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The Decisive Battles of World History

Examine the military encounters that most profoundly affected history in this sweeping course that spans from chariot battles in ancient Egypt to modern conflicts.
The Decisive Battles of World History is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 161.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Decisive Battlesof of World History As a 'peacenik' I hesitated to purchase this BUT it was & HE is spectacular!!
Date published: 2024-06-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The prince of clarity The clarity of Prof. Aldrete's lectures is marvelous. He is a master of trimming away the extraneous, which allow him to focus on the important. The narrative thrust is also excellent. His lectures are as informative as they are entertaining. I have enjoyed many of the professors available in The Great Course, but I think Prof. Aldrete is among the top three for clarity of presentation.
Date published: 2024-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incisive Analysis “The Decisive Battles of World History” impresses me as one of the most interesting of the over-130 Great Courses I’ve studied, and here are some key reasons why: * Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete is such an engaging analyst of history. His insights are thought-provoking, his manner of speaking seems very natural, and even his hand gestures are effective. * Easy-to-comprehend maps, animations of military maneuvers, and other visual accompaniments to these lectures are especially helpful. * Representative examples of pivotal battles are chosen from widely diverse areas of the globe, and the selections span 33 centuries of human history. * The professor’s list of battles he considers decisive is atypical, in that he accords highest priority to ones that had lasting or far-reaching influence, whether or not they were the most famous or grandest-scale clashes. For example, the naval battle of 1571 Lepanto was discussed as “The Last Gasp of the Galleys,” after which the ramming potential of warships became almost entirely passé. * I gained a more detailed awareness of some battles I had studied in the past (e.g., 1862 Antietam), but I also learned the importance of some that had previously been unknown to me (e.g., 1939 Khalkhin Gol). All in all, this is a fascinating history course. I urge you to give it a try.
Date published: 2024-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Masterful Storyteller Makes History Come Alive I have listened to dozens of Great Courses over the years, and Dr. Aldrete's two series on military history ("The Decisive Battles" and "Greatest Military Blunders") are among the very best (if not the best). Dr. Aldrete is a masterful storyteller who expertly and engagingly recounts history's greatest battles. Dr. Aldrete describes the historical context for the chosen battles, paints vivid portraits of the key participants, provides fascinating details on the logistics of the battles, and persuasively explains the historical significance and lessons to be learned. I highly recommend these courses for anyone interested in military history, anyone interested in history, or anyone who just wants to hear a series of fascinating stories masterfully told.
Date published: 2024-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Military Enthisiasts View of World History Having watched this professor's previous course on Rome and Hollywood I wasn't surprised by his organization and teaching ability, but I was pleasantly surprised by his foray into military history. The course is very well organized and he lays out his criteria for choosing decisive battles in the introductory lecture. The graphics are superb both in terms of maps of the campaign/political divisions and tactical battle maps with moving combat symbols. He supplements this with a very good selection of quotes from battle participants and/or historians. And with the more modern battles he supplements this with photos including some from his own historical trips (this course was probably designed as a means to find a tax deduction for some of his own recreational historical travels). While I disagreed with his selection from the American Civil War, I did agree with his selections from 1939-45 and the postwar era. He most have read my mind when he discussed D-Day in his final lecture. A must have for military history buffs. I also recommend his course on Rome and Hollywood.
Date published: 2024-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Tour of Famous Battles This is a sequence of more-or-less independent lectures describing military and naval battles that had significant lasting consequences, at least in the eyes of Dr. Aldrete. These individual lectures are interesting although there is no attempt to cull any cumulative lessons from these experiences. The list of battles leans more to recent than to earlier and more to Europe than to the rest of the world. Nearly one-tenth of the battles are from World War II. Three-quarters of the lectures had at least one European participant. I am no historian of Asia but I did not expect that there would be only one decisive battle in China and only one decisive battle in India. Part of the fun of lists like this is quibbling with what is included and what is excluded. Can Hattin be considered “decisive” when the Crusader states were on the decline and were never sustainable anyway? Why is Tours, which stopped Islam from spreading into Europe, omitted? How could the battle of Antietam be considered “decisive” when even two years later, Abraham Lincoln expected to be defeated for reelection, leading to recognition of the Confederate States of America? Dr. Aldrete speaks in an easy-to-listen-to conversational style. Given that there is only one lecture per battle, Dr. Aldrete can provide only high-level coverage in each lecture. The course guide is about average by The Great Courses (TGC) standards. It is written in bullet format but, unlike a PowerPoint presentation, each point is a small paragraph. The guide averages about seven pages per lecture, which is average by TGC standards. There are no useful graphics in the course guide (ignoring the graphics such as a picture of George Washington – what does that add to the content?). I find this amazing because, in a course on decisive battles, there are absolutely no battle maps. Neither is there a timeline or any biographical notes. There is a bibliography in the appendix. I used an old audio version. TGC no longer (as of 2023) sells audio-only streaming. I think that is for the better because the subject requires video graphics, particularly battle maps. (On the other hand, having used the audio-only version, I cannot tell for sure that there are any such graphics in the video streaming or DVD versions.) The course was published in 2014.
Date published: 2023-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best professors My husband and I so much enjoy the teaching of Dr. Aldrete. He is wonderful, so informative and engaging. Please can we have more courses from Dr. Aldrete?
Date published: 2023-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Compilation I enjoyed Professor Aldrete's Decisive Battles very much. The battles were reviewed in chronological order and for each one Professor Aldrete set up the specifics of history, participants and political climate at the time. Each battle was illustrated with positions, size of each army, terrain, weapons and leaders. Relevant personalities were also identified as well as strategies and possible mistakes. After each battle, he explained why he included the battle in his list of thirty-six decisive battles. This was a very informative course.
Date published: 2022-06-14
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Overview

Discover the military conflicts that have had the greatest impact in shifting the direction of historical events and shaping our world in The Decisive Battles of World History. Covering nearly 4,000 years of history, this course explores more than three dozen history-making military engagements, from the landmark battles of the Western world to their counterparts across Asia, India, and the Middle East. These 36 dynamic lectures by Professor Gregory S. Aldrete feature vital historical background, vivid accounts of the campaigns themselves, and a thorough look at their influence on the unfolding of history.

About

Gregory S. Aldrete

As an ancient historian, my goals are to share the enthusiasm for and fascination with antiquity that I feel, and to show some of the connections between that world and our own.

INSTITUTION

University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

Dr. Gregory S. Aldrete is Professor of Humanistic Studies and History at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, where he has taught since 1995. He earned his B.A. from Princeton University and his master's degree and Ph.D. in Ancient History from the University of Michigan. Honored many times over for his research and his teaching, Professor Aldrete was named by his university as the winner of its highest awards in each category, receiving both its Founders Association Award for Excellence in Scholarship and its Founders Association Award for Excellence in Teaching. That recognition of his teaching skills was echoed on a national level in 2009, when he received the American Philological Association Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Classics at the College Level-the national teaching award given annually by the professional association of classics professors. The recipient of many prestigious research fellowships including five from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Professor Aldrete has published several important books in his field, including Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome; Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome; Daily Life in the Roman City: Rome, Pompeii, and Ostia; The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Daily Life I: The Ancient World (as editor); Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery: Reconstructing and Testing Ancient Linen Body Armor (with S. Bartell and A. Aldrete) and The Long Shadow of Antiquity: What Have the Greeks and Romans Done for Us (with A. Aldrete).

By This Professor

History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach
854
The Decisive Battles of World History
854
A Historian Goes to the Movies: Ancient Rome
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History of the Ancient World: A Global Perspective
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The Roman Empire: From Augustus to The Fall of Rome
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The Rise of Rome
854
The Decisive Battles of World History

Trailer

What Makes a Battle Decisive?

01: What Makes a Battle Decisive?

Contemplate the ways in which warfare can change the course of historical events. Examine the factors that make a military battle "decisive," such as its role in transfers of power and its social and political effects, and consider the study of battles as an analytical tool for understanding history.

33 min
1274 B.C. Kadesh-Greatest Chariot Battle

02: 1274 B.C. Kadesh-Greatest Chariot Battle

The battle of Kadesh ushered in an unprecedented era of peace in the ancient Near East. Follow the strategy and tactics of the Egyptian and Hittite armies, featuring each side's distinctive war chariots. Trace the unusual sequence of battlefield events that led to a remarkable treaty, an important forerunner of peaceful diplomacy.

32 min
479 B.C. Plataea-Greece Wins Freedom

03: 479 B.C. Plataea-Greece Wins Freedom

In the 479 B.C. battle of Plataea, Greek "hoplite" forces fighting in phalanxes met the mighty army of the Persian superpower. Study the unfolding of this dramatic engagement, and learn how it ended the Persian threat to Greece and allowed for the flowering of Greece's cultural Golden Age.

32 min
331 B.C. Gaugamela-Alexander's Genius

04: 331 B.C. Gaugamela-Alexander's Genius

The victory of Alexander at Gaugamela resulted in the spread of Greek culture throughout the Macedonian Empire. Trace Alexander's campaign against the Persians, which led to the battle, and his bloody confrontation with the Persian forces, and grasp the brilliant maneuvers that allowed him to overcome his foe's significant advantages on the battlefield.

34 min
197 B.C. Cynoscephalae-Legion vs. Phalanx

05: 197 B.C. Cynoscephalae-Legion vs. Phalanx

In 197 B.C., two rival military systems clashed. Learn about the forces of Philip V of Macedon, with their phalanx system; the legacy of Alexander; and the up-and-coming Romans with their "manipular" army based in flexible subunits of soldiers. Assess the far-reaching effects of the battle and its consequences for world history.

33 min
31 B.C. Actium-Birth of the Roman Empire

06: 31 B.C. Actium-Birth of the Roman Empire

This great naval battle resulted from conflict within republican Rome. Follow the intense rivalry between Mark Antony and Octavian for domination of Rome, leading to the fateful events of the confrontation, and observe how it marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire.

31 min
260-110 B.C. China-Struggles for Unification

07: 260-110 B.C. China-Struggles for Unification

The wars of the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. were crucial in forging the later history of China. Study the military technology of the ancient Chinese and the conflicts through which the first Qin and Han emperors welded together a group of antagonistic kingdoms, creating a united China.

32 min
636 Yarmouk & al-Qadisiyyah-Islam Triumphs

08: 636 Yarmouk & al-Qadisiyyah-Islam Triumphs

In these dramatic conflicts, the Islamic Rashidun armies toppled two long-established empires. Learn about their defeat of the Byzantine army at Yarmouk and the Sassanid forces at al-Qadisiyyah, which determined the cultural, linguistic, and religious nature of the Middle East for the next 1,500 years.

32 min
751 Talas & 1192 Tarain-Islam into Asia

09: 751 Talas & 1192 Tarain-Islam into Asia

This lecture explores military engagements between widely differing cultures. Learn about the 751 battle between the Chinese Tang forces and the Abbasid Caliphate, which altered the religious orientation of central Asia. Then follow the 1192 clash between the Indian Rajputs and a Turkish Islamic army, and its permanent effects on Indian culture.

30 min
1066 Hastings-William Conquers England

10: 1066 Hastings-William Conquers England

The Battle of Hastings changed the course of both English and world history. Here, encounter the redoubtable figure of William the Conqueror and his 1066 invasion of England to claim the crown. Witness the terrible engagement at Hastings and its outcome, orienting England away from Scandinavian influence and toward Europe.

30 min
1087 Hattin-Crusader Desert Disaster

11: 1087 Hattin-Crusader Desert Disaster

The religious and cultural effects of the Christian Crusades are still felt in today's world. Study the origins of the Crusades and the events leading to the fateful confrontation at Hattin between Islamic and Christian forces, which critically altered the course of the wars.

31 min
1260 Ain Jalut-Can the Mongols Be Stopped?

12: 1260 Ain Jalut-Can the Mongols Be Stopped?

Now, envision a militaristic society that threatened nearly all the civilizations of Asia and Europe. Study the rise of the Mongols, their terrifying conquests, and their astounding military expertise. Witness their clash in 1260 with the Egyptian Mamluks, a rare Mongol defeat that effectively halted their Western expansion.

30 min
1410 Tannenberg-Cataclysm of Knights

13: 1410 Tannenberg-Cataclysm of Knights

This 15th-century conflict pitted the armies of Poland and Lithuania against the fearsome Germanic order of the Teutonic Knights. Learn about the political background of the bloody confrontation at Tannenberg, the harrowing events on the battlefield, and the deep symbolic significance of the battle that still echoes today.

29 min
Frigidus, Badr, Diu-Obscure Turning Points

14: Frigidus, Badr, Diu-Obscure Turning Points

This lecture discusses battles that have had extremely important effects, though information about the specific events involved is scanty. Consider the battles of the Frigidus River and Badr, both vital turning points for world religions, and that of Diu, which marked the moment when Europe began its rise to world domination.

30 min
1521 Tenochtitlan-Aztecs vs. Conquistadors

15: 1521 Tenochtitlan-Aztecs vs. Conquistadors

The 16th-century Spanish conquest of the Americas resulted in some of the most unusual military encounters of all time. Here, learn about the campaign under Hernán Cortés to conquer Mexico, and how fewer than 1,000 Spaniards defeated the mighty Aztec Empire, which possessed armies comprising tens of thousands of warriors.

30 min
1532 Cajamarca-Inca vs. Conquistadors

16: 1532 Cajamarca-Inca vs. Conquistadors

Continue with Spain's campaign against the vast and highly organized Inca Empire. Follow the daring maneuvers of the forces under Francisco Pizarro, aided by European military technology and including the kidnap and ransom of the Incan emperor, which enabled 190 men to vanquish an army of 40,000.

30 min
1526 & 1556 Panipat-Babur & Akbar in India

17: 1526 & 1556 Panipat-Babur & Akbar in India

Two highly significant 16th-century battles were fought at the Indian town of Panipat. Learn about the rise of the Mughal emperors and the military clashes that first opened the door to their advance into India and then solidified their control, establishing a dynasty that would last for centuries.

31 min
1571 Lepanto-Last Gasp of the Galleys

18: 1571 Lepanto-Last Gasp of the Galleys

The conquests of the Ottoman Turks led to the largest naval battle of the Renaissance. Trace the formation of the Holy League, an alliance of Christian powers against the raiding Ottomans; follow the events leading to Lepanto; and study the dramatic naval engagement that ended Turkish incursions into the maritime outposts of Christendom.

31 min
1592 Sacheon-Yi's Mighty Turtle Ships

19: 1592 Sacheon-Yi's Mighty Turtle Ships

These great naval conflicts left deep imprints on two nations. Chart the 1592 Japanese conquest of Korea, the remarkable naval technologies involved, and the stunning victories of Korean admiral Yi Sun-shin, whose strategic actions defeated two invasions and established him as one of the greatest admirals of all time.

30 min
1600 Sekigahara-Samurai Showdown

20: 1600 Sekigahara-Samurai Showdown

In this monumental episode of the samurai era, learn about the underlying politics and the major figures in the conflict, including one whose wavering loyalty took an astonishing turn on the battlefield. Track the events that unified Japan under a dynasty of shoguns who would rule for 250 years.

30 min
1683 Vienna-The Great Ottoman Siege

21: 1683 Vienna-The Great Ottoman Siege

The Ottoman campaign to capture Vienna was one of the largest and most significant in Ottoman history. Study the background of the siege and the military technology and strategy on both sides. Follow the unfolding engagement and the pivotal role of the Polish-Lithuanian armies, and grasp how Vienna marked a turning point for the Ottoman Empire.

30 min
1709 Poltava-Sweden's Fall, Russia's Rise

22: 1709 Poltava-Sweden's Fall, Russia's Rise

In the 17th century, Sweden emerged as the most powerful state in northern Europe. Learn about Swedish king Charles XII, his ambition to conquer Russia, and his opponent, the resourceful and determined Tsar Peter I. Witness the Swedish invasion and the battlefield events that constituted a reversal of fortunes for the two countries.

31 min
1759 Quebec-Battle for North America

23: 1759 Quebec-Battle for North America

This key incident in the Seven Years War between England and France critically shaped the future of North America. Discover the conflict through the eyes of the opposing commanders as the British assault Quebec City. Observe the remarkable serendipity favoring the British in the engagement, leading to an outcome with historic political effects.

30 min
1776 Trenton-The Revolution's Darkest Hour

24: 1776 Trenton-The Revolution's Darkest Hour

In late 1776, the rebellion of the American colonists appeared to be heading for dismal failure. Here, uncover the dramatic events that were the pivot point of the war. Learn how George Washington, in two critical battles, undertook bold actions to surprise and outwit the British, saving and revitalizing the revolutionary movement.

29 min
1805 Trafalgar-Nelson Thwarts Napoleon

25: 1805 Trafalgar-Nelson Thwarts Napoleon

In 1805, after subduing much of Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte turned his sights on England. Study the events leading to the largest naval battle of the age, as Napoleon's combined French and Spanish fleet met the British navy under Admiral Horatio Nelson. Witness the monumental engagement, marking the beginning of Napoleon's decline.

30 min
1813 Leipzig-The Grand Coalition

26: 1813 Leipzig-The Grand Coalition

In this massive clash, a coalition of seven European powers united to oppose Napoleon. Trace the preliminary military actions culminating at Leipzig, where four armies finally converged on Napoleon's forces. Follow the complex unfolding of the battle and the incident that transformed it into an outright disaster for the French.

31 min
1824 Ayacucho-South American Independence

27: 1824 Ayacucho-South American Independence

The early 19th century saw the rise of numerous independence movements in Central and South America. Learn about three key leaders who were prominent in these struggles; their bold plan to liberate Peru; and the showdown on the plain of Ayacucho that ended Spanish rule in Latin America.

31 min
1836 San Jacinto-Mexico's Big Loss

28: 1836 San Jacinto-Mexico's Big Loss

First, encounter the larger-than-life commanders of this extraordinary action, Sam Houston and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Track the tensions between the Mexican government and the province of Texas, resulting in the 18-minute battle that gained Texas independence and led to the United States acquiring nearly one-third of its continental territory.

30 min
1862 Antietam-The Civil War's Bloodiest Day

29: 1862 Antietam-The Civil War's Bloodiest Day

At the time of this landmark battle in the American Civil War, the Confederacy seemed poised to achieve its goal of independence. Envision the protracted, bloody struggle between North and South, and consider the ways in which a marginal Union victory nevertheless altered the course of the war.

30 min
1866 Koniggratz-Bismarck Molds Germany

30: 1866 Koniggratz-Bismarck Molds Germany

The historic engagement at Königgrätz brought a united Germany into being. Assess the opposing Prussian and Austrian forces, and track the Prussian initiative to capture the German-speaking states allied with Austria. Follow the unfolding battle blow by blow, and grasp how easily Prussia's crushing victory could have ended as a disastrous defeat.

30 min
1905 Tsushima-Japan Humiliates Russia

31: 1905 Tsushima-Japan Humiliates Russia

A modern Japanese naval force stunned the world in this history-making battle. Learn about Japan's 19th-century industrialization and militarization, its conflict with an expansionist Russia, and the maritime confrontation that radically altered the Western perception of Japan, signaling its entrance onto the global stage as a major power.

31 min
1914 Marne-Paris Is Saved

32: 1914 Marne-Paris Is Saved

This providential clash critically shaped World War I. Study the German and French preparations for warfare and vital errors in planning by each side. Follow the offensive that began the war, the German commander's fateful change of plans, and the ensuing battle that left both sides enmeshed in a horrifying, four-year stalemate.

28 min
1939 Khalkin Gol-Sowing the Seeds of WWII

33: 1939 Khalkin Gol-Sowing the Seeds of WWII

Here, an obscure battle in Mongolia produced global effects. Track the tensions between Russia and Japan that led to a bloody border conflict that neither side had sought. Grasp how this one event directly contributed to both the outbreak of war in the Pacific and Europe and the outcome of the war itself.

31 min
1942 Midway-Four Minutes Change Everything

34: 1942 Midway-Four Minutes Change Everything

The advent of aircraft carriers brought a significant new era in naval warfare. Witness the most dramatic and pivotal of the "carrier versus carrier" battles, where the events of a short span of minutes permanently tilted the balance of power in the Pacific to the United States.

30 min
1942 Stalingrad-Hitler's Ambitions Crushed

35: 1942 Stalingrad-Hitler's Ambitions Crushed

Chart the German invasion of Russia at the height of the war in Europe, which massed the full force of Hitler's war machine. Follow the clash of the seemingly invincible German panzer units with the Red Army and the Russian winter, which ended the ascendancy of Nazi Germany.

30 min
Recent & Not-So-Decisive Decisive Battles

36: Recent & Not-So-Decisive Decisive Battles

In concluding the course, take a keen look at what may be some of the historically decisive battles of the six decades following World War II. Finally, consider two famous conflicts often thought to be among the most decisive of all time, and see how careful analysis casts doubt on that conclusion.

39 min