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History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration

Follow in the footsteps of history's most ambitious and influential explorers from antiquity through the space age in this captivating course taught by a top-rated professor.
History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 87.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the very best. Wonderful, exciting adventure presented by one of the most engaging professors we've encountered.
Date published: 2022-05-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A More Nunced View of the Explorers of the Past In grade and high school we learned the heroic narratives of explorers. In this course they are examined in the context of their times as we now understand them. They are also explained in some hilarious ways. Henry Hudson and Columbus as a multi-nationals. Throughout, the presumptions of many explorers about the territories they sought stands out. Another theme emerges: the danger and promise of long distance ocean travel.
Date published: 2022-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A top pick This course is superbly constructed. A theme is established an is followed through in each presentation. It goes beyond the usual explorers. Coverage of explorers from several continents gives the course a more comprehensive feel. The presenter is likable and easy to understand.
Date published: 2022-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Any course by the professor is worth the time I have listened to about half dozen of Professor Liulevicius's history courses, and each one is chock full of information. This is the first one for which I purchased just an audio download, but after listening to and being fascinated by the details in half the lectures, I purchased a download of the course guide, so I could look up facts after the lectures and the course concluded. .
Date published: 2022-04-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Regrettable waste of money I actually bought this course on Amazon. Too bad I delayed with watching it and now the time to return it is expired. So many fake news in those lectures! Of course, he is lecturing the European subjects that are mostly unfamiliar to Americans this is why he gets away with all that nonsense.
Date published: 2022-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A marvelous course! I've enjoyed every minute of this course! The professor has a great sense of humour and a gift for storytelling. I love how he repeatedly connects the seemingly disparate wanderings of individuals through history, and draws conclusions about the nature of humanity itself.
Date published: 2022-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "To boldly go where no one has gone before" That voice-over from "Captain Kirk" that introduced each episode of the original TV series of Star Trek in the 1960s fits well this interesting course by Professor Liudevicius (whom I had originally met through his superb course on Eastern Europe). While the lectures covering the period from Columbus' journeys forward contained information that was largely already known to me -- except for the depth of the hardships endured by those making even these relatively recent voyages -- those covering the centuries before were quite fascinating. I had been unaware of the travels of either Pytheas the Greek centuries before the beginning of the Common Era or of Ibn Battuta several hundred years later and, in addition, had only a passing acquaintance with the travels of St. Brendan, Xuanzang and Marco Polo. I found each of these lectures, accordingly, fascinating. While I did considerable traveling as a young man -- throughout Europe, including into then-Communist East Germany and East Berlin (in the mid-'60s) and also Sweden, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union (in the mid-70s) -- I went only to places already discovered and to which travel was mostly safe and reliable. In confronting these stories of those who ventured out into absolutely unknown places -- or to territories about which mainly myths existed -- I realized how differently some of us are "built." It is humbling to recognize that I simply do not have that kind of courage -- or, to be equally honest -- that level of curiosity to have assumed the risks involved. This course is a tremendous acknowledgement of elements of the human spirit that still drive our race on, even as we become much more careful to inflict minimal, unintentional harm on the places we go to or the species we encounter. The marvels of modern archaeology and DNA research have also shown us in recent years how early we humans -- and our hominid ancestors -- were "infected" by the bug of wondering "what's out there"? In recent decades we have learned that humans first ventured into Europe from Africa many centuries -- even thousands of years -- before we once thought, as well as risking lengthy ocean voyages into the Pacific from mainland Asia. For all who love, or who are interested in, travel, this course should be both fun and revealing. It is particularly informative -- and safe -- for those of us who are now primarily "armchair travelers"! In our own time, we are fortunate in that we now have robotic companions who can venture far "out there" -- or, in the cases of our vast oceans, "down there" -- where humans have not or cannot yet go, allowing us to see and experience even more distant wonders. A course to make one dream of adventures!
Date published: 2021-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from one of the best a true delight. the presentation was clear & held my attention throughout. Prof is excellent, & made every session interesting. Educational, informative & interesting.
Date published: 2021-08-30
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Discover the awe-inspiring tales of the world's most influential explorers. From ancient wayfarers to modern astronauts, intrepid individuals bound the continents together, connected isolated peoples, and sparked a cross-fertilization of ideas, technologies, and even foods. Follow history's adventurers to the frozen Poles, Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa, the ocean's depths, and the final frontier of space.


Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

To study the deepest impulses in human nature, we see the lure of wealth and conquest, the deep-seated urge for fame and glory, the quest for higher ends, a basic human determination.


University of Tennessee

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

By This Professor

Turning Points in Modern History
A History of Eastern Europe
The Rise of Communism: From Marx to Lenin
Communism in Power: From Stalin to Mao
History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration
The Secret World of Espionage
History's Greatest Voyages of Exploration


The Earliest Explorers

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.

32 min
The Scientific Voyage of Pytheas the Greek

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.

31 min
St. Brendan-The Travels of an Irish Monk

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.

29 min
Xuanzang's Journey to the West

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.

30 min
Leif Eriksson the Lucky

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.

31 min
Marco Polo and Sir John Mandeville

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.

31 min
Ibn Battuta-Never the Same Route Twice

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.

30 min
Portugal's Great Leap Forward

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.

31 min
The Enigmatic Christopher Columbus

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."

30 min
Magellan and the Advent of Globalization

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.

30 min
The Ruthless Ambition of the Conquistadors

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.

29 min
Henry Hudson-Death on the Ice

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.

30 min
The Jesuits on a Global Mission

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.

30 min
Captain Cook Maps the World

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.

30 min
Alexander von Humboldt-Explorer Genius

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.

30 min
Jefferson Dispatches Lewis and Clark

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.

29 min
Sir John Franklin's Epic Disaster

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.

30 min
Ida Pfeiffer-Victorian Extreme Traveler

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.

30 min
Japan Discovers the West

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?

30 min
Dr. Livingstone and Mary Kingsley in Africa

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.

30 min
Arctic Feats and Fates

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.

29 min
Antarctic Rivalries

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.

30 min
A Deep-Sea Dive into the Mariana Trench

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.

30 min
The Race to Outer Space

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.

31 min