Summary

Military history often highlights successes and suggests a sense of inevitability about victory, but there is so much that can be gleaned from considering failures. Study these crucibles of history to gain a better understanding of why a civilization took - or didn't take - a particular path. Full of dramatic reversals of fortune and colorful characters, this course examines some of the world's most notable examples of military misfortune, from the humiliating destruction of a Roman army at Carrhae in 53 BC to the tragic landings at Gallipoli in World War I. Success and failure, as you'll learn, are two sides of the same coin.
These 24 lectures reveal how the trajectory of history hangs in the balance of individual battles; even a single person's actions in a particular moment have made drastic and irreversible impacts. From ancient Greece through global war during the first half of the 20th century, you'll delve into infamous conflicts such as the Charge of the Light Brigade and the Battle of Little Bighorn as well as lesser-known battles.
How could an army equipped with cannon be wiped out by Zulu warriors wielding spears and outdated firearms? How could armored French knights be vulnerable to the crude weapons of a band of Flemish shopkeepers? Why would a savvy Chinese general fall victim to a tactic he had previously used himself? Unpredictable twists of fate abound, demonstrating that when it comes to war, there are no givens. Sheer numbers, superior weaponry, and skilled leadership are never a guarantee of success.
Take a fascinating journey through some of the most gloriously inglorious wartime encounters. Along the way, you'll get to know some of the most legendary characters in world history.
©2015 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2015 The Great Courses
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By John W on 30-11-15

Interesting content with a truly awful narration.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A more fluid narration! The guy who reads this audiobook is very clearly reading the content from a script. His speech stops and starts and emphasises in all the wrong places. Its like listening to William Shatner struggling with a script !

If the book was read by somebody who could speak in a steady and confident manner it would fare much better, but sadly the narrator of this version sounds robotic, unusual, stuttering and impossible to listen to with any amount of concentration.

What was one of the most memorable moments of History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach?

I'm not sure. Because I was so put off by the narrator's manner of speaking I stopped listening after a few chapters. The chapter about the battle of the Crater was quite interesting i guess.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Gregory S. Aldrete, PhD?

Stephen Fry? Patrick Stewart? Quite frankly anyone who can hold together a deep, wise, and unwavering tone.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The content itself was relatively interesting - its just a shame it was presented in such a mispronounced, stuttering, odd and disjointed fashion.

Any additional comments?

Dont buy it unless you can put up with slow reading and mispronunciation.

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6 of 10 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Lawrence Oxborough on 01-03-17

More of a University Lecture than a Book...

... but still thoroughly enjoyable for a history nerd. Of course, it missed a few "blunders" that I would have considered pivotal in world history, such as the Third Reich's advance into Russia, and George Meade's failure to pursue the defeated Confederate Army immediately following Gettysburg, but all the lectures came together in the end very nicely and a solid point was made that I can't argue against.

... Even if the blunders committed by British generals were hard pills to swallow!

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1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Charles Grayson on 11-07-16

Hindsight Bias?

The professor does an outstanding presentation of his material.

I have to wonder, though, whether many of these blunders are hindsight bias. For example, we only distinguish rashness from boldness when the endeavor succeeds or fails; there may be no way to determine which description applies beforehand.

Many of the behaviors that the professor describes also precede great successes as well as failures, and it's only when failure occurs that they look stupid. The problem is that we don't keep data on stupidity followed by success, which makes it look artificially easy to determine when you're screwing up.

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50 of 50 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Cynthia on 16-08-16

Martial Chaos

I'm a military history buff and a US Army veteran, so I really couldn't have asked for a more apt "The Great Courses" lecture series. It's thing to read a translation of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" (approximately 5th century BCE), an aspirational guide to tactical warfare that's travelled the millennia well. It's quite anther to fearlessly examine some of the most painful military debacles in history and take meaning from what's written in blood . "History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach" (Gregory S. Aldrete, PhD) is a neat survey course of things that have gone militarily very, very, wrong for more than two millennia.

The lectures range from The Battles of Syracuse (415-414 BC) to World War II's Operation Market Garden (1944). Some are obvious, often repeated errors. Napoleon's 1812 winter invasion of Russia was about as successful as Charles XII of Sweden's 1707 invasion of the same country. The 1854 storied, tragic Charge of the Light Brigade is about attacking the wrong target. Some of the disasters of World War II were almost too painful to listen to. I remember hearing war stories first-hand from veterans in my grandparents' small town, and to know that sometimes their sacrifices were wasted hurts.

I like that the lectures aren't Eurocentric - one of the best is on the 2nd Century Red Cliffs Campaign of the brilliant but merciless Chinese General Cao Cao. Even the strongest of tyrants don't always prevail. I got a kick out of the lecture on 1879 Isandlwana: 25,000 Zulus, Undetected. It was horrifying to Victorian England, especially the post-battle mutilation (actually, a sign of respect: the Zulu Warriors were releasing the spirits of the slain soldiers), but a century and a half later, it's a study in absolute arrogance and the triumph of what must have been derided then as "savages."

I would definitely listen to another one of Professor Aldrete's courses.

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79 of 85 people found this review helpful

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