The Great Trials of World History and the Lessons They Teach Us [TTC Video]
31 January 2018, 13:26
Course No 3767 | MP4, AVC, 856x480 | AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.53GB
There are trials that don’t simply end with their verdict. There are trials that have a power that reverberates throughout history. Many have shaped and transformed the very social, political, and legal traditions we take for granted today. It’s trials like these that are deserving of the description “great.”
What makes a trial one of the great ones in world history? According to award-winning law professor Dr. Douglas O. Linder of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, there are two main benchmarks.
First, the trial must have grabbed the attention of society in its own time and place, whether in the courts of ancient Greece or 20th-century Los Angeles.
Second, the trial must matter. Perhaps it matters because of how it shaped history; perhaps because it allows us in the 21st century to draw lessons that bring us closer to our highest ideals of justice; or perhaps because the trial provides an especially clear way of understanding a particular place or time.
No understanding of the past is complete without an understanding of the legal battles and struggles that have done so much to shape it. Inside a survey of world history’s greatest trials are the key insights to critical issues we still talk about today, including:
- freedom of speech,
- the death penalty,
- religious freedom, and
- the meaning of equality.
And even when trials illustrate grave miscarriages of justice, they still have much to teach us about how law is an ever-evolving aspect of human civilization.
Join Professor Linder for The Great Trials of World History and the Lessons They Teach Us, a 24-lecture investigation of important legal cases from around the world and across the centuries. From the trials of Socrates in ancient Athens and Thomas More in Henry VIII’s England to the Nuremburg Trials in the wake of World War II and the media frenzy of the O. J. Simpson murder case, you’ll discover what each of these fascinating and profound trials has to teach us about ourselves and our society. The horror of the Salem Witch Trials, the drama of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, the trial for Nelson Mandela’s life—inside these and other cases are enduring lessons that can help us avoid repeating the errors of the past and that will strengthen your appreciation for the goal of justice.
New Perspectives on Familiar Cases…
Varied in its scope, The Great Trials of World History and the Lessons They Teach Us brings together a fascinating range of cases. Some of them advanced great causes. Some of them raised profound questions. Some of them turned defendants into martyrs. Some of them not only decided the fate of defendants, but also changed the hearts or minds of the public. And some of them went horribly wrong.
Professor Linder, with his broad knowledge of legal history and his knack for telling great stories, takes you back in time to revisit some of history’s most famous trials from fresh perspectives that ground them in the evolution of human ideas of law and justice.
- The Trial of Socrates: One of the many interesting things about the philosopher’s trial is the procedural rules of ancient Athenian courts. Any citizen could initiate criminal proceedings. To discourage frivolous suits, Athenian law imposed fines on citizen accusers who were unable to win the votes of one-fifth of jurors.
- The Salem Witch Trials: These trials are rightly considered one of history’s greatest travesties of justice. Evidence that we would exclude from modern courtrooms—such as hearsay and unsupported assertions—was admitted. Accused witches also had no legal counsel or formal avenues of appeal.
- The Nuremburg Trials: This monumental event, which brought the Nazi’s crimes against humanity to the world stage, was actually composed of 12 trials. By far the most attention has focused on the first Nuremberg trial of 22 defendants—the major war criminals—and which set precedents for judges in subsequent trials to follow.
- The Trial of the Chicago Eight: No legal case is more emblematic of American cultural divisions during the late 1960s. The chasm between the world views of the defendants and Judge Julius Hoffman reflected the deep divisions of the time: establishment versus the counter-culture, police versus protesters, and political decorum versus political violence.
…and Insights into Unfamiliar Ones
While The Great Trials of World History and the Lessons They Teach Us contains trials you may already be well familiar with, the survey also includes those that may be less familiar—but which are nevertheless equally important to a complete understanding of the history-making role trials have played throughout the vast story of civilization.
- Trial by Ordeal: In one of three medieval trials you explore, you’ll learn how (according to the Annals of Winchester) King Edward the Confessor’s mother, Emma of Normandy, supposedly proved her innocence against charges of adultery by walking barefoot over red-hot ploughshares. Trials like these were designed to attract God’s attention. If the defendant was without guilt, God would step in and perform a miracle.
- The Trial of Giordano Bruno: The execution of this original Italian thinker represented a failure of the Roman Inquisition to perform its mission, which was to “admonish and persuade” (not to terrify or punish). The man responsible for Bruno’s death at the stake, Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, learned from Bruno’s case and proceeded differently 15 years later when he dealt with another alleged heretic named Galileo.
- The Dakota Conflict Trials: These trials—392 in all—raise a number of intriguing questions. Were trials the appropriate end to a bloody conflict between a native population and a wave of settlers? When trials take place on the frontier, where no courts are operating, who should serve as judge and jury? Can we trust military officers to be impartial when they’ve just fought the men whose cases they will hear?
- The Trial of Louis Riel: The trial and execution of Riel, who took up arms against the Canadian government and led the 1885 North-West Rebellion, became a turning point in the country’s politics. Opposition to Riel’s execution helped break the Conservative hold on French Canada. It also illustrates cultural tensions that continue in Canada today.
Throughout these lectures, you’ll also meet famous historical figures who played lead roles in some of world history’s greatest trials, including:
- Cicero, who attacked the corruption of Rome’s tottering oligarchy during the Trial of Gaius Verres;
- John Adams, the future president of the United States who paid a price for deciding to represent British soldiers during the Boston Massacre Trials; and
- Clarence Darrow, perhaps America’s most famous defense lawyer, who championed the cause of defendants in both the Leopold and Loeb Trial and the Scopes “Monkey” Trial.
Explore the Crossroads of History and Law
“Apart from being terrific theater, great trials can shape history,” Professor Linder notes. “They can change attitudes and reinforce ideals. And they can provide a remarkably clear window for observing societies, both past and present.”
For years, Professor Linder has been fascinated by the stories behind the world’s great trials. He’s studied transcripts, examined facts, even collected exhibits from many trials—all in an effort to study the intriguing intersection between history and jurisprudence. Now he’s crafted The Great Trials of World History and the Lessons They Teach Us to share that fascination with you.
But these lectures are about so much more than just facts and narrative. They’re a chance for you to get to the beating heart of deeply human stories involving innocence and guilt, truth and deception, life and death. As momentous and (sometimes) bizarre as these trials can be, Professor Linder never lets you forget that human life—and human history—is always at stake.
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