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Turning Points in Medieval History

Narrated by: Dorsey Armstrong
Length: 12 hrs and 11 mins
5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 46.98
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Publisher's Summary

For an accurate picture of how the political, social, and religious structure of present-day Europe came to be - and even why we're speaking English today - studying the key events between the years 500 and 1500 is of critical import. These 24 gripping lectures deliver an unparalleled look at these moments that profoundly changed the arc of history, and they weave the era's vast array of disparate events into an interconnected tapestry that illuminates why nothing exists in a vacuum.

Among the events you'll experience: the moment in 711 A.D. when Tariq ibn Zayid conquered Spain and created the unusually tolerant society of Al-Andalus; the 1152 marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry Plantagenet, which led to the Hundred Years' War and the War of the Roses; and the composition of Fibonacci's Liber Abaci in 1202, which transformed the medieval world of business, banking, and commerce.

These are just three of the many turning points in the history of medieval Europe that prove the Middle Ages were far from "dark." Throughout these lectures, you'll investigate events, such as the Norman conquest of England in 1066, where the impact was immediate and tangible. In others, like the Great Schism between the Eastern and Western churches, the importance was not recognized for years; some developments had effects so gradual that their significance can only be recognized from the vantage point of history.

Methodical and meticulous in its approach to a labyrinthine age, these lectures will help you understand why the West's transition from the classical to the early modern was a fluid, ongoing process rather than the result of a single pivotal moment.

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

©2012 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2012 The Great Courses

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  • Christian M.F. Poulsen
  • 2015-07-10

Great and clear voice, Easy to understand

What made the experience of listening to Turning Points in Medieval History the most enjoyable?

Professor Dorsey Armstrong has a clear and easy to understand way of bringing you information.
This comes from a non English speaker.

What other book might you compare Turning Points in Medieval History to and why?

Other books that i suggest reading or listening to are.
King Arthur: History and legend
The Medieval World
Both performed by Professor Armstrong, great for learning about the medieval world.

What about Professor Dorsey Armstrong’s performance did you like?

Professor Armstrong, has a clear and understandable voice, and its easy to listen to her lecture. She mumbles very little and does not stutter, she also speak some what slow so you can clearly understand each word. This makes it easy to follow her lecture while maybe doing other things.

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

Professor Armstrong, makes some small slight jokes, but theres not much of that. Its a history lecture for learning history, this lecture does that very well. You will afterwards know alot more about the medieval age.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kristoffer
  • 2016-04-21

Interesting and varied

This lecture series looks at a multitude of different kinds of events and processes that shaped history during the European Middle Ages, whether sudden or gradual. It moves across a great deal of time and space but rigorously maintains a theme and cohesion. The lecturer is enthusiastic and pleasant to listen to, although she sometimes comes across a little bit as though reading out loud from a book.
Well worth a listen, or more than one.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jose Maldonado
  • 2015-05-25

Very interesting material. Accessibly presented.

Strongly recommend for those looking for a review type course on this material. Logically laid out and explained well in context.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Elizabeth
  • 2015-02-15

Very interesting. Made a lot of good points.

What did you love best about Turning Points in Medieval History?

It covered many areas and made all the chapters relevant to all the others. It was well balanced and informative.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Turning Points in Medieval History?

The discussion about agriculture.

What about Professor Dorsey Armstrong’s performance did you like?

She spoke well and did not "drone on" like so many other lecturers.

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

It made me see many thing in a different light.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • TFMethane
  • 2015-01-16

surprised me

the course is laid out in a way that kind of jumps around, which I thought was going to confuse me, but the lecturer does a very good job of recaps to tie things together. She also makes a number of superlative statements that I initially found dubious, and she meanders around historical details, often only getting to the proof of her claim at the end of the lecture. at first this bothered me, but add I continued to listen, I came to expect the payoff in the end, and it kept me engaged for the whole lecture.

she has a different lecture style than in used to, but it's very good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Guinnessdog
  • 2014-11-13

Medieval history for the slow-witted.

What disappointed you about Turning Points in Medieval History?

This course might be OK as a primer, but if you already know anything about Medieval history, don't bother with this one. I was hoping for some new angle on things but there's nothing new here.Professor Armstrong spends a great deal of time talking about what she's going to say and what she has already said, yet speaks very little about the main point. Her speech pattern is maddeningly slow and pedantic, as if she is speaking to very young children.

I could put up with the slow pace if there was any substance. The chapter on Peter Abelard was particularly annoying. She spoke at great length about his love affair with Heloise and how her uncle had him castrated for getting her pregnant. Juicy stuff, but she claims his forced castration caused him to turn inward and write great works of Medieval intellectualism, without ever telling us anything about those great works or the ideas they contained! It was like someone telling you all about Socrates' death without ever telling you anything Socrates said or did.

I'm about halfway through the series and will probably bail.

9 of 16 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-04-18

Excellent lesson! What a great writer and speaker!

Easy and engaging to listen to, speaks with excitement and not monotone, highly recommend for anyone!

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  • Lynn Cook
  • 2019-04-15

Very informative

very easy to listen to. Along with many others, I found myself wondering how general education became fairly wide spread in Medieval times. Ms Armstrong has a very listenable way of speaking. No falling asleep here.

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 2019-01-30

A Worthwhile Listen

Considering I've taken a number of courses on European history and the medieval period, I'll admit I went in only interested in a handful of lectures (particularly those that aren't found often in other courses). I came out more impressed with this course than I would've surmised.

Overall the professor is easy to listen to: she is clear, articulate, polished, speaks at a good rate, and avoids highfalutin language which I feel is not what The Great Courses stands for although it can be found in other courses by other professors. Professor Dorsey Armstrong is one of the better presenters I've encountered. My only critical observation is she doesn’t display much personality or passion in her delivery and most of the time seems to always have the same cadence and intonation. Not sure if it is a personality thing or if she was focusing more on ensuring her delivery was clear so I don't want to hold it personally against her but I felt like she was really close to making these lectures entertaining...something that should be a part of the Great Courses experience in addition to learning.


Another big plus: there's content in this lecture series that is not found in other courses. Lecture 7’s Battle of Lechfeld and the “Medieval Warm Period” of Lecture 18 are the first that come to mind. I don't remember any other history course from TGC mentioning battles between Germans and Hungarians in the early Middle Ages!

There is also insight I hadn’t heard before. For example Lecture 18's assertion that a change in weather may have caused Genghis Khan and the Mongols to head back to the Eurasian steppes vs. continuing their conquests westward which may have spared Europe from becoming Muslim which could have lessened the need for sea travel in the age of exploration blew my mind. I had never heard an inkling of such a theory and had to stop listening to contemplate the point.

There were some minuses though. The professor spends too much time at the end of lectures explaining what’s in store in the next one and too much time during the opening of a lecture recounting what was discussed in the last one; A quick point or two would be acceptable but when you’re running one to two minutes in then it begins to feel like that time could’ve been better used to discuss the topic at hand considering the lectures are short enough!

I also felt that Professor Armstrong didn't spend enough time explaining why certain events were chosen as turning points (lectures 10 and 20 come to mind). Even in other cases in which I agreed on the importance of a turning point I think she was a little weak explaining why. She would provide one or two statements as to its impact but in terms that were too general. Would’ve preferred if she teased out the ramifications or “What Ifs” a bit more and maybe provide a specific example or two instead of stating (for example) “this event had great impact on how future medieval people thought of religion and education”. Okay…how?

Her overuse of the word “serendipity” got to me by the second lecture...not good when it would be used over and over again in subsequent ones. I would wonder: is there no other way to say what she is trying to say?

But these minuses hardly affect my overall appreciation of this course. I would recommend it to anyone interested in medieval history because I think it is definitely a worthwhile listen whether you are new to the period or well-versed in it.

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  • BF Palo Alto
  • 2018-05-26

Flawless and engaging.

A superb course. Prof. Armstrong makes the middle ages come alive. Like all medievalists, she is defensive about the great leap forward into the Renaissance, so she feels obligated to remind the student every 12 minutes that elements of the breakthroughs of the Renaissance have precursors in The Dark Ages. Nonetheless, her voice is so good that she should have become Siri.