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Publisher's Summary

Military history often highlights successes and suggests a sense of inevitability about victory, but there is so much that can be gleaned from considering failures. Study these crucibles of history to gain a better understanding of why a civilization took - or didn't take - a particular path. Full of dramatic reversals of fortune and colorful characters, this course examines some of the world's most notable examples of military misfortune, from the humiliating destruction of a Roman army at Carrhae in 53 BC to the tragic landings at Gallipoli in World War I. Success and failure, as you'll learn, are two sides of the same coin.

These 24 lectures reveal how the trajectory of history hangs in the balance of individual battles; even a single person's actions in a particular moment have made drastic and irreversible impacts. From ancient Greece through global war during the first half of the 20th century, you'll delve into infamous conflicts such as the Charge of the Light Brigade and the Battle of Little Bighorn as well as lesser-known battles.

How could an army equipped with cannon be wiped out by Zulu warriors wielding spears and outdated firearms? How could armored French knights be vulnerable to the crude weapons of a band of Flemish shopkeepers? Why would a savvy Chinese general fall victim to a tactic he had previously used himself? Unpredictable twists of fate abound, demonstrating that when it comes to war, there are no givens. Sheer numbers, superior weaponry, and skilled leadership are never a guarantee of success.

Take a fascinating journey through some of the most gloriously inglorious wartime encounters. Along the way, you'll get to know some of the most legendary characters in world history.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2015 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2015 The Great Courses

What listeners say about History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Fascinating Subject disrupted by narration

I was really looking forward to these lectures, but had to stop after only a couple. Mr. Aldrete clearly puts effort into the presentation but the narration is so stilted and dissonant that I couldn't struggle through it. The author/narrator jarringly stresses so many words per sentence that the lectures sound more unnatural than those artificially voiced wikipedia articles.

I really hate to criticize the author for what is not his area of expertise (he studies History, presumably, not narrative art), but the presentation prevented me from appreciating his historical insights. This is the first time that a narrator has ever prevented me from listening to a book/lecture.

1 person found this helpful

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Fantastic book, great narration

Excellent book, very interesting, short chapters, and a funny, almost sarcastic or sassy narrator at times. 5 stars definitely worth a credit.

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Good Listen

I enjoyed it overall. Feel like it would have been a lot better to focus on some of the better cases longer than doing many short cases. There were a handful of really good examples that would have been more interesting to go into greater detail. Most felt vague and I didn't understand how they contributed to the thesis. Good, but could have been great.

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A bit scattershot

My recommendation of this title is sincere but a little lukewarm. The lecturer does offer a framework for understanding military blunders at the start of the series, and in each lecture, but the lectures are mainly straight narrations. Each lecture narrates a military campaign or battle, and the integration of narrative and analysis is too weak for my liking. This meant I didn’t feel like I was building insight across the whole series, that much, and it took effort to finish. It’s an interesting subject though. Lecturer is decent.

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    4 out of 5 stars

If you’ve never studied military history then this would be an ok primer.

Heads up, if you’ve spent any time studying military history at all then there will not be much new here for you. The course is well laid out and would be great for someone new to the field and would be a great jumping off point for the further study of any of the periods or wars/battles contained within but besides a few anecdotes which i had not found there was very little new for me personally. It seemed like fair scholarship throughout most of the series and I didn’t find much to complain about with regards to bias etc. Only real complaint was with the robot sounding pronunciation at times, does anyone actually pronounce “debacle” like the reader? Wince worthy but I’m splitting hairs

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Very interesting!

I enjoyed this lecture a lot. Great historical outcomes that can be applied to modem situations big and small. Lots of lessons to be gleaned! I also enjoyed that the accounts were varied so it’s kind of like a book of short stories. Some of the other lectures (Egyptians, Etruscans) can be overwhelming with the amount of information and I can only listen to a few chapters at a time whereas this lecture is a one sitting event.
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  • Audrey Arrowood
  • 2019-04-10

How in the world did this course get a 4.4 rating?

Out of 24 blunders covered, and a 2400 year timeframe, Aldrete includes 10 British or American incidents. 3 British "blunders" from WWII are included. It's hard to imagine how this "inept" British military managed to hold off the Axis powers alone for years... and then eventually win the war. Oh yes... and there are NO German blunders mentioned from WWII. Apparently the Nazis brilliantly planned and executed their efforts all the way to extermination... hmmm....

Genghis Khan, the Romans, and Napoleon are presented with a neutral attitude about the morality of their conquests. Aldrete reserves moralizing for the British and the Americans. Apparently it was perfectly fine for Genghis to rampage across the world murdering millions in his path. However, the British are arrogant for trying to hold their empire together and America was immoral for its efforts to subdue the marauding Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes. Present the facts and save your judgements for an ethics course, professor.

Aldrete's speech pattern is halting and painful. He... pauses... after every... two or three... words... at... the most... And please learn how to pronounce common words in the English language.

I thought this course would never end. I want my credit back.

35 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Cynthia
  • 2016-08-16

Martial Chaos

I'm a military history buff and a US Army veteran, so I really couldn't have asked for a more apt "The Great Courses" lecture series. It's thing to read a translation of Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" (approximately 5th century BCE), an aspirational guide to tactical warfare that's travelled the millennia well. It's quite anther to fearlessly examine some of the most painful military debacles in history and take meaning from what's written in blood . "History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach" (Gregory S. Aldrete, PhD) is a neat survey course of things that have gone militarily very, very, wrong for more than two millennia.

The lectures range from The Battles of Syracuse (415-414 BC) to World War II's Operation Market Garden (1944). Some are obvious, often repeated errors. Napoleon's 1812 winter invasion of Russia was about as successful as Charles XII of Sweden's 1707 invasion of the same country. The 1854 storied, tragic Charge of the Light Brigade is about attacking the wrong target. Some of the disasters of World War II were almost too painful to listen to. I remember hearing war stories first-hand from veterans in my grandparents' small town, and to know that sometimes their sacrifices were wasted hurts.

I like that the lectures aren't Eurocentric - one of the best is on the 2nd Century Red Cliffs Campaign of the brilliant but merciless Chinese General Cao Cao. Even the strongest of tyrants don't always prevail. I got a kick out of the lecture on 1879 Isandlwana: 25,000 Zulus, Undetected. It was horrifying to Victorian England, especially the post-battle mutilation (actually, a sign of respect: the Zulu Warriors were releasing the spirits of the slain soldiers), but a century and a half later, it's a study in absolute arrogance and the triumph of what must have been derided then as "savages."

I would definitely listen to another one of Professor Aldrete's courses.

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295 people found this helpful

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  • Nathan Parker
  • 2016-07-11

Hindsight Bias?

The professor does an outstanding presentation of his material.

I have to wonder, though, whether many of these blunders are hindsight bias. For example, we only distinguish rashness from boldness when the endeavor succeeds or fails; there may be no way to determine which description applies beforehand.

Many of the behaviors that the professor describes also precede great successes as well as failures, and it's only when failure occurs that they look stupid. The problem is that we don't keep data on stupidity followed by success, which makes it look artificially easy to determine when you're screwing up.

116 people found this helpful

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  • Alex Jordan
  • 2016-08-12

Great material, Shatner-esque delivery

This is fascinating material! However, while the narrator clearly has mastered the material, his delivery is... full of... awkward... pauses, strange pronunciations, and odd turns of phrase. He's clearly reading the material, which would be fine if the delivery was not so distracting!

30 people found this helpful

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  • Boyd Tschaggeny
  • 2019-05-21

Good, not Great. (Almost No Analysis)

This should be titled 'History's Great Military Blunders (Full Stop)' because there is almost no discussion on the lessons that they teach. In a typical lesson, 95% of the lecture is the story of the blunder and 5% is an analysis of that blunder. This does make for a great, story-time approach to history. However, you won't actually get that much from the professors "insights".

I liked this course, but just know that it's just story-time.

19 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael
  • 2015-10-26

Awesome as Aldrete's usual !!!

After listening to "Decisive battles" from the same author, I knew I had to listen to this title as well.

If you want to learn college-level history, With the ease of just curling up with a good book that is beautifully narrated this is the course for you.

29 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Billy
  • 2015-12-24

Great book

Great book,informative I loved it. Our public schools should be ashamed for missing the opportunity do teach real history

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • CC
  • 2016-04-14

Great Stories

This course is comprised of 23 great historical stories and one final lecture sort of tying the stories together. Very easy to listen to and stay engaged.

10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • J_T
  • 2016-03-05

Legitimate 5 stars

I am a big fan of The Great Courses. That being said, not all are worthy of 5 star reviews... unless they feature Professor Aldrete.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Sam Fredericks
  • 2016-02-22

Very Interesting

What made the experience of listening to History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach the most enjoyable?

The premise for these lectures is just great. You listen to how these commanders and others invovled make error after error resulting in a horrible defeat of their forces. Spanning time from ancient Egypt to WW2 there are a ton of interesting stories here.

What did you like best about this story?

The various accounts are presented with a ton of insight into the people involved, the time, the customs, etc.

What about Professor Gregory S. Aldrete, PhD’s performance did you like?

Dr. Aldrete is a great lecturer and often includes a comic touch when presenting these tales. I had listened to his history of the ancient world course as well and highly recommend it if you are interested in standard history.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I blew through these vary fast and some are quite comical.

Any additional comments?

Very entertaining.

7 people found this helpful