Long 19th Century: European History from 1789 to 1917

Course No. 8190
Professor Robert I. Weiner, Ph.D.
Lafayette College
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Course No. 8190
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Course Overview

History at its most interesting is complex, a fascinating whirl of events, personalities, and forces, and few periods of history offer us such captivating complexity as Europe's 19th "century"—the often-broadly defined period from the French Revolution to World War I that formed the foundation of the modern world.

How was that foundation built? And what did that transition to modernity mean for peasants, workers, the middle class, aristocrats, women, and minorities?

Why did an era that began with the idealism of the French Revolution and the power of the Industrial Revolution culminate in the chaos of World War I, considered by most historians to be the greatest tragedy of modern European history? Did nationalism and imperialism inevitably lead in such a direction, or were there other factors involved?

Even these questions, as important as they are, can only hint at the complexity of this period, just as this course can really only put us on a path toward the answers.

Understand a Turbulent Era

Dr. Robert I. Weiner assumes no prior knowledge of this era and no professional vocabulary, "just interest, curiosity, and hopefully, passion."

Disclaimers notwithstanding, these lectures indeed offer the opportunity for anyone with an interest in history to take an enormous stride toward understanding the whys of this turbulent and important era, and not just the whats.

Professor Weiner, a five-time recipient of Lafayette's Student Government Superior Teaching Award during his 35 years of teaching history at Lafayette College, leads you on a spirited journey across an ever-changing European landscape, examining the forces and personalities that reshaped the continent's physical borders, diplomatic relationships, and balance of power.

He moves from the impact of both the French and Industrial Revolutions in the period from 1789–1848, into the so-called "unifications" of Italy and Germany in the 1850s and 1860s, followed by the spread of industrialism and nationalism into the furthest reaches of Europe toward the end of the century.

By that time, the world had undergone profound changes:

  • In Europe, the dominance of Great Britain and France had been eclipsed by a rapidly modernizing Germany.
  • Austria-Hungary was struggling to survive as a multinational empire.
  • Russia was facing stresses of inadequate modernization as other nations moved ahead.
  • The United States and Japan were beginning to enter into an emerging balance of world power.
  • Almost all of Africa and much of Asia had been gobbled up in a final spasm of imperialist expansions.

Moreover, the European great powers, organized in alliances and enmeshed in an arms race, were confronting increasingly dangerous international crises.

While more people in Europe were living better than ever before, Europe had become a very dangerous place—soon to erupt in a war more brutal than any the world had ever seen.

Enjoy an Ambitious Look at a Much-Pondered Subject

In exploring the evolution of the environment that ultimately made World War I possible, Professor Weiner has crafted a very ambitious course, covering a vast range of material. He repeatedly steps back from "on-the-ground" events to clarify historical trends or patterns.

For example, he concentrates on political and diplomatic moves of the great powers—Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Italy—while always discussing them in the context of the deeper economic, social, and cultural forces at work. He doesn't merely offer you a chess position from which the next move is made; he lets you know how and why the various pieces have come to be arrayed the way they are, and how they reflect the impact of some of history's most significant names:

  • Napoleon Bonaparte, whose massive legacy, though uneven, includes spreading the ideas of the French Revolution, such as freedom of religion and equality before the law, everywhere his soldiers marched
  • Napoleon III, whose mixed reviews include one historian's recognition that he was "unique among dictators in ending his career with a government that provided his country with more freedom than the government he started with"
  • Klemens von Metternich, the shrewd Austrian foreign minister who spoke for conservative, monarchical Europe during the last three decades of the Age of Revolution
  • Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor who was architect of both Germany's unification and a system of alliances that ultimately led to her downfall
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II, the brash young kaiser with a "special knack" for political and diplomatic gaffes
  • Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish French Army captain unjustly accused of espionage and whose ordeal inspired modern Zionism
  • Karl Marx, the German intellectual whose ideas about a radical new philosophy found fertile ground on a continent where industrial modernization was creating new disruptions and resentments
  • Count Camillo di Cavour, the brilliant Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia whose tragic early death left imperfect the unified Italy he helped to create
  • William Gladstone, the moralist humanitarian and Prime Minister who helped democratize Great Britain.

An Unflinching Look at Some of History's Major Players

These historical figures join with many others in a presentation that is unfailingly interesting and provocative, with Professor Weiner often quite frank, although fair, in his assessment of individuals and their decisions. This course can easily be divided into four major teaching segments.

After a short orientation to the Ancien Regime which offers a basis of comparison to the dramatically different world that was to come, Dr. Weiner's organizational plan begins with the period from 1789 to 1848 that has come to be known as the Age of Revolution.

Professor Weiner's second major section covers the period from the repression of the 1848 Revolutions until the unification of Germany in 1870–71.

Professor Weiner begins the third section with a look at the time European power was at its zenith, from 1870–1914. This power was felt on economic, military, political, and diplomatic levels throughout the world.

The final segment of the course covers the developments in European diplomacy that led to World War I, as well as the war's dramatic impact.

As the course—and Europe—move closer to the catastrophe of World War I, Professor Weiner narrows the focus again. He presents several case studies of the great powers in the decades leading up to the conflict, including Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and, as he describes it, "the cauldron that was Russia, Turkey, and the Balkans."

The Devastating Impact

World War I was punctuated by a series of battles of industrial slaughter, such as Verdun, the Somme, the Nivelle Offensive, and the final German thrusts in the West in the spring of 1918. More than nine million combatants perished, including more than half of the French men who were between the ages of 20 and 32 when the war began in 1914.

Concluding lectures examine not only the major events of the war but also the its impact on contemporaries and the following generation, and how it set the stage for World War II.

Although Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler were neither inevitable nor likely candidates for national leadership in prewar Europe, they were rooted in their national cultures, children of their age, and Dr. Weiner attempts to answer the question: What had gone wrong?

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Long 19th Century
    This lecture discusses the reasons for extending the "century" to include the points in time when the masses and modern nationalism first presented themselves in Europe's most powerful country to the collapse of the 19th-century Eurocentric world order. x
  • 2
    The Legacy of the Past—The Old Regime
    What was Europe like on the eve of the French Revolution? We discuss how the structures of a changing medieval society were further challenged by economic, social, and cultural forces, even before the more profound agrarian and industrial revolutions to come. x
  • 3
    The Age of Revolution, 1789–1848
    This lecture focuses on the landmark analyses of mid-20th century Marxist historian Eric J. Hobsbawm to explain how the French and Industrial Revolutions served as midwives to modern European history and, via the umbilical cord of European imperialism, modern world history. x
  • 4
    The French Revolution
    Although scholars debate the causes of the French Revolution, all agree that it helped determine the political vocabulary, expectations, and myths of 19th-century Europe as it persisted for at least 10 years in Europe's most powerful state, spreading far and wide "in the knapsacks of French soldiers." x
  • 5
    The Napoleonic Era, 1799–1815
    An adventurer of enormous talents and capacity for work and intrigue, Napoleon Bonaparte dominates Europe's historical imagination like no one until Adolf Hitler, representing much that was best in his era, even though his legacy is marred by his monumental ego and penchant for conquest. x
  • 6
    The First Industrial Revolution, 1760–1850
    The Industrial Revolution becomes the main force propelling Europe's modernization and urbanization, gradually transforming much of Britain's urban landscape over several generations until by 1850 it is the workshop of the world, with a greater productivity than the rest of Europe combined. x
  • 7
    The Era of Metternich, 1815–1848
    We examine an era characterized by tensions between the forces of order and the forces of change. Though the former—represented by Austrian Prince Clemens von Metternich—generally dominates, more liberal, constitutional worlds emerge in Britain and in France, though by far different means. x
  • 8
    The Revolutions of 1848
    Sparked by an "unintended" revolution in Paris, outbreaks involving middle class elements, workers, and artisans erupt in urban areas in the Germanic states, the Austrian Empire, and the Italian states, leading to a temporary collapse of established authority and hasty concessions. x
  • 9
    Europe, 1850–1871—An Overview
    Dashed expectations combine with expanding urban industrial civilization to usher in a new age of realpolitik and a new balance of power. Though an era of remarkable scientific, economic, and urban advancement, it is also marked by nationalist and class-based antagonism, Social Darwinism, and "modern" racist thought. x
  • 10
    The Crimean War, 1853–1856
    This lecture examines what is sometimes considered the most senseless of Europe's 19th-century wars—a conflict that makes possible the structural changes Europe will experience from the late 1850s through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871. x
  • 11
    From Napoleon to Napoleon—France, 1815–1852
    More than the American Revolution, the French Revolution left a legacy of debris-disputed claims of legitimacy, disputed rights, and grievances. This lecture examines the tumultuous era between the defeat of Napoleon and the rise of his fascinating and enigmatic nephew, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. x
  • 12
    Napoleon III—An Evaluation
    Napoleon III faced the daunting task of establishing legitimacy and creating a liberal, constitutional monarchy in a bitterly divided France and a Europe threatened by his name. Ruling longer than any 19th-century French monarch, Napoleon III's legacy is marred by France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. x
  • 13
    Italy on the Eve—An Overview
    The final structure of the Italian nation, achieved when Italy occupied Rome in 1870, was far from what the major players had anticipated. This lecture paves the way for understanding the disappointing results of "unification" by analyzing the plight of Italy in 1848. x
  • 14
    Cavour and Napoleon III—"Unifying" Italy
    The developments that set "unification" into motion are instigated by Piedmontese minister Count Camillo di Cavour and Napoleon III. But Cavour's death leaves the final process of creating the new nation to lesser talents, with problematic results. x
  • 15
    Germany on the Eve
    This lecture examines the situation before the forging of the German Empire by the powerful Prussian statesman, Otto Von Bismarck—a situation even more complex than that faced by Italy. x
  • 16
    Age of Bismarck—Creating the German Empire
    A believer in absolutist power and aristocratic ascendancy, Bismarck masters the forces of the age, using military success, nationalist pride, economic/industrial expansion, and astute political manipulation to create a Prussian-dominated German Empire he would guide until his dismissal in 1890, a victim of the irresponsible structure he had created. x
  • 17
    The British Way
    This lecture examines how Great Britain's political, economic, and social structure allowed it to follow a unique path to political and economic modernization, weathering many of the storms afflicting other great powers—though not always without internal issues. x
  • 18
    The Russian Experience, 1789–1881
    Russia begins the "long 19th century" with little stimuli for modernization. It is oversized and still expanding, overwhelmingly agrarian with primitive transportation and communication systems, and dominated by a divine right absolutist monarchy that is allied with a privileged aristocracy. This lecture examines Russia's transition. x
  • 19
    The Apogee of Europe, 1870–1914
    During an age of massive change and material growth, there are crucial shifts in emphasis: nationalism, Social Darwinism, racism, industrialism, European imperialism, a decline in the "liberal" spirit. We also discuss the rise of modernist philosophies exemplified by such greats as Nietzsche, Freud, Bergson, and Sorel. x
  • 20
    The Industrialization of Europe
    The Second Industrial Revolution brings about greater change than any prior era. New forms of power, technology, and business organization, along with the possibilities brought by revolutions in transportation, communications, and education, make this transformation synonymous with urban civilization. x
  • 21
    The Socialist Response
    Although industrial, urban civilization brings growing democratization and middle-class opportunity, it is also an era of expanding Socialist visions and unionism. The modern urban proletariat is now real, recognized even by Bismarck. This lecture examines the impact of this new reality. x
  • 22
    The Longest Hatred—European Anti-Semitism
    This lecture examines what one historian has called "the longest hatred" a deeply embedded and changing element of Europe's culture, especially at the end of the 19th century, when it developed into new political and racial forms, notably in Central and Western Europe. x
  • 23
    England, 1868–1914—Liberalism to Democracy
    Although England's industrial dominance is eclipsed by Germany and the United States on the eve of World War I, and its extended empire has become a source of strain as well as pride, the English response to industrial society is still more successful than that of the other European powers. x
  • 24
    The Third Republic—France, 1870–1914
    Emerging from the Franco-Prussian War and the trauma of a civil war, the Third Republic struggles to consolidate itself and then cope with a progressively harsher series of crises that culminate in the Dreyfus Affair, an event so profound it is sometimes called simply "The Affair." x
  • 25
    Bismarckian and Wilhelminian Germany
    Bismarck's domestic policies attempt every solution besides sharing real power. When he is fired by the brash new kaiser, the problematic forces Bismarck had been able to monitor—militarism, imperialism, and more extreme and racialist nationalism—begin to spiral out of control. x
  • 26
    Flawed States—Austria-Hungary and Italy
    Although the Austro-Hungarian Empire and flawed Italian state did not have much in common, both were examples of "failed" nation-states at the end of the century. This lecture examines the reasons why, and the conditions in both nations during the formative years of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. x
  • 27
    Russia, Turkey, and the Balkans
    This lecture examines the circumstances that ultimately lead Russia to humiliating defeat and the near-overthrow of the regime during the Russo-Japanese War, and how this, in turn, leads nationalists to focus their attention on the Balkans, where the seeds of disaster are planted. x
  • 28
    Bismarck Dominates Europe, 1870–1890
    This lecture examines Bismarck's dominance of Europe's diplomatic agenda as he constructs a complex system of defensive alliances that prove a dangerous legacy for later German leaders lacking in his genius, sense of proportion, and respect for the balance of power. x
  • 29
    The "New" Imperialism
    European imperialism from the 1880s until about 1905 is remarkable for its intensity, tone, scope, and impact. It is spurred on, sometimes haphazardly, by national pride, Social Darwinian and racial assumptions, the search for economic growth and strategic security, Christian conscience, human adventure, and greed. x
  • 30
    The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890–1907
    This lecture examines the eventual unraveling of the Bismarckian system of alliances after his dismissal by Kaiser Wilhelm, culminating in the realization of Bismarck's worst nightmare: Germany surrounded by a number of powerful countries and tightly tied to an unstable Austria-Hungary. x
  • 31
    Europe in Crisis, 1908-1914—Outbreak of War
    A complex web of events, alliances, and crises move Europe closer to the brink of war. Eventually all of the powers focus on diplomatic and military preparedness, and patience is in short supply. x
  • 32
    The Origins of World War I
    One of the most meticulously studied topics in all of modern history: the causes of World War I. This lecture examines how a seemingly local conflict could degenerate into the greatest tragedy in modern European history. x
  • 33
    The Great War—A Military Overview
    This lecture looks at the immediate and long-term impact of the war—the prism through which most of the 20th century passed—with emphasis on the critical battles and military decisions that determined its outcome and best represent its nature and impact. x
  • 34
    The Home Front During Total War
    Once the First Battle of the Marne determined that Germany would not win World War I quickly, and combatants realized the war would consume greater quantities of resources than imaginable, the "war behind the war" became as decisive as the one on battlefield, leaving an indelible imprint on the postwar generation. x
  • 35
    The Impact of World War I—New World Disorder
    Gauging the impact of World War I is difficult: It accelerated profound and global changes, many of which are still "in process" today. World War I was to the 20th century what the French and Industrial Revolutions were to the 19th. x
  • 36
    Looking Back, Thinking Ahead
    This lecture summarizes the impact of the "long 19th century." It was, despite its tragedies, a time of progress and change, and brought to fruition many of the promises and hopes of both the French and Industrial Revolutions. x

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  • 36 lectures on 6 DVDs
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  • 36 lectures on 18 CDs
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Your professor

Robert I. Weiner

About Your Professor

Robert I. Weiner, Ph.D.
Lafayette College
Dr. Robert I. Weiner is the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Professor of History at Lafayette College. He earned his B.A. from Temple University and a Hebrew teaching certificate from Gratz Hebrew College. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. Since joining the faculty of Lafayette College in 1969, Professor Weiner has taught a wide range of courses in the fields of Modern European History and Modern Jewish...
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Reviews

Long 19th Century: European History from 1789 to 1917 is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 96.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting course with lots of info and many references to other materials. The only problem was listening to the professer, emphasis is on a lot of the wrong words and pauses in strange places. Didn’t flow very well to my ear
Date published: 2018-11-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Content I am wadding through this course which I find difficult. The content seems to be fine, but the uneven delivery of the professor makes it difficult to listen too. He continually pauses, overemphasizes words and dramatizes his delivery. I hope I can finish it.
Date published: 2018-08-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Needs a warning label for political bias The course should be called "Evils of Capitalism and Monarchy in the 19th Century and Beyond". He warns us in the first lecture that his main influence is a Communist Professor of History. He can't let a paragraph go by without telling us how terrible life was for peasants and women and minorities. I'm sure this will appeal to some people, but I think most people want their straight history, from which they can make up their own mind. His voice is slow and hypnotic, as he slips in his little left-handed daggers everywhere. Suddenly I would say, wait, what did he just say? And I go back and listen again, and shake my head. Finally by the 6th lecture I couldn't take it any longer and tossed the disc on the back seat. I'll be returning it soon.
Date published: 2018-06-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Important Material but Difficult Delivery If only this course had been taught by a professor who wasn't using this lecture to impose his personal feelings and beliefs, it would have been better absorbed. The overly wordy and animated, self-serving delivery made this course almost intolerable.
Date published: 2018-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely informative and comprehensible Professor Weiner did an amazing job of presenting a very complicated (and often confounding) subject, breaking it down so I was not only able to comprehend it but also digest and retain it.
Date published: 2018-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from interresting title but could be heavy subject Very good surprize. The teacher is fascinating. He speaks whith his whole body; with his hands, his face. I can see the horror on his face when he is speaking of horrible things. I would not mind if he taught all of the courses. The stars below: I would give the teacher 10 stars out of 5.
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A lot of information, sometimes confusing The course is very informative, organized in a lucid way and covers a lot of ground. Sometimes the details (especially about the relationships between different countries) create confusion and using the guidebook is necessary. I didn't find the lecturer's manner of presentation very stimulating. Sometimes he speaks in long sentences that were hard for me to follow.
Date published: 2018-01-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This is my 1st class I have taken. I love it, I have learned many things I have forgotten or never heard of. I plan on taking more classes.
Date published: 2017-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I thought a knew Decor steals in a lot of gaps to things that I thought I knew. It's under Professor interesting and the information important
Date published: 2017-10-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Longer Than Might be Expected Professor Weiner expands (rightly in my opinion) the 19th century as beginning during the time of the French Revolution until the entry of the Americans in WWI (1789-1917). He divides the 36-lecture course into three roughly equal parts: from the French Revolution to 1848, the 1848 European revolutions to 1870 and from the Franco-Prussian war through WWI. Of course the first lecture begins earlier and sets the stage for the French Revolution and the last couple of lectures go beyond the American entrance into WWI, even past the Treaty of Versailles. With 36 lectures devoted to Europe over 150 years one expects quite a detailed examination of the topic. The more so, as the course focuses on cause and effect, leaving out most cultural topics such as art, music and literature. Also Dr. Weiner takes very much a “big man” approach for much of this course. In the end we get a lot of diplomacy, economics, and war. I found that the analysis of the effects of the industrial revolution on diplomacy and the various countries governmental structures quite fascinating, as well as the discussions of how some of the failures of diplomacy contributed to the power struggles among countries leading to war(s). More interesting was how some of the seeming successes of diplomacy led to future conflicts (I’m looking at you Otto von Bismarck). Professor Weiner also devotes some time not just to dry diplomacy, but to the personalities of the elite that often led to conflicts (Keizer Wilhelm and Bismarck, for example). Professor Weiner is extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable. A few reviewers have disliked his style and organization. I do not share those views, preferring perhaps a bit more animation in delivery than perfection. Although the professor and the course material claim that the professor and course assumes no prior knowledge of those taking the course, I would think that it would be quite difficult without a reasonable familiarity of modern European history, something like a university level survey course or extensive reading. Professor Weiner provides plenty of source and additional reading materials and often points out several for special attention. He seems to expect that we can (or should) devote additional time to studying these added readings, an expectation that I for one did not meet. Even in retirement, I find my time too limited to delve much further into the topic. Even so if this is a period that one finds interesting, this course is recommended.
Date published: 2017-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learning the background Info Important To have a full understanding of the background information is important to learn what was really going on and how it relates to now and the future.
Date published: 2017-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Suprisingly informative! The lectures could been a bit smoother. That is the only ding I could put on this course, and it is a minor one at that. Otherwise the flow of history, the intertwining of events and ideas of the time is fascinating. Told not as dry facts but as a progressing story it all fits together to explain how we got to the time of the WWI. And then its implication. I really enjoyed this Great Course. The economic, cultural, military, revolutionary forces that moved European history along. There was a lot happening during this period that I had never know. Again a great course.
Date published: 2017-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecturer Prof Weiner is clear and engaging in his presentations, unbiased, and he refreshingly presents the 19th century without imposing 20th and 21st century sensibilities on it.
Date published: 2017-08-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Learning is fun as always, these are excellent ways to learn while driving. while the speaker is not as articulate - lots of ums, uhs, ahs - he is passionate about the topic and clear in his presentation. while i tend to lean toward his interpretation of history, i feel that he is fair by presenting other interpretations and analyses so the listener knows his is not the only way to think of history.
Date published: 2017-06-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not as Good as most I should start with the positives. First, the professor is clearly enthusiastic, and the last one-third of the course is better than the first two-thirds. That being said, I was mostly disappointed in this course relative to other Great Courses history classes. That's not to say that this course is bad...it is just not as good as what I am used to receiving from the Great Courses. There are several problems with the design of this course: 1. The professor structured the lectures more as commentaries than lessons, making it much more important to read the recommended source materials. The problem with this approach is that I listen to Great Courses precisely because I do not have time to read the source materials. While I appreciate the Great Courses providing a guidebook, and I understand that reading the guidebook can be helpful, I've come to expect Great Courses to be presented in a way that does not rely on the guidebook or recommended readings. 2. The course lacks sufficient chronology. The course is mostly topical and sometimes jumps back and forth through the 19th century to the point of confusion without providing sufficient detail. Again, I do not want to be too harsh in my review. The Great Courses almost always produces an enjoyable and informative product. This course meets the minimum threshold of quality. However, the structural deficiencies makes this course less stellar as I have come to expect.
Date published: 2017-05-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from The Long 19th Century I cannot recommend this course. I don't doubt the professor's depth and breadth of knowledge, nor his enthusiasm, but his lecture style really needs work. He uses a sing-song pattern with illogical pauses and misplaced emphases that detract from a clear delivery of information. I prefer a straight forward, clear narration, like that of Andrew Liulevicius's World War 1: The Great War, for example. Frankly, I thought this was terribly delivered. I enjoyed the course book much more.
Date published: 2017-05-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Mixed bag, overall worth my while I'm somewhat ambivalent about this course, coming down on the "pretty good" side overall. The information provided was very helpful for me, as I simply didn't know that much about this period of time. To the negative side, I found Dr. Weiner to have a tendency to sometimes cover an A-B-C-D series of events/facts, but actually covering only A-D (i.e., skipping B and C, evidently assuming the listener would know them already - which I often didn't). I don't care all that highly for his presentation style; you might (be aware, for example, of his fairly strong New Joisey accent). He will make copious use of the terms "liberal" and "conservative." I believe he was using them consistently in the 19th century sense of those terms (which is decidedly different, and to a significant degree almost the reverse of, contemporary usage). If he was inconsistent in his use of those terms, I didn't realize it, and have been misinformed to any extent he might have done so. Are you hearing my ambivalence? Yes, I liked it overall, mostly because so much of it was new information to me. If you started out better informed that I was, I can see how you might not like it as much as I did. If you are not disturbed by the things that disturbed me, I can see how you might like it more than I did. Give it a try, and draw your own conclusions!
Date published: 2017-05-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Overall good My only problem with these lectures is the rhythm of the professor's speech. He tends to pause every few words, which is probably very good if you are in a classroom taking notes, as it would give time to write down key points, but was hard for me to get use to (I suspect my second listening of the CD will go better). His content was excellent and helped fill in a lot of the gaps in my understanding of the time.
Date published: 2017-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun and Informative I just finished this course. History is my passion and I listen often , in my car on CD's, to courses from The Great Courses. I enjoyed this course a lot. Not only was it interesting and informative, but a lot of fun. Professor Weiner has a great sense of humor and makes learning about this important period in history very enjoyable.
Date published: 2017-04-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Long 19th Century: European History from 1789-1917 Product well detailed. Enjoy the professor and his enthusiasm. I was disappointed in the CD product as there are no maps in the course book. Dealing with the shifting boundaries during these years they would have helped.
Date published: 2017-04-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good, not great I'm only 1/3 of the way through this course, be advised. My views might change. Prof. Wiener is a dynamic lecturer who is generally clear. My main problem is that he keeps things too consistently abstract. I understand that time is limited, but more specific detail and examples are needed to make the material interesting and memorable. For example, there is an entire lecture on the Crimean War, but we never find out where the Crimea is, how British or French troops ever got way over there, and just a bit about what happened when they did. In this and many other cases, its as though we are supposed to know things like this, and the lecturer is only needed to tell us the geopolitical meaning of the events. Again, various groups' interests and views are said to be this or that, without saying how we know this. The railroads "increased four times" Oh? How about saying, for example, you could now get from x to y in 3 hours rather than 3 days. I've gone off to read Wikipedia a number of times.... perhaps that's good, but I've often felt a bit frustrated as I listened, and had trouble remembering the content. I keep listening though, which I haven't, to one or two other courses.
Date published: 2017-03-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Superficial treatment, boring lecturer I enjoy history brought to life through discussions of personalities and events. Unfortunately, the lecturer in this series treats everything at a very top level. For example, the battle of Waterloo was dismissed with a single sentence. Metternich, Talleyrand and even Napoleon never come across as real people. There are even very few events addressed in the lectures- only broad concepts. Making it worse is the fact that the lecturer speaks in a monotone, with occasional attempts at injecting humor. For me, these failed utterly. I completed the first 12 lectures (of the total of 36) and have no interest in going further. I'll find another book which addresses the topic, since I'm still very interested in it.
Date published: 2016-12-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Well Meaning Scholar This is precisely what you get--a well-meaning scholar who knows his material but who struggles with communicating his trove of information. My first frustration is the same I have had with several of the Great Courses professors. Dr. Weiner, and numerous others, are clearly enthusiastic about their subject matter, but they are also clearly tethered to their teleprompters. it baffles me how they can lecture to a college class and presumably be engaged with their material but, when confronted with a written text (which the Great Courses markets as well), become uncomfortably stilted. Dr. Weiner has organized a great narrative but, somehow, when I would listen to the video lectures, I would be lost attempting to follow his overly long thought processes. My sense is that I would have been less troubled had I listened to the audio version; the video version adds little, and what it does contribute is a series of texts that merely follows verbatim what Dr. Weiner is clearly reading. His story line, such as it is, is both stilted and disconnected. From one sentence to the next, my attention was forced to wander. I have to think Dr. Weiner, not a natural performer, has not put his best foot forward. All that said, the course adds to one's appreciation of the years following the ancien regime.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just as described and advertised The professor does and excellent job of untangling a huge, complex web of events making them into a comprehensible, coherent whole. (Just keeping track of all the political marriages can be a real challenge). He has a pleasant, easy to understand voice and introduces bits of humor when appropriate. I mainly listen to Great Courses while driving on longer trips so a monotonous lecture can be really dangerous. This course presents very little risk of putting one to sleep behind the wheel.
Date published: 2016-11-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great lecture I felt like I was in the lecture hall, easy to follow while driving and well worth listening to again.
Date published: 2016-08-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Overview of 19th Century European History This is a course that definitely gets better as it progresses. Professor Weiner is very knowledgeable and did an admiral job of compiling a vast amount of information into this course. Although some of the negative reviews regarding Professor Wiener are hyperbolic, there is some merit to them. His presentation is too fast at times and his manner of speaking is 'interesting', it wasn't detrimental to the presentation. Although, truth be told, I found myself following the course guidebook very closely, and even rewatching some of the lectures to fully get a good grasp of the content. Your experience certainly won't be ruined by the presentation. The lectures regarding the late 19th century, socialism, German unification, imperialism, and the lead up to World War I were very engaging. At times, Professor Weiner does assume that the student is following along with the required and supplemental readings as he frequently mentions them and alludes to background information that the person watching may not have. Overall the course is well done and provides a decent overview of European political history from Napoleon to World War I and its aftermath. Although Professor Weiner is not one of the best lecturers that the Great Courses has to offer, you will end the course with a good grasp of the 19th century European history.
Date published: 2016-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant scholarship, presentation not that bad Having read many of the negative reviews about this course, and particularly about the professor’s presentation, I almost decided not to buy the course at all. It was only thanks to a few very positive ones that I decided to take the risk. I am very glad I did. This is not the first survey course on the modern period that I have taken under the TGC. I have heard professor Buckholz’s Western Civ II, Professor Bartlett’s Development of Western Civ, and Professor Liulevcius’ course on Diplomatic History. Each of these courses focuses on different historical aspects such as intellectual and cultural history or foreign relation evolution and dogmas, so together they cover quite a broad spectrum of perspectives. All three cover a period from roughly beginning of the 16th century to somewhere in the 20th century – so the temporal scope is very wide and the courses are appropriately enough very wide and quite coarse in granularity of picture. The reason I found it worthwhile to hear another survey course on modern European history is because this course is dedicated primarily to the 19th century – a hugely important, turbulent and complex period in Western history, and I felt that getting a finer grained perspective on this period is definitely worth the effort. I can understand some of the criticism regarding professor Weiner’s presentation style. The lectures really are lectures – they feel very much like top-down, formal affairs in which the Professor pours down material on the students and they must collect it, and yes, I agree that the style was a bit pompous. The volume of his speech always appeared very high although he was not necessarily talking in a very loud voice… Still, I did not have any problem following him or understanding his lectures, and most importantly, my mind did not tend to wander off during the lecture. This style differs from some of my favorite presenters in the TGC whose courses feel almost conversational such as Professor Bartlett, Professor Allit and professor Taylor although, of course, you are not even there... Having said this, the course was brilliantly structured and argued, and was extremely helpful in creating a deep understanding of the many pivotal processes that were occurring during this period. All of the major themes of European 19th century history era analyzed – from the French revolution, to the Napoleonic era, to the age of nationalism and liberalism and the revolutionary era of the 1850s, the industrial revolution, the age of Bismarck, the new imperialism and the concert of Europe. All of this is covered in a deeply thought out and structured manner that enables one to understand how each of these aspects interacted and evolved in relation to the other aspects and in relation to the narrative that was occurring in the foreground at the same time. So overall, the presentation may have been somewhat annoying, but the level of understanding one can gain from the course, and the absolutely brilliant scholarship of the Professor Weiner made this substantial flaw a mere triviality in my opinion when weighing the pros and cons of this course. Hugely recommended, but it may be worthwhile to have heard some other background courses on this topic in order to maximize understanding of all of the subtle points.
Date published: 2016-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Overview I enjoyed this course and learned a lot.. It was a broad overview of the century that made the 20th century what it was. The professor extended the 19th century into World War I, which he felt the 19th century led to. The sequence of shifting alliances that led to the war were made clear. I learned a lot about Bismarck, less about Napoleon III.
Date published: 2015-10-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from a disappointment... I’ve listened to between 20 and 25 TC courses, and this was the most disappointing. There was a lot of material to cover, and organizing/compartmentalizing all of it—let alone getting the job done in 36 half-hour chunks—must have been quite a challenge. Whether or not it was done well, however, remains very difficult to say, in large measure owing to the shockingly poor delivery of the professor. Imagine something you know by heart, or at least well: the opening to the Declaration of Independence, the Lord’s Prayer, a monologue from a favorite movie or play. Now imagine some of the words smashed together in a breathless race, and others with meaningless and pregnant pauses, interspersed with misplaced stress and emphasis. Throw in irregular syntax and a tendency to repeat. It quickly becomes unintelligible, even to the informed and careful listener. I am frankly surprised that this presenter attracted the attention of the TC in the first place, or made the cut in the second place. I don’t want to sink to ad hominem attacks against poor Prof. Weiner, but it really is his poor speaking skills that leaves this one dead in the water. I see other reviewers have noted this, so I will confine myself to points others have not raised. He doesn’t exactly make jokes, but seems to think odd things are funny. He never, ever uses the words “lesson(s)” or “course”: instead he says “comments,” “series of comments,” “encounters,” and “engagements”—which is weird. He starts off odd-numbered lectures with “Good morning!” (and often says “As we saw yesterday...”) and even-numbered ones with “Good afternoon!” (and often says “As we saw this morning...”)—this is quaint and distracting, and I’m surprised the TC didn’t discourage it. (Granted: a few others have done, this from time, but it seems worse here.) He does not plan his sentences before launching into them, and regularly starts and finishes them the same way: e.g. “As we saw in a previous set of engagements [long pause], Bismarck was hardly a friends to the liberal [long pause], as we saw in a previous set of engagements” or “Throughout the 19th century... nationalism was a force to be reckoned with... in the 19th century.” He talks too much about his own experience as a researcher/student. This has a place (e.g. another TC presenter, Robert Bucholz, does it quite effectively: listeners feel privileged to get an “insider’s view”), but when Weiner does it, it comes across almost like, “Hey! I went to graduate school! I have a degree! I’ve read some stuff and dipped into the archives!” He also makes occasional small mistakes. Probably most of these are simple slips, but a few of them are clearly instances of his being misinformed (e.g. he identifies William Gladstone as a nonconformist rather than an Anglican). Perhaps we should be indulgent, however: I am myself a university professor in History, and I shudder to think of the errors I know I occasionally make when I teach general surveys and drift out of my own fields of expertise. That said, I really do not recommend the course, unless you really, really want to learn the material or really, really need to know the material. Even then, I don’t think Robert Weiner will be the most effective vehicle for learning it. He seems like a nice guy, but these lectures so difficult to get through. And a final hint/suggestion: for TC customers who listen rather than watch, try adjusting your audio features to speed these lectures up a bit. I set mine to 1.2x normal speed. You might even be able to get away with 1.3x or 1.4x. This will minimize the impact of the awkward delivery (but also really make you wonder how slow the awkward pauses must seem if you listen at normal speed).
Date published: 2015-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Gets better as it goes. Early on in this course, I felt the professor assumed too much knowledge of the history he was talking about, especially the French Revolution and Napoleon. He also had an annoying tendency to say things like, "...and a number of other factors.." without listing any. However, as the course went on, it got better and better. The last third or so and especially the final lectures were worth taking the course for. His setting the picture for WWI and all the interesting history around it was really well done, informative, and interesting. His own enthusiasm seemed to pick up in this part of the course like this was was he really liked talking about.
Date published: 2015-08-27
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