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One of the great things about the Great Courses series is that they can give the listener a 101 level introduction to a new (or renewed, for courses forgotten decades ago) area of study. I am a dedicated listener (and in some cases, watcher) of Teaching Co. courses of this kind. Of course, a 101 level course that is completed in only, say 12 hours, can also seem somewhat superficial, since a true 101 course on the same topic in freshman year of college has lots more hours as well as lots of reading materials the college freshman must read if he or she hopes to get a good grade. The Teaching Co tries hard to achieve a balance between their own 101 by bridging toward the college 101, without getting all the way there.
I found this course to be closer to the superficial 101, which means I hungered for more information about the cases about which I knew little or nothing (mostly the in the first half of the course) while I came away slightly dissatisfied with those about which I already knew a good deal (mostly in the last 1/4 of the course). I still give it 4 stars overall, it has already driven me looking for more material on the few cases about which I knew nothing, so I can make my own bridge in the direction of the freshman 101. In that sense, this course and this professor has accomplished the key objectives of Teaching Co courses -- giving me a broad understanding of this topic and making me thirsty for more information on particular lectures.
The lecturer is quite entertaining, and brings in plenty of ancillary information to give the listener context about the case itself. Each lecture is structured in such a way that the entire 30 minutes is not dominated by the trial itself, but gives background on the times, the "crime," the players, and where appropriate, the consequences of the event.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
The material covered in this course is undoubtedly interesting, and the lectures improve as the series progresses. But given Professor Linder's credentials and accomplishments, I had hoped for more analysis and scholarship. Instead, we get straight-up story telling, often delivered from the cinematic perspective of an omniscient narrator. This makes for light, entertaining listening, but the legal and historical significance of each trial are only touched upon briefly, if at all.
Professor Linder's reading of his script is also distracting. He is likeable and has a pleasant enough voice, but each lecture is marred by a dozen or more slip ups and mispronunciations. The overall impression is of a cold reading captured in one take and presented unedited. Great Courses lecturers are usually much more polished.
Despite these reservations, I listened to this course in its entirety and enjoyed much of what I heard. I appreciated the Professor's knowledgeable rehearsal of the details of each case, but was frustrated that he never went deeper. As mentioned above, I had hoped for a course exploring the legal, moral and social issues raised by these trials.
7 of 9 people found this review helpful
I found this hugely enjoyable - hence still offering four stars. Where many of the historical lecture series from the great courses concatenate as a single thematic narrative, one to the next, each lecture here is a self-contained story, insightfully told. My one and only gripe is how few of these trials take place outside of America. Sure, we begin with Socrates, and there's Bruno and Nuremburg, but one feels these are included only to warrant the title. The vast majority of these trials are American, and I suppose I was hoping to hear something of a more mixed, international flavour. Highly recommended nevertheless. Interesting, informative, and even shocking in places.