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Publisher's Summary

What is so important about the year 1215? There are some history buffs who may be able to tell you that 1215 is the year the Magna Carta was signed, but there are even fewer who know that King John of England’s acceptance of this charter was only one of four major, world-changing events of this significant year. In fact, the social, cultural, political, geographical, and religious shifts that occurred in this year alone had such a huge impact on the entire world, it warrants an entire course of study for anyone truly interested in the pivotal points of history that brought us to where we are now. 

As it turns out, the year 1215 was a major turning point in world history. Although the drafting of the Magna Carta is perhaps the most well-known event of 1215, anyone in Europe at the time would have told you the meeting of the Church’s Fourth Lateran Council was much more significant. Meanwhile, in Asia, a Mongol ruffian named Genghis Khan was embarking on a mission for world domination, beginning with his success at the Battle of Beijing, while Islam was experiencing a Golden Age centered around Baghdad’s House of Wisdom. Other cultures and societies around the globe were also experiencing pivotal moments in their development - from the Americas to Africa and Asia and beyond. 

These seismic events were only possible thanks to a confluence of global conditions, starting with the climate. Although we might not be familiar with the specifics, the ripple effect from these events can still be felt all over the world today. Years That Changed History: 1215 is a unique course, offering you the chance to delve into one of the most interesting periods in world history. Over 24 fast-paced lectures, Professor Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University gives you the Big History of this surprisingly impactful year, introducing you to the people, events, and wide-ranging influences of the year 1215. 

Among other fascinating discoveries, you will investigate how climate changes affected the population of Europe; explore the circumstances for the Magna Carta (which originally had nothing to do with human rights and liberty for everyday people); find out why the Fourth Lateran Council mattered so much; and tour the world beyond Europe to gain a true sense of global history. This last point about “global history” is an important one. Most history courses have to select a theme, which by its nature limits the scope of the curriculum. In choosing a year as her theme, Professor Armstrong is able to take you around the world, from the ancient Maya to the House of Baghdad to Shogun Japan. Professor Armstrong takes the world as her theme - and what a truly captivating world it is! 

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

©2019 The Great Courses (P)2019 The Teaching Company, LLC

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  • Carol
  • 16-08-2019

1215 -- Before and Beyond

I chose this course for two reasons; first because I really enjoyed "1066: The Year that Changed Everything"; and second, because I wondered what Dr. Armstrong could possibly have said about Machu Picchu to send one reviewer off the deep end, as it apparently did.

Regarding Item #1, the two are opposites. 1066 should really be subtitled "The Year that Changed Everything... for England." It is six very focused lectures. This one should more properly be titled "Centuries that Changed History: 1100-1300." Since 1215 does fall (sort of) in the center of that, and some pivotal events did take place, there is some rationale to focus on that year, but these 24 lectures are all over the place and often confusing.

The three 1215 foci are the Magna Carta, the Fourth Lateran Council, and the Battle of Beijing. I learned a great deal about the first and second; I was embarrasingly ignorant about the MC, especially given my rather extensive background in British history (ok, I studied mostly 18th century England and its "first empire," aka the Americas, but still...). One thing I learned was that the vaunted effects of the MC for "the common man" were originally negligible. It was written to address the very specific gripes of a few nobles, and its fundamental contributions to English Common Law came much later than 1215.

I also knew next to nothing about the Fourth Lateran Council, and found much merit in Dr. Armstrong's thorough coverage of the reasons for and results of this ecclesiastical council, whose effects included the ramped-up persecution of "fringe" groups--meaning anyone who was different and/or didn't tow the Papal line (Jews and Cathars were outta luck big time), and that much-feared minority, women. The Council's ramifications for monastic orders were also fascinating. Understanding the Council requires covering a time span that both predates and extends long after 1215--which Dr. Armstrong does admirably, and I think a 12-lecture couse centering on the European world before and after the Council might have been more effective.

Then there are the Mongols. Dr. Armstrong admits both (1) to being out of her area of strict expertise here, and (2) to have developed a great enthusiasm to learn more about these fascinating people. Both of these are evident in the unfocused and anecdotal lectures, as nomadic and fast-moving as the Mongols themselves. We hear a lot about their lifestyle, their conquests (which almost incidentally included the conquest of northern China and the Battle of Beijing in 1215), and about the charisma and military achievements of Genghis Khan, but I found it more confusing than enlightening. If I hadn't read the first two novels of "The Mongoliad" epic, I really would have been lost.

And then we have Africa and the Americas. I'm not sure why, except that there is a current trend to lionize "Big History" and all-inclusiveness. I happen to be enthusiastic about Big History, but here it's a misstep. The very brief discussions of three major African civilizations (Mali, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe) are interesting but ... in the context of this course, why? Then to try and cover the pre-Columbian world of North, South, and Mesoamerica in a half-hour lecture, well ... let's just say the three Great Courses entries by archaeologist/anthropologist Edwin Barnhart cover the same ground–in 48 hours (12 hours each on North and South America, 24 on Mesoamerica). I'm still not sure what it was Dr. Armstrong said about Machu Picchu that upset that reviewer, since it went by so fast I barely heard the words.

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  • Mike
  • 30-07-2019

Came for the Mongols, Stayed for the Magna Carta

Any professor who can make the Fourth Lateran Council interesting is gifted for sure :)

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  • JOHN DAVIS
  • 28-01-2021

Somewhat of a disappointment

This course had the distinct character of a professor taking a central subject and then trying to fill in enough material to sell as a course. Professor Armstrong is a talented lecturer but this had the distinct feeling of a teacher reading to a group of preteens. Would not recommend this course.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-08-2020

excellent as always

Professor Armstrong is one of my favorite instructors, and this new course didn't disappoint. It's thorough without being tedious, humorous without being light, and an excellent addition to her other courses on Arthurian legend and medieval times.

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  • BF Palo Alto
  • 14-07-2019

superb

I listen to almost all of professor Armstrong's courses. she is a pleasure to hear. although the clustering of events around 12:15 is somewhat contrived, It is an enjoyable course

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  • AJG
  • 15-01-2021

Always the best lectures

Professor Dorsey Armstrong always has the most engaging and interesting lectures that are well-researched and entertaining.

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  • Allan
  • 08-01-2020

Amazing Course

Great teacher here and an even better look at life in the 13th century around the world.

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  • Jo Page
  • 30-09-2019

Dorsey Armstrong Rocks!

And not only that, she's got a golden year to deal with! I'm a Lutheran pastor so church history and medieval history is part of my stock in trade, sort of. In the other courses of hers, as with this one, she is personable, thorough and brings the time and the cultures she is dealing with into vivid focus. And who knew I would enjoy four lectures on the Mongols so very much? And I am psyched to see what she will tackle next. (She crushed it with her plague course!)

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  • Holly
  • 22-07-2021

Love this lady!!

I would buy a course on any subject from this woman!!! She’s hilarious and easily makes complex historical subjects super relatable. She is responsible for my love and interest of this era!

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  • c_clemens90
  • 16-06-2021

wow

great book filled with alot of things I had no idea about! definitely looking forward to learning more about Japan, China and the Mongolians!

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  • smetters
  • 18-08-2019

SUPERB

this is engaging, clever and well thought out. I loved it and am now a fellow fan of the Great Khan.

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