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Foundations of Western Civilization II: A History of the Modern Western World


Throughout the 48 lectures that make up the course, Professor Bucholz puts those lessons on display, including:
The horrors of war and the need to understand the weight of the choice to wage war. Because so much of our history has depended on the prosecution and outcome of wars—whether our own or not—from the Wars of Religion to the Second World War, it is imperative that each generation know the price previous generations have paid for whatever may have been gained, and understand what is being placed at risk in any contemplated conflict.
The perils of certainty, which, admirable though it may be in defense of the defenseless and downtrodden, must always be viewed as suspect.
The transience of even the mightiest levels of power, which is inevitably left behind by art, culture, and the enduring results of both cruelty and generosity.
The fragile nature of civilization itself, so easily and often shattered, which underlines so boldly the importance of understanding and heeding its lessons.
History of the Powerless as Well as the Mighty
These lessons are conveyed through the lives and experiences of the royal, the elected, the appointed members of the noble and ruling classes, and through those of the common man, woman, and child as well.
It's an approach our customers may remember from Professor Bucholz's sweeping History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts, when he drew on his expert knowledge of the royal court and household—upstairs and downstairs—to offer us an extraordinarily intimate perspective of a nation whose history is often told only in terms of its monarchs.
In this course, as in his earlier one, Professor Bucholz explores the idea of the "Great Chain of Being," the once-immutable hierarchy in which every person on Earth had a clearly defined rank in the eyes of God that could never be questioned, let alone challenged, without committing a grave sin. It is the gradual erosion, and sometimes violent shattering, of this chain—whether through social progress, political evolution, or industrialization and other economic factors—around which Professor Bucholz organizes much of the Western world's progress in the 500 years during which the clay of our own history was shaped and fired.
Those who have enjoyed our previous course on the Foundations of Western Civilization, taught by Professor Thomas F. X. Noble, will re-encounter some material because the periods encompassed by the two courses overlap. But this new course will be an ideal companion for those interested in continuing the story of Western civilization up to contemporary times. In the same way, some events discussed in Professor Bucholz's earlier course are mentioned here as well, as important introductory signposts along a broad journey in which Britain's role was only one—albeit, as often as not, the most important—of many.
In guiding you on that journey, Professor Bucholz pauses at many points along the way, showing how Western civilization was shaped by the low as well as the mighty, the practical as well as the artistic.
As you would expect, those at the seat of power—by birth, election, or revolution—take their turn at center stage, including:
Charles I of England, whose personality and policies helped bring about the English Civil Wars and whose trial and beheading on the charge of treason against the people of England demonstrated—in the most literal way possible—that any link in the Great Chain of Being could indeed be severed
Napoleon Bonaparte, the brilliant battlefield tactician and magnetic leader whose dreams of unifying Europe through military conquest were foiled, but whose values of liberalism and nationalism—for which the French Revolution had been fought—spread throughout Europe nevertheless
Otto von Bismarck, the meticulous diplomat and architect of German unification whose carefully devised system of interlocking alliances—designed to maintain Europe 's balance of power and prevent war—could not survive the swaggering ambitions of the Kaiser who fired him
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the fiery leader who spent much of his youth imprisoned or exiled, but returned to Russia to lead a revolution, topple a government, and lay the foundation for decades of Soviet Communism
Adolf Hitler, who in 1918 was hospitalized for mustard gas blindness and diagnosed as "incompetent to command people and dangerously psychotic"—his commander said, "I will never promote this hysteric"—but rose to dictatorial power in Germany and instigated the Holocaust and World War II
Winston Churchill, the author, soldier, and statesman who emerged from the political wilderness to become Britain's Prime Minister and inspirational beacon during the darkest days of World War II.
Outside the Corridors of Power
But those who had their hands on the clay as our civilization was shaped came from outside the corridors of power as well, such as:
Martin Luther, the Augustinian priest and professor of theology whose 95 Theses opposing the sale of indulgences by the Church—nailed to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg—led to the launch of the Reformation
Charles Montesquieu, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Denis Diderot, the energetic leaders of the 18th-century Enlightenment thinkers known as the philosophes
Michelangelo and the other artists of the Renaissance, whose greatest works revealed a new valuation of the individual, portraying real people with real histories and feelings
Some of the unknown champions of feminism, such as Caroline Norton, the abused wife who campaigned for the right of English women to initiate divorce proceedings and ultimately won that battle in 1857, and her countrywoman, Josephine Butler, who fought against laws that targeted prostitutes but not their clients.
And, of course, many other examples from a vast array of ordinary men and women whose experiences—perhaps even more so than those of the powerful and famous—convey the most vivid portraits of an evolving civilization.
These 48 lectures reveal just how and why that particular evolution took place, and what lessons we might take from it as we look ahead to the future.

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European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century - Audio lectures (mp3)


audio 337 MB, MP3, 32kbps 

g uide book 5,19 MB, PDF

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