the war in Europe was approaching its end. Dr. Fears presents Churchill as a man of great conviction and controversy, unlike his Immediate predecessor PMs who did not have the former and avoided the later in order to gain re-election. Churchill embraced these characteristics as they are no doubt necessary to be a great leader. Churchill was a great military strategist, a great statesman, a great charismatic rallying force for his countrymen, an eloquent speaker, a prolific writer, and an accomplished painter. Quite a resume for someone who was ranked dead last in his primary school. Dr. Fears is an unabashed admirer of Churchill for good reason. He revels Churchill's life with the consummate skill of a great storyteller. Listening to Dr. Fears made me feel as if I was there as the story unfolded. Since this is a 12 lecture course it is an overview of Churchill's life. Some details such as Churchill's time living with the Roosevelt's in the White House are missing. But Dr. Fears does an excellent job of providing enough detail to bring out the character, personality, and accomplishments of Churchill. I watched the DVD and there were some useful maps and photographs which supported the lecture. However, many of these are quite familiar and this is one course where the student will get nearly as much out of an audio only version. Dr. Fears' speaking style is most captivating and commands one's attention even when visuals appear. The course guide is excellent. The lecture notes are in outline form, there is a timeline, biographical notes, an annotated bibliography and, a bonus, excerpts from Churchill's speeches. I highly recommend this course and I look forward to taking some of the other Great Courses taught by Dr Fears.
Date published: 2013-10-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Churchill This is an outstanding presentation- well researched and scholarly and yet, visceral and entertaining. Dr. Fears is charged in some reviews with being overly sympathetic to Churchill. I did not find that. He presents Churchill's very human side with his weaknesses and failings as well as his strengths and accomplishments- and yet, all considered, concludes that Churchill is the greatest individual of the 20th century. It is difficult to disagree.
Date published: 2013-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring This course is entertaining, educational and inspiring. If you have not listened to a course from Professor Fears before you should know that his style is different from most of the Great Courses. He is a storyteller. He believes that the purpose of history is to instruct those in the present. He is not afraid to teach in a way that gets the point across of what he thinks those lessons are. In our overly politically correct culture, I found this refreshing. I suppose those who disagree with his view points might find him preachy though. I think he is masterful as a teacher and people need to hear the messages from the past, not just memorize a bunch of facts. In this course you will learn much about Churchill the man as well as his place in historical events.
Date published: 2013-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Pro-Churchill Bio Professor Fears is a wonderfully charismatic lecturer that paints an admirable picture of the brave, daring, and sometimes naive Churchill. Please note that Churchill is a short lecture series, and so the biography is essentially an abridged overview of one of history's most interesting and involved figures. Even so, Fears covers a ton of ground in an entertaining fashion. If it was a book, I'd consider it a page turner. Well done and very entertaining.
Date published: 2013-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Held my interest I bought the course as something to listen to while in the car, and it moved right along, consistently making me want to hear the next lecture upon finishing one. The main reason I'm giving it high marks is that it held my interest, making me want to know what would happen next. The presenter did a great job with the material, mixing anecdotes in, and choosing well which items to bring out.
Date published: 2013-04-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Singularly Powerful History & Psychology Though the course is copyrighted 2001, the story of it's protagonist may sound surprisingly familiar. As Professor Rufus Fears points out, this is the biography of a man who grew up to idolize a father who barely recognized his existence. Before Churchill became head of state he would memorialize his father in a book. For all intents and purposes ignored by his parents, Churchill would later become a devoted father to his children. Unexceptional at school, he eventually reached great heights through connections unavailable to most. It is the story of a man hailed by leading socialists like Attlee as a life-long socialist. He would win a Nobel prize in a liberal art category. He had a deep distrust of Conservative leaders though he could change alliances precipitously. Though controversy would dog him and his opponents would call him a political opportunist, he intensely defended those suffering under disadvantaged social conditions. At his home he regularly entertained the greatest celebrities of his day. His speeches were all agonizingly researched though they were made to sound extemporaneous. Word play was a forte. In one of his early speeches, Churchill praised one of his country's enemies and was soundly criticized for doing so. He voted against large amounts of money for the military. The power of this course is not just its history, but also the questions Fears puts forth. Are these men specifically groomed by birth and circumstance to plunge themselves into the icy waters of ultimate power? Who are they, really? How do the immediate circumstances of their lives alter their ultimate impression on the course of history? Are there really other over-riding differences between WWII and now? Or is history a mirage beyond the clarity of those granted the ultimate in national power? What is the drive of such initially psychologically downtrodden men? How does one predict whether the final results of such leadership will be good or bad for a nation? And what of the future? As soon as times became better and the common man thought he had a fighting chance to stand without a supreme government, Churchill was dropped like a hot potato. In death, Churchill has gained a well-deserved visibility in history; yet Fears points out that historians from a wide range of political opinions have assailed him. One wonders: is this fickleness or is there something deeper at work? Unlike the carefully supervised correctness of many modern history courses, Fears has done a huge amount of research into all aspects of his subject's life, as I hope I have been able to hint at above. At the end of it all, an interesting class essay might be to answer the question: "So why was Churchill's bust removed from the White House?" The more reflective your essay, the more you, like Fears, are an excellent student of history.
Date published: 2013-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Must Have for 20th Century History Studies I usually don't do a lot of modern history courses, but having taken Fears' excellent courses on the Romans and Greeks, I was sure this course on Churchill would also be a winner, and it is. Even if you only vaguely know who Churchill is (shame on the education system), Fears' storytelling method of teaching will reveal one of the 20th Century's greatest people in grand detail. You will be wishing for a leader like him and wondering where such people have gone. Great for students of politics, Churchill was a true independent, not beholden to any party. Not without flaws or faults, but his accomplishments and insights were unmatched. Fears details his life and career with much information and entertainment and packs into 12 lectures enough to make you feel like you lived in Churchill's time. This course makes a great companion to TGC's course on Hitler. So students of history, politics and the World Wars, Churchill is a must-have experience.
Date published: 2013-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Lecturer So Far I was deeply interested in Churchill for many years, but after hearing the first lesson, I'm also very interested in Fears. His style is amazing! I'd listen to him talk about linear algebra! I'd listen to him talk about the reality TV shows that my wife watches! I'm now going to start listening to all the courses he has done.
Date published: 2013-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy Listening audio version I enjoyed this overview of the life of Winston Churchill by Professor Fears. Professor Fears is quite a story teller and uses his skill to dramatically tell the story of Churchill. His topic selection encompassed many of the important aspects of Churchill's life. I enjoyed his course guide. As noted by other reviewers (and in the course description), Prof. Fears provides a "sympathetic biographical study." Well stated. Prof. Fears is clearly one-sided in this course, but that is probably to be expected in a 6-hour course. The brevity of this course does not allow for the discussion of the nuances of Churchill's life nor for a serious discussion of other points of view. One thing that I found a minor inconvenience of this course is that Prof. Fears tends to allow his voice to rise and fall to provide emphasis to his discussion. This would actually be a strong point of the lectures, except it is sometimes difficult to listen to in the car -- especially when he drops his voice to make an important point and it drops out of the audible range (given the background noise in the car). I don't think this would be much of an issue in other situations. I would highly recommend this brief, "sympathetic" biography of Churchill. I enjoyed my time listening to this course.
Date published: 2013-04-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Solid if not exceptional This is a very brief course aimed at an audience with only a passing knowledge of Churchill and his life, which pretty much describes me. It was a solid miniature biography told in a companionable style. A review below wrote that "Dr. Fears' style is not for everyone, but his admiration of Churchill was infectious," and that's about right. The "chummy" and somewhat dramatic style is not my favorite, but it's OK, and the lecturer did draw one in. Although you can't expect any surprising insights into this great man, you can be sure of getting a basic grounding in his extraordinary career and personality.
Date published: 2013-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Jolly Good Show! I recently received an invitation to attend a lecture given by the great-grandson of Winston Churchill, so I watched my DVD version (which I had purchased some time ago) before the talk. The information about Churchill's youth, early military career and pre-WWII warnings was spot on! Prof. Fears' sensitive and respectful job of describing Churchill's awful childhood (i.e.virtual abandonment by his parents to the British public school system and its disciplinary measures) makes his accomplishments even more amazing! For those of us who previously knew only the WWII Churchill, this course will provide a lot of fascinating early tidbits. And I do agree with the other reviewer who commented on the Dardanelles incident; if you didn't know where they were before this course, you still would not...which is why I gave 4 stars instead of 5 to Prof. Fears.
Date published: 2013-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Biography by Lecture I purchased this course because I knew there was a lot about Churchill that I didn't know. This course definitely did the job I hired it to do. There are two complaints I have about this course: during the discussion of the Dardanelles, Professor Fears didn't elaborate on where or what they were. Had I not also been about halfway through the World War 1: The Great War course, I would have been lost during the brief mention of this period of history that would follow Churchill throughout the rest of his life. The second complaint is that while Dr. Fears is a dramatic and entertaining speaker, he sometimes goes from loud and exited to barely above a whisper. This does not make for ideal car listening. As such, you have to use context clues to figure out what the word or phrase you missed was.
Date published: 2013-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from COMPREHENSIVE PRESENTATION Professor Fears does an excellent job of articulating the life and accomplishments of this great 20th century leader. Great history and leadership lessons.
Date published: 2013-01-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great storyteller extolls Churchill I was saddened to learn of the death of professor Frears by reading reviews on this site. This is the sixth course I have of his, so if you are new to his style be forewarned: Professor Frears is a proponent of the “great man/woman” theory of history where history is made by great men/women acting in the world to change the course of history to his/her will. These are my words summarizing what I've heard him say (over and over). In his other courses, he is limited to a 30-minute presentation on one person. Here, Frears can explore at length the life of one of his heroes. (He puts Churchill in the same pantheon with Pericles, Caeser, Augustus, and Lincoln.) Professor Frears is an engaging storyteller. I listened to this course as an audio book at a faster-than-normal speed, and never felt lost nor bored. It was a great experience. This course is a sympathetic telling of the life of Churchill. For example, Frears will say things like, “Churchill was a statesmen who adhered to core convictions while others around him were just “politicians.” Should you get this course? If you go into this course looking for a balanced discussion of Churchill’s policies, you are going to be disappointed. Because I had listened to some other courses from Frears, I knew what to expect and what would be lacking. So I could just enjoy the course for what it was: a great story about a titanic leader of the 20th century told by a great storyteller.
Date published: 2013-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive ! I did this course on MP3 audio.. Ran thru the entire course during a 1,600 mile "RoadTrip". Some lectures, I did Twice.. just for the pleasure :) Churchill had an Amazing life, and the Professor delivered it like a Wonderful "story". Professor Fears has a great sense of humor, as well, and works to make you smile! Great show.. :)
Date published: 2012-12-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Most Interesting Biography Professor Fears once again excels, this time by providing a biography of one of the great world leaders, Winston Churchill. It is clear from the outset that Professor Fears greatly admires Churchill. As a result, this course provides a clearly biased, very positive, view of the life and accomplishments of this important figure in world history. Although Fears acknowledges that others carry opposing viewpoints he does not present these opposing views in much detail. It is difficult to imagine a politician at any point in world history with as many redeemable traits as Fears provides us in his six hours on Churchill. It is advisable to study other sources (many which are noted in the bibliography of the course guidebook) to get a more well-rounded picture of some of the more controversial aspects and events of Churchill’s life. This twelve lecture course takes you through from Churchill's birth in 1874 (including discussion of his ancestors) to his death in 1965 at age 90. The initial lectures trace his troublesome boyhood followed by his successes as soldier, author, and member of Parliament. The role of Churchill in WWI, as well as his critical importance to the efforts to defeat the Nazis in WWII, is highlighted. Professor Fears also does a marvelous job of introducing the listener to the person of Winston Churchill, including his successes as writer, artist and family man. Emphasis throughout is placed on Churchill’s principles, his belief in absolute right and wrong, his concern for the common man, his dogged persistence, and his vision for the future. This course is well worth the quickly moving six hours it takes to complete.
Date published: 2012-12-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Finding Our "Moral Compass" First of all, I wanted to offer my condolences for death of Dr. Fears last month. He obviously has made a great contribution to the Great Courses, and his legacy will live on through his lectures here and at the University of Oklahoma website. This course is a great introduction to the history of Great Britain, and in particular the history of World War II, as well as an excellent survey of the condition of the world at the time of our “Greatest Generation.” Whenever I take a course, I try to do background research on the material and to consider opposing interpretations on the subject matter. I do not think that an uncritical acceptance of the life of Winston Churchill will do much to foster an intelligent regard of the man or of his times, and so I encourage the student to consider many viewpoints, and to arrive at a conclusion which will give weight to all the facts and which will engage multiple perspectives. I personally have researched the historical views of Steven F. Hayward, Sir Martin Gilbert and Michael Makovsky for this course and I have also tried to consider various biases based on “neo-conservatism” and “revisionist” political leanings. Dr. Fears interprets history in the tradition of Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish writer, who said, “History is but a biography of great men,” and there is much to commend this interpretation! As Fear says, history is not the unfolding of blind impersonal forces, but they are rather the effects of the decisions made by human beings who have the courage and opportunity to respond to and to implement change in their world. If there is an inspirational message in Dr. Fears presentation, it is in the challenge that each one of us has something to contribute to the outcome of history even in our own lifetimes! As Mohandas Gandhi once put it, “Whatever you do will be [or may seem] insignificant, but it is [still] very important that you do it!” We can contribute to human history, because it’s about us. Winston Churchill did more than most others to make his own mark. I would like to discuss the following salient points which Fears introduces in this course: 1) The idea of moral absolutes 2) The idea of British morality and imperialism 3) Churchill’s support of Zionism 4) The idea of “moral compass” and the “moral logic of regimes.” 5) The idea of personal morality and the morality of leadership 1) Dr. Fears says that Churchill had convictions of “absolute right and wrong.” It seems certain that Churchill did act upon principle, but the principles themselves could be questioned based on their what kind of “absolutism” or “universalism” they embody. For example, Churchill sent the military to coerce striking miners to go back to work in the Tonypandy Riots of 1910. In 1911, he allowed Latvian anarchists to die in a fire in the Siege of Sidney Street. In 1915, he came up with the idea to invade Gallipoli during WW1, and (although Fears says this was not Churchill’s fault or responsibility,) over 200,000 men perished in that campaign! In 1926, he lauded Mussolini as a "Roman genius... the greatest lawgiver among men" for his political stance against communism. In his book of 1937, “Great Contemporaries,” he wrote that he hoped that Hitler might “go down in history as the man who restored honour and peace of mind to the great Germanic nation and brought it back serene, helpful and strong to the forefront of the European family circle.” He refused to alleviate the Bengal famine in 1943 where three million people in India died of starvation by making it a personal confrontation: -- “If the famine was so bad, why hadn’t Gandhi died?” Churchill also expressed the hope that the conflict between the Muslim League and Indian Congress in India "would be bitter and bloody." I find some of these statements and situations to be morally unsettling! And while each of these positions may be defended in part by policies which favored English imperialistic interests, it is by no means obvious that they embody the “absolute” forms of right and wrong that Fears purports they do – I think there is in fact good reason to think that they probably do not! 2) Notwithstanding, British imperialism [1846-1945] was seen as a civilizing influence in the world, promoting the virtues of British of law, language and industry. I think Churchill saw his role in the world based in these terms, and for this reason, it might explain his disdain and contempt of Gandhi. Gandhi himself, it should be noted, may not have had the opportunity to become a force for “the conscience of mankind” had it not been for the education he received at the University College London. As a result of British influence, we see around the world today countries which are united under the British ideals of freedom, democracy and citizenry: Ghana, South Africa, Canada, Australia and even Israel! 3) Churchill was also a solid supporter of Zionism -- even at a time when anti-semitism around the world was widespread. In an essay entitled, “Zionism versus Bolshevism,” [1920] he writes of the Jews, that “they are beyond all question the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has ever appeared in the world.” He distinguishes between religious Jews and atheistic Jews – praising the former and linking the latter to anarchy and Bolshevism (as did Hitler.) As a personal friend of Chaim Weizmann, he felt the Jews were, on account of their uniqueness as a great people, deserving of a national home even before the atrocities of the Nazis had been perpetrated -- quite an unusual viewpoint for a statesmen to have at this time in history! Churchill helped to clarify the 1917 Balfour Declaration in the 1922 British White Paper while he was Secretary of the State for the Colonies. This, and many other initiatives by the English government, led to the creation of an independent Jewish state 26 years later in Palestine. 4) Introducing the “moral logic of regimes” and examining one’s “moral compass,” was an interesting and fruitful way to examine world politics. In comparing the regimes of Great Britain and Nazi Germany, we can understand why Churchill was so adamant against coming to any sort of negotiated peace with Hitler. Hitler had lied to Chamberlain’s face and showed himself to be completely treacherous. Churchill saw the signs of war developing in the late 1930s, saying that the Germans would have to become militarily mobilized so that Hitler’s rise to power could be sustained. [The moral logic being that a cult of personality could not sustain itself indefinitely in peace time.] Neo-conservatives have used Churchill’s ideas to address the entrenchment of communism during the Cold War, culminating in President Reagan’s moral politics of confrontation (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!) Fears also seems to want to justify the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 as based on this “moral compass,” which eliminated Saddam Hussein’s tyranny in Iraq and which promoted a working relationship between G.W. Bush and Tony Blair in establishing democracy in Iraq, (reminiscent of the cooperation between Roosevelt and Churchill in the 1940s.) [However, Professor Michael Roberto, in his course “The Art of Critical Decision-Making,” says quite wisely that we should beware of comparing too facilely proposed courses of action with events from the past!] 5) Fears makes us appreciate Churchill, the man. More than a soldier, more than a statesman, Churchill was an author, an historian, a painter, an orator, a doting husband and father, a loyal friend, a hero -- in short, an exceptional human being! He won the Nobel Prize – not for statesmanship – but for literature! He certainly was without peer and his leadership embodied the concerns for the English people during the Battle of Britain where he visited the citizenry after bombing raids as a testament to the “blood, toil, tears and sweat” he offered the country during the worst time in history for the British people. The best assessment of his work and leadership comes from his own words, “I did the best I could.” In assessing Churchill’s character, Fears makes an impassioned defense of Churchill’s commitment to freedom in Lecture 7, when he discusses Churchill’s handling of the Irish Free State and the Middle East. Fears’ voice begin to quiver and quake in emotional agitation as he discusses Churchill’s willingness to tackle difficult political situations and accepting responsibility for the political outcomes – a testament to Fears’ own very deep admiration and sympathy for Churchill. I find this quote from Geoffrey Eton, British historian, to sum up this course quite nicely: “There are times when I incline to judge all historians by their opinion of Winston Churchill – whether they see that , no matter how much better the details, often damaging, of the man and his career become known, he still remains, quite simply, a great man.” Yes, there is much for us to admire in Churchill and much for us to learn of him and also about ourselves – for this reason, I think this course will be a starting point in helping us to find our own “moral compass,” to help us discover our own bedrock of principles and to help us also in making our contribution to human history!
Date published: 2012-11-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A valiant biography I began this course just before Dr. Fears passed away. It made my listening much more focused. Dr. Fears' style is not for everyone, but his admiration of Churchill was infectious. He highlights the life and trials of Churchill and also the often overlooked personal aspect of this world leader.
Date published: 2012-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Churchill Highly Recommended I think Dr. Fears has a unique and rare ability to present a subject that captures and holds ones attention. I was thrilled to see that he holds my esteem for Winston Churchill. DR Fears presentation captures Churchills ideals, foresight and wit of, in my opinion, the greatest statesman of the 20 th century.
Date published: 2012-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! Intelligent Entertainment Churchill is an amazing man of history and Prof. Rufus is the perfect person to share his story. Rufus tells you the history, but makes it interesting and entertaining. The facts stick with you because they pique your interest. I listened to this with my sister driving cross country and would sit in the car at rest stops and not get out until the current lesson was over. I then loaned it to my brother-in-law who is a long-distance trucker. He loved it so much he listened to it over and over. Then I had a 6-hour drive with my friend who is a lawyer and we listened to it. She insisted I loan it to her so she could hear the end. Churchill is amazing, but Rufus makes you want to learn about Churchill.
Date published: 2012-09-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Well........but There is a distinction between courses that explore a topic in depth and those that provide a cursory overview. This course in the the latter category in that it provides neither a comprehensive nor a ciritical analysis of Winston Churchill. As noted, it is a sympathetic biography of a complicated and controversial historical figure focused more on the trivial aspects of Churchill's life rather than on a critical assessment of the man or his times. Churchil was a figure who raced from mountain top to mountain top throughout his life and in doing do left much unfinished and unresolved. The unfinshed and unresolved are not addressed in this course in the slightest way. Those who have read widely on Churchill will not find anything new here and will be frustrated at what is not here. Those who have read a credible biography of Churchill will note that much is missing. For the Churchill novice, enjoy the narration and the anecdotal evidence but be reminded that the course is an exercise in Victorian biography where real analysis is absent as is much of the criticism. On a more positive note, this was my first course with Professor Fears. I was reminded of my grandfather telling stories of the past - stories that were not fictional but were narrated recollections of the past arrived at through personal reflection. Remembrance of things past in this way is not such a bad thing.
Date published: 2012-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fear's heart is in the coffin there with Churchill [Audio] Forgive tongue in cheek title. It seems to capture the mood of Fear’s unique style. His life of Churchill is dramatic, theatrical, Shakespearian, nearly Operatic, reminiscent of Antony’s famous eulogy. After much reflection I think the best way to capture the sound and mood of a Fear’s lecture is to compare it to a one man play. Other reviewers have noted the unmitigated praise that Fear’s heaps on Churchill. As one who entered the experience with relatively little knowledge of Churchill’s life before World War II, I found Fear’s presentation to be endlessly charming and entertaining. World War II is addressed in two lectures more than halfway into the course. Many of his earlier life events that were new to me include: his time in the Sudan and South Africa as a war correspondent, his brief tenure as a frontline Lieutenant Colonel in World War I, and his role leading up the British Navy in the disastrous World War I Dardanelles campaign. I had known of his writing and painting, but had not understood the scope of either as lifelong pursuits. Fears describes even seemingly mundane details with relish like Churchill’s “robust” Scotches and cigars. He accomplished with me what I imagine all presenters endeavor to do: I emerged from the lectures more informed and more interested in the subject. On a follow-up listen, I concurrently Paul Johnson brief and very readable one volume biography. I have added Churchill’s The Rivers Campaign to my wish list which describes the Sudan campaign. A brief comment by Fears lead me to discover a series of interviews of Eisenhower by Alistair Cooke. They have also worked their way onto my reading list. I will almost certainly add a longer biography at some point. Fears mentions two critics of Churchill, who have written biographies. Perhaps I will consider theirs. Does Fears keep a cooly objective distance in his assessment of Churchill? Frankly, he does not. If I had encountered this style in Childer's outstanding World War II course I would have found it odd, but I find nothing unnatural about it in a 12 lecture biography course. Fears is an admirer, leaving me to simply sit back, enjoy his masterful story telling, and to allow other points of view to emerge from another source. I will mention that I thought the final lecture was a lost opportunity. After 11 lectures of explicit admiration a Churchill without fault emerges. I didn’t need a review where the praise was underscored. Fears could have spent the entire lecture on Churchill’s critiques, but I was already a fan of both Fears and Churchill by lecture 12 point, so it didn’t alter my overall assessment. I don’t know what I may have missed by selecting Audio, but I enjoyed the Audio to be just fine. Recommended.
Date published: 2012-07-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Quite frustrating I'm reiterating what others have said, but Prof. Fears' course only presents a caricature of Churchill. Churchill was an astonishing person, leader and Renaissance man... but he was imperfect... as are all humans. Some of his imperfections were readily apparent in his public life. Prof. Fears offers ONLY positive comments about the man... many so effusive as to be comic. Sadly, this is not history; it is merely a comic book version of past events. It doesn't serve Churchill's reputation and it utterly fails the needs of anyone sincerely interested in learning about the topic. Potential listeners would be better off reading the Manchester books.
Date published: 2012-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fear's heart is in the coffin there with Churchill [Audio] Forgive the tongue in cheek title. It seems to capture the mood of Fear’s unique style. His life of Churchill is dramatic, theatrical, Shakespearian, nearly Operatic, reminiscent of Antony’s famous eulogy. After much reflection I think the best way to capture the sound and mood of a Fear’s lecture is to compare it to a one man play. Other reviewers have noted the unmitigated praise that Fear’s heaps on Churchill. As one who entered the experience with relatively little knowledge of Churchill’s life before World War II, I found Fear’s presentation to be endlessly charming and entertaining. World War II is addressed in two lectures more than halfway into the course. The earlier life events that were new to me include: his time in the Sudan and South Africa as a war correspondent, his brief tenure as a frontline Lieutenant Colonel in World War I, and his role leading up the British Navy in the disastrous World War I Dardanelles campaign. I had known of his writing and painting, but had not understood the scope of either as lifelong pursuits. Fears describes even seemingly mundane details with relish like Churchill’s “robust” Scotches and cigars. He accomplished with me what I imagine all presenters endeavor to do: I emerged from the lectures more informed and more interested in the subject. On a follow-up listen, I read Paul Johnson's brief and very readable one volume biography. I have added Churchill’s The Rivers Campaign to my wish list which describes the Sudan campaign. A brief comment by Fears lead me to discover a series of interviews of Eisenhower by Alistair Cooke. They have also worked their way onto my reading list. I will almost certainly add a longer biography at some point. Two explicitly critical ones were mentioned, and although Fears rejects them both, I am now curious to read them. Does Fears keep a cooly objective distance in his assessment of Churchill? Frankly, he does not. If I had encountered this style in Childer's outstanding World War II course I would have found it odd, but I find nothing unnatural about it in a 12 lecture biography course. Fears is an admirer, leaving me to simply sit back, enjoy his masterful story telling, and to allow other points of view to emerge from another source. I will mention that I thought the final lecture was a lost opportunity. After 11 lectures of explicit admiration a Churchill without fault emerges. I didn’t need a review where the praise was underscored. Fears could have spent the entire lecture on Churchill’s critiques, but I was already a fan of both Fears and Churchill by lecture 12 point, so it didn’t alter my overall assessment. I don’t know what I may have missed by selecting Audio, but I found the Audio to be just fine. Recommended.
Date published: 2012-07-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Giant of History I found the course to be quite worthwhile and Professor Fears to be very entertaining. If you are interested in the total man, his politics, his family and his traditions, this is not the course for you. If you want a broad overview of the man, this course would be appropriate.
Date published: 2012-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Glad I got the DVD version... I had always been curious about learning more about Churchill, and decided this time to buy a DVD version since the first course I took was Audio CD only (CS Lewis). This is a course where it was good to see both the professor (who got quite animated at times) and pictures/maps associated with the course. I have read a number of reviews of this course, and I would definitely agree that the volume is all over the place. It makes much more sense when you see Dr. Fears raising and lowering his volume to make a point, but it is a little maddening. Also, Dr. Fears kind of looks a little like Churchill himself!! The course starts off with an interesting discussion of Churchill's ancestry (Duke of Marlborough and then this father, Lord Randolph Churchill), and how it set the stage for his early life and later, the decisions he made. While I agree that Dr. Fears is a Churchill apologist, I think he points out Churchill's human side also. He tries to counter those who have disparaged Churchill over the years, but the fact remains, everything in his life prepared him for his leadership during WWII. I think Fears does a good job at explaining why Churchill was so tenacious--he had a lot to overcome in life. I thought Dr. Fears was well prepared and was thorough in his research. I may very well try another lecture by him in the future as I liked his in-depth discussion of the subject matter in an enthusiastic forum.
Date published: 2012-05-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Great storytelling but lacks analysis I definitely agree with the reviewer Carolyn, this course is hagiographic and romantic. Does Prof. Fears use any primary sources outside of Churchill's biography? Is every person either all good or all bad (as comes across in the course)? If you're a rigorous student of history, if you're looking for nuance, if you want to get both sides of the story, this course ain't fer you. That aside, this course would be perfect for specific people: (1) If you've always wanted to read a Churchill's autobiography, look no further. Silver platter city. (2) If you have budding young history buffs at home, this is just the ticket. Kids 12 to 20 will be transfixed, and parents and kids could listen to together. Consider getting this course for your upcoming road trip! For me, the audio version is perfect. Prof Fears has presence better for a classroom of 500. This theatricality does not come through in the audio. I love to write useful reviews! If this was helpful to you, please let me know. Thanks!
Date published: 2012-05-08
  • y_2020, m_10, d_22, h_17
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_4, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_22, tr_195
  • loc_en_US, sid_807, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 77.51ms
  • REVIEWS, PRODUCT

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought