History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach

Course No. 3761
Professor Gregory S. Aldrete, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
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Course No. 3761
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Course Overview

“All battles are in some degree…disasters.” These words by military historian John Keegan are true in that military conflicts inevitably involve death and destruction. Yet despite their tragic cost, many battles are regarded as great triumphs, while others are nearly universally declared blunders. What qualifies such battles for special condemnation—or inquiry, for that matter? Why focus on failure at all?

Perhaps above all else, it is the element of avoidability that makes these catastrophes so worthy of exploration. Military history often highlights success and suggests a sense of inevitability about victory, but there is so much that can be learned from studying failure, particularly when it’s unexpected. From how the arc of history was altered by the outcome of these battles to how such mistakes could have been avoided to how they might be circumvented in the future, there are numerous important lessons to be gleaned. You even consider how the world might be different if these egregious errors had not occurred.

Losing a battle due to being outnumbered, outmatched, or suffering a random misfortune is not enough to be deemed a blunder. For a military defeat to qualify as a true blunder, it must:

  • be avoidable;
  • involve a decision or action that common sense, training, or circumstance suggested was unwise, which dramatically altered the outcome for the worse;
  • involve someone who failed to take an obvious action; and/or
  • include an element of identifiable blame for the critical mistake.

In History’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach, you’ll study these crucibles of history to gain a better understanding of why a civilization took—or didn’t take—a particular path. Full of dramatic reversals of fortune, colorful characters, and unlikely triumphs, this course examines some of the world’s most notable examples of military misfortune, from the humiliating destruction of a Roman army at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 B.C. to the tragic landings at Gallipoli in World War I. Presented in a narrative yet thoroughly informative fashion by Gregory S. Aldrete, Frankenthal Professor of History and Humanistic Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, these 24 lectures reveal how the trajectory of history hangs in the balance of individual battles. Success and failure, as you’ll learn, are two sides of the same coin.

With a scope that spans the globe, from ancient Greece through the Crusades through global conflicts during first half of the 20th century, this course features infamous conflicts such as the Charge of the Light Brigade and the Battle of Little Bighorn, as well as lesser-known battles you may find surprising.

Compelling Stories and Fascinating Figures

How could an army equipped with cannon and rocket artillery be wiped out by Zulu warriors wielding spears, clubs, and outdated firearms? How could heavily armored French knights be vulnerable to the crude weapons of a band of Flemish shopkeepers? Why would a savvy Chinese general fall victim to a tactic he had previously employed himself?

Unpredictable twists of fate abound in this course, demonstrating that when it comes to war, there are no givens. Sheer numbers, superior weaponry, and skilled leadership are never a guarantee of success.

History’s Great Military Blunders also features remarkable personalities, such as:

  • the conniving and self-indulgent Alcibiades, whose fatal flaws brought his country to utter ruin;
  • the ambitious and egotistical Napoleon, who tarnished his legacy by appointing his inept brother to an important role in Russia, among other mistakes;
  • the flamboyant General George Custer, who was done in by his belief that he could defeat any number of Native Americans; and
  • Genghis Khan’s trusted military strategist Subotai, who cleverly maneuvered opponents onto ground of his own choosing.

On more than one occasion, you’ll see how an inflated sense of a general’s own abilities can spell doom for his troops, particularly when combined with a lack of respect for the opponent.

What becomes clear, as you trace the history of military mistakes across time and around the world, is a disturbing underlying theme that runs through almost all of these examples and categories of blunders: a fundamental failure to learn from the past that continues into the modern day.

Investigate Military Blunders from Root Causes to Ramifications

Whether you’re a student of military history or are simply intrigued by the notion of a blunder altering the course of the world, you’ll appreciate Professor Aldrete’s fresh perspective and engaging storytelling. In every lecture, he lays out a conflict’s historical context and key players before presenting a riveting blow-by-blow account of the battle. He concludes by analyzing the ramifications of the outcome, and considers how these fatal errors might have been avoided.

While the factors leading to the failures you’ll encounter are complex, there are four basic categories of blunders that recur throughout these lectures, regardless of setting, be it the United States, France, Ethiopia, or Afghanistan:

  • Failures of planning, which encompass decisions or omissions that doom one side even before battle begins, such as poor intelligence gathering, unclear objectives, or failure to take terrain into account.
  • Failures of leadership, which are often the result of overconfidence, indecisiveness, a general being charged with a task for which he is unfit, and internal conflicts.
  • Failures of execution, which include dividing control among multiple generals, breakdowns of communication, and refusing to call off an unsuccessful mission or sending additional forces into an operation that had already gone irretrievably wrong.
  • Failures of adaptation, in which leadership clings to tactics that have become outmoded, often because of advances in technology.

Evolving technology factors heavily in many of the battles discussed, such as at Culloden, where the Highlanders’ charge against British cannons and muskets proved brave but fruitless; and in the sinking of the battleship Prince of Wales, during which naval commanders failed to recognize the threat that aircraft posed to once-dominant armored warships.

Gripping Tales Told by a Master Historian

Professor Aldrete is a dynamic lecturer and masterful storyteller. His extensive background as an award-winning teacher, writer, and researcher elevates every lecture. A trove of custom visual content help these lectures come alive for those who experience it via a visual format, from battle plans to animations to historically accurate maps that highlight the geopolitical context of the time. These illuminating illustrations provide an immersive experience and facilitate deeper understanding of exactly how these blunders occurred and what could have been done differently. History’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach is a fascinating journey through some of the most gloriously inglorious wartime encounters, and along the way you’ll get to know some of the most legendary characters in world history, brilliant yet tragically flawed. By reversing the lens on history and confronting some of the most costly wartime mistakes, we can see the past from a new angle—and perhaps avoid making the same errors in the future.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Petersburg: Union Digs Its Own Grave - 1864
    Follow the chain of events that led to the Civil War's ill-fated Battle of the Crater, a notable example of what can happen in warfare when a plan goes awry due to poor leadership, last-minute changes, and other unclear objectives. Then, look at the phenomenon of military blunders and what they teach. x
  • 2
    Syracuse: Athens's Second Front - 413 B.C.
    From initiating a second front with a new enemy to dividing supreme command among multiple generals, see how failures of decision-making and leadership spelled disaster for the Greek city-state of Athens in the outcome of the Peloponnesian War, fought with Sparta. x
  • 3
    Carrhae: The Parthian Shot - 53 B.C.
    The Roman military suffered one of its most humiliating defeats at the hands of the smaller Parthian force at the Battle of Carrhae. Discover how this shocking defeat involved glaring intelligence failures, overconfidence, and poor decisions, as well as crafty use of terrain and exploitation of weakness. x
  • 4
    Red Cliffs: Cao Cao's Bad Day - 208 A.D.
    Even outstanding commanders can have a bad day, as evidenced by one of the most celebrated conflicts in Chinese history: the battle of Red Cliffs. How did general Cao Cao get fooled by an obvious ploy that set his armada ablaze - particularly when he had previously used such tactics himself? x
  • 5
    Barbarian Gate: Adrianople - 378, Pliska - 811
    Although waged 400 years apart, the battles of Adrianople and Pliska share a number of curious similarities. Explore how both defeats were triggered by the Romans' mistreatment of immigrant barbarian" groups from the north - who might otherwise have been converted into allies - and overconfidence on the part of the Roman emperors." x
  • 6
    Fourth Crusade: Byzantium Betrayed - 1204
    Innocent III initiated the Fourth Crusade to recapture control of the Holy Lands from Muslim rulers, but Crusaders ultimately rampaged through Christendom. Learn what led to the brutal attack and looting of the city of Constantinople, a supposed ally of the Crusaders and the seat of the Greek Orthodox branch of Christianity. x
  • 7
    Kalka River: Genghis Khan's General - 1223
    More than 40,000 Russians were slain at the hands of the Mongols at the Kalka River, including six princes and 70 noblemen. Examine the factors that led to the allied army's defeat, from underestimating the Mongols to repeatedly allowing their leader, Subotai, to maneuver his opponents onto ground of his own choosing. x
  • 8
    Courtrai: Knights versus Shopkeepers - 1302
    At the Battle of Courtrai in 1302, a French army of the finest knights equipped with the best available arms and armor was beaten by what many viewed as an undisciplined rabble of Flemish shopkeepers bearing improvised weapons. Delve into the battle and learn the mistakes leading to the knights' defeat. x
  • 9
    Nagashino: Taking Swords to a Gunfight - 1575
    The Battle of Nagashino was the culmination of a multi-generational conflict with some of the most memorable battles and colorful figures in Japanese history. Although both armies possessed guns, only one commander employed them to maximum effect. Delve into the battle and consider why mere access to a new technology isn't sufficient for victory - one must also understand how to use it effectively. x
  • 10
    Cartagena: High Walls, Short Ladders - 1741
    The most spectacular battle of the War of Jenkins' Ear was a massive amphibious assault launched against the Spanish port city of Cartagena, Colombia. Trace how this expedition began with great enthusiasm among the British but ended in failure and embarrassment, due primarily to the enmity that arose between Britain's top-ranking naval and army officers. x
  • 11
    Culloden: The Bonnie Prince Blunders - 1746
    Prince Charles Edward Stuart disembarked a French warship onto the shore of Scotland intent on restoring the House of Stuart over England and Scotland. As you delve into the battle of Culloden, notice how his rivalries, poor decisions, and waffling led to failure against the firepower and professionalism of the British. x
  • 12
    Russia: Napoleon Retreats in the Snow - 1812
    Napoleon made many mistakes in his campaign to invade Russia, a fatal miscalculation that led to his downfall and blemished his legacy as a brilliant general. Investigate his errors here, from appointing his inept brother to an important role to using unimaginative frontal assault tactics, which resulted in a bloodbath. x
  • 13
    Afghanistan: Khyber Pass Death Trap - 1842
    Propelled by paranoia about Russian plots, the First Afghan War was an unmitigated disaster for the British. See how their attempt to protect the East India Company's interests resulted in the entire Army of the Indus - 16,000 soldiers and camp followers - being wiped out by Afghan tribesmen. x
  • 14
    Crimea: Charge of the Light Brigade - 1854
    Although a minor incident, the Charge of the Light Brigade has gained a reputation as both a glorious moment in the history of warfare and one of the greatest military blunders of all time. Follow the disastrous chain of events that lead the British to attack the wrong target. x
  • 15
    Greasy Grass: Custer's Last Stand - 1876
    Military historians still argue over what happened and who was at fault in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Examine why this battle between George Custer's cavalry and the Lakota and their allies remains one of the most infamous in American history, and see how this rare victory for the indigenous tribes ultimately hastened their defeat. x
  • 16
    Isandlwana: 25,000 Zulus Undetected - 1879
    How could an army accompanied by cannon and rocket artillery be wiped out by Zulu warriors wielding spears, clubs, and a smattering of outdated firearms? Find out in this account of one of the most shocking and humiliating British defeats from the Napoleonic Wars up to World War I. x
  • 17
    Adwa: Italy's Fiasco in Ethiopia - 1896
    Learn how overconfidence, miscommunication, and miscalculation were all displayed by the Italians at Adwa in Ethiopia, resulting in one of the greatest victories of a native people over an imperial power during the colonization era - a rare indigenous civilization that succeeded in establishing itself as an independent modern nation. x
  • 18
    Colenso: The Second Boer War - 1899
    The Boer War's Battle of Colenso marked a turning point in military tactics, as the British forces clung to obsolete methods of fighting in the face of new weaponry and tactics. Explore how the stubborn determination of the British commanders to utilize outdated techniques resulted in a completely ineffectual attack. x
  • 19
    Tannenberg: Ineptitude in the East - 1914
    The Battle of Tannenberg was a brilliant victory for the Germans - made possible by the many errors committed by the Russians. Discover how the Germans turned the tables on Alexander Samsonov, fragmenting and tearing apart his once seemingly invincible battalions, leaving them lost in a nightmarish landscape of forest and bogs. x
  • 20
    Gallipoli: Churchill Dooms Allied Assault - 1915
    With World War I bogged down in trench warfare, Britain attempted to break the stalemate - which had tragic results in the Gallipoli campaign, an infamous episode of military incompetence. See where the Brits went wrong, from poorly allocating resources to giving the Turks ample time to prepare. x
  • 21
    World War II: Royal Navy Goes Down - 1941-42
    Examine two of the worst naval disasters in the Britain's history, the causes of which include both grossly underestimating and overestimating the enemy: the sinking of the Royal Navy's most technologically sophisticated battleship by Japanese bombers in December 1941 and the destruction of merchant ships in Convoy PQ 17 by Germans in July 1942. x
  • 22
    Dieppe Raid: Catastrophe on the Beach - 1942
    From conception to execution, the Dieppe raid was filled with unclear objectives and poor planning. Why did the Allies undertake such an ill-fated attack on this German-occupied French city? Find out here, along with a detailed account of what went wrong - from bad timing to overambitious strategies to unexpectedly difficult terrain. x
  • 23
    Operation Market Garden: A Bridge Too Far - 1944
    Operation Market Garden is routinely listed among the great military mishaps of World War II. Investigate the Allies' numerous errors in planning, organization, and execution in this bold air/land mission, from underestimating the Germans' resistance to ignoring important intelligence to making unrealistic timetables. x
  • 24
    The Great Blunders: Four Paths to Failure
    Review the conflicts in this course to determine the major recurrent errors leading to such blunders. Then, turn to the final case study: a location and culture encompassing modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan that has been the target of some of history's greatest conquerors and empires across more than 2,000 years. x

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Your professor

Gregory S. Aldrete

About Your Professor

Gregory S. Aldrete, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete is Professor of Humanistic Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, where he has taught since 1995. He earned his B.A. from Princeton University and his master's degree and Ph.D. in Ancient History from the University of Michigan. Honored many times over for his research and his teaching, Professor Aldrete was named by his university as the winner of its highest awards in each...
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History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 90.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Presentation Have a fair amount of knowledge of most of the material, but always learned something new about each blunder. I have a very detailed knowledge of the Battle of the Little Big Horn and was pleased to see the professor didn't succumb to the "glory hunter" image of Custer that is so prevalent. The minor errors I noted are due to compressing a difficult subject into a half hour presentation (I studied this battle in detail for over 10 years before writing my book). All in all this is a superior course taught by an excellent educator.
Date published: 2020-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not Just for Military Historians Granted, the more you understand military tactics and strategy, and the more background you have in history, the more likely you are to enjoy this course. But no expertise is required to lose yourself in these episodes if you have any interest in the topic at all. Some may (and some reviewers here do) take issue with Prof. Aldrete's chosen battles. It's a challenging task: Pick 24 significant military events marked by poor decisions, and present a lecture on each. While you or I may question whether every choice was the best, the fact is that Prof. Aldrete has done a creditable job choosing battles with fascinating stories and intriguing "what-ifs." Some reviewers have commented on Aldrete's speech cadence. While I agree that it can seem a little odd at times, I did not find it unduly distracting. More irksome to me were nails-on-chalkboard mispronunciations I would not expect from a professional historian: rhyming Derby with "Herbie" for example, or misplacing the stress on Culloden, Samsonov, Eritrea, and the word "debacle." Probably misled by the Polish spelling "Nieman," he kept pronouncing the River Neman as if it rhymed with "pie-man." These are the sort of things you expect to hear from a high school sophomore giving an oral report, not a published historian. But the course is worth the distractions. Aldrete has a genius for making the incomprehensible make sense. The disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade and Custer's Last Stand, two disasters whose motivating logic has always escaped me, make much more sense to me now. And some battles I'd never heard of, from China's Red Cliffs in the 3rd century to Kalka River a thousand years later, completely fascinated me. I got the audio version, which was fine for me. But I wonder what graphics I might have missed out on, in particular maps.
Date published: 2020-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just What I Wanted Lectures moved along at the right pace for effective learning. Background to each "blunder" was provided to the right extent. Very enjoyable course. And the incidents that were presented in the course were a good mixture of the very well known and obvious, and the lesser familiar and virtually unheard of disasters.
Date published: 2020-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Course for Military Historians Thanks to the COVID19 I have finally had the time to get to some of those "one of these days" items on my list. One such item was to take some online courses on one of my favourite topics - military history. Professor Aldrete is engaging and clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about this topic. The lectures move quickly and include both macro and micro perspectives and I found myself wishing for more (always a good sign that a course has hit its mark!). The one area o fimprovement was in the area of visual aids. I know the elctures are only half an hour long but the addition of a few visuals of say weaponry, battle scenes (where available) would have been very impactful. There are some visual aids but they are mostly of the regimental deployment using the old school rectangular squares (from the old days war-gaming board games prior to the advent of CGIs). Still, that is a very minor observation. If you are a military history buff and always yearned for a bi tmore details on some of history's biggest military blunders, you can't go wrong with this course.
Date published: 2020-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Explanations ! Enjoyed reviewing the Great Military Blunders and Professor Aldrete's presentation was fabulous ! Wish I had a Professor with presentation skills like his in College ! Interesting choices for some but his explanations of those choices supports his choices.
Date published: 2020-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am 74, and this is some of the best version of history I have read in years. I love all the details, they really make it so interesting!!
Date published: 2020-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More fun than a barrel of monkeys This is a fun course well suited for anyone interested in military history and tactics. I give it a high recommendation for that audience. I admit that I binge watched it. This is the third course I have watched with Professor Aldrete. Having enjoyed every single one, I would not hesitate to watch any course he teaches. I enjoy his speaking and presentation style which some possibly may find a bit quirky, but I find fun and enjoyable. More importantly, his presentations are scholarly, well organized, exceedingly coherent. He has an informal, appealing, and extemporaneous way of speaking, even though it is possible he might be using a teleprompter. The selection of battles and military campaigns are a nice representation ranging from antiquity through the modern day, and geographically dispersed throughout the world. I learned about more than just military history and battlefield tactics, because Professor Aldrete provides a lot of supporting historical context. Bottom line, this one is a fun ride for anyone who is genuinely interested in military history.
Date published: 2019-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well done As a retired historical researcher I found this course to be very well done. The battles and campaign mentioned range from obscure to well known but Dr Aldrete explained them all is interesting detail. Well done. I learned and I enjoyed. What more can I ask? The only negative was Dr Aldtete;s walking from one end of the carpet in the studio to the other almost after each paragraph. A minor negative that I eventually for used to.
Date published: 2019-08-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One man's risk, is another's blunder...but... Blunder, (n): a gross error or mistake resulting usually from stupidity, ignorance, or carelessness. Synonyms: bobble, boo-boo, boob [British], brick, clanger [British], clinker, error, fault, flub, fluff, fumble, gaff, gaffe, goof, inaccuracy, lapse, miscue, misstep, mistake, oversight, screwup, slip, slipup, stumble, trip. We all blunder...whether it's that bad throw from third base, or talking politics in a...well...anywhere. But, most of us recover with a red face, perhaps, and usually a 'no harm done' shrug of the shoulders. However, when there's a 'clanger' (see above) on the military field of battle, where many lives hang in the balance it becomes the most important thing imaginable...not only to the participants (and their families), but to entire countries, and, of course, to historians. The most clear-spoken and well organized Prof Gregory S. Aldrete is one of those historians, and in his (this) survey course he presents examples of (only) some of the clearest examples of 'slipups' in historic battles...some we all know, some are not. Some changed history (but wait history can't be changed)...maybe some redirected the course of history (Grant's tactics in the U S Civil War, notably at Petersburg), some just refined tactics (Dieppe...how many remembered that one?). All Aldrete's example can be boiled down into four significant causes for these 'fumbles': Poor planning, poor communication, poor interpersonal skills and abilities (leadership) ('boob' comes to mind), and poor adaptation (know when to quit ... “Forward, the Light Brigade!” Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew Someone had blundered.") (from Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" I'll say! The lectures are well-prepared, informative and entertaining. Are they the only military blunders in history?...sadly, no. But they get the message across. Maybe if we just thought about it a bit more, there might be a better way. Recommended, but surrender less with a coupon during a very good sale.
Date published: 2019-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating, with a broad range of relevance Fascinating and well-delivered. I suspected that this might be a great guide to business management and strategy, and it is.
Date published: 2019-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Screw-ups can be fascinating This course offers a fascinating counterpoint to Professor Aldrete's course on decisive battles. It begins with a bang (sorry about that) with the story of the Crater, one of the all-time great military screw-ups, and continues with a series of battles, some famous, some not, but always interesting. For instance, I had heard of World War II's Dieppe raid and Operation Market Garden but knew little about them. Professor Aldrete sets the scene well and brings them to life with great enthusiasm, and the visual descriptions of the battles are a great help in understanding them. A battle doesn't have to be decisive to be educational. The Charge of the Light Brigade would be forgotten had not Tennyson read a news account of the fiasco and been struck by the line, "Someone had blundered." But it still makes for an entertaining half-hour. I have one complaint about all of the more recent Great Courses offerings. That is the annoying pattern of having the lecturer stride toward one camera, then turn on cue and stride toward the other camera, then back and forth. It quickly becomes tiresome, and you can predict when the next turnabout is coming. I long for the occasional return of the lectern!
Date published: 2019-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comsequences I am a keen reader of history and enjoyed these courses as they projected the consequences of the blunder as well as recited the contributing elements of stupidity chance culture and technology. How the blunders affected history is important.
Date published: 2019-01-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing I thought that there was a lack of purpose. It seemed to be a group of stories about battles, but WHY they are important was never explained. Also, the presentation was distracting - the author has a choppy, sing-song delivery. It did not meet my expectations.
Date published: 2018-12-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Strong on Blunders, Less Strong on the Lessons It is probably at least partly my own fault that I found this course to be moderately disappointing. My friend told me it was his favorite and really talked it up, so I assumed it would be excellent. Don't get me wrong -- there's good content to this course, but I think it suffers from two shortcomings that have bugged me about it: First, the professor's cadence is *extremely* distracting. He pauses within sentences and places emphasis in strange places. I think he's trying to vary the pitch and timbre of his speech (which is laudable) but he seems to do it in the wrong way. It actually tends to put me to sleep. Second, I was kind of expecting a little bit more of a through line for this course. If not a kind of thematic coherence, then at least a little more in the way of connective material between and among the lectures. As it is, we learn about one military debacle, and then another one, and then yet another one. They're individually interesting stories (mostly) but I think the course would have been more engaging if there was a little more, say, comparison/contrast. I feel like the course was a little shy on the "lessons" in other words.
Date published: 2018-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! Professor Aldrete is one of my favorites here at TGC. His presentation is always spot on, covering each subject with information and wit. This course is a clear exposition of why the study of military history is integral to education. War is terrible, but an understanding of the past cannot be complete without dissecting the reasons and, in this case, blunders that caused nations to go to war. Hopefully humankind can move away from institutionalized killing. Until we do we should continue to study and learn from the mistakes of the past. I highly recommend this lecture series and Professor Aldrete.
Date published: 2018-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Had trouble recovering lectures eg listened to lecture 10 lecture 11 did not follow in spite of repeated taps finally rebooted to eventually get lecture happened about5 times so far!
Date published: 2018-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprisingly Fascinating and Worthwhile - for All! I began this course with low expectations, as I have close to zero interest in military history. I took it because I thought highly of Professor Aldrerte's other offerings, and I figured I'd give it a chance. Surprisingly - to me - I found it fascinating as well as a source of profound lessons about human nature. I recommend it highly to all. Each lecture provides a mini-lesson in history, drawn from an unrestricted range of times and places. Some of this was review for me, some new, but all was presented with impeccable eloquence and clarity, as well as organization, making it a pleasure to listen to. I do have to admit I found the actual battle descriptions, including the excellent diagrams making them very easy to follow, to be - ironically -the least interesting part of the course. If you are a fan of military history, you will love them. But the discussion of the many remarkable, and often literally fatal, blunders made by presumably intelligent and highly motivated individuals was profound and profoundly moving. Almost all of these - inadequate planning, poor communication, unclear orders, overconfidence, inflexibility, refusal to admit defeat, and many others - are glaringly obvious errors in retrospect; it is the fact that they were not seen as such at the time that is an extraordinarily powerful and important lesson for us all, a lesson which can be applied to all areas of life. This lesson was driven home in an excellent summary lecture at the end of the course. I have no significant criticisms. I do think our professor is a bit over-the-top in his gestures and expressive speech, but this does help hold our interest. So - to repeat - an outstanding course which I truly recommend, most highly, to everyone.
Date published: 2018-08-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting but lacking The course has some very interesting case studies but does not follow through in most cases with lessons learnt. Seeing as this is supposed to be a university level course, the professor uses 'England' & 'English' when he should be saying 'British' (there is a difference). Sometimes using both 'English' and 'British' in the same sentence: I am sorry to say this is grating after a few mentions. It is biased towards British military failures (there are many more to chose from) &, as mentioned, does not illustrate the lessons learnt. For example, the change in British tactics after Isandlwana at Ulundi.
Date published: 2018-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Will we ever learn from history? As we progress through the course on military blunders, we find out that the same mistakes are repeated again and again, never giving any thought to what has happened previously and the mistakes that were repeated. Having been more familiar with the newer battles, I found the older, historical ones more informing for me. I enjoyed his presentation very much and will look forward to more courses. Even though this covers battles, a lesson is there to be learned from the business world also. I especially enjoyed his summary to the course.
Date published: 2018-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting and informative presentations! As an amateur military historian, I subscribed to this course to learn something of the great failed battles of the past, especially in regions such as China where I had little previous knowledge . This course totally met my expectations. Professor Aldrete knows his subject well, and was dynamic in presenting the course material in a series of concise and informative lectures. I would like to have seen more charts and diagrams, but this did not detract from the value of the course overall. Well done!
Date published: 2018-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great storytelling I've gone through some riveting history/culture courses and some ho-hum ones (full disclosure: never made it fully through the ho-hum ones), and something I find common to the riveting courses is that they focus on storytelling. They set scenes, sketch characters, present illuminating details, build suspense. "History's Great Military Blunders" was definitely one of those. Probably one of the best told stories was the first lecture, but I enjoyed every single one of the audio lectures and recommended them to family members who also love history. There were only two things I didn't like. One wasn't the professor's fault -- I was just constantly horrified at the number of lives lost to idiotic decisions and arrogance. The second thing was a matter of the selection of topics. It *was* pretty diverse, geographically and historically speaking, but I still got tired of hearing about England and the U.S.
Date published: 2018-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History’s great military blunders Excellent course, very interesting and well taught!
Date published: 2018-06-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Damaged DVD I played only to the first half of lecture 3 before it skipped to somewhere in lecture 4. I'll be asking for a refund or new DVD.
Date published: 2018-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I received this course for Christmas. Well written. The professor goes into very specific and important details. If you like military history, this is a great course
Date published: 2018-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History in Human terms. I greatly enjoyed this course and it's presenter. I learned a lot. It is very interesting to learn the history of major events from a human perspective on both sides of the many conflicts covered in this course. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Truly Excellent Every so often, I watch a Great Courses that reminds me why I'm such a fan of the product. This is one of those courses. The professor is energetic and very understandable. He presents this class in a very exciting manner and has one of the best presentation styles that I have seen. The subject matter is extremely interesting. What I like best is that the professor did not just tell the story of the military blunders. Instead, he explained why things went wrong and how they could have been handled differently. I would be delighted to see a second edition of this with more military blunders.
Date published: 2017-10-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Selection I have just started this course and find the selections to be very interesting and the narrator to be engaging in his presentation,
Date published: 2017-10-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Somewhat Depressing! In this series of 24 lecture, Professor Gregory Aldrete discusses significant military blunders from Antiquity to World War II, keeping an overall analysis for the very last lecture. A lecture is devoted to each battle covered according to a set structure: anecdote, context, description and brief analysis. This becomes somewhat tedious for the audience and except for following chronological order there is no link from one lecture to the next. There could be 12 lectures, 24 or 36 and the course would be the same. In addition, some of the anecdotes are far-fetched (and not very interesting), for instance the link between raglan sleeves and General Raglan or between the cardigan and General Cardigan or the origins of the name of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate. Worse, Professor Aldrete often describes the battles like football games, ignoring the fact that they entailed the death or maiming of thousands of individuals. Overall, the Great Courses offerings are so varied and rich that this one is best left aside.
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting material, masterfully presented Professor Aldrete is top-notch. He has a commanding stage presence and enthusiastically and energetically presents the detailed and interesting material. He absolutely holds your attention. I actually found myself laughing out loud at some of examples of incompetent military leadership that he presents. The various military disasters are presented in chronological order, from ancient times to World War II. The only exception to this was the first lecture, which dealt with the Civil War Battle of Petersburg (aka Battle of the Crater). I think that this was a good strategy on his part, as I think that the Civil War would be much more interesting to most Americans than ancient battles involving Greece and Persia. I don't profess to be an expert on the American Civil War, but I do think that the Battle of Petersburg is a good illustration of how the Union almost lost the Civil War, in spite of their vastly superior resources compared to the Confederacy. Prior to getting into a detailed description of each battle or campaign, he reviews the military and political factors existing prior to the battle and introduces us to each of the major leaders, which was very helpful. As some other reviewers commented, I was a little disappointed that no battles beyond World War II were discussed. Surely many of the actions that took place during the Vietnam War were disasters - in fact the entire war was a disaster for us, probably more for political than military reasons. Hopefully, he will at some point do another course covering wars since WWII. For this reason, I gave the course content only 4 stars. However, as far as Professor Aldrete is concerned, I would give him more stars if I could. I absolutely recommend this course to anyone with any interest in military history.
Date published: 2017-07-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Required listening for all military officers! Professor Aldrete presents compelling and thought provoking information about the folly of humans. Covering over 2,000 years of human conflicts Professor Aldrete ably explains how poor leadership, bad intelligence, national arrogance, poor planning, and poor execution led some of the most powerful armies in history to perform some of the most boneheaded operations. A common theme thru the 24 lectures is the failure of succeeding armies to learn from preceding blunders. As usual, the common soldiers pay the price of this foolishness! Entertaining and educational! Highly recommend!
Date published: 2017-05-05
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