The Celtic World

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun Presentation & Enthusiastic Prof Prof is excellent storyteller. Historical sources are clearly cited and analyzed.
Date published: 2020-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyed it from beginning to end!! So interesting yet also taught with great teaching methods. Every lecture opening with "what we will be learning'" Really appreciated that in knowing what to be listening for in the lecture. And, as my DNA testing shows, I have such high areas of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, it really felt personal.
Date published: 2020-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WONDERFUL TOPIC THAT IS OFTEN OVERLOOKED While 90% of classical history is Greece and Roman this was a wonderful topic. I would say this was more a cultural course than historical it still was well taught but a excellent professor in Dr Paxton. Anyone who wants to learn more of the classical world should watch this course
Date published: 2020-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Presentation Professor Paxton is a superb storyteller with a formidable grasp of her subject matter. Her voice is clear and her delivery excellent, with nary an "um," "er," or stumble, which is refreshing. An astonishing amount of research and scholarship have gone into this course. I enjoy Dr. Paxton's sense of humor and her many anecdotes about colorful historical figures. My only slightly negative comment is that the material, however fascinating, is sometimes overwhelming – too much, too fast. The professor moves quickly from point to point, so it's not always easy to absorb and contemplate one piece of information before another one comes along. But, thankfully, we can always rewind and listen once again to anything we missed. I have one more lecture to go, and I'm sorry I'm nearly at the end of the course. I thoroughly enjoy these lectures and will soon be looking for another one by Dr. Paxton.
Date published: 2020-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! Knowing virtually nothing about the Celtic world, I found this course to be informative, interesting and entertaining. Dr. Paxton's presentation - including her subtle humor - made complex and sometimes contradictory theories accessible and fascinating. The use of graphics and even music and dance was appropriate and helpful. After this course I immediately went on to watch Dr. Paxton's "1066"and had the same positive experience.
Date published: 2020-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Celtic World course My wife and I received this course less than a week ago. We have found ourselves doing a Celtic binge nearly every night. This is a very interesting subject for us--my wife is 100% Scots-Irish. I am Danish, British and Western European. Despite my lack of Celtic blood/DNA, I have found that Dr. Paxton's lectures have brought information from my parts of the world, too. I have never heard such comprehensive lectures! We have 2 more courses that we are looking forward to. The courses are far better than the meager offerings of our COVID minimized TV options! Thanks.
Date published: 2020-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Finally a course which covers Ireland Did not realize the wide expanse of Celtic Culture prior to taking this course. Instructor very good at explaining things.
Date published: 2020-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Virus free study! I think this is as good as my college courses were, and a lot less expensive. Besides I won't worry about getting "the virus."
Date published: 2020-08-20
  • y_2020, m_10, d_30, h_16
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.12
  • cp_1, bvpage1
  • co_hasreviews, tv_24, tr_269
  • loc_en_CA, sid_3733, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.1
  • CLOUD, getReviews, 3.42ms
The Celtic World
Course Trailer
Who Are the Celts?
1: Who Are the Celts?

Professor Paxton begins this lively history course by examining the common preconceptions about Celtic identity—before smashing them to bits. The first lecture paints the initial brushstrokes on the gargantuan canvas of this European culture most widely perceived as Scottish and Irish while promising much more.

33 min
The Celts and the Classical World
2: The Celts and the Classical World

Our earliest written records of the Celts come from Italy, Greece, and Spain, dating as far back as the 6th century B.C. Although scholarly theories about the Celts’ migration throughout Europe conflict, the foundation of our understanding of their origins is laid bare here, peppered with several curious historic anecdotes.

32 min
Celtic Art and Artifacts
3: Celtic Art and Artifacts

Archaeological studies of Celtic artifacts have woven a rich tapestry of their millennia-old society and its La Tène art style. Learn about war trumpets, gold necklaces, ornate helmets, and other recovered objects from around Europe to build an image of this ever-adapting culture and its connections to the classical world.

31 min
Celtic Languages in the Ancient World
4: Celtic Languages in the Ancient World

The discovery of Celtic inscriptions on the western coast of Spain suggests the possible development of a common language along maritime Celtic trade routes, revolutionizing studies of Celtic origins and migration. The long-standing theory of Central European Celtic origins may die out thanks to new linguistic evidence.

32 min
Caesar and the Gauls
5: Caesar and the Gauls

Several centuries of violent combat against Celtic-controlled Gaul made northern Italy and southern France a dangerous neighborhood for the Romans. Hannibal, Gaius Marius, and Spartacus are just some of the famous figures of world history who encounter the Gauls in this lecture centered on Julius Caesar’s wars against the Gauls.

33 min
Celtic Religion and the Druids
6: Celtic Religion and the Druids

Celtic religious beliefs included divination, reincarnation, and human sacrifice. Along with these practices, discover the ancient religious figures known as druids who served as holy men, soothsayers, and even lawyers. Enjoy this insight into the Celtic version of one constant that appears in all civilizations—the sacred.

31 min
Celtic Britain and Roman Britain
7: Celtic Britain and Roman Britain

Professor Paxton uses the theory of trade-based migration to first explain the arrival of the Celts influence in Britain before the arrival of the Romans. Then she details the exciting struggle between the Celts and the Romans over Britain, untangling the web of history on the island during the first and second centuries A.D.

31 min
Celts and Picts in Scotland
8: Celts and Picts in Scotland

With a Romanized southern Britain, what was life like in Scotland? Meet the warring tribes of Picts that ruled North Britain, with the Irish to the west and Angles moving in from the southeast. Highlights include the ancient Pictish tongue and the truth about William “Braveheart” Wallace and all that blue paint.

30 min
Prehistoric Ireland and the Celts
9: Prehistoric Ireland and the Celts

An early Irish text called The Book of Invasions is the basis for this truly unique look back at the origins of Ireland and its people. In equal parts weird, fascinating, and humorous, this text tells of one-armed pirate giants, descendants of Noah, a tribe of sorcerers, and six full-scale takeovers of Ireland.

31 min
Celtic Britain after Rome
10: Celtic Britain after Rome

North and west of what today is England, where the Romans held far less influence, a paradoxical era of both peaceful immigration and rebellion added to the melting pot of Britain in the first millennium A.D. Discover Cornwall, Wales, and parts of Scotland with a quick appearance of one of Britain’s noblest legends: King Arthur.

32 min
Brittany and Galicia: Fringe of the Fringe
11: Brittany and Galicia: Fringe of the Fringe

See how both France and Spain welcomed immigrants from a rapidly de-Romanizing Britain. Brittany became a thriving Celtic province that maintained its autonomy through the Middle Ages, while Galicia mostly lost its Celtic identity until a revival of interest in modern times.

32 min
 Celtic Churches
12: Celtic Churches

The melding of pagan religions and Christianity is a compelling tale. St. Patrick’s legendary priesthood and missionary work are discussed, as is the Christian saint Brigid, who was remolded as a nature deity to impress the recently converted Irish. Learn how Irish monks brought Latin learning back to the European continent and “saved civilization.”

32 min
Celtic Art and Insular Art
13: Celtic Art and Insular Art

Native Britons copied much of the art style prominent on the continent, complicating the process of defining Celtic art, but Professor Paxton unties this intricate knot. Observe some of Ireland’s most breathtaking religious and secular art pieces, from the Book of Kells to the Tara Brooch.

31 min
Medieval Irish Literature
14: Medieval Irish Literature

The early Irish prized literary skill just as much as prowess in warfare, and lords were judged by the quality of poet they could hire. This lecture gives a glimpse into the diverse genres of Irish literature, from epics about mythological heroes to exciting tales designed to warn kings about the dangers of ruling unjustly.

32 min
Celtic Women, Families, and Social Structure
15: Celtic Women, Families, and Social Structure

Irish society treated all disputes as civil suits between families—so if your cousin killed someone, you had to pay some of the damages, which varied with the social status of the victim. Gain a fascinating insight into the hierarchical structure of this period and women’s roles in society as well.

34 min
The Irish Sea World: Celts and Vikings
16: The Irish Sea World: Celts and Vikings

By the turn of the first millennium A.D., we find ample evidence of Viking presence in both Ireland and Scotland. From raids to intermarriages, the Celtic-Scandinavian relationship is a stranger-than-fiction love-hate saga any history buff can appreciate.

31 min
English Invasions of Wales and Ireland
17: English Invasions of Wales and Ireland

Get a glimpse of the life of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, one of the most influential Welsh rulers, who briefly unified the country 1,000 years ago. Uncover the shocking truth of Henry II’s invasion of Ireland and its causes as well as anti-Irish propaganda and the development of cruel stereotypes that influenced English views of the Irish down to the modern period.

32 min
Scotland from Macbeth to Braveheart
18: Scotland from Macbeth to Braveheart

How do Shakespeare and Hollywood stack up against the truth in some of the fictional accounts of Scotland’s history? Learn about the historical Macbeth and William Wallace (of Braveheart fame), as well as the famous ruler Robert Bruce, who secured Scottish independence from the invading English.

33 min
Politics and Literature in Wales
19: Politics and Literature in Wales

Unveil the turbulent story of English conquest in Wales with this insightful glimpse into Welsh history that includes the unfortunate influence of misplaced loyalty to family that cost the Welsh their sovereignty forever. Then, look at Welsh literature, particularly the wonderful but enigmatic myths of the Mabinogi and the witty poems of Dafydd ap Gwilym.

32 min
The Tudor Conquest of Ireland
20: The Tudor Conquest of Ireland

After Henry VIII denounced Catholicism, England tried repeatedly to bring Ireland into its fold. With Catholicism and Protestantism at odds, Irish chieftains were caught in the middle: the English offered land deals in exchange for shedding their Irish culture and heritage. Witness the aftermath when a historic powder keg exploded, with devastating losses on both sides.

34 min
(Re)Discovering the Celts
21: (Re)Discovering the Celts

Just as the Tudors were conquering Ireland, linguistic studies of the Celtic languages began and a new fascination with the Celts slowly emerged. Witness the resurgence of mythological Celtic tales and the revival of the tartan after it was briefly banned by the British; see how fascination with the druids and Welsh bards created a newly confident Welsh identity.

33 min
The Gaelic Revival in Ireland
22: The Gaelic Revival in Ireland

Compared to the fun-loving and historically focused revival of Celtic culture in Scotland and Wales, Ireland’s Celtic revival had more of a political edge. Ancient Irish mythology played a surprising role in the growth of Irish nationalism that led to conflict and ultimately to independence from Britain.

33 min
Celtic Music and Dance
23: Celtic Music and Dance

Celtic instruments come to life in this lecture. Take a music lesson and learn about the carnyx, a war trumpet; the bodhrán, a hand drum; and the crwth, a lyre played with a bow. Treat your ears to samples of these and beautiful Irish singing, then watch clips of delightful Celtic dances based on classic traditions.

33 min
The Celts Today
24: The Celts Today

In the final lecture, end your 2,500-year journey with the Celts by considering the Celtic nations in the 21st century. Bilingualism, modern Celtic pop culture, and renewed nationalist groups pushing for political autonomy are merely the tip of the iceberg in this satisfying conclusion to a truly epic history of culture, politics, and warfare.

39 min
Jennifer Paxton

It was a special joy to me to work with The Great Courses because I was already a longtime customer and fan! I know I had become a better teacher because of my years of listening to the excellent instructors in The Great Courses series.


Harvard University


The Catholic University of America

About Jennifer Paxton

Dr. Jennifer Paxton is Assistant Director of the University Honors Program and Clinical Assistant Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. She was previously a Professorial Lecturer in History at Georgetown University, where she taught for more than a decade. The holder of a doctorate in history from Harvard University, where she has also taught and earned a Certificate of Distinction, Professor Paxton is both a widely published award-winning writer and a highly regarded scholar, earning both a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and a Frank Knox Memorial Traveling Fellowship. She lectures regularly on medieval history at the Foreign Service Institute in Arlington, Virginia, and has also been invited to speak on British history at the Smithsonian Institution and the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC. Professor Paxton's research focuses on England from the reign of King Alfred to the late 12th century, particularly the intersection between the authority of church and state and the representation of the past in historical texts, especially those produced by religious communities. She is currently completing a book, Chronicle and Community in Twelfth Century England, that will be published by Oxford University Press. It examines how monastic historians shaped their narratives to project present polemical concerns onto the past.

Also By This Professor