The Foundations of Western Civilization : The Great Courses: Civilization & Culture

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Thomas F. X. Noble
  • Series: The Great Courses: Civilization & Culture
  • 24 hrs and 54 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary


What is Western civilization? According to Professor Noble, it is "much more than human and political geography," encompassing myriad forms of political and institutional structures - from monarchies to participatory republics - and its own traditions of political discourse. It involves choices about who gets to participate in any given society and the ways in which societies have resolved the tension between individual self-interest and the common good.
Within this series of 48 lectures, you'll discover the many ways in which Western civilization has addressed those questions, from its first stirrings in the great river valleys of Iraq and Egypt in 3000 B.C to the beginning of the 17th century and the dawn of the modern world. Your learning will cover vast amounts of territory and thousands of years, beginning in the ancient Near East and moving to Greece and then Rome. You'll explore ancient empires, including those of Persia, Alexander the Great, and Rome.
You'll watch as western Europe gradually expands, both physically and culturally. And you'll examine the globalizations of Western civilization with the Portuguese and Spanish voyages of exploration and discovery.
This broad and panoramic series, ripe with the telling detail on which history can turn, will help you pull an enormous sweep of history together into one coherent - though by no means closed - framework as you watch history develop under the influence of such critical factors as ecology and environment, geography, and climate; government and economics; technology; religion; work and leisure; philosophy; literature; art and architecture; and virtues, values, and aesthetics.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Loved it - I'll be ordering more

If this book wasn’t for you, who do you think might enjoy it more?

It's a series of 48 lectures, covering over 5000 years of history. I think it was well suited to me because I have some background knowledge of most of the period. But I'm not an expert, I still learned a lot and it helped connect everything together. If you are fresh to the subject don't be put off - just take it more slowly, perhaps repeat a lecture that you didn't connect with the first time.


What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I was disappointed that it ended at 1600 (Early Modern Period). I would have liked it to continue beyond that. I will move on to "Foundations of Western Civilization II", but it's with a different lecturer. Perhaps that lecturer will be as good. Some people would prefer homework, visual material, study certificates etc. Not something I would want/need - but everyone will have to decide themselves.


How did the narrator detract from the book?

I thought Thomas Noble was excellent. He has his mannerisms, of course (asides, chortles, pauses) - perhaps that would bother some people. I found it added charm. It felt like I had a personal guide through history, not some Wiki-bot. I am considering getting his "Late Antiquity: Crisis and Transformation" series.


What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

A couple of feelings (1) I wish I'd had this overview when I was growing up. When studying more detailed history I would be better able to put everything in context. (2) This series shows that it is possible to creditably cover over 5000 years in 48 short lectures. A complement to, rather than a replacement for, serious study of more focused history.


Any additional comments?

I didn't know if a lengthy lecture series would be for me, but decided it was worth a gamble. It turns out that it suits me very well - indeed, I'm amazed - a whole new method of learning has opened up. This hasn't replaced my reading of books, but it supplements them nicely.

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- First Impressions

Well told and very interesting

If you're interested in history but never had the time to study it, curious about the Greeks, Romans, the church and just how Europe came to be how it is? If you kind of know the famous names and event and phrases but not really in any great detail or context then you'll love this relatively unbiased appraisal of western history. Brilliantly told and engaging.
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- Andy Allison

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-07-2013
  • Publisher: The Great Courses