Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire

Course No. 899
Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
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Course No. 899
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Course Overview

In 1492, there was no country called Spain and no language called Spanish. The biggest event of the year, in the region that would become Spain, was the surrender of the last Muslim stronghold, Granada. The Edict of Expulsion gave Jews three months to either convert to Christianity or leave the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon.

In other words, there is a different 1492, than the one most of us know, one that is more complete and more complex.

This 12-lecture course uses 1492 as a focal point to follow events that enabled Spain to become a country and then an empire. It examines centuries of developments that led up to that pivotal date in Spanish history, and analyzes the consequences of the events that took place in 1492 for both Spain and the New World.

A Year that Symbolizes Spanish History

Presented by Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz, a foremost authority on Spanish history and an award-winning teacher and author, this course paints a portrait of 1492 as the centerpiece of the transformation of Spanish society by tying together several key themes:

  • The rise of Castile as the strongest of the Spanish realms, and the reforms of Ferdinand and Isabella. Catholic monarchs built a popular and stable monarchy in Castile—through such measures as new taxes, control of the military, and reform of the church—that enabled Spain to emerge as the most powerful nation in Europe.
  • The end of pluralism. For centuries, the Iberian Peninsula had been a multicultural mix of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Beginning with the Christian victory over Muslim forces at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, and continuing with developments such as the conquest of Granada and the Edict of Expulsion, both in 1492, Muslims and Jews were either forced to convert to Christianity or sent into exile.
  • The world of Christopher Columbus. Developments such as the recovery of classical knowledge of geography and astronomy, and new knowledge of maps and the use of the compass and astrolabe, enabled Columbus to set sail confidently across the Ocean Sea (Atlantic). Columbus's discoveries gave Spain a foothold in the Caribbean that it used to test colonial institutions, and to explore and conquer Mexico and Central America.

The Experience of Muslims, Jews, and Native Americans: 1492 from "Below"

Today, we associate 1492 with a sense of wonder and discovery. But a major theme of this course is to look at history not only from "above"—the perspective of a victorious Castilian and Christian society—but from below, from the view of the defeated, the outsiders, those seen as "other." For many people of the time, 1492 inspired only despair and terror.

Professor Ruiz conveys a palpable sense of the experiences of Muslims and Jews as they faced the choice of renouncing their religious beliefs or leaving lands that they had called home for centuries. This discussion touches on topics such as the Muslim sense that their civilization was ultimately doomed after the defeat by Christian forces at Toledo in 1085, and the confusion felt by Conversos—Jewish converts to Christianity—who tried to mix elements of Judaism with their new religion and became prime targets of the Inquisition.

You will see how Castilian attitudes toward others were exported to the New World. Spanish accounts of native peoples were ambivalent. They praised natives' simplicity and seeming closeness to God, but labeled them with the same stereotypes that had been applied to Muslims and Jews, and questioned whether they were truly human.

Throughout, these lectures are an opportunity to understand the events of 1492 as they were perceived by people of the time, and to correct misconceptions that linger today. For example, you will learn why Columbus's voyages were not seen as the greatest of his time, that he and his fellow Europeans did not believe the Earth was flat, and that his first voyage did not produce doubts and fear among those who sailed with him.

This 1492, the "other" 1492, will greatly expand and often revise your understanding of one of history's most crucial dates.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Europe and the New World in 1492
    The historian Walter Benjamin wrote that "every document of civilization is also a document of barbarity." This lecture broadly evaluates 1492 as an era of great creativity and great destruction, and describes the governing institutions that enabled Castile to take the lead role in both processes. x
  • 2
    Reconquest, Pilgrimage, Crusade, Repopulation
    A religious relic in the small town of Compostela drew a cascade of pilgrims across the Pyrenees to northwest Iberia, many of whom eventually settled along the pilgrimage path. As these Europeans moved further south, Muslim kingdoms called up reinforcements from North Africa, sparking the first real conflict between militant Islam and the Christian West. x
  • 3
    The Transformation of Values
    In the 13th century, the idea of private property evolved from a concept of land jurisdiction to the idea of owning physically bounded space. Laws limiting charitable giving weakened the church and buttressed family wealth. The idea of purgatory allowed the rich to negotiate or "bargain" for salvation, creating a new attitude toward the poor. x
  • 4
    An Age of Crisis
    Isabella's ascent to the throne found the monarchy's power at low tide. Nobles had encroached upon royal lands. Tyrannical elites extorted income from the peasantry, and rival clans warred in the streets. Devout and determined, Isabella tamed the nobility, bringing law and order to a grateful people. x
  • 5
    Isabella and Ferdinand—An Age of Reform
    The monarchy's reform of the church and establishment of a vast, university-trained bureaucracy led to a blossoming of culture in the 16th century. A new class of royal administrators loyal to the crown seized control of municipal power, and the cortes was reduced to a rubber-stamp body. A centralized state in Castile with a "monopoly of legalized violence" was created. x
  • 6
    Iberian Culture in the Fifteenth Century
    15th-century Iberian culture was saturated with Italian humanist thought and strengthened by the growth of a lettered nobility. Conventions of grammar, etiquette, and chivalry informed the popular genre of romance novels, and hierarchically arranged festivals became part of the art of ruling. x
  • 7
    The Conquest of Granada—Muslim Life in Iberia
    The rule of the Caliphate of Cordoba was peaceful and tolerant. Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived, worked, and wrote in a "garden protected by the spears of Islam." The Caliphate's 1031 collapse gave Christian armies the upper hand, and foretold the end of convivencia between the faiths. x
  • 8
    The Edict of Expulsion—Jewish Life in Iberia
    Historians today suggest a range of motivations behind the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Some cite militant Christianity and a hatred of Jews dating back to Visigothic times. Others argue that economic elites, jealous of Jewish influence at court and in commerce, simply wished to remove the competition. x
  • 9
    Jews, Conversos, and the Inquisition
    The horrific pogroms of 1391 were followed by unprecedented levels of Jewish conversion to Christianity. Upper and middle-class Conversos blended comfortably into society, while the lower classes remained segregated at the bottom. The Spanish Inquisition, designed to ferret out "secret" Jews, sought to remove the last visible traces of Judaism from Iberia. x
  • 10
    The World of Christopher Columbus
    By 1492, the stated purpose of Columbus's trip was irrelevant. The Portuguese had already passed the Cape of Good Hope, and Vasco da Gama would soon return from his profitable Indian voyage. Columbus, a brilliant sailor, an apocalyptic zealot, and an incompetent administrator, returned from the New World believing he had ushered in a new age. x
  • 11
    The Shock of the New
    The Spanish treatment of the New World's inhabitants was riddled with contradictions, a result of Castile's fundamental failure to comprehend them. The eventual conclusion that they were human beings capable of salvation mitigated the brutality of the conquest. To their credit, the Spanish people were open to mixing and blending with the people of the Americas to build a new society and culture. x
  • 12
    Spain and Its Empire—The Aftermath of 1492
    The legacy of 1492 would be Spain's wrenching entry into world affairs. The ascent of Charles I to the throne of Castile and his election as Holy Roman Emperor committed Spain to a role in the political conflicts of Western Europe. Spain would endure foreign wars, civil unrest, absolute despotism, and economic decline as the cost of empire, but also import its institutions all over the Americas and reap the cultural rewards of a new Golden Age. x

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Your professor

Teofilo F. Ruiz

About Your Professor

Teofilo F. Ruiz, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Teofilo F. Ruiz is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. A student of Joseph R. Strayer, Dr. Ruiz earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University. Prior to taking his post at UCLA, he held teaching positions at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York Graduate Center, the University of Michigan, the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris, and Princeton University-as the...
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Reviews

Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 115.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Other 1492 I have had great courses from Great Courses, so I was shocked to receive and listen to this course. I am sure that the instructor Ruiz is a wonderful teacher, a brilliant man, and a skilled conversationalist. Unfortunately for me, his thought processes are so unstructured as to make any substantive learning impossible. I can't imagine this being a Great Course offering.
Date published: 2014-05-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A history of Castile up to and including 1492 This course is history of the Spanish Iberian peninsula, primarily in the region of Castile, leading up to 1492. The year 1492 saw Castile victorious over Muslim Granada and expelling Jews who would not convert to Christianity. The lectures give a detailed background to these two events and the aftermath of them. Two lectures focus on Columbus and the discovery, and immediate repercussions, of the settlement of the new world. The course gave great detail into a history that I knew very little about. The professor is very knowledgeable and even invites you to contact him if you have questions. He has a thick accent which made it hard to understand certain words. The course was overall very informative, but not spellbinding like my favorites. I bought it because it was on a great sale, not because I was really interested in the topic. If you what to understand how Spain came about you will enjoy this course.
Date published: 2014-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Masterpiece This is the second course I have had the privilege of taking with Professor Ruiz and it is a masterpiece. I undertook this course primarily on the back of completing his brilliant "Terror of History" course. This course traces the momentous events leading to the victory of Isabella and Ferdinand in Iberia in 1492 and for those in the Iberian Peninsula the reclamation of Grenada was far more momentous at the time than Columbus' trip to the Indies. What is particularly powerful about this course is its coverage of the way in which centuries of generally tolerant and peaceful co-existence amongst Jews, Christians and Muslims in Iberia was effectively extinguished by 1492. Lectures 7-9 inclusive, where Professor Ruiz covers this, are just spellbinding and movingly inspirational. Highly recommended
Date published: 2013-09-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Interesting Period of History Prof. Ruiz does a nice job of covering Iberian history during (mostly) the 15th Century. He did a good job of selecting and covering the topics. His course guide book was helpful in following the lectures and providing a bibliography. This was an interesting course for me as Iberian history is generally not covered as deeply as other geographical areas are in a "typical" western civilization course. Therefore, I knew little of the subject matter going in. While a twelve-lecture course is probably insufficient to cover a broad topic in any sort of depth, I thought Prof. Ruiz did a nice job touching on the main topics in 15th Century Iberia. Prof. Ruiz does have a Spanish accent. I felt that he was relatively easy to understand. However, I could see how it might be difficult for some students to follow him. Overall, a good effort. I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in learning more about Iberian history in the 15th century.
Date published: 2013-04-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Knowledgeable but Irriating Prof Ruiz clearly knows his subject and he loves to teach, however, between his heavy accent and constant bouncing from side-to-side, I had difficulty concentrating on the subject. I must listen to the program a couple more time in an attempt to get past the accent.
Date published: 2013-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from extremely interesting and important history This course is an excellent survey of life in what is now Spain, mainly focused on the years from about 1200 to the major changes of 1492. Prof. Ruiz adeptly and movingly covers daily life among Christians, Jews, and Muslims and explains the process by which modern Spain was formed. He covers the reconquest of territory by Christians, the surrender of Cordoba, the increasing persecution of Jews from the 1380s after centuries of successful integration, and the very interesting politics behind the ascendance of Isabella and Ferdinand to the thrones of Castille and Aragon. The course ends with the voyages of Columbus -- one of the lesser events of 1492 per se, since he didn't return until 1493 -- and the Spanish encounter with the Americas. The final lecture on Charles V and Spain as a key part of the Holy Roman Empire was alone worth the price of the course. Several reviews mention the havy accent of Prof. Ruiz. He's the first non-native English (US, British, Aussie, or Irish) speaker of the 80 or so TC course I've completed so far. But he is a very engaging and passionate speaker who knows and loves his material. I got used to his accent halfway through the first lecture and never found it a hindrance to enjoying this excellent course.
Date published: 2013-02-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Comprehensive, Informative and Entertaining As a Romance Language major in college, I'd studied much of the literature of Iberia during this period, but I wanted to know more about the cultural events and life of this time. This course provided that. I am very glad I ordered it and I enjoyed it very much. Often, I listened to two or three sessions in a row because I was so interested in what Dr. Ruiz was discussing. His interest in, enthusiasm for and knowledge of his material was very obvious. I would have loved to have attended his lectures as an undergraduate. And I did not find his accent distracting or difficult to understand at all. I particularly enjoyed when he read from works of Spanish literature in Spanish - I found that added another dimension to the material.
Date published: 2013-02-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Marginal lectures It clearly is an interesting and important topic, and I did learn some interesting "alternative" history relating to the date 1492. There was certainly more going on in the world (specifically Iberia) than the "discovery" of the New World. Professor Ruiz is difficult to listen to, but not based on his accent. Large portions of his lectures are not factual with dates, events, places and people. The lecturer often refers to his "writings" and I find too much of his personal bias in the lecture. I would have loved to have heard more about the surrender - defeat of Granada, but it is discussed in very general terms. It seems more like a philosophy lecture (political philosophy) rather than history, and I purchased the lecture to learn history. The professor's accent is difficult to understand, even after listening to the entire lecture twice.
Date published: 2013-01-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting, but..... This course presents very interesting material that was new to me. However, the professor's accent is really thick, and sometimes his English grammatical constructions were not correct, which drove the English teacher in me bananas. He could benefit from having someone edit his scripts and an accent reduction class. I can only listen to one lecture a day, but the material is interesting and worthwhile. I recommend it conditionally.
Date published: 2012-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive Course The subject matter covered in this course is truly impressive because the professor does a masterful job explaining the cultural context of the historical events of this period in Iberia, and how they relate to the rest of Europe and the Americas. Many myths have been perpetrated, especially about Columbus. It's refreshing to hear a scholarly examination of this pivotal period in history. I have always wondered about the Spanish Inquisition, the Muslims and the Jews in the area we know now as Spain. The professor presents a thoughtful analysis of how these people were dealt with by those in power. I highly recommend this course if you are interested in the real happenings of this era. I completed the audio version of the course and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Date published: 2012-12-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Filled in some "blank spots" for me I liked this course much better than the one he did about Medieval Europe. It is clear that Spain is really this Professor's area of interest and expertise. I did enjoy learning about Spanish history as that is an area that I have not found to be well-covered in most courses on European history. This course helped me understand what was going on in Spain as it relates to the rest of Europe during the mid-late 1400's, as well as the lead-up to the voyages of Columbus. Not having studied much about Spanish history, I found the information about the geo-political situation in Spain and the information about Columbus and his preparations for the voyage in 1492 to be quite fascinating. TheProfessor does speak rapidly and does have an accent, but I found that by just listening a bit more carefully this was not a problem.
Date published: 2012-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Essential Information After taking this course, I am surprised by several negative reviews. My wife and I both found this course to be like that good book that is difficult to be put down. Let me first say, that it took us about 10 minutes or so to get used to his Greek accent. (He even mentions his Greek background in the first lecture) But, this very fact alone made us pay closer attention to his presentation, in order to concentrate on his presentation. We did find the DVD valuable, since it helps one to see the professor as he speaks, and the visual maps are quite good. Here are some general observations.: 1) This is much more than merely another course about Christopher Columbus (although Dr. Ruiz covers that event in great detail.) In the course of the 12 lectures, he shows how events, both before, and after 1492, help to make that year a watershed epoch in world history. 2) He is very clear to inform us that the word, "Spain" is somewhat of a misnomer. He explains how many fragmented geographical areas play a role in the unfolding of history on the Iberian Pennisula. 3) Prior to the uniting in marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand, Professor Ruiz presents the many trouble spots that existed on the Iberian Pennisula. When they ascended into power, things were quite turbulent. This helps one to understand the reforms that they made, and to place them into the proper historical perspective. 4) Professor Ruiz goes on to discuss the culture and life in the 1400's. This helps one to understand the background, as it provided the setting for the Conquest of Granada, The Edict of Expulsion of the Jews, and the Inquistion. 5) Towards the end of the course, he discusses the work of Columbus, and the aftermath of his discovery. I might add, that this is course is excellent material to review before taking Dr. Eakin's course on "Conquest of the Americas." The two courses both complement, and supplement each other quite well. After completing "1492" I found that I wanted to watch Dr. Eakin's course once again. (Please see my review for that course) It is interesting to hear the presentations from two different perspectives from authoratative historians. In summary, if one is looking for a real "meat and potatos" course on this era of history, this is sure to satisfy.
Date published: 2012-12-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Don't Buy If this course hadn't been only $9.99, I wouldn't have purchased it. The reviews were generally negative, but I thought that the professor's thick Spanish accent may have been an issue for a number of listeners. However, since I have a degree in Spanish, I thought it would actually be fun to hear the lectures. No! I have been trying to finish this course for weeks now, and find it very difficult to focus on and learn from -- even when driving! I loved the first course I bought from the Great Courses (Stress and Your Body) , but this one is a challenge. If it wouldn't cost me almost as much to send it back for a refund, I would!
Date published: 2012-11-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Difficult, but I stuck with it This course was enlightening in an area of history most of us probably know little about: history of the Iberian peninsula. I almost gave up on this course within the first few lectures. Some of my frustrations were: *The content is largely conceptual, rather than event- or specific idea-based, especially early on. This made it hard to get in to. *The lecture style is a little hard to pay attention to. He walks around the set continuously, which was distracting up until lecture 4. The lecture style is quite dry, say, without much humor or expressiveness. *The prof comes across as quite negative and judgmental about the times, describing the history in the paradigm of "the history of violence." I was hoping for something a little more upbeat that would give me a good sense of the positive aspects of the age. *That said, once I got past my early frustrations, the lectures held my attention much more closely. I was able to learn good things from the course. However, I still don't feel like I deeply understand this era, which is a disappointment.
Date published: 2012-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must for anyone interested in European history Like other reviewers I stumbled on this course by accident and a most happy accident it was. Professor Ruiz received a 2011 National Humanities Medal from President Obama and it is easy to see why based on this excellent series of lectures. He manages to provide a fascinating introduction to a complex subject and he left me with a desire to learn a lot more about the subjects he talked about. I particularly liked the fact that he dealt with many controversial issues without showing too much bias. Just one word of caution. Allow a few minutes to get used to the Professors beautiful Spanish accented English. It is worth the effort.
Date published: 2012-10-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from And now for something completely different.... I just finished listening to this entire course in the car, taking a few weeks to do so. Technical reasons exist for the length of time, but in general if I could listen to one lecture, I was able to finish it, which I think can be important because these lectures were well-constructed, with a helpful flow within them and between them. This led to my high marks for Content and Presentation. Prof. Ruiz's thick accent has been mentioned by others, and I agree that it took a few lectures to get past it. In fact, I was never able to always get what he said every time--just like I wrote a clumsy sentence there, he frequently pronounced words that were clear only when their context made them so, or I went back to hear them again. Without that small problem, I could have graded this course 5 stars all the way. His obvious enthusiasm for his work compensated well for pronunciation difficulties. I found the content to be very interesting. I'm not well educated in history, so I'm using these courses to fill in my gaps of knowledge. This course fills a lot of gaps. Because there is so much territory to cover, the lectures move right along in a businesslike fashion, which I liked, but there are few if any little inside jokes that some professors like to include. (The closest thing to that might be Ruiz's apology for having to deal with so many Kings named "Henry" at one point.) There were instead several interesting "vignettes" about events or people; anecdotes that illuminated the subjects being discussed. The length of the course is just right. A lot of information is packed into it, but it is divided up into understandable individual lectures. The only negative that I noticed (and I may have simply imagined it) was a tendency on the Part of Prof. Ruiz to perhaps overcompensate for the historical mistreatment of some Jews and some Muslims at the hands of Christians, by downplaying or glossing over mistreatment of Christians by Muslims in the days when Muslims were in control. There seemed to be a hint of "it's all the Christians' fault" in some of the later lectures. He did not hesitate to go into detail about the Spanish Inquisition, although as he told that story it didn't seem as horrific as we have been taught. I surmise his purpose was to direct our attention to bigger swaths of history rather than to atrocities of various degrees perpetrated against individuals. And it seemed to be more "effect" than "cause" at the time. As to what is different about this review: I own the video version--I simply had to listen to it while driving--so am able to compare the video and audio versions. Before sitting down to write this review, I skimmed through the first two video lectures, and my immediate conclusion was that I should have watched them all at home rather than listen in the car. The visuals include maps that greatly help make more sense out of those lectures. After skimming the remainder of the lectures, however, there were only a few more maps, or rather one or two maps of Europe that were repeated often. No maps of Hispaniola or Columbus's voyages. So maybe my immediate reaction was hasty. Still, my recommendation is to buy the video version of history lectures if affordable and useful to you (that is, you can actually see the visuals and are not listening while you drive). I previously watched the "Brief History of the World" and the maps in that course seemed to be essential. Maps are a worthwhile addition not available on audio, but I wonder why TLC doesn't print more of them in the Course Guidebooks. It seems like that would be an easy improvement--there is a very good map in this one, but only the one map of the 1491 Iberian Peninsula.
Date published: 2012-09-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A mixed bag I learned a lot about Spain at the time of 1492. For example we tend to think of one country not several kingdoms that were united by conquest or by marriage. The negatives were the professors accent and his inability to separate facts from his personal opinions. I only recommend this with reservations listed above. If you are aggravated by an accent that causes you to listen more carefully and are offended by his personal pontifications, do not buy this.
Date published: 2012-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A delightful course, a wonderful lecturer This course is a real eye opener. It will not only change what you know, but the lectures are a delight to listen. Prof Ruiz gives added meaning and so many more layers of understanding to that important era, which culminated in 1492. You will live the tragedy of the Jewish and Muslim populations, expelled from a country in which they shared centuries of a golden age. The three populations that coexisted for so long - Christians, Muslims and Jews - are examined thoroughly, with some slight bias towards the vanquished. Each of the lectures will leave you deeply reflecting: why did this happen and what are the lessons to be learnt? Was 1942 a re-run of 1492 only because we never took the time to reflect on the mistakes done in 1492, people of different faiths not knowing how to live together in a bountiful land? What about 9/11, could its roots be traced back to the religious fundamentalism that drove both Christians and Muslims to be so ruthless to each other? Although this is a great course, I would make some changes: I was missing a more detailed and better arranged biographies of the main protagonists of that era - the Spanish monarchs, and the Jewish and Muslim leaders who interacted and led their people during that century. I was also missing a brief overview of what was happening in the other main kingdoms of that time, the Ottoman Empire, France and England. Having said that, the subject matter itself is covered thoroughly and expertly, the lectures are very well organized, there is a natural and logical flow from each lecture to the next. Overall it is obvious that the Professor is an expert and that he truly enjoys sharing his knowledge. For the little money the course costs you could not ask for anymore. BTW it does take a while to get used to the the Professor's Spanish accent, but after a while you will find it actually charming, it gives that special aroma to a course about a very important time in Spain's history.
Date published: 2012-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superior Course Brilliant scholarship! Professor Ruiz is truly an acknowledged master of the subject matter and his presentation is brilliant, masterful, cogent, and well-presented. A truly edifying experience about a time and place in world history that most Americans know little. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2012-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Glad I happened on it I happened on this set during a TTC sale and thought it might fill in some gaps in my understanding of early America. At first, I was confused and unhappy. I think the professor saying his name was Greek made me wonder if he was Greek and how well he would know his subject or our language. And the course title of "The Other 1492" made me wonder why the first 4-5 lectures were nowhere near 1492. So it took me some time to transition from "this is what I thought I was getting" to "oh, I see, this is what I need to know first." (This is one of those seriess where I might save the 1st lecture until last, when I've understood the importance of the topics.) Once I began to agree with the lecturer that his topics are foundational to understanding world events in 1492, I recognized I was filling in a lot of gaps in my historical understanding. I realize that lumping Europe together wasn't as interesting as examining Spain on its own terms. The Reformation was different in Spain, the economy was different, the politics were different. The geographical boundaries of today were just barely starting to emerge in 1492. The 12 lectures were more than I needed for our homeschool's World History course, but they filled in some interesting gaps in my own knowledge as teacher. There are of course some sensitive topics in this era, from the inquisition to Columbus. I did expect a modern bias against those awful Europeans, and the associated modern romanticism of non-European cultures, and I saw a bit of that here and there. However, Prof. Ruiz wasn't one-dimensional and he did examine European culture and reasoning, while at the same time giving some background behind the participation of local peoples in some of the tragic events. I was satisfied that there was some depth to the study of the most infamous events of 1492. The professor is enthusiastic and thoroughly knowledgeable about his topic. He adds touches of poetry here and there. He even taught me a new word (transhumance). I'm very glad to have happened upon this little gem.
Date published: 2012-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! In this series of lectures, Professor Ruiz succeeds in demonstrating how 1492 was a pivotal year in Iberian history and how Christopher Columbus’s travels played a minor role in that respect from the contemporary point of view. Despite a marked Spanish accent, Professor Ruiz expresses himself clearly and his enthusiasm more than makes up for his grammatical shortcomings. He often quotes research work, showing that knowledge of history is not static and constantly evolves. He certainly wishes to set up a dialogue with listeners as he provides his postal and his email addresses, both in the first and last lectures _ a first with respect to the fifty-so Teach12 series I have purchased. The notions presented are often original and may even seem shocking to some. But doesn’t learning precisely derive from novelty?
Date published: 2012-04-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from BENEFICIAL WITH A STRONG SLANT The lectures by Professor Ruiz reveal good insights into the socio-economic and political life of the Iberian Peninsula during the 15th century; however, there is a strong slant which many listeners may consider anti-western. I am accustom to such bias due to living in Latin American for 8 years during my youth. Although his perspective is rather contrary to my view, it is the norm at many academic institutions and does not bother me. From the lectures, I obtained greater understanding of the era coupled with further reasoning and balance for my elastic viewpoint.
Date published: 2012-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent History There are at least two ways to think of a history. The first sense involves a narrative of dates and places and events – the facts of what happened, where it happened and when it happened. The second sense presents an explanation of the events that led to the history, why it happened, and what it means. Professor Ruiz gives us some of this first sense of history with people, places, and times, but delves into much more detail with the second sense as to why it all happened and what it meant. This second sense of history often involves adopting a specific point of view. Here Professor Ruiz provides us with detailed perspectives of the defeated (the Jews, the Muslims, the Conversos, the indigenous people of the New World, and even the Africans that served as New World slaves), and not just the victors (the Christian Castilians). I understand that some reviewers have not cared for this viewpoint, but they need not take it as the complete story. It is, however, a perspective that requires our attention and Professor Ruiz is clear from the beginning that he is going to tell the story from all angles. Professor Ruiz is clearly well in command of his subject and has charted the course of these 12 lectures tightly. Other than the usual grade school or junior high level insights into Christopher Columbus and his sponsorship by Ferdinand and Isabella I had little knowledge of the history of the Iberian peninsula in the years surrounding 1492 prior to listening to the sessions with Professor Ruiz. I found this 12 lecture course quite fascinating. Professor Ruiz uses the first nine lectures to take us through the major themes of the histories of the various regions of Spain (Castile, The Crown of Aragon, and Granada, in particular) in a detailed fashion. Columbus, his voyages, the conquest of the Americas, and their repercussions are the themes of lectures 10 and 11. The aftermath and consequences of the actions taken by the Catholic monarchs and Spain’s subsequent history occupy lecture 12. This course is very well done by an acknowledged expert. I am now eager to move on to the longer Teaching Company course on the Conquest of the Americas for a more detailed account of the aftermath of the voyages of Columbus.
Date published: 2012-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening and thought provoking I have acquired many courses in my effort to learn more about our history and the ancient worlds that came before us and this course was one of the best ever. Candid and eye opening. We can easily get entrenched in old ideas, even as we all study to seek the truth and this course provides a very fresh and thoughtful perspective that enlightens and entertains. I am now further energized to learn more and have ordered another of professor Ruiz's courses. You'll not reget it.
Date published: 2012-02-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Spanish history with a post-modern slant For me, the best part of this course was the background it provided for what we Americans think of as THE event of 1492 - the first voyage of Columbus. American students don't learn much more about Spain than Ferdinand and Isabella, Conquistadors, and the Armada, so Prof. Ruiz fills in valuable information about an important era in Spanish history. I knew we were in for some leftist revisionism when his first lecture included quotes from Walter Benjamin and Michel Foucault. Prof. Ruiz belongs to the university crowd that loves to point out the "dark side" of Christianity and Western Civilization. Obviously, there are two sides to every story, but in Ruiz's opinion, the rise of "Christian" civilization in Spain and eventually the New World was a tragedy of major proportions. There is a difference of opinion in reviews of this course about the prof's accent. Personally, I found it engaging, except for his annoying habit of putting an "uh" sound before every noun beginning with S: "uh-Spain," "uh-state," "uh-structure," etc. It's one thing to have an accent; it's another altogether to use annoying verbal tics that someone of his academic prowess could certainly avoid, and which cause misunderstanding.
Date published: 2011-12-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst Course Ever I've listened to dozens of TTC courses. Some have been outstanding, some less so. Some professors have been insightful and interesting, some less so. But I have NEVER had my senses assaulted by the anti-Western diatribes that constitute Prof. Ruiz's "lectures." These polemics are not at all appropriate for a TTC customer who just wants to learn the basics of the topic at hand. I almost always listen to lectures with my daughter in the car, but I had to turn off the ranting and raving of a man who views history as a "single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage" (Prof. Ruiz quoting Walter Benjamin). I'm sure there was much to be learned somewhere in there, but first he had to keep my interest, and he utterly failed to do so. This is the first time I've ever given a course 1 star, and I even returned a course once. It simply was an attack rather than the enjoyable experience I've come to expect from TTC.
Date published: 2011-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED IT I truly enjoyed this course. The course offered perspectives and more detailed information of a period and monarchy that is often just dusted over in broader offerings. I especially appreciated the perspective regarding Columbus. Prof. Ruiz does "take the wind out of the Columbus sail" and dispels a few inaccurate assumptions that most of us still believe from gradeschool. For me, Prof. Ruiz achieved his goals and I enjoyed the ride. Thank you Teaching Company as well. Because of this course, I have purchased, "Conquest of the Americas".
Date published: 2011-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greatest of the Great Courses! Of course I haven't seen them all. My only criticism is that the course was far too short.
Date published: 2011-11-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from INTERESTING, THOROUGH, This review refers to the DVD's. I acquired this brief set of lectures because I wished to learn something about the events surrounding the signature fact, to Americans, of Columbus sailing to these shores. Dr Ruiz doesn't fail to furnish much background as well as helpful maps to fix in one's mind how events meshed together. As it turns out, the decision of Isabella and Ferdinand to partially fund the first voyage of Columbus wasn't a major one at the time. By the time you reach that lecture, #10, Dr Ruiz has thoroughly covered the ascent of Isabella and Ferdinand to their thrones and the importance of their union to stability on the Iberian peninsula. You also learn something about their characters and personalities. He not only covers the political aspects of the situation, but delves into the history of the country which had not at that time been assigned the name Spain. He provides insight into the culture, literature, religious affairs, economic issues, and social organization. HIs knowledge of his subject is awesome. I found his description of the settling in the Americas most informative. However, it is this command of the overall material that appeared somewhat unsettling to me. He skips around on times and subjects when he is developing a theme that was somewhat challenging to follow. It is recognized that he is such a first class scholar that it is probably difficult for him to remain on point all the time. He has so much to convey it just spills out. This is not a criticism of this series, it's just something to be aware of if one is entertaining the purchase of these lectures.
Date published: 2011-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb Presentation! Prof. Ruiz is a brilliant lecturer. And the course content was thoughtfully put together and presented in depth. There was much of this that I did not know and I have read a lot of history. I highly recommend this course and any others by Prof. Ruiz.
Date published: 2011-10-16
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