How Winston Churchill Changed the World

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Hagiographic overview of Churchill Checked this out from my library. The course is a competent high-level overview of Churchill’s life and career. The instructor too often inserts his own admiration of Churchill into his lectures, using flattering adjectives and editorializing. There is no doubt that Churchill exerted tremendous influence in the 20th century; I just would rather that the facts and historical record speaks for itself, and not have the instructor add color commentary.
Date published: 2020-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Winston Churchill I have only listened to three classes so far. They are excellent. I have just finished a biography of Churchill; Walking with Destiny, which I enjoyed. That book presented the facts but this course puts the facts in context.
Date published: 2020-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Recommended Professor Michael Shelden is an outstanding lecturer who captives the audience with his storytelling. He makes history enjoyable to learn. The audio version would also have been worthwhile, but I am glad I had the video version as I appreciated seeing all the maps he used as part of the lecture..
Date published: 2020-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A thoughtful, insightful and scholarly presentation. Highest rating.
Date published: 2020-07-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from How Winston Churchill Changed the World We are not done with the course yet, however we are enjoying it very much. The professor obviously knows his man and the history of Churchill's time. I was born in 1944, my English Grandparents we asked to pick my middle name, it starts with a W!! So, I have always wanted to know more about him, this course is providing that, thank you!!
Date published: 2020-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from comprehensive and enlightening I cannot say enough about this course. One of the best I have taken. Professor Sheldon is never boring. There are quotes and pictures to accompany the text. Highly recommend this course!!
Date published: 2020-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course I love these courses! My only concern is there simply isn’t enough in the HISTORY area, specifically Military History. I have completed the Churchill course, the World War II course, and the Abraham Lincoln course, but other history/Military History are lacking. MORE PLEASE!
Date published: 2020-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Superb Hagiography With a single if glaring exception, this is a superb course. Professor Shelden is one of the best. In command of every pertinent detail, he is eloquent and organized, and speaks with a gentle enthusiasm for a subject which is manifestly dear to his heart. (I very much recommend the video, which includes many wonderful photos, as well as helpful maps and written quotations.) Churchill's life is reviewed chronologically, but not as a mere list of dates and events. In addition to the expected discussion of the world history in which Churchill played so many diverse roles, many superficially minor but fascinating episodes are presented which provide often profound insight into the man and his times. And a trove of extraordinary quotations provides exquisite examples of his astonishing command of the language. I finished the course feeling as though I had truly come to know this remarkable and world-historical figure. It is important to note that the focus is very much on the biography; the earth-shaking historical events are there primarily to provide context for the life. If you are not comfortably familiar with the history of the first half of the twentieth century, it would be very worthwhile taking the relevant Great Courses first. (Of course, you could also read a book, but that seems so old-fashioned. . .) This brings me to the glaring exception: As other reviewers have noted, the course is very much a hagiography, the first definition of which in Webster's is "a biography of a saint". Our Churchill seems more closely related to the Archangel Michael than to any human of my acquaintance. Yes, his mistakes - some disastrous - are noted, but are generally downplayed or excused or explained away or blamed at least partially on others or all of the above. His glories, in contrast, are his and his alone. There is never a hint of doubt that he was one of the greatest human beings who ever lived. (An analogous side note is our professor's attitude towards international aggression. As expected, he rightly if repeatedly deplores the actions of the Nazis and the Soviets, but he treats the break-up of the British Empire as an unfortunate cleaving of a lovely historical gem.) Despite this one, very significant drawback, I highly recommend the course because of the exceptionally fine teaching of an important and fascinating life. Enjoy.
Date published: 2020-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title says it all - outstanding If you knew nothing of Winston Churchill prior to taking this course, you will gain everything you need to know about the man. You can always learn more by reading actual Churchill writings but this course is everything the student of history would need.
Date published: 2020-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Title fits perfectly! Doctor Mike Shelden is awesome!! He not only knows the life of Churchill in great detail but shares it in a way that makes you feel that you are having a conversation with him not being lectured to. I wish my college professors were this good.
Date published: 2020-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A historical masterpiece I live in Fulton, where Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech took place and am currently the tour guide to the National Churchill Museum that commemorates the iconic Iron Curtain Speech. Professor Shelden's insight into Winston's fascinating life is nothing less than first class. Of course Churchills' crowning achievement was his dogged struggle to thwart the Nazi menace in the early days of World War II. This brought crucial time for the free world to rearm and defeat the German and Japanese military machines. Professor Shelden lays out the course of events in a manner that is enlightening and reflects its historical importance among the great turning points in western civilization. I have not met Professor Shelden but it is on my bucket list. Every student of history will be well rewarded by familiarizing themselves with this fascinating topic.
Date published: 2020-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Supper! This course opens our eyes to see Churchill and his times. I hope the professor could give more great courses in the Teaching Company. I have one concern regarding the guidebook. The professor listed many books in Bibliography. I wish the professor could give a few words for each book he listed in the courses he may produce in future..
Date published: 2020-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! The professor held my interest and l looked forward to every lecture. I highly recommend it!
Date published: 2020-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Among the Best We are long time students of the Great Courses with very high standards. This course exceeded our expectations. The subject matter is as good as it gets and the Professor is extraordinary.
Date published: 2020-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So informative I learned so much plus shared information with my sister, a real Churchill fan
Date published: 2020-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Real Winner This set is a must for anyone who follows national or world events. As Elvis sang, "It takes a Big Man to wear big boots...". The Professor's style and skill simply add to the experience.
Date published: 2020-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is a great course ! Very well organized and presented. It should be required as part of any knowledable citizen's learning experience.
Date published: 2020-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An amazing course, thaught by a mesmeizing teacher This course was far better than I thought it would be. Professor Sheldon is very engaging. I couldn't stop watching it. He puts you there as history was made. Great job, professor!
Date published: 2020-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent lecturer! I soon discovered how little I really knew about Churchill and his remarkable life.Professor Shelden's passion and obvious admiration for Churchill albeit accompanied by objective telling of his failures along with his successes made the lectures much like reading a good book. I was always excited about what would come next!
Date published: 2020-03-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 20th Century’s World Hero Professor Sheldon offers insights into Churchhill’s amazing life which is mostly unknown. Most people would have given up over the overwhelming defeats he faced but Churchill preserved and surmounted them. What a story. My criticism is the lack of visuals that could have made more appealing.
Date published: 2020-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Great Weaver.. I've enjoyed my study of Professor Shelden's presentation on the life and times of Churchill. I'm amazed how he has woven into his presentation all the different threads that helped shape the man to be the great leader and statesman that he was.The threads of historical events with the threads of his upbringing with the threads of his military experiences with the threads of his failures with the threads of his personal writings: which leaves the reader with a much more fuller appreciation of the man and his place in history...A beautiful Tapestry to hang on the wall within the student's mind.
Date published: 2020-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from You Cannot Help But Be Impressed While I have read many books on Churchill, this lecture was a novel and accurate undertaking of the great man's life. The style of presentation by Professor Michael Sheldon is unlike any other. His calm and steady voice enhances all of this. I find it incredible, that for a few dollars, you can buy lectures from some of the most gifted academics in America. Sheldon fills the bill in every way.
Date published: 2020-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Delivery! The lecturer has a delivery style I could listen to for hours! And I have!
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! I study Churchill in an informal manner. This is the best video course for me. I like the feature of being able to stop and start whenever it is convenient. Thank you!
Date published: 2020-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Spellbinding, Fascinating Insights Of many Great Courses this one is among the very best. This English professor has laced his talks with eloquent and moving quotes from Churchill's speeches and writing as well as wonderful excerpts of comments others made about Churchill during his life. As history buffs we found fascinating Sheldon's insights into personalities, both Churchill's and of those around him. As much as the history of World War II has been written about, Sheldon analyzes strategy and motivation from a fresh perspective. He certainly admires Churchill, but is blunt also about his strategic errors also. This course has our very highest recommendation.
Date published: 2020-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb The lecturer is very well spoken and insightful. The historical lessons are valid forever.
Date published: 2020-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Insight into Churchhill The Professor has read many historical documents regarding Churchill's entire life and has woven an insightful series stories together. I already knew of some of Churchill's most notable accomplishments, but this course fills in so much more behind the scenes drama to create a picture of a great man that always forged ahead despite many setbacks during his entire lifetime.
Date published: 2020-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Churchill comes alive ! It’s almost like the professor knew Churchill personality. Tremendous, comes alive in every aspect. Highly recommended without reservation!!
Date published: 2020-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent a Great Course Thought I knew a good deal about Churchill but learned so much more. Excellent presentation by a professor dedicated to his subject. Highly recommended
Date published: 2020-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Extension of The Earlier Short Course Winston was indeed a very complicated man. This course does a great job covering his political skills, insight, and ability to recover from personal adversity. I really have only one minor brickbat - a bit more passion and mobility on the part of the the professor. Great Course - Highly Recommended
Date published: 2019-12-22
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How Winston Churchill Changed the World
Course Trailer
Churchill and the Muse of History
1: Churchill and the Muse of History

First, establish a strong sense of how Winston Churchill looked at the world, and what he brought to politics that made him stand out from the start of his career. Then, learn how the connecting thread of history helped inspire Churchill to deliver his iconic “Finest Hour” speech.

32 min
Young Churchill
2: Young Churchill

Survey the remarkable accomplishments of Winston Churchill’s life before he turned thirty. Follow the future statesman as he fights on the frontier of India, takes part in the British army’s last great cavalry charge, survives capture in South Africa’s Boer War, and wins a seat in Parliament.

29 min
Churchill, the Edwardian Titan
3: Churchill, the Edwardian Titan

Few British politicians have risen as far—and as fast—as Winston Churchill did during the first decade of his parliamentary career. Examine Churchill’s meteoric ascent, including his conflicts with political veterans Arthur Balfour and Joseph Chamberlain, his time as a liberal statesman, and his relationship with Violet Asquith.

29 min
Churchill’s Rise to the Admiralty
4: Churchill’s Rise to the Admiralty

Focus on Churchill’s career as First Lord of the Admiralty and his efforts to make sure the British navy could win battles in the North Sea. Central to this were technological developments (including a massive new gun for ships) and his knowledge of the newest twist in naval warfare: aviation.

27 min
Churchill and Failure in World War I
5: Churchill and Failure in World War I

With the military disaster in Gallipoli and the Dardanelles during World War I, Churchill pushed his luck too far. Discover what led to this major failure and his subsequent resignation from government, as well as how he overcame this fall from grace by joining the fight on the Western Front.

28 min
Churchill in War and Peace
6: Churchill in War and Peace

Gain insights into Churchill’s return to government in 1917 as Minister of Munitions and, after the end of World War I, as War Secretary. Then, examine Churchill’s fraught relationship with Prime Minister Lloyd George and the publication of his grand, four-volume history of the war years: The World Crisis.

29 min
Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer
7: Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer

As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Churchill’s primary job was to maintain Britain’s economic prosperity. Here, learn how his efforts to cut wasteful spending, implement modest tax cuts, and return to the Gold Standard hurt the British economy in a way that would undermine most of his good work elsewhere.

30 min
The Rise of Tyranny in the 1930s
8: The Rise of Tyranny in the 1930s

Take a step back to investigate just how tangled the relationship between Britain and Germany was becoming in the 1930s. Professor Shelden reveals how Churchill led an uphill battle to persuade his country about the dangers of Hitler and the Nazis—even as his fellow countrymen turned against him.

30 min
Churchill as Author and Historian
9: Churchill as Author and Historian

During the 1930s, Churchill kept his name and fame alive through his books and essays. In this lecture, explore some of his greatest works from the period, including Great Contemporaries (a dazzling study of major leaders of the day) and Marlborough: His Life and Times (a multi-volume biography of a famous ancestor).

29 min
The Gathering Storm in Nazi Germany
10: The Gathering Storm in Nazi Germany

As international danger loomed on the horizon, Churchill knew the Royal Air Force would be the key to Britain’s future. Learn how Churchill set in motion a chain of events that led to the legendary (and revolutionary) Spitfire, then examine how Churchill tried to save King Edward’s monarchy from scandal.

30 min
Churchill in the Age of Appeasement
11: Churchill in the Age of Appeasement

Explore just how pitifully disunited and disorganized the British government was as it stood on the verge of war with Hitler. How did the “age of appeasement” begin? What made Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain think he could do business with Hitler? How did Churchill continue to prepare for war?

30 min
The Road to Dunkirk
12: The Road to Dunkirk

On May 8, 1940, a speech by David Lloyd George validating Churchill’s premonitions of war with Germany led to Chamberlain’s defeat—and Churchill’s succession to the role of prime minister. But, as you’ll learn, within a month of taking office Churchill faced one of his most serious challenges at Dunkirk.

29 min
Churchill in Power
13: Churchill in Power

When Churchill took power over the government, he knew he’d not only have to fight the Germans but also the simmering resentments within the Conservative Party. Take a closer look at cabinet battles and the famous speech to the House of Commons after the Dunkirk “miracle” that effectively crushed Churchill’s defeatists.

32 min
Surviving the Nazi Blitz
14: Surviving the Nazi Blitz

Explore how Churchill responded to the terror of the Blitz and how his long history of experience with aviation had a major impact on the war in the air. Then, conclude with a look at the wisdom of a particular—and overlooked—sentence from his famous speech of June 18, 1940.

29 min
Turning the Tide against Hitler
15: Turning the Tide against Hitler

When did the course of war with Germany take the decisive turn for England that Churchill had hoped for? Why did his attention wander to Malaysia and Singapore? Why was the Suez Canal such an important lifeline for Britain? What was Churchill’s long-term strategy for facing down the German juggernaut?

29 min
Churchill and Roosevelt
16: Churchill and Roosevelt

Learn how another historical giant—U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt—became the one vital person Churchill needed at his side to win the war. You’ll learn what made these two men such effective partners, including their strong wills, their love of attention, and their hatred of being on the sidelines.

31 min
Churchill and Stalin
17: Churchill and Stalin

Turn now to Churchill’s relationship with another historical giant: Russian leader Joseph Stalin. Why was Churchill’s August 1942 trip to Moscow one of his most difficult wartime challenges? How did he and Roosevelt balance their desire to help an enemy of Hitler’s without allowing Stalin more leverage than was prudent?

31 min
Debating Churchill’s Wartime Leadership
18: Debating Churchill’s Wartime Leadership

Take a look at some of the more controversial decisions of Churchill’s war record, including his possible delay of the D-Day invasion and the bombing campaign against Dresden and other German cities. Also, consider Churchill’s early public stance against the threat to Jews under the Nazis.

30 min
Churchill from Tehran to Yalta
19: Churchill from Tehran to Yalta

At the Tehran Conference, Churchill realized how small Britain was compared to the rising world powers of Russia and the United States. At the Yalta Conference, he discovered the only bond of victors is their common hate. Here, go inside Churchill’s experiences at these critical diplomatic events from World War II.

29 min
Peace, Churchill, and the British Voter
20: Peace, Churchill, and the British Voter

In July 1945, at the height of his triumph over Hitler, Churchill was kicked out of office by the British electorate and replaced with Clement Attlee. Examine how Churchill’s struggle to save Europe from despotism left Britain a minor world power instead of the major power it once was.

29 min
Churchill on the Iron Curtain
21: Churchill on the Iron Curtain

In this lecture on the dawn of the Cold War era, investigate how Churchill grew increasingly disappointed with Britain’s postwar future—including its reduced power, influence, and economic prospects—and his realization that another ominous threat loomed over the world: Stalin and the Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe.

30 min
Churchill and Britain’s Postwar Crisis
22: Churchill and Britain’s Postwar Crisis

As prime minister, Churchill had shared his government with Labour leaders. Learn what happened once Labour assumed power and walked away from that spirit of partnership. From a fiscal meltdown to rationing to British troops at war in Asia, ceaseless opposition became the rule of the day.

30 min
Churchill’s Return to Power
23: Churchill’s Return to Power

Churchill devoted as much energy as possible in his second period as prime minister to cementing ties between the United States and Britain in response to the Soviet Union’s rise as a superpower. Discover how he became a powerful, persuasive advocate for peaceful coexistence in the face of atomic destruction.

27 min
Churchill and the Legacy of Freedom
24: Churchill and the Legacy of Freedom

Was Winston Churchill really the indispensable man of the 20th century? Can one person even make that much of a difference in the course of history? Professor Shelden concludes his lecture series with a pointed consideration of provocative questions that most academic historians won’t even go near.

30 min
Michael Shelden

Despite the debates that still cast parts of his career in doubt, Churchill's most enduring legacy is anchored in something that lies outside of history, something deeply personal and timeless. It is his individual stance as a champion of freedom when the world was at a tipping point between darkness and light, in which his voice and courage helped shift the balance towards the light.


Indiana University


Indiana State University

About Michael Shelden

Michael Shelden is a Professor of English at Indiana State University, where he has won the top award for excellence in scholarship, the Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research/Creativity Award, three times. He earned his Ph.D. in English from Indiana University. Professor Shelden is the author of six biographies, including Orwell: The Authorized Biography, which was a New York Times Notable Book and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Professor Shelden is also the author of Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, which has been translated into Russian, Chinese, and Portuguese. His book Mark Twain: Man in White was a New York Times best seller, was chosen as one of the best books of 2010 by the Library Journal, and was named one of the best nonfiction books of 2010 by the Christian Science Monitor. In a special issue on the 240th anniversary of American independence, TIME® Magazine praised Professor Shelden’s biography of Herman Melville, Melville in Love, as one of “240 Reasons to Celebrate America.” American Literary Scholarship, the annual journal published by Duke University Press, has said, “Shelden possesses that rare gift of the truly talented biographer: He can sketch scenes so vividly that a reader seems to mingle with the subjects in their long-ago conversations.”

For 12 years, Professor Shelden was a featured writer for The Daily Telegraph in London. His many scholarly articles and reviews have included publications in the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Quarterly, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Victorian Studies, and the Journal of British Studies.

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