1: 1433-The Great Voyages of Admiral Zheng He
Explore the idea of modernity and define "turning point." Then, consider why Chinese admiral Zheng He's voyages promoting the power of China's authority did not continue as part of a larger campaign of discovery-and what the consequences might have been had he reached the Americas.
2: 1453-The Fall of Constantinople
Although many educated people think they know about the fall of the Roman Empire, Professor Liulevicius says the end actually happened 1,000 years later with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. Delve deeper into this event and learn the trauma the loss created for Europeans.
4: 1492-The Columbian Exchange
Without intending to, Christopher Columbus's search for Asia initiated an event that has been called the most important historical turning point of modern times. Investigate how Columbus's encounter with the Americas brought distant peoples together politically, culturally, and environmentally in ways that were simultaneously productive and deeply destructive.
5: 1600-The British East India Company
The English and Dutch East India companies coexisted in the Spice Islands as they worked to outflank the Portuguese, but their rivalry soon escalated into war. Examine the founding and meteoric growth of the East India Company and the violence that ultimately led Britain to establish an empire on which the sun never set.
8: 1751-Diderot's Enlightenment Encyclopedia
The Encyclopédie was the most ambitious reference work and publishing project of its time. Discover how the editors made knowledge accessible to a mass audience and championed the Enlightenment's progressive, secular message, despite fierce opposition from the Catholic Church.
14: 1869-Binding Continents
In 1869, two events connected the world through modern technology, giving science vast significance as a source of authority. Learn how the building of the Transcontinental Railroad in the United States and the Suez Canal in Egypt revolutionized the way people perceived space and time.
16: 1896-The Invention of Motion Pictures
Motion pictures revolutionized people's view of the world. Survey early movie culture, along with the contributions of Thomas Edison, Georges Méliès, and others, then see how the medium became "weaponized" by Bolsheviks in Russia and Nazis in Germany.
17: 1903-Kitty Hawk and Powered Flight
Witness the dawning of the air age and meet the Montgolfier brothers, the Wright brothers, and others who brought humanity's dream of flying to fruition. Then, explore how aviation shaped the experience of modernity, from the relative ease of travel to the stark reality of "total warfare."
18: 1904-The Russo-Japanese War
To the world's surprise, Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. Learn how this conflict fought with industrialized weapons reconfigured world politics by igniting the process of global decolonization, establishing Japan as a great power, and setting the stage for two world wars.
19: 1928-The Discovery of Penicillin
The advance of antibiotics occurred amid the larger context of the development of germ theory. Trace how scientists' understanding of the mechanisms of infection and disease evolved during the 19th century-and see how Alexander Fleming stumbled upon his life-saving discovery.
20: 1942-The Dawn of the Atom
When German physicists split the atom, Albert Einstein warned President Roosevelt of the potential for "extremely powerful bombs of a new type." Chart the course of the nuclear bomb from this letter through the first nuclear chain reaction led by physicist Enrico Fermi, the Manhattan Project, and devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
22: 1972-China Enters the World Balance
Nixon's meeting with Mao shifted the cold war's balance and returned China to the world stage. Learn the reasons for Nixon's trip, the consequences of which still reverberate, and plot the rise of Mao and communism in China. Then, see how Deng Xiaoping's promotion of private enterprise began a trajectory of growth that continues.
Modernity is a notoriously slippery concept, because, obviously, what is modern now will soon become the past, as time marches relentlessly forward.
About Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius
Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Professor Liulevicius has won many awards and honors, including the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At the university he teaches courses on modern German history, Western civilization, European diplomatic history, Nazi Germany, World War I, war and culture, 20th-century Europe, nationalism, and utopian thought. Dr. Liulevicius has published numerous articles and two books: War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I and The German Myth of the East, 1800 to the Present.
Professor Liulevicius participated in The Great Courses Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about diplomacy and war