The Decisive Battles of World History

Course No. 8140
Professor Gregory S. Aldrete, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
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Course No. 8140
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Follow the tactics of the Egyptian and Hittite armies during an epic battle that led to an unprecedented time of peace.
  • numbers Dig into the militaristic society of the Mongols and follow their 1260 clash with Egyptian Mamluks.
  • numbers Discover how North America took shape during the Seven Years War - specifically during a battle in 1759 in Quebec City.
  • numbers Learn how battle technologies evolved, and discover how - in a matter of moments - power can shift during a conflict.

Course Overview

Nothing changes the world as quickly and inexorably as war. In warfare, the future course of entire civilizations, regions, and continents can be determined in as little as a few hours.

Throughout history, specific individual battles have turned the tide of historical events, triggering changes that have given us the world we know:

  • The 7th-century battle of Badr transformed the prophet Mohammad into a major political force, establishing Islam firmly as a legitimate religion that could not be suppressed.
  • The 1066 Battle of Hastings impacted world history by creating a new fusion of peoples and cultures in England and orienting the country permanently toward Europe.
  • The 1759 Battle of Quebec determined the future of North America, shifting power such that the English language and British culture would predominate.

In addition to causing changes on a global scale, military engagements have often produced monumental effects within individual cultures:

  • The outcome of the 4th-century battle of the Frigidus River established Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire.
  • The 16th-century battles of Panipat established Mughal domination over the Indian subcontinent that would last for centuries.
  • In 1836, a battle that lasted a mere 18 minutes resulted in the U.S. acquisition of nearly one-third of its continental land mass.

In these battles and many others, if it were not for the particular outcome that transpired, history might have turned out very differently. As such, looking closely at military engagements provides a vital key to historical causation—showing us how and why events unfolded and civilizations developed as they have.

A penetrating look at military conflicts also acts as a corrective, allowing for a more accurate view of major events and the forces underlying them. As a case in point, the Battle of Waterloo is commonly thought of as the downfall of Napoleon; yet his losses at the earlier Battle of Leipzig unquestionably doomed his ambitions and were the true marker and determinant of his fall. Similarly, a 1939 battle in Mongolia that is all but forgotten played an extremely significant role in both the outbreak and the outcome of World War II.

For these reasons and more, the study of pivotal battles is a highly revealing analytical tool and a key component for understanding world history. Offering eye-opening insights into humanity’s past, a knowledge of mankind’s most critical military engagements enriches and deepens any view into civilizations and their evolution.

In the dynamic lectures of The Decisive Battles of World History, Professor Gregory S. Aldrete of the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay guides you in a discovery of the military conflicts that have had the greatest impact in shifting the direction of historical events and shaping our world. Covering nearly 4,000 years of history, this course explores more than three dozen history-making military engagements, from the landmark battles of the Western world to their counterparts across Asia, India, and the Middle East. These 36 lectures feature vital historical background, vivid accounts of the campaigns themselves, and a thorough look at their influence on the unfolding of history.

Military Encounters that Changed the World

Through his powerfully evocative words, aided by specially made maps and animations of the engagements, Professor Aldrete brings the battlefield events alive with gripping vividness, taking you blow-by-blow through the unfolding of each conflict. Throughout the lectures, he reveals rich historical background material that highlights the high drama, poignancy, and scope of the human experience of war.

In The Decisive Battles of World History, you’ll trace the critical pivot points where key military engagements determined the course history has taken. This enthralling learning experience provides far-reaching insights into the story of world cultures by revealing the foundational impact of military battles in human affairs.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    What Makes a Battle Decisive?
    Contemplate the ways in which warfare can change the course of historical events. Examine the factors that make a military battle “decisive,” such as its role in transfers of power and its social and political effects, and consider the study of battles as an analytical tool for understanding history. x
  • 2
    1274 B.C. Kadesh— Greatest Chariot Battle
    The battle of Kadesh ushered in an unprecedented era of peace in the ancient Near East. Follow the strategy and tactics of the Egyptian and Hittite armies, featuring each side’s distinctive war chariots. Trace the unusual sequence of battlefield events that led to a remarkable treaty, an important forerunner of peaceful diplomacy. x
  • 3
    479 B.C. Plataea—Greece Wins Freedom
    In the 479 B.C. battle of Plataea, Greek “hoplite” forces fighting in phalanxes met the mighty army of the Persian superpower. Study the unfolding of this dramatic engagement, and learn how it ended the Persian threat to Greece and allowed for the flowering of Greece’s cultural Golden Age. x
  • 4
    331 B.C. Gaugamela—Alexander’s Genius
    The victory of Alexander at Gaugamela resulted in the spread of Greek culture throughout the Macedonian Empire. Trace Alexander’s campaign against the Persians, which led to the battle, and his bloody confrontation with the Persian forces, and grasp the brilliant maneuvers that allowed him to overcome his foe’s significant advantages on the battlefield. x
  • 5
    197 B.C. Cynoscephalae—Legion vs. Phalanx
    In 197 B.C., two rival military systems clashed. Learn about the forces of Philip V of Macedon, with their phalanx system; the legacy of Alexander; and the up-and-coming Romans with their “manipular” army based in flexible subunits of soldiers. Assess the far-reaching effects of the battle and its consequences for world history. x
  • 6
    31 B.C. Actium—Birth of the Roman Empire
    This great naval battle resulted from conflict within republican Rome. Follow the intense rivalry between Mark Antony and Octavian for domination of Rome, leading to the fateful events of the confrontation, and observe how it marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire. x
  • 7
    260–110 B.C. China—Struggles for Unification
    The wars of the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. were crucial in forging the later history of China. Study the military technology of the ancient Chinese and the conflicts through which the first Qin and Han emperors welded together a group of antagonistic kingdoms, creating a united China. x
  • 8
    636 Yarmouk & al-Qadisiyyah—Islam Triumphs
    In these dramatic conflicts, the Islamic Rashidun armies toppled two long-established empires. Learn about their defeat of the Byzantine army at Yarmouk and the Sassanid forces at al-Qadisiyyah, which determined the cultural, linguistic, and religious nature of the Middle East for the next 1,500 years. x
  • 9
    751 Talas & 1192 Tarain—Islam into Asia
    This lecture explores military engagements between widely differing cultures. Learn about the 751 battle between the Chinese Tang forces and the Abbasid Caliphate, which altered the religious orientation of central Asia. Then follow the 1192 clash between the Indian Rajputs and a Turkish Islamic army, and its permanent effects on Indian culture. x
  • 10
    1066 Hastings—William Conquers England
    The Battle of Hastings changed the course of both English and world history. Here, encounter the redoubtable figure of William the Conqueror and his 1066 invasion of England to claim the crown. Witness the terrible engagement at Hastings and its outcome, orienting England away from Scandinavian influence and toward Europe. x
  • 11
    1187 Hattin—Crusader Desert Disaster
    The religious and cultural effects of the Christian Crusades are still felt in today’s world. Study the origins of the Crusades and the events leading to the fateful confrontation at Hattin between Islamic and Christian forces, which critically altered the course of the wars. x
  • 12
    1260 Ain Jalut—Can the Mongols Be Stopped?
    Now, envision a militaristic society that threatened nearly all the civilizations of Asia and Europe. Study the rise of the Mongols, their terrifying conquests, and their astounding military expertise. Witness their clash in 1260 with the Egyptian Mamluks, a rare Mongol defeat that effectively halted their Western expansion. x
  • 13
    1410 Tannenberg—Cataclysm of Knights
    This 15th-century conflict pitted the armies of Poland and Lithuania against the fearsome Germanic order of the Teutonic Knights. Learn about the political background of the bloody confrontation at Tannenberg, the harrowing events on the battlefield, and the deep symbolic significance of the battle that still echoes today. x
  • 14
    Frigidus, Badr, Diu—Obscure Turning Points
    This lecture discusses battles that have had extremely important effects, though information about the specific events involved is scanty. Consider the battles of the Frigidus River and Badr, both vital turning points for world religions, and that of Diu, which marked the moment when Europe began its rise to world domination. x
  • 15
    1521 Tenochtitlán—Aztecs vs. Conquistadors
    The 16th-century Spanish conquest of the Americas resulted in some of the most unusual military encounters of all time. Here, learn about the campaign under Hernán Cortés to conquer Mexico, and how fewer than 1,000 Spaniards defeated the mighty Aztec Empire, which possessed armies comprising tens of thousands of warriors. x
  • 16
    1532 Cajamarca—Inca vs. Conquistadors
    Continue with Spain’s campaign against the vast and highly organized Inca Empire. Follow the daring maneuvers of the forces under Francisco Pizarro, aided by European military technology and including the kidnap and ransom of the Incan emperor, which enabled 190 men to vanquish an army of 40,000. x
  • 17
    1526 & 1556 Panipat—Babur & Akbar in India
    Two highly significant 16th-century battles were fought at the Indian town of Panipat. Learn about the rise of the Mughal emperors and the military clashes that first opened the door to their advance into India and then solidified their control, establishing a dynasty that would last for centuries. x
  • 18
    1571 Lepanto—Last Gasp of the Galleys
    The conquests of the Ottoman Turks led to the largest naval battle of the Renaissance. Trace the formation of the Holy League, an alliance of Christian powers against the raiding Ottomans; follow the events leading to Lepanto; and study the dramatic naval engagement that ended Turkish incursions into the maritime outposts of Christendom. x
  • 19
    1592 Sacheon—Yi’s Mighty Turtle Ships
    These great naval conflicts left deep imprints on two nations. Chart the 1592 Japanese conquest of Korea, the remarkable naval technologies involved, and the stunning victories of Korean admiral Yi Sun-shin, whose strategic actions defeated two invasions and established him as one of the greatest admirals of all time. x
  • 20
    1600 Sekigahara—Samurai Showdown
    In this monumental episode of the samurai era, learn about the underlying politics and the major figures in the conflict, including one whose wavering loyalty took an astonishing turn on the battlefield. Track the events that unified Japan under a dynasty of shoguns who would rule for 250 years. x
  • 21
    1683 Vienna—The Great Ottoman Siege
    The Ottoman campaign to capture Vienna was one of the largest and most significant in Ottoman history. Study the background of the siege and the military technology and strategy on both sides. Follow the unfolding engagement and the pivotal role of the Polish-Lithuanian armies, and grasp how Vienna marked a turning point for the Ottoman Empire. x
  • 22
    1709 Poltava—Sweden’s Fall, Russia’s Rise
    In the 17th century, Sweden emerged as the most powerful state in northern Europe. Learn about Swedish king Charles XII, his ambition to conquer Russia, and his opponent, the resourceful and determined Tsar Peter I. Witness the Swedish invasion and the battlefield events that constituted a reversal of fortunes for the two countries. x
  • 23
    1759 Quebec—Battle for North America
    This key incident in the Seven Years War between England and France critically shaped the future of North America. Discover the conflict through the eyes of the opposing commanders as the British assault Quebec City. Observe the remarkable serendipity favoring the British in the engagement, leading to an outcome with historic political effects. x
  • 24
    1776 Trenton—The Revolution’s Darkest Hour
    In late 1776, the rebellion of the American colonists appeared to be heading for dismal failure. Here, uncover the dramatic events that were the pivot point of the war. Learn how George Washington, in two critical battles, undertook bold actions to surprise and outwit the British, saving and revitalizing the revolutionary movement. x
  • 25
    1805 Trafalgar—Nelson Thwarts Napoleon
    In 1805, after subduing much of Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte turned his sights on England. Study the events leading to the largest naval battle of the age, as Napoleon’s combined French and Spanish fleet met the British navy under Admiral Horatio Nelson. Witness the monumental engagement, marking the beginning of Napoleon’s decline. x
  • 26
    1813 Leipzig—The Grand Coalition
    In this massive clash, a coalition of seven European powers united to oppose Napoleon. Trace the preliminary military actions culminating at Leipzig, where four armies finally converged on Napoleon’s forces. Follow the complex unfolding of the battle and the incident that transformed it into an outright disaster for the French. x
  • 27
    1824 Ayacucho—South American Independence
    The early 19th century saw the rise of numerous independence movements in Central and South America. Learn about three key leaders who were prominent in these struggles; their bold plan to liberate Peru; and the showdown on the plain of Ayacucho that ended Spanish rule in Latin America. x
  • 28
    1836 San Jacinto—Mexico’s Big Loss
    First, encounter the larger-than-life commanders of this extraordinary action, Sam Houston and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Track the tensions between the Mexican government and the province of Texas, resulting in the 18-minute battle that gained Texas independence and led to the United States acquiring nearly one-third of its continental territory. x
  • 29
    1862 Antietam—The Civil War’s Bloodiest Day
    At the time of this landmark battle in the American Civil War, the Confederacy seemed poised to achieve its goal of independence. Envision the protracted, bloody struggle between North and South, and consider the ways in which a marginal Union victory nevertheless altered the course of the war. x
  • 30
    1866 Königgrätz—Bismarck Molds Germany
    The historic engagement at Königgrätz brought a united Germany into being. Assess the opposing Prussian and Austrian forces, and track the Prussian initiative to capture the German-speaking states allied with Austria. Follow the unfolding battle blow by blow, and grasp how easily Prussia’s crushing victory could have ended as a disastrous defeat. x
  • 31
    1905 Tsushima—Japan Humiliates Russia
    A modern Japanese naval force stunned the world in this history-making battle. Learn about Japan’s 19th-century industrialization and militarization, its conflict with an expansionist Russia, and the maritime confrontation that radically altered the Western perception of Japan, signaling its entrance onto the global stage as a major power. x
  • 32
    1914 Marne—Paris Is Saved
    This providential clash critically shaped World War I. Study the German and French preparations for warfare and vital errors in planning by each side. Follow the offensive that began the war, the German commander’s fateful change of plans, and the ensuing battle that left both sides enmeshed in a horrifying, four-year stalemate. x
  • 33
    1939 Khalkin Gol—Sowing the Seeds of WWII
    Here, an obscure battle in Mongolia produced global effects. Track the tensions between Russia and Japan that led to a bloody border conflict that neither side had sought. Grasp how this one event directly contributed to both the outbreak of war in the Pacific and Europe and the outcome of the war itself. x
  • 34
    1942 Midway—Four Minutes Change Everything
    The advent of aircraft carriers brought a significant new era in naval warfare. Witness the most dramatic and pivotal of the “carrier versus carrier” battles, where the events of a short span of minutes permanently tilted the balance of power in the Pacific to the United States. x
  • 35
    1942 Stalingrad—Hitler’s Ambitions Crushed
    Chart the German invasion of Russia at the height of the war in Europe, which massed the full force of Hitler’s war machine. Follow the clash of the seemingly invincible German panzer units with the Red Army and the Russian winter, which ended the ascendancy of Nazi Germany. x
  • 36
    Recent & Not-So-Decisive Decisive Battles
    In concluding the course, take a keen look at what may be some of the historically decisive battles of the six decades following World War II. Finally, consider two famous conflicts often thought to be among the most decisive of all time, and see how careful analysis casts doubt on that conclusion. x

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Your professor

Gregory S. Aldrete

About Your Professor

Gregory S. Aldrete, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Green Bay
Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete is Professor of Humanistic Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, where he has taught since 1995. He earned his B.A. from Princeton University and his master's degree and Ph.D. in Ancient History from the University of Michigan. Honored many times over for his research and his teaching, Professor Aldrete was named by his university as the winner of its highest awards in each...
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The Decisive Battles of World History is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 133.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pros and a Con PROS: Aldrete’s "you are there” lecture introductions are followed by critical background information and end with an excellent justification for the picked battle as a turning point. This course ranks in my top 5 for relaxed, entertaining education. CON: WHEN YOU SAY SOMETHING OFTEN ENOUGH IT “BECOMES TRUTH", even when founded on narrowly selected evidence. Unfortunately, when your own lectures contradict what you say, it is possible that one could do better. In L11, Aldrete states that in 1126 Pope Urban II “sparked a conflict…a series of invasions of the Islamic kingdoms" by calling for the Crusades. While narrowly true, there is a problem: Who was threatening whom? FACTS: In L14 Aldrete notes Islamic aggression began with what he calls vengeful bandit raids on Meccan caravans in 624. Mohammed died in Medina in 632. L8 tells us that by 636, Muslim forces had neutralized all of modern TURKEY and then quickly took EGYPT, PALESTINE, and SYRIA. At al-Qadisiyyah, IRAQ fell. Other TGC Courses discuss the 7 years of war (starting in 711) by the Umayyad Caliphate to place SPAIN under Islamic control. Modern FRANCE was nearly taken. In 751 the Abbasid Caliphate took the Tamir Basin around the Chinese Silk Road (KAZAKHSTAN, KYRGYSTAN, UZBEKISTAN) so they could tax, not add value. L9 also mentions the first (1191) Muslim attack on INDIA ending as Islamic PAKISTAN. The MEDITERRANEAN was filled with Islamic ships rowed by (mainly) starving European slaves who often died chained to their benches sitting in their urine. The BALTIC STATES and southern Europe suffered incessant attack. Then there are the human elements of this Muslim assault. Aldrete speaks of the fierce Egyptian Mamluk (L12) and Janissary warriors (L18) who began as slave boys. What he doesn't tell us is that these boys were ripped (in very early childhood) from their Christian mother’s arms. They were (L21) trained “…in military academies where they converted to Islam and raised to be fanatically loyal.” These women’s Christian husbands were forced to present their disproportionate taxes on bended knee and were never allowed to progress beyond peasantry without “conversion”. Conquered “NON-PEOPLE OF THE BOOK” had it much worse. Aldrete admits the popes (ie: Pius V in L18) were cognizant of the threat of Islam and that "Western Europe was hemmed in to the south and east by Islamic states" (L14). None of this nearly global threat of Islam could have been lost on Urban II, who was living in the center of Europe’s international political knowledge and authority. ‘Jerusalem’ was an understandable rallying cry for the rough leadership of what was left of non-Islamic Europe. As Pius V also understood, action might inhibit further encirclement by rich, advanced Muslim armies. Certain academics, w/o any explanations of the non-fit of the above historical data, blame Islamic aggression on the narrow time band of the Crusades. This acts as a cover for the Islamic partitioning of the world into Dar al Islam – the “World of Islam” and Dar al Harib – the “World of War” (multiple TGC courses). As noted in L14, Islamic aggression started in 624. This aggression would continue for 1000+ years until mud prevented siege cannon from reaching in Vienna 1683 (L21). The Crusades were the result, not the cause of such aggression. I subtract a rating point but would otherwise heartily recommend the course.
Date published: 2020-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Compelling, informed, and engaging. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2020-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding!!! Easily one of the very best history courses I have ever attended. Professor Aldrete is truly an outstanding lecturer, knows his topic extremely well and presents it in a highly informative and engaging manner. Highly recommend this course!
Date published: 2020-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyed the course I have six courses and took this course first because of my military knowledge. The course was very interesting and informative.
Date published: 2020-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting presentation and good visuals This is my first The Great Courses lecture series. My husband and I are retired and started watching a lecture every night after dinner. The topics selected by the professor were very interesting and he obviously has an excellent command of the subject matter. I’d definitely take another course he is teaching. As an aside I really enjoyed the photos of him at the various battle sites!
Date published: 2020-04-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very knowledgeable and personable teacher We enjoyed this series and learned a lot. Glad to get diagrams and graphics about the battle layouts.
Date published: 2020-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Totally enjoyable and educational! Watched this over a period of several months. It never got boring!
Date published: 2020-02-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Presentation I loved going through each of the lectures, while having knowledge of some of the battles, I learned more about some not so famous battles that had far reaching effects well into the future. Each lecture is around 30 to 35 minutes and is presented with pictures & maps to help with the understanding of the battle itself and of the time frame in which it occurred. I took this course online and it was a Great purchase.
Date published: 2020-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lecturer, fascinating content My husband and I watched this course together. He knows almost everything about military history and I knew nothing. Both of us enjoyed the course and learned a ton. The professor is an excellent lecturer. He describes the battles clearly, with excellent visual aids, and explains how each had ramifications decades after the battle was fought.
Date published: 2020-02-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from appropriate description of content i enjoyed the lectures. the descriptions of weaponry and tactics was done well and framed the context of the battles. the bàckground of the battle participants gave good texture to what happened during the battles. the historical impact was explained well from the lecturers viewpoint. the only disappointment was in the quality of the DVD's. three of the lectures were partially scrambled and one was unwatchable.
Date published: 2020-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Precise and insightful The battles selected are consistently engaging. Prof. Aldrete moves at a good pace and never bored the learner.
Date published: 2020-02-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This has some good stories and insights about individuals and civilizations from 3000 years of human experience across the world. History is about how human societies develop over time. Gregory Aldrete approaches this question from the military angle: warfare is one of the most potent agents of change, and individual battles often decide the outcome of a war, and thus a civilization. His arguments to justify his choices of 30-some battles to be included in the list of most decisive battles are an interesting demonstration of historical analysis. While I found it fun to listen to the stories of exotic times and peoples, I also learned many of the greatest turning points in human history -- at least, the ones that happened at the point of a sword.
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting topic The course is interesting and easy to follow. The instructor does a great job of describing the battles and why it made a difference in history. I've enjoyed the diverse battles throughout the world and timeline.
Date published: 2020-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So far so good - presentation is excellent So far have watched only the first few episodes but both my wife and I are hooked and are slotting in episodes whenever we can spare a half hour. Very personal take on the individual battles and we like the focus on the personalities of the main combatants as well as on the techniques and strategies. Looking forward to more details as we move closer to our own times.
Date published: 2020-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great in all respects So well done that I could not wait for each battle. Very detailed
Date published: 2020-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extraordinarily Insightful! Prof Aldrete does an outstanding job of adding his deeply historically perspective to military battles to explain why that battle was significant, not just on the day(s) of the battle, but for long periods to follow. I learned much from his course and I appreciate the extensive research he conducted to put this course together.
Date published: 2019-11-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another Winner from Professor Aldrete Loved the concept of this course, loved the professor from his other course "History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective", and no surprise after taking this course I can say I love it as well. Professor Aldrete does a good job in each lecture of setting up the historical context of the encounter, providing detailed descriptions of the battle's actions (in some cases blow by blow), and concluding each lecture by providing at least a few reasons why the battle in question was significant to world history. A wide variety of empires, time periods, and regions are included (in addition to the famous battles of western civilization you will also find battles involving China, Japan, the Mongols, Islam, South America, and India). As an added bonus the professor has a lecture on 3 battles that can be considered important ones in world history but for which we have scant details and in the last lecture he discusses 2 more recent battles that could be seen as decisive as history sorts itself out and 2 battles which are famous but are not in his list of decisive. My personal favorite lectures were: o 13- Army of Poland-Lithuania against the Germanic order of the Teutonic Knights o 20- Battle of the Samurais to unify Japan o 22- Sweden’s rise is halted by Russia o 35- Nazi Germany invades Russia So why not a five star rating? Well I came close but while these were very enjoyable lectures to listen to, there was something missing that kept me from being completely riveted. Perhaps it was: At times it felt like the course didn’t know what it wanted to be. The professor seemed to break his own rules on what defines a “decisive” battle. For example: - He defined a “decisive” battle as one in which usually the two sides are relatively evenly matched, yet there were numerous examples of mismatched forces including the two lectures on small bands of Spanish conquistadors conquering enormous armies of the Aztecs and Incas - A lot weren’t even “decisive” in that they did not result in a clear winner (ancient Egypt vs. the Hittites) or were very marginal victories (Antietam) or could not be seen as determining the outcome of a war All-in-all maybe “Most Important Battles in World History” or “Turning Point Battles in World History” would be better titles since a lot of the battles' real meaning related to the stopping of the advance of influence of a dominating empire/people. The hopping around from place to place and time period to time period did contribute to a feeling of disjointedness like the course had no common theme. While I acknowledge this is the nature of the beast with a course like this, perhaps a recurring theme that helped tie things together could’ve been explored more like the fact mentioned above that most of the battles meant the beginning of the end of an empire/people. I suppose with any list of this nature there will be heated debates on what was included and what was left out. Professor Aldrete acknowledges this himself and spends a good time in lecture 1 discussing the fun of such debates. Still I found these notable absences borderline mind-boggling: 1- Hannibal vs. Rome: one of the most well-known encounters and one of the world's greatest generals isn't even referenced? 2- The Battle of Tours: okay he mentioned it at some point and gave a reason why he didn't think it should belong---something to the effect that the forces of Islam weren't going to dominate the greater kingdom of the Franks anyway and wouldn't spread into western Europe. Yet he has a lecture on the much lesser known Islamic battle with China (and in my view his own argument works against him: even with an Islamic victory how much further could they really have pushed into China? Were the Franks that much more stronger than the Chinese?) 3- Saratoga during the American Revolution: I get that without Trenton the Americans' already low morale would've worsened but the surprising victory of Saratoga directly lead to French involvement in the war and historians tend to agree that without the French, the long-term prospects of the Americans winning the revolution were daunting (to say nothing about the French's major impact on the Battle of Yorktown itself) 4- Waterloo during the Napoleonic wars: I get that Leipzig was a turning point but for the professor to essentially say Napoleon’s defeat was inevitable after that and Waterloo was a foregone conclusion does an injustice to the brilliance of Napoleon and his track record of surprising his opponents against the odds (was the outcome of Waterloo really a foregone conclusion?) 5- D-Day of World War II: No argument with Stalingrad but the liberation of France meant Germany once again had a two-front war on its hands vs. being able to focus all of their might in the east. Considering this shortened the war and, as the professor calls out himself, it prevented western Europe from falling under Soviet aggression, this should be a second turning point of the war The professor has a habit of laughing mid-sentence when he is about to relay an interesting or odd tidbit. While it was certainly warranted at times (and welcomed as a way for him to show some personality/humanity), other times it felt out of place when the tidbit wasn’t overly funny or ironic (for example like when he mentioned that one of the generals died from an experimental operation to deal with kidney stones---not finding the humor there) and the sheer number of times he did this diminished what he was trying to convey (I found my mind wandering: is this one going to be funny or not?). All things considered though, I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in the study of battle and war tactics, turning points in history generated by on-field battle results, the history of weaponry advancements, and honestly any fans of history in general. I add that last population because you will find historical information here that is not present in other courses in TGC's catalog including 15th century Poland-Lithuania and 18th century Sweden. On the "should I take audio vs. video" question: I did not feel like I was lost in any lecture listening to the audio version but I got the sense my experience was diminished at times for not having a map or battle tactics diagram in front of me (which I'm assuming the professor had in the forefront throughout these lectures). I will admit it was sometimes hard to follow his descriptions of battle movements without some form of a visual and likewise without a map detailing a force's advance or a people's sphere of influence that may have caused the conflict in the first place, I felt like I was missing something. Still if audio is your only option then I don't doubt you will have just the same opportunity as I do of categorizing this as truly a "great" course at its conclusion.
Date published: 2019-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As a retired engineer and veteran, I appreciate studying historical battles- especially when I can purchase such at a sale price of $35.00. I understand your costs for producing such DVDs , and I'll buy just about any subject for $35.00. KEEP THE SALES COMING!
Date published: 2019-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Copious Content and Brilliant Professor! Professor Aldrete's grasp and comprehension of details, both large and small, is beyond impressive. When quoting historical personalities, I had to wonder, "Is he reading from cue cards?" It didn't look like it! At any rate, his obvious enthusiasm for the subject and passion for sharing it are very apparent. He covers a great deal of history from a multitude of time periods and locations, and there is indeed something for everybody here who has an interest in military history. This was a very enjoyable course....I just wish I could remember all of it! Well, I guess I'll have to take it again! Very well done, Great Courses, and I tip my hat to professor Aldrete; I would love to share a drink with him, while discussing all things history!
Date published: 2019-07-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from it is alright, but... I decided to give it to my teenage son in order to refresh some interesting points for his history classes and he liked it. I listened to a couple of files myself and was a bit disappointed re: Stalingrad battle. The narrator steadily builds an impression, that Russians fought only against Germans and basically won only by throwing more and more human resources against Wermacht. Well, another help came from the "General Winter". How about the fact that Russians fought the whole Europe and not only Germans? For example, in Stalingrad battle Russians crushed 22 Romanian divisions, 8th Italian army and Alpen corps (10 divisions), 10 Hungarian divisions and Croatian regiment etc. That's on top of the gen. Paulus 6th Army. As a result of this battle Germans and their Allies had lost almost 1.5 mln men, while Russians - 643,800 men (323800 K.I.A. and 319900 wounded). Devil is in the details.
Date published: 2019-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really good course This is a really good course. The instructor is enthusiastic, organized, informative and entertaining. I thoroughly enjoyed the program.
Date published: 2019-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoroughly enjoyable, informative, and absorbing. I was pretty certain that I would enjoy this series; but, it exceeded my expectations. Professor Aldrete's presentation style was excellent. While I was familiar with many of the battles, I learned a lot about each, because Professor Aldrete did a terrific job of adding the full historical context in every case and explained the human strengths, weaknesses, and ambitions of the key players. The use of maps added a great deal to the presentations. Two overarching things about the lectures that struck me were (1) humans are a very bellicose and warlike species and (2) the many rises and falls of empires makes our current position in history seem a bit fragile. I highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in war, the military, and the evolution of our species. Very well done. Please convey my thanks to Professor Aldrete.
Date published: 2019-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Decisive Battles of World History- Excellent! Prof Gregory does an excellent job presenting his course material, which is very well researched and aided by artist renderings, such as paintings, sculptures and battlefield board setups which are all very helpful. If you’re a military history buff, this is a must see.
Date published: 2019-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amongst many of your spectacular lectures these ones stand out. It was simply phenomenal
Date published: 2019-03-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Learning a lot I am really enjoying learning about battles from all over the world and from all periods of time. Very interesting information.
Date published: 2019-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classes are fantastic. Being a former college professor, these classes are great in detail and wonderfully produced. The idea of continual learning is such a great opportunity you are offering. It is so much appreciated and my husband and I are looking forward to purchasing more classes.
Date published: 2019-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bravo!!! Very well done! I read a lot of history, ...and have for many a decade. This series of Decisive Battles is quite impressive. It is very well moderated and supported by graphs, pictures and charts. Battles are not presented in isolation but rather with a fairly comprehensive framework of times, motivations and the whimsy of turning history in the making. Always interesting, each episode is a model of neutral and rational analysis, right through to what made the event 'decisive' through far-reaching consequences. I definitely recommend this fascinating series!
Date published: 2019-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation Being very interested in military history, I purchased this course tom get a better overall view of the subject. The lecturer presented each battle chosen with his reasoning for selection and then laying out the battle and its consequences on history. I have a new understanding of many of the battles and their part in the overall outcome of the campaigns. I would highly recommend this course for any student of military history.
Date published: 2019-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I think the title is extremely descriptive I thought there would be more emphasis on the battles and strategies. I am impressed with the lecturer and the historical background information associated with each battle.
Date published: 2019-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommend to military history buffs This was an excellent course, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in military history. Dr. Aldrete has a quirky, but very direct, compelling, and engaging way of communicating. He provides a rich cross-section of military campaigns throughout world history, including some I had never heard of. He does a great job not only of giving the tactical details of the battle, but provides excellent insights and texture placing the event firmly within its proper broader historical and contextual backdrop, balanced with entertaining and insightful commentary on individual humans, individuals, and events.
Date published: 2018-12-16
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