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The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes

Narrated by: Kenneth W. Harl
Length: 18 hrs and 15 mins
Categories: History, World
5 out of 5 stars (31 ratings)

Non-member price: $61.45

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Publisher's Summary

The word "barbarian" quickly conjures images of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan. Yet few people realize these men belong to a succession of nomadic warriors who emerged from the Eurasian steppes to conquer civilizations. It's a part of ancient and medieval history that's often overlooked, but for an accurate view of how the world evolved, it's essential.

Covering some 6,000 miles and 6,000 years, this eye-opening course illuminates how a series of groups - from the Sacae and Sarmatians to the infamous Huns and Mongols - pushed ever westward, coming into contact with the Roman Empire, Han China, and distant cultures from Iraq to India.

Along the way, you'll learn how these nomads caused a domino effect of displacement and cultural exchange; meet fascinating figures such as Tamerlane, the "Prince of Destruction"; witness struggles to control the legendary Silk Road; trace the spread of Buddhism and Islam, and more.

By looking past the barbarian stereotype, you'll understand who these people were, the significance of their innovations - which include stirrups, saddles, and gunpowder - and the magnitude of their impact. Of course, these warriors did wage campaigns of terror, and you'll hear many accounts of violence as well.

Led by an award-winning professor, these 36 lectures provide new insights on how the world was shaped and introduce you to cultures and empires you've likely never encountered.

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

©2014 The Great Courses (P)2014 The Teaching Company, LLC

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    5 out of 5 stars

Engaging and thought provoking

Kenneth W Harl, the Yale professor who delivers this lecture, is certainly someone that I would have enjoyed studying with when I was a student.

He is engaging and thought provoking. He would be an amazing professor to study with.

However, his lectures have an interesting quirk where he seems to grow more nervous or passionate as he continues. This leads him to increase in volume. This leads to mispronunciation and a few mistakes.

However this is minor in the scheme of the whole presentation and it is overall a very good series of lectures.

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  • AM
  • 08-07-2018

Fascinating.

Can't get enough of this book - have listened to it several times. I have been know to fall asleep to it, I find it so relaxing but I always return and catch up with what I've missed.

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Exactly as described

It covered everything I wanted to cover, although having listened to the book I wouldn't have minded more on the end. The cossacks and russian expansion

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brilliant

before listening to this, i was fairly familiar with the huns and mongols, but this filled in a lot in between those two nomadic empires. interesting explanation on the interplay of east and west with nomads as the buffer and catalyst

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Succinct yet thorough

An overview of the steppe cultures that greatly influenced world history and are often overlooked in favor of the 'civilized' empires they played an important part in molding. Essential listening for those interested in a balanced understanding of eurasian history or the steppe peoples themselves.

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Just superb

Would you listen to The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes again? Why?

I did listen to it again, immediately. Even though I was familiar with most of the material, this synthesis of it is that good.

What does Professor Kenneth W. Harl bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

Maybe the book would be just as good - except academics generally have a tendency to be more stilted in writing. In any case, I prefer to listen to such lecture course when engaged in exercise or physical work.

Any additional comments?

Pity this stops short of modern developments - the seasonal occupation of the steppes during the 16th century, formation of modern people like the Cossacks, their wars with the Crimean Khans and the final elimination of the steppes as a force with the Russian invasion.

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  • David Jackson
  • 10-01-2018

Absolutely amazing

I always had a great fascination with the Mongol empire and I have been looking for a comprehensive background on the world that they came from. This series was that and much more, as it went through the history of the step peoples even as far back as the Indo-European expansion in the late Neolithic, to the Mogul empire in India. The narration was good, with the lectures delivered with a lot of energy and story telling ability. Strongly recommended.

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  • Nixon
  • 12-12-2014

Very informative

Where does The Barbarian Empires of the Steppes rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is one of the best books I have listened to, it is great to listen to

What did you like best about this story?

I liked how he kept the chronology of the story, but was able to provide great detail about both the western and eastern steppe

What about Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance did you like?

I liked how he could bring the stories to life with small details about the main characters, and it seemed that he was also interested in the story

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The book is very long, it would take a day to listen to it, but if I could I would have

Any additional comments?

I would recommend this as a fascinating listen and a part of history that is often overlooked

1 person found this helpful

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  • tugeladiver
  • 17-10-2017

Fascinating

A fascinating insight into a part of the world where my wife comes from. The course covers 6000 years of history of a dynamic region that was home to some of the worlds greatest empires.

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  • Unique Pseudonym
  • 29-08-2017

Fun and easy to follow

It can't have been easy to make the history of such a wide area over such a long period of time coherent to a layperson. This course strikes a good balance between being too dry and too devoid of information. Perhaps the best thing I can say is that I feel like I know (and actually understand) more than I did before I listened.

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  • Thomas
  • 01-02-2017

Great scope and passionate delivery

This is definitely the most interesting Great Courses series I have listened to so far. The scope is vast - 6000 years of history across the whole of Eurasia, starting with the origin of the Proto Indo Europeans and ending with the Mongol conquests. What capped it all was the knowledge and passion of the lecturer, who made every lecture enjoyable to listen to. Would definitely recommend to anyone.

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  • JS393241
  • 28-02-2016

Fills in many gaps of ancient history

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. This fills in so many gaps in the east-west dialogue of history which I have rarely heard about. I found it very important to understand the links between China, the Steppes, the Middle East and the West.

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  • David
  • 16-12-2014

Fascinating insight into a huge subject

As with many of the Great Courses this deals with a subject I hadn't realised I was interested in until I saw the title and took the plunge. Professor Harl covers an enormous subject both in temporal and geographical terms and makes it manageable by bringing a human element to the characters involved.

I have seen comments that a map is essential to understanding the subject and it would certainly help but it strikes me that is a limitation of audiobooks in general not specifically this course.

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  • Jake Harrison
  • 10-02-2019

Poor Pronunciation

An extremely passionate delivery. It's a shame that the professor's pronunciation is often far from the mark. I'm a native English speaker who also speaks Chinese, and it was difficult for me to understand when the professor said 匈奴 (Xiongnu) for the first time. It'd only take fifteen minutes with someone like me to greatly improve his pronunciation, so I expected more professionalism in this regard from The Great Courses.

I disagree with your introduction to the origins of the Chinese language and your introduction to 秦始皇 regarding the burning of the books is completely incorrect.

Unprofessional and disappointing.