History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration

Course No. 3962
Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
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Course No. 3962
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What Will You Learn?

  • Follow the Vivaldi brothers' fascinating - yet ill-fated - trip to India.
  • Learn how explorers such as Leif Eriksson, Marco Polo, and Ibn Battuta redefined our world view.
  • Follow explorers such as Lewis and Clark and Henry Hudson on their smaller scale - but no less dangerous - travels.
  • Look at modern modes of exploration, including deep-sea dives and space odysseys.

Course Overview

Exploration is in our genes. Throughout history, one of the deepest human impulses has been the drive to explore, encounter, and know the unknown. This basic human longing can be traced all the way back to the most ancient origins of exploration over 60,000 years ago, when prehistoric wanderers first settled the globe. Today’s high rates of global tourism and mass migrations reflect continuity with the restless habits of our ancestors.

From ancient wayfarers to modern astronauts, a steady succession of intrepid individuals can take the credit for binding the continents together, connecting previously isolated peoples, and sparking a cross-fertilization of ideas, technologies, and even foods.

In creating new trade routes and initiating a commerce of ideas, explorers have played perhaps the most active role in shaping the globalized world. The trails they blazed were fraught with danger, as they contended with disease, starvation, mutiny, perilous weather, and even cannibals.

In History’s Greatest Voyages of Exploration, you delve into the awe-inspiring, vast, and surprisingly interconnected tale of world exploration. Taught by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, an award-winning history professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, these 24 lectures shine a spotlight on some of the greatest and most influential explorers the world has ever known—successful as well as unsuccessful, admirable as well as flawed. You’ll be spellbound as you witness the treacherous, at times fatal, expeditions into the unknown these adventurers embarked upon, whether to the frozen Poles, Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa, the ocean’s depths, or the final frontier of space.

This course will revolutionize how you view the world by unveiling the process by which we came to know the far reaches of our planet. Throughout, you’ll examine the complex motivations behind these journeys, including religion, conquest, commerce, scientific discovery, and the overwhelming sense of wanderlust; and how voyages of discovery have inspired subsequent voyages—particularly when the preceding journey failed.

You’ll also discover the role that legends and myths have played in inspiring journeys, such as quests for places like the Northwest Passage; expeditions hunting for monsters and cannibals; and the pursuit of real or legendary individuals, such as Dr. Livingstone or Prester John, a mythical Christian king in Asia.

Gripping Stories of Risk and Rescue

Even those familiar with these voyages will find new insights to deepen their understanding of the historical reality, including how oftentimes, the reality of what was or wasn’t found turned out to be much more important than the original mission goals. You’ll be riveted as you follow explorers venturing into uncharted territory and putting themselves, and often their crews, in dire peril.

  • St. Brendan and his Irish monks: Driven by the desire to escape a tainted world, they set sail into the Atlantic on a legendary journey in a precarious leather boat.
  • Henry Hudson: After failing to find the Northwest Passage to Asia, Hudson’s crew staged a mutiny, setting him, his son, and several loyal sailors adrift on Hudson Bay, never to be seen again.
  • Sir John Franklin: Also failing to chart the Northwest Passage, Franklin and his crew mysteriously vanished, with theories of their disappearance ranging from lead poisoning, to bad food canning techniques, to cultural hubris, to cannibalism.
  • Alexander von Humboldt: Called “the greatest scientific traveler that ever lived” by Darwin, he left behind a life of prestige to chart South America.
  • David Livingstone: In the most famous PR stunt of the history of exploration, Henry Morton Stanley located the ill Livingstone in Tanzania, supposedly greeting him with the immortal phrase, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Your own journey begins with the amazing feats of pre-modern explorers, including the ancient Polynesian navigators and Pytheas the Greek, who worked without advanced technologies yet achieved epic results. From there, you trace the full trajectory of global exploration, concentrating on those explorers and expeditions that have had the most long-lasting impact on history.

  • Sail with Captain Cook as he maps vast unknown territories.
  • Circumnavigate the world with Ferdinand Magellan.
  • Dive into the Mariana Trench, miles beneath the ocean, with Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh.
  • Join Apollo 8 as its astronauts capture the space program’s most famous photograph, the 1968 “Earthrise.”
  • Track the perilous races to the North and South Poles by Robert Peary, Roald Amundsen, and Sir Ernest Shackleton, among others. Discover lesser-known moments of the races, including when Italian pilot Umberto Nobile crashed in the arctic, unleashing a remarkable international rescue effort.

Through it all, you consider what drove these explorers, from proselytizing and pilgrimage to the lure of wealth, conquest, fame, and new lands, as evidenced by the Vikings’ arrival in North America; Marco Polo’s journey along the Silk Road to China; Christopher Columbus’s “Enterprise of the Indies”; the conquistadors’ ravages in Latin America; and the tiny kingdom of Portugal’s triumphant circumnavigation of Africa to seize control of trade in the Indian Ocean.

A Uniquely Global Perspective

In History’s Greatest Voyages of Exploration, you not only get the adventurers’ points of view, but the discovered peoples’ perspectives as well. Rather than myopically focusing on Europeans, it also presents a meaningful portrait of the travels of non-Westerners, including:

  • Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang’s famous “voyage to the West” in search of holy scriptures in India;
  • Arab scholar Ibn Battuta’s 24 years of travel through the extensive Islamic world; and
  • Japan’s Iwakura mission to the West, which toured America, Europe, the Middle East, and China to gain scientific and political knowledge after centuries of isolation.

Along the way, you’ll meet several remarkable women who defied the conventions of society and made lasting contributions, like Ida Pfeiffer, an extreme traveler who ventured among Borneo headhunters, fought off Brazilian bandits, and collected scientific specimens for museums to fund her travels. You’ll also learn about Sacajawea, a Shoshone woman whose interpreting skills were crucial to Lewis and Clark as they charted the Louisiana Purchase.

Encounters between explorers and indigenous peoples are a recurring theme throughout—with interactions ranging from cordial greetings and a sense of affinity to reactions of extreme suspicion, violence, and accusations of cannibalism.

Despite such clashes, instances of assistance from locals are numerous. The extent to which explorers relied upon the specialized knowledge of locals is often pushed to the margins in the history of exploration, but it’s a truth that Professor Liulevicius brings into the spotlight.

Embark on a Thrilling Intellectual Journey

As a veteran professor of several top-rated Great Courses who is known for his extensive expertise, Dr. Liulevicius brings this survey to life with vivid detail. When experiencing the material on video, maps help you visually trace the journeys discussed and enhance the professor’s engaging storytelling.

The tales in History’s Greatest Voyages of Exploration will help even familiar things such as spices take on new meaning, as you learn how deeply they have motivated centuries of explorers. Your own travels will also be enriched when viewed in the context of the generations of previous travelers who’ve blazed the path. You’ll see the world through an explorer’s eyes!

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Earliest Explorers
    Begin your journey with the Vivaldi brothers' ill-fated journey to India. What drove the brothers - or drives any explorer - to take a risk and venture into the unknown? Consider that question as you look at theories on how the Pacific islands became populated starting with an epic movement 7,000 years ago. x
  • 2
    The Scientific Voyage of Pytheas the Greek
    Meet the originator of scientific exploration, who trekked to the edge of the world so that he could see for himself what was there. Put Pytheas the Greek in the context of his time and place, sketching the Mediterranean as a cradle of civilization and examining how word of his voyage influenced later exploration. x
  • 3
    St. Brendan: The Travels of an Irish Monk
    Consider religious motivations for exploration. Men like the Irish monk St. Brendan - who sailed the Atlantic in a tiny leather boat - sought God and fled the world's corruptions, some searching for paradise and some merely for seclusion. Examine how legendary re-workings of such real adventures left a surprising legacy that would affect later exploration. x
  • 4
    Xuanzang's Journey to the West
    Alarmed at inconsistencies in the Buddhist texts available to him, Xuanzang embarked on an illegal holy pilgrimage to acquire authoritative teachings. See how, in the process of the monk's travels, he brought Buddhist traditions to the Confucian Chinese, achieved celebrity status, and became the central character in the greatest classical Chinese novel. x
  • 5
    Leif Eriksson the Lucky
    While the story of Leif Eriksson and the Vikings is relatively well known, Professor Liulevicius takes you deeper into the question of why the Vikings, or Norsemen, explored, as evidenced by their broader culture of adventure and values that pressed them onwards in often violent ways x
  • 6
    Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville
    Although traders had traveled the Silk Road since the Roman Empire, there was little awareness of what existed at the other end - until Marco Polo's accounts of China opened Europeans' eyes to a mysterious, advanced civilization. Start with background on the medieval world, then look closely at Polo's travels and legacy. x
  • 7
    Ibn Battuta: Never the Same Route Twice
    Examine the life and legacy of Ibn Battuta, who left Morocco in 1325 to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, but discovered a craving for spiritual travel and returned home 24 years later after covering 75,000 miles in the network woven by Muslim civilization." x
  • 8
    Portugal's Great Leap Forward
    How and why did tiny Portugal, a poor country, take to the seas, round the continent of Africa, hijack the Indian Ocean, and create a global empire? Find out here, with a look at Portugal's rise to superpower status, from Prince Henry the Navigator's call for exploration to Vasco da Gama's successful voyage to Asia. x
  • 9
    The Enigmatic Christopher Columbus
    Understand the complexities of Christopher Columbus who, in stumbling upon the Americas while attempting to reach Asia by heading West, touched off the massive Columbian Exchange of peoples, plants, commodities, and diseases. Dispel enduring myths, and explore Columbus's religious motives for launching what he called "The Enterprise of the Indies." x
  • 10
    Magellan and the Advent of Globalization
    Follow the path of Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, whose expedition in service of Spain became the first to circumnavigate the world, inaugurating our ability to think globally and accomplishing what Columbus had promised to do - reaching Asia by sailing west from Europe. See how his journey bound together the world economy, creating consequences down to our own times. x
  • 11
    The Ruthless Ambition of the Conquistadors
    Consider the most brutal of explorers, the conquistadors - Spanish military entrepreneurs including Cortes, Pizarro, and de Soto, who were not directly controlled by the monarchy, but royally sanctioned to seize wealth and lands in the New World. How did they topple civilizations using only a handful of men? What impact did they have on native societies? Find out here. x
  • 12
    Henry Hudson: Death on the Ice
    Switch gears from voyages of fruitful discovery to a tragic failure ending in mutiny, murder, and a mystery that endures to this day: Henry Hudson's 1610 voyage in search of the Northwest Passage to Asia, funded by two of the first multinational corporations. x
  • 13
    The Jesuits on a Global Mission
    Founded in 1540, the order of the Jesuits used global cultural exploration as a means to proselytize to local cultures across the world, from India and China to the Americas. Examine their controversial method of inculturation, and place the Jesuit project in the context of a larger intellectual shift towards cultural relativism. x
  • 14
    Captain Cook Maps the World
    Look closely at Captain Cook, an explorer who in many ways epitomized the age of scientific discovery, which lauded exploration for the sake of knowledge. See how his methods and voyages embodied new attitudes toward foreign peoples, and why it's what Cook didn't find that helped give us the complete world picture we have today. x
  • 15
    Alexander von Humboldt: Explorer Genius
    Learn how the scientific explorer Alexander von Humboldt - sometimes called a "second Columbus" - taught us to see the world as an interrelated ecological unit. Trace his five-year exploration of the Americas with French botanist Aime Bonpland, in which they covered 5,950 miles and catalogued 6,300 species of plants and animals. x
  • 16
    Jefferson Dispatches Lewis and Clark
    On President Jefferson's (originally secret) orders, the U.S. Corps of Discovery led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out to chart the new territories gained by the Louisiana Purchase, while recording its people, flora, and fauna. How did they cross Native American-occupied lands peacefully? What was the expedition's political significance? Find out here. x
  • 17
    Sir John Franklin's Epic Disaster
    Consider a tragic episode: the doomed expedition of Sir John Franklin, who disappeared in 1845 along with his crew while searching for the Northwest Passage. Compare theories on the fate of the men, and see how the mystery captured the imagination of Franklin's contemporaries, helping to create a culture of adventure. x
  • 18
    Ida Pfeiffer: Victorian Extreme Traveler
    Meet Ida Pfeiffer, a Victorian women who defied expectations by traveling around the world twice and becoming a best-selling author describing her experiences. Follow her extraordinary journeys to exotic locales and learn how she deftly escaped some perilous situations - including cannibalistic Batak warriors in the jungles of Sumatra. x
  • 19
    Japan Discovers the West
    Faced with Western imperialism after 200 years of self containment, Japan discovered the West through a series of exploratory diplomatic missions abroad to America and Europe towards the end of the 19th century. Which features of Western culture did they find worth emulating? Which unfamiliar Western practices did they reject? x
  • 20
    Dr. Livingstone and Mary Kingsley in Africa
    First, consider how the most famous PR stunt in the history of exploration - journalist Henry Stanley finding ailing Scottish explorer Dr. Livingstone in a remote town in Africa - reveals how Africa long remained the "Dark Continent" to the outside world. Then, turn to Mary Kingsley, an Englishwoman whose writing revealed West Africa to a European audience. x
  • 21
    Arctic Feats and Fates
    Who was first to make it to the North Pole? Wade into the debate while examining the fascinating but lesser-known moments and figures of the race, including pilot Umberto Nobile flying a hydrogen-filled semi-rigid airship over the Pole in 1926, then crashing on a second trip, unleashing an international rescue operation. x
  • 22
    Antarctic Rivalries
    Now, focus on the race to the South Pole and the bitter rivalries surrounding it. Witness how Norwegian Roald Amundsen outdistanced his rival, English explorer Captain Robert Scott, whose return voyage took a tragic turn. Then, follow the hardships of British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose expedition to cross the punishing Antarctic also met disaster. x
  • 23
    A Deep-Sea Dive into the Mariana Trench
    Take a breathtaking look at a historic descent into the deepest place on earth - the Mariana Trench in the Pacific - by Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh. But first, discover some of the highlights of ocean exploration in the centuries before this 1960 expedition. x
  • 24
    The Race to Outer Space
    Why have humans ventured beyond Earth? Does the future of space exploration lie with commercial interests? Is humanity's future in space? Consider these questions as you consider the past, present, and future of space exploration, starting with the moment Apollo 8's astronauts first witnessed earthrise on Christmas Eve 1968. x

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  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 168-page printed course guidebook
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  • 168-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

About Your Professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford...
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History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 63.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable Course Fits Our Needs! Found this course fascinating and very educational. I personally love viewing the Great Courses on history and this was so enjoyable. I especially enjoy Professor Liulevicius' lectures. But even more, I was looking for supplemental material for my two high school home schooled grand children. They are terrific students and we are building a world history curriculum. We have text material, etc. for them but have found that using specific Great Courses lectures expands the learning experience. They have completed one semester, so this will be World History II. We will probably use Lectures 19 Japan Discovers the West and Lecture 20 about Africa. But we will definitely use the last four lectures which cover Arctic, Antarctica, Deep Sea exploration and Outer Space. These specific topics will help us provide a more well rounded approach to true "world" history studies. Thank you Great Courses and Professor Liulevicius!
Date published: 2015-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Call to Adventure In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy Gale discovers that “there’s no place like home.” But she only comes to that realization after an extraordinary voyage to the land of Oz. This survey of historical voyages introduces an outstanding series of adventures that are part of the essential human impulse to travel into the unknown. Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius of the University of Tennessee has carefully crafted twenty-four lectures on a wide range of voyages of exploration. The scholarship is superb with each lecture rich in detail with an historical exploration. It is obvious that a significant amount of time has been invested in this project. The structure of the course is chronological, as we progress through history with the lives of explorers who made the leap into the unknown. The topics are not limited to ocean voyages, but cover all forms of travel. The discussion of the expedition of Lewis and Clark, for example, addresses the nearly incredible land journey of the “Corps of Discovery” across the Pacific Northwest. As described by the lecturer, the Lewis and Clark expedition began in “secret” with President Jefferson’s confidential note of January 18, 1803, which he sent to Congress, requesting $2,500 “for the public good” and for the purposes of commerce. The professor does not indicate how successful Congress was in keeping the secret! But it became a moot point after the Louisiana Purchase. The lecturer also describes Jefferson’s personal motivation for the expedition to satisfy his scientific curiosity about this unknown territory. It was almost as if Jefferson would have enjoyed accompanying Lewis and Clark on the adventure. The course topics include the travels of Pytheas the Greek, Thor Heyerdahl, Xuanzang, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Magellan, James Cook, Alexander von Humboldt, Dr. David Livingstone, and many others. The extensive travels of two women, Ida Pfeiffer and Mary Kingsley, are chronicled in two of the lectures. Travels to both of the Poles, underwater travel, and outer space voyages round out the course. The strength of these presentations is the depth of knowledge and the ability of Professor Liulevicius to approach the material critically. For example, his discussion of the conquistadors frankly addresses the brutality and greed of individuals such as Cortez. After his conquest of the Aztecs, Cortez launched yet another campaign in Honduras. The lecturer makes it clear that the vaulting ambition of Cortez was part of an apparently unquenchable appetite for wealth and power. The similar greed of Pizarro, who was actually related to Cortez as a second cousin, is summarized with great understatement by the professor as “a family business pattern.” Throughout the lectures, the speaker draws upon literature for essential reference points. There are provocative quotes from Shakespeare, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, T. S. Eliot, and Arthur C. Clarke. Each lecture is like a self-contained essay, offering students a starting point for additional study and exploration on their own. For this reason, I purchased a course transcript, which has been prepared with such care that it reads like a published manuscript. This product is accompanied by a set of outlines and bibliography. The video version of the course includes numerous maps and images. At one point, the sound effects team added the growling of grizzly bears during the lecture on Lewis and Clark. Due to the vast scope of the program, the Course Guidebook would have been enhanced with a timeline and short biographical capsules. The mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote that “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” There is a heroic dimension to the men and women described in this course. In their voyages, they overcame any personal fears to achieve a threshold or peak experience. Invariably, they brought back treasures to bestow on mankind in the form of knowledge, as well as material possessions. These great travelers were motivated by the call to adventure. Their stories helped to change the way we think about our planet. Course Grade: A-
Date published: 2015-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A bit of an overview, but worthwhile nonetheless I have very mixed feelings about this course. First, I rate it highly and recommend it because I think that for most people, it will be an eye-opening course. For myself, I found it interesting, although not as engrossing or as educational as many similar Great Courses. Those who are interested in exploration but haven't read much about it should certainly purchase this course. Those interested in science, maritime, or general world history should absolutely purchase this course regardless of their knowledge level. For no other reason, it discusses such an (in my opinion) essential part of our history that one can't ignore it. Another way to think about it - you may have read hundreds of books about the individuals contained in these lectures, but you've probably never read a single book that ties all of them together in a cohesive thesis. Dr. Liulevicius does an adequate job presenting - he is not my favorite Great Courses professor (see, Dr. Alan Guelzo) but he is far from the worst. He presents clearly; my problem is with the material he chooses to emphasize, and that he often seems to fill his 30 minutes with comments such as, "What do YOU think the correct historical interpretation would be?" rather than more information on the subject. And yet. My misgivings about this course are primarily the result of the content. I felt that this course was primarily an overview. For one example - Captain Cook receives one lecture. Which should be fine. But Dr. Liulevicius sets the scene by introducing us to Joseph Banks, reminding us how unclear world maps are at the time, and again discussing (but again, in a manner too cursory for my tastes,) scurvy. Add in a brief discussion of Cook's legacy and upbringing, a bit about his contemporaries, and a long discussion about his death, and you're left with what amounts to a pretty brief discussion of his actual voyages. Again, if you have a popular or a passing interest in this type of history, this is surely enough detail. But not if you've read several books on Cook and his contemporaries. And to someone who doesn't really know who Cook is, that lecture will be eye-opening and informative. Just like the two lectures on Ant/Arctic exploration will be fine for someone who hasn't read several books on the subject. But I have, and I have an intense interest in exploration. Listening to the course, I felt as though I was just reviewing things that I'd already read about in far greater detail. I say that not to brag, but to note that a lot of this stuff will probably be new to someone who doesn't have an enormous interest in maritime history. My one serious qualm with the course is the exclusion of the United States Exploring Expedition. I don't usually complain about excluding content from courses, because there are always going to be things that don't make the cut. But this is odd to me. The Ex-Ex was far, far larger in scope than Lewis and Clark's expedition. Not only does it not receive its own lecture, but it's never even mentioned - despite the opportunity to do so organically plenty of times, especially when discussing the discovery of Antarctica. A significant argument can be made that the Ex-Ex discovered Antarctica, and yet, it somehow escapes mention in both the discussion of the continent and its discovery. It was arguably the first national American exploration designed for almost entirely scientific purposes - and yet eludes mention in a discussion about the shift of exploration to an endeavour of almost entirely scientific aims. Furthermore, it has an almost forgotten legacy in popular American history. That makes it something that The Great Courses usually excel at illustrating. Still, despite its foibles, I would recommend this course to anyone who sees it here and is interested by it. I would also suggest that this course join the list of the many other courses within the Great Courses' library that receive consideration for a 2nd edition with additional lectures.
Date published: 2015-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Explorations The many things to like about this excellent course include the following: 1) Professor Liulevicius presented his lectures clearly and articulately, conveying an engaging passion for his subject without becoming melodramatic; 2) The professor showed good 'stage presence,' coordinating his movements and gaze very well with whoever was his cameraperson, avoiding the 'dog in the headlights' manner of some other professors being recorded on DVD; 3) More was revealed in this course about the variety of motivations of famous explorers than I had learned years ago from high school and college instructors, who had keyed on place names and dates more than on explorers' background stories; 4) Some explorers were discussed here of whom I had not heard before, whose accomplishments now seem very important to me, though these were 'neglected news' in my past education; 5) Dr. Liulevicius did a particularly fine job of reviewing just enough when one of the voyages of exploration illustrated a theme or analogy from a voyage he had discussed earlier in the course; 6) Stories of women voyagers and explorers were included. One very minor dissatisfaction I felt was that a few of the illustrative visuals made a less-than-excellent fit with what was being said in the lectures. An example would be a video clip of waving algae and/or other sea life shown precisely while the professor was explaining in Lecture 23 that, when the 1960 deep ocean explorers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh reached the very bottom of the Challenger Deep, they could see living things but were unable to photograph any. All in all, I was sorry when this course ended. I'm sure Dr. Liulevicius could ably have presented more than twenty-four lectures.
Date published: 2015-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bringing Adventure to Life What makes a great lecture course? I would argue that it is selection of pertinent detail, presented in well-organized fashion with clarity and enthusiasm. By these criteria, Professor Liulevicius is holding four aces. Of the twenty-four lectures from The Earliest Explorers to The Race to Outer Space, I will focus on his treatment of Alexander von Humboldt as indicative of the quality of the lectures. Incidentally, I had read the journals of von Humboldt’s journey to the Americas and some secondary material about him so it would have been easy to disappoint me, but the lectures reignited my excitement about this scientific genius. Von Humboldt made a myriad of scientific contributions by amassing a huge number of botanical and zoological specimens, as well as taking measurements that led to new insights in oceanography, meteorology, geology, and vulcanology. In addition to detailing these accomplishments, Professor Liulevicius quotes a letter the scientist wrote about his goals before he went on his journey: “I shall try to find out how the forces of nature interact upon each other and how the geographic environment influences plant and animal life. In other words, I must find out about the unity of nature.” As the Professor points out: this is the origin of the modern concept of ecology, and if I might interject: often ignored in science by the blind pursuit of short-term ends and profit without recognition of potential unintended consequences. But for the course, this type of “touching on the heart of the matter” or “selecting the most pertinent generalizations” occurs throughout the lectures. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I want more! The best course I have taken so far. I petitioned The Great Courses several times for this course, and was glad to see that they have included it in their offerings. Professor Liulevicius has an excellent presentation style. The course content is an overview of exploration from the earliest times down to todays space exploration. I have had the opportunity to visit many maritime museums all over the world, thus giving me a good background in maritime exploration. I could find no errors in the professor's presentation, and was pleased that he included little known tidbits that enriched the presentation. My only complaint is that this should have been a 48-lecture course. One lecture on Captain Cook can hardly do him justice. There is no mention of Captain Vancouver and only a cursory bit on Sir Francis Drake. I guess wanting more cannot be construed as a complaint, rather a compliment. You cannot go wrong with this overview of an interesting and vital part of history.
Date published: 2015-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History's Greatest Voyages Very well presented and engrossing. He sheds new light on some well known explorers. Well worth the time.
Date published: 2015-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Ever History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration is the best course we have ever taken from Great Courses. Professor Vejas (nickname) is a wonderful story teller who has inspired us to read further. He is well educated about the topics covered and we really enjoy his delivery. A great Great Course!
Date published: 2015-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Let's explore explorers I admit I bought this course because I have listened all of Professor Liulevicius's courses and enjoy his way of presenting topics very much. However, this latest course was in no way disappointing: Some of the explorers are well-known, others are much more obscure - some sound like the stuff adventure novels are made of, whereas others appear very different... and in some cases less exciting. Then again, this is what allows this course to span not only thousands of years in human history, but also very different experiences, walks of life - and reasons for travelling. Listening to Professor Liulevicius, I felt like an explorer myself - just without malaria and frostbite. Entertaining and educating, just as I had hoped. A final note: Some of the great courses have annoyed me with the rather obtrusive theme music that introduces each lecture. In this course, the few brass wind notes that announce each lecture evoke images of Viking longboats and heroic journeys and made me anticipate each lecture with excitement - well done!
Date published: 2015-03-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not consistently the most interesting choices of explorations. Some were very good and quite interesting, while others couldn't hold my interest.
Date published: 2015-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting Good overview of exploration through the centuries. The professor made the course come alive. His ability to communicate without notes was exceptional.
Date published: 2015-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History Forever Voyaging Halfway between PBS and a College course, this is a great example of a fun history course. The teacher has a polished delivery, knows how to play to the cameras and is a fine storyteller. He finds continuity between the topical lectures and includes enough in-depth information and background to make this a higher educational experience. He also spins yarns well enough and moves at a brisk enough pace to interest folks who might not normally watch a college course (aka your kids). I thought the course started off just a touch slow as the early lectures covered myth and legend as well as fact and seemed a bit fuzzy. As more reliable knowledge of the explores became available the course really took off. The voyages of the Portuguese explores along with Columbus, Magellan and Cook were highlights. The last four lectures about the poles, the deep sea and space were also very well done. After the slightly slow start, the lectures seemed to roll by. After the course was over, I wished that it had been longer and the lectures that featured multiple explorers had been twice as long to allow each one more time. When you finish a course wishing for more, that's usually a good sign. The high production values also helped, while I gripe about the Great Courses newer focus on Better Living through Wine Tasting, they have improved the presentation on all the courses even the academic ones. There ware maps and pictures aplenty and the vocal presentation was professional. I think this would be a good home school course either as stand alone course about Exploration or as a fun add on to a course about World or Modern (Lecture 8 on) History. Its probably a good one if you are trying to lure someone into an interest in adult learning and history. The lecturer often is so enjoyable that you forget you are learning.
Date published: 2015-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Exploration of Exploration Even if you think you know the history of exploration, i advise you to consider this course. Professor Liulevicius is a terrific lecturer, who makes connections among explorers' motivations, which you may not have thought about. The cast of characters from Pytheas the Greek through Ibn Battuta and Lewis and Clark and beyond is intriguing and colorful, and Professor L introduces you to them in their historical settings and in depth. I ordered this course not for the subject material but because I have listened to all of Professor Liulevicius' previous lectures for the Great Courses and have never been disappointed. I wasn't this time either, and I learned things about subjects I thought I already knew. Not a bad investment.
Date published: 2015-02-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Many ways to slice history. This review applies to the set of 'Great Voyages', and 'Turning Points in Modern History'. History is like a large ball; you can slice through it and examine it form many perspectives. These two courses should be taken together. There is some duplication but that is not a problem. Many connections and consequences of various events are brought out in both courses. History does not happen by itself. Events occur because people make decisions. The motivation for those decisions are often multi-faceted and may include religious, economic, international politics, and more. These two courses do an excellent job of pointing out how those motivations interconnect with each other. I've taken dozens of 'Great Courses' over two decades; and have gotten to the point where I save 5 stars a cross the board for the very best of the best. So overall I would give both of these 4.5. There have been many people who have selected history's most important events. I do not agree with all the turning points in this course but that does not detract from its value. One minor critique. There is no such thing as a non-turning 'turning point'. If the event did not happen nothing turned. A history teacher I had in graduate school made an important point. Do not bother speculating about what might have happened; what did happen is fascinating enough. History does not reveal its alternatives. The number of alternatives is infinite. You can not examine them all. And even if you did examine the alternatives they tell you nothing about how or why the world got to where it is now. The voyages of Admiral Zheng served a purpose for China and are interesting to study but they did not cause a change in the where the world went. I do recommend these courses to others; and highly suggest they be done as a set.
Date published: 2015-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great page turner. To use the book analogy, this was a great page turner and hard to put down! My 97 year old aunt and I watched this every day and were really sorry it ended. The presenter was GREAT!!! Our only disappointment was the lack of Canadian content about the Jesuit martyrs, we live near "St. Marie among the Huron's" and had hoped for a bit of info. Just too much content to cover I guess.
Date published: 2015-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I found this course fascinating. This was another Great Course that I enjoyed very much. Some of the explorers featured were well-known, others less so. As each lesson is only 30 minutes, there were times i found myself wanting more information about some of the subjects (von Humboldt in particular) - but I will use this course as a stepping-stone and follow up on some of the explorers on my own. The professor's style is engaging, enthusiastic and comprehensive and I found myself watching several lectures in a row and wishing the course were longer. I intend to look into some additional courses by this instructor and would recommend this particular course to listeners who are attracted by adventure and the lure of the unknown.
Date published: 2015-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent & Exciting Adventure! I am listening to these adventures for the second time; once was not enough. Ordeals I was completely unaware of are unfolded, which prompted be to get books on Captain James Cook and Ernest Shackleton (South). A 5 star Adventure is awaiting you:)
Date published: 2015-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent storyteller This is the kind of course that makes me glad to have long errands to do so I can listen to what are, essentially, historical adventure stories that both educate and entertain me. The lecturer’s tone is lively without being exaggerated, and his enthusiasm seems to be at just the right level to encourage listener engagement in the subject. (He also is the lecturer on a World War I course that is also very enlightening and listenable.)
Date published: 2015-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I bought it before I knew what it was When the course was offered, I couldn't wait to get it. Explorations fascinate me. I've spent a lifetime traveling the world and living abroad with my family. I have any number of Prof Liulevicius' courses and have never been disappointed. He does his homework and can present himself as knowledgeable about almost everything. I'm only three-fourths through the course and each lecture gets better. I can't help recommending the course to those who find travel and living abroad exciting, entertaining and enriching.
Date published: 2015-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved it, but... If most Great Courses are like novels, this course is like a book of short stories. If most Great Courses are like a steak dinner, this course is like an appetizer sampler. Ok, you get the idea. The only real problem I had here is that the course never really goes too deep into any one story--just when you start to get interested in one explorer's journey, it ends and then moves on to the next. That being said, however, it is still fantastically fun to watch and enlightening if you have any interest in the history of world exploration--the bibliography suggests reading "Pathfinders" by Fernandez-Armesto, and I've been following it alongside the lectures. If you've ever had professor L before (and I particularly liked his "World War I" and "Diplomatic History of Europe" courses) you'll know he's a great lecturer--packed with information, yet not too dense to follow. For those wondering whether to purchase audio or video, I'd recommend video because of the maps and pictures--but it would still work for those who prefer audio since they aren't missing anything absolutely crucial.
Date published: 2015-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating topic This course is quite unique: it is analytical rather than narrative in the sense that it concentrates on one central theme – the unstoppable urge of people to roam and explore. At the same time, this central theme of studying the history of exploration is demonstrated using narrative histories of twenty four historical explorers. In this course Professor Liulevicius describes a group of men and women from totally different religions, geographies, motivations, and historical eras. They all have one thing in common and this is to explore and discover. Professor Liulevicius demonstrates the different forces that drive them to explore. In some cases, such as in the case of Pytheas the Greek, Von Humboldt, Jacques Piccard and Captain Cook – the drive is primarily scientific curiosity. Another group of explorers discussed, such as Xunsuang, Ibn Batuta, and the Jesuits were driven by religious motivations, while still another group, which includes the Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors and the Vikings for example had conquest and riches as their motivation. I was particularly struck by how these historical figures were almost helpless in resisting the urge to explore: many paid a huge personal price for it… Most never settled down and created families. Marco Polo left for China when he was seventeen only to return twenty four years later, be captured by the Genovese to end his life in prison. Ibn Batuta returned home from his homage to Mecca only decades after he had set out, only to discover that his parents had already died without ever knowing his fate. He was to travel approximately seventy five thousand miles in his explorations. Erenest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer went through indescribable suffering in his first voyage (in fact the mere fact that he and his whole group survived is almost miraculous), yet a short period after his return to Scotland, he made a second effort to cross Antarctica and dieed in the attempt. I was deeply touched by the story of the Victorian aged Mary Kingsley. In her case, by her mid-thirties all that were close to her had died – she was alone in the world, and it felt as if she set out to explore in order to fill an internal void within her. Even when considering the explorers we have a hard time relating to morally, such as the conquistadors of South America or the Vikings whose main aim was to conquer and to enrich themselves, it is hard not to be impressed by the personal risk and boldness of their voyages and conquests. Columbus set out on a voyage West based on the scantest of evidence of being able to reach India, and by ignoring the evidence stacked against this. Magellan, also, had no way of knowing that there was in fact a way of navigating south of the South American tip but he was fully aware of the stakes for him and his men. Even Cortes, the archetype conquistador who conquered Mexico set out with a pathetically small force, and it was primary his boldness that enabled him to subdue the warring Aztecs. I deeply enjoyed Professor Liulevicius' measured lecturing style and found him to be full of profound insights. The mere fact that he found this subject, one of looking at the common denominator of those who feel an unstoppable urge to explore is quite unique and interesting in and of itself. The lectures were clear, well thought out and fun to listen to, and his subtle humor was well appreciated and affective.
Date published: 2015-01-20
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