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"Intellectually sloppy". "Lacking insights". Very true.
Unlike Professor Shutt's lectures on Hebrews, Greeks and Romans or his masterful guided tour through Dante's Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, these talks meander. The particular engagements are never placed solidly in their larger military, social or economic contexts. After reviewing the main characteristics of typical naval powers in lecture one, those criteria are seldom referred to again.
Things get better with the lecture on Trafalgar and after--but then I know that period pretty well and may have been filling in the blanks for myself. The section on the Russo-Japanese War was all new material to me and a good grounding for someone who will probably never pick up a book on the subject.
But only once do I recall getting a classic Shutt-like insight: near the end of the lecture on Midway he illustrates the American Way of War (high tech/low casualty) by observing that the winning blow was struck by fewer than 100 men--and that the cutting edge of that force may have numbered only 30. A stunning point that rivets the attention--as Professor Shutt at his best does all the time--and puts the victory in a wholly new light.
But while I agree with Chris and Matthew on all this, I have a confession: I like Professor Shutt. I enjoy his enthusiasm, his delivery, his personality as it comes through the headphones. Sometimes I think if Audible sold a recording of him reading the phone book I'd put it on my Wish List. While I learned very little that was really new, I got a good, solid review of naval history that made the train ride home every night far more enjoyable.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
I expected a survey course, some direction for additional reading. What Shutt delivered was often intellectually slipshod and technically amateurish.
As for the mental laziness on display here: Even in a survey course, I expect a lecturer to know how to pronounce the names of the people and places under discussion, not to guess at them, as Shutt repeatedly does.
In the opening lecture, Shutt suggested that he would explore themes such as the relationship between merchant oligarchies and naval power. Instead, the lectures often delivered score-keeping. This side lost X number of ships. The other side lost a lot fewer, because they had better ships or they practiced more, or some similar generalization that Shutt fails to explore. The effect is disturbing. OK. Some of these battles took place a long time ago. But those were human beings in those fights. They wanted to live, and many suffered terribly. I'm not asking for Shutt to burst into tears over that. I'm asking him to show some discipline, to draw some broader conclusions, to develop a theme. Other historians do that. Score-keeping insults the dead, the reader and history itself.
On to the technical sloppiness: At the end of the series, a narrator credits three editors. I cannot fathom how they might have spent their time on this project. Certainly not on correcting errors. At one point, I got so exasperated that I actually started keeping a log of Shutt's stumbles, but I kept losing track. There were lots and lots and lots. I can understand that Shutt might stumble in his delivery. What I can't understand is how the publisher could have expected payment for such sloppy editing, or why Audible actually bought it.
I bought it because I didn't know how awful it would be. I wish I hadn't.
16 of 20 people found this review helpful
A very enjoyable series of lectures, the descriptions are so good you can really picture what's going on and the necessary historical background is given without taking away the focus on naval matters so you learn a lot more than you set out to.
Very enjoyable and he obviously knows his stuff!
Timothy Shutt has an obvious enthusism and knowledge for his subject but I don't think that the lecture format works that well. Having become used to almost faultless narration in other titles, the rambling lecture style is unexpected. Some of the battle accounts such as Midway are well explained but most of the ancient ones suffer though the lengthy explantion necessary to put them in historical context. I have read a far more gripping account of the Battle of Lepanto for example.