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The Foundations of Western Civilization

Narrated by: Thomas F. X. Noble
Length: 24 hrs and 51 mins
4 out of 5 stars (8 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 71.17
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Publisher's Summary

What is Western civilization? According to Professor Noble, it is "much more than human and political geography," encompassing myriad forms of political and institutional structures - from monarchies to participatory republics - and its own traditions of political discourse. It involves choices about who gets to participate in any given society and the ways in which societies have resolved the tension between individual self-interest and the common good.

Within this series of 48 lectures, you'll discover the many ways in which Western civilization has addressed those questions, from its first stirrings in the great river valleys of Iraq and Egypt in 3000 B.C to the beginning of the 17th century and the dawn of the modern world. Your learning will cover vast amounts of territory and thousands of years, beginning in the ancient Near East and moving to Greece and then Rome. You'll explore ancient empires, including those of Persia, Alexander the Great, and Rome.

You'll watch as western Europe gradually expands, both physically and culturally. And you'll examine the globalizations of Western civilization with the Portuguese and Spanish voyages of exploration and discovery.

This broad and panoramic series, ripe with the telling detail on which history can turn, will help you pull an enormous sweep of history together into one coherent - though by no means closed - framework as you watch history develop under the influence of such critical factors as ecology and environment, geography, and climate; government and economics; technology; religion; work and leisure; philosophy; literature; art and architecture; and virtues, values, and aesthetics.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2002 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2002 The Great Courses

What members say

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    2 out of 5 stars

very protestant and narrow

This series was disappointing for me. I came away with no understanding of Western Civilization. The course is a rehash of all the stories and cliches that attempt to draw links from ancient societies to contemporary european culture. But the continuity is not there despite the best efforts of the lecturer. It is a continuation of a mythology with lots of dates and names thrown in to give some sort of realistic justification for the use of the word Foundation. But by the end I found myself still wondering what the Foundations of Western Civilization were. A history of various western civilizations and cultures would be a more accurate description.

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  • Mike Keith
  • 2016-08-08

Highly recommended

Where does The Foundations of Western Civilization rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

top 10
I loved the material but a history major may already know all this stuff.
I will proceed directly to Vol 2.

Who was your favorite character and why?

n/a

What about Professor Thomas F. X. Noble’s performance did you like?

This is the weakness. The Prof is a good lecturer but his dynamic range is large so the audio volume varies greatly making it at times a difficult listen in the car. I frequently needed to replay sections that had fallen to a near whisper.
A *dynamic range compressor* add-on to the audible app would be a great idea! This same problem appears in many other recordings.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

n/a

Any additional comments?

I thoroughly enjoyed this.

27 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 2017-03-05

Not Engaging or Very Interesting

What disappointed you about The Foundations of Western Civilization?

I really wanted to like this course. I am a big history buff and this course covers so much history both in relation to time and place. But I just could not get into it. The professor’s general style was just not a hit with me and the following became increasingly annoying: his voice would fluctuate from high to low, his humor just wasn’t effective, he would talk fast, and I didn’t get the sense he was teaching as much as he was having a discussion.

It felt like the professor did not spend enough time “pulling it all together”. He only lightly touched on why certain civilizations like the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Persians, etc. are considered “western civilization”. A lot of times I was left wondering why certain peoples or topics were included in such a course or what defines the “western tradition”. While a huge expanse of history was covered there was almost no time spent on what the foundations were or how one would define "western civilization".

Lectures 25-26 finally felt like he was hitting his stride and connecting with me so I went back and re-listened to the previous 24 lectures thinking maybe I should give him another chance with an open mind. Alas I had the same reaction to his lectures and just didn't find much that was interesting in them. Here are the lectures I did find enjoyable:

18 (Roman expansion)
25-26 (Roman crisis and the Barbarian "problem")
30 (Byzantium)
31 (Barbarian kingdoms of Europe)
36-37 (political formations of European countries in medieval times)

However, your experience may be better. For those of you willing to give it a shot here are the basics: time period covered is generally between 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1600. Here are some of the general topics covered:

• Civilization begins at Sumer
• Ancient Egypt
• Ancient Hebrews
• Assyrians
• Neo-Babylonians & the Medes
• Persia
• Ancient Geeks
• Macedonia’s Hellenistic conquests
• Roman Republic and Empire
• Christianity and the church
• Islam
• Byzantine Empire
• Barbarian (Germanic, Celtic, Slavic) kingdoms of Europe
• The Franks under Carolingian rule
• England and France
• Germany and other European countries in the medieval period
• The Renaissance
• The Reformation

I am going to listen to Professor Harl's "Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor" course hoping it engages me and succeeds where this course fails. I really wish The Great Courses would do a course on medieval Europe focusing on the formation of current states like France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Poland, etc. I know there are some courses on 1600 Europe onward but I'd be interested in a course on political history of the major countries prior to that time period.

58 of 62 people found this review helpful

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  • kdhsjdqw
  • 2016-01-18

Extremely annoying speaking style

I'm interested in the subject matter but can barely focus on what's being said because the speaker is so irritating. It's like he's trying to get a class of 8 year olds interested in history by being the cool professor, but all he is really succeeding in doing is dumbing material down and delivering information very poorly. I'm really struggling to make myself listen to this one.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Josh Hopper
  • 2017-12-13

great

All of the Great Courses are fantastic. a problem occurs when the narrator constantly slides in the slanted left-wing viewpoint prevalent in academia. This is not the issue here however. Magnificently unbiased. Absolutely engrossing.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Star
  • 2015-06-07

loved it

an eye opening book! loved it. I highly recommend it. it inspired me to learn about a lot of other topics for which I had to stop this book and investigate those topics further..then I would return back to this book to continue.. as a result it took me a year to finish this book and 10 others (including : the persian empire , foundation of eastern civilization , off the edge of the map , a short history of nearly everything )

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Tyler
  • 2014-03-04

Excellent course!

This is my second, all time favorite history course thus far. I have only been a patron of the Great Courses for about 7 or 8 months when my favorite podcaster mentioned they were now on Audible. I highly recommend this particular course. The professor is very good at what he does, captivating, interesting, and knowledgeable.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Ruby Dickson
  • 2018-02-20

Very annoying, somewhat informative

An interesting survey of thousands of years of history. Tracks some themes from ancient Mesopotamia through the early modern period. I would say that this series is good for giving an overview of the periods discussed, but in the course of the survey there are many serious over generalizations that will grate on anyone who already has an interest in history.

The professor has an extremely annoying and condescending way of speaking - - he will explain something very obvious, and make the reader feel like they're in a remedial class. Then in the same lecture, he will pretend like certain obscure facts are as obvious as could be, and frequently says things like "as you all know well, Clovis was not actually a carolingian leader," making the listener feel like a idiot who should know these things.

Overall, a good course with some serious flaws. Even as a huge history nerd, I learned some new things. But beware, the lecturer is certainly not for everyone.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Sean
  • 2017-06-08

Fascinating

I enjoy the study if history and this pulled together so many other components that i have read about.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Zach (USA)
  • 2017-02-21

Dan Carlin-esque

If you could sum up The Foundations of Western Civilization in three words, what would they be?

This is a good summary course of a western development from early civilization up through late antiquity.

Any additional comments?

I'm not sure who influenced whom, or if it's simply a coincidental speaking style, but Professor Noble comes off like Dan Carlin in his start-stop, sometimes manically-rapid delivery and tone. It's not for everyone because it doesn't sound much like a lecture recorded in a lecture hall, nor is it going to delve deep enough into any one subject to enlighten true scholars, but fans of Carlin's "Hardcore History" will feel right at home with this course. I found it plenty entertaining and worth listening to.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Adrian Delatorre
  • 2016-05-14

Excellent Course!

Any additional comments?

I have listened to numerous courses from the Teaching Company, but this one is by far the best! Clear, concise and very engaging Professor

2 of 2 people found this review helpful