Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

Review: The Foundations of Western Civilization

Having just finished this, a quick review of the latest course from the Teaching Company.

The Foundations of Western Civilization is, in a sense, the SCA survey course: it covers all of human history up to about 1600. It does this pretty evenly, though, starting from Sumer and moving quite gradually on up -- it gets to the Christian era right around the midpoint of the 48 lectures. (Rome is the most omnipresent influence, throughout the course.)

With such a broad topic, it of course doesn't go into much detail about any one particular era. But that's not really what this is about -- the idea here is to flow down the river of history, not stopping at any single island along the way very long. The emphasis is on the evolution of Western Culture in the broad sense, and as such it emphasizes the continuities and discontinuities more than anything else: what each culture contributed to the grander scheme, what we can learn from them, and how things really flowed together.

The course has several little habits. For example, on a regular basis the professor pauses and asks what, if you had a time machine and could look at history at a given point, you would expect would happen next; that is then used to make the point that sometimes the future is very clear, and sometimes very surprising indeed. And like all good TeachCo professors, Prof. Noble has his little verbal tics -- in particular, a tendency to make his point, pause, and repeat it for emphasis. (Which he does at least five times per lecture.)

But overall, this is really an excellent course, counterpointing the more focused and detailed courses on specific cultures with this one that ties it all together. One of my favorites from the Teaching Company to date...

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