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Publisher's Summary

It can be argued that one simple idea - the concept of freedom - has been the driving force of Western civilization and may be the most influential intellectual force the world has ever known. But what is freedom, exactly? These 36 engaging lectures tell the dramatic story of freedom from ancient Greece to our own day, exploring a concept so close to us we may never have considered it with the thoroughness it deserves.

In exploring what freedom meant to Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, and other great historical figures, you'll probe a range of provocative issues related to a concept we in the 21st century sometimes take for granted. What does it take to be free, to have and to hold liberty? What role do the liberal arts and the world of the intellect play in the life of a free society or a free individual? How should we understand the relationship among freedom, religion, and morality?

With Professor Fears guiding and informing your thinking, you explore the birth of the idea of freedom in Greece and the story of the world's first democracy; the status and meaning of freedom in both the Roman Republic and the Empire; the role of Christianity in that flowering of freedom, and the Christian view of the true meaning of human liberation; the debates about freedom that informed the framing and ratification of the United States Constitution; its awful testing on the battlefields of the Civil War; the struggles of free peoples against domestic injustices and foreign dictatorships during the 20th century; and the questions about freedom we still face today.

©2001 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2001 The Great Courses

What listeners say about A History of Freedom

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  • Tom
  • 2017-02-13

Fantastic listen

This should be a required course for all American Citzens. Understand your roots.
Professor Fears is one of the best college orators I have ever heard.
The lectures are concise and to the point and Professor Fears is great at tying them together so the whole course flows from one lecture to the next.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Timoteo
  • 2018-03-08

Enjoyable, engaging lectures

I enjoyed Professor Fears's lectures in this set. Fears was an accomplished scholar but he was also an engaging lecturer and gifted storyteller. He was primarily a classicist. He was chair of the classics department at Boston University, and later held a chair in the history of liberty at the University of Oklahoma. He was also editor of some of the collected works of John Acton. In this course Fears taught that history is not the result of anonymous social and economic forces, but rather is driven by courageous men and women who lead. His examples include Socrates, Pericles, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Jesus, Martin Luther, and moderns including Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. This is a long course that requires a significant investment of time and attention but I do not regret taking this course.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2018-07-20

A World Class Course in Freedom

This should be a compulsory course for every high school student in the US!!! It is such a shame Dr Fears is no longer with us. I would have loved to discuss the history of freedom over some adult beverages.

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  • Jared
  • 2015-01-28

Thoughtful, engaging tour

I suggest first listening to Famous Romans and Famous Greeks as a foundation for this wonderful course, although it would be beneficial even without them.

I love Prof. Fears. His good-humored, unique style of storytelling combined with his vast knowledge and wise insights keep me coming back for more. This course was certainly thought-provoking; don't expect it to be an affirmation of everything you already think. And be aware that you'll be left with a sense of responsibility for the future of freedom.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Beowulf
  • 2019-06-20

Fun and Compelling

The avuncular Dr. Fears is always entertaining. I wish I had him as a professor. All of the reviews complaining that this course is "too American-centered" or something like that are wrong. How can one trace the history of freedom and not rely heavily on the United States? That Dr. Fears doesn't hate his own country or look for things to "trouble" him will trouble some folks, but if you want to hear a sensible overview of the subject, this is a good place to begin. Like many people, I have begin listening to some of these Great Courses but lost interest as they proceeded. I likested to all 36 lectures of this one.

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  • JPak
  • 2015-09-04

Outstanding history

Fascinating history of ideas and the people who best represented them. Explains so much about how we are today. Highly recommended.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Orange Monkey
  • 2019-03-14

Simply Beautiful

Whenever I listen to lectures by Rufus J. Fears, I get a sense of 'enlightened excitement'. There are patterns, connections, hope and wisdom. He's one of my absolute, absolute favorite authors. He manages to bring the past world of ideas come alive, and find their connections with our world here today. Their influence is made visible and tangible, and they shed light on why things are the way they are, and how they could be different, and also, what we have lost.

This collection is no exception.

I wish they could be dramatized for children, and yes, played everywhere for everyone to take part of. To see ourselves in the light of history. Especially today, with the crumbling of the American political system, where looking out for the best for the nation, reasoning and looking for the best solutions with a common goal of providing freedom for the individual (with all that that implies) seems to have been lost in power-struggles. Both sides guilty. It's a shame. The lectures on the Roman Empire, Caesar, and Augustus are highly enlightening.

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  • George
  • 2021-09-20

Great men and great ideas

It was very interesting. Got some great facta and quotes. This guy was definitely a believer in the great man theory of history. Most of the lectures were set up around biographical sketch. Also almost like listening to a preacher or true believer.

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  • Ismail
  • 2021-09-13

This is an Amazing program

I loved every lecture. His ability to tell a story and stick to the narrative is unmatched in my humble opinion. Curriculums on American history and world history should be taught with this narrative. I would recommend this program too anyone. Its entertaining, informative, and has to me a spiritual/ self help aspect to it. Order it and enjoy.... Peace

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  • Bleep Bloop
  • 2021-02-22

Best Lecture Series EVER!

Honestly incredible. I loved it. Great story telling from Professor Fears. Wonderfully educational and enjoyable. By far my favorite lecture series yet!