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I thought this lecture series would be a history of democracy in the 20th century. Was that stupid of me? Having listened to several lectures now, it appears to be more of a general discussion of ideas, public consciousness and philosophy. If thats what you want then this may well be the right audiobook for you. Lecturer comes across as very clear, intelligent and sympathetic with to my ear a very pleasant voice. I didnt notice her saying "in other words" repeatedly, but she certainly sighs alot. Take a year off Professor? Sounds like you are working too hard.
There are several warnings I would give to someone considering this investment in time. This is a course of 48 lectures delivered by a professor who is relatively monotone and does not convey warmth or enthusiasm the way most people do. I felt that I got used to the way she uses tone and I got over it. If you can't do monotone, you should consider whether this course is for you. Very long course, but commensurate with scope. Despite the length, the topics are treated at a high level. Most readers will find a percentage of lectures that they feel they know better than the professor. You may find her viewpoint in some lectures to be a bit naive, very liberal, or flat out wrong. If this puts you off and you are a conservative or libertarian, you may have difficulty finishing the course. Personally I found the perspective and the focus on "democracy" to be incredibly interesting. She is unabashedly focused on the struggle for democracy even though we find democracy to be in quite a bit of trouble recently, and our founders were not very sanguine about the future of democracy and thus designed a republic. Democracy may not fit in all places, and it may at the end of the day not be the correct system to manage the affairs of human beings, but I think most alternative anchors for a course of the 20th century would fail miserably. Like it or not most in the US believe in the living constitution as well as the Tocquevillian tumble towards equality in all things. Conservatives and libertarians who can accept democracy as an anchor should be able to enjoy and gain insight into how liberals view the 20th century. The broad scope is reflected in the lectures. I would recommend that you Google great courses pamela radcliff 20th century and look at the lecture list. Most non-expert history buffs will find alot here that they will enjoy. Highly recommended. Will challenge your perspective and help you understand better the liberal viewpoint. There was also a PDF course guidebook that I found while googling. I actually believe these guidebooks are essential for many of these courses. Not essential for this one as she sticks to her notes which are very related to the guidebook. If you find the guidebook it may also help you decide if this course is for you.
20 of 22 people found this review helpful
This is an excellent history course for a number of reasons. The first is that it makes an attempt at global coverage, which is rare. We hear about Asian and African and South American countries that are often ignored in Western-centric modern histories. Another is that it is interpretive -- not merely stating facts but identifying larger themes and tendencies as well. It also tackles social and cultural events and changes of the century, giving a history of ideas, not merely politics -- and the 20th century is a time when ideas were very powerful. Finally its nice to hear a woman's perspective on the 20th century; there seem to be very few female lecturers on history in the Great Courses' repertoire, which may be representative of the field writ large, but is nonetheless disappointing from such a great company.
As far as performance goes, Radcliff -- just like all the other Great Courses people -- is a professor and not an orator, but she has a fine, NPR-ish voice that makes for very decent listening. Someone else pointed out that she says "in other words" (or its equivalents) a lot, which she does -- but the re-wording that follows always helps to elucidate the point, so I can't consider it a fault.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful