Turning Points in Modern History
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: 1433-The Great Voyages of Admiral Zheng He
Explore the idea of modernity and define "turning point." Then, consider why Chinese admiral Zheng He's voyages promoting the power of China's authority did not continue as part of a larger campaign of discovery-and what the consequences might have been had he reached the Americas.
02: 1453-The Fall of Constantinople
Although many educated people think they know about the fall of the Roman Empire, Professor Liulevicius says the end actually happened 1,000 years later with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks. Delve deeper into this event and learn the trauma the loss created for Europeans.
03: 1455-Gutenberg's Print Revolution
Trace how Johannes Gutenberg's introduction of a press with movable type sparked a print revolution, becoming a key factor in the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the standardization of vernacular languages.
04: 1492-The Columbian Exchange
Without intending to, Christopher Columbus's search for Asia initiated an event that has been called the most important historical turning point of modern times. Investigate how Columbus's encounter with the Americas brought distant peoples together politically, culturally, and environmentally in ways that were simultaneously productive and deeply destructive.
05: 1600-The British East India Company
The English and Dutch East India companies coexisted in the Spice Islands as they worked to outflank the Portuguese, but their rivalry soon escalated into war. Examine the founding and meteoric growth of the East India Company and the violence that ultimately led Britain to establish an empire on which the sun never set.
06: 1648-The Treaty of Westphalia
The Thirty Years War involved some million soldiers and mass civilian casualties. Explore the significance of the Peace of Westphalia, the settlement that ended the war in 1648-a vital turning point that still shapes how international politics are handled.
07: 1676-Van Leeuwenhoek's Microscope
Trace how Anton van Leeuwenhoek's striking discovery fit into the larger Scientific Revolution and shifted intellectual authority from classic texts to that which is observable and measurable.
08: 1751-Diderot's Enlightenment Encyclopedia
The Encyclopédie was the most ambitious reference work and publishing project of its time. Discover how the editors made knowledge accessible to a mass audience and championed the Enlightenment's progressive, secular message, despite fierce opposition from the Catholic Church.
09: 1787-The American Experiment
Learn how America's founders established a model of a republic through debate, compromise, separation of powers, and a flexible Constitution.
10: 1789-The French Revolution
How did France's fight for liberation from royal authority lead to Napoleon's rise and even greater despotism? Contrast events in America with those in France to see how attempts at creating modern republics radically diverged.
11: 1838-The British Slavery Abolition Act
Confront the harsh realities of the African slave trade and consider the role social mobilization played in eradicating the institution across the British Empire.
12: 1839-The Opium War in China
Delve into the causes, conflicts, and consequences of the Opium Wars, in which China was psychologically devastated and subjugated by British imperialism.
13: 1859-Darwin and the Origin of Species
Discover how a simple observation inspired Darwin's theories of evolution and natural selection, and why his Origin of Species was eagerly accepted by much of Victorian society. Then, look at how the Nazis and others distorted Darwin's ideas.
14: 1869-Binding Continents
In 1869, two events connected the world through modern technology, giving science vast significance as a source of authority. Learn how the building of the Transcontinental Railroad in the United States and the Suez Canal in Egypt revolutionized the way people perceived space and time.
15: 1893-First Women Voters in New Zealand
Follow the fight for women's suffrage in New Zealand and America, as two global trends-the demand for women's political voice and the growth of settler societies-intersected.
16: 1896-The Invention of Motion Pictures
Motion pictures revolutionized people's view of the world. Survey early movie culture, along with the contributions of Thomas Edison, Georges Méliès, and others, then see how the medium became "weaponized" by Bolsheviks in Russia and Nazis in Germany.
17: 1903-Kitty Hawk and Powered Flight
Witness the dawning of the air age and meet the Montgolfier brothers, the Wright brothers, and others who brought humanity's dream of flying to fruition. Then, explore how aviation shaped the experience of modernity, from the relative ease of travel to the stark reality of "total warfare."
18: 1904-The Russo-Japanese War
To the world's surprise, Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. Learn how this conflict fought with industrialized weapons reconfigured world politics by igniting the process of global decolonization, establishing Japan as a great power, and setting the stage for two world wars.
19: 1928-The Discovery of Penicillin
The advance of antibiotics occurred amid the larger context of the development of germ theory. Trace how scientists' understanding of the mechanisms of infection and disease evolved during the 19th century-and see how Alexander Fleming stumbled upon his life-saving discovery.
20: 1942-The Dawn of the Atom
When German physicists split the atom, Albert Einstein warned President Roosevelt of the potential for "extremely powerful bombs of a new type." Chart the course of the nuclear bomb from this letter through the first nuclear chain reaction led by physicist Enrico Fermi, the Manhattan Project, and devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
21: 1969-Walking on the Moon
The moon landing expanded humanity's sense of the possible. Learn how the space program grew out of advances in rocketry during World War II and advanced rapidly due to cold war paranoia exacerbated by the launch of Sputnik.
22: 1972-China Enters the World Balance
Nixon's meeting with Mao shifted the cold war's balance and returned China to the world stage. Learn the reasons for Nixon's trip, the consequences of which still reverberate, and plot the rise of Mao and communism in China. Then, see how Deng Xiaoping's promotion of private enterprise began a trajectory of growth that continues.
23: 1989-The Fall of the Berlin Wall
How did a bureaucratic blunder by a Politburo member lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall? Find out as you examine the surprisingly peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union and Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe.
24: 2004-The Rise of Social Media
Are the Web and social media making us more globally connected or locking us into niche societies and creating an epidemic of loneliness? Probe both the power and the perils of the Internet-from aiding popular uprisings to rewiring our brains.