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The Great Trials of World History and the Lessons They Teach Us

Narrated by: Douglas O. Linder JD
Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

Non-member price: $51.19

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Publisher's Summary

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.

Join Professor Linder for these 24 lectures that investigate 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 trials has to teach us about ourselves and our civilization.

Professor Linder 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, including the Salem Witch Trials, and the Scopes "Monkey" Trial. You'll also encounter less familiar (but equally important) legal battles, including medieval trials by ordeal and the Trial of Giordano Bruno, which would impact the later trial of Galileo.

For years, Professor Linder has studied the fascinating intersection between history and jurisprudence. Now he's crafted these lectures to share that fascination with you.

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

©2017 The Teaching Company, LLC; 2017 The Great Courses (P)2017 The Great Courses

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  • Overall
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  • Mark
  • 29-12-2017

Interesting material, but . . .

The material covered in this course is undoubtedly interesting and the lectures improve as the series progresses. But given Professor Linder's credentials and accomplishments, I had hoped for more analysis and scholarship. Instead, we get straight-up story telling, often delivered from the cinematic perspective of an omniscient narrator. This makes for light, entertaining listening, but the legal and historical significance of each trial are only touched upon briefly, if at all.

Professor Linder's reading of his script is also distracting. He is likeable and has a pleasant enough voice, but each lecture is marred by a dozen or more slip ups and mispronunciations. The overall impression is of a cold reading captured in one take and presented unedited. Great Courses lecturers are usually much more polished.

Despite these reservations, I listened to this course in its entirety and enjoyed much of what I heard. I appreciated the Professor's knowledgeable rehearsal of the details of each case, but was frustrated that he never went deeper. As mentioned above, I had hoped for a course exploring the legal, moral and social issues raised by these trials.

21 of 23 people found this review helpful

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  • D. Littman
  • 30-12-2017

Good intro to a range of famous court cases

One of the great things about the Great Courses series is that they can give the listener a 101 level introduction to a new (or renewed, for courses forgotten decades ago) area of study. I am a dedicated listener (and in some cases, watcher) of Teaching Co. courses of this kind. Of course, a 101 level course that is completed in only, say 12 hours, can also seem somewhat superficial, since a true 101 course on the same topic in freshman year of college has lots more hours as well as lots of reading materials the college freshman must read if he or she hopes to get a good grade. The Teaching Co tries hard to achieve a balance between their own 101 by bridging toward the college 101, without getting all the way there.

I found this course to be closer to the superficial 101, which means I hungered for more information about the cases about which I knew little or nothing (mostly the in the first half of the course) while I came away slightly dissatisfied with those about which I already knew a good deal (mostly in the last 1/4 of the course). I still give it 4 stars overall, it has already driven me looking for more material on the few cases about which I knew nothing, so I can make my own bridge in the direction of the freshman 101. In that sense, this course and this professor has accomplished the key objectives of Teaching Co courses -- giving me a broad understanding of this topic and making me thirsty for more information on particular lectures.

The lecturer is quite entertaining, and brings in plenty of ancillary information to give the listener context about the case itself. Each lecture is structured in such a way that the entire 30 minutes is not dominated by the trial itself, but gives background on the times, the "crime," the players, and where appropriate, the consequences of the event.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Craig
  • 22-10-2018

missing pieces

I don't know if there's a difference between a case the Supreme Court hears versus a trial. If there is, I wish the author could have confirmed that. If not, we're missing some important ones. Regardless, the Lindbergh baby case, Capone's conviction, and Lizzy Borden strike me as at least on par with this class. The trials of King Charles 1, Joan of Arc, and Martin Luther are at the very least more historically relevant than OJ Simpson.

While fascinating, and worth the time (as almost all great courses are) this collection feels America-centric, and focused on racial trials, especially negative racial trials. The pertinence of that depends on the reader, but worth noting.

The author is learned and well-spoken. The lectures compelling. While I can hope there is a second volume that is more expansive globally and by subject-matter, I'm glad I read this.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Brent Chester
  • 25-07-2018

Great Trials

I have listen to at least 15 great horses lectures. Great trails is easily the best. The narration is superb.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Christian
  • 19-06-2018

loved the whole book! Incredible historical cases

I couldn't stop listening. I hadn't heard about most of the cases so very educational

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Carlos
  • 17-05-2019

Decent

The lectures do a good job of summarizing each of the cases discussed. However the lectures don't address how the cases affected the law nor do they explicitly outline the lessons to take from them. I found myself asking "so what?". Also this was too western centric but says in the title these lectures reference world history.

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  • Dina Marie Jones
  • 01-05-2019

Very interesting listen

I enjoyed these as stories, but I would have liked to hear more about any "lessons" each case might have taught us. Was the impact US centralized? Global? Did that case make us look differently at eye witness testimony? Did that case make headlines for a reason other than the obvious? What were the legal ramifications of the trial and its outcome, etc. But each case is interesting and worth knowing about.

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  • Sam Ryan
  • 11-04-2019

Amazing, with some caveats.

This may be one of the essential audio books every lawyer should listen to. Even in the stories you think yo know, you'll learn something new. My only gripe, is that there's not a single case from British common law, which is an odd oversight, all things considered.

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  • J. Stone (Huff)
  • 05-04-2019

Complete was of time

Don't bother just a recap of court cases no point to the entire outline I am still trying to understand

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  • A. D. DeLong
  • 06-03-2019

Actually very interesting

Many historical cases were discussed which I never knew about previously. And for more recent cases that I did know about, new details were provided.

Overall I really enjoyed these lectures.