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History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach

Narrated by: Gregory S. Aldrete
Length: 12 hrs and 12 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (52 ratings)

Non-member price: $51.19

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Publisher's Summary

Military history often highlights successes and suggests a sense of inevitability about victory, but there is so much that can be gleaned from considering failures. 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 and colorful characters, this course examines some of the world's most notable examples of military misfortune, from the humiliating destruction of a Roman army at Carrhae in 53 BC to the tragic landings at Gallipoli in World War I. Success and failure, as you'll learn, are two sides of the same coin.

These 24 lectures reveal how the trajectory of history hangs in the balance of individual battles; even a single person's actions in a particular moment have made drastic and irreversible impacts. From ancient Greece through global war during the first half of the 20th century, you'll delve into infamous conflicts such as the Charge of the Light Brigade and the Battle of Little Bighorn as well as lesser-known battles.

How could an army equipped with cannon be wiped out by Zulu warriors wielding spears and outdated firearms? How could 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 used himself? Unpredictable twists of fate abound, demonstrating that when it comes to war, there are no givens. Sheer numbers, superior weaponry, and skilled leadership are never a guarantee of success.

Take a fascinating journey through some of the most gloriously inglorious wartime encounters. Along the way, you'll get to know some of the most legendary characters in world history.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2015 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2015 The Great Courses

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Average Customer Ratings

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Alexander the Great, did not die of an arrow.

Hi there, seems to be some incorrect information about the dead of alexander the great at lecture 24. Its mentioned here he died during a seige in combat.

I only hear from other historians he died of a supposed fever, potential poisoning in his bed.

Please look into thank you

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Great book

very interesting but can be hard to follow at times given the content as most blunders become a mess but he makes it easy enough to follow with the structure of his lectures.

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A great find

By focusing the ‘bad practises’ of leadership and strategy that contributed to some of the greatest and most world defining military defeats rather than the practise of the victors, Professor Aldrete’s brings a fresh take on known events that shows them in a completely new light. His insights and explanation of from this new angle of the historic events and their background, circumstances, causes and consequences is fascinating, educational and at uplifting. This is a audio series I highly recommend.

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  • Mark
  • STONEVILLE, Australia
  • 14-05-2018

Great Material but Presentaion Unlistenable.

THIS.. presentation "has" , weird pausing...mEANingless emphasis (Based) on timing or just completely raNdom. sadly this RENDERS the entire presentation.....completely InCoMPREhensible. Shame because the underlying script is sound.

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Brit bashing more important than interesting

I like the way this lecturer provides information and insight but of 23 lectures, 10 are examples of British “blunders”.

There are more interesting, more relevant, more significant battles and blunders in 3000+ years of warfare than some of the examples used here. After a while, it just comes across as though the lecturer has a chip on his shoulder.

I’d recommend other titles by this lecturer, but perhaps not this one if you’re British.

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  • Cynthia
  • 16-08-2016

Martial Chaos

I'm a military history buff and a US Army veteran, so I really couldn't have asked for a more apt "The Great Courses" lecture series. It's thing to read a translation of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" (approximately 5th century BCE), an aspirational guide to tactical warfare that's travelled the millennia well. It's quite anther to fearlessly examine some of the most painful military debacles in history and take meaning from what's written in blood . "History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach" (Gregory S. Aldrete, PhD) is a neat survey course of things that have gone militarily very, very, wrong for more than two millennia.

The lectures range from The Battles of Syracuse (415-414 BC) to World War II's Operation Market Garden (1944). Some are obvious, often repeated errors. Napoleon's 1812 winter invasion of Russia was about as successful as Charles XII of Sweden's 1707 invasion of the same country. The 1854 storied, tragic Charge of the Light Brigade is about attacking the wrong target. Some of the disasters of World War II were almost too painful to listen to. I remember hearing war stories first-hand from veterans in my grandparents' small town, and to know that sometimes their sacrifices were wasted hurts.

I like that the lectures aren't Eurocentric - one of the best is on the 2nd Century Red Cliffs Campaign of the brilliant but merciless Chinese General Cao Cao. Even the strongest of tyrants don't always prevail. I got a kick out of the lecture on 1879 Isandlwana: 25,000 Zulus, Undetected. It was horrifying to Victorian England, especially the post-battle mutilation (actually, a sign of respect: the Zulu Warriors were releasing the spirits of the slain soldiers), but a century and a half later, it's a study in absolute arrogance and the triumph of what must have been derided then as "savages."

I would definitely listen to another one of Professor Aldrete's courses.

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203 of 212 people found this review helpful

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  • Charles Grayson
  • 11-07-2016

Hindsight Bias?

The professor does an outstanding presentation of his material.

I have to wonder, though, whether many of these blunders are hindsight bias. For example, we only distinguish rashness from boldness when the endeavor succeeds or fails; there may be no way to determine which description applies beforehand.

Many of the behaviors that the professor describes also precede great successes as well as failures, and it's only when failure occurs that they look stupid. The problem is that we don't keep data on stupidity followed by success, which makes it look artificially easy to determine when you're screwing up.

94 of 101 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • 26-10-2015

Awesome as Aldrete's usual !!!

After listening to "Decisive battles" from the same author, I knew I had to listen to this title as well.

If you want to learn college-level history, With the ease of just curling up with a good book that is beautifully narrated this is the course for you.

27 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • Boyd Tschaggeny
  • 21-05-2019

Good, not Great. (Almost No Analysis)

This should be titled 'History's Great Military Blunders (Full Stop)' because there is almost no discussion on the lessons that they teach. In a typical lesson, 95% of the lecture is the story of the blunder and 5% is an analysis of that blunder. This does make for a great, story-time approach to history. However, you won't actually get that much from the professors "insights".

I liked this course, but just know that it's just story-time.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Alex Jordan
  • 12-08-2016

Great material, Shatner-esque delivery

This is fascinating material! However, while the narrator clearly has mastered the material, his delivery is... full of... awkward... pauses, strange pronunciations, and odd turns of phrase. He's clearly reading the material, which would be fine if the delivery was not so distracting!

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Billy
  • 24-12-2015

Great book

Great book,informative I loved it. Our public schools should be ashamed for missing the opportunity do teach real history

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • CC
  • 14-04-2016

Great Stories

This course is comprised of 23 great historical stories and one final lecture sort of tying the stories together. Very easy to listen to and stay engaged.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • Sam Fredericks
  • 22-02-2016

Very Interesting

What made the experience of listening to History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach the most enjoyable?

The premise for these lectures is just great. You listen to how these commanders and others invovled make error after error resulting in a horrible defeat of their forces. Spanning time from ancient Egypt to WW2 there are a ton of interesting stories here.

What did you like best about this story?

The various accounts are presented with a ton of insight into the people involved, the time, the customs, etc.

What about Professor Gregory S. Aldrete, PhD’s performance did you like?

Dr. Aldrete is a great lecturer and often includes a comic touch when presenting these tales. I had listened to his history of the ancient world course as well and highly recommend it if you are interested in standard history.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I blew through these vary fast and some are quite comical.

Any additional comments?

Very entertaining.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • J_T
  • 05-03-2016

Legitimate 5 stars

I am a big fan of The Great Courses. That being said, not all are worthy of 5 star reviews... unless they feature Professor Aldrete.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • The Rev. Craig
  • 04-07-2017

Great Blunders, But Not Necessarily THE Greatest

This is good overview of great military blunders. They all fit the author's hypothesis, yet there are missing examples which could replace more than one event to more effective purpose. Cannae was full of Roman blunders. It is missing. Tetuburg may not have been decisive, but it was a blunder of major dummieness. He chose Carrhae. I suspect the author had to choose between significant Roman blunders. But Cannae is the most obvious example. Agincourt should have been the 100 years war choice because it was the third time France used the same tactics which failed twice already. Those are just two examples of my bias.

I wish there had been a PDF available for this listen. It would be helpful simply to refer to later. All in all though, it is well written and well narrated. I highly recommend it especially for those who are new to the subject of Military history.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • John W
  • 30-11-2015

Interesting content with a truly awful narration.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A more fluid narration! The guy who reads this audiobook is very clearly reading the content from a script. His speech stops and starts and emphasises in all the wrong places. Its like listening to William Shatner struggling with a script !

If the book was read by somebody who could speak in a steady and confident manner it would fare much better, but sadly the narrator of this version sounds robotic, unusual, stuttering and impossible to listen to with any amount of concentration.

What was one of the most memorable moments of History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach?

I'm not sure. Because I was so put off by the narrator's manner of speaking I stopped listening after a few chapters. The chapter about the battle of the Crater was quite interesting i guess.

Who might you have cast as narrator instead of Professor Gregory S. Aldrete, PhD?

Stephen Fry? Patrick Stewart? Quite frankly anyone who can hold together a deep, wise, and unwavering tone.

You didn’t love this book--but did it have any redeeming qualities?

The content itself was relatively interesting - its just a shame it was presented in such a mispronounced, stuttering, odd and disjointed fashion.

Any additional comments?

Dont buy it unless you can put up with slow reading and mispronunciation.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-10-2018

Fascinating material ruined by woeful narration

This could have been a fantastic audio book. The content is compelling but the narrator removes any possibility of enjoying this book. He sounds as if each individual word has been recorded and pieced together, disrupting any possible fluidity. Such a shame.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Leach
  • 02-12-2018

Wonderful recounting of history

even with my ani-war sentiments I really enjoyed this lively, well told and analysed account of war history. The hours flew past!

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  • Pauly
  • 01-09-2018

Unmissable

If you have any interest in military history or in human failure, this is an essential listen. It provides not only 24 fascinating case studies but also an analysis of each one, and explains how each disaster could have been avoided. It concludes by categorising the types of failure and suggesting that it is the inability of humans to learn from past mistakes that often leads to disaster.

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  • Lawrence Oxborough
  • 01-03-2017

More of a University Lecture than a Book...

... but still thoroughly enjoyable for a history nerd. Of course, it missed a few "blunders" that I would have considered pivotal in world history, such as the Third Reich's advance into Russia, and George Meade's failure to pursue the defeated Confederate Army immediately following Gettysburg, but all the lectures came together in the end very nicely and a solid point was made that I can't argue against.

... Even if the blunders committed by British generals were hard pills to swallow!

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • B. Whelan
  • 14-08-2017

British military disaster

It's well narrated but if you are fan ok the uk it may annoy you in parts its seems 3/4 of the blunders are British. I'm not patriotic but even I grew tired of constant British blunders

0 of 1 people found this review helpful