Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations

Course No. 3940
Professor Andrew C. Fix, Ph.D.
Lafayette College
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Course No. 3940
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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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Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 112.
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
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Decide For Yourself Don't let the negative reviews deter you from ordering this course. It is an excellent overview of a fascinating, and extensive, period of history. The course is very well organized and the professor's delivery is low key but stimulating from start to finish.
Date published: 2009-08-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Dubious This course was interesting, particularly the reformation section, but the 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. My favorite bit was his explanation of the difference between Mediterranean and Atlantic ship designs, "Big sails for big winds, small sails for small winds." Wow! If this were the only course on these subjects, maybe it would be worth getting.
Date published: 2009-08-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing Like many of the other reviewers, I have purchased numerous courses from the Teaching Company. This has been my least favorite. I majored in history and have been a high school history teacher for 16 years and the European Renaissance and Reformation are my absolute favorite period in history. But Professor Fix made a number of factual errors (as several other reviewers have pointed out) and this really damaged the overall value of the course, in my opinion. I, too, had a problem with his intonation which I could overlook if the overall quality of the course were better. And I thought Prof. Fix did a particularly poor job on Calvin and Geneva. If you are looking for a better presentation of the time period I would recommend Professor Noble's and Professor Bucholz's lectures on Western Civilization.
Date published: 2009-07-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I have mixed feelings about this course. I guess I'll start with the cons: - I wish it were more analytical. Many sections seemed to be just listings of facts and "who did whats". I would have liked more discussion of some of the underlying forces, ideas and the like in many of those situations. Many of the sections that were heavily analytical (e.g. economic life in the 1600s) were good. For instance, the Reformation and Counterreformation were watershed events in the history of European religion, changed the way people think about many things, and even changed the way Catholicism operated in many ways. But the revolutionary effects of all this on popular religious life were to my mind signficiant and not covered. Instead, there was discussion of facts, to my mind sometimes too much, and sometimes irrelevant facts...... - strange focus: the course of course was a history course. But in some cases I think the course focused too much on ultimately tangential sections of, say, theology or science. For instance, some of the last lectures spent and entire lecture on Aristotelian cosmology, the next lecture on challenges to that, and then the scientific revolution of the 1600s. Important stuff, but this came right after a discussion of 1600s England and seemed to me to be an odd foray from history into science. I also think the class could have done without the whole lecture on Aristotelian cosmology. - sometimes oversimplified treatment of the subject matter. For instance, the profile drawn of Luther, I think, was far too simplistic. I admittedly haven't done any research on Luther's life, but the presentation -especially of the events from his confrontation with Tetzel until the various peasant revolts - I think likely has significant oversimplifications and distortions, in order to tell a particular story as easily as possible. The good: - Professor Fix presents his material in an engaging way, especially as the course goes on (it seems to me he took a lecture or two to get comfortable with the recording studio). - Professor Fix obviously knows a lot and does, in the end, what I think is a fair job covering the main events of this time period. He gives most of the major events, and the analytical discussion that exists is to my mind pretty good. Nonissues: I don't think the language is an issue. Yes, some pronounciations are a bit strange, but it doesn't detract from the course in my view. I also don't mind his accent - anyone who can understand English well enough to get the concepts behind the course won't have a problem with his accent. There are lots of people in America who talk like him (I believe based on his accent he comes from the midwest) and his accent is not strong at all.
Date published: 2009-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the five best... Over the last 2 1/2 years, I have probably worked my way through 20 or 25 Teaching Company courses. This is easily in the top five of what are almost always good-to-great courses. Maybe top two. Really truly superb. For context: I'm a 43 year-old Emergency Physician and Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, actively involved in Medical Education, and a once-upon-a-time English Lit major. Which is to say: I am the veteran of literally thousands of lectures over the course of my education and ongoing professional life -- with that context established: this and Fagan's History of Ancient Rome course rank as two of my favorite didactic learning experiences in that life of thousands of lectures. I'm genuinely grateful for it.
Date published: 2009-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb and folksy walk through 3 crucial centuries I love this course. The professor has a folksy, unhurried, pleasant delivery. The material is brought to life: the Black Death, the Hundred Years War, Luther, Calvin, peasant rebellions, the rise of absolutism and the beginnings of the enlightenment. The professor can be funny at times, and keeps you on your toes at all times. One of the best from the Teaching Company!
Date published: 2009-05-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not what I expected I have just completed the course on the Italian Renaissance taught by Kenneth R. Bartlett. The course was excellent, his comments were insightful, and the presentation was fantastic. I expected the same from this course and was disappointed. I find Professor Fix's presentation to be scattered and his explanations to be over simplified. I am only a few lectures into this course and perhaps my opinion will change somewhat by the end. If so, I will update this review.
Date published: 2009-05-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not up to snuff Other reviewers have mentioned his unusual pronunciations. In some cases he could be right, but the 'When in Rome' theory suggests otherwise. My main criticism is the course just doesn't 'hang together' well. It's more than that there are some factual errors. Professor Fix is, after all, human. The Teaching Company has several other courses which overlap, so I believe you would be well advised to skip this one.
Date published: 2009-05-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Distracting delivery There was a great deal of information in this course, but I didn't retain a lot of it simply because of the delivery of the professor. As a professional editor, I was driven to distraction by the poor diction ("Ditn't," "watn't") and the mispronounced names (Savaranola instead of Savanarola). He was so soft-spoken I had to crank up the volume, and the lectures were shapeless and seemed to just end abruptly. He would probably go over better in person, and perhaps if I had seen him it would have made more of an impression.
Date published: 2009-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fix is a Master With the exception of his very strange pronunciation of many words (e.g., papal, schism, important, diet, legate), Dr. Fix did an excellent job of explaining the Renaissance. There was too much theology for my taste, and the sequence of the various wars and events were sometimes hard to follow, but he kept reviewing the key elements and that made it easier to keep the sequence in order. His lectures were enlightening and interesting. I think it would have been worth mentioning that Copernicus developed his heliocentric theory long before he published it. Like Darwin he kept his theory secret for many years fearing what the church might do to him. He published De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium in March, 1543 two months before his death, and then only after Georg Joachim Rheticus published Narratio Prima in 1540 which contained a description of Copernicus' theory and got a favorable reception. He didn't fear the church after his death -- the practice of digging up bodies and burning them at the stake occurred in Spain, but not in Poland. Such minutia is interesting, but it might have added a little interesting fact to an extremely interesting series of lectures. I listened to the entire series twice – I’ve never done that before. He was just that interesting.
Date published: 2009-03-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing This presentation makes historical errors such as incorrectly stating that Prince Arthur of England died in a shipwreck or that Cardinal Wolsey's trial revealed corruption in the Church. Unfortunately, Prince Arthur died in bed and Wolsey was never put on trial. Fascinating historical period, but a disappointing presentation.
Date published: 2009-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good basic course It's pretty good for a basic course. For details I probably should read a book
Date published: 2009-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an incredible course covering a wide swath of history in a comprehesive and comprhensible way! It is a successful overview which not only complements TC's other more focused courses on The Middle Ages, Renaisance, Reformation, and Western Civilization but adds a great deal of knowledge and perspective. The professor does all this in an entertaining style of lecturing full of historical pearls punctuated with intriguing wit. Give this lecturer an encore course, please!
Date published: 2009-01-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Andrew Fix's lectures I've never heard the word "papal" pronounced to rhyme with "apple" nor the word "papacy" to sort-of rhyme with "apathy." Prof. Fix has a none-too-firm grasp of the differences between imperfect and past perfect, preferring to say "had went" and "had came." Grammatical and pronunciation problems tend to obscure what should have been a better presentation.
Date published: 2009-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great summary of broad topic It must have been no easy task to put so much history into one cohesive course, but Andrew Fix succeeds splendidly. His teaching style is excellent, as he ties together the many religious, political and economic events of the period. I wish he had other courses with the Teaching Company.
Date published: 2009-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Course I enjoyed this course and thought Prof. Fix's presentation was good. This is a suject that I am truely interested in.
Date published: 2009-01-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fix's History, a Bit of a Stretch, Yet Enthralling I see Andrew Fix as an intriguing history lecturer, and wish TTC could have developed more courses with him, perhaps in his expertise with the many types of protestant religions in the 16th century Netherlands. Andrew has the ability to present information from a fascinating point of view, adding interest to even the most dry subject matter. I think most of the material covered in this course is at the high school or early college level, but Andrew presents it with thought-provoking perspectives that make it worth viewing for young and old alike. I doubt that even experienced adults would admit to knowing all the material he presents. Yes it covers quite an impressive range, from early 14th to the late 17th centuries. Perhaps viewers may know the basic historical outline, but Andrew fills in the blanks with a coherent, interesting, and accessible presentation. I have a degree in astronomy, yet was still learning new ideas and making new connections in his last three lectures on the Scientific Revolution. The course does make for a good beginning in European history, but there are other more advanced courses from the Teaching Company which shed more light on the details. Only then does one see how Andrew can tend to stretch the truth a bit, telling a good story, or even being completely wrong. But that is true of any historian and their natural bias. Other of my favorite TTC history lecturers have certainly made their share of blatant errors that have escaped the editors. So I think Andrew has to be given the benefit of doubt and assessed on his stronger points overall. Any 48 lecture series is only viewable if the lecturer is pleasant enough to engage the viewer for that amount of time. Andrew Fix is certainly one I would like to learn from, converse with, and watch repeatedly. It seems like a course that an entire family could watch together in fact, with everyone getting something out of it.
Date published: 2009-01-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Slipshod Lectures on the Renaissance Like some of the other reviewers on this board, I returned this-- at my cost since I am living in Japan. Professor Fix may not be "arrogant" as one reviewer has written as a compliment, but then he has little to be arrogant about. He clearly does not have the facts at his command with regard to the Italian Renaissance. One reviewer has already mentioned his lack of knowledge of the simple fact that Lorenzo de' Medici was not Cosimo's son, but his grandson. In addition to this, Professor Fix calls Lorenzo's son "Piero the Gouty," but actually "Piero the Gouty" was Lorenzo's father. Professor Fix also states that Franceso Sforza was the one who procured Leonardo's services to paint the Last Supper in Milan. The problem is that Francesco died 32 years before the Last Supper was completed. Most students with even a faint knowledge of Leonardo's masterpiece know that it was Lodovico "il Moro" Sforza who was Leonardo's patron. He also presents rumors about Borgia incest as fact. The lectures are simply riddled with such inaccurate or misguiding statements. It would not have been difficult for Professor Fix to check these things before lecturing on them. I find this sort of academic laxness detrimental to the usual high standards of the Teaching Company. I felt no need to continue into other historical areas with which I have less knowledge with Professor Fix as a guide. I simply do not trust him as a professor. There are much better courses that cover these same historical eras at the Teaching Company. I strongly recommend that buyers consider those before subjecting themselves to substandard lectures delivered with occasionally risible diction (e.g. "wadn't" for "wasn't") by this professor.
Date published: 2009-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good course! I disagree with the other reviewers. I was engaged by the professors' style very much. It was not as "bombastic/arrogant" as some other lecturers, which I actually thought made it more approachable. The content was excellent and showed the progression from late medieval culture to nationalism. I own over 50 TC topics; I was impressed by this one and would order more lectures by this educator.
Date published: 2009-01-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Just the facts ma'am As with another reviewer, this was the only course I've ever returned. I was shocked to hear factually incorrect information presented as historical truth, particularly in his lectures focusing on Florence under the Medici. Here, Lorenzo de'Medici is presented as the SON of his grandfather, Cosimo "Il Vecchio" and Lorenzo's SON is confused with his FATHER, Piero "Il Gottoso". Later, he misidentifies the relationship between Catherine of Aragon with Charles V (Carlos I of Spain). There were others, less egregious, but this series was certainly not up to the usual standards of the Teaching Company. If Professor Fix can't get these basic facts straight, how can the listener trust the rest?
Date published: 2008-12-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Terrible course I am a huge fan of these courses, and have spent more money than I can count on Teaching Company courses, especially history. This is the ONLY course I have ever returned. It is boring, terribly presented, and his grasp of the era is in no way profound. Disappointing, as I would love them to do a good course on this topic.
Date published: 2008-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well presented in a low key manner Dr. Fix obviously knows his material and presents it in a very clear and understated fashion. I must admit It took a little while to sync with his slower paced style but I begin to feel very comfortable with his more conversational delivery. Dr. Fix deals with a very dynamic time in history. It can be easily confusing with the wrong instructor. Fortunately, the Teaching Company picked the right instructor for the job.
Date published: 2008-11-29
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