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War in the Modern World

Dive into military history and strategy with this 24-episode course focused on the geopolitical conflicts, weapons, strategies, and personalities that have defined war since 1945.
War in the Modern World is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 37.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Although I have considerable education in modern history, and I have kept up with current events over the years, I learned an enormous amount, even on topics on which I thought I knew a lot. This is a model of how history should be taught: a solid background coupled with a clear exposition that puts description and analysis in good balance. The chapter on Yugoslavia's Wars is a perfect example of how a great historian works. This work stands above most military histories, because it goes beyond the usual weapons technology and battles. Professor Stone puts military developments within the the political and cultural context of the places--matters which he shows are often decisive. 5 stars!
Date published: 2023-05-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Embaresssing simplistic class for school children This is dismal. This lecture is for school children, giving only the briefest overview of world history, with zero counter-factuals, and no military theory. It doesn't touch AT ALL on basic strategy like Sun Tzu, Von Clausewitz, the Peloponnesian war, etc, yet alone apply this to modern strategy. It doesn't cover ANY of the International Relations lenses. I didn't even get a breakdown of Squads, Companies, Platoons, Battalions, Regiments, Armies. Nothing on military tactics. No security studies. This is a very basic history lesson, but I got more detail and theory from my high school history class, but with a less biased world view. Whoever commissioned these lectures insults the intelligence of the subscribers, the lecturer even speaks slowly, like he's burning through the time and speaking to a child. I've seen YouTube videos with far more depth. Disgraceful!
Date published: 2023-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative, Timely, and Well-Presented The instructor has the knowledge required for the course and is able to distill an immense amount of information into a format that people can easily understand, I am a retired Army Reservist with Veteran Status, and am impressed with what I saw here. He lets the facts speak for themselves. I learned a lot here, and also had a lot of what I previously knew confirmed.
Date published: 2023-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Eye Opener I lived through these events and had not realized the violence that was happening in some parts of the world. I appreciate the concise explanations of the causes of the conflicts. It helps to explain some of the fears in the Slavic states today.
Date published: 2022-12-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not what I expected The instructor is knowledgeable and the course is interesting but it is not not what I expected. I thought that the course would be more about modern day weapons and tactics but instead it is a history course about the background and cause of many recent wars. I found it informative and would probably have purchased it anyway.
Date published: 2022-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Series Delivered by a Great Lecturer. Great series about post WWII events, many of which occurred in my lifetime but with the added bonus of extra information that either wasn't known or covered by the media when they originally happened.
Date published: 2022-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses I have completed. I began these courses as DVDs years ago when it was "The Great Courses", and have completed dozens. This was one of the most informative, and well-presented courses that I have enjoyed. While I have not researched any of the material presented, the background of the presenter makes it very likely that the material is as factual as reasonably possible.
Date published: 2022-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best courses Haven't finished it yet (one lesson a day) but so far it's one of the best courses I've ordered. I also had another course by this same person so I was expecting excellence and it delivered.
Date published: 2022-10-16
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Guided by expert David R. Stone, of the US Naval War College, War in the Modern World explores the political realities, people, groups, technology, weapons, and strategies that have shaped conflicts since World War II. Define insurgency, counterinsurgency, and civil war, become familiar with modern weapons, study violent conflicts within empires, and see how large imperial powers struggled to contend with insurgency. Analyze the causes and effects of history-defining conflicts, and emerge a sharper and more informed student of history and contemporary affairs overall.


David R. Stone

The world today is a product of the second world war in too many ways to count.


U.S. Naval War College

David R. Stone is the William E. Odom Professor of Russian Studies at the US Naval War College. He received his PhD in History from Yale University. He has written or edited several books on military history, including Hammer and Rifle: The Militarization of the Soviet Union, 1926–1933, which won the ASEEES Marshall D. Shulman Book Prize and the Historical Society Best First Book Prize. He is also the author of dozens of articles on Russian military history and foreign policy, and he is the expert for the Great Course World War II: Battlefield Europe.

By This Professor

World War II: Battlefield Europe
War in the Modern World
War in the Modern World


Afghanistan and the Nature of Modern War

01: Afghanistan and the Nature of Modern War

After the Second World War, the nature of war—not only where, but how it is fought—changed dramatically. In the course’s inaugural episode, begin to explore the transformation of violent conflicts between major world powers by delving into a particularly recent example: America's 20-year war in Afghanistan.

31 min
Nightmare Scenarios of Modern War

02: Nightmare Scenarios of Modern War

What kinds of wars are we likely to fight today and against whom? From the “McDonald’s theory”—referring to when a country can economically support a network of McDonald’s restaurants—to a state’s nuclear capabilities, evaluate the factors that explain why wars between great powers look different nowadays, and explore what future conflicts could look like between the United States and two of its major adversaries.

25 min
The Tools of Modern Warfare

03: The Tools of Modern Warfare

New weapons are constantly being introduced in war. Discover how five contemporary technologies—the Kalashnikov assault rifle, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), guided missiles, drones, and cyber warfare—redefined the rules of battle in the modern era and leveled the playing field between world powers and insurgent groups.

24 min
From World War to Cold War

04: From World War to Cold War

Travel back in time to examine the series of events that followed World War II from the allied occupation of Germany to the Greek Civil War. See how the Soviet Union contended with insurgencies in the Baltic region and explore the beginnings of a new kind of global conflict between the United States and the USSR.

28 min
Europe’s Exit from Colonial Asia

05: Europe’s Exit from Colonial Asia

The future of Asia, occupied by various powers in the early 20th century, became murky after 1945. One thing was clear though: Few people wanted to see colonial occupiers reassert influence there. Here, zero in on conflicts in Indonesia, the Philippines, and India to see how geopolitics in the region transformed after the war.

30 min
China’s Civil War

06: China’s Civil War

As war raged on across the globe, China had to contend with a civil war between Mao Zedong’s Communists and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party. Explore the war from its colonial roots to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China and discover how the USSR and the United States became involved in the bloody conflict.

26 min
The Unfinished Korean War

07: The Unfinished Korean War

Why did America fight a war in Korea? How did the USSR engage with the conflict? Could the United States wage a “limited” war on the peninsula like it had intended? And what are we to make of a war that ended not in peace, but in an armistice? Get to the bottom of these questions and more.

26 min
Britain’s Exit from Palestine, Malaya, and Kenya

08: Britain’s Exit from Palestine, Malaya, and Kenya

In the decades that followed World War II, a flurry of well-organized rebellions exploded within the British Empire. Investigate the gruesome conflicts that shook postwar Palestine, Kenya, and Malaya. Determine the efficacy of British counterinsurgency tactics and discover what these confrontations reveal about war and colonialism in the postwar era.

28 min
France’s Vietnam War

09: France’s Vietnam War

Like the UK, France struggled to hold on to its overseas territories. Explore the fight waged by Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh to establish a communist government in his country. Learn about the complicated, bloody history of Algerian independence, and see how each of these wars highlighted the costs of both colonialism and protracted involvement in local conflicts.

28 min
Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

10: Insurgency and Counterinsurgency

Waged by groups within a particular country, an insurgency can be defined as rebellion from below. But how does each side—the haves and have-nots—approach the fight? Examine the characteristics of insurgent and counterinsurgent warfare by looking at their application in real conflicts, as well as the strategies that guide them.

28 min
The Arab-Israeli Wars: Israel’s String of Triumphs

11: The Arab-Israeli Wars: Israel’s String of Triumphs

Dive into the thorny history of Israel and Palestine, from the rise of Zionism in the 19th century to the Six-Day War. See how other entities like the United Nations and Israel’s Arab neighbors navigated complex political tensions. And investigate the series of Arab-Israeli wars that shaped the region into what it is today.

28 min
The Arab-Israeli Wars: Victory without Peace

12: The Arab-Israeli Wars: Victory without Peace

The Six-Day War, though a testament to Israel’s military might, did not resolve its problems. Explore how the Israeli state dealt with instability both inside of and beyond its borders post-1967. Follow the events that led to the historic Camp David and Oslo Accords. And examine contemporary clashes between Israel and hostile groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

30 min
India-Pakistan: The Enduring Rivalry

13: India-Pakistan: The Enduring Rivalry

In the 1960s, India and Pakistan went to war over the northern territory of Kashmir. But why? What can history reveal about the territorial anxieties facing both nations? And how did global powers like the United States respond to the violent conflicts that engulfed the subcontinent after World War II? Answer these key questions here.

30 min
The World War That Never Happened

14: The World War That Never Happened

Having explored so many volatile conflicts thus far, one question comes to mind: Why hasn’t World War III happened yet? From the dawn of atomic power to the Cuban Missile Crisis, discover how nuclear weapons fundamentally changed the way that great powers engage with each other globally.

29 min
America’s Vietnam War

15: America’s Vietnam War

The war in Vietnam remains one of America’s most salient military losses, testing just how far the United States was willing to go in the global battle against communism. Focus on America’s war in Vietnam by examining the history and military strategy behind the conflict across two decades and three US presidencies.

28 min
The Soviet War in Afghanistan

16: The Soviet War in Afghanistan

While America struggled to beat back communism in Vietnam, the Soviet Union fought a costly, unsuccessful war of its own in Afghanistan. What factors contributed to the loss? Why were Afghans so resistant to the USSR and the Soviet-aligned People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan?

29 min
Latin America’s Revolutionary Wars

17: Latin America’s Revolutionary Wars

Investigate the scale and scope of violent conflicts in Latin America. Start by examining the lead up to a civil war in Guatemala. Investigate the rise of communism in Cuba through the life of Fidel Castro. Then, take a closer look at the violence surrounding a right-wing government in Chile and a left-wing government in Nicaragua in the late 20th century.

29 min
The War for the Falklands

18: The War for the Falklands

What did war at sea look like in the post-World War II era? The infamous clash between Great Britain and Argentina over the Falklands might offer some clarity. Explore the causes and effects of the Falklands war. Investigate why Britain succeeded and Argentina did not. And discover the importance of anti-ship cruise missiles.

27 min
Africa’s Modern World War: Rwanda and Congo

19: Africa’s Modern World War: Rwanda and Congo

Civil wars are some of the deadliest contemporary conflicts we fight, but are they more common now than they were before the Second World War? Understand what it really means to fight a civil war and learn about the extraordinarily violent conflicts that tore Congo and Rwanda apart.

29 min
The Iraq-Iran War

20: The Iraq-Iran War

The 1980 Iran-Iraq War fundamentally changed geopolitics in the region; human costs aside, the conflict altered international relations in the 21st century. Delve into a three-way rivalry between Iraq, Iran, and Saudi Arabia that eventually blossomed into war, and understand how the United States fit into the mix.

30 min
Desert Storm: The US versus Iraq

21: Desert Storm: The US versus Iraq

Why did Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait, and how did the United States retaliate? Focus on one of the most important post-Cold War military conflicts: the Persian Gulf War. Examine the importance of international coalition building and see how Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein became emboldened by the fight.

29 min
Yugoslavia’s Civil Wars

22: Yugoslavia’s Civil Wars

Intense ethnic conflicts plagued Yugoslavia for more than a century. In the 1990s, just a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall, these internal tensions manifested in war on the European continent. Dive into the history of the Bosnian War and how the so-called “new world order” contended with violent conflict in Europe.

28 min
A New Russian Empire?

23: A New Russian Empire?

War and the decline of great empires often go hand in hand. So was the story of the Soviet Union, a sprawling empire that collapsed in 1991. Investigate how the Russian Federation tried to reassert dominance over the former Soviet bloc by starting wars with Georgia, Chechnya, and Ukraine.

29 min
Iraq and ISIS in the War on Terror

24: Iraq and ISIS in the War on Terror

Finish the course by exploring America’s nine-year war in Iraq, from the first Gulf War to the withdrawal of US troops in 2011. Start by exploring the ideology that drove the US invasion. Chart the rise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and ISIS and conclude by examining why the United States could not bring democracy to Iraq.

31 min