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Turning Points in Medieval History

Inspect the most fascinating figures and world-altering events of the middle ages in this gripping course that explores how single, dramatic events can alter history forever.
Turning Points in Medieval History is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 62.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not a Course I Will Be Returning To- Only Average I found this course average compared to the many other history courses I have taken from the Great Courses. Starting with the things I liked, Professor Armstrong speaks very clearly and has a pleasant delivery. She is easy to listen to and tells a great story. She has enthusiasm for her subject and comes across well in her presentation of her material. Clearly she has done her research and knows the subject matter well. The drawbacks for me were that she spends too much time reviewing what she said in her previous lecture and then previewing what is coming up in the next lectures. With each lecture only being about 30 minutes in length, this took away valuable time from what you learned with each lecture. She was constantly trying to tie all the turning points together, making comparisons instead of gaining further understanding. I like when a professor makes connections with other learned material, but not without explaining the significance of the event first, and then not constantly attempting to make connections to each topic discussed. I felt like I didn't really learn that much with each lecture, it was more like an overview than a deeper investigation. Compared with other professors who really focus on diving in and using the 30 minutes to share as much material as they can given the time constraints, it seemed these lectures were just a summary. It seems these lectures were more high school level than college level, which I thought the Great Courses aimed at. The course is also quite similar to her 1215 course in that a lot of the material is repeated in both courses. I listened to Turning Points first and am about halfway through the 1215 course. Professor Armstrong has toned down the reviewing/previewing tendency in the newer course, but it is still there to a lesser extent. It depends on what you are looking for when coming to this course whether I would recommend it or not. If you want an introduction to the subject, then I would.
Date published: 2022-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting topics; plenty of material for thought After listening to Professor Armstrong’s "Great Minds of the Medieval World" (which I highly recommend,) I listened to this series. Once again, her delivery is exceptional – clear, concise, never grasping for words or ideas. Given there are only 24 lectures, one may take issue with which topics she chose. I would take exception to only one or two choices. She covers Peter Abelard in her "Great Minds" series, so I think including him here is redundant. I would have preferred a lecture on the development of an international banking system by the Knights Templar or the introduction of gunpowder to Europe. The other topics could garner ample support for their importance to the trajectory of history, and she certainly makes a case for each of them. I have the audio version and am completely satisfied. Excellent for listening to while driving or commuting, being stuck in waiting rooms, and making time pass pleasurably while doing boring, but quiet, chores.
Date published: 2022-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am a Dorsey groupie This is the third of Dosey's Great Courses I've listened to. The spirit with which she delivers her lectures is real and lively, anything but stuffy. I intend to gift it to a young girl I know who is a midlevel buff. I'm sure she will become a follower as well. I intend to work my way through all of her course.
Date published: 2021-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative, and excellent delivery This course heled me better understand the medieval period. I had known about 60% of the material covered but this course helped me understand the causes for the various events and how they were perceived at the time. It is delivered very clearly and it is just very interesting.
Date published: 2021-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great introduction to key Medieval turning points I was really pleased with this lecture series. The professor does a very good job of getting into key moments in Medieval History - not only political or military moments but social and religious ones as well. If I had one critique it's focused solely on Western Europe with no discussion of the Eastern Roman Empire/Greek world. But in terms of Western Europe and particularly important English and French moments it's fantastic.
Date published: 2021-08-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Video Viewing Software Needs Improvement You need to improve your video software - first, the software requires a login constantly - you should offer to keep user logged in, second, there is no rewind 10 seconds button - you literally have to use the slider to try to find a rough time to find a spot, third, most of the time, when you stop the software and then start it again, it says "Unknown Error" and kicks the user back to the beginning of the lecture, and finally, frequently the software just stops and you have to log in again. In short, although I like your lectures, fighting with this software constantly, not having the basic convenience buttons like just staying logged in, almost makes it not worth it - the worst video app I've ever seen from a major vendor. Please improve it - you're going to lose customers to your several competitors.
Date published: 2020-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Explanation of A Complex Subject Thank You Dorsey! Great lecture that kept me engaged. Many insights to the time period and interesting theories about the true cause of the plague(s).
Date published: 2020-06-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating dive into Medieval Europe I really enjoyed this course, I found the lectures to be very engaging and interesting.
Date published: 2019-04-25
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Overview

The Middle Ages were far from dark. On the contrary, the era was full of fascinating figures and world-altering events. Learning and innovation flourished, with the printing press, Arabic numerals, and the heavy plow all being introduced into Western society during this time. Take an unparalleled look at these moments that profoundly changed the arc of history.

About

Dorsey Armstrong

Every turning point discussed in these lectures shifted the flow of the river of history, bringing us ever closer to the modern world.

INSTITUTION

Purdue University

Dorsey Armstrong is a Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Purdue University, where she is also the head of the Department of English. She received her PhD in Medieval Literature from Duke University. She is the executive editor of the academic journal Arthuriana, which publishes cutting-edge research on the legend of King Arthur, from its medieval origins to its modern enactments. She is a recipient of the Charles B. Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, Purdue’s top undergraduate teaching honor. Her other Great Courses include The Black Death: The World’s Most Devastating Plague and The Medieval World.

By This Professor

King Arthur: History and Legend
854
The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague
854
Years That Changed History: 1215
854
Great Minds of the Medieval World
854
The Black Death: New Lessons from Recent Research
854
La Peste Negra: La Plaga Más Devastadora del Mundo
854
Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything
854
Turning Points in Medieval History

Trailer

The Fall of Rome

01: The Fall of Rome

Start your exploration of the Middle Ages with the fall of Rome and the devastating impact that losing the empire’s bureaucratic, economic, political, and military infrastructure had on Britain. Define the idea of a turning point as it’s used by the professor and learn the five major themes that will recur throughout the course.

32 min
King Arthur Defeats the Anglo-Saxons

02: King Arthur Defeats the Anglo-Saxons

The Battle of Mount Badon is arguably more significant today than it was in the Middle Ages. Learn how the figure considered the historical basis for the legendary King Arthur changed the shape of history by rallying the Britons to fight off the Anglo-Saxon invasion and creating a period of peace not known since the fall of Rome.

30 min
Spain Becomes Al-Andalus

03: Spain Becomes Al-Andalus

Explore how various broad social movements intersected in surprising ways to facilitate the “accidental” Islamic conquest of Spain in 711, producing the most multicultural and tolerant society in Europe. Understand why this occurred, how it affected medieval Europe’s conception of itself as a Christian land, and ways it ultimately contributed to other turning points, such as the calling of the First Crusade.

30 min
Charlemagne Founds the Palace School at Aachen

04: Charlemagne Founds the Palace School at Aachen

The arts, the church, and an exchange of ideas flourished during the Carolingian Renaissance begat by “Charles the Great,” king of the Franks. Investigate how Charlemagne attempted to re-create Rome in founding his revolutionary Palace School, the lengths he went to in preserving knowledge of the past, and reasons the later Renaissance could not have happened without the scholastic foundation laid at Aachen.

30 min
The Scandinavians Go “A-Viking”

05: The Scandinavians Go “A-Viking”

Starting with one of the most abrupt and startling turning points in the medieval world, the Sack of Lindisfarne by Scandinavian invaders, this lecture considers how climate change, population pressures, social and cultural values, and skill in shipbuilding all combined at exactly the right moment to make Viking raiders a force that changed the medieval world.

30 min
King Alfred Burns Some Cakes

06: King Alfred Burns Some Cakes

If not for Alfred the Great, England and English as we know them would look very different. Turn to the effects of Viking raids for the King of Wessex, whose decision to flee into the marshes—and ultimate victory in the Battle of Ethandun—marked one of the most important turning points in not only English history, but the entire medieval world.

30 min
The Battle of Lechfeld

07: The Battle of Lechfeld

Examine how a technological shift—effected in part by the stirrup, the horseshoe, and the high-back saddle—combined with a culture of violence produced profound changes in armed conflict after the Battle of Lechfeld in the year 955, when Hungarian and German armies settled a century of mutually destructive violence in a single day.

32 min
The Great Schism

08: The Great Schism

The moment of schism between the eastern and western halves of the former Roman Empire in 1054 codified what had been true in practice for centuries. See how a dispute between the patriarch of Constantinople and the pope’s representative Humbert of Silva Candida—a dispute that began over a letter about bread—would firmly split the medieval world along religious lines.

31 min
William of Normandy Conquers England

09: William of Normandy Conquers England

Perhaps the most clearly defined turning point in the medieval world, William of Normandy’s conquest of England in the 1066 Battle of Hastings inextricably joined England to continental Europe, altered language, dismantled Anglo-Saxon social structures, and put Britain back into a relationship with Rome. Learn about this remarkable conqueror who created an empire through his sheer force of will.

31 min
Peter Abelard Is Castrated

10: Peter Abelard Is Castrated

Meet the brilliant scholar Peter Abelard and his secret wife, Heloise, whose relationship and letters provide deep insight into education, romantic love, and what the medieval world was like for women. Trace how an act of horrific violence perpetrated upon him as he slept provoked Abelard into effecting social and religious change.

31 min
Pope Urban II Calls the First Crusade

11: Pope Urban II Calls the First Crusade

Pope Urban II’s call upon Christians to take up arms and reclaim the Holy Land in 1095 resonated with huge segments of the population. Investigate what social, religious, and economic concerns produced a scenario in which it seemed logical for a farmer or merchant to travel for months to a foreign country to battle an enemy unprovoked.

31 min
The Battle of Hattin

12: The Battle of Hattin

The Battle of Hattin in 1187 proved a disastrous turning point for European Crusader kingdoms in the Middle East and brought European heads of state into the Levant for decades to come. Examine how the great Muslim leader Saladin’s restraint, chivalry, and measured responses created new interest in the Islamic world just as the persecuting mentality gained steam in Europe.

31 min
Eleanor of Aquitaine Gets a Divorce

13: Eleanor of Aquitaine Gets a Divorce

Wife to two kings and mother to three more, Eleanor of Aquitaine impacted matters from literature and fashion to politics and religion. Explore how Eleanor’s divorce and remarriage dramatically shifted the borders and power structures of France and Britain, planting seeds of conflict that would have repercussions into the modern period.

31 min
No More Roman Numerals—The Liber Abaci

14: No More Roman Numerals—The Liber Abaci

The Hindu-Arabic number system we use today—numerals 0 through 9—was introduced into Europe by the man known as Fibonacci in the book Liber Abaci and rapidly stimulated the economy of the Middle Ages. To understand the impact of this turning point, learn how money exchange and other mathematical functions were performed previously using finger counting and tally sticks.

31 min
King John Accepts the Magna Carta

15: King John Accepts the Magna Carta

The Magna Carta has long been hailed as a milestone in the development of ideas of equality, human rights, law, and justice. But in 1215, it affected King John of England and his angry barons almost exclusively. Understand why the document was a non-event for the majority of English society and only gained greater significance in the centuries that followed.

29 min
The Fourth Lateran Council

16: The Fourth Lateran Council

Also occurring in 1215, The Fourth Lateran Council had immediate significance for everyone in the medieval world, yet it goes unrecognized because the canons passed so utterly transformed Western Christianity that it’s difficult to imagine a Catholic Church without them. Delve into how the gathering codified matters of theology and doctrine and gave rise to “a persecuting society.”

31 min
The Persecution of the Jews

17: The Persecution of the Jews

Turn now to the first of three lectures on turning points that were “stretched” over time. Investigate why we see what scholars call the rise in a persecuting society between the 11th and 13th centuries, and how Jews were systematically ostracized from mainstream society and even massacred by Crusading forces.

30 min
Does It Seem Warm to You? The Little Optimum

18: Does It Seem Warm to You? The Little Optimum

Overlapping the persecution of the Jews was the natural phenomenon known as the “Medieval Warm Period” or “the Little Optimum,” which radically reshaped European society from about 1000 to 1300. Trace the cascade effect spurred when average temperatures increased by a few degrees, resulting in everything from better nutrition allowing children to grow into adulthood to Genghis Khan driving his Golden Horde westward.

30 min
Agricultural Advances

19: Agricultural Advances

Continue your investigation of the Little Optimum with an analysis of the effects of agricultural innovations that came into existence during this population boom, including the heavy plow, the horse-collar, and the three-field rotation system. Survey related developments such as the revival of urban life, the ascent of cathedral building, and the rise of the university system.

29 min
The Medieval World’s First Poet Laureate

20: The Medieval World’s First Poet Laureate

Focus on some of the more pleasant results of the Little Optimum by investigating how the arts began to flourish, especially at the beginning of the 14th century. Consider why the declaration of Petrarch as poet laureate—the first the Western world had seen since the glory days of Rome—illuminates how much the medieval world had changed.

30 min
The Black Death

21: The Black Death

After the appearance of the plague, which killed up to one-half of Europe’s population in a few years, the world would never be the same in terms of demographics, religion, economics, or politics. Trace how church and government infrastructures were affected by disease and why social mobility became possible for the first time.

31 min
Science, Medicine, and the University

22: Science, Medicine, and the University

What was medieval medicine like? Learn how illness was treated, as you examine the rise of the university system in 11th-century Salerno, Italy, where medical knowledge from the Greeks and Arabs was being preserved, disseminated, and practiced by men and women from a variety of cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions.

30 min
Gutenberg’s Printing Press

23: Gutenberg’s Printing Press

When Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press and movable type in 1450, knowledge suddenly became accessible to all strata of society. Analyze how the rise of print culture affected the shape of the political, social, and religious spheres of the medieval world, from the decline of the handwritten book trade to the standardization of English.

30 min
Toward the Early Modern

24: Toward the Early Modern

As the professor reviews the course’s major themes, consider the validity of Stephen Greenblatt’s argument in the book The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, which states that the discovery of a lost Roman text titled On the Nature of Things created a ripple effect that made the European world cease to be “medieval” and start to become “modern.”

31 min

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