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The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations

Examine four centuries of radical transformation as a decimated Europe rose from the ashes of the plague to embrace the Renaissance.
Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 141.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great overview course I liked Prof. Fix's approach. It was both specific and broad brushed. I only wish I had total recall.
Date published: 2024-06-22
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Falls Short of Potential This course presents European history, with an emphasis on politics, from the Black Death in 1348 CE to death of Louis XV in 1715 CE. There is little sociology or art. Religion is a significant but clearly subordinate aspect. It presents three sub-courses in one series – Renaissance, Reformation (Protestant and Catholic), and their aftermath in which people identified more by language and culture and less by common Catholic religion. Unfortunately, these three sub-courses are not well integrated. Dr. Fix does not emphasize any ongoing themes. Perhaps it would have been better to provide these sub-courses as individual offerings rather than packaged into one long (48 lectures) course. The first 12 lectures address the Renaissance. Dr. Fix shows how Humanism rose in reaction to the Black Death, the Babylonian Captivity, and the economic depression of the 14th century. He focuses primarily on political implications although he does mention Renaissance art in passing. The next 22 lectures address the Reformation. Rather than examining the philosophical and religious questions raised during the Reformation, which he mentions superficially, Dr. Fix is more interested in how the various kings and princes used the religious divisions in Christendom to advance their own power bases. He shows how these divisions led to the disastrous Wars of Religion. The final 14 lectures address the rise of the nation-state following the Wars of Religion. Dr. Fix shows how the new political structure was more varied. Some nations, such as France, adopted an absolute monarchy. Some, such as England, developed a constitutional monarchy. Some areas, such as Germany and Italy, remained fractured. And some, such as the Netherlands, adopted a republic. This section includes three lectures on the scientific revolution. Despite the well-organized and insightful script, Dr. Fix’s delivery is so serene or perhaps even sedate that it dampens the listener’s interest in the lectures. This is one of the few offerings by The Great Courses (TGC) in which I think a voice actor delivering the same words would have been a big improvement. The course guide is below average by TGC standards. It is written in outline format as opposed to narrative format. It averages less than 5 pages per lecture with no embedded graphics. The appendix includes 3 difficult-to-read black-and-white maps, a timeline, a helpful glossary, helpful biographical notes, and a bibliography. I used the audio streaming version. There were times when visual graphics would have been helpful. Unfortunately, while there is a DVD version, there is not a video streaming version as of 2024. The course was published in 2005.
Date published: 2024-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from most enjoyable This was an excellent course, well presented. Most appreciated having the material presented without prejudice for or against any of the religious or political parties discussed.
Date published: 2024-03-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Oops! (Not finished yet but found a weird error) I haven't finished this yet but I skipped ahead to the chapter on The English Reformation and was astonished to hear the speaker say that Prince Arthur Tudor, the older brother of Henry VIII, was "killed in a shipwreck." Uh, no, that was Prince William, the son of Henry I, way back in 1120, on the White Ship, almost four hundred years earlier!
Date published: 2024-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course - Relatable Lecturer Depth of knowledge is amazing, along with an ability to transmit that knowledge in a relatable manner. Can present even the dry material in a memorable manner. Course is well organized with running themes that are tied together through time.
Date published: 2024-02-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favorite Teacher Professor Fix is my favorite GC prof so far. He's very relaxed and pleasant. He tells a good story about history, full of information without being boring.
Date published: 2024-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent History of the Pre-Modern World The Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Rise of Nations is a set of forty-eight half hour lectures, combined with a 267 page Guidebook, that was prepared and delivered by the late Professor Andrew C. Fix of Lafayette College in 2005. The series is a comprehensive high level course that covers the middle of the twelfth century following the Great Plague through the early eighteenth century at the beginning of the Enlightenment. It includes such topics as the Renaissance (as mentioned in the title of the course), the Period of Civic Humanism, the Protestant Reformation, the Age of Discovery, the Religious Wars, and the Age of Enlightenment. A large portion of the topics are religious by nature since that was the emphasis of the population during that time period but the purpose of the lectures is not to preach but to teach the history of the time. Professor Fix impartially covers all these topics without partisanship. Although Professor Fix was not a charismatic speaker (in fact he spent most of his time standing behind a lectern), the information that he provided was well organized, very comprehensive, and extremely valuable. In my opinion, the professor accomplished his stated objective which was "... to focus on the elements of historical change in political, social, cultural, and economic life in the years 1348 to 1715 that gave birth to the modern world." Unlike lecture series that cover briefer time periods, the expansive scope of this course did not allow for many specifics. Rather it provided a broad aspect to learners who desire to understand more or obtain a refresher of that time in history. For me, it was similar to being soaked with a fire hose, there was so much information that it was almost overwhelming. However, he made sure the lectures were understandable, interesting and, in some cases, anecdotal. For anyone that has a desire to learn about the history of the Western (and I emphasize Western) world during the years mentioned this course will provide the learner with a banquet of information. In addition, the guidebook is arranged in such a manner that one can refer to it subsequently to taking the course without difficulty. For someone that isn't a world history expert but has a desire to learn more about the 350 years following the Black Plague this course would be of great value.
Date published: 2023-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Worth the Time Spent The prospect of a 48-lecture course is a daunting one. I took a chance on this one, however, despite some quite negative reviews on Professor Fix’s presentation and abilities. I am glad I took the plunge. While Professor Fix’s appearance and low-key style are apparently off-putting for some, they are not significant issues for me. This is a wonderful course, one which I will return to as I explore in more depth several of the periods and topics covered. That is not to say that this course is disjointed. Quite the contrary, Professor Fix does admirably well tracing changes and developments, beginning with the 14th century breakdown in medieval society and institutions through the early 18th and even beyond. There is a lot covered in this course, and for this reason I appreciate Professor Fix’s story-like presentation and his judicious analysis and personal observations. He does exceptionally well in giving us a sense of the many key individuals mentioned, enlivened by quite interesting personal details. While this 2005 course would work fine in audio, as the video version does not have as many illustrations as more recent TC courses, there are enough, especially maps, that I recommend the video over audio. The course guidebook is a useful one, containing fine lecture summaries, three maps, a timeline, glossary, biographical notes, and bibliography.
Date published: 2023-10-12
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Explore four centuries of radical transformation as a decimated Europe rose from the ashes of the plague to embrace the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment. In this course, you will explore the political, social, cultural, and economic revolutions that transformed Europe between the arrival of the Black Death in the 14th century and the onset of the Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century.


Andrew C. Fix


Lafayette College

Dr. Andrew C. Fix is the Charles A. Dana Professor of History at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he has been teaching for more than 15 years. He earned his B.A. in History and Philosophy from Wake Forest University and went on to earn his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Indiana University at Bloomington. Prior to teaching at Lafayette College, Professor Fix held a Fulbright Fellowship and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. Professor Fix is the recipient of the Jones Award for Superior Teaching and Excellence of Scholarship and the Van Artsdalen Award for Scholarship. Dr. Fix has written or edited three books, including Prophecy and Reason: The Dutch Collegiants in the Early Enlightenment, and Fallen Angels: Balthasar Bekker, Spirit Belief, and Confessionalism in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic.

Crisis of the 14th Century

01: Crisis of the 14th Century

Professor Fix opens the course with a survey of the disasters that shaped Europe in the 14th century. They climaxed with the arrival of the bubonic plague, which killed up to one half of the European population.

32 min
The Hundred Years War and the Church in Crisis

02: The Hundred Years War and the Church in Crisis

Among the calamities affecting church and state in the 14th century were the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) between England France, the Babylonian Captivity (1305-1378), and Great Schism (1378-1415), which sowed turmoil in the Catholic Church and the papacy.

30 min
The Origins of the Italian Renaissance

03: The Origins of the Italian Renaissance

What was the Renaissance, and why did it begin in Italy in the late 14th century? We investigate these questions and discuss European reactions to the crises of the 14th century, exploring in particular the views of the first

30 min
The Birth of Civic Humanism

04: The Birth of Civic Humanism

Civic humanism was introduced in Florence as an educational reform to produce enlightened citizens and leaders. This approach stressed the study of classical civilization as a model for a strong Florentine state.

30 min
Humanist Thought

05: Humanist Thought

This lecture examines the multifaceted structure of the woolen cloth industry, which dominated the economy of Florence during the Renaissance and provided the organizational framework for all economic, political, and social activity in the city.

30 min
Renaissance Florence

06: Renaissance Florence

We take a closer look at humanist modes of thought, focusing on Francesco Petrarch, whose study of the evolving Latin language led him to a more dynamic view of history, in contrast with the static historical world-view of the Middle Ages.

30 min
Florentine Politics and Society

07: Florentine Politics and Society

The political structure of Florence decentralized power into many hands to prevent a single family from gaining total power. We look at Florentine politics and the political environment that fostered the Renaissance.

30 min
The History of Florence

08: The History of Florence

Florentine history is marked by turbulent politics and frequent social unrest. This lecture charts the rise to power of the great patrician families of Florence, their contributions to the Renaissance, and the many changes in government brought by the fall of the Medici family.

30 min
The Italian State System

09: The Italian State System

We survey the other major political powers of Italy during the Renaissance, focusing on the two north Italian rivals of Florence, Milan and Venice, with a briefer examination of the southern powers of the Papal States and the Kingdom of Naples.

30 min
The Age of Discovery

10: The Age of Discovery

This lecture investigates the Age of Discovery, the period of overseas expansion that began at the height of the Renaissance. Economic motives were clearly in evidence as first Portuguese and then Spanish expeditions set forth.

30 min
Inflation and New Monarchy

11: Inflation and New Monarchy

The arrival of New World treasure in Europe coincided with the beginnings of population growth, stimulating a period of economic expansion. At the same time, European governments began to reconstruct themselves on a new political model.

30 min
Renaissance Art

12: Renaissance Art

The Renaissance was one of the greatest periods in art history. Professor Fix offers an interpretation of the evolution of the Renaissance style and shows how new patronage patterns explain the changing styles in art.

30 min
The Church on the Eve of the Reformation

13: The Church on the Eve of the Reformation

The political preoccupations of the church during the 14th century cost it the spiritual leadership of the people, who began quietly to take religion into their own hands, paving the way for the Reformation.

30 min
The Church on the Eve continued

14: The Church on the Eve continued

Continuing our study of events within the church that led to the Reformation, we focus on the corruption at all levels of the clergy and the resentment in Germany about papal control over the German church.

31 min
Northern Humanism

15: Northern Humanism

Humanists presented the first plans for church reform even before the Reformation arrived. Humanists in the northern countries of Germany, France, The Netherlands, and England took these reform ideas most to heart.

31 min
Martin Luther

16: Martin Luther

More than most epochal events in history, the Reformation in its early stages was the personal product of one extraordinary individual: Martin Luther. We examine his ideas and personality, as well as his youth and family background.

31 min
The Reformation Begins

17: The Reformation Begins

This lecture covers the beginnings of Luther's conflict with the pope over indulgences, the acceleration of the dispute as the question of papal infallibility enters the debate, and the great pressure the church put on Luther to conform.

30 min
The Progress of the Reformation in Germany

18: The Progress of the Reformation in Germany

Excommunicated by the church for his writings, Luther was granted a hearing at the Diet of Worms, which turned into a dramatic confrontation. Afterwards he disappeared—spirited away by a sympathetic German prince. As his ideas caught on, religious war loomed.

30 min
German Politics and Society

19: German Politics and Society

We look at the establishment of the Lutheran Church in Germany and at the economic and social conditions that favored the spread of the Reformation. We also study the Knight's Revolt of 1523 and the Peasant Revolt of 1525.

30 min
Imperial Politics and International War

20: Imperial Politics and International War

After reviewing the history of the Holy Roman Empire, we focus on its emperor at the start of the Reformation: Charles V. Warfare on many fronts distracted him from the religious crisis and allowed the Lutheran movement to grow.

31 min
The Reformation Beyond Germany—Zwingli

21: The Reformation Beyond Germany—Zwingli

As Luther's Reformation began to spread in Germany, a parallel but largely separate Reformation flared up in Switzerland, led by Humanist priest Ulrich Zwingli. We study the cause for which Zwingli fought and died.

30 min
The Radical Reformation

22: The Radical Reformation

This lecture examines Anabaptism, one of three radical branches of the Reformation that took Protestant ideas to extremes. The Anabaptist Kingdom of Munster was a disastrous attempt to found a religiously pure Protestant community.

30 min
The Radical Reformation continued

23: The Radical Reformation continued

We survey the other main branches of the Radical Reformation, the Radical Spiritualists and Evangelical Rationalists. The radicals raised important questions, such as: How is one qualified to be a Christian?

30 min
Calvin and Calvinism

24: Calvin and Calvinism

In this lecture we explore the continuation of the Swiss Reformation under John Calvin. Calvin created a dynamic new branch of Protestantism that spread to France, The Netherlands, Scotland, Germany, and elsewhere.

31 min
The English Reformation

25: The English Reformation

Protestantism developed differently in England than on the continent. From the start, the movement was tied to crown politics and the efforts of Henry VIII to obtain a male heir to the throne.

31 min
The Birth of Anglicanism

26: The Birth of Anglicanism

We look at the pressure on the newly established Anglican Church in England to become more Protestant, and we see the final establishment of Anglicanism under Elizabeth I after a brief return to Catholicism under Queen Mary.

30 min
The Catholic Counter—Reformation

27: The Catholic Counter—Reformation

Challenged by the Protestant movement, the Catholic Church began a process of internal reform coupled with a militant counterattack. This Counter-Reformation infused the old church with new vigor and dynamism.

30 min
Loyola and the Society of Jesus

28: Loyola and the Society of Jesus

An important weapon of the Counter-Reformation was the Society of Jesus, established by Ignatius Loyola. It sought to reform the church from within, fight the Protestants, and restore the masses to the church.

31 min
Religious Politics and Religious War

29: Religious Politics and Religious War

A devastating series of religious wars struck Germany, France, and The Netherlands from 1546 to 1648. We look at the beginnings of this disastrous time, which started with the Schmalkaldic War of 1546-1555.

31 min
Religious War in France 1562–98

30: Religious War in France 1562–98

This lecture examines the French wars of religion at the end of the 16th century, which climaxed with the intervention of the Spanish Armada in 1588, sent by Phillip II of Spain to defeat Protestants in The Netherlands, England, and France.

30 min
The Dutch Revolt

31: The Dutch Revolt

In the late 16th century Phillip II of Spain was determined to wipe out Protestantism in The Netherlands, where he ruled. His brutal actions set off a nationwide revolt that eventually led to independence.

30 min
The Course of the Revolt

32: The Course of the Revolt

This lecture traces the Dutch Revolt from its beginnings with the Sea Beggars through the Spanish invasion of the north to the truce of 1609, which led to the establishment of the Dutch Republic.

31 min
The Thirty Years War

33: The Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years War, 1618-1648, was the last and most destructive of the religious wars. It pitted German Catholics against Protestants, German princes against their emperor, and it drew the intervention of other nations seeking to seize German lands.

31 min
Climax of the War

34: Climax of the War

We examine the final phases of the Thirty Years War: the Dutch phase, which resulted in a terrible new form of warfare; the Swedish phase, when the Protestants nearly won; and the French phase, which led to stalemate and eventual peace.

30 min
The 17th Century—Crisis and Transition

35: The 17th Century—Crisis and Transition

In the final segment of the course, we survey the 17th century, a period of crisis and transition when many of the traditional institutions and ideas of European life were in disarray.

30 min
Economic Change in the 17th Century

36: Economic Change in the 17th Century

At the start of the 17th century medieval subsistence farming practices dominated the European agricultural economy. By the end of the century new discoveries had made agriculture more productive, freeing up resources for the growth of industry.

31 min
The Rise of Absolutism in France

37: The Rise of Absolutism in France

The wars of religion led to a new movement to keep religion out of politics and pursue only the interests of the state. In France the result was the growth of royal absolutism, in which the king was the sole source of power and authority.

30 min
Louis XIV

38: Louis XIV

Despite a noble rebellion known as the Fronde, French absolutism reached its zenith under Louis XIV. We focus on Louis' domestic policies, the construction of the palace of Versailles, and the many costly wars fought under his leadership.

31 min
Absolutism in Germany

39: Absolutism in Germany

The German states took a different path to royal absolutism. We look at two cases: the military absolutism created by the Hohenzollern dynasty in Brandenburg-Prussia and the absolute regime constructed by the Habsburgs in Austria.

30 min
The Spanish Monarchy

40: The Spanish Monarchy

The kings of Spain tried to strengthen royal power during the 16th and 17th centuries, but with multiple factors working against them, absolutism could not be achieved. We explore these factors and Spain's decline to a second-rate power.

31 min
The Dutch Republic

41: The Dutch Republic

In its revolt from Spain, The Netherlands rejected not only absolutism but monarchy as well, becoming the first major European state to be governed as a republic. The ensuing commercial growth of the Dutch Republic gave it the wealthiest economy in the world.

30 min
Constitutional Monarchy in England

42: Constitutional Monarchy in England

Another alternative to absolutism is the constitutional monarchy that developed in England. We study the beginnings of this struggle, which saw Kings James I and Charles I in protracted conflict with Parliament.

30 min
The English Civil War

43: The English Civil War

This lecture examines the final breakdown of relations between Charles I and Parliament, leading to the outbreak of the English Civil War. We conclude with the trial and execution of the king and the beginning of Cromwell's rule.

30 min
Cromwell and the Glorious Revolution

44: Cromwell and the Glorious Revolution

We cover Cromwell's dictatorship and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II after Cromwell's death. The mature form of the English constitutional monarchy was established after the bloodless Glorious Revolution, which deposed Charles II's successor, James II.

31 min
The Scientific Revolution—The Old Science

45: The Scientific Revolution—The Old Science

Preparing the way for our study of the Scientific Revolution, we focus on the Aristotelian system inherited from antiquity and its role in defining the medieval world-view.

30 min
Preparing for Change

46: Preparing for Change

For Aristotle's science finally to be overturned, a number of important preparatory steps had to be taken in the 16th and 17th centuries. We look at these developments in the work of Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, and others.

30 min
The Revolution Under Way

47: The Revolution Under Way

This lecture traces the birth of an entirely new scientific system that met setbacks and resistance before the great breakthroughs of Kepler, Galileo, and Newton. We also examine the powerful influence of the new science on the culture at large.

30 min
The Early Enlightenment 1680–1715

48: The Early Enlightenment 1680–1715

In his final lecture, Professor Fix traces the beginnings of the European Enlightenment between the years 1680 and 1715. Sparked by the Scientific Revolution, this intellectual movement altered the world-views of educated people during the 18th century.

30 min