Only three lifetimes ago, Europe was a farming society ruled by families of monarchs. But with two seismic tremors-capitalism and democracy-Europe's economic and royal foundations were shattered forever and modern European history began.
In this series of 48 fascinating lectures, Professor Childers makes the history of Europe from the 1750s to the present-events both horrible and magnificent-as immediate as today's headlines, employing the historian's craft and a storyteller's skill to find the causes of what otherwise could seem to be the march of folly. The result is an intellectually exhilarating journey through a period of three lifetimes such as the world had never experienced. You'll see how in the span of just one life, England became an industrial, urban culture; tens of thousands were guillotined in France; Napoleon's Empire - the greatest since Rome-rose and fell; and revolution swept the capitals of Europe; how in the span of just one more, the Russian serfs were freed; Italy and Germany were created from a loose collection of city-states; European powers divided and conquered Africa; Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Einstein published world-shaking ideas; and millions died in a Great War; and how in that third lifetime, the world was plunged into economic depression, global war, and genocide; Europe abandoned its African colonies; the Soviet Union rose and fell; Fascism and Communism failed as democracy became the dominant form of government; and the same European powers that had bled each other for hundreds of years created a Common Market and unified currency.
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Oh my, where do I begin? A fantastic listen.
A must listen.
I selected this audio series because I'm planning a trip to France and wanted to brush up on France's modern history. I ended up racing through all 24 riveting hours, covering Europe from the Enlightenment and French Revolution through the Cold War.
Yes! Though at 24 full hours that would have been impossible. As the course continued, I found myself racing through it, listening wherever and whenever I could.
This course overlaps substantially with another outstanding title from The Great Courses by Professor Robert Bucholz, Foundations of Western Civilization II, which I listened to last year and loved. I could not begin to tell you which course is better.
Bucholz's course ("Foundations") covers a wider geography and time period, and is memorable particularly for his rich descriptions of life under the great pre-enlightenment monarchies (particularly that of Louis XIV of France), and for the vivid portrait he painted of the mood in Europe through the industrial revolution leading up to World War I.
Professor Childers is an equally gifted historian and storyteller, and listening to this course was a similar experience in that once it got going, I couldn't stop listening.
More than the "foundations" course, this course -- particularly the first half -- focused much more on the political and philosophical evolution within the era covered. There is ample discussion of the contributing forces and evolution of nationalism, conservatism, imperialism, capitalism, liberalism, communism, socialism, fascism, and more. But make no mistake -- this is not simply a philosophy class. Childers paints vivid pictures of the leaders of the day, and of the many circumstances and turning points that propelled Europe through the last 200 years. Highlights for me included the several lectures which offered a detailed dissection of the rise, reign, and philosophy of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers ("Nazi") party in Germany in the 1930s.
It was not until the final lecture that I realized this course was recorded a good 15 years ago. Childers ends his accounting of history as the new millennium is dawning. While it would be nice to hear Childers' take on the 21st century, it's to his credit that his summation in lecture 48 remains meaningful, and in the end the age of the course is irrelevant. Loved it.
Gripping Whistlestop Tour of 200 Years' History