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The Development of European Civilization

Gain an understanding of historical and social causes behind the progression of European civilization in this thoughtful and interesting course by an award-winning professor of history.
Development of European Civilization is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 73.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding in Every Respect As a longtime subscriber, I have taken many fascinating history courses from TGC/Wondrium. This course is at the top of my list for its most enlightening analysis of the evolution of European and indeed worldwide history. After a few minutes in the first lecture, I acclimated to Prof. Bartlett's delivery style and became engrossed with each and every lecture henceforth. I would have to say that he is one of the most articulate persons I've ever had the pleasure to listen to. I had to ration myself to extend my great enjoyment in listening to these lessons. This course has greatly expanded my understanding of our current world and the forces that have molded it. An absolutely enriching experience provided by a wonderful historical analyst and speaker.
Date published: 2024-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating &informative This course is brilliant & explains so much of what is happening today. It opens one’s eyes to people’s national attitudes, customs & expectations & ambitions
Date published: 2023-11-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Important topic, poor delivery This is the only course that I have found from Great Courses series that seem to encapsulate all of Europe's; and not just separate regions, history in a single course, which is very valuable in gaining a quick overall picture of Europe's recent history. A main issue is that the course is unnecessarily too long. The 48 lectures could easily be summarized in 24 lectures. The main reason for this unnecessary length is the poor delivery of the lecturer. Literally every sentence that he says is followed up by another sentence with different wordings, hence, a 24 lecture series became 48 lectures.
Date published: 2023-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pr. Bartlett’s course is a real tour de force! The way Professor Bartlett delivers 1000 years of historical ideas in one class is remarkable. I have been looking for such a course for a long time. At the end of this class, you’ll be able to understand how Western ideas have evolved over the last millennia. His explanations are clear, fascinating and delivered with a perfect flow. I will just make one observations and one criticism: The observation, as others have noticed, this class focuses on ideas, and therefore Professor Bartlett can go a bit fast on some historical details, using Foundations of Western Civilization I and II on the side will give you a complete understand of Europe’s history from an intellectual and factual point of view. The criticism is that Professor Bartlett skipped all the Antiquity, and even the rediscovery of roman texts during the middle age. It is not a major issue but it leaves the reader thinking there is no link between the Roman era and modern Europe, which I believe is misleading. I would love to hear Professor Bartlett’s opinion! Beside that one remark, this class is phenomenal and I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2023-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great series I enjoyed and learned a lot from this excellent series. I am missing a discussion about the contribution of the largest non-Christian community, the Jews, to the culture and economy of Europe.
Date published: 2023-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Review of European Civ Professor Reynolds does a wonderful series capturing the vast sweep of the development of European Civilization. I've never seen better.
Date published: 2023-04-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Misleading title - wrong facts & racist bias The correct title should be : Development of the Western Anglosaxon Catholic Civilization. No mention of Byzantine Empire, a Christian state, 345 AD - 1453 AD, which was also called East Roman Empire and it had colonies as far as Italy, Spain France, and Africa. Forgot to mention that the Catholic Knights (which he spends so much time about) burned and looted Constantinople at least twice.. No mention of the Great Schism between Catholic and Orthodox, 1054 AD. Wrong maps and completely wrong information about the Ottoman Empire, which after a point, had trade agreements with the Italians, and later allied with the Austrians. No mention of Russia !!! Which was heavily involved in the making of Europe plus the wars.. No mention of the history and culture of any Slavic nation or people.. only when they were involved in events related to the West.. Spain was mentioned only when hosted the Holy Roman Emperor and in reference to transatlantic voyages.. same with Portugal.. Even Italy, was mentioned in regards to the Pope and the Catholic church, brushing very fast over its greatest miracle, the Renaissance.. Tons of detail about the Catholic church, and its 'evolution', when most Europe was still pagan.. For all the above reasons, this 'history' is heavily biased and racist.
Date published: 2023-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from THIS IS SPECTACULAR I've been studying history since I learned to read, and that was 50+ years ago. This course is spectacular. Definitely the best coverage of European history, and especially how ideas shaped that history, that I have encountered. I recommend it to everyone. I've already purchased it for two friends and will soon do so for my son.
Date published: 2022-10-24
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Survey the remarkable development of Europe from the late Middle Ages through the eve of World War II with The Development of European Civilization. In Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett's 48 lectures, you'll learn the major ideologies that emerged from centuries of debate and conflict; the forces that intermingled to create a range of economic and social revolutions; groundbreaking European ideas about government, class, and religion; and so much more.


Kenneth R. Bartlett

In short, and in almost every way that matters, historical Europe was the laboratory in which the world you now live in was conceived and tested. And you'll be living with the consequences of those experiments for the rest of your life.


University of Toronto

Professor Kenneth R. Bartlett is a Professor of History at the University of Toronto. He received his Ph.D. from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto in 1978. He was the first director of the University of Toronto Art Centre and founding director of the Office of Teaching Advancement at the university, a position he held until 2009.

Much of Professor Bartlett’s career has been devoted to bringing the culture of European history into undergraduate and graduate classrooms. He has taught regularly in the University of Toronto Summer Abroad programs in Europe. He has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards, most notably, the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, awarded by the Canadian Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, and the inaugural President’s Teaching Award from the University of Toronto. In 2007, Professor Bartlett was one of the 10 finalists in TVOntario’s Best Lecturer Competition, which pits students’ favorite instructors against one another in a battle of charisma, clarity, passion, and conviction. That same year, the professor was recognized with an inaugural Leadership in Faculty Teaching Award by the government of Ontario.


Professor Bartlett is the author of The English in Italy, 1525–1558: A Study in Culture and Politics; The Civilization of the Italian Renaissance: A Sourcebook; and most recently, A Short History of the Italian Renaissance. He is also coeditor or translator of five other books, including Humanism and the Northern Renaissance (with M. McGlynn), and author of more than 35 articles and chapters on European history and culture. He has been the academic consultant and occasional on-camera commentator for the Illuminated Filmworks videos about the Vatican Library and for such television series as The Naked Archaeologist and Museum Secrets.


Together with his wife, Gillian, who herself holds a Ph.D. and is the author of seven books, Professor Bartlett regularly leads tours to Europe for major museums, universities, and cultural organizations.


Professor Bartlett’s other Great Courses include The Development of European Civilization, The Italian Renaissance, and The Italians before Italy: Conflict and Competition in the Mediterranean

By This Professor

The Great Tours: Experiencing Medieval Europe
The Development of European Civilization
The Development of European Civilization


The Idea and Place of Europe

01: The Idea and Place of Europe

Begin your understanding of Europe as not only a place but as an evolving laboratory of ideas. Learn how these ideas—whether adopted, transformed, or the source of opposing tensions—continue to animate human life not only in Europe, but throughout much of the world.

32 min
Feudalism and the Medieval World

02: Feudalism and the Medieval World

Gain a firm foundation for understanding the medieval world with this introduction to feudalism. Learn how the need for protection and justice became paramount concerns with the disappearance of Roman rule and the absence of a central authority's ability to impose rules and order.

30 min
The Three Orders of Medieval Society

03: The Three Orders of Medieval Society

Plunge more deeply into the medieval world by grounding yourself in its three components: the "first estate" of the clergy, the second of the nobility, and the third of everyone else—the vast majority of whom provided all of society's labor.

30 min
The Manorial Economy

04: The Manorial Economy

See how insufficient coinage and localized allegiances made the organization of agriculture the economic foundation of most of the continent. This lecture explores life on the manor and prepares you for the transition from feudalism triggered by the growth of towns and the emergence of money.

30 min
The Growth of Trade and Towns

05: The Growth of Trade and Towns

Many forces coalesced to ultimately doom feudalism. Learn how factors as seemingly disparate as the Crusades, the collapse of two great banking houses, and the Black Death helped redefine the balance of power and pave the way for a new era of great cities and their influence.

30 min
Humanism and the Italian Renaissance

06: Humanism and the Italian Renaissance

Empowered by the enormous wealth generated by the Crusades, a powerful merchant class made Italian city-states increasingly independent of the feudal barons who ruled the countryside. Learn how the merchant class's need for a different kind of ideology led to the cultivation of humanism and a breathtaking cultural movement.

30 min
Crisis in the Church

07: Crisis in the Church

A detailed examination of both the Babylonian captivity and the Great Schism brings the forces dividing the church into sharp focus, preparing you for a firm grasp of the causes and impact of the Reformation that was to follow.

30 min
Christian Humanism

08: Christian Humanism

A discussion of the lives and writings of both Erasmus and Thomas More—and the importance of Gutenberg's new moveable type to making their thoughts widely available—highlight this exploration of the ideas that needed to take root before that Reformation could become reality.

31 min
The Ottoman Threat to Europe

09: The Ottoman Threat to Europe

Follow the aggressive expansion of the Ottoman Empire, with many Europeans reacting in terror at the transformation of the Mediterranean into a "Turkish lake." Learn how fear of both the Turks and Islam drove the later voyages of discovery to expand not only Europe's influence but also that of Christianity.

31 min
The Expansion of Europe

10: The Expansion of Europe

Learn why, with the collapse of the Italian trading monopolies and the dangers of sailing Turkish waters, Europe was forced to seek new trading routes and different opportunities for expansion. In the new world, especially, expansion meant conquest, and the gold sent back home shifted the balance of European power.

30 min
The Continental Reformation-Luther

11: The Continental Reformation-Luther

A discussion of Luther's teachings offers insight into the full context—not only theological, but political and social—in which his religious rebellion took place. You grasp how it opened the door for further protests against not only the Catholic Church, but Lutheranism itself.

31 min
The Continental Reformation-Calvin

12: The Continental Reformation-Calvin

The breaching of Catholicism's walls allowed new voices of change to emerge. This lecture focuses on two of them, the Swiss priest and Christian humanist scholar Ulrich Zwingli, and the French lawyer John Calvin. See how the reforms advocated by each would have devastating consequences.

31 min
The Wars of Religion

13: The Wars of Religion

The Roman church sought to address the challenges posed by Protestantism. But its reexamination largely rejected Protestant demands, and the founding of the Jesuit order revealed a new zeal in preserving orthodoxy. This lecture examines the permanent rending of European Christianity and the terrible violence that resulted.

32 min
The English Reformation

14: The English Reformation

Discover how, while the continental Reformation and wars of religion fragmented the continent, England embarked on its own reformation. England's, however, was driven by the intricacies of royal succession, which in the fullness of time would breed the seeds of England's own religious wars.

31 min
The English Civil War

15: The English Civil War

Explore the different forces—religious, political, and personal—that doomed the reign of Charles I. Those forces drove England into a cycle of civil war, repression, and royal restoration that would ultimately produce a nation very different from the one Charles had first ruled.

31 min
The Thirty Years' War

16: The Thirty Years' War

Gain a new understanding of the causes and results of the most terrible of the internal religious wars that ravaged Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. After these conflicts, during which religious causes were ultimately superseded by dynastic, political, and strategic concerns, Europe stood transformed.

32 min
The Absolute Monarchy

17: The Absolute Monarchy

This lecture offers fresh insights into the idea of absolutism, beginning with the theory as set forth by Thomas Hobbes and concluding with an examination of absolutism in practice—the France of advisers like Richelieu, Mazarin, and Colbert and their monarchs, Louis XIII and Louis XIV.

31 min
The Scientific Revolution

18: The Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution provided a way for extending knowledge and discovering truth without reliance on the church. Focusing on the thought of Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, Newton, and Locke, this lecture places the Scientific Revolution in context with the religious revolutions already studied, as well as the subsequent intellectual and political revolutions it made possible.

31 min
The Enlightenment, Part 1

19: The Enlightenment, Part 1

Deepen your grasp of two of the Enlightenment's most influential voices, Voltaire and Montesquieu. Although French, they were deeply influenced by their observations of England. Written in the lingua franca, their work—especially Voltaire's—was vital in spreading the ideas of thinkers like Newton, Locke, and Bacon.

30 min
The Enlightenment, Part 2

20: The Enlightenment, Part 2

Continue your exploration of the French Enlightenment with Denis Diderot's Encyclopédie and the impact of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau's upturning of the ideas of Hobbes and Locke would, a decade after his death, make him in many ways the ideologue of the French Revolution.

30 min
France in 1789

21: France in 1789

A deep look at each of France's three estates in 1789 sets the stage for understanding the revolution that would follow. Ironically, the active beginnings of that violence would happen at the same time as many of the reforms demanded were being put into place.

30 min
The French Revolution

22: The French Revolution

Although the early policies of the revolutionary government reflected a commitment to measured and reasonable steps, they were soon overtaken by violence. This lecture traces the creation of a radical republic and the revolution's descent into the period known as the Reign of Terror.

30 min
The Age of Napoleon

23: The Age of Napoleon

Gain an appreciation of the extraordinary accomplishments of the minor Corsican noble and artillery officer who became a military hero, self-crowned emperor of the French people, and architect of enduring societal change in not only France, but all of Europe.

30 min
The Congress of Vienna

24: The Congress of Vienna

Learn how, after the downfall of Napoleon, the leading powers convened to award compensation, arrange a balance of power, and, above all, restore deposed monarchies. But the allies understood—their victory notwithstanding—that there were still Napoleonic reforms that could never be undone.

31 min
The Industrial Revolution

25: The Industrial Revolution

The French Revolution had altered the face of Europe forever. Yet the consequences of the Industrial Revolution were even greater. This lecture reveals the many agricultural, social, technical, and economic forces that came together, especially in England, to forge one of the transformative events of European history.

31 min
The Industrial Working Class

26: The Industrial Working Class

Just as the Industrial Revolution was altering the shape of England's economy, so, too, was it altering the lives of the working-class laborers who were powering it. You examine not only those often-miserable lives, but the many factors that worked against any easing of that misery.

31 min
Capitalism and European Society

27: Capitalism and European Society

Follow along as the Industrial Revolution forced the development of new credit and banking systems and remade the face of capitalism. But even as a changing society created a swelling middle class, pressures on the working poor increased, with little solace offered by religious and societal structures that blamed them for their own plight.

30 min
The Middle Class

28: The Middle Class

As the middle class grew, so did its self-awareness, especially in England and France, where it had a powerful political and economic influence. Learn how that self-awareness expressed itself, particularly through the presentation of one's home and inherent values and the class identification of one's clothing.

30 min
Liberals and Liberalism

29: Liberals and Liberalism

Enjoy a detailed exploration of liberalism and its defining principles, focusing first on the work of John Stuart Mill and then on the core tenets of the liberal movement as set forth by L. T. Hobhouse in his classic Liberalism.

31 min
Liberal Government

30: Liberal Government

This lecture explores the translation of liberal principles into liberal policies. Examine the different paths the transformation took in England, under the leadership of figures like Disraeli, Bright, and Gladstone, and in France. There, Napoleon's nephew, Louis Napoleon, instituted progressive change, first as president and then as Emperor Napoleon III.

31 min
Science and Progress

31: Science and Progress

The 19th century reinforced the Enlightenment idea of progress, with the world now envisioning change not as a means of restoring what had been lost, but of moving forward. Learn how science, exemplified by men like Comte, Pasteur, and Koch, led the way.

31 min
19th-Century Optimism

32: 19th-Century Optimism

Grasp the full impact of science, technology, and liberal concepts of social responsibility as you see the lives of Europeans—even the poor—become progressively better. But even as the wealth of nations increased, so, too, did the competition among them, precipitating a headlong rush toward imperialism and empire.

32 min
Nationalism and 1848

33: Nationalism and 1848

Another driving factor of the 19th century—one that would ultimately lead to the Great War—was nationalism, the belief that people of similar backgrounds and traditions should rule themselves. Explore how this force, sometimes combined with powerful cultural movements like pan-slavism, kindled mid-century revolution throughout Europe.

31 min
The Unifications of Germany and Italy

34: The Unifications of Germany and Italy

Europe's 19th-century nationalist movements unleashed powerful programs of self-determination. The two discussed in this lecture created new states linked by language, culture, and ethnicity. One, however, emerges as a great power; the other as weak but ambitious, with its national mission still incomplete.

30 min
Darwin and Darwinism

35: Darwin and Darwinism

If political and social progress had posed a fundamental challenge to the foundations of European thought, the challenge posed by Charles Darwin was no less than seismic. Explore the ideas that would come to define European thought as either pre- or post-Darwin.

30 min
Social Darwinism

36: Social Darwinism

Darwin's theory opened a Pandora's box of social, political, and racial attitudes among Europeans, who applied it to situations it was never meant to describe. Grasp how it was misused to justify imperialism, brutality, lack of social concern, and, ultimately, Europe's darkest hour.

30 min
Socialism and Utopianism

37: Socialism and Utopianism

Explore some of the pre-Marxian images of Socialism, including the imposed equality of Francois Babeuf, the terrorist urgings of Louis-Auguste Blanqui, and three very different visions of utopianism as set forth by the Count Henri de Saint Simon, Charles Fourier, and Robert Owen.

30 min
Marx and Marxism

38: Marx and Marxism

Enjoy an intimate look into Karl Marx's world and gain new insight into his difficult personality. Learn how he developed his theory of "scientific Socialism" and observe his involvement—and constant dissatisfaction—with those who attempted to achieve in practical terms what they believed his ideas to be.

31 min
Reactions to Rationalism

39: Reactions to Rationalism

The Enlightenment had promoted the application of reason to the problems of society, but the belief that reason and science would point the way to progress was far from universal. Gain fresh perspective on the opposing view through examples drawn from science, literature, and music.

31 min
Fin de Siècle

40: Fin de Siècle

Grasp the situation in Europe as it makes the turn into a century that would soon explode into unprecedented violence. Reviews of the situation in Britain, France, Germany, and the Habsburg Austrian Empire reveal a continent fearful of what might come, but unprepared to do anything to prevent it.

30 min
World War I

41: World War I

Understand the Great War by an appraisal of its nearly incomprehensible impact. By war's end, at least 15 million of the 70 million who had taken up arms had been killed, and the European continent had been changed more profoundly than by any event since the Black Death.

30 min
The Treaty of Versailles

42: The Treaty of Versailles

Determined to impose total defeat on Germany and her allies, Britain, France, and the United States ignored the lessons of the Congress of Vienna. The terms they dictated set into motion forces none could imagine, missing any opportunity for a workable peace.

31 min
The Disintegration of the Established Order

43: The Disintegration of the Established Order

Explore the chaos that descended on Germany as the war was lost, peace terms were imposed, and order and the economy collapsed. Learn how the tensions and violence that overran Germany set the stage for the rise of a young Army corporal named Adolf Hitler.

30 min
The Bolshevik Revolution

44: The Bolshevik Revolution

A review of Russia's history during the 19th century sets the stage for enhanced understanding of Russia's role in World War I and its subsequent vulnerability to takeover by the Bolsheviks—first led by Vladimir Lenin and then by his successor, Josef Stalin.

30 min
Fascism in Italy

45: Fascism in Italy

An examination of post-unification Italian history explains why Fascism arose in what would seem to be a country ill-suited for it. You also learn why its embrace of Fascism was led by a man who had begun public life at the opposite end of the political spectrum, a radical Socialist journalist named Benito Mussolini.

31 min
The Nazi Regime in Germany

46: The Nazi Regime in Germany

Find new insights into why the Nazis were able to gain power. In addition to viewing Nazism from the perspective of a perversion of many themes examined in the course, the lecture also addresses the question of why a sophisticated people could allow it to happen.

31 min
Europe between the Wars

47: Europe between the Wars

Europe between the wars was hardly a celebration of democracy. A look at life in its various states reveals not only the dark forces affecting the vanquished, but also how many on the victorious side had come to believe that the sacrifices of WWI might have been in vain.

30 min
The New Europe

48: The New Europe

The course comes to a close with an examination of how each of the major forces discussed has left its mark on Europe's nations, and how those forces will shape the Europe still to come.

31 min