Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations

Course No. 3940
Professor Andrew C. Fix, Ph.D.
Lafayette College
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Course Overview

In 1347, a merchant ship traveling from Crimea in central Asia docked at Messina in Sicily with a crew of desperately sick sailors. As they were taken ashore, rats also left the vessel, carrying with them fleas infected with the bacterium for bubonic plague. The Black Death had arrived in Europe.

The plague in its several forms would eventually kill up to half the population of Europe, initiating a catastrophic economic depression, peasant revolts, and fierce power struggles among the nobility.

Yet from this near total disaster, a new spirit arose. The exhaustion of medieval society inspired intellectuals in northern Italy to make a new start—to create a new society through a search for revival and rebirth that would come to be called the Renaissance. And this radical break with the past was just the beginning.

In this course, you will explore the political, social, cultural, and economic revolutions that transformed Europe between the arrival of the Black Death in the 14th century and the onset of the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century.

An Award-Winning Teacher Probes the Ideas Behind Events

Your guide in these 48 lectures is Professor Andrew C. Fix, an award-winning teacher and scholar who specializes in the history of ideas in early modern Europe.

Dr. Fix does much more than recount the events of this intriguing era; he consistently puts things into a wider context, discussing the causes, implications, and ultimate effects of the unfolding drama that is taking place on the European stage. For example:

The Renaissance: Why was the Renaissance born in northern Italy in the late 14th century and not, say, in France in the 15th century, or Britain in the 16th century? Professor Fix examines the social and political factors that explain the time and place of this extraordinary explosion of creative energy.

The Protestant Reformation: One of the key trends that prepared the way for the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century was the growth of popular piety. Unsanctioned by the church, this movement had its roots in the preoccupation of the medieval papacy with power politics, which hindered clergy from focusing on the spiritual needs of the people. Martin Luther himself was affected by this need, and his own solution showed the way for millions of others.

The Thirty Years War: Fought from 1618 to 1648, this disastrous conflict had complex causes and far-reaching consequences. It not only pitted Catholics against Protestants, it was a civil war between the emperor and German nobles, and also an international struggle to appropriate German lands. Germany would not recover as a nation until the arrival of Otto von Bismarck, 200 years later.

The Dutch Miracle: Why was the Dutch Republic the most successful commercial nation in 17th-century Europe? "It's almost a miracle how this little country turns out to be such an economic powerhouse," observes Professor Fix, who proposes an explanation based on a clever Dutch innovation in ship design.

What You Will Learn

This course covers a remarkable breadth of subjects relating to European history from 1348 to 1715. While religion, politics, wars, and economics dominate Professor Fix's presentation, you will also learn about art, exploration, science, and technology.

The course is divided into four parts of 12 lectures each:

Part I (Lectures 1–12): Professor Fix begins with the growing series of crises in the 14th century that culminated in the Black Death, which set the stage for the profound changes in society that followed. He then makes an in-depth study of the origins and nature of the Italian Renaissance, focusing on its roots in the Humanist movement, the key role played by the city of Florence, and the remarkable artistic output of the time. Also examined is Europe's overseas expansion during the Age of Discovery, with special reference to the economic and political changes these developments brought to Europe.

Part II (Lectures 13–24): Professor Fix highlights the problems within the Catholic Church and proceeds to an analysis of Martin Luther and the early Reformation, which started as a grassroots movement of ordinary people but was transformed by events into a highly politicized cause dominated by German princes. Next, Professor Fix covers the social, political, and economic contexts of the German Reformation, examining the political structure of the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg conflicts with France and the Ottoman Empire, the Knight's Revolt of 1523, and the Peasant Revolt of 1525. Other branches of the Reformation are also examined, including the Swiss Reformation of Zwingli and Calvin, and the Radical Reformation, whose most notorious event was the creation of Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster.

Part III (Lectures 25–36): Completing his survey of Reformation movements, Professor Fix discusses the English Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation. He then surveys the disastrous series of religious wars that struck Germany, France, and The Netherlands in the years 1546–1648. Beginning in Germany with the Schmalkaldic War, these conflicts ripped apart the continent. In France, noble families fought for control of the throne and the dominance of their religion; in The Netherlands, the Calvinist Dutch struggled for independence from Catholic Spain; and the terrible Thirty Years War left Germany devastated. This part of the course ends with a look at the problems in the European economy at the start of the 17th century.

Part IV (Lectures 37–48): Professor Fix begins his study of the 17th-century era of state building with the rise of royal absolutism in France, symbolized by Louis XIV's dictum, "I am the state." The German principalities took a slightly different approach to royal absolutism, while in Spain absolutism was attempted without success, signaling Spain's decline as a leading power. The Dutch revolt against Spanish rule resulted in the first republic in any major nation in Europe, and in England, a protracted conflict between the House of Commons and the king successively led to civil war, regicide, dictatorship, restoration, and finally a constitutional monarchy. The course comes to a close with a look at the epic intellectual change brought by the Scientific Revolution and the early Enlightenment, which ushered in the 18th century.

An Eventful Course: History in Context

Throughout this very eventful course, Professor Fix puts history into a context that makes it more immediate and understandable. For instance, the European discovery of the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries is such a familiar story that it's difficult to appreciate it from the point of view of people living at that time.

"But imagine," says Dr. Fix, "the excitement if, all of a sudden, we discovered another Earth, right next to ours, that hadn't been explored at all." The impact on us would be analogous to that felt by Europeans who awoke to the existence of two previously unknown continents with all their potential riches.

When you listen to these lectures, you'll understand why Professor Fix has been lauded by his students as one of the most influential teachers of their college careers. He is a friendly and knowledgeable guide through a crucial stage of history—a time that is vastly different from our own but also recognizably the same, in which we see ourselves in what historian Barbara Tuchman called "a distant mirror," giving us a glimpse of our own civilization in its nascent, budding phase.

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48 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Crisis of the 14th Century
    Professor Fix opens the course with a survey of the disasters that shaped Europe in the 14th century. They climaxed with the arrival of the bubonic plague, which killed up to one half of the European population. x
  • 2
    The Hundred Years War and the Church in Crisis
    Among the calamities affecting church and state in the 14th century were the Hundred Years War (1337–1453) between England France, the Babylonian Captivity (1305–1378), and Great Schism (1378–1415), which sowed turmoil in the Catholic Church and the papacy. x
  • 3
    The Origins of the Italian Renaissance
    What was the Renaissance, and why did it begin in Italy in the late 14th century? We investigate these questions and discuss European reactions to the crises of the 14th century, exploring in particular the views of the first x
  • 4
    The Birth of Civic Humanism
    Civic humanism was introduced in Florence as an educational reform to produce enlightened citizens and leaders. This approach stressed the study of classical civilization as a model for a strong Florentine state. x
  • 5
    Renaissance Florence
    This lecture examines the multifaceted structure of the woolen cloth industry, which dominated the economy of Florence during the Renaissance and provided the organizational framework for all economic, political, and social activity in the city. x
  • 6
    Humanist Thought
    We take a closer look at humanist modes of thought, focusing on Francesco Petrarch, whose study of the evolving Latin language led him to a more dynamic view of history, in contrast with the static historical world-view of the Middle Ages. x
  • 7
    Florentine Politics and Society
    The political structure of Florence decentralized power into many hands to prevent a single family from gaining total power. We look at Florentine politics and the political environment that fostered the Renaissance. x
  • 8
    The History of Florence
    Florentine history is marked by turbulent politics and frequent social unrest. This lecture charts the rise to power of the great patrician families of Florence, their contributions to the Renaissance, and the many changes in government brought by the fall of the Medici family. x
  • 9
    The Italian State System
    We survey the other major political powers of Italy during the Renaissance, focusing on the two north Italian rivals of Florence, Milan and Venice, with a briefer examination of the southern powers of the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples. x
  • 10
    The Age of Discovery
    This lecture investigates the Age of Discovery, the period of overseas expansion that began at the height of the Renaissance. Economic motives were clearly in evidence as first Portuguese and then Spanish expeditions set forth. x
  • 11
    Inflation and New Monarchy
    The arrival of New World treasure in Europe coincided with the beginnings of population growth, stimulating a period of economic expansion. At the same time, European governments began to reconstruct themselves on a new political model. x
  • 12
    Renaissance Art
    The Renaissance was one of the greatest periods in art history. Professor Fix offers an interpretation of the evolution of the Renaissance style and shows how new patronage patterns explain the changing styles in art. x
  • 13
    The Church on the Eve of the Reformation
    The political preoccupations of the church during the 14th century cost it the spiritual leadership of the people, who began quietly to take religion into their own hands, paving the way for the Reformation. x
  • 14
    The Church on the Eve continued
    Continuing our study of events within the church that led to the Reformation, we focus on the corruption at all levels of the clergy and the resentment in Germany about papal control over the German church. x
  • 15
    Northern Humanism
    Humanists presented the first plans for church reform even before the Reformation arrived. Humanists in the northern countries of Germany, France, The Netherlands, and England took these reform ideas most to heart. x
  • 16
    Martin Luther
    More than most epochal events in history, the Reformation in its early stages was the personal product of one extraordinary individual: Martin Luther. We examine his ideas and personality, as well as his youth and family background. x
  • 17
    The Reformation Begins
    This lecture covers the beginnings of Luther's conflict with the pope over indulgences, the acceleration of the dispute as the question of papal infallibility enters the debate, and the great pressure the church put on Luther to conform. x
  • 18
    The Progress of the Reformation in Germany
    Excommunicated by the church for his writings, Luther was granted a hearing at the Diet of Worms, which turned into a dramatic confrontation. Afterwards he disappeared—spirited away by a sympathetic German prince. As his ideas caught on, religious war loomed. x
  • 19
    German Politics and Society
    We look at the establishment of the Lutheran Church in Germany and at the economic and social conditions that favored the spread of the Reformation. We also study the Knight's Revolt of 1523 and the Peasant Revolt of 1525. x
  • 20
    Imperial Politics and International War
    After reviewing the history of the Holy Roman Empire, we focus on its emperor at the start of the Reformation: Charles V. Warfare on many fronts distracted him from the religious crisis and allowed the Lutheran movement to grow. x
  • 21
    The Reformation Beyond Germany—Zwingli
    As Luther's Reformation began to spread in Germany, a parallel but largely separate Reformation flared up in Switzerland, led by Humanist priest Ulrich Zwingli. We study the cause for which Zwingli fought and died. x
  • 22
    The Radical Reformation
    This lecture examines Anabaptism, one of three radical branches of the Reformation that took Protestant ideas to extremes. The Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster was a disastrous attempt to found a religiously pure Protestant community. x
  • 23
    The Radical Reformation continued
    We survey the other main branches of the Radical Reformation, the Radical Spiritualists and Evangelical Rationalists. The radicals raised important questions, such as: How is one qualified to be a Christian? x
  • 24
    Calvin and Calvinism
    In this lecture we explore the continuation of the Swiss Reformation under John Calvin. Calvin created a dynamic new branch of Protestantism that spread to France, The Netherlands, Scotland, Germany, and elsewhere. x
  • 25
    The English Reformation
    Protestantism developed differently in England than on the continent. From the start, the movement was tied to crown politics and the efforts of Henry VIII to obtain a male heir to the throne. x
  • 26
    The Birth of Anglicanism
    We look at the pressure on the newly established Anglican Church in England to become more Protestant, and we see the final establishment of Anglicanism under Elizabeth I after a brief return to Catholicism under Queen Mary. x
  • 27
    The Catholic Counter-Reformation
    Challenged by the Protestant movement, the Catholic Church began a process of internal reform coupled with a militant counterattack. This Counter-Reformation infused the old church with new vigor and dynamism. x
  • 28
    Loyola and the Society of Jesus
    An important weapon of the Counter-Reformation was the Society of Jesus, established by Ignatius Loyola. It sought to reform the church from within, fight the Protestants, and restore the masses to the church. x
  • 29
    Religious Politics and Religious War
    A devastating series of religious wars struck Germany, France, and The Netherlands from 1546 to 1648. We look at the beginnings of this disastrous time, which started with the Schmalkaldic War of 1546–1555. x
  • 30
    Religious War in France 1562–98
    This lecture examines the French wars of religion at the end of the 16th century, which climaxed with the intervention of the Spanish Armada in 1588, sent by Phillip II of Spain to defeat Protestants in The Netherlands, England, and France. x
  • 31
    The Dutch Revolt
    In the late 16th century Phillip II of Spain was determined to wipe out Protestantism in The Netherlands, where he ruled. His brutal actions set off a nationwide revolt that eventually led to independence. x
  • 32
    The Course of the Revolt
    This lecture traces the Dutch Revolt from its beginnings with the Sea Beggars through the Spanish invasion of the north to the truce of 1609, which led to the establishment of the Dutch Republic. x
  • 33
    The Thirty Years War
    The Thirty Years War, 1618–1648, was the last and most destructive of the religious wars. It pitted German Catholics against Protestants, German princes against their emperor, and it drew the intervention of other nations seeking to seize German lands. x
  • 34
    Climax of the War
    We examine the final phases of the Thirty Years War: the Dutch phase, which resulted in a terrible new form of warfare; the Swedish phase, when the Protestants nearly won; and the French phase, which led to stalemate and eventual peace. x
  • 35
    The 17th Century—Crisis and Transition
    In the final segment of the course, we survey the 17th century, a period of crisis and transition when many of the traditional institutions and ideas of European life were in disarray. x
  • 36
    Economic Change in the 17th Century
    At the start of the 17th century medieval subsistence farming practices dominated the European agricultural economy. By the end of the century new discoveries had made agriculture more productive, freeing up resources for the growth of industry. x
  • 37
    The Rise of Absolutism in France
    The wars of religion led to a new movement to keep religion out of politics and pursue only the interests of the state. In France the result was the growth of royal absolutism, in which the king was the sole source of power and authority. x
  • 38
    Louis XIV
    Despite a noble rebellion known as the Fronde, French absolutism reached its zenith under Louis XIV. We focus on Louis' domestic policies, the construction of the palace of Versailles, and the many costly wars fought under his leadership. x
  • 39
    Absolutism in Germany
    The German states took a different path to royal absolutism. We look at two cases: the military absolutism created by the Hohenzollern dynasty in Brandenburg-Prussia and the absolute regime constructed by the Habsburgs in Austria. x
  • 40
    The Spanish Monarchy
    The kings of Spain tried to strengthen royal power during the 16th and 17th centuries, but with multiple factors working against them, absolutism could not be achieved. We explore these factors and Spain's decline to a second-rate power. x
  • 41
    The Dutch Republic
    In its revolt from Spain, The Netherlands rejected not only absolutism but monarchy as well, becoming the first major European state to be governed as a republic. The ensuing commercial growth of the Dutch Republic gave it the wealthiest economy in the world. x
  • 42
    Constitutional Monarchy in England
    Another alternative to absolutism is the constitutional monarchy that developed in England. We study the beginnings of this struggle, which saw Kings James I and Charles I in protracted conflict with Parliament. x
  • 43
    The English Civil War
    This lecture examines the final breakdown of relations between Charles I and Parliament, leading to the outbreak of the English Civil War. We conclude with the trial and execution of the king and the beginning of Cromwell's rule. x
  • 44
    Cromwell and the Glorious Revolution
    We cover Cromwell's dictatorship and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II after Cromwell's death. The mature form of the English constitutional monarchy was established after the bloodless Glorious Revolution, which deposed Charles II's successor, James II. x
  • 45
    The Scientific Revolution—The Old Science
    Preparing the way for our study of the Scientific Revolution, we focus on the Aristotelian system inherited from antiquity and its role in defining the medieval world-view. x
  • 46
    Preparing for Change
    For Aristotle's science finally to be overturned, a number of important preparatory steps had to be taken in the 16th and 17th centuries. We look at these developments in the work of Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, and others. x
  • 47
    The Revolution Under Way
    This lecture traces the birth of an entirely new scientific system that met setbacks and resistance before the great breakthroughs of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. We also examine the powerful influence of the new science on the culture at large. x
  • 48
    The Early Enlightenment 1680–1715
    In his final lecture, Professor Fix traces the beginnings of the European Enlightenment between the years 1680 and 1715. Sparked by the Scientific Revolution, this intellectual movement altered the world-views of educated people during the 18th century. x

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Your professor

Andrew C. Fix

About Your Professor

Andrew C. Fix, Ph.D.
Lafayette College
Dr. Andrew C. Fix is the Charles A. Dana Professor of History at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he has been teaching for more than 15 years. He earned his B.A. in History and Philosophy from Wake Forest University and went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Indiana University at Bloomington. Prior to teaching at Lafayette College, Professor Fix held a Fulbright Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson...
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Reviews

Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 104.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very detailed, but bland presentation Buy this course if you want an indepth knowledge of the subject matter. Do not buy this course if you want to be entertained. I was surprised that the Professor still had a pulse after the first few lectures. However the material presented was great (mostly, except way too much time devoted to the city of Florence) and I learned a lot. It was a very indepth presentation of the topics.
Date published: 2012-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learned a lot I really enjoyed Prof. Fix's talks and learned a lot from him. I was surprised to read that some reviewers found his voice boring. I actually liked his monotonous delivery, precisely because I found him easy and relaxing to listen to. He also did a good job at selecting the information that would be most valuable to a student. The only mistake I can comment on (since I'm not a historian) is that, when he talks about the scientific revolution, he confuses "hypothesis" with "theory" and uses the former when he should have used the latter, and vice-versa. ( The hypothesis is formulated before the theory; the theory is the "final product".)
Date published: 2012-06-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Shaky science The professor seems to be on shaky ground when he deals with the scientific revolution. In one egregious example, the professor states that Leeuwenhoek was born in the late 16th C and that Galileo used his invention of the microscope to study insects. In reality, Leeuwenhoek was born in the 17th C (1632)—Galileo died when Leeuwenhoek was 10 years old.
Date published: 2012-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good Series I enjoyed Professor Fix's lectures immensely, so much so that I finished the 24 CDs in 24 days of work commutes. His knowledge, his enthusiasm, and his mild Southern accent make it an easy yet compelling listen. Don't hesitate to make the commitment and jump in. BTW, I'm glad I didn't give too much credence to the DVD watchers / reviewers who complained about his unpressed trousers! Were they expecting 24 hours of video lectures to be exciting? Anyway, I'm not sure I'd trust a history professor who wasn't just a little disheveled.
Date published: 2012-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Entertaining I listened the audio book version. Contary to other reviewers, I found the lecture very informative and the professor entertaining in fact. Under the seeming monotonicity of his style, I could share his interest in the subject.
Date published: 2012-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This is one of my favorite history courses here. There is just something about how he tells the story that is very entertaining (for me anyway). His treatment of the Reformation is far and away the best of the several treatments available from teachco (imho). I don't know why, I just like it better than the others.
Date published: 2012-05-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Professor Andrew Fix knows the subject matter well, but presents it in a rather monotone voice. His bad posture, unpressed pants, rolled up shirt sleeves and both hands deep in his pockets most of the time, are a distraction. Since the course is videotaped to be viewed nationwide, I was surprised that the Teaching Companyincluded this professor in its teaching curriculum. Nevertheless, I learned something.
Date published: 2012-03-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A poor choice I don't know who was more relieved at the completion of the first lecture: the professor or myself. Professor Fix has his hands thrust deep into his pockets, is poorly dressed for a professional, must constantly refer to notes, and speaks in an almost monotone. He almost never looks directly at his audience and appears bored with the whole affair. I find all this surprising, for I have been thrilled with every other professor with the Great Courses, supposing that they have all been well selected.
Date published: 2012-03-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Inadequate professor I had been looking forward with much anticipation to watch this series so soon I was appalled at its presentation. As a retired university professor of 63 years and having taught and lectured in universities in the US, Britain and France, shortly after watching a few of the lectures in this series I became most unhappy with Mr. Fix. His sloppy personal attire, his dysfunctional inarticulate delivery of the subject matter which made me wonder how well he knew his subject due to constant reference to notes (errors thrown in!), his speech habits, all stopped me from going further. This course is not up to the high standards I have found in Teaching Company courses which I now own. I had a problem with his intonation which I might have dispensed with had the overall quality of the course been to higher standards I mention.
Date published: 2012-02-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Couldn't finish I couldn't finish the course. In fact, I tried to get through about 4 lectures and the delivery was so poor, I gave up.
Date published: 2012-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent value I have a M.A. in International Relations and I found this course extremely helpful in understanding the WHY behind certain events in the construction of the modern international system. My son found Prof. Fix lacking charisma. But I found his presentation serious and thoughtful, with a concern that the audience understands the main point. As such I STRONGLY recommend this course to all.
Date published: 2011-12-05
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very disappointed Simply put, I wish that I had not paid for this course. Various relatives and I have bought several of the courses and swapped them among ourselves, and I've also borrowed several from the library, so I've listened to a LOT of TC courses. Generally, I love them. This was awful. The presentation was sloppy, with very abrupt endings, and contained many factual errors. I bought it to help fill in some gaps as I teach European history, but this not did not do the job. Some of the mistakes he made were so basic that my high school students could have pointed them out. The only reason I plan to finish listening to the course is that I paid for it. I wish I hadn't bought it.
Date published: 2011-11-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent course Better than you might thought. The average overall rating of 3.7 is not representative of the quality of this course.
Date published: 2011-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from THOROUGH, DETAILED,COMPREHENSIVE This review refers to the CD's. My take on this forty-eight lecture series may differ from many of the previous unfavorable reviews. First of all, there is a parallel I'd like to draw to the early days of computerization of records of some large organizations. For their most senior levels, many reports were generated representing summaries, edited through several lower levels of responsibility, of massive amounts of data. Depending on the experience of the ultimate users, these end reports summarizing lower level interpretations were accepted as gospel or they raised questions, usually on the basis of recommendations. Computer assembled data gave the questioning user the ability to search for the reasons suggesting action that appeared questionable. This process was called "drilling down." Some companies, the old Westinghouse comes to mind, actually limited the depth of "drilling down" the most upper levels of management were permitted. That attitude was very rare, As a consequence, the "drilling down" allowed the questioning user to determine the validity of the suggested action or to better understand the basis of what was proposed. As I have listened to other TGC courses on the era covered by Dr Fix, I found this series does and excellent job of "drilling down" to provide a grasp of the underlying data or situations motivating action by principals or societies. Even though, as some reviewers have noted, some details related by Dr Fix may be questioned, the overall presentation makes the history of that era more understandable to someone who lacks comprehensive knowledge of the subject. Combining this information with the usual "top down" report of history confined to the leaders and battles, etc, common to most histories makes this series of lectures especially meaningful. Within that context, these lectures are recommended particularly for those who have limited knowledge of or exposure to this period of European history. A side note. While some previous reviewers may have had difficulty with Dr Fix's voice or method of delivery, they didn't appear important to me. I apologize for the long initial digression to make a point. This series is a worthwhile investment for the right parties.
Date published: 2011-06-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Tough Call I came late to this course, having purchased it a few years ago and only committing to it on a recent long business trip. I call this review "a tough call" because I see it as a stimulating ride, but with blemishes. Having read the rather large collection of reviews, I can understand why they are all over the map. What they do not reveal (and what presumably is the case with reviews of all courses) is whether they are written after listening to an audio version or viewing the video version. I suspect this can be a huge random element in how a student "takes" to a professor. My experience was with the audio version, and my guess is that this was the way to go in this case. I doubt that my interest in Professor Fix's approach, and in his coverage, would have reached the level it did had I been watching for 30 minutes at a stretch, rather than walking or driving. His manner is informal and inviting, if a little ragged. He was obviously not buried in a script, but this cuts both ways. It leads to greater spontaneity but here leads also to a less rhythmic delivery. The subject matter kept me going, but my sense is that the presentation was less "crafted" than most. Still, my overall four-star rating reflects that, for me, I found it a satisfying learning experience.
Date published: 2011-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent for me, because ... I have purchased over one hundred Teaching Company courses and this is my first review; usually the general consensus of the reviews is sufficiently close to my own feelings to make anything I'd add redundant. This course was different; I rated it a lot higher than did many others, and because I liked the professor and the course so much I decided to weigh in. Three points: (1) In my opinion, Dr. Fix had an easy, conversational style that was well suited to listening while driving. Maybe I'm just not good at mentally parsing complicated sentences interspersed with 'ums' and 'uhs' while driving, but I found Dr. Fix very easy to follow. He struck me as neither pretentious nor formal, just "a guy telling a story" (intended as a compliment.) (2) I'm not a historian, either, and undoubtedly small errors and misstatements - maybe even major ones - would have sailed over my head. However, all of the material in the course was broadly consistent with my understanding of the period (most of which comes from other Teaching Company courses.) (3) Overall, I thought that this was an excellent survey, and a great jumping-off point for other courses that go into more detail on specific subsets of this course. this course.
Date published: 2011-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from good not great this was very good and very comprehensive. BUt there was something about thte professor that just didn't resonate. I'm sure he was more knowledgeable than me; but he just didn't come across as that....erudite? Eloquent? Took me a while to get through but certainly added to my knowledge and I would recommend it.
Date published: 2011-03-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Uneven I would recommend this course but with some reservations. The lecturer had a sometimes dysfunctional manner of speaking that made me question how comfortable he was with some of the material. His presentation of the material covering the Renaissance was especially halting. While the material presented was informative and interesting I felt that the course targeted to the Italian Renaissance was a significantly better effort. The matrial covered in the Reformation was presented with much more clarity and conviction and was quite excellent but again, the course about the Wars of the Reformation was much more thoroughly and impressively presented. It wasn't totally clear to me what the last third of the course had to do with The Rise of Nations but the lecturer seemed much more comfortable with this material and his presentation of the material was informative and interesting. Overall I would recommend this as a good general survey course but I think the targeted courses are much more worthwhile.
Date published: 2011-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent course The material was very well-covered, and not easily found elsewhere. This professor's style made is easy to watch all forty-eight lectures.
Date published: 2011-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Enjoyable I'm in the middle of this course and really enjoying it. I like Fix's accent, his folksy style, and his attempt to make sense of the big picture. People who know very little of the period (I haven't even had a college course in it) will probably enjoy the course a lot. Other reviewers have complained that Fix gets a few details wrong. I, however, was not planning on dazzling my friends and coworkers by discussing the parentage of this Lorenzo or the moniker of that Lorenzo. I had already forgotten those details when reading the reviews. Every history is a distortion; in fact, it is perfectly possible to mess up a few facts here and there while still giving students a big picture that is correct and memorable. I'm in no position to say how "correct" the big picture is here, but I feel that I have a much better understanding of an important historical period. I think Fix has done a first-rate job of organizing the story. One example that comes to mind is his handling of the Reformation. He has a lecture on the Catholic Church on the eve of the Reformation that explains why people would have felt a need for a new dispensation; a lecture or two on Luther's particular contribution; another lecture on the state of the Holy Roman Empire during the Reformation that explains why it was possible for the Reformation to take place in Germany and perhaps in no other European country. This last lecture fits in nicely with an earlier lecture on the "new monarchs" of the early modern period. I've often faced the difficulty of organizing what seem to be competing narratives, and I was impressed with the decisions that Fix made. I haven't yet heard Bucholz's course on modern Europe; perhaps people are right to prefer it. But I certainly feel that I've gotten my money's worth from Fix's course. And I suspect the matter of the lecture style must be a matter of personal taste. I've heard other TTC lecturers whose delivery I loathed, yet whom other reviewers loved to listen to. Bottom line: really enjoyable course, at least for people seeking an introduction to the period.
Date published: 2011-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Course I cannot believe that more people have not rated this course "Excellent" with 5 stars. The professor does a job that no other Renaissance professor does. He focuses on the politcal and economic forces that have influenced the development of the Renaissance and Reformation. I have read hundreds of books on these topics and have never seen it "brought all together" like this professor has successfully done. At first it is a little slow, but after a while you really appreciate the staright forward and understandable way the topics are presented. I am no novice to college courses, as I have 3 graduate degrees. But the professor does such a good job that a high school student could get a lot out of the course.
Date published: 2010-11-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Sloppy So the Teaching Company finally located its equivalent of what's on every college campus in America -- a professor who teaches a gut course. This is high school level stuff. Not very sophisticated lectures compared to other Teaching Company profs. Material feels very dumbed down. Fix needs to learn to make his points in a tighter, more rigorous way. He has a sloppy, repetitive way of talking -- my ear kept editing him. Which makes it hard to pay attention. And hearing him pronounce foreign names is an adventure. It took me almost an entire lecture to realize that the early Renaissance painter he called Jot-oh was actually Giotto. (Andrew Fix: As a general rule, Italian pronounces every letter, with every syllable receiving equal stress. A very easy language for an American if you don't try to speak in rapid-fire Italian style.) Fix clearly knows his material. That's why I wish he'd re-do these lectures to make them more rigorous. No more discursive, chatty talking. Write out each lecture so it's taut. Pack the lectures with more facts. Above all, don't be so loosey-goosey with explanations. For example, if he's going to talk about civic humanism and its affect on Florentine education in the early Renaissance, make it clear that who the ancients are who are being rediscovered (Greeks v. Romans, Aristotle v. Plato, etc.), which citizens, exactly, were able to participate in public life (did Florence have universal male suffrage? I doubt it.) and explain just who was benefiting from this new education (I take it that literacy did not extend much beyond 2 or 3 percent of the population). We don't need a lot of detail, but he can't talk about changes in public education in 15th century Florence and make it sound like he has something in mind that resembles dysfunctional public schools in Chicago or Washington.
Date published: 2010-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intriguing I enjoyed this lecture immensely! Yes, his voice may be a little soupy but of the dozens of courses that I've listenend too from T.C. this was the most enjoyable. The lectures aren't stale chronological points of facts with lots of names and titles. He really explains why things happened in a down to earth way. He answers many questions that fill in the gaps to this era. When listening to him speak it feels more like his sitting at a table across from me explaining history as opposed to listening to someone on a podium fifty feet in front of me. I wish more professors could teach with his kind of style.
Date published: 2010-07-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Worst purchase ever Dubious wrote "Professor doesn't know what he doesn't know. That's dangerous. Every now and then he would venture into something where I actually know the facts, and I'd suddenly realize he was really out in space." Examples abound even within the first few lectures. His notion of the guild structure, for example, is at odds with guilds even operating today: where guilds are structured apprentice - journeyman - master, Fix' guilds don't include journeymen except as shop sweepers with a lower social status than apprentices. He differentiates middle ages Humanist thought from medieval thought based on a ridiculous assertion that only Humanists think that humans are not necessarily good, whereas medieval thought was based on Augustine and Aquinas, both major proponents of concupiscence. He is even self-contradictory; he finds that the Florentine economic model is not capitalistic, despite his assertion that only Masters who could afford to provide the means of production could control production and provide employment for others. He justifies this non-capitalistic definition based on regulatory standards for work and product quality, completely ignoring the modern existence of OSHA, the FDA, and the CPSC, among others.
Date published: 2010-07-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from more "History Channel" than Teaching Company. The lecturer is clear, the subject is interesting and the focus of the course seems appropriate. But, as others have noted, he has a simplistic approach and a sloppy style that is below the level of every other TC course I have heard. I am not an expert on the material, but his manner makes me fear that his mastery of the facts may be as haphazard as his approach. This is more "History Channel" than Teaching Company.
Date published: 2010-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Fix, the Magnificent! I found this course to be a monumentous survey of the early modern period, sweeping the entire European continent in its dramatic scope. The content is extraordinarily ambitious, and as such, depth is sacrificed in some portions in order to develop broad, philosophical outlines of history. This is a course that answers more than the who, what, when and where, but reaches higher into abstraction in an attempt to answer the WHYs of history. Personally, this is my favorite form of historical inquiry, but understandably may not be for everyone. The story begins in the late middle ages, in the wake of the terrible bubonic plague, and explores the impact of demographic changes on late medieval life. The narrative passes on into the Renaissance and Refromation periods. All along the historical narrative is intertwined with philosophical discourse, explaining the thought of the Renaissance humanists and the various protestant sects, demonstrating how their theology impacted social norms and events. Economic factors are considered and weighed into the picture. Style of government is dissected to explain what happened where and when. For example, why do you think the enlightenment began in the Netherlands? Why did Spain's mighty empire collapse? Ultimately, the rise of the enlightenment and scientific revolution mark the fantastic denoument of the course. Sometimes, naturally, such an ambitious program is bound to dissappoint. For example, I found that Fix neglected the significance of the invention of the printing press in spurring the Renaissance and Reformation. I would have like more information about the 30 Years War, one of the main reasons I bought the course in the first place, but again, not every course can be all things. As to delivery, Dr. Fix is not the most spectacular lecturer on the Teaching Company menue, but his delivery is clear and adequate and by far not the worst I've heard. His delivery is not as theatrical as Greenberg, for example, but he never stumbles and searches for words either. Overall, I highly enjoyed this course and would recommend it. Again, the sweep of the narritive is epic in scope, but the depth is superficial. Someone with a great deal of knowledge about the period a priori might not find it as interesting. Personally, I had forgotten near everthing about the time in question, not even knowing the distinctions between Calvanist and Lutheran, for instance. You must weigh what you expect out of the lectures on a personal level. Btw, the title is an allusion to Lorenzo De Medici, called The Magnificent!!
Date published: 2010-04-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very Disappointing This course does not meet the typically high standards I have found in Teaching Company courses. The treatment of the subject by Andrew C. Fix is very superficial. But what really detracts from the course is the professor's sloppy demeanor, poor vocabulary, and inarticulate delivery. Compared to other TC professors such as Robert Greenberg, Daniel N. Robinson, and David B. Ruderman, Fix is outclassed by every reasonable measure.
Date published: 2010-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Recommended, but Unspectacular I bought this course because it was the only one that covers the reformation at length, as an added benefit it also covered the renaissance and the roots of nationalism. Because it is 48 lectures there is time to really examine a lot of great topics and information from these periods. However, Professor Fix is my least favorite lecturer so far, his pace and tone are mind numbing, his material is not very well organized and he makes frequent minor mistakes which other reviewers have noted. I also find many of his explanations for events simplistic and often unscientific. On the positive side though, there is a lot of good information in here despite its flaws I've learned from them immensely and would recommend the course to anyone interested in the reformation.
Date published: 2010-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unique Study of a Tumultuous Age This course demonstrates precisely why I love the Teaching Company so much! With humor and gravitas appropriately brandished to suit the topic, Professor Fix provides a methodical - but intriguing - exploration of a tumultuous era. Step by step, he patiently lays the foundation and then slowly builds the tempo as he approaches the climactic historical event(s) in each lecture. Some of the extremely complex ideas and movements which characterized the Renaissance and, particularly the Reformation, are carefully presented in understandable and memorable terms. Professor Fix truly possesses a gift for this particular style of teaching. For example, his lectures showed very clearly how social thought in this period came full circle (from the Renaissance notion that the solution to most of mankind's problems can be found in the Greco-Roman tradition to the Enlightenment persuasion that the future contains the best hope for humanity). I have read other reviews which speak less favorably of Professor Fix. As to that, I can only state my own impression of this course. His droll wit, which might be mistaken by others as a dry teaching style, added to my enjoyment of the course and helped hold my attention to the end. His pronunciation of some words ("papacy," etc.) are indeed unconventional. But, truly, in my opinion, this flaw is more than eclipsed by his polished, unique, and riveting presentation of the subject matter.
Date published: 2009-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent course This is one of my favorite courses about a very important transition period in history.
Date published: 2009-10-14
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