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The Great Revolutions of Modern History

Survey some of the most important revolutions from the past 300 years of world history.
The Great Revolutions of Modern History is rated 4.0 out of 5 by 33.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wide-ranging and informative I enjoyed this course a lot, learning a lot about important revolutions of which I before new little (such as the Mexican Revolution and the huge death toll associated with it). Prof. Hartnett is a fine lecturer, and made the material quite interesting. Well done.
Date published: 2023-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good overview of important social movements I enjoyed the overview of key revolutionary movements around the world. The summaries of each revolution are obviously short but they highlight their dynamics and key turning points. I think the class is well worth it.
Date published: 2023-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrific Course! This course covers a variety of "revolutions", including Suffragettes and the Counterculture of the 1960s. Interesting teacher with an unintrusive sense of humor. Obviously very knowledgeable, or she wouldn't work for the Great Courses! I;m very happy wwith this purchase, and so will you be.
Date published: 2023-01-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from format was a problem Varying complexities of revolutions was a problem with 30 minute presentations. Background was distracting
Date published: 2022-08-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Uneven and from a limited point of view. I did enjoy some of the lectures, but most were very general and from a limited point of view. It is definitely a survey course, even though it could have gone deeper. I would also agree with the reviews about her bias. I decided not to finish the course in favor of courses by more thorough/balanced historians.
Date published: 2022-08-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening course, inspiring instructor An excellent course. I have learned more about what creates conditions for a revolution. Dr. Harriet. I have a question I would like to hear your thoughts on. Some systems (like a government) can be improved through changes within the system itself while others seem to be unresponsive to internal changes and therefore need to be revolutionized and thrown out in deference to a new system. Are there some objective criteria one can use to demonstrate that a system will not be able to change and must be overturned? For example, a system that does not have a mechanism for its participants to voice their concerns, or a system that has simply demonstrated over time that it is not going to accommodate or tolerate dissent. Some people may feel that any given system needs to undergo revolution and others may feel it is still viable but needs change from within. How do we discuss among people with varying perspectives what stage a given system is in?
Date published: 2022-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Accurate description of content Excellent thorough and thoughtful presentation of complex material.
Date published: 2022-01-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Uneven, Incomplete, Rushed, Often Inaccurate There is little point in buying the video version as there is very little visual content. Hartnett has 24 lectures to describe revolutions. She wastes valuable time in describing the point of view of individuals like Alexander Kerensky, Samuel Adams, the “Decemberist Wives”, and particularly the odious subject of her book, Vera Figner. This is unfortunate because Hartnett does not give herself adequate time to fully explain complex events like the Mexican Revolution, the French Revolution, or to fully expand on the horrors Mao introduced in Communist China. Hartnett states that she was born in the year of revolutions, 1968. She describes riots in Paris. I met people who participated in those riots who confessed that they didn’t know the underlying rationale for the riots; they confessed to enjoying just smashing stuff. Such mayhem is not unusual for even countries that have a reputation for peace and harmony. Canada had hockey related riots, win or lose, in Montreal (1955, 1986, 1993, 2008, 2010), Vancouver (1994, 2011), and Edmonton (2006). The word “Russia” or “Russian Empire” is overused, and the professor should make clear that ethnic Russians never exceeded 50% of the Empire or the Soviet Union. There were over 100 distinct nations in the Empire which in an 1877 census showed that ethnic Russians comprised 44.31% of the population, largely where the Russian Republic now exists and in major cities throughout the Empire. When the Soviet Union fell apart, Russians were at 50% of the population, this after centuries of “Russification”, deportations, and mixed marriages. In the 5th lecture the professor is not only wrong but insultingly so. She posits that the forced collectivization in the USSR resulted in the displacement of 5 million, and a million were “never heard from again”. The displacement Hartnett refers to is death by starvation. The Soviet Union’s agricultural locus was in Ukraine and the method of collectivization is described in detailed violent and tragic terms in many archives and books, most recently Anne Applebaum’s “Red Famine: Stalin's War on Ukraine”. As for the real number of deaths, on 10 November 2003 at the United Nations, 25 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, and United States signed a joint statement on the 70th anniversary of collectivization with this preamble: “In the former Soviet Union millions of men, women and children fell victims to the cruel actions and policies of the totalitarian regime. The Great Famine of 1932–1933 in Ukraine (Holodomor), took from 7 million to 10 million innocent lives and became a national tragedy for the Ukrainian people.” Hartnett frequently cites the unrepentant Stalinist historian Eric Hobsbawm as a reference. In a 1994 BBC interview, Hobsbawm said that the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens under Stalin would have been worth it if a genuinely communist society had been the result. In the 18th lecture, the year 1968 is misdescribed. I will limit myself to counter some of her comments about the US. In the Olympics of that year, 2 Black athletes raised their fists in defiance of US government. Hartnett fails to mention that Black gold medal boxer George Foreman walked around the ring with American Flags. While she mentions protests and violent riots on the part of Blacks, she fails to mention the domestic bombing campaign of the Weather Underground. Some criminals used the cover of being revolutionaries to commit crimes. Eldridge Cleaver forcibly violated multiple black and white women and justified the latter as “insurrectionary” payback for white domination. Charles Manson was active in recruiting his followers. Woodstock was not a free concert; hippies just crashed the venue, compelling the promoters to declare it “free”. There were 600 toilets for half a million people, no water, no food, but plenty of drugs. It was declared a disaster area. If Hartnett is on the topic of concerts, she should stick with the topic rather than changing gears and describing events in Kent State. If Woodstock exemplified “young people, flowers, and butterflies” (sic), the 1969 concert at Altamont turned violent, particularly during the Rolling Stones performance. The songs they performed at that venue included "Sympathy for the Devil" (interrupted by fights), "Stray Cat Blues" (a song about statutory violation of homeless underage girls), "Under My Thumb" (interrupted by the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter), "Brown Sugar" (depicting the whipping and violation of a Black slave that could hardly be consensual), and “Street Fighting Man”. Hartnett does not define her terms; what is the difference between a revolution and a rebellion? In listing peaceful revolutions, she raises devotes a lecture to television as a huge influence. That may have been the case in the US but not necessarily elsewhere. The photocopier and fax machine became the means of circulating samizdat in communist countries. Computers, the internet, cellphones, and digital cameras are unmentioned as part of an ongoing global revolution. This could have been a better course if extended to 36 or 48 lectures.
Date published: 2021-11-18
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Survey some of the most important revolutions from the past 300 years of world history.


Lynne Ann Hartnett

For better and worse, people are the central characters in revolutions.


Villanova University

Dr. Lynne Ann Hartnett is an Associate Professor of History at Villanova University, where she teaches courses on all facets of Russian history as well as on the social, political, and intellectual history of modern Europe. She earned her PhD in Russian History at Boston College. Dr. Hartnett’s research focuses on the Russian revolutionary movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and she has conducted archival research in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, and London. She regularly presents her research at international conferences in the United States and Europe. Dr. Hartnett’s work, which has been published in a number of academic journals, focuses on the Russian revolutionary leader Vera Figner and the terrorist group People’s Will; Russian political émigrés in European exile; the Russian Civil War as experienced by an individual family; and the transnational activist networks that Russian émigrés built with British liberals, socialists, and suffragists. Immigration policy and refugee issues are central to this work and provide a link to contemporary policy questions. Dr. Hartnett is also the author of the book, The Defiant Life of Vera Figner: Surviving the Russian Revolution. Dr. Hartnett is the director of Villanova’s graduate program in History and the president of the Sigma of Pennsylvania Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. At Villanova, she has served as the director of the Russian Area Studies Program. Dr. Hartnett has been nominated three times for the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Distinguished Teaching Award and has received several teaching awards at both Villanova and Boston College.

By This Professor

Understanding Russia: A Cultural History
The Great Revolutions of Modern History
The Great Revolutions of Modern History


Who Makes a Revolution?

01: Who Makes a Revolution?

Revolutions are messy and chaotic. Begin with an examination of how revolutions arise from societal forces, and how they are seldom organized by the most downtrodden and repressed groups in a society. Reflect on how violence, or the threat of violence, accompanies political transformation.

28 min
Nationalism as Revolutionary Ideology

02: Nationalism as Revolutionary Ideology

The idea of the nation-state—and the accompanying feelings of nationalism—have shaped the world we know today, but nationalism has often gone hand in hand with revolution. Explore how social progress, literacy, and the evolution of new cultural bonds led to revolutions in France, Italy, and elsewhere.

33 min
Mexico’s Revolution of Bullets and Myths

03: Mexico’s Revolution of Bullets and Myths

The Mexican Revolution is confounding for its many characters, as well as the twists and turns the revolution took. Meet Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Madero, Pancho Villa, and others who transformed Mexico in the early 20th century. This larger-than-life story is truly something made for the movies.

31 min
The Man Who Lost the Russian Revolution

04: The Man Who Lost the Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution of 1917 began with the great promise of overthrowing the Romanov autocracy and ended with totalitarianism. There was a moment in 1917, however, when an interim government may have set Russia on a different course. Learn about Alexander Kerensky, who embodied the hope and fall of revolutionary Russia.

31 min
Totalitarianism and Counterrevolution

05: Totalitarianism and Counterrevolution

It’s easy to get swept up in the promise of revolution, but the 20th century laid bare the costs of a counterrevolution. Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but their totalitarian states were tragically similar. See what led to the rise of totalitarianism, and what it’s like to live in such a state.

34 min
The US Civil Rights Revolution

06: The US Civil Rights Revolution

Not every revolution involves a violent overthrow of the government. In the United States, the civil rights movement transformed the political landscape by reforming the system. From Reconstruction to Martin Luther King Jr., trace the arc of African American history as it moved toward social equality and social justice.

31 min
England’s Glorious Revolution

07: England’s Glorious Revolution

Modern revolutions were likely made possible by the Enlightenment, by humanity daring to inquire about the world and imagine something different. In this lesson, go back to one of the earliest revolutions in the modern era: the Glorious Revolution in the 17th century. See how England transformed into a constitutional monarchy.

30 min
Samuel Adams: Apostle of American Liberty

08: Samuel Adams: Apostle of American Liberty

The American Revolution has so many iconic historical figures that it is easy to forget that the war began with a panoply of business owners and citizens disgruntled by Britain’s onerous tax laws. Join rabble-rousing Samuel Adams as he becomes the apostle for freedom. Trace the events that led to the first battles at Lexington and Concord.

34 min
The French Revolution: Fraternity and Terror

09: The French Revolution: Fraternity and Terror

Inspired by the American example, the French led an amazing revolution to overthrow the monarchy in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity—only to watch as the movement for independence gave way to dictatorial control. From the storming of the Bastille to the terror of Robespierre, survey this astonishing period.

32 min
Haiti: Trailblazer of Democracy and Failure

10: Haiti: Trailblazer of Democracy and Failure

The American and French revolutions facilitated democracy and economic growth, but not every movement was so successful. The Haitian Revolution completely upended the small Caribbean country’s political, economic, and social order, and fomented a legacy of continuing disruption and inequality. Explore this doomed democratic experiment.

34 min
The Industrial and Urban Revolutions

11: The Industrial and Urban Revolutions

Not every revolution is political. In this lesson, you will examine how the process of industrialization reshaped production, markets, and society. What started as innovations in the textile industry marked the breathtaking transition to the modern age. Roll up your sleeves and enter the revolution of technological innovation.

32 min
The Decembrist Wives of Imperial Russia

12: The Decembrist Wives of Imperial Russia

Shift your attention to the annals of Russians history and the Decembrist Uprising of 1825. After this failed revolt, the conspiratorial officers were sent into exile, accompanied by their wives. The story of these Decembrist Wives—their self-sacrifice and social martyrdom—is the stuff of legend. See how these women created a revolutionary code of ethics for generations to come.

31 min
China’s Revolutionary Nationalism

13: China’s Revolutionary Nationalism

Two of the main revolutionary accelerants of the 20th century were a quest for national liberation from external powers—in Asia, Africa, and Latin America—and the international campaign to implement Marxist principles in place of existing regimes. Here, witness these trends in China from the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 to the rise of Mao.

33 min
The Women’s Revolution for the Right to Vote

14: The Women’s Revolution for the Right to Vote

Despite America’s founding principle that “all men are created equal,” women had no direct voice in government. Survey the suffrage movement in the United States and Great Britain, from the writings of Abigail Adams to the passage of the 19th Amendment. Meet Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Emmeline Pankhurst, and other pioneers in the movement.

31 min
Mao Zedong’s Revolutionary Road

15: Mao Zedong’s Revolutionary Road

Mao Zedong’s defeat of Chiang Kai-shek in 1949 ushered in a new revolutionary period for Chinese history—the era of communist China. Efforts such as land redistribution, liquidation of class enemies, and the Cultural Revolution brought about dramatic—and sometimes disastrous—results. Delve into this astonishing period.

32 min
Gandhi’s Revolutionary Nonviolence

16: Gandhi’s Revolutionary Nonviolence

Delve into one tactic of India’s anti-colonial resistance: non-violent struggle, which was developed and popularized by Mahatma Gandhi. Not only did his peaceful methods of protest further the cause of independence from Britain, but he introduced a new method of revolutionary agitation throughout the world.

32 min
The Cuban Revolution with Fidel and Che

17: The Cuban Revolution with Fidel and Che

The revolution led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara is one of the most captivating stories of the 20th century, in part because it represented a proxy fight between US capitalists and Soviet communists. In this lesson, Professor Hartnett takes you into Latin America and shows you a dramatic sequence of events on a small island that changed the world.

32 min
The Revolutionary Year of 1968

18: The Revolutionary Year of 1968

Most revolutions are local to a particular nation, but sometimes global events create a worldwide revolutionary fervor. Consider the events of 1968, which included the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia. See how the world’s youth led a revolution.

32 min
The Counterculture Revolution

19: The Counterculture Revolution

Political transformations are bigger than systems of government. They are also about culture, and the unifying bonds of a mass of like-minded people. In the 1960s, the counterculture generation led a cultural revolution to overthrow the stodgy past and usher in a new era of personal liberation and promoted ideals of equality, justice, and peace.

33 min
The Anti-Apartheid Movement as Revolution

20: The Anti-Apartheid Movement as Revolution

Thus far, we have reflected on social movements as revolution, as well as the power of nonviolent resistance. In this lesson on South Africa, you will assess how nonviolent resistance was adapted to the challenge of apartheid, and how even the most repressive regimes are vulnerable in ways that can be exploited with patience, perseverance, and coordination.

34 min
Terrorism as Revolutionary Strategy

21: Terrorism as Revolutionary Strategy

Terrorism is a political tactic that uses violence to engineer radical change. When members of a group employ it for a radical purpose, terrorism is a frightening revolutionary strategy. Here, survey the history of terrorism as a political tactic, and then step into the War on Terror to better understand our contemporary world.

33 min
Iran’s Islamic Revolution

22: Iran’s Islamic Revolution

The Iranian revolution of 1979 is unique in the modern era. Rather than seeking to advance secular notions of liberalism and democracy, the revolution was theological in orientation. Investigate how Iran’s political history, and global position, engendered a sense of nationalism rooted in Shi’a Islam, and see how the revolution’s process fits a consistent pattern.

31 min
The Revolutionary Year of 1989

23: The Revolutionary Year of 1989

The year 1989 was the culmination of the Cold War, the generation-long struggle between American freedom and Soviet totalitarianism. After examining the background of this ideological war, Professor Hartnett walks you through the cascading events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Empire.

33 min
The TV Revolution in Your Living Room

24: The TV Revolution in Your Living Room

Media scholars consider the introduction—and widespread dissemination—of television to be one of the most significant social forces of the 20th century. It revolutionized how people thought about the world and spent their leisure hours. In this final lesson, study the way television has been both a locus of cultural revolution and an agent of political change.

29 min