Foundations of Western Civilization

Course No. 370
Professor Thomas F. X. Noble, Ph.D.
University of Notre Dame
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Course No. 370
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Follow the evolution of Western civilization, from its humble beginnings to the dawn of the modern world.
  • numbers Explore the political structures Western civilizations have used to organize themselves over the centuries.
  • numbers Take into account geography, government, religion, and philosophy in exploring the grand scope of Western history.
  • numbers Learn what distinguishes "the West" from other civilizations by traveling from ancient Mesopotamia to the modern world.

Course Overview

You can discover the essential nature, evolution, and perceptions of Western civilization from its humble beginnings in the great river valleys of Iraq and Egypt to the dawn of the modern world. With these 48 lectures on the people, places, ideas, and events that make up The Foundations of Western Civilization, award-winning scholar and teacher Thomas F. X. Noble of the University of Notre Dame invites you to explore the vast and rich territory of Western civilization.

Grasp History over Thousands of Years

From the late stages of the Agricultural Revolution to the doorstep of the Scientific Revolution, your learning in this course will cover roughly 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1600, when the "foundations" of the modern West come into view.

Professor Noble's goal is to offer a history of what has been fundamental across millennia in the West, that most unusual of world civilizations.

"Throughout the course, we will pause to reflect on where Western civilization finds its primary locus at any given moment," he says. "But Western civilization is much more than human and political geography.

"We will explore the myriad forms of political and institutional structures by means of which Western peoples have organized themselves and their societies. These include monarchies of several distinct types, as well as participatory republics.

"Looking at institutions will draw us to inquire about the Western tradition of political discourse. Who should participate in any given society? Why? How have societies resolved the tension between individual self-interest and the common good?"

Your learning will follow a timeline and order to cover vast amounts of territory and thousands of years:

  • Begin in the ancient Near East and move to Greece, then to Rome
  • Explore the shape and impact of large ancient empires, including those of Persia, Alexander the Great, and Rome
  • Consider Western Europe to watch Europe gradually expand physically and culturally
  • Examine the globalization of Western civilization with the Portuguese and Spanish voyages of exploration and discovery.
Discover a Treasure of Rich Historical Detail

This course rewards the desire for useful generalization and theory. But it also highlights the telling detail on which history can turn. Professor Noble's guidance allows you to comprehend the ongoing presence of the Roman Empire, the ceaseless influence of a 20-year golden age in Athens, the living struggle between Abraham's three great religions, and much more.

Professor Noble seeks to delight the mind with the "Aha!" experience: "That's why we do that!" "That's where that word came from!" "That's why those people won!" (In the last revelation, metals and horses figure more prominently than social virtues.)

And the course is a lavish treasure of rich detail. For example:

  • The Greek Dark Ages (c. 1100 to 700 B.C.) went "dark," at least in part, because the Greeks forgot how to write—the only people in human history known to have lost literacy after having once attained it.
  • The architects of the Parthenon, to achieve the optical illusion of perfect straightness, subtly angled the building's columns so that, if extended, they would meet a mile and a quarter above the temple's roof—over its exact center.
  • Although fewer than 200 books (including classical texts) survive from before the year 800, the 9th century—meaning the literate monastic establishment fostered by Charlemagne—has left us more than 6,000.
  • The city of Florence, at the height of the Renaissance, had no university, but this was compensated somewhat by Lorenzo de'Medici, who was spending 50 percent of the city's annual budget on books for his Medicean Academy's library.
  • Christopher Columbus, in what was perhaps a bit of "spin" from a practiced self-promoter, based his plan for reaching the East Indies by sailing west partly on suppositions about the Earth's size that had been known to be false since Hellenistic times.
A Learning Experience Built around Powerful Organizing Themes

This broad and panoramic series will help you pull an enormous sweep of history together into one coherent—though by no means closed—framework.

Professor Noble walks you through history as it develops, taking into account: ecology, geography, and climate; government and economics; religion; work and leisure; philosophy; literature; art and architecture; and even virtues, values, and aesthetics.

You will find everything from a thumbnail sketch of the Assyrians (cruel practitioners of state terror) to a detailed analysis of how the Roman constitution worked. For example, the word veto, which means "I forbid," was literally shouted into the Senate chamber by Roman tribunes listening from just outside the door.

In addition to such detailed, anecdotal information, another way you will gain a more vivid sense of the past from these lectures is from the number of memorable sketches of individuals and great works of Western culture. You will:

  • Ponder the view of life in the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Review the impressive amount of historical information preserved in the Iliad
  • Listen to selections from the great poets of ancient Rome, including not only Virgil and Ovid but Sallust, Juvenal, and Martial
  • Encounter amazing figures such as Charlemagne's lieutenant Theodulf, who was not only a bishop but an imperial diplomat and administrator, a theologian and scholar of the Hebrew Bible, a poet, and an architect who designed an exquisite chapel at Germigny.
The Importance of Material Factors

Professor Noble is careful never to neglect the environmental and technological factors that also shape history.

You will examine how a sustained period of favorable weather around the 10th and 11th centuries allowed western Europe to become more populous, found and rebuild cities, increase trade, and go from being a target of outside invasions by Vikings, Huns, Mongols, and Arabs to launching incursions of its own: The Crusades, which began in 1095.

And delving even deeper into the story, you will learn how a seemingly humble item, the horse collar, contributed so powerfully to this trend. If it were not for the invention of the horse collar, there may have been no Crusades at all.

Illuminating Questions about Familiar Categories

Professor Noble suggests that many conventional historical categories and concepts can obscure as much as they reveal. By setting aside these ideas, you can open your mind to a broader and perhaps more accurate picture of history.

Did the Roman Empire really "fall"? What did people at the time experience? What exactly was being reborn in the Renaissance? Is it historically accurate to speak of the "Protestant Reformation"? Why do we think of the Middle Ages as just that—i.e., a time somehow sandwiched between two other (and presumably superior) times? Did the brilliant intellectuals and writers who clustered around the court of Charlemagne see it that way?

No other civilization has achieved the global reach of the West. By surveying Mesopotamia to modernity and everything in between, you will pursue answers to the questions of what "the West" most essentially is or has been thought to be, and what distinguishes it from other world civilizations—not necessarily better in all ways but surely unique.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    “Western,” “Civilization,” and “Foundations”
    These three seemingly simple words demand reflection. Where is the West? Who is Western? If civilization means cities, where do those come from? And when we look at history, how do we tell what is truly foundational from what may be merely famous? What is the difference between celebrity and distinction? x
  • 2
    History Begins at Sumer
    Borrowing our title from a famous book by S. N. Kramer, we look at why this small slice of what is now southern Iraq became—along with Egypt—one of the two foundations of Western civilization. x
  • 3
    Egypt—The Gift of the Nile
    As Sumer was the gift of the Tigris and Euphrates, so Egypt—a ribbon of fertile floodplain 750 miles long but not much more than 15 miles wide—has been called "the gift of the Nile." But the differences between Egypt and Mesopotamia tell us as much as the similarities. x
  • 4
    The Hebrews—Small States and Big Ideas
    Israel, built by the descendants of Abraham, was one of the small states that arose after the Egyptian Empire fell (c. 700 B.C.). Unified and independent only from 1200–900 B.C., it bequeathed to the West crucial religious ideas. x
  • 5
    A Succession of Empires
    The peoples holding sway over the ancient Near East included the cruel Assyrians, the Medes, the Neo-Babylonians who overthrew the Assyrians around 600 B.C., and the Persians, who along with the Medes would build the largest empire the world had seen to that time. x
  • 6
    Wide-Ruling Agamemnon
    Why is it important for you to grasp the archaeological record of the period from 1500–1200 B.C. in order to understand The Iliad and The Odyssey—two poems composed 500 years later? x
  • 7
    Dark Age and Archaic Greece
    What unique circumstance—unknown before or since in human history—made the Greek Dark Ages so "dark"? And how do we "do" the history of a time and place that is so obscured from our view? Surprisingly, we know a good deal. x
  • 8
    The Greek Polis—Sparta
    Spartan society was harsh and peculiar, yet many observers at the time and since have found "the Spartan way" strangely compelling. After all, they won the war against Athens, and their victory moved Plato to re-imagine Athenian society in The Republic. What were the main features of this system, and why did the Spartans embrace it? x
  • 9
    The Greek Polis—Athens
    Lurching from crisis to crisis, the Athenians accidentally created one of the world's most freewheeling democracies—at least for adult male citizens—even as they were building an empire. How did the whole thing work, and what finally brought it down? x
  • 10
    Civic Culture—Architecture and Drama
    Can you list the key public buildings of an ancient Greek city? How did they combine beautiful and functional forms with deep ideological meanings? What made drama (including comedy) the public art par excellence? x
  • 11
    The Birth of History
    What does it mean to say that the Greeks, while certainly not the first people to reflect on the past, nonetheless "invented" history? How did Herodotus, Thucydides, and Xenophon, each in his own unforgettable way, contribute to this basic turning of the Western mind? x
  • 12
    From Greek Religion to Socratic Philosophy
    How did the Greeks begin moving from religious to more philosophical views of the world, and why did these views first arise in a particular part of the Greek world called Ionia? Who were the Sophists, what did they teach, and why did Socrates oppose them? x
  • 13
    Plato and Aristotle
    The goal of this lecture is to explain why Raphael's famous painting, The School of Athens, has Plato pointing up and Aristotle pointing down, and why both are defending and extending the work of Socrates. x
  • 14
    The Failure of the Polis and the Rise of Alexander
    Why couldn't thinkers as brilliant as Plato and Aristotle conceive of a non-imaginary alternative to the polis, and why does the career of one of Aristotle's students mean that in the end, such a shortcoming may not have mattered anyway? x
  • 15
    The Hellenistic World
    The world after Alexander was cosmopolitan, prosperous, and dominated by Greeks and Macedonians all over the Mediterranean and far out into the old Persian Empire. Literature, science, and new philosophies flourished. x
  • 16
    The Rise of Rome
    This lecture is about the foundations on which Roman history rests, including the geography of Italy and the two centuries or so of monarchical rule—ending, tradition says, in 509 B.C.—that the republic overthrew. x
  • 17
    The Roman Republic—Government and Politics
    What does it mean to speak of the "constitution" of the Roman republic? What are the essential offices, procedures, and ideals involved, and how did the whole thing really work? x
  • 18
    Roman Imperialism
    By the time the republic found that it didn't merely possess but was an empire, Roman rule extended from the Atlantic to Mesopotamia, and from the North Sea to the Sahara Desert. How and why did this happen? x
  • 19
    The Culture of the Roman Republic
    The Romans "did" more than war and politics. They created a distinctive culture that flowered in magnificent lyric and epic poetry, assimilated profound Greek influences, and gave us Cicero as Rome's greatest booster and toughest critic. x
  • 20
    Rome—From Republic to Empire
    The 200 often-turbulent years between the murdered reformers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus and the rise of Octavian saw the old Roman system drown amid overwhelming temptations and tensions brought on by Rome's very conquests. x
  • 21
    The Pax Romana
    When Octavian became Augustus princeps—"First Citizen"—in 31 B.C., he was inaugurating a 200-year period of security, prosperity, and wise rule that Tacitus would nonetheless wryly label "a desert [that we] called peace." Was Tacitus right? x
  • 22
    Rome's Golden and Silver Ages
    To understand how culturally creative and important the principate was, you need only reflect that what today strikes the popular imagination as quintessentially "Roman" is a product of this period (republican Rome was a city of wood). x
  • 23
    Jesus and the New Testament
    No well-informed observer in the time of Augustus and his successors would have predicted that a world-changing movement would arise in a small, poor, and insignificant region of Palestine. But that is what happened. x
  • 24
    The Emergence of a Christian Church
    The word "church" (ekklesia) occurs only twice in only one of the Gospels (Matthew). Yet Paul, whose letters predate the Gospels, uses the word routinely. This intriguing fact is your gateway to the fascinating history of early Christianity. x
  • 25
    Late Antiquity—Crisis and Response
    For 100 years after the death of Marcus Aurelius in 180, the Romans put up almost no great public structures—a sign of severe trouble. What lay behind this crisis, and how did Diocletian (who became emperor in 284) and his successor Constantine successfully respond? x
  • 26
    Barbarians and Emperors
    Although the notion that Rome somehow "fell" remains pervasive, scholars of late antiquity (c. 300 to 700) have no use for the idea. More intriguing still, there weren't any barbarian invasions as usually understood. x
  • 27
    The Emergence of the Catholic Church
    Once Rome stopped persecuting its adherents, the new Christian faith spread through the Roman world in the form of a large, hierarchical organization. Still, achieving a "catholic" (i.e., universal) definition of key beliefs proved difficult. x
  • 28
    Christian Culture in Late Antiquity
    How and why did it matter that Christianity triumphed in the Roman world? Church Fathers, the lives of monks and nuns, and the interaction of Christian faith with a host of day-to-day issues hold the answer. x
  • 29
    Muhammad and Islam
    As with ancient Israel or 1st-century Palestine, no one could have predicted that 7th-century Arabia would become the cradle of a world-changing new religion. Yet new as it was in many ways, Islam had important ties to Greece and Rome as well as the scriptural traditions of the West. x
  • 30
    The Birth of Byzantium
    When he rebuilt an old Greek town in about 330 and named it after himself, what did the Emperor Constantine think he was doing? (Hint: It wasn't "founding something called 'Byzantium.'") What was the result, over the centuries, of Constantine's vision? x
  • 31
    Barbarian Kingdoms in the West
    Within and without the old Roman frontiers, the world of the West became a world of small Germanic, Celtic, and Slavic kingdoms. What were they like, and how does understanding them prepare you to grasp the history of the West properly? x
  • 32
    The World of Charlemagne
    How could Charlemagne have achieved so much? He ruled more of Europe than anyone else between the times of the Romans and Napoleon. Yet his Carolingian empire survived him by barely more than a generation. x
  • 33
    The Carolingian Renaissance
    Since 1839, scholars have been associating the Carolingians with a "renaissance." Why? What is Carolingian culture's distinctive contribution to the West, and how does it set them apart from their Muslim and Byzantine contemporaries? x
  • 34
    The Expansion of Europe
    Despite being battered by centuries of Muslim, Magyar, and Viking attacks and invasions, Europe was able by 1095 to begin striking east and south in a series of Crusades that would span two centuries. It was one of history's great reversals. How did it happen? x
  • 35
    The Chivalrous Society
    The three-part medieval scheme of fighting men, praying men, and working men is worth pondering, but so are all those whom it omits. x
  • 36
    Medieval Political Traditions, I
    What are the two words that best sum up the national achievements of England and France during the Middle Ages? Why do medieval historians now avoid the term "feudalism"? x
  • 37
    Medieval Political Traditions, II
    European history as commonly taught centers tightly on England and France as the key nations of Europe at this time. This lecture will explain why you ought to challenge that view. x
  • 38
    Scholastic Culture
    The great Scholastics—Anselm, Abelard, and Aquinas—were brilliant, often eccentric thinkers who came out of the Latin-speaking clerical and academic world that gave the West one of its greatest intellectual and institutional patrimonies: the university. x
  • 39
    Vernacular Culture
    The years from 900 onward saw an explosion of vernacular (i.e. non-Latin) writings. Why did people begin creating formal written works in their native tongues? Does knowing this literature bring us closer to the people of medieval Europe? x
  • 40
    The Crisis of Renaissance Europe
    To understand the Renaissance, you must know the political, religious, and social context in which it took place. The age was one that Dickens might have called "the worst of times." The Renaissance was a response to grave challenges. x
  • 41
    The Renaissance Problem
    So, what's the problem? Actually, there are four—or at least one problem with four sides. Here are two clues: How did a movement that began in Italy wind up with a French name? And how can a "re-birth" be something new? x
  • 42
    Renaissance Portraits
    How to capture a sense of the Renaissance? With cultural biographies of Boccaccio, Petrarch, Lorenzo de' Medici, Pope Pius II, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and others. x
  • 43
    The Northern Renaissance
    What happened when the Renaissance and its "new learning" crossed the Alps? Humanists could be found on both sides of the mountains, but they turned to different sources north and south, with fateful results. x
  • 44
    The Protestant Reformation—Martin Luther
    "The" Reformation (if indeed there was only one) is not as obvious a historical phenomenon as you might think. To penetrate its meaning, you will find it helpful to begin with the first of its magisterial figures, Martin Luther. x
  • 45
    The Protestant Reformation—John Calvin
    Why is seeing the Reformation as "Protestants versus Catholics" such a serious mistake, and what view makes better sense? To answer those questions, you will consider other major Protestant figures besides Luther, especially John Calvin. x
  • 46
    Catholic Reforms and "Confessionalization"
    Beginning around 1550, the Catholic Church undertook a reformation of its own, founding new institutions and launching new religious orders. At the same time, "confessional" lines were hardening on the religious map of a permanently divided Europe. x
  • 47
    Exploration and Empire
    In purely material terms (population, natural resources, etc.) the peninsular appendage of Asia that is Europe should not have been the one among all world civilizations to span the globe. But starting in the latter decades of the 15th century, that is what happened. x
  • 48
    What Challenges Remain?
    You leave the West in 1600, on the cusp of the Age of Empire, the Scientific Revolution, and the Baroque Period. It's a long way from those mud-walled villages in Mesopotamia to the threshold of its modern era, but certain patterns, problems, and possibilities endure to make the West what it is. x

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Your professor

Thomas F. X. Noble

About Your Professor

Thomas F. X. Noble, Ph.D.
University of Notre Dame
Dr. Thomas F. X. Noble is Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He earned his B.A. in History from Ohio University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval History from Michigan State University. Professor Noble has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and research grants from the American Philosophical Society. In 2008 he received the Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Award for Excellence in...
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Reviews

Foundations of Western Civilization is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 258.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Foundations of Western Civilization I signed up for this course about one month ago. My husband and I have been watching one lecture per evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. I knew that my lack of basic history knowledge was limiting my ability to understand so much of what I read in literature, and the news. This was exactly what I (we) were hoping for and so much more. Presented in a very straightforward format and by a very well-informed professor! Thank-you for so enriching our lives!
Date published: 2020-05-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Looks OK. Took a while to get it to read in compu I expected to be able to drop it into my PC and it would start. Instead, I had to load an application, which took me a couple of days. There was a factual error in the first lesson, repeated. Earth has been here for more than 4 million years. Errors like this make me doubt the rest of the facts presented. Otherwise, it looks like it will be a valuable purchase.
Date published: 2020-05-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Comprehensive, Yet Biased I think most people reviewing this agree that Dr. Noble warrants praise for undertaking and organizing this expansive look at human history from Sumer to South America and for trying to distill it into naturally-progressing 48 half-hour lectures. But it also seems that many agree his presentation was lacking, which made it difficult to maintain a solid interest throughout. This was my third of The Great Courses that I've had the opportunity to watch whilst working from home amidst the great COVID-19 pandemic (I wonder what effect this particular event will have on courses taught in 100 years and beyond), and it was the only one where I felt a little disappointed. My previous two courses (The Other Side of History and The Greek and Persian Wars) sort of already primed me for the content in this one with regard to the Romans and, especially, the Greeks, so there was a temptation to skip past those, but I stuck with it to see how the strands would interweave with others yet to come. Dr. Noble's tendency to insert throw-away tangents almost sotto voce, as well as look at the floor or the backs of his eyelids made it difficult to remain enthusiastic at times. (Fortunately, I've watched all the Great Courses so far at 1.5x speed on my Playstation) Other reviewers remark on Dr. Noble's Catholic bias, and it is accurate - however, when I noted that he was an instructor at the University of Notre Dame, I was already prepared for that possibility. What I was not prepared for was that easily 1/4 of the lectures focused on Christian, and then Catholic, and then Protestant/Catholic history. If looked at a certain way, you might think that he's suggesting that Western Civilization today as we know it is strictly due to the rise and dominance of Christendom in Europe, rather than it being a composite of the various mythologies of the Ancient, Middle, and Modern ages built over the skeletons of the governmental structures that operated at those times. That said, I came away with a greater understanding of the various empires that existed and which historical figures were contemporaries and which came a few generations before and after, so I would still recommend this product to people interested in the topic. However, I might say, "If it feels like you should skip the rest of this particular chapter/lecture, you're probably right."
Date published: 2020-05-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intense and comprehensive The professor presents the history of European civilization in a beautifully coordinated manner. He specializes in the literary data that has uncovered many details that were not available in the past. This provides exciting insight into the development of cultures and societies as well as conflicts and wars. Hard to reorganize understanding I had from all my studies in school.
Date published: 2020-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course When I studied Western Civ ages ago in high school I never enjoyed the class. I found these lectures to be extremely interesting and informative. This is a well organized course and I definitely recommend it. My only suggestion to improve it would be to have reduced somewhat the religious history of the late Renaissance period. While I understand the importance of what went on, I think that less detail in that area would have allowed for more discussion of the early age of European exploration.
Date published: 2020-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I bought this and other courses while in isolation due to Covid 19 because I wanted to keep my brain stimulated. The course has met my expectations and I wish I had had more professors like Dr Noble the first time I went to university.
Date published: 2020-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Engaging Just a few lectures left to watch in the series and I am sorry to be coming to the end. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Professor Noble is an incredibly knowledgeable teacher/scholar who clearly has a vast knowledge of the subject area. While as Professor Noble states this is in essence a "survey" course you come away feeling that you have a thorough overview of the topic area and have been given the important highlights, while at the same time, valued insights of a true scholar. Professor Noble himself is very enjoyable to listen to, especially when reading aloud from the ancient source material, be it in Latin or English. He is well suited to the online/visual nature of the lectures as he appears completely comfortable in front of the camera. It would have been a pleasure to have been an actual student in one of his courses. In the end, I have been left with the feeling that I have gained a basic knowledge of "the Foundations of Western Civilization". Highly recommend!
Date published: 2020-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exactly what I was looking for About a year ago I completed my Masters and have felt a bit at a loss without something to study. I am certainly not up for the commitment of any more deadlines or any more degrees but I don't feel like I want to stop learning. This course is an excellent way to branch out from a main line of study and learn something for pleasure.
Date published: 2020-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Even better than I hoped. I have listened to 13 lectures so far and I am very impressed with Dr. Nobles' presentation. He is informative, understandable, incredibly detailed, and entertaining.
Date published: 2020-04-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Philosophical History The course was well done but was very short on some topics such as the impact of Egypt, the civil engineering of the Romans, the fall of Rome. He describes the engineering feats of the Pantheon and Roman aquaduct but then fails to tell us the significance and impact. Overall short on science, long on liberal arts. To use his analogies - long on Plato, short on Aristotle. The course could also be more visual, he is an good speaker but more visual aids would of been nice. That said, I learned quite a bit from the course and some of his insights into various religions were excellent. (I am a physical scientist so I like lots of data and photos).
Date published: 2020-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting lectures Enjoyed the professor. He really knew the material
Date published: 2020-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Presentation and Organization Professor Noble displayed an amazing ability to hold my interest even when covering topics not particularly interesting to me (philosophy/religious doctrine). He used his sense of humor very well. His knowledge seemed almost all encompassing in his subject matter. Organization of material was outstanding and he consistently stayed with his themes despite addressing several thousand years.
Date published: 2020-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well presented, comprehensive and interesting! This lecture series has been one of the most interesting I have listened to yet! (I have listened to several). My favorite part of this series is the organization of it. I have taken history courses covering different parts of history (and different civilizations) but they have never been pieced together. If you enjoy history, you will enjoy this lecture series!
Date published: 2020-02-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Judeo-Calvinism "geocentricity" prevails I appreciate Dr. Noble's insightful tracking of these historical foundations, which have indulged an egocentric unilateral "Roman" West (especially since the fall of Soviet communism). Makes me wonder when our Western Judeo-Christendom will remember its own theocratic denial of Copernicus' reality and admit we still aren't the center of the universe (despite the ethnocentric "Old Testament"). I look forward to a chance for exploring Dr. Harl's crucial Eastern courses on how the eclipsed Byzantine, "Greek" Orthodox, and Ottoman histories encouraged the secular and now multilateral.
Date published: 2020-02-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I was very excited about this course Sadly, this is the most boring course I have ever taken. I fell asleep after a half hour.
Date published: 2020-02-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Barely holding my interest I’m a little more than half-way through this course. Some of the lectures are more interesting than others. Professor Noble obviously knows his material well as he speaks without notes but I’ve been lulled to sleep a few times by his style.
Date published: 2020-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So much to learn I started this course about two weeks ago and am learning about a time in history that I knew very little about. I enjoy the professor’s presentation. So glad I choose this course.
Date published: 2020-02-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well presented Through seven lectures and found them easy listening and informative. Disappointed that I could not go back to review prior chapters on Roku.
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Stupifyingly boring. I sent this course back without opening the package. I viewed an episode online and it was horrible. The course has been at the return center for 5 days now & I am still waiting for my refund.
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I used to teach this to middle schoolers and it brings back memories. Very good. Enjoying it.
Date published: 2020-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great way to understand We love this. History comes alive, all pulled together, and will benefit us as we continue our world travels. Highly recommend, professor informative, intelligent, and interesting.
Date published: 2020-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captures Interest and stimulates thinking Very good professor and well organized lectures that keep me interested and looikg to the next one.
Date published: 2020-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Survey Course Ever! The degree of Professor Noble's erudition, and the succinct, informative, and riveting manner of his presentation, are simply stunning! As a fellow historian, I was fairly well acquainted with many of the cultures and personages covered by Dr. Noble, but I cannot adequately praise how beautifully he -- time after time -- was able to "pluck" from this staggering wealth of historical information to give us THE most salient points for each period he covers. While the sweep of time he covers in these 48 lectures is immense -- from what we know of the first stirrings of civilization in the Middle East until the 16th century -- throughout the course he reminds us of relevant points and even similarities from earlier lectures that together help connect the over-all story of the human adventure in the broadly construed "West." I have taught survey courses myself, but none so ably, and the value of such courses is that it gives students an overview of developments so that, hopefully, many students will later choose to pursue particular cultures, time periods, or key figures in greater depth. Without survey courses, it is difficult -- at least without a great deal of study -- to make connections between times and cultures that help shape a broader view and which perspective to more specific studies. Such a course as this also helps us remember "who" we are and of how very much we owe EVERYTHING to those who preceded us! In our own time of resurgent nationalism, it is good to see the truth that each of today's nation's is, indeed, a "nation of immigrants" if you go far enough back in time. It is humbling to realize that 5,000 years ago the site of what we call Stonehenge in present day England was a place where many peoples from many lands used to congregate, although for which purposes we do not yet understand. Since there has always been some degree of cross-cultural transmission of knowledge, religious beliefs, and cultural practices, more widely shared in some times than in others, it is truly laughable to claim that any of us are "pure" Irish, or French, or whatever. From my point of view, that we all share in this vast heritage that the peoples of the past have bequeathed us is simply marvelous and deeply humbling. Given our deeply flawed human nature, there are many things covered in this course that are sad -- incessant warfare, intolerance of those who are "different," and the sufferings caused by invasions, natural disasters, and plagues -- but also much to celebrate and cheer: men and women of great artistic, scientific, literary, and spiritual depth, the repeated effort to "get up" even after being badly battered by events, and the constant attempt to better understand our world and ourselves. This course is an adventure through time, well worth some of your time to become acquainted with those who helped form us today.
Date published: 2020-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from more pictures please Additional illustrations would make this more illuminating and enhance this interesting course. More pictures would help visualization.
Date published: 2020-01-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very comprehensive I have watched 5 courses so far and have learned a lot. I just find it extremely bothersome or distracting that the lecturer has his eyes closed 90% of the time! Maybe I should just listen to the audiobook so I don't have to watch him.
Date published: 2020-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I took this course to learn about Western Civilization and that I did. Very informative AND very interesting. I am happy I bought this course.
Date published: 2020-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Illuminating I had smatterings of Western Civilization during my formal education, but nothing as expansive as this course. I found it interesting and illuminating. I would recommend it highly. After taking this course to increase my own understanding, I think it tragic that so many universities have eliminated study of Western Civilization from their curriculum requirements. I sent a gift of Western Civilization to my son, as I felt it was a worthwhile study for him, as well.
Date published: 2020-01-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not bad. Listened to the CD Audio course. Liked it but a little stilted.
Date published: 2019-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Sensible arrangement of content. We bought this a few weeks ago and have watched about a third of the lectures so far. We appreciated that the professor began with early Mesopotamia, rather than the Greeks and Romans. Considering the broad sweep of time the course covers, the coverage of the various subjects seems adequate. Anyone wanting more in-depth attention to a particular time period, would do well to look elsewhere. Occasionally, the booklet provided seemed somewhat out of synch with the particular lecture it accompanied but generally it was helpful for either preview or review. The professor's voice sometimes drops in volume at the end of a sentence, making it difficult to understand.
Date published: 2019-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An eye-opener I have been interested in Sumerian history and culture for many years. Yet I learned a great deal about Sumerian history from this course. The way the development of written language is explained is simply breath-taking. But I have learned to appreciate the grandeur of Babylon, and to appreciate the many other cultures that were explained. The course, for me, was truly brilliant. I would just like to point out that Basque, as Sumerian, uses the suffix and prefix to substitute for adverbs, etc.
Date published: 2019-08-18
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