History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Entertaining and well presented but not much new Great presentation skills and interesting material. But an awful lot of it felt like an update to what I learned in 5th grade about the great explorers. The lesser known explorers like Alexander von Humboldt and the mythical and early Asian explorers were more informative. This creates a problem though in that, for example, covering St Brendan, the Irish monk, doesn't ring with the same level of factual certainty as the material on Shackleton's voyages. So the course feels like a mix of mythology and history and it isn't always easy to distinguish which is which. Most of the European explorers of the new world and of the Arctic and Antarctic are covered about as well in public school, in terms of depth of the content. So I was a bit disappointed that i didn't learn more. But I enjoyed the sweeping overview and am not sorry i bought it. Just don't expect great new insights in to Henry Hudson's, Christopher Columbus', Magellan's etc voyages if you covered any of these explorers in your school career. I realize that you can't NOT cover these household names in a course on explorers, but perhaps more emphasis on dispelling myths for these well known explorers would make the content fresher. To be fair, there is quite a bit of myth busting. And the professor spends some time on the impact of the explorers on their societies. That's the kind of content that is constantly being debated and updated by historians. So I found that very useful and wish there had been more on the consequences of the voyages..Overall worth a watch, but didn't change my thinking about the history I knew coming in to the course.
Date published: 2016-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wide range of explorers, well presented. Video download Dr Liulevicius' HISTORY'S GREATEST VOYAGES OF EXPLORATION is a fun romp through a string of biographies illustrating the importance of "exploration" in our historical development. But what defines exploration? Most of us love to travel. As long as safety is insured, we all aspire to create treasured memories in exotic lands. We also appreciate coming back. Our routines aren't so bad after all. Exploration, as Liulevicius defines it, goes well beyond that. It's travel on steroids. The focus of his course are individuals who risked their lives on various quests lasting months or years to capture something special — wealth, religious salvation, scientific knowledge, foreign know-how or endurance records. What you end up with may be a bag of apples and oranges, but it is great fun nevertheless. __________________________ PROS • Liulevicius is a good raconteur. Most of his lessons cover extremely adventurous lives. • Even so, he does not shy away from pointing out underlying, more abstract, social trends. Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta, for example, collected weird facts, partly because the men transcribing their memoirs emphasized them. Captain Cook, on the other hand, was more scientific, more conscious of cultural relativism. • All in all, this is a great package for younger viewers easily bored by sociological or "big picture" abstractions. Once they are attracted to particular individuals, research is easy and pleasant, opening up a whole new world of values, just as a good novel would. CONS • My comment about "apples and oranges" refers to the wide variety of people covered. Some travel to spread a faith; others loot and kill to accumulate gold. Some are eccentric loners escaping group expectations; others are methodical bureaucrats serving governments. Some are scientists seeking to expand human knowledge. Others are closer to "extreme sportsmen". Are they really examples of the same wanderlust? • To keep things exciting, Liulevicius avoids group efforts that are explorations too, except for the Polynesians in Lesson 1. This course is a celebration of heroic individuals pursuing danger and one-time feats, not the habitual risk-taking displayed by ancient or anonymous groups who cannot avoid it. • Thus, the largest migration of all — when our ancestors spread out from Africa to every part of the world — is left out. So are nomads such as the Saharan Bedouins, Arctic Inuits or Central Asian trading caravans risking their lives at regular intervals. Individuals are lost in these endeavors. __________________ None of my CONS are really bad as long as you realise what Liulevicius' focus is. No course can cover everything in 24 lessons. PRESENTATION is very good. Since maps and pictures are important, I much prefer visual formats. If you have an atlas, however, and use Wikipedia, listening should be OK. The course guidebook is fairly complete with a good annotated bibliography. Most of the books mentioned are popular survey efforts, ideal to start you off should you want more. I'm sure many of these books include references to more scholarly sources if that is what you seek. No maps are included in the guidebook. Strongly recommended for young and old who want to be entertained as they learn.
Date published: 2016-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorite professors This is the third course of Professor. L's that I've taken, and like the others the quality is superb. Normally this is not a course I would've chosen, but as soon as I saw that he was the lecturer I changed my mind. He is very natural and engaging in his presentation, and a superb storyteller. I appreciate the way he can synthesize so much material into a half-hour lecture so that you get all the important points, and are entertained at the same time.
Date published: 2016-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and inspirational I have become an avid listener to Prof Liulevicius' courses, and his new one on History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration extends his winning streak. He's an excellent lecturer, very easy to listen to (I had the CD version of the course). He covers some explorers that everyone has heard of -- Leif Ericsson, Marco Polo, Prince Henry the Navigator (not an explorer himself but an avid sponsor of exploration), Columbus, Captain Cook, and so on. These are all covered beautifully, with new insights. The course also covers many lesser-known but equally influential explorers, starting in antiquity, and it was a pleasure learning about them. I found every lecture to be worthwhile and would have enjoyed another dozen. Well done, and a very enjoyable and valuable addition to the TC curriculum.
Date published: 2016-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth Exploring I was not sure exactly what to expect with this course, but I previously listened to the same professor's course on World War I and decided to give this a shot. In full disclosure, I'm a huge history buff, so I generally like anything related to history. This course did not disappoint. The professor covered an extraordinarily wide range of stories from very early, barely historic voyages of exploration through modern space exploration. Every lesson contained some aspect of history that I did not know before. Each lesson was interesting and kept my attention as the professor told of great voyages of exploration, some incredibly famous and others obscure. The professor did a good job organizing and condensing the materials. The professor also did a good job explaining why some of the famous voyages of exploration are still relevant today.
Date published: 2016-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am really enjoying this course! I had just finished 2 other history courses and found the title of this course intriguing. I am so glad that I started it! I have learned so much regarding the exploration of this planet. The animation and back stories have added a depth and perception that I missed in school. I look ford to other courses by this professor!
Date published: 2016-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Review of Human Exploration Mankind has been explorers and is always pushing on the boundaries. In this course, Professor Liulevicius provides a wonderful overview of some of mankind’s greatest explorations. Professor Liulevicius also makes very good use of maps, graphs, photographs, etc., to support and emphasize his points and conclusions. In his discussions of these explorations, Professor Liulevicius provides background information on the motivations for the explorations, descriptions of the exploration’s trials and tribulations, and the overall impacts to mankind from both the failed and the successful explorations.
Date published: 2015-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thank You Professor Liulevicius! My favorite course out of the many I have viewed through The Great Courses. I thoroughly enjoyed Professor Liulevicius's "Turning Points In Modern History", but for me, he topped himself with this new presentation. What a wonderful storyteller, clearly showing his excitement of the subject matter. While watching his lectures I kept my Atlas open, along with Google Earth, and immensely expanded my knowledge of our world's geography by following the routes and locations of his chosen explorers. Imagine my delight being now able to explain to my husband why Portuguese is spoken in parts of South America, being able to follow a newspaper article as I now know what countries form the Iberian Peninsula, and completing the crossword yesterday as I now know Henry Hudson was "lost at sea"! Thank you Professor!
Date published: 2015-12-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration First, kudos to the professor for coming up with this angle for a course. It wonderfully covers world history in a digestible fashion. Second, bravo on the presentation. Rarely is history presented in a way that conveys facts and information, yet feels like a swashbuckling movie. I'll wait a year, and then listen to this lecture series again.
Date published: 2015-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from True Excitement Asking me which of the Great Courses professors is my favorite is like asking a mother which of her children are her favorites. I couldn't answer without qualifying the response beyond usability. But however I answered, Professor Liulivicius would have to be in the final group. I have taken many of his courses. The content is always exciting, the details are carefully introduced, and the man is a fine storyteller, not just a lecturer. I only achieved my interest in history late in life, after I retired from a career in technology with no time for the liberal arts. With few years remaining to learn and enjoy history, literature,art and philosophy, I try to find sources as rich and full of content as possible to pack a lot into a short time. This professor has proven to be a great source. He covered the explorers I remember from my earlier school days, but brought in many that I knew nothing abou, from Pythias and St. Brendon, clear up to the present day. The connections between the explorers nad their eras are things that I hadn't really considered. Once he points them out, they are obvious and you end up wondering why you had never noticed that. The relationship between Hudson Bay and the British Colonial era, and the political and economic factors that put the Trieste under the control of the U.S. Navy could be cited as examples of this type of detail. Nor does he limit himself to the Eurocentric view that I was taught so many years ago, but he discusses Asian and African explorers as well as those of the middle east. The breadth is amazing. Excursions such as Lewis and Clarke and the Iwakura mission actually bring back a sense of wonder to a jaded adult. It was during one of the lectures of this course that I began to wonder how a historian interprets the news we read each day. He pointed out that the journeys to space, and the descents to the height and depth of the biosphere are continuations of explorations that started with the steps of Australopithecus to a new part of the savanna. It is probable that he has a sense of continuity that I cannot understand. I recommend this course to help recover a little of the sense of wonder that we all enjoy.
Date published: 2015-08-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Nice Introductory Overview of Exploration History I enjoyed History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration by Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius. But who wouldn't enjoy such thrilling subject matter? My only complaint is that I would have liked Professor Liulevicus to include more discussion about the primary sources as well as the historiography of these events. As someone who has probably read more than the average person about the history of exploration, the lectures just didn't seem quite challenging enough. The bibliography in the accompanying guidebook is a good example of what I mean, as it consists mostly of recent "popular" histories and seems weak with respect to primary sources as well as histories written for academics. In summary, I would say that the lectures are aimed at the lower division undergraduate level.
Date published: 2015-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Knowledge and Storytelling I thoroughly enjoyed this course. It contained much information and detail of which I had not been aware. The best part was the instructor. Professor Liulevicius is not only a fine educator but a great story teller, as well. He kept my interest throughout the course. I can see that the University of Tennessee (GO VOLS!) is fortunate to have him on their teaching staff.
Date published: 2015-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable Course Fits Our Needs! Found this course fascinating and very educational. I personally love viewing the Great Courses on history and this was so enjoyable. I especially enjoy Professor Liulevicius' lectures. But even more, I was looking for supplemental material for my two high school home schooled grand children. They are terrific students and we are building a world history curriculum. We have text material, etc. for them but have found that using specific Great Courses lectures expands the learning experience. They have completed one semester, so this will be World History II. We will probably use Lectures 19 Japan Discovers the West and Lecture 20 about Africa. But we will definitely use the last four lectures which cover Arctic, Antarctica, Deep Sea exploration and Outer Space. These specific topics will help us provide a more well rounded approach to true "world" history studies. Thank you Great Courses and Professor Liulevicius!
Date published: 2015-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Call to Adventure In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy Gale discovers that “there’s no place like home.” But she only comes to that realization after an extraordinary voyage to the land of Oz. This survey of historical voyages introduces an outstanding series of adventures that are part of the essential human impulse to travel into the unknown. Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius of the University of Tennessee has carefully crafted twenty-four lectures on a wide range of voyages of exploration. The scholarship is superb with each lecture rich in detail with an historical exploration. It is obvious that a significant amount of time has been invested in this project. The structure of the course is chronological, as we progress through history with the lives of explorers who made the leap into the unknown. The topics are not limited to ocean voyages, but cover all forms of travel. The discussion of the expedition of Lewis and Clark, for example, addresses the nearly incredible land journey of the “Corps of Discovery” across the Pacific Northwest. As described by the lecturer, the Lewis and Clark expedition began in “secret” with President Jefferson’s confidential note of January 18, 1803, which he sent to Congress, requesting $2,500 “for the public good” and for the purposes of commerce. The professor does not indicate how successful Congress was in keeping the secret! But it became a moot point after the Louisiana Purchase. The lecturer also describes Jefferson’s personal motivation for the expedition to satisfy his scientific curiosity about this unknown territory. It was almost as if Jefferson would have enjoyed accompanying Lewis and Clark on the adventure. The course topics include the travels of Pytheas the Greek, Thor Heyerdahl, Xuanzang, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Magellan, James Cook, Alexander von Humboldt, Dr. David Livingstone, and many others. The extensive travels of two women, Ida Pfeiffer and Mary Kingsley, are chronicled in two of the lectures. Travels to both of the Poles, underwater travel, and outer space voyages round out the course. The strength of these presentations is the depth of knowledge and the ability of Professor Liulevicius to approach the material critically. For example, his discussion of the conquistadors frankly addresses the brutality and greed of individuals such as Cortez. After his conquest of the Aztecs, Cortez launched yet another campaign in Honduras. The lecturer makes it clear that the vaulting ambition of Cortez was part of an apparently unquenchable appetite for wealth and power. The similar greed of Pizarro, who was actually related to Cortez as a second cousin, is summarized with great understatement by the professor as “a family business pattern.” Throughout the lectures, the speaker draws upon literature for essential reference points. There are provocative quotes from Shakespeare, John Keats, Alfred Lord Tennyson, T. S. Eliot, and Arthur C. Clarke. Each lecture is like a self-contained essay, offering students a starting point for additional study and exploration on their own. For this reason, I purchased a course transcript, which has been prepared with such care that it reads like a published manuscript. This product is accompanied by a set of outlines and bibliography. The video version of the course includes numerous maps and images. At one point, the sound effects team added the growling of grizzly bears during the lecture on Lewis and Clark. Due to the vast scope of the program, the Course Guidebook would have been enhanced with a timeline and short biographical capsules. The mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote that “the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” There is a heroic dimension to the men and women described in this course. In their voyages, they overcame any personal fears to achieve a threshold or peak experience. Invariably, they brought back treasures to bestow on mankind in the form of knowledge, as well as material possessions. These great travelers were motivated by the call to adventure. Their stories helped to change the way we think about our planet. Course Grade: A-
Date published: 2015-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A bit of an overview, but worthwhile nonetheless I have very mixed feelings about this course. First, I rate it highly and recommend it because I think that for most people, it will be an eye-opening course. For myself, I found it interesting, although not as engrossing or as educational as many similar Great Courses. Those who are interested in exploration but haven't read much about it should certainly purchase this course. Those interested in science, maritime, or general world history should absolutely purchase this course regardless of their knowledge level. For no other reason, it discusses such an (in my opinion) essential part of our history that one can't ignore it. Another way to think about it - you may have read hundreds of books about the individuals contained in these lectures, but you've probably never read a single book that ties all of them together in a cohesive thesis. Dr. Liulevicius does an adequate job presenting - he is not my favorite Great Courses professor (see, Dr. Alan Guelzo) but he is far from the worst. He presents clearly; my problem is with the material he chooses to emphasize, and that he often seems to fill his 30 minutes with comments such as, "What do YOU think the correct historical interpretation would be?" rather than more information on the subject. And yet. My misgivings about this course are primarily the result of the content. I felt that this course was primarily an overview. For one example - Captain Cook receives one lecture. Which should be fine. But Dr. Liulevicius sets the scene by introducing us to Joseph Banks, reminding us how unclear world maps are at the time, and again discussing (but again, in a manner too cursory for my tastes,) scurvy. Add in a brief discussion of Cook's legacy and upbringing, a bit about his contemporaries, and a long discussion about his death, and you're left with what amounts to a pretty brief discussion of his actual voyages. Again, if you have a popular or a passing interest in this type of history, this is surely enough detail. But not if you've read several books on Cook and his contemporaries. And to someone who doesn't really know who Cook is, that lecture will be eye-opening and informative. Just like the two lectures on Ant/Arctic exploration will be fine for someone who hasn't read several books on the subject. But I have, and I have an intense interest in exploration. Listening to the course, I felt as though I was just reviewing things that I'd already read about in far greater detail. I say that not to brag, but to note that a lot of this stuff will probably be new to someone who doesn't have an enormous interest in maritime history. My one serious qualm with the course is the exclusion of the United States Exploring Expedition. I don't usually complain about excluding content from courses, because there are always going to be things that don't make the cut. But this is odd to me. The Ex-Ex was far, far larger in scope than Lewis and Clark's expedition. Not only does it not receive its own lecture, but it's never even mentioned - despite the opportunity to do so organically plenty of times, especially when discussing the discovery of Antarctica. A significant argument can be made that the Ex-Ex discovered Antarctica, and yet, it somehow escapes mention in both the discussion of the continent and its discovery. It was arguably the first national American exploration designed for almost entirely scientific purposes - and yet eludes mention in a discussion about the shift of exploration to an endeavour of almost entirely scientific aims. Furthermore, it has an almost forgotten legacy in popular American history. That makes it something that The Great Courses usually excel at illustrating. Still, despite its foibles, I would recommend this course to anyone who sees it here and is interested by it. I would also suggest that this course join the list of the many other courses within the Great Courses' library that receive consideration for a 2nd edition with additional lectures.
Date published: 2015-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Explorations The many things to like about this excellent course include the following: 1) Professor Liulevicius presented his lectures clearly and articulately, conveying an engaging passion for his subject without becoming melodramatic; 2) The professor showed good 'stage presence,' coordinating his movements and gaze very well with whoever was his cameraperson, avoiding the 'dog in the headlights' manner of some other professors being recorded on DVD; 3) More was revealed in this course about the variety of motivations of famous explorers than I had learned years ago from high school and college instructors, who had keyed on place names and dates more than on explorers' background stories; 4) Some explorers were discussed here of whom I had not heard before, whose accomplishments now seem very important to me, though these were 'neglected news' in my past education; 5) Dr. Liulevicius did a particularly fine job of reviewing just enough when one of the voyages of exploration illustrated a theme or analogy from a voyage he had discussed earlier in the course; 6) Stories of women voyagers and explorers were included. One very minor dissatisfaction I felt was that a few of the illustrative visuals made a less-than-excellent fit with what was being said in the lectures. An example would be a video clip of waving algae and/or other sea life shown precisely while the professor was explaining in Lecture 23 that, when the 1960 deep ocean explorers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh reached the very bottom of the Challenger Deep, they could see living things but were unable to photograph any. All in all, I was sorry when this course ended. I'm sure Dr. Liulevicius could ably have presented more than twenty-four lectures.
Date published: 2015-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bringing Adventure to Life What makes a great lecture course? I would argue that it is selection of pertinent detail, presented in well-organized fashion with clarity and enthusiasm. By these criteria, Professor Liulevicius is holding four aces. Of the twenty-four lectures from The Earliest Explorers to The Race to Outer Space, I will focus on his treatment of Alexander von Humboldt as indicative of the quality of the lectures. Incidentally, I had read the journals of von Humboldt’s journey to the Americas and some secondary material about him so it would have been easy to disappoint me, but the lectures reignited my excitement about this scientific genius. Von Humboldt made a myriad of scientific contributions by amassing a huge number of botanical and zoological specimens, as well as taking measurements that led to new insights in oceanography, meteorology, geology, and vulcanology. In addition to detailing these accomplishments, Professor Liulevicius quotes a letter the scientist wrote about his goals before he went on his journey: “I shall try to find out how the forces of nature interact upon each other and how the geographic environment influences plant and animal life. In other words, I must find out about the unity of nature.” As the Professor points out: this is the origin of the modern concept of ecology, and if I might interject: often ignored in science by the blind pursuit of short-term ends and profit without recognition of potential unintended consequences. But for the course, this type of “touching on the heart of the matter” or “selecting the most pertinent generalizations” occurs throughout the lectures. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2015-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I want more! The best course I have taken so far. I petitioned The Great Courses several times for this course, and was glad to see that they have included it in their offerings. Professor Liulevicius has an excellent presentation style. The course content is an overview of exploration from the earliest times down to todays space exploration. I have had the opportunity to visit many maritime museums all over the world, thus giving me a good background in maritime exploration. I could find no errors in the professor's presentation, and was pleased that he included little known tidbits that enriched the presentation. My only complaint is that this should have been a 48-lecture course. One lecture on Captain Cook can hardly do him justice. There is no mention of Captain Vancouver and only a cursory bit on Sir Francis Drake. I guess wanting more cannot be construed as a complaint, rather a compliment. You cannot go wrong with this overview of an interesting and vital part of history.
Date published: 2015-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History's Greatest Voyages Very well presented and engrossing. He sheds new light on some well known explorers. Well worth the time.
Date published: 2015-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Best Ever History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration is the best course we have ever taken from Great Courses. Professor Vejas (nickname) is a wonderful story teller who has inspired us to read further. He is well educated about the topics covered and we really enjoy his delivery. A great Great Course!
Date published: 2015-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Let's explore explorers I admit I bought this course because I have listened all of Professor Liulevicius's courses and enjoy his way of presenting topics very much. However, this latest course was in no way disappointing: Some of the explorers are well-known, others are much more obscure - some sound like the stuff adventure novels are made of, whereas others appear very different... and in some cases less exciting. Then again, this is what allows this course to span not only thousands of years in human history, but also very different experiences, walks of life - and reasons for travelling. Listening to Professor Liulevicius, I felt like an explorer myself - just without malaria and frostbite. Entertaining and educating, just as I had hoped. A final note: Some of the great courses have annoyed me with the rather obtrusive theme music that introduces each lecture. In this course, the few brass wind notes that announce each lecture evoke images of Viking longboats and heroic journeys and made me anticipate each lecture with excitement - well done!
Date published: 2015-03-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not consistently the most interesting choices of explorations. Some were very good and quite interesting, while others couldn't hold my interest.
Date published: 2015-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting Good overview of exploration through the centuries. The professor made the course come alive. His ability to communicate without notes was exceptional.
Date published: 2015-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History Forever Voyaging Halfway between PBS and a College course, this is a great example of a fun history course. The teacher has a polished delivery, knows how to play to the cameras and is a fine storyteller. He finds continuity between the topical lectures and includes enough in-depth information and background to make this a higher educational experience. He also spins yarns well enough and moves at a brisk enough pace to interest folks who might not normally watch a college course (aka your kids). I thought the course started off just a touch slow as the early lectures covered myth and legend as well as fact and seemed a bit fuzzy. As more reliable knowledge of the explores became available the course really took off. The voyages of the Portuguese explores along with Columbus, Magellan and Cook were highlights. The last four lectures about the poles, the deep sea and space were also very well done. After the slightly slow start, the lectures seemed to roll by. After the course was over, I wished that it had been longer and the lectures that featured multiple explorers had been twice as long to allow each one more time. When you finish a course wishing for more, that's usually a good sign. The high production values also helped, while I gripe about the Great Courses newer focus on Better Living through Wine Tasting, they have improved the presentation on all the courses even the academic ones. There ware maps and pictures aplenty and the vocal presentation was professional. I think this would be a good home school course either as stand alone course about Exploration or as a fun add on to a course about World or Modern (Lecture 8 on) History. Its probably a good one if you are trying to lure someone into an interest in adult learning and history. The lecturer often is so enjoyable that you forget you are learning.
Date published: 2015-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Exploration of Exploration Even if you think you know the history of exploration, i advise you to consider this course. Professor Liulevicius is a terrific lecturer, who makes connections among explorers' motivations, which you may not have thought about. The cast of characters from Pytheas the Greek through Ibn Battuta and Lewis and Clark and beyond is intriguing and colorful, and Professor L introduces you to them in their historical settings and in depth. I ordered this course not for the subject material but because I have listened to all of Professor Liulevicius' previous lectures for the Great Courses and have never been disappointed. I wasn't this time either, and I learned things about subjects I thought I already knew. Not a bad investment.
Date published: 2015-02-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Many ways to slice history. This review applies to the set of 'Great Voyages', and 'Turning Points in Modern History'. History is like a large ball; you can slice through it and examine it form many perspectives. These two courses should be taken together. There is some duplication but that is not a problem. Many connections and consequences of various events are brought out in both courses. History does not happen by itself. Events occur because people make decisions. The motivation for those decisions are often multi-faceted and may include religious, economic, international politics, and more. These two courses do an excellent job of pointing out how those motivations interconnect with each other. I've taken dozens of 'Great Courses' over two decades; and have gotten to the point where I save 5 stars a cross the board for the very best of the best. So overall I would give both of these 4.5. There have been many people who have selected history's most important events. I do not agree with all the turning points in this course but that does not detract from its value. One minor critique. There is no such thing as a non-turning 'turning point'. If the event did not happen nothing turned. A history teacher I had in graduate school made an important point. Do not bother speculating about what might have happened; what did happen is fascinating enough. History does not reveal its alternatives. The number of alternatives is infinite. You can not examine them all. And even if you did examine the alternatives they tell you nothing about how or why the world got to where it is now. The voyages of Admiral Zheng served a purpose for China and are interesting to study but they did not cause a change in the where the world went. I do recommend these courses to others; and highly suggest they be done as a set.
Date published: 2015-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great page turner. To use the book analogy, this was a great page turner and hard to put down! My 97 year old aunt and I watched this every day and were really sorry it ended. The presenter was GREAT!!! Our only disappointment was the lack of Canadian content about the Jesuit martyrs, we live near "St. Marie among the Huron's" and had hoped for a bit of info. Just too much content to cover I guess.
Date published: 2015-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I found this course fascinating. This was another Great Course that I enjoyed very much. Some of the explorers featured were well-known, others less so. As each lesson is only 30 minutes, there were times i found myself wanting more information about some of the subjects (von Humboldt in particular) - but I will use this course as a stepping-stone and follow up on some of the explorers on my own. The professor's style is engaging, enthusiastic and comprehensive and I found myself watching several lectures in a row and wishing the course were longer. I intend to look into some additional courses by this instructor and would recommend this particular course to listeners who are attracted by adventure and the lure of the unknown.
Date published: 2015-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent & Exciting Adventure! I am listening to these adventures for the second time; once was not enough. Ordeals I was completely unaware of are unfolded, which prompted be to get books on Captain James Cook and Ernest Shackleton (South). A 5 star Adventure is awaiting you:)
Date published: 2015-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent storyteller This is the kind of course that makes me glad to have long errands to do so I can listen to what are, essentially, historical adventure stories that both educate and entertain me. The lecturer’s tone is lively without being exaggerated, and his enthusiasm seems to be at just the right level to encourage listener engagement in the subject. (He also is the lecturer on a World War I course that is also very enlightening and listenable.)
Date published: 2015-02-10
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History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration
Course Trailer
The Earliest Explorers
1: The Earliest Explorers

Begin your study journey with the Vivaldi brothers' ill-fated journey to India. What drove the brothers-or drives any explorer-to take a risk and venture into the unknown? Consider that question as you look at theories on how the Pacific islands became populated starting with an epic movement 7,000 years ago.

32 min
The Scientific Voyage of Pytheas the Greek
2: The Scientific Voyage of Pytheas the Greek

Meet the originator of scientific exploration, who trekked to the edge of the world so that he could see for himself what was there. Put Pytheas the Greek in the context of his time and place, sketching the Mediterranean as a cradle of civilization and examining how word of his voyage influenced later exploration.

31 min
St. Brendan-The Travels of an Irish Monk
3: St. Brendan-The Travels of an Irish Monk

Consider religious motivations for exploration. Men like the Irish monk St. Brendan-who sailed the Atlantic in a tiny leather boat-sought God and fled the world's corruptions, some searching for paradise and some merely for seclusion. Examine how legendary re-workings of such real adventures left a surprising legacy that would affect later exploration.

29 min
Xuanzang's Journey to the West
4: Xuanzang's Journey to the West

Alarmed at inconsistencies in the Buddhist texts available to him, Xuanzang embarked on an illegal holy pilgrimage to acquire authoritative teachings. See how, in the process of the monk's travels, he brought Buddhist traditions to the Confucian Chinese, achieved celebrity status, and became the central character in the greatest classical Chinese novel.

30 min
Leif Eriksson the Lucky
5: Leif Eriksson the Lucky

While the story of Leif Eriksson and the Vikings is relatively well known, Professor Liulevicius takes you deeper into the question of why the Vikings, or Norsemen, explored, as evidenced by their broader culture of adventure and values that pressed them onwards in often violent ways.

31 min
Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville
6: Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville

Although traders had traveled the Silk Road since the Roman Empire, there was little awareness of what existed at the other end-until Marco Polo's accounts of China opened Europeans' eyes to a mysterious, advanced civilization. Start with background on the medieval world, then look closely at Polo's travels and legacy.

31 min
Ibn Battuta-Never the Same Route Twice
7: Ibn Battuta-Never the Same Route Twice

Examine the life and legacy of Ibn Battuta, who left Morocco in 1325 to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, but discovered a craving for spiritual travel and returned home 24 years later after covering 75,000 miles in the network woven by Muslim civilization.

30 min
Portugal's Great Leap Forward
8: Portugal's Great Leap Forward

How and why did tiny Portugal, a poor country, take to the seas, round the continent of Africa, hijack the Indian Ocean, and create a global empire? Find out here, with a look at Portugal's rise to superpower status, from Prince Henry the Navigator's call for exploration to Vasco da Gama's successful voyage to Asia.

31 min
The Enigmatic Christopher Columbus
9: The Enigmatic Christopher Columbus

Understand the complexities of Christopher Columbus who, in stumbling upon the Americas while attempting to reach Asia by heading West, touched off the massive Columbian Exchange of peoples, plants, commodities, and diseases. Dispel enduring myths, and explore Columbus's religious motives for launching what he called "The Enterprise of the Indies."

30 min
Magellan and the Advent of Globalization
10: Magellan and the Advent of Globalization

Follow the path of Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, whose expedition in service of Spain became the first to circumnavigate the world, inaugurating our ability to think globally and accomplishing what Columbus had promised to do-reaching Asia by sailing west from Europe. See how his journey bound together the world economy, creating consequences down to our own times.

30 min
The Ruthless Ambition of the Conquistadors
11: The Ruthless Ambition of the Conquistadors

Consider the most brutal of explorers, the conquistadors-Spanish military entrepreneurs including Cortés, Pizarro, and de Soto, who were not directly controlled by the monarchy, but royally sanctioned to seize wealth and lands in the New World. How did they topple civilizations using only a handful of men? What impact did they have on native societies? Find out here.

29 min
Henry Hudson-Death on the Ice
12: Henry Hudson-Death on the Ice

Switch gears from voyages of fruitful discovery to a tragic failure ending in mutiny, murder, and a mystery that endures to this day: Henry Hudson's 1610 voyage in search of the Northwest Passage to Asia, funded by two of the first multinational corporations.

30 min
The Jesuits on a Global Mission
13: The Jesuits on a Global Mission

Founded in 1540, the order of the Jesuits used global cultural exploration as a means to proselytize to local cultures across the world, from India and China to the Americas. Examine their controversial method of inculturation, and place the Jesuit project in the context of a larger intellectual shift towards cultural relativism.

30 min
Captain Cook Maps the World
14: Captain Cook Maps the World

Look closely at Captain Cook, an explorer who in many ways epitomized the age of scientific discovery, which lauded exploration for the sake of knowledge. See how his methods and voyages embodied new attitudes toward foreign peoples, and why it's what Cook didn't find that helped give us the complete world picture we have today.

30 min
Alexander von Humboldt-Explorer Genius
15: Alexander von Humboldt-Explorer Genius

Learn how the scientific explorer Alexander von Humboldt-sometimes called a "second Columbus"-taught us to see the world as an interrelated ecological unit. Trace his five-year exploration of the Americas with French botanist Aimé Bonpland, in which they covered 5,950 miles and catalogued 6,300 species of plants and animals.

30 min
Jefferson Dispatches Lewis and Clark
16: Jefferson Dispatches Lewis and Clark

On President Jefferson's (originally secret) orders, the U.S. Corps of Discovery led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out to chart the new territories gained by the Louisiana Purchase, while recording its people, flora, and fauna. How did they cross Native American-occupied lands peacefully? What was the expedition's political significance? Find out here.

29 min
Sir John Franklin's Epic Disaster
17: Sir John Franklin's Epic Disaster

Consider a tragic episode: the doomed expedition of Sir John Franklin, who disappeared in 1845 along with his crew while searching for the Northwest Passage. Compare theories on the fate of the men, and see how the mystery captured the imagination of Franklin's contemporaries, helping to create a culture of adventure.

30 min
Ida Pfeiffer-Victorian Extreme Traveler
18: Ida Pfeiffer-Victorian Extreme Traveler

Meet Ida Pfeiffer, a Victorian women who defied expectations by traveling around the world twice and becoming a best-selling author describing her experiences. Follow her extraordinary journeys to exotic locales and learn how she deftly escaped some perilous situations-including cannibalistic Batak warriors in the jungles of Sumatra.

30 min
Japan Discovers the West
19: Japan Discovers the West

Faced with Western imperialism after 200 years of self containment, Japan discovered the West through a series of exploratory diplomatic missions abroad to America and Europe towards the end of the 19th century. Which features of Western culture did they find worth emulating? Which unfamiliar Western practices did they reject?

30 min
Dr. Livingstone and Mary Kingsley in Africa
20: Dr. Livingstone and Mary Kingsley in Africa

First, consider how the most famous PR stunt in the history of exploration-journalist Henry Stanley finding ailing Scottish explorer Dr. Livingstone in a remote town in Africa-reveals how Africa long remained the "Dark Continent" to the outside world. Then, turn to Mary Kingsley, an Englishwoman whose writing revealed West Africa to a European audience.

30 min
Arctic Feats and Fates
21: Arctic Feats and Fates

Who was first to make it to the North Pole? Wade into the debate while examining the fascinating but lesser-known moments and figures of the race, including pilot Umberto Nobile flying a hydrogen-filled semi-rigid airship over the Pole in 1926, then crashing on a second trip, unleashing an international rescue operation.

29 min
Antarctic Rivalries
22: Antarctic Rivalries

Now, focus on the race to the South Pole and the bitter rivalries surrounding it. Witness how Norwegian Roald Amundsen outdistanced his rival, English explorer Captain Robert Scott, whose return voyage took a tragic turn. Then, follow the hardships of British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose expedition to cross the punishing Antarctic also met disaster.

30 min
A Deep-Sea Dive into the Mariana Trench
23: A Deep-Sea Dive into the Mariana Trench

Take a breathtaking look at a historic descent into the deepest place on earth-the Mariana Trench in the Pacific-by Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh. But first, discover some of the highlights of ocean exploration in the centuries before this 1960 expedition.

30 min
The Race to Outer Space
24: The Race to Outer Space

Why have humans ventured beyond Earth? Does the future of space exploration lie with commercial interests? Is humanity's future in space? Consider these questions as you consider the past, present, and future of space exploration, starting with the moment Apollo 8's astronauts first witnessed earthrise on Christmas Eve 1968.

31 min
Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

Modernity is a notoriously slippery concept, because, obviously, what is modern now will soon become the past, as time marches relentlessly forward.


University of Pennsylvania


University of Tennessee

About Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Professor Liulevicius has won many awards and honors, including the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At the university he teaches courses on modern German history, Western civilization, European diplomatic history, Nazi Germany, World War I, war and culture, 20th-century Europe, nationalism, and utopian thought. Dr. Liulevicius has published numerous articles and two books: War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I and The German Myth of the East, 1800 to the Present.

Professor Liulevicius participated in The Great Courses Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about diplomacy and war

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