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World War I: The "Great War"

Discover how World War I all too quickly expanded far beyond the expectations of those involved to become the first "total war."
World War I: The "Great War" is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 203.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Incredible Educational Achievement Just brilliant. After 40 years of university teaching, I have the strongest appreciation for what this professor has done here. Covering so broad a topic as World War I, from the perspectives of politics, sociology, psychology, demography, ground combat, naval warfare, nascent air combat operations, etc.: I am just in awe at the breadth and depth of these 36 lessons. I'm also so totally impressed by the pedagogical techniques on display. The organization of the 36 lessons, the smoothness with which each lesson was delivered, the utter absence of annoyingly obvious teleprompter reading, and the smooth and conjunctive way in which Professor Jurevicius spoke--no 'umms' and 'ahhs' intruded into his speech, as they inevitably would for most of us. I am finishing this class a full 18 years after it was produced, and the Professor at that time was a very young man. So I found two teacher-related thoughts kept arising for me throughout the class: 1., How did he get SO good so young?, and 2., Whatever recompense he earned for this production, he deserved every penny. Many, many thanks. bb
Date published: 2024-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! This is obviously one of the best researched, impecably delivered course in Wondrium. As a history buff, I have seen many World War I docs, TV series and good films. But taking a course in an academic setting is new and it does bring different perspective and appreciation for the course work. Professor is great teacher and obviously one of the sought-after professors here in Wondrium. I can't wait to try his other courses as well.
Date published: 2024-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Totally interesting lectures on WWI. The professor presented the lectures methodically and with both specific and general discussion. I often could not wait to hear the next lecture and I now have a much greater understanding and appreciation of the actors, states and events that precipitated the war and a clearer picture of the war itself and its repercussions. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2024-01-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Good Course But.. It is a bit bizarre that the professor teaches at the University of Tennessee and didn't mention that the 30th Division was attached to the British when he lectured about AEF cohesion. He speaks of the 369th Division being attached to the French, which is very noteworthy because the African American troops were treated well by the French, but the 30th Division was made up of Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina National Guardsmen, and they fought under the British command, even carried the SMLE rifles. The 30th Division soldiers were the first to breach the Hindenburg Line.
Date published: 2024-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Course This is another excellent course. The lecturer gives a riveting account of World War 1 and its aftermath. This is the second course that I have taken from this lecturer, both excellent.
Date published: 2024-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb course! I have just completed this outstanding course taught by an excellent scholar of history. This is a true college level course, but one which is most enlightening to those interested in coming to grips with the causes and consequences of world wars in the 20th century. Even though it was produced 17 years ago the lessons to be learned are still pertinent. Virtually all of the history courses are excellent, but I would put this in the top category. I particularly enjoyed the comprehensive nature of this course. I place this professor and this course on WWI in my handful of truly outstanding courses of The Teaching Company/Wondrium.
Date published: 2023-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from We Live in the Shadows of this War! Since I retired 19 years ago I have been studying the 19th and 20th centuries in depth trying to better understand how we got "here," a time when we once again have dizzying voices calling for increased nationalism, racialist kinds of "purity," and would-be authoritarians are rising here and throughout much of Europe. This course helps the attentive listener/viewer to understand both the multiple intertwined forces that helped contribute to the First World War -- including arms races, heightened nationalism, racialist theories drawn from a misunderstanding of Darwin's findings, and aggressive moves by those (such as Germany) insisting on obtaining their rightful "place in the sun" -- as well as how those same forces were impacted by the war and then morphed into versions that poisoned the brief interwar years before once again erupting in World War II. I deeply appreciated Professor Liulevicius' consistently balanced and broad approach to the war in all of its manifestations. Consequently, anyone looking for just an account of the battles themselves will be disappointed. While the insanity of those battles is covered -- including the inexplicable repeated sending of masses of troops against entrenched murderous machine-gun fire -- the course also covers events on the home front of each combatant nation, the use and evolution of propaganda on all sides, and the never-yet-learned lesson of modern war: that the greater the losses incurred the more all sides buckle down to achieve "victory" since nothing less will "justify" the massive loss of life. And so the killing went on, and on, and on. My chief "takeaways" from this magnificent course? o The importance of wise, patient, and humble leadership o Correspondingly, the great danger bombastic "leaders" infused with a sense of their own greatness and uncaring about the human costs of obtaining their visions represent for all peoples in all times everywhere! o The way "we, the people" are so capable of deluding ourselves, or of allowing ourselves to be deluded, by promises of greatness and by those asking us to "trust and follow them." o How, after the memories and personal witnesses of previous wars have died out and faded away, people can be so quick to embrace war as any kind of final resolution of any problem. o How wars usually plant the seeds of conflicts to follow. And, really, many more. Highest praise to this distinguished professor and to the Teaching Company for bringing this thorough treatment of a seminal disaster for Western Civilization, a war the violence of which (in thought and deed) continues to roil us yet today.
Date published: 2023-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this course. I don't know much about history. I found the course very informative and the lecturer entertaining. I read a very critical review saying that there was not enough information about the war itselt and too much information about the social, political, and enconomic effects of the war, but that is what I personally prefer.
Date published: 2023-07-29
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From August 1914 to November 1918, an unprecedented catastrophe gripped the world that continues to reverberate into our own time. World War I was touched off by a terrorist act in Bosnia and all too quickly expanded far beyond the expectations of those involved to become the first "total war." It was the first conflict in which entire societies mobilized to wage unrestrained war, investing all their wealth, industries, institutions, and the lives of their citizens to win victory at any price.


Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

To study the deepest impulses in human nature, we see the lure of wealth and conquest, the deep-seated urge for fame and glory, the quest for higher ends, a basic human determination.


University of Tennessee

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

By This Professor

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The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin
History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration
The Secret World of Espionage
Communism in Power: From Stalin to Mao
The Century's Initial Catastrophe

01: The Century's Initial Catastrophe

The opening lecture presents the main themes of the course, beginning with the concept of total war. Other themes include the role of ideology, the meanings ascribed to the war by different sides, and the war's legacy.

33 min
Europe in 1914

02: Europe in 1914

This lecture examines the state of Europe and the world before the onset of the war in 1914. The emergence of the German Empire created strains in the international balance of power, as divided among Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia.

32 min
Towards Crisis in Politics and Culture

03: Towards Crisis in Politics and Culture

Even among those who expected war, there were widespread misconceptions about the nature of the conflict to come. In this lecture you explore the prevailing ideas and attitudes in Europe and then turn to the premonitions noted by contemporaries of coming disaster.

34 min
Causes of the War and the July Crisis, 1914

04: Causes of the War and the July Crisis, 1914

This lecture analyzes the immediate events that led to war, from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary at Sarajevo in June 1914 to the diplomatic chain reactions that followed in the July Crisis.

29 min
The August Madness

05: The August Madness

Hysterical celebration known as the August Madness greeted the outbreak of war between the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and the Allies (France, Great Britain, and Russia). You analyze new research that questions how widespread this emotional outburst really was.

30 min
The Failed Gambles - War Plans Break Down

06: The Failed Gambles - War Plans Break Down

This lecture follows the unfolding of the German Schlieffen Plan, which envisioned quick victory on two fronts, and the French Plan XVII, which aimed to recover lost French territories. Both were thwarted.

31 min
The Western Front Experience

07: The Western Front Experience

The Western Front soon froze into static trench warfare and horrific slaughter from attempts to break this deadlock. Generals on both sides sought a breakthrough that would allow sweeping offensives and glorious cavalry charges. These never came.

29 min
Life and Death in the Trenches

08: Life and Death in the Trenches

This lecture gives a detailed overview of the trench landscape from the perspective of ordinary soldiers: the elaborate fortifications, the omnipresence of death, and the codes of behavior such as the Christmas fraternizations between the trenches in 1914.

31 min
The Great Battles of Attrition

09: The Great Battles of Attrition

Once the new dynamics of industrial war had been recognized, there followed a series of months-long battles of attrition. You examine the battles of Verdun and Somme in 1916, and in 1917 the French Champagne Offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres, also called Passchendaele.

31 min
The Eastern Front Experience

10: The Eastern Front Experience

This lecture illuminates the unfamiliar clash of empires in the East, beginning with the Russian invasion of German East Prussia and the ominous disasters of the Austro-Hungarian war effort. The Germans achieved victory against the Russians at Tannenberg in 1914 and followed up with the "Great Advance" of 1915 into Russian territory.

32 min
The Southern Fronts

11: The Southern Fronts

Turkish entry into the war expanded its scope. Allied landings in Gallipoli in 1915 were repulsed by Turkish defenders. Italy entered the war on the Allied side but met disaster against Austria-Hungary at the battle of Caporetto.

31 min
War Aims and Occupations

12: War Aims and Occupations

What goals did the Allies and the Central Powers pursue from the outset of the war? How did these goals change? After examining these questions, you turn to the experience of military occupation and how it affected civilian populations.

31 min
Soldiers as Victims

13: Soldiers as Victims

Historians estimate that half of the soldiers mobilized in the war were killed or wounded, and some suggest that nearly half of surviving soldiers experienced psychological traumas. This lecture seeks to convey the immense scale of this carnage.

31 min
Storm Troopers and Future Dictators

14: Storm Troopers and Future Dictators

Attempts to break the immobility of trench warfare produced storm troopers, fearless warriors habituated to the trench landscape to a disturbing degree. Two ordinary soldiers seemed to enjoy the war too much: Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

30 min
The Total War of Technology

15: The Total War of Technology

An important element of World War I was the expanding destructive potential of technology. This lecture covers such developments as the machine gun, poison gas, and the submarine, as well as the economic weapon of ersatz materials.

31 min
Air War

16: Air War

While the war in the air was not yet decisive in World War I, it was a frightening portent of what future conflict would hold. This lecture surveys the rapid improvement in early airplanes and the growth of the myth of the fighter ace.

30 min
War at Sea

17: War at Sea

Like the land forces, the opposing navies also reached a stalemate. The Battle of Jutland in May 1916 was the only large-scale British-German naval clash, and it ended indecisively. The naval blockade imposed by the British on Germany was of far greater effect.

31 min
The Global Reach of the War

18: The Global Reach of the War

This lecture surveys fighting in the European colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The diplomatic sparring for the sympathies of neutral states is also examined, along with the economic dimension of the global war.

31 min
The War State

19: The War State

Total war put new demands on the state to mobilize populations and economies for victory. For example, Britain broke with earlier liberal traditions to give the government increased power over the economy and political speech.

31 min
Propaganda War

20: Propaganda War

This lecture examines the increasing sophistication of official propaganda. You also study the phenomenon of spontaneous propaganda produced by citizens, which could take the form of rumors, myths, and stereotypes of the enemy.

32 min
Endurance and Stress on the Home Front

21: Endurance and Stress on the Home Front

The home fronts in all the warring countries met privation, shortages, and surveillance with both endurance and signs of growing stress. The British blockade led to severe hunger in Germany, and the employment of women in war industries disrupted social traditions.

31 min
Dissent and Its Limits

22: Dissent and Its Limits

A range of voices spoke out against the conflict as it deepened, including workers, pacifists, and even a decorated British officer, Siegfried Sassoon. At the same time, radical socialists saw in the war an opening for world revolution.

31 min
Remobilization in 1916 - 1917

23: Remobilization in 1916 - 1917

Increasing war-weariness led all the combatant powers to attempt to reinvigorate the war effort. In France and Britain new civilian governments took the lead in this effort, while in Germany the de facto military dictatorship inaugurated a new propaganda campaign.

29 min
Armenian Massacres - Tipping into Genocide

24: Armenian Massacres - Tipping into Genocide

World War I saw the launching of what is considered the first full-scale modern genocide: the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey, in which between 500,000 and one million men, women, and children of the Armenian minority were killed or died from abuse.

33 min
Strains of War - Socialists and Nationalists

25: Strains of War - Socialists and Nationalists

This lecture explores the growing divisions in wartime societies, which produced revolts such as the 1915 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland, the French army's mutinies in 1917, and the growing alienation of subject nationalities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

31 min
Russian Revolutions

26: Russian Revolutions

The Russian Empire was the first to break under the pressure of war. In March 1917, the tsarist regime abruptly collapsed. Months later the liberal-led provisional government itself collapsed when Lenin's Bolsheviks seized power and inaugurated a new Communist state.

32 min
America’s Entry into the War

27: America’s Entry into the War

In this lecture you follow the path that led the United States to join the Allied cause against Germany in April 1917. America's entry gave the war a larger ideological character, articulated by President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points.

31 min
America at War - Over There and Over Here

28: America at War - Over There and Over Here

World War I had a profound impact on American society. You explore the sophisticated propaganda campaign launched to rouse the nation to arms, the massive economic mobilization, and the encounter of American doughboys overseas with the "old continent."

30 min
1918 - The German Empire’s Last Gamble

29: 1918 - The German Empire’s Last Gamble

Hoping to win the war before the massed arrival of American troops, the Germans marshaled their reserves for a final offensive in March 1918. They advanced to within artillery range of Paris before being stopped by an Allied counteroffensive.

30 min
The War's End - Emotions of the Armistice

30: The War's End - Emotions of the Armistice

When the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918, many Germans found it difficult to accept that they had lost the war. As a crowning horror, a worldwide pandemic swept the globe: the Spanish Influenza killed an estimated 50 million people.

31 min
Toppled Thrones - The Collapse of Empires

31: Toppled Thrones - The Collapse of Empires

The defeated Central Powers saw their empires and political structures come crashing down. This lecture outlines the startling internal collapse of the Central Powers and the question of what new order would replace the extinct regimes.

30 min
The Versailles Treaty and Paris Settlement

32: The Versailles Treaty and Paris Settlement

The peace settlements ending World War I were beset with contradictions. Should the treaties reconcile enemies or punish the defeated? Were they meant to repair the prewar balance of power or abolish it? This lecture considers the resulting treaties in depth.

32 min
Aftershocks - Reds, Whites, and Nationalists

33: Aftershocks - Reds, Whites, and Nationalists

In the turmoil after the war, intense ideological conflict arose. Partisans of international Communism heralded by Soviet Russia (labeled Reds) battled counterrevolutionary forces (called Whites). New nation-states also collided repeatedly.

32 min
Monuments, Memory, and Myths

34: Monuments, Memory, and Myths

Vigorous debates surrounded the question of memorials to the fallen. This lecture analyzes such monuments as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Also investigated are myths that arose in the wake of the war, including the "Stab in the Back" legend in Germany.

32 min
The Rise of the Mass Dictatorships

35: The Rise of the Mass Dictatorships

World War I showed the power that could be mobilized by states organized for war. This experience provided the model for postwar totalitarian movements, including Fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany, and Communism in the Soviet Union.

31 min
Legacies of the Great War

36: Legacies of the Great War

This concluding lecture confronts the largest and most difficult question: What were the true meaning, legacy, and significance of World War I? You examine the economic, social, and political impact, as well as the individual human consequences of this disaster.

31 min