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War and World History

Gain fresh insights into humanity through a penetrating look at the effects of war. Not a traditional approach to military events, this panoramic course is the story of the interconnections of war with human cultures and societies—and how these connections shaped history.
War and World History is rated 3.5 out of 5 by 73.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ambitious, excellent course An ambitious – and fascinating – study of warfare as a driver of human history. It is important to view the course as a study of global history, not of military history, per se. I liked the way he approached the history of “the core” – the cultures that were impacted by the nomads of steppes – and did not focus on individual civilizations without integrating broader trends. A lecture with this scope will elicit quibbles, but I found the course very thought-provoking. I recommend ignoring the negative reviews.
Date published: 2024-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wide ranging an thought provoking analysis i have acquired a large number of Great Courses over the years an decided to purchase this course despite the relatively low review score. First of all let me warn potential purchasers that this is not a course on military history there are no descriptions of battles or campaigns and the analysis on weapon design is holistic with a few exceptions (changes in warship design, the influence of firearms being examples), Instead the emphasis is on what influence war plays on the development of society and what factors encourage armed conflict. The course begins in the core (essentially the old world and south east Asia and branches out as time evolves. I found each lecture full of detail at this level but taking a global approach and covering topics such as nation hood/ nationalism (not always mutually interchangeable) the role of economics and religion etc. I also do not agree with the criticism of the lecturer. He deals with a vast array of material concisely and clearly explaining terminology an concepts where necessary. I do admit that I may have had an advantage in appreciating the course - I am a trained historian with a doctorate (ancient history) and a general interest in military an cultural history as a hobby so many of the concepts (not necessarily the slant place on them) were familiar to me. It might be useful to read a traditional chronological history of the world in conjunction with the course (I am doing his with the Big History course to help with areas especially science as I am a definite non scientist) to get the most out of it, To conclude I would definitely recommend this providing one is aware what the course is not and appreciate it for what it is
Date published: 2023-10-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from An orthodox generalist I was disappointed in these series of lectures. His lectures were effective at first when he covered eras not well-documented historically, in these instances he did not readily veer off course and he "stayed in his lane" as a history lecturer. he progressed into the more modern era, he veered off course (no, actually he crashed into the ditch) and editorialized about social histories. That's fine, up to a point, we expect a PhD to have opinions, however...he cherrypicks and only scratches at the surface. He is very, very careful to apply only a leftwing orthodoxy to interpretation. He seems a man well-indoctrinated but poorly educated. Little original is stated in these lectures, and he makes mistakes of fact frequently. I would choose this course if I wanted to indoctrinate someone, but to present this as history, well, no.
Date published: 2023-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Gift Purchased as a gift for a dear friend that loves military history. He was very pleased with the professor and his knowledge of the subject.
Date published: 2022-09-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from content true to title I wanted to gain understanding as to why humans keep turning to wars for solutions, even though wars are deadly and costly. For me, this course did a magnificent job of addressing that issue.
Date published: 2022-07-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I wanted facts and not social theories I wanted facts and not social theories I wanted facts and not social theories Author spends too much time dwelling on the evils of the Europeans If I want to hear that I can get other books on that subject, including the evils of most nations and cultures in world history
Date published: 2021-12-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from My Review of War and World History I purchased this course a while back and finally found the time to listen to it. I did not like the course
Date published: 2021-10-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent course I really enjoyed taking this course and I'm amazed as the journey from the Neolithic era right up to the present day. It is not only a huge subject in itself but also a very difficult one given the shocking nature of war. I have read some of the negative reviews this course has received, and I can only feel sad for the reviewers who have clearly not engaged with Prof.Roth. This is a course I will definitely be watching again s there is so much to learn and understand. Many thanks Prof. Roth for a truly great course.
Date published: 2021-06-06
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Take a highly provocative look at history with War and World History. In these 48 intriguing lectures


Jonathan P. Roth


San José State University

Dr. Jonathan P. Roth is Professor of History at San Jose State University. He received his B.A. in Ancient Near Eastern History and Archaeology from the University of California, Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. He has taught at Tulane University in New Orleans, New York University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Roth has researched, written, and lectured extensively on ancient warfare and warfare in world history. He founded and serves as the Director of San Jose State's Burdick Military History Project. His book Logistics of the Roman Army at War, 264 B.C. to A.D. 235 was published in 1999, and his Roman Warfare, a survey textbook, was published in 2009. From 1983 to 1989, Professor Roth served in the New York Army National Guard. He rose to the rank of second lieutenant and served as a platoon leader, a chemical officer, and a mobilization officer. Professor Roth has been widely recognized for his scholarship and teaching. As a Fulbright Scholar, he studied at the Georg August University in Guttingen, Germany. In 2006, he was honored as San Jose State University's Outstanding Professor.

What Is War?

01: What Is War?

Is war violent conflict, or is it the condition in which conflict takes place? To answer this, you grapple with the ideas of major Western thinkers, including military theorist Carl von Clausewitz and anthropologist Harry Turney-High. Also, learn the essential parameters of war, drawing on insights into politics, social systems, and humanity's "blind natural force."

34 min
The Historiography of War

02: The Historiography of War

A rich field of sources gives us knowledge of wars - from the haunting remains of fortifications and weapons to papyrus documents, stone steles, and written histories. Consider these and other forms of evidence, as well as the viewpoints of historians (including the questionable stance of Eurocentrism), to arrive at a global-historical approach to the story of warfare.

32 min
The Stone Age War

03: The Stone Age War

When does war first appear, and where? This lecture traces the origins of warfare from the earliest evidence of mass violence in 12000 B.C. Investigate the question of the usefulness of war in early societies, the enigmatic uses of early weapons, and the pivotal links of agriculture to the rise of armed force.

31 min
Peace, War, and Civilization

04: Peace, War, and Civilization

In early Mesopotamia, the wealthy southern cities had no walls or armies. Yet the northern cities had fortifications and intense warfare. Explore how and why this happened, and how disputes over fertile land and trade routes sparked ancient warfare and conquest among the Egyptians, Sumerians, and Akkadians.

32 min
The Chariot Revolution

05: The Chariot Revolution

In the first of the major military revolutions, the chariot spread east across Asia. See how its evolving design created a lethal weapons system while revolutionizing pastoral life on the Asian steppes. Then, learn about the complex personnel and organization needed for chariot warfare and the "chariot nobility" that supplied it.

31 min
The Sword Revolution

06: The Sword Revolution

The transformations of the sword played a major role in early warfare. Here, study how dramatic advances in sword technology from the Bronze to the Iron ages changed the face of combat and how war itself drove the evolution from bronze to iron.

31 min
Steppes, Standing Armies, and Silver Trade

07: Steppes, Standing Armies, and Silver Trade

This lecture explores another world-changing military system, as mounted warriors and cavalry rose on the Asian steppes and in the expanding Assyrian Empire. Learn about major Assyrian innovations in military organization and strategy and the links between Assyrian conquest and the brilliant trading exploits of the Phoenicians.

32 min
Pirates and Hoplites

08: Pirates and Hoplites

Greek seafaring culture led to distinctive approaches to politics and war. The Greek city-state blended rule by aristocratic clans with a class of free citizens. Study the system of the city-state and the resulting hoplite culture of warfare, which brought revolutionary military strategy and the notion of equality on the battlefield.

29 min
Great Empires of West and East

09: Great Empires of West and East

Three powerful states rose in the first millennium B.C. In this lecture, encounter the groundbreaking Persian system of government, which adapted steppe military organization to control an empire. Then travel farther east, where you learn about the distinctive military cultures of the Indian Nanda kingdom and the Chou dynasty in China.

32 min
War and the Rise of Religion

10: War and the Rise of Religion

From ancient times, organized religions spurred complex conflicts. See how ancient mythologies of war arose and how themes of warfare were central to the early books of the Bible. In addition, explore the roots of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism and the pivotal factors of military thought in their development.

29 min
The Greek Way of War

11: The Greek Way of War

What gave rise to democracy in ancient Athens? The lecture answers this by tracing violent class conflicts and the outcomes of rule by tyrant-dictators. See how democracy was supported by warmaking and study the military culture, social rituals, and sexual codes of Athens and Sparta.

31 min
An Age of War throughout the Core

12: An Age of War throughout the Core

Following the 8th century B.C., splintering empires and shifting economics produced a major era of wars from Persia to China. Learn how innovations in the ability to wage war shaped this era, including dramatic advances in military logistics and technologies such as armor and powerful torsion artillery.

30 min
New Empires and an Armed Peace

13: New Empires and an Armed Peace

Military strongmen forged the empires of Rome, Mauryan India, and Han China. Trace the groundbreaking transfer of power in all three systems - from nobles to military leaders who rose through merit - and discover how war became commerce in Rome, and how deep philosophical conflicts divided military and civilian elites in the empires.

33 min
Monotheisms and Militaries

14: Monotheisms and Militaries

Complex interconnections of religion and warfare arose with the "state" religions of the new empires. In this lecture, see how military force was integral in spreading religions (including peace-minded Buddhism), and investigate military rebellions by Chinese Taoists and Jews and the changing roles of religion in the Roman armies.

31 min
Barbarians and the Fall of Three Empires

15: Barbarians and the Fall of Three Empires

Key political shifts accompanied the waning of the Roman, Han, and Mauryan empires. Follow the ascent of "barbarian" states that challenged the empires, leading to a blending of cultures and the granting of power to barbarian rulers. Also, witness the conquest of tracts of the former empires by steppe confederations and Arab tribes.

31 min
Conquest Links the Core

16: Conquest Links the Core

Track China's Tang dynasty as it expanded west in the 8th century backed by a vast military, and the Muslim caliphates as they conquered regions from the Atlantic to central Asia. Then, examine the blocking of Muslim expansionism by the West and the great clash of the caliphates and the Tang on the Silk Road.

32 min
The Middle Ages and a Common Way of War

17: The Middle Ages and a Common Way of War

Investigate broad advances in military technology in the Middle Ages as they spread across Europe, Africa, and Asia. As you focus on the cataphract, or armored horseman, you learn about innovations in the stirrup, bow, lance, and armor, as well as military architecture and torsion artillery.

28 min
Armored Horsemen and Global Feudalization

18: Armored Horsemen and Global Feudalization

Armored horse warriors were deeply linked to the rise of feudalism. Explore the feudal system across differing societies and its structure of autonomous states based in loyalty to military nobles. Then, study the feudal codes of chivalry, east and west, and feudal culture from ceremonial weaponry to heroic literature.

31 min
Crusade, Jihad, and Dharma Yuddha

19: Crusade, Jihad, and Dharma Yuddha

Following A.D. 1000, many violent religious conflicts emerged. Probe the events of the Crusades and the Christian and Muslim ideologies of holy war, trace Islamic conquest in India and West Africa, and examine the notion of "just" war in Hinduism and Buddhism.

33 min
The Mongols Conquer a World

20: The Mongols Conquer a World

Genghis Khan forged the legendary Mongol Empire as a great confederation of steppe tribes, pursuing world domination with huge and highly organized armies. Study the Mongols' extraordinary conquests, their cultural contributions, and their ultimate dissolution through issues of succession and internal wars.

32 min
The Business of War in Medieval Europe

21: The Business of War in Medieval Europe

The lecture opens on China's economic supremacy in the Middle Ages, fueled by military strength, trade, and sophisticated technology. You investigate historic power shifts within medieval Europe and the links between European wars and large-scale economic expansion, arms trading, and the creation of banking empires and mercenary companies.

31 min
The Gunpowder Revolution

22: The Gunpowder Revolution

Gunpowder appeared in 12th-century China. Trace its creation and geographic spread, as well as the early weaponry of "fire lances," explosive devices, and rockets. Afterward, study the technology of the second gunpowder "revolution" in Europe as it dramatically boosted the power of guns and cannon, transforming warmaking on land and sea.

29 min
War at the Margins

23: War at the Margins

Warfare was central to societies outside the Eurasian core, though lacking the advanced technology of the core civilizations. Explore the culture of war in the kingdoms of Sudanic and southern Africa, the military technology of Oceanic peoples, and evidence of armed conflicts in the Norse, Inuit, and Siberian cultures.

28 min
A World Apart—War in the Americas

24: A World Apart—War in the Americas

Agriculture and population growth spurred violence in ancient Mesoamerica and South America. Uncover the records of the Mayans and Toltecs (which reveal warlike cultures with warrior elites) and evidence for sophisticated warfare among North American peoples, the Aztecs, and the Incas.

31 min
Renaissance and Military Revolution

25: Renaissance and Military Revolution

In Renaissance Europe, spiraling costs of war shifted power to central governments and merchant city-states. Probe the intellectual revolutions that came with the rediscovery of classical texts and the invention of printing. Then meet a new brand of military leader: one backed by a science of warfare and the first modern armies.

29 min
Conquest and Colonies

26: Conquest and Colonies

European expansionism was aided by groundbreaking naval technology, particularly the armed galleon. Learn about the Portuguese conquest of sea routes in Africa and Asia and the entry of Spanish forces into the Americas, which led to bloody conflicts with the Aztec, Mayan, and Incan empires.

30 min
The Gunpowder Empires

27: The Gunpowder Empires

Changing global economics and large-scale arms trading led to the rise of empires backed by gunpowder technology. Study the many forms of gunpowder weaponry and the multilayered infrastructure surrounding it in the military cultures of the Ottoman, Persian, Russian, and Chinese empires.

30 min
More Holy Wars

28: More Holy Wars

The 16th and 17th centuries saw deepening religious conflicts. Trace the clash of Portugal and Spain with Islam, the Ottoman conquests of Europe, and the Mughal-Hindu wars in India. Then, investigate Ottoman and Mughal cosmopolitanism, the Sunni-Shi'a divide within Islam, and the violent conflicts of the Protestant Reformation.

28 min
The Rise of the Regiment

29: The Rise of the Regiment

In the late 17th century, European power began a historic ascent. Learn about the revolutions in military organization that made this possible and the evolution of the regiment - which became the cornerstone of a complex, professional military culture that spread throughout the European-controlled world.

31 min
The Wooden World

30: The Wooden World

Europe's growing power was built on a vast maritime culture, serving trade, warfare, and exploration. Delve into the fascinating details of the highly structured crews that manned sophisticated warships and merchant vessels, as well as the great bureaucracies that oversaw fleets and naval strategy and gave rise to the scientific study of marine warfare.

33 min
The Global War to Control Trade

31: The Global War to Control Trade

Eighteenth-century trade created world-spanning conflicts. European trading companies, backed by private armies and warships, battled for profits from silver, fur, and cash crops. Trace the slave system and the role of privateers and piracy in political rivalries in Asia, Europe, and the New World.

35 min
Warfare and the Nation-State

32: Warfare and the Nation-State

Europe's nation-states created a highly effective political system, with nobles and military centralized under governments operated by civilian bureaucrats. Study the culture of the nation-state, which brought new conceptions of loyalty, social identity, and wars supported by merchant trade and innovative tax systems.

34 min
War and the Making of the Americas

33: War and the Making of the Americas

Discover the many contexts of armed conflict in the New World. Study the Spanish wars of conquest from Chile to New Mexico, the powerful Native American tribal states, the brutal military control of slave populations, and the pivotal roles played by colonial militias and self-made officers during the American Revolution.

30 min
War and the Unmaking of Africa and Asia

34: War and the Unmaking of Africa and Asia

Military strength in Asia and Africa declined through the 17th and 18th centuries. Consider the core factors in this decline, including the failure by China and India to follow European advances in technology and naval strength. Afterward, investigate internal decay in the Ottoman Empire and the military fortunes of powerful African kingdoms.

33 min
The Industrialization of War

35: The Industrialization of War

The Industrial Revolution brought world-changing advances in military technology, as mass production and dramatic improvements in transportation saw the rise of both national and corporate arms industries. Survey French, German, and American breakthroughs in firearms, along with the creation of steamships, armored warships, and the submarine.

34 min
The Nationalization of War

36: The Nationalization of War

Nationalism became the most important political and military ideology of the 19th century, inspiring wars and revolutions across the world. Explore the emergence of nationalism; Socialist, Communist, and anarchist movements; and religious ideologies from "muscular Christianity" to new forms of militant Islam.

30 min
Race and Class at War

37: Race and Class at War

Complex conditions of class, race, and gender shaped 19th-century warmaking. Track the historic rise of commoners to high military ranks; the "racial theory" that affected blacks, other non-Europeans, and Jews in Western militaries; and the ways that women distinguished themselves on and off the battlefield.

33 min
Imperialism and the Triumph of the West

38: Imperialism and the Triumph of the West

European nation-states reached global political and military dominance in the 19th century. Uncover the core strategy and methodology of Western imperialism and see how European power was rooted in advanced technology and the failure of many non-Western states to keep pace with industrial systems and modern armies.

33 min
The 19th-Century Culture of War

39: The 19th-Century Culture of War

Nineteenth-century wars left numerous marks on world culture, including military models in education and war literature, memoirs, journalism, and history writing. Here, explore the deep imprints of war in 19th-century music, fashion, social customs, and art.

31 min
A Common Way of War—The 20th Century

40: A Common Way of War—The 20th Century

In this lecture, chart the spread of a common, global military methodology during the 20th century. Study the core weapons systems and naval technology, as well as the transformative changes in warfare that followed the advent of the internal combustion engine, aircraft and related weaponry, and wireless communications.

32 min
War and 20th-Century Ideology

41: War and 20th-Century Ideology

Emerging political creeds played critical roles in 20th-century warfare. Fascist regimes deemed warfare necessary and pursued expansionism rooted in racist ideology. Communist ideologues viewed class conflict as inevitably violent and embraced large-scale militarization. Investigate how these two systems clashed with each other and with nationalist democracies in the two world wars and other related conflicts.

34 min
War and the Persistence of Nationalism

42: War and the Persistence of Nationalism

In the 20th century, nationalist sentiment remained a powerful force, despite many ideology-based regimes and wars. Study the conflict between Communist states and disputes over national boundaries, which saw the favoring of nationalist interests over ideological ones. Also, examine the issues of national identity and ethnicity that underlay militarism in both new and traditional nation-states.

33 min
Economies and Economics at War

43: Economies and Economics at War

Enormous costs of war posed critical challenges for modern nation-states. See how capitalist economics and organization outstripped totalitarian regimes in managing wars, shaping the outcomes of the 20th century's major conflicts. Learn also how military and civilian technology penetrated each other, producing revolutionary advances in transportation, communications, and energy.

31 min
Culture and War in the 20th Century

44: Culture and War in the 20th Century

War's social imprints in democratic societies showed new trends. Investigate how popular culture in all media became the forum for heroic depictions of war, with an emphasis on the individual's experience in wartime. Conversely, learn how public reaction against war manifested itself as antimilitarism in the high culture of modern art, poetry, and literature.

31 min
The Weaponization of Information

45: The Weaponization of Information

Information and intelligence became critical to 20th-century conflicts as governments censored communications and restricted public media. Study the use of propaganda as a major tool by the British, Soviets, and Germans and the practice of spying and communications intelligence in the interwar period and the cold war.

32 min
Guerrilla War and Terrorism

46: Guerrilla War and Terrorism

Chart the history and modern practice of guerrilla warfare and terrorism, the subtle distinctions between the two, and their ideological roots. Also, probe the ambiguities that characterize their tactics as either political warfare or criminal acts in a violent landscape of bombings, "proxy" wars, civilian casualties, and counterinsurgency.

31 min
The Struggle for Peace and Justice

47: The Struggle for Peace and Justice

New ideological movements and institutions arose in response to war in the 20th century. Consider the theories of "law of war" that underlay the Geneva Conventions and war crimes trials and trace formal initiatives to eliminate war, including the League of Nations, pacifist movements, and the work of the United Nations.

29 min
Warfare at the Turn of a New Century

48: Warfare at the Turn of a New Century

The series concludes with an analysis of complex conditions of warfare in the last 20 years. Study the military uses of computers and the Internet, critical legal issues of war, current motivators for conflict, and evidence of decreasing warfare. Professor Roth offers reflections on his own experience with the military.

30 min