History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach [TTC Video]
23 September 2016, 16:21
Course No 3761 | MP4, AVC, 856x480 | AAC, 150 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 5.44GB
“All battles are in some degree…disasters.” These words by military historian John Keegan are true in that military conflicts inevitably involve death and destruction. Yet despite their tragic cost, many battles are regarded as great triumphs, while others are nearly universally declared blunders. What qualifies such battles for special condemnation—or inquiry, for that matter? Why focus on failure at all?
Perhaps above all else, it is the element of avoidability that makes these catastrophes so worthy of exploration. Military history often highlights success and suggests a sense of inevitability about victory, but there is so much that can be learned from studying failure, particularly when it’s unexpected. From how the arc of history was altered by the outcome of these battles to how such mistakes could have been avoided to how they might be circumvented in the future, there are numerous important lessons to be gleaned. You even consider how the world might be different if these egregious errors had not occurred.
Losing a battle due to being outnumbered, outmatched, or suffering a random misfortune is not enough to be deemed a blunder. For a military defeat to qualify as a true blunder, it must:
- be avoidable;
- involve a decision or action that common sense, training, or circumstance suggested was unwise, which dramatically altered the outcome for the worse;
- involve someone who failed to take an obvious action; and/or
- include an element of identifiable blame for the critical mistake.
In History’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach, you’ll study these crucibles of history to gain a better understanding of why a civilization took—or didn’t take—a particular path. Full of dramatic reversals of fortune, colorful characters, and unlikely triumphs, this course examines some of the world’s most notable examples of military misfortune, from the humiliating destruction of a Roman army at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 B.C. to the tragic landings at Gallipoli in World War I. Presented in a narrative yet thoroughly informative fashion by Gregory S. Aldrete, Frankenthal Professor of History and Humanistic Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay, these 24 lectures reveal how the trajectory of history hangs in the balance of individual battles. Success and failure, as you’ll learn, are two sides of the same coin.
With a scope that spans the globe, from ancient Greece through the Crusades through global conflicts during first half of the 20th century, this course features infamous conflicts such as the Charge of the Light Brigade and the Battle of Little Bighorn, as well as lesser-known battles you may find surprising.
Compelling Stories and Fascinating Figures
How could an army equipped with cannon and rocket artillery be wiped out by Zulu warriors wielding spears, clubs, and outdated firearms? How could heavily armored French knights be vulnerable to the crude weapons of a band of Flemish shopkeepers? Why would a savvy Chinese general fall victim to a tactic he had previously employed himself?
Unpredictable twists of fate abound in this course, demonstrating that when it comes to war, there are no givens. Sheer numbers, superior weaponry, and skilled leadership are never a guarantee of success.
History’s Great Military Blunders also features remarkable personalities, such as:
- the conniving and self-indulgent Alcibiades, whose fatal flaws brought his country to utter ruin;
- the ambitious and egotistical Napoleon, who tarnished his legacy by appointing his inept brother to an important role in Russia, among other mistakes;
- the flamboyant General George Custer, who was done in by his belief that he could defeat any number of Native Americans; and
- Genghis Khan’s trusted military strategist Subotai, who cleverly maneuvered opponents onto ground of his own choosing.
On more than one occasion, you’ll see how an inflated sense of a general’s own abilities can spell doom for his troops, particularly when combined with a lack of respect for the opponent.
What becomes clear, as you trace the history of military mistakes across time and around the world, is a disturbing underlying theme that runs through almost all of these examples and categories of blunders: a fundamental failure to learn from the past that continues into the modern day.
Investigate Military Blunders from Root Causes to Ramifications
Whether you’re a student of military history or are simply intrigued by the notion of a blunder altering the course of the world, you’ll appreciate Professor Aldrete’s fresh perspective and engaging storytelling. In every lecture, he lays out a conflict’s historical context and key players before presenting a riveting blow-by-blow account of the battle. He concludes by analyzing the ramifications of the outcome, and considers how these fatal errors might have been avoided.
While the factors leading to the failures you’ll encounter are complex, there are four basic categories of blunders that recur throughout these lectures, regardless of setting, be it the United States, France, Ethiopia, or Afghanistan:
- Failures of planning, which encompass decisions or omissions that doom one side even before battle begins, such as poor intelligence gathering, unclear objectives, or failure to take terrain into account.
- Failures of leadership, which are often the result of overconfidence, indecisiveness, a general being charged with a task for which he is unfit, and internal conflicts.
- Failures of execution, which include dividing control among multiple generals, breakdowns of communication, and refusing to call off an unsuccessful mission or sending additional forces into an operation that had already gone irretrievably wrong.
- Failures of adaptation, in which leadership clings to tactics that have become outmoded, often because of advances in technology.
Evolving technology factors heavily in many of the battles discussed, such as at Culloden, where the Highlanders’ charge against British cannons and muskets proved brave but fruitless; and in the sinking of the battleship Prince of Wales, during which naval commanders failed to recognize the threat that aircraft posed to once-dominant armored warships.
Gripping Tales Told by a Master Historian
Professor Aldrete is a dynamic lecturer and masterful storyteller. His extensive background as an award-winning teacher, writer, and researcher elevates every lecture. A trove of custom visual content help these lectures come alive for those who experience it via a visual format, from battle plans to animations to historically accurate maps that highlight the geopolitical context of the time. These illuminating illustrations provide an immersive experience and facilitate deeper understanding of exactly how these blunders occurred and what could have been done differently. History’s Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach is a fascinating journey through some of the most gloriously inglorious wartime encounters, and along the way you’ll get to know some of the most legendary characters in world history, brilliant yet tragically flawed. By reversing the lens on history and confronting some of the most costly wartime mistakes, we can see the past from a new angle—and perhaps avoid making the same errors in the future.
The Age of Henry VIII [TTC Video]
23 September 2016, 16:01
Course No 8467 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 3.9GB
Henry VIII (r. 1509–47) ruled an island kingdom about the size of Pennsylvania inhabited by fewer than 3 million people nearly 500 years ago, and yet he remains instantly recognizable to this day, his barrel-chested and bejeweled figure immortalized by the brush of Hans Holbein the Younger. Meet England's most famous monarch, who provokes questions such as:
- What is greatness?
- How should we judge character?
- Who or what can be said to "make" or cause history?
A Famous Face ... but Why?
So what accounts for Henry's astonishingly familiar image? Is it because he employed a brilliant portraitist? Or is there more to the story?
This king, as one of his recent biographers has noted, "changed the heart, mind, and face of Britain more than anything between the coming of the Normans and the coming of the factory," not least by giving Protestantism its powerful purchase in the English-speaking world. And given Britain's later significance in world history—made possible in part by Henry himself—he must be accounted a towering figure of history.
Four Standout Features
Four accomplishments highlight this lecture series by Professor Dale Hoak:
The first is Professor Hoak's cutting-edge expertise. His interpretation of British history is often different from the traditional approach, thanks to his pursuit of the latest scholarly research.
The second is Professor Hoak's extraordinary personal command of the relevant primary sources, including documents such as the inventory of Henry's vast possessions made shortly after his death. No purely popular treatment will offer you this level of sustained, expert insight.
The third is the way Professor Hoak discusses Henry not only as a figure who commands our interest on his own terms, but as someone whose life and actions raise larger philosophical questions about what history is and how it is "made."
The fourth is Professor Hoak's shrewd discussion of Henry's personal wealth, including his properties, accoutrements, and art collection—Henry was a deliberately grand patron of the arts—as windows on the mind and heart of this king and his age.
Professor Hoak explores these thought-provoking issues in a way that arises naturally, even gracefully, out of the story that he himself tells from the primary sources.
About Those Wives
Who could forget that Henry had six wives? Each was a figure of drama and interest in her own right. One was a giddy, sexy teenager; another was a sharp political player who became the first queen of England to publish a book. One made Henry court her for seven years and had her coronation turned into the largest spectacle ever staged by the ceremony-loving Tudor dynasty; another Henry married sight unseen and then hastily rejected, ranting, "I like her not!" Still another became a member of the truly tiny club of people who upbraided Royal Henry to his face (publicly!) and lived to tell about it.
You'll learn the story of each of these remarkable women in detail (including the only one—do you know who she is?—to be buried next to Henry at Windsor Castle). Around two of these women, Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, swirled the royal divorce case that supposedly led to Henry's fateful quarrel with the pope. But did that famous quarrel really "cause" the English Reformation? Professor Hoak's answer might surprise you.
A Royal Revolutionary
How historically accurate are impressions that we take away from plays and films and Holbein portraits? Do they bring us any closer to the "real" Henry, the crowned revolutionary who wrenched history out of one course and into another by claiming "imperial" kingship (and with it, in effect, the sovereignty of the modern state and its laws), and then by bringing most of the English-speaking world into the Protestant camp during the early decades of the Reformation?
With these lectures by an historian who is intimately familiar with the actual documentary record, you can round out your own personal portrait of the Henry who comes to life in Shakespeare's words and in brilliant portrayals by Charles Laughton, Richard Burton, and Robert Shaw.
A Few Specifics
Here is a short list of facts from these engaging lectures:
- What Henry did with the fabulous wealth that he gained from his seizure and dissolution of England's monasteries—there were more than 800, and the takeover involved fully one-quarter of the best land in all England
- Why a law that Henry put through Parliament in 1533 (Act of Appeals) is more important to the history of constitutional development in the English-speaking world than even Magna Carta, and how Henry became an early (if unwilling) sponsor of free speech
- How Henry's reaction to a sensational 1514 London murder case prefigured a break with Rome decades later
- What it would have been like to visit Henry at court and see the king in the midst of both his business and his many and extravagant amusements.
The Real Henry
The Henry VIII who emerges from these lectures is a man of both great charm and terrifying, self-pitying ferocity (which predominates is for you to decide). And his limits are all too apparent. He harbored ruthless, vaulting ambitions and spun grand schemes, yet in the end was shadowed by the deep historical irony of expectations gone strangely awry.
The eighth Henry was a Renaissance prince but also in many ways a backward-looking man obsessed by medieval chivalry, a king who became an agent of the future—England's and the world's. He was an athlete who surrendered to self-indulgence. He was a romantic who is remembered for his failed marriages and his cruelty toward at least four of his six wives.
He combined exquisite taste and aesthetic sensibility (he was a superb singer) with a vulgar acquisitiveness. He was a trained theologian with a tender conscience who turned on the church for none-too-lofty reasons. He recruited awesomely talented advisors to help him with his plans, only to destroy the greatest of them.
Henry's reign contributed an important legacy to British history and the modern world: the revolutionary effect of the Act of Appeals was to make law itself, or the king-in-Parliament, the supreme authority. Parliamentary law became the basis of the new constitutional monarchy; the tax schemes of Henry's lord chancellor, Wolsey, would presage the beginning of modern bureaucracy; and Henry's navy was the first standing military force in his day.
With these achievements, Henry was a despot who became an accidental great-grandfather of English-speaking democracy. He built, as they say, "other than he knew." We might also say he built better than he knew. But what standards would Henry and his contemporaries have applied to judge such actions and achievements? In assessing Henry and his reign, should we prefer our own standards to theirs? Why?
Henry was a willing history-maker. But history is driven by patterns of causation that include, and yet are not exhausted by, human desires, even the desires of "great" men and women.
More than just the story of a larger-than-life figure with feet of proverbial clay—compelling as that story is—this series offers an invitation to reflect on these patterns of causation and the fascinating ironies they suggest.
Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia [TTC Video]
22 September 2016, 23:35
Course No. 3180 | AVI, XviD, 640x472 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 6.2GB
What pieces of the distant past drift before your mind's eye when you think of ancient Mesopotamia? Perhaps it's the fabled hanging gardens of Babylon. Or is it entire populations paralyzed by fear before a ruthless invader? Maybe it's priests making sacrifices to the gods who rule over and protect their city.
Any of these images may come to mind, but each one is part of the legacy of a region from which our own culture has drawn many essential aspects, including writing, codes of law, cities, and even epic poetry.
Between the Rivers: The History of Ancient Mesopotamia takes you on an insightful journey through the area bordered by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, from Neolithic times to the age of Alexander the Great and into the lives of mighty emperors, struggling farmers, ambitious merchants, and palace servants. In 36 fascinating lectures, award-winning Professor Alexis Q. Castor reveals new insights into the real history of this region and demonstrates that all cultures lie in the shadow of Mesopotamia.
A Foundational Time and Place
Mesopotamia, a name coined by the Greeks, means "the land between the rivers" and refers to the region now mostly encompassed by the borders of modern Iraq. Originally, the area was home to a succession of peoples, from Neolithic villagers to the vast empires of Assyria and Persia.
The beginnings of cities and urban lifestyles during the 5th millennium B.C. are only two of the many factors that make ancient Mesopotamia such a foundational time and place in history. The region was marked by the changing roles and representations of rulers and by recurring regional instabilities and upheavals. East and West collided when the Persian Empire first tried to conquer Greece and then itself became the final conquest of Alexander the Great.
Examine Life in Mesopotamia
Between the Rivers looks back to the time when the first cities arose in Mesopotamia and kings created complex bureaucracies to rule their expanding territories, thus fostering the invention of writing and other technologies. You peer into the lives and fortunes of Mesopotamia's people and learn about the birth of the urban lifestyle, which was destined to become increasingly sophisticated as cultures expanded and cities evolved into the forms we know today. Cities, as you discover, became increasingly important to the Mesopotamian identity.
The 5th-millenium B.C. city of Uruk, 140 miles south of what is now Baghdad, was in fact civilization's first city, hidden until the early years of the 20th century, when it was unearthed by German archaeologists.
With a population estimated between 20,000 and 50,000, maintaining the well-being of Uruk posed different challenges than those faced by smaller fishing villages. The large population had to develop new ways to sustain itself, producing and acquiring food and other necessities on a scale never before imagined. There would be security issues as well, and in order to solve these issues, an enclosing wall was eventually built around the city.
Throughout the lectures, Professor Castor creates a detailed image not only of larger Mesopotamian society but of life on the level of the individual Mesopotamian as well. Among the many fascinating insights into daily Mesopotamian life you examine are:
- how they ate, worked, learned, worshipped, married, and reared children
- how their scientific ideas helped them order and understand the natural world
- how they engaged with their powerful neighbors in Egypt, Syria, and Anatolia (modern-day Turkey)
- how they waged war and experienced peace
- how they endured the collapse of their cities
Unearth Unique Historical Finds
Scholars have come to know the details of ancient Mesopotamia through numerous archaeological discoveries, ancient documents, and important literary works, many of which you explore throughout the course. Excavations in Iraq have shaped Western ideas about ancient Mesopotamia, from the myth of the Hanging Gardens to important concepts about how Eastern cultures differed from Western cultures.
These profound historical records offer a wealth of fresh information about ancient Mesopotamian culture—new perspectives now made possible by the tireless efforts of archaeologists and historians. Among the many examples you consider are:
- The 16 royal graves found at Ur: Excavated between 1927 and 1929, the royal graves from this southern city contained lavish quantities of gold, silver, semiprecious stones, and richly crafted artifacts—and also evidence of human sacrifice or ritual suicide. The overwhelming display of wealth and its grisly accompaniment offers an extraordinary demonstration of the power wielded by a Mesopotamian king and queen.
- The Amarna letters: Named after the Egyptian city in which the tablets were discovered, this trove of 14th-century B.C. correspondence includes 40 pieces of official communication between the Egyptian ruler Akhenaten (or his father) and his contemporary rulers in the Near East. Written at a time of unusually peaceful cooperation among neighboring rulers, the letters consistently reveal an attention to the niceties of Mesopotamian diplomacy, as the correspondents acknowledged gifts, proposed royal marriages, or dispatched their own personal physician to the aid of a fellow monarch.
- The 20,000 tablets found at Kanesh: Discovered at an outpost of Assyrian trade in what is now Turkey, these tablets are the most extensive documentation of merchant activity ever recorded from the ancient world. Dating from the early 2nd millennium B.C., they offer scholars a detailed portrait of the Mesopotamian trading community, including intimate glimpses into how goods were traded and the impact of long-distance trade on family life at home.
Embark on a True Adventure
Professor Castor has twice been named Most Influential Professor by Franklin & Marshall College's senior class. Experienced both in the classroom and on archaeological excavations, she plunges you into the daily life of Mesopotamia's vast range of cultures and animates peoples such as the Sumerians, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Medes.
In a land where the real history is even more astounding than its legends, the journey you take through ancient Mesopotamian life in Between the Rivers is a true adventure of exploration and discovery—and one you are not likely to forget.