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The World Was Never the Same: Events That Changed History

Get a comprehensive and riveting overview of defining moments that profoundly changed the world.
The World Was Never the Same: Events That Changed History is rated 3.5 out of 5 by 204.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Missing important world events Some world changing events are missing compared to other included events which hardly mattered to the world. Example: why is the assassination of J F Kennedy (included) more important than Mongol Conquest (missing)? Example: why is the splitting of Roman Catholicism into East Roman Empire and West Roman Empire not included? In general most of included events are worth reading.
Date published: 2023-03-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Made Up History. A great storyteller but not a good historian, especially when he relates stories about Jesus. He comes off more like a Sunday teacher than a college professor. If I had signed up for his course at college I would have dropped it after a few sessions.
Date published: 2022-08-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Major Events Relevant Today HIGHLIGHTS: 1.) Fears’ (Lecture 29) immortal economic wisdom for today's last decade: "STOCK DOES NOT GO UP 10% ON A REGULAR BASIS." 2.) A political reason caused the Biblical census travel of Joseph and Mary (L9): In 6 A.D., a Judean deputation asked Augustus to annex their nation. Though Judea was "notoriously difficult to govern", it was also a lynchpin in Roman Middle East defenses. Augustus agreed and the census solidified his claim. 3.) Fears (L17) adroitly discusses the clash of Erasmus' Greek edition of the New Testament with St. Jerome's Vulgate Bible. Based on the Greek edition, Luther (L18) concluded: "…we are saved through faith, by grace alone, not by works". 4.) In a day and age of ever-intrusive, debt-ridden Federal government this course is interesting. Solon of Athens (L5), against a background of debt crisis and exploitation by elites, turned things around by creating a balanced democracy. Later, 55 colonial delegates responded to a 1787 debt crisis caused by British elites when they established our Constitutional democracy. L21: "The American Revolution offers…instructive study…when a government (Britain) decides that it knows what is best for its constituents." 5.) Fears' well-portrayed desperate (L20) Battle of Vienna (the "bastion of the Catholic faith") would finally halt the Islamic aggression. He states (L11): There are over a billion Muslims and "still (some) believe that…Islam is at constant war with the infidel." Nigerians, among many others, agree. INCOMPLETE: The Four Noble Truths of Buddha (L3) seem undeniable. Its "right path" is based on the right view, intent, effort, speech, action, and livelihood. But neither Fears nor my Buddhist friends describe the parameters identifying the "right" concept. Sapolski in the Great Course "Stress and Your Body" would say the brain's frontal lobe supplies such information. Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religions would rely on written parameters. I wish there had been more specifics to help me distinguish between what is subjectively "right" under Buddhism vs. the current "right is whatever you feel" - beyond the first being the conclusions of an elder and the second the wishes of the satiated and immature. The listed end goal of "seeking solitude" to reach nirvana has been a grace to over-crowded nations (Great Course: “Foundations of Eastern Civilization" by Benjamin), but could it be a liability to the human duty to relieve the suffering of others? CON: L12: A “liberal education" historically meant that opposing viewpoints presented opportunity for discussion and resolution. Fears states that millions are now taught in the same way. NOT SO: a.) Professors and their national organizations are well over 90% of one political wing. Non-compliance with that viewpoint is placed in "safety zones", if not rejected or disciplined. b.) Fears addresses God throughout his historical analysis. “In God We Trust” is written on the wall of the U.S. House of Representatives. Yet God is not liberally debated in schools but strangled. c.) Poland's “ZOMO" (Great Course: History of Eastern Europe_Liulevicius, L16) and East Germany’s “Jugendweihe” (ibid, L18) are forerunners today's U.S. campus black shirted, armored, cudgel-carrying “elitist” thugs. d.) “Science" became a term to extinguish disagreement with the campus agenda. However, in Fears' defense (on point d), his "Scope" contains words that should be carved on the entryway of every school: "SCIENCE IS NEVER ‘PURE’ SCIENCE. IT IS THE PRODUCT OF THE POLITICAL AND INTELLECTUAL CURRENTS OF ITS TIME.” CONCLUSION: This 2010 course upholds the late Dr. Fears' reputation for providing unexpected insight. Most of Fears' courses are strongly themed with multiple threads. Having gone through it twice, I feel that this course occasionally jumps a bit unpredictably. But pick your topics of interest and it will add much to your depth, hence the 5 rating despite the above cautions. The audio works well. The stories he tells are much superior to the Guide.
Date published: 2022-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Instructor and Graphics I love it because I am a History Buff. Keep up the good work
Date published: 2022-03-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Overview of History The professor gives a good overview of history via 36 individual events. I would probably have given him five stars were it not for his irritating mispronunciation of simple English words, most notably "nucular" and "idears." (This despite the fact that he speaks American English with no noticeable regional accent.) While I might have chosen one or two events he did not, overall his choices are excellent. He justifies each of his choices at the beginning of the lecture, and explains them well and clearly, giving enough background to understand the situation, even if the viewer/listener is on unfamiliar ground. (The lecture titles are sometimes a bit obscure or even "cutesy", even if you are familiar with the event, but he always clarifies it in the opening minute or two,) I did notice a couple of relatively minor errors, such as when he stated "In my opinion the Hebrew word in the Ten Commandments is thou shalt not 'kill' and not 'murder.''" (approximate quote, as I did not write down his exact words at the time of viewing) when it is perfectly clear to anyone who speaks Hebrew that the word "tirtzach" is "murder." ("Taharog" would be the word that would be translated into English as "kill.") The professor does apparently have Christianity as his personal belief system, but that does not prevent his choosing several events related to other religions (usually events related to the founding of these other religions). However, it does color some of his comments throughout the course. He makes no secret of his American patriotism and is even more blatant about his feelings in this area.
Date published: 2021-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Introduction This lecture series is a must for a serious understanding of how our society was formed.
Date published: 2021-10-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very disappointing! The subject matter had sounded very interesting and I had hoped to learn a lot, but I was very disappointed with the lecturer. He presented his information in a rambling, uncoordinated style that was hard to follow and was not very polished or articulate. His religious and national biases were very evident in what he said and the way he spoke, which can be overlooked usually, but in this case they were so obvious and overwhelming that it was very irritating and distracting. Some of the events he chose were very unusual, but still could have been interesting if presented properly. And his last lecture on 9/11 wasn't worth listening to. He spent about 5 minutes on the actual event and the rest of the time recapping what he had said in previous lectures and then giving a type of "sermon" on his own personal thoughts afterwards and I actually had to stop listening to it (which I have never done in a Great Course before). Although I have loved all the other Great Courses we have seen over the last few years, I do not recommend this particular course.
Date published: 2021-05-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Entertaining Storyteller! Of course we all have our own lists like this, and I have mine. I got this course for two reasons: (1) I wanted to hear about what Dr. Fears had on his list (2) Having a previous course from Dr. Fears, I liked his way of storytelling. However, in this course, Dr. Fear's choice of events and his lectures were heavily influenced by his Christian beliefs. One of his choices, the Trial of Jesus, is arguably a fable and not an actual event. Others, like the lecture on Erasmus and the Painting of the Sistine Chapel as having such an impact on history would be certainly debatable, and his lecture borders on being a sermon. On the plus side, Dr. Fears is in good form on the other lectures, and I enjoyed them. By and large, he has made some good choices for his list, even though it doesn't match mine exactly. In fact, in any century, you can pick a list of events that left the world a different place, and be absolutely right.
Date published: 2020-09-11
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Join storyteller and award-winning Professor J. Rufus Fears as he presents what he considers to be the 36 defining moments in our past with The World Was Never the Same: Events That Changed History. This course is an intriguing tour of history, from the creation of the Code of Hammurabi to the opening battles of the American Revolution to the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Using his impressive ability to draw lessons from the past, Professor Fears gives you new insights into familiar and unfamiliar events.


J. Rufus Fears

We are no wiser than the Athenians of the 5th century B.C., no wiser than Sophocles for our science of today has shown us the overwhelming power of genes, of DNA.


University of Oklahoma

Dr. J. Rufus Fears was David Ross Boyd Professor of Classics at the University of Oklahoma, where he held the G. T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty. He also served as David and Ann Brown Distinguished Fellow of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University. Before joining the faculty at the University of Oklahoma, Professor Fears was Professor of History and Distinguished Faculty Research Lecturer at Indiana University, and Professor of Classical Studies at Boston University. An acclaimed teacher and scholar with more than 25 awards for teaching excellence, Professor Fears was chosen Professor of the Year on three occasions by students at the University of Oklahoma. His other accolades included the Medal for Excellence in College and University Teaching from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, the University Continuing Education Association (UCEA) Great Plains Region Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the UCEA's National Award for Teaching Excellence. Professor Fears's books and monographs include The Cult of Jupiter and Roman Imperial Ideology and The Theology of Victory at Rome. He edited a three-volume edition of Selected Writings of Lord Acton. His discussions of the Great Books have appeared in newspapers across the country and have aired on national television and radio programs. Professor Fears passed away in October 2012.

By This Professor

Life Lessons from the Great Myths
The World Was Never the Same: Events That Changed History
The World Was Never the Same: Events That Changed History


Hammurabi Issues a Code of Law (1750 B.C.)

01: Hammurabi Issues a Code of Law (1750 B.C.)

Begin your survey of 36 events and ideas that changed history by taking a close look at the creation of Hammurabi’s code of law. With its concepts of minimum wage, family law, and victims’ rights, the code provided many fundamental elements that can still be found in today’s legal systems.

32 min
Moses and Monotheism (1220 B.C.)

02: Moses and Monotheism (1220 B.C.)

Monotheism is a predominant religious tradition throughout much of the world, and its emergence dates back to the era of Moses. Here, discover how the life of Moses—including such iconic events as the Exodus and the issuing of the Ten Commandments—set the stage for three great religions that continue to influence adherents worldwide.

30 min
The Enlightenment of the Buddha (526 B.C.)

03: The Enlightenment of the Buddha (526 B.C.)

Explore another fundamental religious event that forever changed the world: the development of Buddhism through the teachings of Siddartha Gautama. The messages of this world faith—including leaving behind all that makes you angry and treating everyone with kindness—have helped billions ponder the meaning of their lives.

30 min
Confucius Instructs a Nation (553 - 479 B.C.)

04: Confucius Instructs a Nation (553 - 479 B.C.)

Confucius was an ancient Chinese scholar who lost his job for speaking the truth and thus shaped the history of one of today’s most important nations. In revealing how Confucius shaped the world through the Dao (or “Way”), Professor Fears shows why all civilizations are indebted to this thinker and his profound philosophy.

30 min
Solon - Democracy Begins (594 B.C.)

05: Solon - Democracy Begins (594 B.C.)

The democratic ideals that form the core of Western civilization wouldn’t exist without Solon, the ancient Greek ruler responsible for introducing the first truly balanced democracy to Athens. Learn how this system was structured, why troubling economic conditions made the city-state ripe for political reform, and more.

30 min
Marathon - Democracy Triumphant (490 B.C.)

06: Marathon - Democracy Triumphant (490 B.C.)

After democracy was created, it had to be protected. And no battle was more important to defending democracy in its formative stages than the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Relive the clash between Athens and the massive Persian Empire; a conflict that involved decisive leadership and surprise tactics.

29 min
Hippocrates Takes an Oath (430 B.C.)

07: Hippocrates Takes an Oath (430 B.C.)

Thousands of years after it was first spoken, the Hippocratic Oath is still revered by doctors around the world. Travel back to ancient Athens and investigate how Hippocrates revolutionized our understanding of medicine—just in time for the Great Plague of Athens, which devastated the city-state in 430 B.C.

30 min
Caesar Crosses the Rubicon (49 B.C.)

08: Caesar Crosses the Rubicon (49 B.C.)

Why was Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon River in 49 B.C. such a momentous event in world history? What was the story behind this dramatic moment? And how did it bring about a political concept that would dominate Western civilization for the next 1,800 years? Find out in this fascinating lecture.

30 min
Jesus - The Trial of a Teacher (A.D. 36)

09: Jesus - The Trial of a Teacher (A.D. 36)

In A.D. 36, Jesus of Nazareth was put on trial before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate—and the verdict would forever alter the course of human civilization and spirituality. Follow the path of Christianity’s founder and examine why he was considered to be, at the time, such a revolutionary figure.

31 min
Constantine I Wins a Battle (A.D. 312)

10: Constantine I Wins a Battle (A.D. 312)

Travel back to A.D. October 28, 312. Against a background of fierce Christian persecution, Constantine marches into Rome and becomes history’s first Christian emperor. In the process, this iconic—yet despotic—leader transformed his faith into a powerful religious force that would spread throughout Europe and the Near East.

30 min
Muhammad Moves to Medina - The Hegira (A.D. 622)

11: Muhammad Moves to Medina - The Hegira (A.D. 622)

Islam is one of the world’s great monotheistic faiths, and in today’s world, is sometimes misunderstood. The spread of Islam around the world began in A.D. 622 with Muhammad’s flight into the city of Medina. This momentous date and its implications are the subject of this captivating lecture.

30 min
Bologna Gets a University (1088)

12: Bologna Gets a University (1088)

Before Cambridge and Oxford, there was the University of Bologna, founded in Italy in 1088. Here, Professor Fears details how Europe’s first academic institution emerged and, in doing so, reveals the origins of scholarly procedures and educational traditions that remain with us well into the 21st century.

31 min
Dante Sees Beatrice (1283)

13: Dante Sees Beatrice (1283)

Discover how Dante’s love for Beatrice—and the epic poem he would write to honor her—brought about the birth of the Renaissance. One of the most important works of literature ever written, The Divine Comedy focuses on the rebirth of the human spirit through the power of God’s love.

30 min
Black Death - Pandemics and History (1348)

14: Black Death - Pandemics and History (1348)

Between 1347 and 1348, the Black Death killed 25 million people—nearly one-third of the population of Europe. Is it possible for tiny germs to transform the course of history? Or are humans above the ultimate destructive force of disease? Find out as you relive the traumatic story of this devastating event.

30 min
Columbus Finds a New World (1492)

15: Columbus Finds a New World (1492)

Learn how Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World in October of 1492 set the stage for much of modern Western history. The story behind this iconic expedition—from the earliest attempts to gain political support to the last days of the explorer’s life—is one of high adventure.

31 min
Michelangelo Accepts a Commission (1508)

16: Michelangelo Accepts a Commission (1508)

Just as important to history are beautiful events like the creation of artistic masterpieces. One of the most supreme of these: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. Here, Professor Fears guides you through some of the work’s many powerful religious images, each of which illustrates the High Renaissance ideal of absolute beauty.

30 min
Erasmus - A Book Sets Europe Ablaze (1516)

17: Erasmus - A Book Sets Europe Ablaze (1516)

Witness as Erasmus’s edition of the New Testament, which translated the Bible from Latin back into its original Greek, revolutionizes Christianity and paves the way for the Protestant Reformation. Along the way, learn what this work owes to the humanist ideology of the time and the invention of the printing press.

30 min
Luther’s New Course Changes History (1517)

18: Luther’s New Course Changes History (1517)

One of the most defining moments in religious history was the Protestant Reformation. And it all started with the subject of this lecture: All Hallows Eve, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of Wittenberg University’s chapel and challenged Europe’s most powerful religious and political institutions.

30 min
The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588)

19: The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588)

One of the most decisive naval battles in human history, the defeat of the Spanish armada at the hands of the British navy, marked Britain’s transition from island nation into global empire. How did this epic clash come about? And what strategies did the British use to beat back the Spanish forces?

30 min
The Battle of Vienna (1683)

20: The Battle of Vienna (1683)

Using his expert storytelling abilities, Professor Fears recreates the 1683 Battle of Vienna—a defining moment in the struggle between the values of the Middle East and the values of the West. This battle between the Ottoman and Holy Roman empires would also create geopolitical tensions that remain even today.

30 min
The Battle of Lexington (1775)

21: The Battle of Lexington (1775)

The United States of America, the first modern nation founded on moral principles, wouldn’t exist without the battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Explore the moment that sparked the birth of our country, and learn how it led to a declaration of independence and a full-blown revolution against Great Britain.

30 min
General Pickett Leads a Charge (1863)

22: General Pickett Leads a Charge (1863)

Had the Confederacy won the Civil War, the history of the United States would have been vastly different. And the reason for the Confederacy’s ultimate decline and defeat was the iconic Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863—the subject of this dynamic lecture on a pivotal moment in American history.

30 min
Adam Smith (1776) versus Karl Marx (1867)

23: Adam Smith (1776) versus Karl Marx (1867)

Separated by almost a century, Adam Smith and Karl Marx could not have been more different in their economic views. And yet, as you discover, their respective works—Smith’s The Wealth of Nations and Marx’s Das Kapital—established two conflicting views of capitalism that are still with us today.

31 min
Charles Darwin Takes an Ocean Voyage (1831)

24: Charles Darwin Takes an Ocean Voyage (1831)

Encounter another book that shook the foundations of history: Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The product of an ocean voyage in 1831, the work described the theory of evolution by natural selection, an idea that would revolutionize not only the science and culture of Darwin’s time, but of the 20th century as well.

31 min
Louis Pasteur Cures a Child (1885)

25: Louis Pasteur Cures a Child (1885)

In this lecture, Professor Fears explains why Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease changed history and, with it, the life of every man, woman, and child on the planet. It’s an engaging medical story that transformed rabies, anthrax, cholera, and more from immediate death sentences into conquerable illnesses.

31 min
Two Brothers Take a Flight (1903)

26: Two Brothers Take a Flight (1903)

Humanity’s conquest of the air began with a single flight taken by two brothers from Ohio. Discover the story behind the Wright brothers’ 1903 first flight at Kitty Hawk, an unprecedented event that would have enormous implications for the future of commercial travel, warfare, and space flight.

30 min
The Archduke Makes a State Visit (1914)

27: The Archduke Makes a State Visit (1914)

With the 1914 assassination of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the stage was set for World War I and for the turmoil that would last most of the 20th century. Travel back to Sarajevo as political terrorists commit one of the most shocking murders in modern history.

30 min
One Night in Petrograd (1917)

28: One Night in Petrograd (1917)

November, 1917: The Bolsheviks seized power from the broken Russian Empire. What emerged was the Soviet Union, which would become one of the most powerful geopolitical forces of the 20th century. Unearth the roots of Communist Russia and the revolutionary moment that turned the dream of a Communist state into a bitter reality.

30 min
The Day the Stock Market Crashed (1929)

29: The Day the Stock Market Crashed (1929)

It was a devastating economic event that shattered the lives of millions and created a tidal wave of effects around the world. Here, experience the stock market crash of October 29, 1929, from the personal perspective of an everyday American family; also, learn how it set the stage for events covered in subsequent lectures.

30 min
Hitler Becomes Chancellor of Germany (1933)

30: Hitler Becomes Chancellor of Germany (1933)

Professor Fears’s theme in this lecture is Adolph Hitler’s inauguration as chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Once in power, this political leader would unleash both World War II and the Holocaust. So how—and why—did history’s greatest monster gain such a strong hold over the German people?

30 min
Franklin Roosevelt Becomes President (1933)

31: Franklin Roosevelt Becomes President (1933)

The very same year Hitler became chancellor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president of the United States. Focusing on the honest and inspiring inauguration speech delivered on March 4, learn how Roosevelt instilled hope in a disillusioned and wounded nation, as well as prepared it to face the tough times ahead.

30 min
The Atomic Bomb Is Dropped (1945)

32: The Atomic Bomb Is Dropped (1945)

Visit the birth of the Atomic Age with the explosion of the first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. It was a terrifying moment in world history that had an untold impact on the future of warfare, science, and geopolitics.

30 min
Mao Zedong Begins His Long March (1934)

33: Mao Zedong Begins His Long March (1934)

No one in 1900 would have predicted that, a century later, China would become one of the world’s superpowers. And it all started in 1934 with the rise of Mao Zedong, chairman of the Communist Party—whose authoritarian rule is the heart of this intriguing lecture.

30 min
John F. Kennedy Is Assassinated (1963)

34: John F. Kennedy Is Assassinated (1963)

Why, and how, did the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, change the course of history? Find out the answer by exploring this iconic leader’s rise to political success, his handling of important international crises—and the tragic day that signaled an end to America’s innocence.

30 min
Dr. King Leads a March (1963)

35: Dr. King Leads a March (1963)

Along with the Gettysburg Address and the inaugural addresses of Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy is Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Professor Fears retells the life of the civil rights leader behind this landmark moment, along with the ways he sought to heal a racially divided nation.

30 min
September 11, 2001

36: September 11, 2001

Conclude the course with a pointed examination of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the new world they created. Afterward, meditate on the lessons learned from the past 35 lectures and come to realize one of the most fundamental lessons of history.

32 min