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European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century

Follow the ebbs and flows of European thought during this key period.
European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 41.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Worthwhile I don't have much to add to the other positive reviews, except that I have numerous other Great Courses covering modern Europe, and even so I found this one very worthwhile, bringing out some points and common threads that needed emphasizing for me. Sure, I'd prefer a video, but with no visuals really required, the audio suffices just fine.
Date published: 2023-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb - Very Clear and Interesting An excellent summary of what was happening in European thought - philosophy, science and the arts - in the 19th century. What struck me most was how well Professor Kramer drew out a story line for the entire course, explaining how all the different developments fit together and relating almost everything to reactions to the French Revolution and The Enlightenment. He struck a balance between delineating broad trends and delving into what made particular important figures such as John Stuart Mill or Karl Marx tick. Therefore this wasn't a "great men in history" approach, but something richer and more subtle. It was amazing to hear him meaningfully discuss a major thinker or writer in only 10 minutes without seeming skimpy or superficial. I especially need to applaud the lecture on Hegel, which was the clearest description of Hegel's ideas I'd ever listened to, making him sound not totally off his rocker. The professor speaks well enough that you can simply listen and let the ideas sink in.
Date published: 2021-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Subject I've recently developed a fascination with the 19th Century - specifically the early era, from the French Revolution through the Regency era - and saw this title and decided to get it. I'm absolutely enthralled by the loads of information I am getting learn in this course. I saw he had one for the 20th Century and I'm hoping he'd do courses on the 17th, 18th and 21st Centuries for European Thought and Culture. He's excellent.
Date published: 2020-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good! I have to read Hegel and I want to get more info about the time and context he lived in. I found this very entertaining and informative, mostly listening it on the way to work.
Date published: 2019-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent I am writing this after listening to this course for the third time. For me the mark of an excellent history course is the desire to listen to it more than once. I have owned this course since before there were online reviews of Teaching Company courses (or at least before I was aware of them and writing them). Some courses are meaty enough (or my memory is short enough) that I can listen to them more than once and still find them instructive and thought provoking. This is one of those. Professor Kramer is clear and fluid in his delivery. Some of the concepts are complex, but he explains them in terms accessible to the layman. Naturally, the treatment of any given topic is limited by the time constraints, but he provides an excellent bibliography for those who want to pursue a subject in more depth. I highly recommend this as an introduction to the intellectual currents of the 19th century and the reactions to the Enlightenment and the French Revolution.
Date published: 2018-08-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great content The professor was good and the content was great - though it did drag on once or twice. I would originally rate this as a B+, but immediate after I finished this series I listened to Darwinian Revolution and the two combined was perfect. I rate the combo as a solid A.
Date published: 2018-05-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Quite Interesting I like this course more than I expected. I was looking for a review and re-introduction to a period I had not visited for quite some time. In fact, it was on starting the second go-through that my appreciation increased. I am not sure if that is related more to my state of mind the first time or Professor Kramer’s delivery. He is, for the most part, a very good teacher and provides a well-crafted set of lectures. For those dubious about a course on intellectual history, rest assured Professor Kramer’s approach is well-grounded. As he notes early on, the course: “… stresses the importance of social, political, and economic realities in the formation and diffusion of all ideas…Our goal throughout the course is to understand the ideas of influential nineteenth-century European intellectuals, to reflect on the interactions between ideas and social experience, and to think critically about how the ideas of creative nineteenth-century writers still raise questions for our own time.” (Course Guidebook, Page 1) Professor Kramer starts with a discussion of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment and the French Revolution. These events set the stage for what follows, especially the Enlightenment’s faith in science, reason, and progress. For Professor Kramer, the nineteenth century continued a protracted dialogue with the Enlightenment (which in important respects continues into the twenty-first century). In the telling of the tale, Professor Kramer deals with the various “isms” spawned in the nineteenth century, being especially engaging on Nationalism, Marxism, Darwinism, and Feminism. He does not stick to such dry matters as theories, manifestoes and tracts, but includes very interesting biographical details and literary aspects, dealing with such novelists as Stendhal, Balzac, and Flaubert. What Professor Kramer narrows in on is the development of mass society, replacing that of the older aristocratic, hierarchical one. With the intense desire for equality in the wake of the French Revolution, many key thinkers became concerned about the nature of the developing mass society and its impact on liberty and individualism. Professor Kramer here notes especially Alexis de Tocqueville’s concern about a tyranny of the majority in commanding conformity and the novelists who “… criticized…the ‘hollowness’ of modern, ambitious people…[who] saw the nineteenth century as the era in which bourgeois social and economic values had come to dominate all of social life (Page 125).” This, for me is the most interesting part of the course. It leads to the fitting course ending: the “heroic” critiques by Thomas Carlyle, Sören Kierkegaard, and Matthew Arnold, topped off with that of Friedrich Nietzsche, whose intellectual legacy continues relevant today. This 2001 TC course has a great 199-page course guidebook with excellent lecture summaries, timeline, glossary, biographical notes and extensive and quite helpful annotated bibliography.
Date published: 2018-04-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from European Thought and Culture in the 19th Century The course is wonderful. However, I wish I could return to where I was listening if the course is disrupted. Instead I have to return to the beginning. Very frustrating.
Date published: 2017-07-09
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Explore the major thinkers and historic challenges that shaped the mind of Europe in the 19th century. How much does this recent history continue to impact Western thought today? Examine Marx


Lloyd Kramer

Intellectual history fascinates me because it explores how people understand themselves, other persons, and human actions. A journey through European thought and culture thus leads us back to ourselves and our own life experiences.


University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Dr. Lloyd Kramer is the Dean E. Smith Distinguished Term Professor of History at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he has taught since 1986. He earned his B.A. from Maryville College and his M.A. in History from Boston College. He earned his Ph.D. in European Intellectual History from Cornell University. Prior to taking his position at UNC, Professor Kramer held teaching positions at Northwestern University, Stanford University, and Cornell University. At UNC, Dr. Kramer is the recipient of the Johnston Teaching Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching (1997) and the 1993 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award. He teaches courses on European intellectual history, the history of Western civilization, and modern global history. He has published numerous articles and is the author of Nationalism: Political Cultures in Europe and America, 1775-1865 and Lafayette in Two Worlds: Public Cultures and Personal Identities in an Age of Revolutions (1996), which received the Gilbert Chinard Prize from the American Society for French Historical Studies and the Annibel Jenkins Biography Prize from the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies.

What is Intellectual History?

01: What is Intellectual History?

The heart of this course is an exploration of how social experience interacts with the history of thought. Each shapes the other in myriad complex ways. The task of the intellectual historian is to make clear precisely how that happens.

33 min
The Scientific Origins of the Enlightenment

02: The Scientific Origins of the Enlightenment

The story of the European mind in the 19th century emerged as a dialogue with the 18th-century Enlightenment. What were the key themes? Why was modern science so seminal? How did its influence come to be so widely felt?

30 min
The Emergence of the Modern Intellectual

03: The Emergence of the Modern Intellectual

The modern "intellectual" is a creation of the Enlightenment even though the first such thinkers pre-dated the word. What was the project shared by philosophes and citizens of the "Republic of Letters" such as Montesquieu, Diderot, and Voltaire?

30 min
The Cultural Meaning of the French Revolution

04: The Cultural Meaning of the French Revolution

For nearly every 19th-century European writer and theorist, the French Revolution was the event. Ironically, the Revolution both expressed Enlightenment ideas and raised large, still-lingering questions about the Enlightenment's validity and legacy.

31 min
The New Conservatism in Post-Revolutionary Europe

05: The New Conservatism in Post-Revolutionary Europe

Modern conservatism arose as a critique of the Revolutionary and Enlightenment abstractions. This lecture discusses the influential conservative ideas of Edmund Burke and Joseph de Maistre, both of whom argued for the value of European traditions.

31 min
The New German Philosophy

06: The New German Philosophy

If France is the home of the Enlightenment, then Germany is the home of the philosophical reaction against it. Herder, Fichte, and others created a potent blend of philosophical idealism and nationalism that would sweep the continent in nationalist opposition to Napoleon's conquests.

31 min
Hegel’s Philosophical Conception of History

07: Hegel’s Philosophical Conception of History

The most influential German philosopher of the early 19th century, Hegel (d. 1831) authored a complex body of ideas that explained how every historical event could hold philosophical meaning.

31 min
The New Liberalism

08: The New Liberalism

By comparing the ideas of the Englishman Jeremy Bentham and the Frenchman Benjamin Constant, you gain insight into the differences that began to emerge early on to divide British and French liberalism.

31 min
The Literary Culture of Romanticism

09: The Literary Culture of Romanticism

Why have historians increasingly turned to literature, and especially Romantic works, in order to understand 19th-century European ideas? How do Romantics such as Schelling, Madame de Staël, and Lord Byron both reject and rely on the Enlightenment?

31 min
The Meaning of the “Romantic Hero”

10: The Meaning of the “Romantic Hero”

The romantic hero, now a cultural cliché, was once a fresh response to a world in which the traditional aristocracy was fading. How does this hero emerge in the figures of Goethe's young Werther, Chateaubriand's René, and Victor Hugo's Hernani?

31 min
The Industrial Revolution and Classical Economics

11: The Industrial Revolution and Classical Economics

The growth of cities and industry interested social theorists first in Great Britain, where works on "political economy" by Adam Smith and David Ricardo, and to an extent the population theories of Thomas Malthus as well, laid a basis for modern economics.

30 min
Early Critiques of Industrial Capitalism

12: Early Critiques of Industrial Capitalism

Romantics and socialists (prominent among them Robert Owen, Henri Saint-Simon, and Charles Fourier) criticized laissez-faire capitalism and expounded a vision of a new and more cooperative socialist society.

31 min
Hegelianism and the Young Marx

13: Hegelianism and the Young Marx

Karl Marx, early "multiculturalist?" The answer is yes, in a sense, as this analysis of Marx's early life and debts to Left Hegelianism and the ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach makes clear.

31 min
Marx’s Social Critique

14: Marx’s Social Critique

Marx studied both French political theory and English economic thought, but found each wanting in historical consciousness. Hegelianism was historical, but abstract. Marx drew from each of these three European intellectual traditions to develop a new materialist social theory.

31 min
Feminism in Nineteenth-Century Culture

15: Feminism in Nineteenth-Century Culture

Early feminists such as Olympe de Gouges and Mary Wollstonecraft urged that women should be granted all of the new rights of man. Madame de Staël sought more opportunities for women to participate in the mostly male world of European cultural life.

31 min
Women’s Rights in a Man’s World

16: Women’s Rights in a Man’s World

In different ways, the French female novelist George Sand and the English philosopher John Stuart Mill argued for extending rights to women. How did they meet the objections of opponents?

31 min
Tocqueville and Mill—Rethinking Liberal Theory

17: Tocqueville and Mill—Rethinking Liberal Theory

In On Liberty (1859), Mill optimistically defended liberal principles and institutions as guarantors of progress. Alexis de Tocqueville spoke for many other liberals who were glimpsing darker and more dispiriting possibilities in modern mass society.

31 min
Nationalisms and National Identities

18: Nationalisms and National Identities

How did nationalism become the most influential and pervasive "ism" of the modern age? What role did intellectuals such as the French historian Jules Michelet and the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz play in the process?

31 min
The Novel as Art and Social Criticism

19: The Novel as Art and Social Criticism

The post-Romantic "literary realism" of the novelists Stendhal, Honoré de Balzac, and Gustave Flaubert concerns itself with the world of bourgeois social relations and the "hollowness" that these artists saw at the heart of so much modern striving.

31 min
Science and Its Literary Critics

20: Science and Its Literary Critics

Here you meet Auguste Comte and his case for the applicability of rigorous scientific methods and expertise to all of human life. You also weigh the counterclaims made by Fyodor Dostoevsky, one of positivism's most eloquent foes.

31 min
Charles Darwin and the New Biology

21: Charles Darwin and the New Biology

Darwin's theory of evolution fit into a wider cultural tendency to think about nature and culture in terms of evolutionary change. Darwin's thought posed challenges not only for biblical religion, but for Enlightenment humanism as well.

31 min
The Controversies of Social Darwinism

22: The Controversies of Social Darwinism

What were the broader implications of Darwin's ideas? Herbert Spencer saw in "social" Darwinism a key to explaining how the "survival of the fittest" shaped all human social relations. New forms of "scientific" racism helped to justify European imperialism.

31 min
The Heroic Critic in Mass Society

23: The Heroic Critic in Mass Society

Responding to the modern tendency to level not only rights and rank but aesthetic, moral, and intellectual standards as well, Thomas Carlyle, Søren Kierkegaard, and Matthew Arnold each sought a role for independent and even heroic individual action.

30 min
Nietzsche’s Critique of European Culture

24: Nietzsche’s Critique of European Culture

Nietzsche took aim not only at Christianity but also at modernity's own cherished faith in science and democracy. With him, the optimism of the 18th century yields at last to ideas that will haunt the 20th century.

31 min