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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Reviews

Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 105.
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Exasperating inaccuracies Really frustrating. There are so many errors, over-gerneralizations and anachronisms I frequently had to turn it off and calm down. I deeply hope the Teaching company will REDO this course because the material is just so fascinating.
Date published: 2018-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course Dr. Fix is an excellent lecturer. He speaks in a way that makes it easy to understand. I never lost interest while listening to these lectures.
Date published: 2018-01-02
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Story telling more than history My initial impression of the easy going delivery of the lecturer grew on me over time. What i saw initially as lacking energy, turned into an appreciation of the advantages a casual and relaxed delivery over a series of lectures. It helps digest the content. However, what i didn't appreciate is the content. The lecturer strings together stories based on common believes and personal guesses of dubious historical rigor strung together to make stories that makes sense (kind of) on the basis of what the audience have already heard, or been spread out through popular culture. I was expecting an exposition of the nationalist forces in the reformation movement. Instead we got the standard protestant based cannon, with a mix of slight anti-catholocism and a good doses of hispanophobia (based on the accepted black legend that even the lecturer acknowledges). We hear that the conquest of the Americas was "easy because the indigenous populations were afraid of the spaniards' guns and horses" (yep, he says that). The Jesuits are always qualified as "militants" when mentioned (not so the other players). We hear about the atrocities committed by the spaniards, but never about those on the protestant side. William of Orange was a sort of nationalist hero, while Philip II was nothing short of the devil. That these kind of stereotype based good-vs-bad oversimplifications can be spread on the name of History is sad.
Date published: 2017-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Helpful survey of period of great cultural change This survey of "the making of the modern European culture" was interesting both for the sweep of the survey and the attention to historical events / figures not so well known. The maps were especially helpful. Sometimes the instructor seemed a bit lethargic, but maybe that's inherent in lectures closely following notes on the lectern. He was obviously very knowledgeable.
Date published: 2017-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from perfect development of issues and circumstances Thoroughly enjoyed this journey through a critical time in our European history and gained new insight into the world we live in today
Date published: 2017-06-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An interesting course. Right now I'm 18 lectures into it and really like it. He goes into a lot of detail but not so much I have to view each lecture more then once. This particular course doesn't have the streaming option. This professor has a timid delivery style that I had to get used to, but after a few lectures he became more animated. I really do like the course.
Date published: 2017-04-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Accurate and created interest I have watched several sessions and they have been quite interesting. The presentation is a little dry, could use more visuals but overall I have learned more and have enjoyed the lectures.
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent survey course Just finished watching this course and despite my initial negative reaction to the presenter's mannerisms, this course was interesting, informative and well structured. After a while I found the presenter's delivery to be very good and thought that he explained all the key concepts clearly without using "big words" or unclear examples. Recommended for anyone who wants to revisit this pivotal portion of Western History.
Date published: 2017-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I thought this was on of the best Great Courses, and I have over 200. This is an incredible deal that is being offered.
Date published: 2017-02-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Please remake this course This course needs to be remade with a different professor for so many reasons! 1. The professor's appearance is just sloppy. His hair appears unkempt, His outfits very casual. He slouches. Nothing about him looks professional or educated. 2. His presentation style has no energy or excitement. It seems like he is bored with his topic. He doesn't communicate any fascination. A bedtime story is usually read with more emotion than what is put into these lectures. 3. *Most Important* The lectures are filled with so many errors and mispronunciations that unless I'm already familiar with what I'm hearing from the professor, I simply do not trust it to be true. Examples... a. When Columbus sailed, most people believed the world was flat - not true. b. Arthur, Prince of Wales, died in a shipwreck - wrong. He died of an unknown disease. c. Professor constantly referred to *War* of the Roses. Correct term is *Wars* of the Roses. d. Professor pronounced "Savonarola" as "Sav-no-rola" repeatedly. e. Italian town of Lucca (correctly pronounced "Loo-ka") was called "Luck-a". 4. The most egregious error in this course is that Martin Luther did not post his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenburg, but he _mailed_ them to his archbishop! I've been studying Luther since my confirmation days and I've been to Wittenburg. I have never heard this bit of heresy ever before, in any class, in any book, nor at Wittenburg. In fact common practice of the time tells us that the church doors were community bulletin boards. For this professor to put forth this piece of misinformation is automatically disqualifying!!! If the Great Courses continues to sell this course in its present form, they are doing their customers a grave disservice!
Date published: 2016-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shockingly good! I have to admit, I approached this course with some trepidation. Even after the first lecture or so, I was not sure I would get much out of it or enjoy it. Was I wrong! This course was great, I learned so many things and it is nicely structured and organized. I found the professor outstanding! He was very knowledgeable and also injected just the right amount of humor. He also has a folksy quality that made it very entertaining. I highly recommend!!!
Date published: 2016-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fantastic Breakdown of History Greatly enjoyed this series of lectures by Professor Andrew C. Fix, and gained much insight into the history surrounding the Renaissance and subsequent years to come. Wonderful presentation by Professor Fix! Would highly recommend.
Date published: 2016-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview of the Early modern era This is the fourth wide survey course I have taken in the TGC on the modern period, the others being Professor Bartlett’s “Development of European Civilization”, Professor Bucholz’s “Foundations of Western Civilization II”, and Professor Liulevicius’ “War Peace and Power, Diplomatic History of Europe 1500 - 2000”. All of these are long courses with the first two being 48 lecture series and the latter 36. They differ in their focus: FOUNDATIONS is primarily narrative in nature, DEVLOPMENT is primarily focused on paradigm shifts in religious and political thought, and WAR is primarily focused on foreign relation evolution – wars, treaties and power dynamics. All three cover both early modern and later modern periods, and are to some extent overwhelmingly laden with content. The reason I decided to hear all of them was that this is an era with a huge number of intellectual, religious, and narrative twists and turns – so listening to the same items analyzed from different perspectives and at different granularities is almost unavoidable if one wants to get a three dimensional understanding of this era. The current course is still a wide survey course in its essence, but the granularity is a bit finer compared to the abovementioned ones. The treatment of the Renaissance was wonderful… I have heard all of Professor Bartlett’s courses on Italy “Essential Italy..”, “Italian Renaissance”, and “Italians Before Italy” and enjoyed them tremendously. All of them are focused primarily on the period of the Renaissance. However, Professor Fix was able in this course to provide new perspectives which I found extremely valuable (lectures 1 to 12). Particularly, I found the discussion on Renaissance approach to education and statecraft, and its deep connections with the classical eras to be extremely insightful. This is the first course I have taken that covers the Reformation, and I had very little knowledge about the reformation since this material is usually not taught in high schools in Israel. I found the lectures to be fascinating and quite profound (lectures 13-29). They cover in some depth both the narrative of the blossoming of the different currents of Protestantism, and their internal belief systems. The rest of the lectures cover primarily the political and diplomatic narratives of Europe in the Early modern age. Many complex and fascinating aspects are covered including the religious wars of the 17th century climaxing with the thirty years war, French and German absolutism as well as the political narrative of Britain leading to the Glorious Revolution, the civil war and the beheading of King Charles I. Though these lectures were fascinating, I found them to be less focused than the other two sections covered. Actually this is to be expected since this section is more narrative in nature, and there is much more ground to cover. This being said, the narratives were presented in finer detail than in the other survey courses mentioned and there was much new insight to be had. Reviews are strongly divided regarding Professor Fix’s delivery of the course. Some really liked it – finding the style relaxed and informal while others found it to be simply sloppy. I think I can agree to some extent with both perspectives… The lectures felt personal and intimate, and there was a feeling that they were not rushed. On the other hand, he did make some rather crude pronunciation mistakes, and more importantly a few factual mistakes that were really quite embarrassing. A key example is the instance that he said that Piero De Medici was Lorenzo’s brother when in fact both Lorenzo’s father and his son (not his brother) were called Piero. So although Professor Fix is certainly not my favorite Professor in the TGC, the course was still definitely worth the time and effort and did give some interesting and profound insights that I did not find in other courses – enough to merit giving the course five stars even considering its imperfections.
Date published: 2015-10-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Entertaining but with serious factual errors This is a course that covers a great amount of material, is engagingly presented and is, in my view entertaining. Professor Fix is enthused by his subject and communicates this well, although he has a rather disconcerting habit of ending his lectures extremely abruptly. He has, as other reviewers have pointed out, difficulties in pronouncing foreign names and a rather annoying habit of pronouncing "papal" and "Papacy" as "pappal" and "pappacy" . However this is a minor drawback and is not really a major problem. What is however a major problem is the constant serious factual errors that bedevil the entries course. These range from a repeated muddling of relationships (the Medici family tree suffers particularly badly as pretty much every member is wrongly described, while Charles V becomes Catherine of Aragon's uncle [actually he was her nephew], military victories becoming military defeats (Louis XIV's early series of victories become a catalogue of defeats!),to detailed descriptions of events that bear no resemblance to the facts (according to Prof. Fix the executioner of Charles I showed the King's head to the crowd saying "This is the head of a Tyrant" to which the crowd cheered - actually eyewitnesses report that the executioner did not speak and the crowd moaned when the head was displayed). Sometimes it seems that Prof. Fix is confused about different periods in history. We are told that Wolsey and More were Prime Ministers (200 years before the office was invented by Walpole), while we are told that Prince Arthur died tragically in a shipwreck (actually he died in Ludlow - Prof. Fix seems to be confusing him with Henry I's son 400 years earlier). Worst of all Prof. Fix goes into detailed analysis about events and their effects whilst labouring under mistakes of facts that totally undermine his conclusions. We are told that the trial of Cardinal Wolsey exposed the corruption of the Catholic Church in England so turning people away from Rome and making them receptive to the Reformation. Unfortunately Wolsey was never put on trial. During the Long Parliament we are told Parliament kept passing laws such as the abolition of Star Chamber and the Triennial Act that the King was never presented as he would have refused to sign them. We are then invited to speculate on the crisis of authority that this led to and how this made the Civil War inevitable - were the laws valid or not, how could people tell, how would they respond? (an argument that takes a considerable portion of that lecture). Unfortunately in reality Charles signed all these acts thus making the whole argument completely wrong. I could go on as pretty much every lecture contains factual errors ranging from the minor to the seriously undermining. Nevertheless I must say that the course is not without merit. As indicated earlier the lecturer is engaging and the topics are well chosen and entertainingly presented. But the course needs to be flat-checked by a reputable historian and redone before it could be recommended.
Date published: 2015-09-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Invest your time, learn a lot I completed this course a few weeks ago and am going through some of the lectures again. Fix's knowledge of this era is encyclopedic and his organizational skills are amazing. This is a broad ranging course as the Hundred Years War, the Florentine Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, Dutch Independence to the Scientific Revolution. In doing so, Fix explains how the modern European nations of Spain, England, Netherlands, France, and Germany came about. Moreover, the course contained a lot of tidbits such as the importance of the wool industry to Florence or the knight's revolt in Germany that added to my enjoyment of this course. I certainly learnt t a lot. Moreover, after listening to this course, I was spurred to read more about various topics that Prof Fix touches upon such as the Peace of Augsburg (1555), the Henry's of the French Religious Wars, Counts Hoorn and Egmont of the Netherlands, or about the various figures who were instrumental in formulating the gas laws of Chemistry to gain a better understanding of these topics.. I would highly recommend this course. If there are one or two mistakes, I am willing to forgive them because of the overall quality of the course. Specifically, Fix says that Clement VII Medici succeeded Leo X Medici forgetting Adrian VI and there was one other minor error that I don't remember now, I would remind you that this course spans 48 lectures. Fix also has a very informal style in his speech and for the first couple of lectures, it was a bit jarring. He uses phrases such as "people ate it up" but given the quality of the course such criticisms amount to pettifogging. I wouldn't want to speak like Fix (anymore than he would want to speak like me), but I would love to know one-twentieth as much as he does on this subject. If you would like to learn about Europe from about 1300 to 1715, there is no better source. After two lectures, you will get used to Fix's speaking style and from then on the lectures become addicting.
Date published: 2015-04-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unpacking the Early Modern Age Having come to an enjoyment of history later in life, I have been focusing on either my country, the US, or ancient history. So my knowledge of Europe has been woefully neglected. After enjoying Western Civ 2 and Development of European Civilization which were survey courses, I wanted to plunge deeper into Modern Europe. This course did a good job of explaining the major components of the Early Modern European history. I gained a much better feel for how the Italians rediscovered their Roman and Greek heritage during the Renaissance. Then how this rebirth led to Humanism which influenced the Reformation and the breaking of the power of the Catholic Church. This in its turn helped to explain the rise of nation-states to fill the power void as the traditional church and its dynastic supporters began to totter. Finally the rise of the scientific method and the enlightenment as the freedom to question religion was turned on even the ancient Roman and Greek thought that the Renaissance had revitalized. As others have pointed out this course is not without its flaws. The professor and his style take a bit of getting used to. There are minor points to be quibbled about. Yes Columbus did cherry pick his data, though most ancients and medievals who knew anything about the size of the earth did tend to underestimate the distance as well. The Portuguese knew but they weren't sharing this information. The Catholic and Lutheran faiths are a bit generalized and some of their beliefs are slightly distorted. If, like me, you tend to jumble the fifteen and sixteen hundreds into a tangle ball, this is a fine course to untangle all those threads. The professor is not as dynamic as the best history teachers in the Great Courses, but is worth the effort. I would definitely recommend some knowledge of Modern Europe and a love of history as prerequisites for this course. This is not a course for home school students or casual adult learners seeking a touch of history to round out their knowledge base.
Date published: 2015-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from top course for me Prof. Fox is supremely organized, logical, clear, and fair-minded. I've watched this course twice so far...
Date published: 2015-02-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A course that I have returned to repeatedly I am surprised by the critics of this course. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having only learned about the Renaissance and the Reformation at High School, I obtained a great deal from the course. Sure Professor Fix's appearance is a bit different to other GC lecturers but it is the content I am interested in. If you don't have strongly held beliefs about Catholicism or Lutheranism, but have an open mind, I am sure you will enjoy this course and learn a great deal. I always views the Great Courses as a foundation for new knowledge and use them in conjunction with other study.
Date published: 2015-01-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from This course is really awful After struggling through the early lectures, my husband and I finally gave up after Prof. Fix's lectures on Luther and the Reformation. Some have called his presentations informal--I would label them sloppy with many inaccuracies and overstatements. He shows little understanding of the Catholic church--which is critical for anyone trying to describe this historical period. My husband and I are Lutherans and are familiar with the history of this period. He paraphrases speeches inaccurately--why not give us direct quotations? Prof. Fix' has a tendency to attribute base motives to most of the religious figures, lay and clergy, that he treats. He seems to understand very little about the theological and faith-based concerns which prompted the Reformation. His treatment of the period prior to the Reformation was equally dissatisfying. I am astonished that his course has received so many good reviews. Perhaps others of us have just not taken the time to respond.
Date published: 2014-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very important and valuable course Based on a lot of the reviews and a first impression of the professor, I was reluctant to get into this course, but I have long been curious as to how the world evolved into the nation-state system that is the world we pretty much know today, and never really could see how, exactly, we got there. This course really helps understand that process. At first I was a bit shocked by the Bilbo Baggins-like appearance of Dr. Fix and his style--and he certainly is not like most of the GC lecturers. However, by the second lecture, I didn't want to stop listening. I recommend that if his appearance and more colloquial lecture style bother you, just don't watch, but listen. But you should watch some of the time and get the DVD if possible, because of his use of many maps--most of which I have never seen anywhere-- in the lectures is extremely rich and valuable to understanding the big picture and themes of the presentation--plus many photos of the important people. If you just think of Professor Fix as sitting across from the table from you and explaining things in a less formalistic way, you begin to see why he is so good. And like others have recently written, a 3.7 average of the reviews seems to do this course and professor somewhat of an injustice. There are many different styles that are effective in teaching. If people would relax about his presentation style and appearance and pretend that he is a good friend on a trip or hike or across a dinner table explaining things, he is really very easy to listen to, and you realize he really has thought about and studied this subject. It is somewhat amazing that in 48 lectures, so much detail of so many events still had to be left out or quickly summarized or condensed. I am sure there could probably be an entire course, for example, on the Thirty Years' War. Hardcore History podcaster Dan Carlin recently released a fascinating 4 1/2 hr show on the Munster siege alone, which gets only about 10 minutes in this course. But getting into the details is not the mission of the course--I think the mission here is to give, maybe not the 30,000 foot view, but the 10,000 foot view of the bridge between the late Middle Ages and the early modern period in Europe--and doing so in a way that you realize that no region or country's history occurred in isolation or in a vacuum. While that may seem obvious, actually synthesizing many pieces of this story into a coherent whole has been pretty elusive to me. I like how Professor Fix kind of puts himself into the heads of various people to try to understand, in the light most favorable to them, how they were seeing their world--such as Henry VIII's desperate desire to have a son to avoid a succession crisis and possibly relaunching another round of the War of the Roses. Maybe it wasn't all just lust for younger women. And then the Pope's denial of his request for divorce--since the Pope had been arrested by the Spanish forces and to grant Henry's request would have been a great insult to the Spanish monarchy and royal family--and the Pope was simply and literally in no position to offend the Spanish throne at that moment. You start to understand perhaps why both did what they did. By the last phase of the course we are starting to see a few key nations of Europe being very diverse laboratories for the development of various forms of government, from the highly centralized and authoritarian kingdom of France, to the very decentralized system of numerous ultra balkanized kingdoms in what would one day become Germany. What are the strengths and weaknesses of each? There ought to be some modern applications for all the lessons learned. I have to say that slogging through all the religious wars from Martin Luther to the Treaty of Westphalia--around 125 years or so by my count--got pretty tedious. Which is why I think we tend to skim over it--it is just so long and complicated and bloody with too many princes and moving parts to the story--and then wondering after all the belligerents had slaughtered a third of the population on the continent, what had really been accomplished by the end of it all? It's too depressing to think about. But it can't really be avoided either--it is a huge part of the big story, if a very depressing part. That said, Professor Fix doesn't really focus much on the gore and horror of it all, and is pretty matter-of-fact about all the executions, burnings and beheadings, relating just enough to explain how things unfolded for the larger narrative of how the larger world was evolving. Still it is a long slog to go through the religious wars, which seem like they will never end--and wondering 'when will these people ever learn'?
Date published: 2014-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Better than 3.7 out of 5 stars This is a course on European history that glosses over the dates and concentrates on big picture themes. Having listened to several European history courses, this fills in the blanks, adding to a greater appreciation of the major movements that shaped history. A little long winded but excellent content.
Date published: 2014-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fix is in Wow, opinion here seems as polarized as it is in the case of the late Dr. Fears. The objections to this course are not without some merit. Yes, there are a few factual errors here, but history is more than an amalgam of names, dates and places. There are political, ethical and aesthetic dimensions to history as well, which, on the whole this course successfully captures in a way that a mere recitation of facts cannot. After taking this course, I feel as though I have a feel for the climate of the time As far as the presentation style goes, I enjoyed it. The professor has no annoying verbal tics, the lectures flow at a comfortable pace, and there is enough information at the level of detail and overarching themes to give one a good sense of the time. I found Fix's diction easygoing and quite good. Unlike reviewers who complain about Fix's grammatical errors, I deliberately looked for them and find the claims to be exaggerated. Professor Fix's errors are, in my opinion, no more or less prevalent than most of the Professors in the TC catalog.
Date published: 2013-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An organ of perception Excellent descriptive, explanatory, and interdisciplinary information connecting the classical world-view with modern social-consciousness. Whether by design or unintended, a definite organ of historical perception is offered by participating in this course. Thanks professor for the intellectual and rewarding journey...
Date published: 2013-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Dr. Fix does an outstanding job of presenting the material thoroughly and in an interesting and orderly manner. I actually teach this same course at the AP high school level and listening to these CD's was enriching. It is well worth the money and the time.
Date published: 2013-05-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from sweeping, compelling, and A+ I found this 48 lecture course quite excellent. It thoroughly covers the main themes of European history from the mid-14th century through the early Enlightenment ending in 1715. I loved the mix of key philosophical, social and religious developments and their interaction with politics and the formation of European nation states as we have known them from the 1700s. I learned an immense amount from this course. I really liked Prof. Fix' style. It's very conversational, as if one was sitting around a dinner table instead of being in a lecture hall. This worked for me. Unlike some TC professors (such as Greenberg in his music courses), Prof. Fix utters the occasional "um", "you know", and the like. This never gets in the way, and seems to make this vast amount of material more accessible.
Date published: 2013-04-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Unworthy addition to TTC's catalogue It's difficult to know where to begin with this course. Professor Fix here aims to investigate one of the most vibrant and interesting periods of Western intellectual history (the Renaissance) and to show how the themes of that period set the tone not just for the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but for the whole modern world. The listener ought to have realised that the primary structures of our current political and ideological order begin here, right at the start of the 14th century. This course, however, is vexed in almost every way. Fix's delivery is bored and boring, betraying scarcely a hint of deep enthusiasm for the subject. The factual errors and value judgments are legion. There are frequent and, in my view, unnecessary digressions into 'first person' accounts of key historical events and moments for which, as far as I am aware, there is insufficient historical information to generate such accounts. Fix's mispronunciations of foreign and English words is inexplicable in one presumably so highly educated and deeply embarrassing to one — such as I — who speaks one or more of these languages. His control of English grammar is execrable. I purchased this course for some general historical/cultural background to the wider Renaissance in order to inform university-level teaching of my own on the musical history of the Renaissance. This informed me no better than a high school course on the subject, and appeared to be taught at that level. I seriously doubted whether I could survive more than a handful of lectures in this course. Through sheer dint of effort and obstinacy I have now finished the course. I have purchased TTC courses on cultural and religious history for many years and think of myself as a supporter of TTC's mission. This is clearly the worst course I have encountered. Whoever thought of this man as a worthy standard bearer for TTC's brand has clearly got it wrong. This course is a turkey and is to be avoided at all costs.
Date published: 2013-03-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Epic overview of key period in Western history Great course. This course begins as Western Civilization is just starting to emerge from the Middle Ages and continues to the Scientific Revolution -- about 1350 to 1650. I found this course to be a great overview and introduction to this period. Not quite so broad as a Western Civ course, but not so narrowly focused as to just cover the "Renaissance" or "Tudor England" for example. In terms of the professor's demeanor and delivery: he delivers the lectures in an even-handed way. Once I got used to his "frumpy appearance", I was not distracted by his presentation as other reviewers were. I listened to the lectures as video when I put the lectures onto my iPhone. Do you need the DVDs? I liked having maps of the changing landscapes. I liked have the names of events, people, and places displayed. I would often pause and then quickly look up the subject on the internet to get a fuller understanding of the topic. The course inspired me to get other TTC courses to continue learning about the preceding periods of history (I purchased "The Italians before Italy"), look deeper into some aspects of the same historical period (I bought "The Other 1492" to learn about Spain), and to follow the river of history forward ("Voltaire and the Enlightenment"). Because the course is 48 lectures, it will take investment of time. I enjoyed that investment.
Date published: 2013-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Historical trends nicely addressed Fix has come under much criticism for his oral presentation skills, but I think that the material is very good. Unlike some other presenters, his focus is on key themes that characterize figures and times. In some of the other lecture series, the detail overwhelms this type of information, but Fix manages to keep it in the forefront. My general impression from other reading in this area, is that he has a very good grasp of the critical historical forces in play. I agree that his presentation style is a little awkward, with unusual pronounciations and mangled words (e.g. "SaVARaNOla" for "SaVANaROla"). (Dyslexia?). One serious factual gaffe is made during his presentation on Renaissance Florence. In discussing the Medici, his line of succession is Cosimo, then Cosimo's son Lorenzo the Magnificent, then Lorenzo's brother Piero the Gouty. This is totally wrong. Piero the Gouty was Cosimo's son, Lorenzo was the Piero the Gouty's son, the Lorenzo's son was another ruler named Piero. He also seems to misstate some of the facts about Charles VIII's 1494 invasion of Italy, giving the impression that Charles's initial target was Milan, when in fact, Ludovico Sforza had supported Charles in this plan. I know a little more about this period, so I recognized these errors, but I am left to wonder about other factual problems in periods with which I am less familiar. I would continue, however, to recommend this as a good recap of the timeframe covered. I think it is evident that his main period of expertise starts in 1500, but all sections include worthwhile material.
Date published: 2013-01-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good content, weak presentation There is a lot of good content in this course, but the professor's delivery is weak, halting and stumbling. Some reviewers said while Prof. Fix is boring, his delivery is also soothing. I found it mostly just boring. Ultimately, the weak delivery overshadows the good content. Prof. Fix lectures like a high school kid giving the class a report on his summer vacation, always trying to figure out what his next sentence should be. For a specialist in European history, he frequently mangles the pronunciations of Italian, German, and French proper names and places, which detracts from the sophistication of his lectures. Indeed, his lectures are not sophisticated at all, compared to such real superstar professors as Prof. Thomas Childers. Ultimately, I gave this course 4 stars for content, which is good if you want a recitation of facts -- many, many facts -- of European history from the 14th to the 17th century. And make no mistake: there is value in such a recitation of facts. But if you want sophisticated analysis and contextualing, in other words, if you want a course on a grad school level versus a high school AP course level, then you will have to look elsewhere.
Date published: 2013-01-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from BENEFICIAL, but .... CD series - These lectures are helpful in explaining significant events and individuals of the Renaissance and the Reformation. As I listened to them while traveling cross country, it seemed that the presentation style of Professor Fix was like a gifted historian riding along with me sharing his knowledge in a casual manner. There were many times when I wanted more detail, precision, and correlations with contemporary events and ideas. It would have been helpful if the booklet had a chronological matrix of the topics, events, and individuals. This series Is beneficial to a novice like me, but it is not one of my favorites.
Date published: 2012-11-25
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