History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration
Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University. Professor Liulevicius has won many awards and honors, including the University of Tennessee's Excellence in Teaching Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. At the university he teaches courses on modern German history, Western civilization, European diplomatic history, Nazi Germany, World War I, war and culture, 20th-century Europe, nationalism, and utopian thought. Dr. Liulevicius has published numerous articles and two books: War Land on the Eastern Front: Culture, National Identity, and German Occupation in World War I and The German Myth of the East, 1800 to the Present.
Professor Liulevicius participated in The Great Courses Professor Chat series. Read the chat to learn more about diplomacy and war
01: The Earliest Explorers
Begin your study journey with the Vivaldi brothers' ill-fated journey to India. What drove the brothers-or drives any explorer-to take a risk and venture into the unknown? Consider that question as you look at theories on how the Pacific islands became populated starting with an epic movement 7,000 years ago.
02: The Scientific Voyage of Pytheas the Greek
Meet the originator of scientific exploration, who trekked to the edge of the world so that he could see for himself what was there. Put Pytheas the Greek in the context of his time and place, sketching the Mediterranean as a cradle of civilization and examining how word of his voyage influenced later exploration.
03: St. Brendan-The Travels of an Irish Monk
Consider religious motivations for exploration. Men like the Irish monk St. Brendan-who sailed the Atlantic in a tiny leather boat-sought God and fled the world's corruptions, some searching for paradise and some merely for seclusion. Examine how legendary re-workings of such real adventures left a surprising legacy that would affect later exploration.
04: Xuanzang's Journey to the West
Alarmed at inconsistencies in the Buddhist texts available to him, Xuanzang embarked on an illegal holy pilgrimage to acquire authoritative teachings. See how, in the process of the monk's travels, he brought Buddhist traditions to the Confucian Chinese, achieved celebrity status, and became the central character in the greatest classical Chinese novel.
05: Leif Eriksson the Lucky
While the story of Leif Eriksson and the Vikings is relatively well known, Professor Liulevicius takes you deeper into the question of why the Vikings, or Norsemen, explored, as evidenced by their broader culture of adventure and values that pressed them onwards in often violent ways.
06: Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville
Although traders had traveled the Silk Road since the Roman Empire, there was little awareness of what existed at the other end-until Marco Polo's accounts of China opened Europeans' eyes to a mysterious, advanced civilization. Start with background on the medieval world, then look closely at Polo's travels and legacy.
07: Ibn Battuta-Never the Same Route Twice
Examine the life and legacy of Ibn Battuta, who left Morocco in 1325 to make a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, but discovered a craving for spiritual travel and returned home 24 years later after covering 75,000 miles in the network woven by Muslim civilization.
08: Portugal's Great Leap Forward
How and why did tiny Portugal, a poor country, take to the seas, round the continent of Africa, hijack the Indian Ocean, and create a global empire? Find out here, with a look at Portugal's rise to superpower status, from Prince Henry the Navigator's call for exploration to Vasco da Gama's successful voyage to Asia.
09: The Enigmatic Christopher Columbus
Understand the complexities of Christopher Columbus who, in stumbling upon the Americas while attempting to reach Asia by heading West, touched off the massive Columbian Exchange of peoples, plants, commodities, and diseases. Dispel enduring myths, and explore Columbus's religious motives for launching what he called "The Enterprise of the Indies."
10: Magellan and the Advent of Globalization
Follow the path of Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, whose expedition in service of Spain became the first to circumnavigate the world, inaugurating our ability to think globally and accomplishing what Columbus had promised to do-reaching Asia by sailing west from Europe. See how his journey bound together the world economy, creating consequences down to our own times.
11: The Ruthless Ambition of the Conquistadors
Consider the most brutal of explorers, the conquistadors-Spanish military entrepreneurs including Cortés, Pizarro, and de Soto, who were not directly controlled by the monarchy, but royally sanctioned to seize wealth and lands in the New World. How did they topple civilizations using only a handful of men? What impact did they have on native societies? Find out here.
12: Henry Hudson-Death on the Ice
Switch gears from voyages of fruitful discovery to a tragic failure ending in mutiny, murder, and a mystery that endures to this day: Henry Hudson's 1610 voyage in search of the Northwest Passage to Asia, funded by two of the first multinational corporations.
13: The Jesuits on a Global Mission
Founded in 1540, the order of the Jesuits used global cultural exploration as a means to proselytize to local cultures across the world, from India and China to the Americas. Examine their controversial method of inculturation, and place the Jesuit project in the context of a larger intellectual shift towards cultural relativism.
14: Captain Cook Maps the World
Look closely at Captain Cook, an explorer who in many ways epitomized the age of scientific discovery, which lauded exploration for the sake of knowledge. See how his methods and voyages embodied new attitudes toward foreign peoples, and why it's what Cook didn't find that helped give us the complete world picture we have today.
15: Alexander von Humboldt-Explorer Genius
Learn how the scientific explorer Alexander von Humboldt-sometimes called a "second Columbus"-taught us to see the world as an interrelated ecological unit. Trace his five-year exploration of the Americas with French botanist Aimé Bonpland, in which they covered 5,950 miles and catalogued 6,300 species of plants and animals.
16: Jefferson Dispatches Lewis and Clark
On President Jefferson's (originally secret) orders, the U.S. Corps of Discovery led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out to chart the new territories gained by the Louisiana Purchase, while recording its people, flora, and fauna. How did they cross Native American-occupied lands peacefully? What was the expedition's political significance? Find out here.
17: Sir John Franklin's Epic Disaster
Consider a tragic episode: the doomed expedition of Sir John Franklin, who disappeared in 1845 along with his crew while searching for the Northwest Passage. Compare theories on the fate of the men, and see how the mystery captured the imagination of Franklin's contemporaries, helping to create a culture of adventure.
18: Ida Pfeiffer-Victorian Extreme Traveler
Meet Ida Pfeiffer, a Victorian women who defied expectations by traveling around the world twice and becoming a best-selling author describing her experiences. Follow her extraordinary journeys to exotic locales and learn how she deftly escaped some perilous situations-including cannibalistic Batak warriors in the jungles of Sumatra.
19: Japan Discovers the West
Faced with Western imperialism after 200 years of self containment, Japan discovered the West through a series of exploratory diplomatic missions abroad to America and Europe towards the end of the 19th century. Which features of Western culture did they find worth emulating? Which unfamiliar Western practices did they reject?
20: Dr. Livingstone and Mary Kingsley in Africa
First, consider how the most famous PR stunt in the history of exploration-journalist Henry Stanley finding ailing Scottish explorer Dr. Livingstone in a remote town in Africa-reveals how Africa long remained the "Dark Continent" to the outside world. Then, turn to Mary Kingsley, an Englishwoman whose writing revealed West Africa to a European audience.
21: Arctic Feats and Fates
Who was first to make it to the North Pole? Wade into the debate while examining the fascinating but lesser-known moments and figures of the race, including pilot Umberto Nobile flying a hydrogen-filled semi-rigid airship over the Pole in 1926, then crashing on a second trip, unleashing an international rescue operation.
22: Antarctic Rivalries
Now, focus on the race to the South Pole and the bitter rivalries surrounding it. Witness how Norwegian Roald Amundsen outdistanced his rival, English explorer Captain Robert Scott, whose return voyage took a tragic turn. Then, follow the hardships of British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose expedition to cross the punishing Antarctic also met disaster.
23: A Deep-Sea Dive into the Mariana Trench
Take a breathtaking look at a historic descent into the deepest place on earth-the Mariana Trench in the Pacific-by Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh. But first, discover some of the highlights of ocean exploration in the centuries before this 1960 expedition.
24: The Race to Outer Space
Why have humans ventured beyond Earth? Does the future of space exploration lie with commercial interests? Is humanity's future in space? Consider these questions as you consider the past, present, and future of space exploration, starting with the moment Apollo 8's astronauts first witnessed earthrise on Christmas Eve 1968.