History of Freedom

Course No. 480
Professor J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma
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Course No. 480
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Course Overview

It can be argued that one simple idea—the concept of freedom—has been the driving force of Western civilization and may be the most influential intellectual force the world has ever known. But what is freedom, exactly? Join historian and classical scholar J. Rufus Fears as he tells freedom's dramatic story from ancient Greece to our own day, exploring a concept so close to us we may never have considered it with the thoroughness it deserves.

Delve Into the Meaning of Human Freedom

What did freedom mean to Abraham Lincoln—or to Robert E. Lee? To Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, or Martin Luther King?

What does it mean to us today?

Indeed, to consider freedom is to ask questions. Many questions.

  • What does it take to be free, to have and to hold liberty?
  • What moral questions did freedom raise for our forebears?
  • What questions does it raise for us?
  • What role do the liberal arts and the world of the intellect play in the life of a free society or a free individual?
  • What does democracy have to do with freedom?
  • Can a democratic politician be a statesman?
  • How should we understand the relationship among freedom, religion, and morality?
  • Is there a dichotomy between public and private morality in a free society?

You ponder these questions and more in this moving and provocative course, brought to you by a teacher whose 15 awards for outstanding teaching include three-time recognition as University of Oklahoma Professor of the Year.

Professor Fears combines a fine actor's captivating presence, superb timing, and feel for the telling anecdote with the broad and humane learning of a seasoned classics scholar.

A History of Real People and Real Events

A firm premise of the course is that history is made by great individuals and great events, not by anonymous social and economic forces.

In fact, Professor Fears opens the course not with a dry presentation of liberty's philosophical requirements but by plunging you into the chaos of the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.

This was the seminal event in the history of freedom, with 9,000 citizen-soldiers of Athens defeating the much larger and better-equipped army of the Persian king Darius and thwarting his attempt to subjugate Greece.

This battle highlights dramatically the contrast between the political liberty of the Greek city-states and the absolutism of the monarchies of the ancient Near East.

It also highlights Professor Fears's approach to this course, as he focuses your engagement with the history of freedom on six seed times of liberty, along with the great people and events that helped shape the character of each.

Six Crucial Epochs, Revealed in Riveting Detail

With Professor Fears guiding and informing your thinking, you explore:

  • the birth of the idea of freedom in Greece and the story of the world's first democracy the Athens of Pericles, Socrates, and Sophocles
  • the status and meaning of freedom in both the Roman Republic and the Empire, and the new forms of liberty that flowered from the Roman legacy
  • the role of Jesus, Saint Paul, and Christianity in that flowering of freedom, and the Christian view of the true meaning of human liberation
  • the American colonies' resistance to British rule and their decision to declare their independence
  • the debates about freedom that informed the framing and ratification of the United States Constitution and its awful testing on the battlefields of the Civil War
  • the struggles of free peoples against domestic injustices and foreign dictatorships during the 20th century and the questions about freedom we still face as we enter the 21st .
Informed by Thousands of Years of Thought ,

To illustrate thought-provoking accounts of freedom's triumphs and travails, Professor Fears draws on Sophocles, Aristotle, Cicero, Paul, the English common-law tradition, Machiavelli, Lincoln, and the American Founders.

And he includes such towering intellectual champions of English-speaking liberalism as Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Lord Acton.

To clothe this impressive framework of analysis with the stuff of real history, Professor Fears brings to life critical episodes within each key period, explaining what was at stake each time.

  • You witness the outnumbered Greeks charging the Persians at Marathon, the Minutemen challenging the redcoats at Lexington, and Lee and later Lincoln surveying the great battlefield of Gettysburg.
  • You compare the trials of Socrates and Jesus, witness the signing of the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence, and study the debate over the U.S. Constitution.
  • You recapture the confidence and buoyancy of Franklin Roosevelt's swift response to the Great Depression.
  • And you thrill to Winston Churchill's bulldog defiance as he and his island nation stand alone defending freedom and humanity against Hitler's war machine.

To cap this extraordinary series, Professor Fears steers your thoughts to the Cold War and the remarkable march toward freedom witnessed by the last decade of the 20th century.

A Look Ahead—and a Cautionary Note

Professor Fears closes with a look at the future and a word of warning.

"Americans entered the 21st century convinced that we are the only superpower and that the innovations of science, technology, and industry have opened a new era of individual liberty, prosperity, and peace. It should be remembered that Europeans entered the 20th century under similar delusions.

"This course of lectures ends on a cautionary note, one that was already voiced in the Athenian democracy of the 5 th century B.C.

"Excessive individualism is not liberty but, rather, license. There can ultimately be no separation between public and private morality. A democratic society can survive only if its citizens have a shared set of moral and political values.

"Excessive prosperity can lead to that public apathy about politics which is the death knell of liberty.

"In the end, the true test of a free society is its ability to produce leaders of ability, vision, and moral character."

These lectures invite you to look at our nation's most formative idea from a fresh perspective.

Accept the invitation with enthusiasm and intellectual anticipation. Your perspective on politics, society, and history—or your place in them—may never be the same.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Birth of Freedom
    In the gray dawn of September 21, 490 B.C., 9,000 citizen-soldiers of Athens formed ranks on a plain by the Bay of Marathon. Before sunset, they would fight the seminal battle in the history of freedom. Who were they? What were they fighting for? With these questions, our course begins. x
  • 2
    Athenian Democracy
    The Persian Wars made Athens the leader of the Greek world. Under Pericles, Athens became history's first true democracy—and an imperial power. What is the Athenian legacy to freedom? x
  • 3
    Athens—Freedom and Cultural Creativity
    Athenian freedom sparked an intellectual revolution that rivaled the scientific revolution of our own day. The Athenians invented the liberal arts in order to educate free citizens for self-government. x
  • 4
    Athenian Tragedy—Education for Freedom
    Tragedy was the characteristic cultural statement of Athenian democracy. Sophocles's plays about the House of Oedipus are key documents in the history of freedom, exploring enduring questions of morality, law, and conscience. x
  • 5
    Socrates on Trial
    In 399 B.C., a recently defeated Athens executed Socrates for impiety. The trial remains a test case for all democratic societies, and Socrates an enduring witness to freedom and the power of ideas. x
  • 6
    Alexander the Great
    The conquests of this young prince of Macedon opened a new epoch in the history of Greece, the world, and freedom. x
  • 7
    The Roman Republic
    The American Founders took the Roman republic's balanced constitution as a model. It secured liberty under law. Under it; Rome rose to mastery of a world empire. x
  • 8
    Julius Caesar
    By the first century B.C., Rome was the only superpower in its world. Yet at the height of their power, the Romans lost their political liberty and turned to Julius Caesar. How did this happen? What did it mean for freedom? x
  • 9
    Freedom in the Roman Empire
    If the Caesars ended political liberty, they also expanded individual freedom. A look at a day in the life of Pompeii suggests that, in many ways, the Rome of the Caesars is the model for America today. x
  • 10
    Rome—Freedom and Cultural Creativity
    As in the Athenian democracy, freedom in the Roman Empire led to a burst of intellectual creativity that would lay the foundations for the next 1,000 years of European civilization. x
  • 11
    Gibbon on Rome’s Decline and Fall
    For the Founders and Edward Gibbon, the fall of Rome was the tale of how a people had traded republican liberty for the false security of absolutism. What can the Roman Empire's decline teach us today? x
  • 12
    What makes Jesus of Nazareth, who, like Socrates, never wrote a book or had any wealth or worldly power, one of the most important figures in the history of human freedom? x
  • 13
    Jesus and Socrates
    Jesus and Socrates invite comparison as awe-inspiring teachers, as seminal figures in the history of freedom, and as witnesses to the claims of conscience. x
  • 14
    Paul the Apostle
    Paul's preaching drew upon concepts of freedom in some of the most innovative currents of Roman imperial thought. His letter to the Galatians is rightly regarded as the Magna Carta of Christian liberty. x
  • 15
    Freedom in the Middle Ages
    Far from being an age of absolutism, the Middle Ages in Western Europe saw the growth of ideas and institutions basic to the history of liberty, including representative government and the right to revolution. x
  • 16
    Luther and the Protestant Reformation
    Luther is one of the proofs that great men and women—not anonymous forces—make history. He shattered the medieval world and unleashed currents that continue to shape the history of freedom. x
  • 17
    From Machiavelli to the Divine Right of Kings
    Are the state and its leaders bound by the same moral values that should govern private conduct? Machiavelli said no. His praise of the absolute, amoral state laid the basis for the greatest single challenge to freedom in the modern age. x
  • 18
    The Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty
    State absolutism received its preeminent early modern statement in the belief that kings are accountable to God alone. But this notion met with differing fates in France and the English-speaking world, with vast implications for freedom. x
  • 19
    The Shot Heard ’Round the World
    In the predawn darkness of April 19, 1775, 77 citizen-soldiers of Lexington, Massachusetts, formed ranks on their village green. Before noon, they would fight the greatest battle in the history of freedom since Marathon. Who were they? What were they fighting for? With these questions begins the second half of our course. x
  • 20
    The Tyranny of George III
    What turned loyal British colonists into armed traitors declaring their independence? Edmund Burke suggested the answer when he observed that in England, "the great contests for freedom were, from the earliest times, chiefly upon the question of taxes." x
  • 21
    What the Declaration of Independence Says
    America is the first nation in history founded upon a statement of principles. The Declaration draws upon two great legacies of freedom: the natural-law tradition of Greece and Rome, and the experience of England. x
  • 22
    Natural Law and the Declaration
    Born in democratic Athens, refined by Cicero, affirmed by St. Paul, and incorporated into first Roman and then the English common law, natural law would prove crucial to the American founding. x
  • 23
    Miracle at Philadelphia
    "Miracles do not cluster. Hold on to the Constitution," said Daniel Webster. Wondrous as the Constitution is, it is also explicable as the work of statesmen educated for freedom, and steeped in the lessons of history. x
  • 24
    What the Constitution Says
    Here you will "visit" a state ratifying convention in order to analyze both the Constitution (especially as explained by The Federalist) and the case made by its Anti-Federalist foes, who argued that small republics and virtue both private and public are the best safeguards forliberty. x
  • 25
    The Bill of Rights
    Basic to the Constitution's success has been the ability to amend it. A careful analysis of the first two Amendments paves the way for discussions of the relevance of the Framers' intent to America today and of the Founders' belief that every right entails a corresponding duty. x
  • 26
    Liberty and Lee at Gettysburg
    The American founding did not resolve the questions of slavery and union. Both were settled only by the Civil War. This lecture asks why a man of Lee's character, who saw the wrong of slavery, chose nonetheless to follow his state and the Confederate cause. x
  • 27
    Liberty and Lincoln at Gettysburg
    Lincoln's address over those who fell in the Civil War's biggest battle took only moments, but spoke to the ages. It is as basic an American founding document as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. x
  • 28
    FDR and the Progressive Tradition
    FDR's reforms played a crucial role in meeting the awful test of the Great Depression, and may have saved constitutional government in America. x
  • 29
    Why the French Revolution Failed
    The excesses of democracy in France spawned tyranny and wars of conquest. Why did these excesses occur, and how did the young American republic manage to avoid them? x
  • 30
    The Liberal Tradition
    The mighty tradition of liberty under law and representative government runs back to the Magna Carta and beyond. More recently, this tradition has been powerfully shaped by great classical liberal thinkers such as Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Lord Acton. x
  • 31
    Churchill and the War for Freedom
    On June 4, 1940—amid the sternest days in his country's history—Britain's new Prime Minister vowed that his island nation would "never surrender." He was a model of true statesmanship, and freedom's champion in an hour of urgent peril. x
  • 32
    The Illiberal Tradition
    This lecture examines the ideas that shaped Hitler's nightmare vision. Despite Hitler's defeat, nationalism, socialism, and vulgarized Darwinism remain influential today as counterfeit forms of liberty. x
  • 33
    Hitler and the War Against Freedom
    Hitler's career shows what happens when a nation and its leaders lose their moral compass. His terrifying story teaches us that free peoples must hold the values of liberty as universal and be willing to defend them if liberty is to endure. x
  • 34
    The Cold War
    World War II added to the power of Stalin, a tyrant no less despotic than his enemy Hitler. But standing guard over freedom was an America led by presidents like Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Reagan, all of whom shared the great liberal idea that those with power have a moral duty to defend the weak. x
  • 35
    Civil Disobedience and Social Change
    In the decades after 1945, nonviolent campaigns for freedom—and above all the movement against racial discrimination led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.—made key contributions to the growth of liberty. x
  • 36
    Freedom and the Lessons of History
    Americans enter the 21st century convinced that we are opening a new era of liberty, prosperity, and peace. Europeans entered the last century with similar beliefs. We close with a cautionary note, taking up a theme first sounded in Athens 25 centuries ago. x

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Your professor

J. Rufus Fears

About Your Professor

J. Rufus Fears, Ph.D.
University of Oklahoma
J. Rufus Fears (1945–2012) was the David Ross Boyd Professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma, where he held the G. T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty. He also served as the David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. He earned his PhD from Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Professor Fears was a Professor...
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History of Freedom is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 70.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The way to american revolution and civil war Beggining of this course is fine, professor tells us about ancient greece, rome, birth of christianity, but then problems appear. He jumps straight up to the reformation and misses almost thousand years of history. Ok, this is still acceptable, but then history of world comes to end and history of america beggins, i would say out of 36 lectures about 13 are about america and its domestic problmems this is not normal at all. In some lectures he tells about insignificant battles of american civil war, insignificat debates over american constitution, in some he tells about biographies of american politicians . Almost nothing said about abolishion of slavery in the whole british empire, one lecture spent on french revolution and following events. Almost nothing said about wave of revolutions in europe in 1848. He not just misses a lot of very important events of "freedom" but .after lecture about reformation and luther he almost completely ignores everything in the world in duaration of several centuries except the united states and england. this course should be called a way to american revolution and civil war but not history of freedom. after ending with america he jumps to ww2 churchill, hitler and stalin and then again to US and civil right movement. .
Date published: 2018-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course could have been presented yesterday This 2001 course, along with #4360 ("The Wisdom of History", from 6 years later), ranks as the best history course among the 20 or 30 Teaching Company courses I’ve taken that could be classified as dealing with history. It’s Fears at his best. The individual lectures on Jesus and Machiavelli, the half-dozen dealing with the founding fathers and the constitution, and the two on Hitler and the “illiberal tradition”, are absolutely superb. Tracing the history of freedom since the ancient Greeks, and tying it all together with his recurrent themes of history being primarily brought about by great individuals rather than by ideas, as well as repeated references to the four essential attributes of a statesman, comprise Fears’s central interest and his contribution as a historian, and it’s great to be exposed to it. Watching this course at the end of 2018, it could just as well have been published this week rather than 17 years ago. All the main points and summarizing principles apply perfectly to the issues and controversies in the news today, and Professor Fears, if he were still with us, could have been presenting “a historian’s perspective on the current American administration.”
Date published: 2018-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Old friend I first purchased this course almost two decades ago, as a matter of fact my initial treasure was in the long demised cassette tape format. Those old tapes had been rewound, played, fast forwarded and played again so many times by myself, family and friends in them early years that old Rufus's classic had been condemned to the proverbial scrap heap of the historic book shelf. Enter TTC 90% sale and Ruie has come home to roost comfortably in my ever expanding digital library. Professor Fears ability to sing the sources of antiquity has added to the collection of smile lines that abound upon this old weathered face and I had forgotten just how welcoming his unique style was in breathing life back into more modern history Maybe some of the liberties PF takes with the sources are not for all (I envision the bitter reviewer stammering on about this or that incorrect "fact"), yet I for one am truly thankful that those sources belong to all of us and our bard a can continue to sing us tale of those days gone by. We miss you Rufus Fears.
Date published: 2018-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A truly inspiring teacher Professor Fears is such an amazing teacher. This course is one of his best. Thank you for creating these courses. The Great Courses truly is an archive of the wisdom of mankind.
Date published: 2017-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Past as More Than Prologue Dr. Fears culls from history how we came to think of freedom, the citizen, the state, and government as we do. Though exposed to most of these periods, places, and ideas before from various perspectives, my understanding of when, why, and by whom our most important legacies have come has been deepened and sharpened. He uses language well, without jargon or pretension but with precision and period context. And Dr. Fears surprises. Perhaps I'd not been quite as informed on these ideas as I preferred to think.
Date published: 2016-11-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Extremely Interesting I think, given I have been attempting to study history and ideas in my own time, that I may have been better equipped to listen to this presentation than a person who is otherwise unfamiliar with the general history in question. I say this because, as at least one other person has stated, there are contradictions that take place in the course of the lecture which the professor does not always take note of (especially regarding notable figures like Churchill, who he defines as the paragon of liberal value). Certainly, even from the first lecture, one is able to see how the "story of freedom" is being romanticized. However, I found that his methods of presenting the information and histories was educative and I did learn new information as well as new perspectives. I found it particularly interesting how he mentioned Jesus in a history of freedom and in his summation of the history of freedom how he identifies different 'types' of freedom. While I may not agree with everything the professor said, or how he chose to narrate the story of freedom, it was highly useful I think in linking ideas across the ages. I agree with one of the other commentators that it is very useful to be familiar with the history being taught prior to asking the questions posed by the professor, as he may be using a morsel of truth to connect dots across a continuum of history. It is useful to be able to say to one's self: "oh, that's an interesting perspective, but clearly there are reasons to say that this is not the whole story." But, then again, neither are the views of the founders always wholly accurate, free of bias or otherwise perfect in their telling of things. As I said- very interesting and, I would say, compelling. I wouldn't let the fact that certain issues are left out contradict certain truths or ideas which are expressed in the lecture: they are useful nonetheless. Do continue your search for knowledge and understanding, however, and understand that this one "story" of freedom is but a single interpretation.
Date published: 2016-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The History of Freedom This presenter and the content are a wonderful combination. From a well paced presentation, historically delightful content, the program keeps the listener riveted through every lesson. I have purchased other programs I would not recommend, but this is a Great Course. I purchased the audio program and I believe it delivers just as well as the video.
Date published: 2016-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best presentation by the best instructor I have purchased dozens of courses over the years and have never been disappointed. Rufus Fears always delivers the best, most intriguing presentations of excellent content. If you think history is boring you have not heard Fears delivery. I thought I knew how the concept freedom developed but this course really opened my eyes. I gave my brother the cassette tapes of this course and he bought the cd version. Then I bought the cd version and passed the tapes to an immigrant. She wanted to meet Rufus Fears and was heartbroken to learn she couldn't. We all agree that he is the person we would most like to sit down to dinner with.
Date published: 2016-07-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Regretted purchase The professor seems to be melodramatic and speculative. For example he romanticizes the notion of Roman freedom in spite of the fact that they treated conquered peoples harshly more often than not, and the percentage of slaves who became free and prosperous was far outweighed by those who suffered. I also often found myself wondering which version of current events he lived through. In spite of his ambivalence about judging leaders by the same standards of ordinary citizens he seems to gloss over the very real weaknesses of some of the most accomplished leaders he admires. I found him to be hard to listen to and was consequently not sure which of the interesting facts he presented I could really trust.. As a Christian I had to wonder how Jesus, who was more concerned with our spiritual lives and relationship to God as demonstrated in our actions toward others, wound up in a course on Freedom. He often seemed so opinionated that history was twisted to fit his prejudices. All of that being said, I am no History scholar, but his presentations seem to conflict with the information in much of the other courses from The Teaching Company, and with my own experiences and prior readings. I forced myself to listen to the entire course but have thrown it out rather than donate it to our library here as I have done with other courses I finished.
Date published: 2015-03-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting lectures Dr. Fears is an outstanding story teller and lecturer. He does his research and presents well. Generally, if he offers a course, I'll get it. Who am I to tell Dr. Fears how to improve? Well, one way to improve this would be to not assume that the audience is making the connections that he wants to make. Keep tying back what he is presenting to how it fits into the overall argument. At the end take extra time to clarify the argument and review how the material supported it. It doesn't hurt to take extra time to do this. It is hard not to review/recap too often or with too much detail. I understand Dr. Fears has passed on. God bless him and his family.
Date published: 2015-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is mandatory I'm half way through this and I already know it should be mandatory for everyone. This is our freedom and we should know its roots. What is also fantastic is that I am inspired to go deeper into some of the philosophers and historical events that he references. I'm excited to learn more of my own history, and question my own beliefs. I never would click on the "write a review," but again, all should know this information. I'm a bit disappointed I didn't learn this in school nor my ivy league education. My brother and I listened to 6 chapters on a road trip and loved it. We are two brother 39 and 43. Worthy educational fare, i would say. Buy it. Eat some knowledge.
Date published: 2015-03-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Knowledgeably Presented with a Slant Audio Review. Dr. Fears has a strong voice and is a great storyteller, so the Audio version of this course more than suffices. Dr. Fears shows his wide range of knowledge on history and philosophy. His focus here is on how the concept and practice of freedom emerged. In particular, he puts this in the context of the formation of American democracy. As Dr. Fears' ultimate goal is to show the saga behind the emergence of American freedom his story is one of Western Civilization beginning with the Athenians. Along the way the journey goes through the Romans (Republic and Empire), Christianity, Middle Ages, Protestant Reformation, British foundations of Freedom, the founding of the United States, the U.S. Civil War, the first half of the 20th Century with its two World Wars, the Cold War, and the Civil Rights Movement. Along the way, Dr. Fears unabashedly identifies his "Great Man" heroes: Pericles, Lincoln, and Churchill as Statesman; Socrates and Jesus as teachers. He also makes clear his villains who threatened freedom: Machiavelli, Hitler and Stalin. Dr. Fears' lectures reveal many key observations such as how Athenian democracy contrasts to American democracy and how the American founding fathers took more of their cues from the Roman Empire than the Roman Republic. With his extensive knowledge of history and historical figures he tells a credible tale of how concepts of freedom and its practice evolved over the ages. However, Dr.Fears does present history through the color of his own biases. In another Fears TGC course, Churchill, he was more explicit about the difference between historical fact and his opinion. In History of Freedom, he often blurs the distinction. While it can be said that all history is revisionist as it is presented through interpretation, Dr. Fears puts some extra embellishment in his storytelling. In many ways his story is a throwback to the Romantic Historians of the late 19th/early 20th century. It is clear that he views history through the lens of Good vs. Evil with a belief in the "Great Man" theory of History. Dr. Fears form of revisionism is to selectively tell the truth by leaving out some relevant details. Several examples of this relish exist. He portrays Lincoln as one of the most religious leaders of America, even though, as Fears acknowledges, Lincoln did not belong to a Church. In citing the Gettysburg Address, Dr. Fears uses Lincoln's biblical phraseology of "Four Score and Seven Years" (akin to "three score and ten" in Psalm 90) and the references to "Brought forth" and "new birth" (presumed to be references to birth of Jesus) as evidence of Lincoln's religious piety. Yet he fails to mention that a trend of the time was to use this verbiage for time recollection in reference to July 1776 (e.g. Lincoln's friend James Conkling in July, 1857 noted that "Four score have elapsed" since the Declaration of Independence). The Gettysburg Address was given at the dedication of a National Cemetery for the soldiers who died there. It was a solemn ceremony with religious overtones that were typical of funerals of the day. As Lincoln's law partner, Billy Herndon noted, Lincoln was "the purest politician I ever saw" (letter dated Feb 4, 1866) and was quite capable of adapting his message to the audience and occasion. Many historians note that Lincoln made his last edits to the Address on the speaker's platform when he added the words "under God" as he got caught up in the tone of the ceremony. As Lincoln scholar and TGC lecturer, Allen Guelzo notes in his book "Abraham Lincoln and the Doctrine of Necessity", Lincoln was able to adjust his speeches to adapt to the religious revival tone of the day which "was no mean feat, coming from a man who had been suspected of agnosticism or atheism for most of his life. Yet by the end, while still a religious skeptic, Lincoln, too, seemed to equate the preservation of the Union and the freeing of the slaves with some higher, mystical purpose." Like he notes of Sophocles' writing in the play "Antigone", Dr. Fears suggests that religion is essential to morality and that the conscience is God speaking to the inner individual. In other lectures he suggests that a moral compass and a bedrock of principles are essential qualities of leaders of free people. In the last lecture, similar to Sophocles, Dr. Fears states that the moral compass comes through a belief in God. Yet, his 20th Century hero, Churchill, who in Dr. Fears eyes epitomizes morality, principle and the courage to stand up to the menace Hitler, was not a religious practitioner either. Dr. Fears portrays Hitler and Stalin as the two great menaces to Freedom in the 20th Century. This conclusion is without question. Dr. Fears contrasts these two to Churchill and FDR, who he hails as the preservers of democracy and freedom in this age of dictatorships; again this is without question. Dr. Fears then addresses the Cold War and the policy of containment as the preservation of freedom, and lauds that era's U.S. Presidents for standing up to Communism. He especially praises Ronald Reagan for providing "a guiding moral sense to a country gone astray." Ironically, in his concluding Lecture, Dr. Fears decries "scientists" as being amoral and having no compunction after having developed "something as destructive as the Atomic Bomb". Here again is Dr. Fears selective telling of the truth. The so-called Manhattan project to develop the Atomic Bomb was initiated by concern among Scientists that HItler was actually working on developing such a device. Since most of these scientists were emigrants from Europe in light of Hitler's madness, they knew that their physicist colleagues who were loyal Germans, (such as Heisenberg, Stark, and Hahn) were perfectly capable of applying their knowledge of the atom toward a destructive purpose. Hence these immigrant scientists worked with Albert Einstein (an avowed pacifist) to craft a letter to FDR suggesting an Allied project to develop such a weapon. Funny how Dr. Fears equates Churchill and FDR's fight against Hitler as of high moral character but that of the scientists as amoral. When it was clear that Hitler was defeated before he could develop an atomic bomb, a majority of the atomic scientists in the U.S. petitioned the government to not drop the bomb directly on civilian centers in Japan but rather to stage a demonstration bombing in a remote area for the Japanese hierarchy to witness. Furthermore, many of these same scientists left the program for moral reasons when the efforts turned to developing the hydrogen bomb. This was the same H-bomb that was at the center of escalation of the Cold War to mutually assured destruction (MAD). This escalation was done with the full support of the "heroic" Cold War Presidents mentioned by Dr. Fears. His favorite, Reagan, with his "Star Wars Initiative" was prepared to take this escalation to even greater heights. Dr. Fears talks of "Darwinism" as one of the key new "isms" antithetical to freedom during Hitler's reign. To be fair, he does make clear that he is referring to a "vulgar" form of Darwinism that goes outside the bounds of Darwin's actual theory and outside of morality. However, unlike most historians and written records from the period that refer to this as "Social Darwinism" or "Eugenics", Dr. Fears sticks with calling this as Darwinism throughout his lectures on Hitler. He shows his colors more explicitly during the last lecture where he talks about Scientific Freedom and decries the fact that "Science has taken over the public schools." He advocates for the sake of religious freedom, that creationism be allowed to be taught in the public schools along side Evolution. Unfortunately, he doesn't quite have his facts right here. While (appropriately) it is true that science has taken over the science curricula in schools, teaching comparative religions (not instruction in any one religion due to the establishment clause in the Bill of Rights) can be taught in public schools. Teaching the fact that various religions have different sacred texts and beliefs that tell different stories of the creation of Earth and life is legal. But science courses are limited to teaching the best of what is known or not known in science. Dr. Fears maintains that the U.S. Founding Fathers would have trouble understanding how this education that is secular could have emerged. On the contrary, at least two of the fathers, Franklin and Jefferson, would have welcomed this with open arms. (see Franklin's and Jefferson's autobiographies and Jefferson's views on education in "Notes on the State of Virginia".). Despite Dr. Fears teaching this course with a purposeful slant and an agenda aligned with Evangelical Christian philosophy and conservative politics, I still recommend this course for the following reasons: 1.The course contains much history and philosophy that is tied to the emergence of freedom, 2.Like Dr. Fears, I believe it is important for those of us who live in a free society to understand the long struggle for and the basis of that freedom, 3.It is equally important to understand that there are forces working against freedom which claim the same basis of moral authority which Dr. Fears claims is necessary to defend freedom and 4.Even though Dr. Fears presents this from a very specific perspective, it is instructive to understand how others who share his perspective use this selective form of history to justify their beliefs. (No doubt the same can be said of people with the polar opposite perspective). This course was produced in 2001. Obviously, it was completed before Sept. 11 of that year. It would have been interesting to see how the late Dr. Fears would have addressed the new attacks on freedom of global terrorism, cyberattacks, and government compromises of individual freedom that have occurred since.
Date published: 2015-02-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent course, but I have a few reservations Overall, this is an excellent course and I highly recommend it. Professor Fears gives a broad overview of the history of Freedom from the time of the ancient Greeks through the end of the Cold War. He does a good job of identifying the various trends in the idea of liberty, from one of "liberty for the male native citizen, but not women or foreign slaves" to our current ideas of "freedom for the individual". He also touches on the tension between prosperity and liberty, and is it better to have a benevolent tyrant who brings prosperity or is it better to have liberty even if it is not as prosperous. Finally, he discusses the illiberal societies of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to show the contrast between those societies and a free society. He touches on certain ideas that are demanding our attention today, such as how a charismatic tyrant can sway a population into committing terrible acts of savagery, and how science can be used as tool for terror. I only gave 4 stars because I felt his lectures on Martin Luther, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt were out to lunch and inconsistent with the points he made throughout the rest of the course. He was very one-sided on Luther, showing him as the hero against the authoritarian Catholic Church, ignoring the inconsistencies in Luther's theology and the actual teaching of Catholicism, as opposed to the abuses of certain leaders during an isolated period of history. And, other than a few brief mentions, he ignores the great contributions of St. Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastic tradition. He mistakenly portrays both Wilson and Roosevelt as heroes or freedom, even though both men were in favor of greater control by the federal government and less freedom for the individual. I suggest recent works by Amity Schlaes and Burton Fulsom to the interested reader to see where I am coming from. However, despite these weak parts of the course, the rest of the course more than makes up for it. This is especially true in the lecture covering the Oedipus Trilogy (of which Antigone is a part), the American Revolution, and the Civil War. He also is excellent in his coverage of the barbarity of Hitler, and the willingness of the German people to go along with him. This is an observation that America today should heed in light of the progressive direction the country has taken recently under Obama.
Date published: 2015-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from history of freedom -best lecturer of 60 I recently evaluated the course on the brief customer survey form but was impressed by the course and in particular the lecturer (Rufus Fears) that I've decided to add some additional comments as well as some comments about the Great Courses company itself. I gave the course on the form and the lecturer a rating of 9 and a half but am updating it to a 10. Both the course content and the lecturer were excellent. Prior to ordering the course I was somewhat put off by the customer reviews which gave it only a 4.1 star and 71 percent rating: I usually do not order a course if its ratings are at least 4 stars and 70 percent recommended s this one just barely met my criteria. I don't understand why those overall customer ratings were so low. My main reason for finally deciding to order this course was because of its lengthy coverage of the U.S. government which has been my primary interest for the last several years. In indeed, Fears' lectures in this area were very well presented and made made me aware of facts previously unknown to me. These were the very first lectures of the series that I viewed. They more than met my high expectations both for their content and the lecturer's delivery. I then went on to the lectures on Hitler and Stalin which were also full of facts I had not been aware of. And next to those on Greece and Rome. These were so informative and so well presented that I have just ordered Fears' courses on Famous greeks and Famous Romans. His lecture on the Trial of Socrates was SUPERB ! His story-telling talent for delivery matches that of Barbara Tuchman's written works: iSome reviewers may have been put off by that style of delivery but I thought it was so good that I wished it were longer. At several points in his lectures Sears made allusions to trends and events in our U.S. government which were "spot on". I wished he has gone on a little further in that regard and in fact said in my survey form that the company should convince his to put together a course on trends occurring in the U.S. government which are contrary to what the Founding Fathers intended. It would have been very interesting to hear Fears' views on recent Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United vs Federal Elections Commission, Hobby Lobby vs Sebelius and the Obamacare ruling. In general then, this was one of the very best courses of the 60 or so I've encountered over the past 2 and a half years. On a totally different topic, here are some observations on the Great Courses company itself. Overall there course offerings have been first-rate. I have returned only 2 of them and in both cases it was not because they were sub-bar but only because their content was not exactly what I had expected. The company's customer service is excellent- far above what the average company these days provides. The fact that I can place orders immediately by phone while talking to an informed LIVE representative is almost a thing of the past- no rat-maze of several layers of choices to endure before finally being able to place an order or ask for a piece of information about a particular course. The company's return policy is also exceptional. And finally, its policy of allowing the customer to update a course at a substantial price reduction is almost astounding. Around 2000 I purchased 4 courses in the VHS format: when I decided to update 3 of them in DVD format, I was given a very generous discount. And when I decided to update a CD version to the DVD version, I was again given a hefty price reduction. Most recently, after viewing the Fears' History of Freedom course and being so impressed with his delivery, I decided to order both his courses on Famous Romans and Greeks. The Roman corse was on sale for the surprising cost of only $50. but the Greek course was still priced at its full price of $255. When i mentioned to the rep. that I'd have to wait til it also went on sale, he almost immediately said I could order both of the at the same $50. price - yet another example of the company's outstanding customer service. There's nothing more I can add to top that. P.S. excuse the typos. I use the Hunt and Peck method. By the way, I'm considering resurrecting my 4 years of high school Latin with the company's LATIN 101. I'd be interested in hearing any comments on that course. Evidently some viewers were put of by the lecturer's pronunciation.
Date published: 2014-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Really Interesting Story! AUDIO DOWNLOAD This course rates high among the TC courses I have viewed/listened to over the years. It is not the most rigorous and tightly argued, but Professor Fears excels here in telling an interesting and, at times, stirring, story. Beginning with the ancient Greeks at Marathon resisting the might of the Persian Empire in 490 BC through to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s struggles with racism in 1960s America, to today’s hot-button issues like abortion and euthanasia, Professor Fears traces the history of an idea, freedom, “… the definitive idea of our civilization…” (Course Guide, Page 1), exploring its development in political, economic, social, and cultural dimensions. It should be noted that the freedom he discusses can at times be a bit fuzzy, but never totally out of focus. Professor Fears equates freedom and liberty in a “… a two-fold working definition. Liberty is freedom under the law: the freedom of a People to govern itself under laws it gives to itself. Complementing this political freedom is the freedom of the individual: the liberty of the individual to live as he or she chooses as long as that individual does not infringe upon the rights of another individual. Finally, our working definition of freedom maintains that responsibility is the other side of liberty and that for every right there is a corresponding duty” (Page 1). Bound up with this is Professor Fears’ belief not only in the power of ideas, but also “…that history is made by great individuals and great events, not by anonymous social and economic forces” (Page 1). The bottom line for Professor Fears is that “Excessive individualism is not liberty but rather license. There can ultimately be no separation between public and private morality. A democratic society can survive only if its citizens have a shared set of moral and political values. Excessive prosperity can lead to that public apathy about politics which is the death knell of liberty. In the end, the true test of a free society is its ability to produce leaders of ability, vision, and moral character” (Page 3). I am sure that there are some who might be put off by the story-telling aspect of this course, and I am sure Professor Fears can be faulted for biases in what he treats (as is possible with just about any course), but there are many solid lessons here. I am familiar with most of the historical events and eras dealt with by Professor Fears, and truly appreciated the perspective he brings to bear, sometimes casting events and individuals in a new light. Among the most interesting, for me, are his explanation of how and why Alexander the Great and the Emperor Augustus contributed to freedom; how important Natural Law is to freedom, especially regarding the Founders; and how Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address should be understood as a “deeply religious document” (Page 120). Professor Fears also puts us in touch with two great 19th century British thinkers on freedom and liberty, Lord Acton (of “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” fame) and John Stuart Mill. At times, however, the course seems a bit overwhelmed with context, for instance in detailing archaeological evidence from Pompeii, the events leading up to the Declaration of Independence and the later Constitutional Convention, the American Civil War background to the Battle of Gettysburg, and the treatment of the Jews in Hitler’s Germany. In each of these and other instances, however, the context provides excellent support to Professor Fears’ points. Bear in mind that Professor Fears not only holds that ideas have power and that men and women rather than economic and social forces make history, but also that he acknowledges absolutes, right and wrong. He points out that “Greece, Rome, Christianity, and the Founders of the United States believed in an intimate nexus between liberty and morality” (Page 156), and discusses, for example, the especially divisive issue of abortion in the context of freedom as, “…a moral issue as profound for us today as slavery was for 19th-century America. It poses most dramatically the tensions inherent in the ideals of individual freedom” (Page 155). I recommend starting with lecture 36 rather than at the beginning. I wish I had, as it really helps in getting an overview of where Professor Fears is going in the absorbing trek through so much of Western civilization. As Professor Fears passed away in 2012, there will be no more of his entertaining and so enlightening TC courses beyond what is now available. I will definitely listen to this course again, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this important and ever timely subject. You are in for a real treat!
Date published: 2014-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fears is a great story teller Professor Fears opens the course with a very dramatic presentation of the Battle of Marathon. This sets the mood for a lively discourse on events that promoted and/or hampered our path to freedom. I say 'our path' as this course clearly presents a Western point of view. Other reviews seem polarized -- one either likes Fears or doesn't. Some say his views are not very historical or accurate. As in his other courses he presents his opinion and allows you to make your own. What I enjoy most about Professor Fears' courses is how he brings you into the event he is discussing. Even if you don't agree with what he is saying, he makes you think about your position on the subject. For example, comparing Socrates and Jesus. He does the same with many of his other courses. One should enter into this course freely and enjoy the ride. As a ride it is. It is an entertaining and thought provoking ride.
Date published: 2014-04-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One Man's VIew Prof. Frears argues that we must accept that there are absolute, unconditional answers to all important questions about truth and value. Ironically, anyone who believed this would be obligated to dismiss these lectures as idiosyncratic opinions. Frears has his own completely original take on American History. He doesn't fit into either contemporary mold of Liberal or Conservative, giving equally high praise to FDR and Reagan, and it is refreshing to encounter someone who knows history well and is not afraid to form his own well-thought-out opinions about it. You probably won't agree with most of what he says, wherever you are on the political spectrum. But he will make you feel and think, and show you that history really does matter.
Date published: 2013-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A history of freedom from the American perspective As the title of my review acknowledges, the course takes an American viewpoint on the subject. Being an American, I enjoyed this, others who want more of a world view may be disappointed. Look at the lecture titles if you would like to know the content covered. Each lecture could stand alone, but Professor Fears does a good job of having there be a continuity of themes throughout all of the lectures. Professor Fears makes moral points based on the lessons he has learned from history. This might bother people who want a 100% politically correct view and believe that religion and morality are relics of the past. Professor Fears is a master storyteller. All segments were good, but the lecture on Robert E. Lee was spellbinding. The entire series is educational, entertaining and instructive.
Date published: 2013-07-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of Freedom, by Rufus Fears An awsome entertaining, adventure of what the concept of freedom has been rounded out to modern time, and the question of what the future offers! Well worth the time and efforts
Date published: 2013-04-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Valuable Content Flavoured with Personal Bias DVD REVIEW: There's considerable duplication between this course, recorded in 2001, and Professor Fears' course "The World Was Never The Same: Events That Changed History". Again, in this "Freedom" course (people and times that contributed largely to or against freedom), Dr Fears presents material in story-telling fashion, putting his own stamp, interpretation and skew wherever he wishes to do so. I am not a fan of this style, though I gather there are many reviewers who are. I wouldn't go as far as Dragnet's Joe Friday and demand "Just the facts", but when private opinions and embellishments are introduced into a history course, they could be received with the same weight as the actual facts, which would be incorrect and misleading. Putting forward the case for both sides of a contentious matter is fine, but I do not see the professor doing this, alas Some reviewers talk of Dr Fears' lectures as "entertaining". This entertainment must be the result of his story-telling style, injecting his often engaging asides, comments and imaginary reported speech into his narratives. Pictorial content in the DVD format is very welcome, especially because the lecturer is quite static on the set. Over the 36 lectures there are hundreds of pictures including scenes, maps and graphs. The bottom line? Valuable content, very good choices of historical figures and events to feature, but unless you enjoy his way of lecturing, you may need some patience and tolerance to get through all 36 lectures. Dr Fears passed away October 6th 2012, aged 67. In addition to being a professor, J Rufus Fears also wrote books and monographs including “The Cult of Jupiter and Roman Imperial Ideology” and "The Theology of Victory at Rome”. He was writing a book entitled "Dangerous Delusions: Why We Ignore the Lessons of History at Our Risk".
Date published: 2013-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of Freedom We have just completed The History of Freedom and found it just as enlightening and inspiring as we always find Dr. Fears courses. We find ourselves challenged to consider profound concepts and again reminded of the importance of the knowledge of history to the successful functioning of society. This course should be required in every school to awaken all students to the critical issues they face as future citizens.
Date published: 2012-09-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Inspiring and Engaging By his own description, Professor Fears' courses are very much personal views of overarching themes from history. This has some definite pros and cons. (If you are a regular Fears listener, you will already be familiar with these. If you are a first-timer, read on.) => This course connects the dots, finding elements of common themes throughout history. He seeks to (and succeeds in) inspiring his audience to believe that history and stories have great relevance to our lives. => This course stretches your understanding of what freedom is, in all its facets. At times the connections between dots labeled as "Freedom" feel somewhat tenuous, leaving you with, "Does that really represent freedom?" => His "personal" approach to his courses sets him very much apart from the other courses in TGC's repertoire. Other professors show more academic detachment from the material, presenting nuance and uncertainty. => Since Prof Fears wants to "inspire," he tells stories from history in a wonderful compelling way. However, he often makes generalizations, speaks in black and white, and asserts as facts things that are either incorrect or much more nuanced in reality. (You will see this inconsistency if you listen to a lot of other TGC history courses.) Therefore, the listener should not take his details at face value. => When I first listened to this course several years ago, I found his style too grandiose to watch, especially on video. New listeners have to be prepared for this, and the audio is recommended. However, he is very likeable, and once you "get into" his courses, you get addicted to them - a good thing. => I recommend his courses for people who have listened to a lot of other history courses and want to get a "big picture" of history. This course mentions a lot of people and events; therefore, already having a decent foundation in western civilization will really help. =>On the flip side, this course may also be very good for young students of history, especially if you want to inspire them to appreciate the Freedom we have. => One of his other courses, "The wisdom of history" was made after this course, and "The Wisdom of History" is more compelling and cogent. Prof Fears indicates during that course that his thinking had changed in some respects after the creation of "Freedom." => If you're looking for an academically rigorous discussion of history, don't buy Prof Fears' courses. But if you'd like something engaging and inspiring, this is a good course for you.
Date published: 2012-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Connects ALL the dots -- 5 Stars plus Some courses are more sophisticated. So too, are some professors. Such is the case with both the enigmatic Prof. Fears and his “History of Freedom” course from TTC. The good professor has the rare ability to embed profound teaching points within a story well-told. The myriad and diverse points of this course are set in a chain of freedom’s progress, from the ancient Greeks through Henry David Thoreau; with a masterful summation as the last lecture; connecting all the dots. Along the way, key exponents of freedom are highlighted, contrasted and compared. Some have chafed and disdained of Prof. Fears for his enlightening comparison of Jesus and Socrates (as teachers). Yet he is neither the first nor the most notable academician to make that comparison. No-less-a luminary than the English philosopher John Stuart Mill was the first to notice the remarkable career and life similarities of these two teachers, both of whom were ultimately put to death by their own societies for promoting freedom in their speech; and who yet today count billions (each) among their adherents. As Prof. Fears deftly exposes the many nodes of freedom’s tortured path from the ancients to our current understanding, you will be exposed to more than freedom’s history; you are treated to the sociological, philosophical, psychological, mystical, spiritual and scientific facets of this precious notion, freedom. Prof. Fears has an encyclopedic command of all periods of history and weaves them into a comprehensive unit of understanding; understanding about freedom. During the very pleasant and well produced 36 lectures, figures of history are introduced who at first blush may not appear to have advanced the cause of freedom, but the good Prof. shows, in pinball fashion, that there are flippers and bumpers along the way and all of them ultimately contribute to freedom’s trajectory, understanding and its ultimate definition. For me, with dozens and dozens of TTC courses under my belt, I must say that Prof. Fears is one of the most balanced lecturers I have encountered. At the outset I mentioned the "enigmatic Prof. Fears". Enigmatic, because just as you believe he is leaning in one direction or favoring a certain position, he will invariably surprise you by presenting well-balanced and reasoned evidence for the countervailing argument. But in the end, he will have drawn for you a very clear picture of the evolution of liberty. If you are curious about philosophy but do not wish to take a philosophy course, and if you are curious about political thought but do not wish to take a course on such, and if you are curious about how we got here historically but do not wish to take a history course then this is the perfect course for you. And TTC has other courses that match up well with this course, adding closely related subject matter, such as: Prof. Dennis Dalton's "Power over People" and Prof. Joseph Kobylka’s "Cycles of American Political Thought". However, of all the TTC courses in Philosophy and Intellectual History and of all the TTC professors who teach such; none are more absorbable and enjoyable than those taught by Prof. J. Rufus Fears.
Date published: 2012-03-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Opinions masquerading as history The title of this course is misleading. Professor Fear molds history into a fuzzy image of his own un-defined (as in "progressive") personal ideology. If you want a meaningful and useful definition of freedom, get a book called "Liberty Defined" by Dr. Ron Paul. Another great read is "The Law" by 18th century political philosopher, Frederick Bastiat.
Date published: 2012-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History of Freedom Because Professor Fears takes such a unique and creative approach to these very general topics, the course is very powerful. Sit back and enjoy it and go with the flow...let your mind go along with the professor's ideas and you will definitely gain new prospectives on historic eras.
Date published: 2011-11-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Apologetics masquerading as history Once I started to watch the lecture on Jesus as an important contributor to the history of freedom, I not only gave up on this course but, for some months, on the teaching company. As a non-Christian Ph.D. in the history of political thought, I was appalled. This course should come with a warning that the professor is willing to distort intellectual history to fit his religious objectives.
Date published: 2011-11-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from More about Fears than about Freedom This course is primarily a presentation of Rufus Fears's own opinions on the lessons of history. As he makes clear in another Teaching Company course, Fears is a proponent of the "Great Man" theory of history. So this course is a series of vignettes of those "great men," and an account of what they did and thought that made them great. Since Fears never defines what he means by "freedom," he himself is "free" to categorize any actions or philosophy that he approves of, under the heading of Freedom. By far the most annoying aspect of the course is Fears's cavalier disregard of any attempt to distinguish between historical fact and his own opinions. The course is replete with statements such as, "Caesar realized that ..." or "Churchill understood that ..." followed immediately by a highly debatable proposition - as if he were teaching us historical fact instead of just his opinions. This habit is so ingrained in Professor Fears's style that he frequently quotes from a speech or a book by one of his favorite historical figures, but gradually elides into statements of his own. The listener or viewer then has no idea at what point he stopped listening to George Washington's words and started hearing Rufus Fears's. Intellectual integrity demands a more honest presentation that this course provides.
Date published: 2011-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommended The reviews for this course seem to be wildly positive (mostly) or wildly negative. I have listened to about 30 courses from the Teaching Company, all in the general area of liberal arts, and Fears is unique. He is an academic along the lines of an 18th or 19th century generalist/moralist. This is not the modern temper, and I think that this is off-putting to many listeners. I have enjoyed all of Fears' courses tremendously. Although I don’t agree with quite a few of his ideas, (for example, his idealizing of Churchill and Kennedy) his point of view is interesting. His thoughts are always cogent and, in my opinion, need to be taken seriously. The criticism of many reviewers that Fears does not take account of economic/sociological factors is pointless. Obviously this is true. He is making a case for a specific view of history, not writing a text book taking all points of view into account. Having read reviews of other Teaching Company courses I have a sneaking suspicion that Fears’ conservative outlook is the basis of much of the negative review of this course.
Date published: 2011-08-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Unable to get past intro... I just couldn't stomach Fears' presentation and selective approach to the history of freedom. I think it was the glowing eulogy to Lincoln in the intro that turned me off so much (the American "civil war" was the opposite of embodying any ideals of freedom and liberty!), but when I looked back over the reviews posted here since I bought my copy I see that others found these problems more widespread. Previously I enjoyed Professor Fears course on Churchill immensely - but maybe that's because I didn't know enough of the actual history to give me perspective (he wasn't the most honest or humanitarian leader during WW I after all...). Fears does have a highly subjective dramatic, hyperbolic approach to lecturing, but that can have it's charms (maybe more entertaining than educational though...). This overwhelming bias and academic-lite approach is really too bad, because I would have loved to have followed the thread of freedom in Western culture. Other reviewers here complain Fears doesn't adequately define freedom (not surprising if he holds up The Federalists, Lincoln and FDR as defenders of freedom!). As far as understanding freedom goes, I got so much more out of Professor Garfield's new and excellent course (The Meaning of Life), where he discusses the Bhagavad Gita's notion that true freedom is not freedom TO have stuff (rights, security, property) as much as freedom FROM desire. From that perspective the contents of this course appear largely a diversion (and merely a reaffirmation and apologia of the current dominant statist inconsistent/undisciplined world view).
Date published: 2011-06-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing and Euro-centric This course is incorrectly named and should be called a selected history of Western Civilization (minus important ideas such as the Enlightenment, Renaissance, etc) . A course on "Freedom", I would assume, would first define what the prof. believes is freedom. Liberty? Human Rights? Democracy? Can anyone listen to this, and define what does Fears mean by "Freedom?". If it was rights or liberty, he ignored early important contributions that were created in Antiquity by non-Greco-Romans. Such as those expanded under the Islamic Caliphates and the creation of initial laws in Persia, code of hummarabi...even China created a rule where people could rebel against the emperor (he wrong cites this as a creation in the Magna Carter)etc. Plus he is contradicts himself. When he gets to the Anglo-saxons, he says the Brits are the first to love freedom, to have a parliament etc!! So why did he spend all those previous lectures on non-freedom loving peoples? More baffling, is his lectures on Julius Cesar and Jesus. Cesar ended the Roman Republic, and created a dictatorship, Jesus (though little historical record of the man exists) created is a highly contentious religious figure with little connection to ideas such as freedom of religion, liberty, rights...and Fears doesn't even attempt to make a connection. Again might help if he defined "Freedom" or what did Christianity, which snuffed out all other religions (besides Judaism, though it tried) in Christendom, do to initiate new forms of "Freedom." I thought this would be a lecture on how each civilization, time period, idea, and philosopher from around the world contributed to the idea of rights, liberty, democracy, etc, - basically a history of ideas. This lecture definitely was not. Again, what is freedom?
Date published: 2011-05-01
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