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Years That Changed History: 1215

Narrated by: Dorsey Armstrong
Length: 12 hrs and 29 mins
Categories: History, World
5 out of 5 stars (4 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

What is so important about the year 1215? There are some history buffs who may be able to tell you that 1215 is the year the Magna Carta was signed, but there are even fewer who know that King John of England’s acceptance of this charter was only one of four major, world-changing events of this significant year. In fact, the social, cultural, political, geographical, and religious shifts that occurred in this year alone had such a huge impact on the entire world, it warrants an entire course of study for anyone truly interested in the pivotal points of history that brought us to where we are now. 

As it turns out, the year 1215 was a major turning point in world history. Although the drafting of the Magna Carta is perhaps the most well-known event of 1215, anyone in Europe at the time would have told you the meeting of the Church’s Fourth Lateran Council was much more significant. Meanwhile, in Asia, a Mongol ruffian named Genghis Khan was embarking on a mission for world domination, beginning with his success at the Battle of Beijing, while Islam was experiencing a Golden Age centered around Baghdad’s House of Wisdom. Other cultures and societies around the globe were also experiencing pivotal moments in their development - from the Americas to Africa and Asia and beyond. 

These seismic events were only possible thanks to a confluence of global conditions, starting with the climate. Although we might not be familiar with the specifics, the ripple effect from these events can still be felt all over the world today. Years That Changed History: 1215 is a unique course, offering you the chance to delve into one of the most interesting periods in world history. Over 24 fast-paced lectures, Professor Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University gives you the Big History of this surprisingly impactful year, introducing you to the people, events, and wide-ranging influences of the year 1215. 

Among other fascinating discoveries, you will investigate how climate changes affected the population of Europe; explore the circumstances for the Magna Carta (which originally had nothing to do with human rights and liberty for everyday people); find out why the Fourth Lateran Council mattered so much; and tour the world beyond Europe to gain a true sense of global history. This last point about “global history” is an important one. Most history courses have to select a theme, which by its nature limits the scope of the curriculum. In choosing a year as her theme, Professor Armstrong is able to take you around the world, from the ancient Maya to the House of Baghdad to Shogun Japan. Professor Armstrong takes the world as her theme - and what a truly captivating world it is! 

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

©2019 The Great Courses (P)2019 The Teaching Company, LLC

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    5 out of 5 stars

Impressive and ambitious in scope

This really was the most gripping and illuminating lecture series. I could not turn it off, and ended up binge-listening to almost the entire course over just a couple of days. A tour de force. Dr Armstrong has a brilliant mind, and a very engaging lecture style that keeps the listener’s attention. I learned a great deal. I also recommend her course on the Black Death

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  • Carol
  • 2019-08-16

1215 -- Before and Beyond

I chose this course for two reasons; first because I really enjoyed "1066: The Year that Changed Everything"; and second, because I wondered what Dr. Armstrong could possibly have said about Machu Picchu to send one reviewer off the deep end, as it apparently did.

Regarding Item #1, the two are opposites. 1066 should really be subtitled "The Year that Changed Everything... for England." It is six very focused lectures. This one should more properly be titled "Centuries that Changed History: 1100-1300." Since 1215 does fall (sort of) in the center of that, and some pivotal events did take place, there is some rationale to focus on that year, but these 24 lectures are all over the place and often confusing.

The three 1215 foci are the Magna Carta, the Fourth Lateran Council, and the Battle of Beijing. I learned a great deal about the first and second; I was embarrasingly ignorant about the MC, especially given my rather extensive background in British history (ok, I studied mostly 18th century England and its "first empire," aka the Americas, but still...). One thing I learned was that the vaunted effects of the MC for "the common man" were originally negligible. It was written to address the very specific gripes of a few nobles, and its fundamental contributions to English Common Law came much later than 1215.

I also knew next to nothing about the Fourth Lateran Council, and found much merit in Dr. Armstrong's thorough coverage of the reasons for and results of this ecclesiastical council, whose effects included the ramped-up persecution of "fringe" groups--meaning anyone who was different and/or didn't tow the Papal line (Jews and Cathars were outta luck big time), and that much-feared minority, women. The Council's ramifications for monastic orders were also fascinating. Understanding the Council requires covering a time span that both predates and extends long after 1215--which Dr. Armstrong does admirably, and I think a 12-lecture couse centering on the European world before and after the Council might have been more effective.

Then there are the Mongols. Dr. Armstrong admits both (1) to being out of her area of strict expertise here, and (2) to have developed a great enthusiasm to learn more about these fascinating people. Both of these are evident in the unfocused and anecdotal lectures, as nomadic and fast-moving as the Mongols themselves. We hear a lot about their lifestyle, their conquests (which almost incidentally included the conquest of northern China and the Battle of Beijing in 1215), and about the charisma and military achievements of Genghis Khan, but I found it more confusing than enlightening. If I hadn't read the first two novels of "The Mogoliad" epic, I really would have been lost.

And then we have Africa and the Americas. I'm not sure why, except that there is a current trend to lionize "Big History" and all-inclusiveness. I happen to be enthusiastic about Big History, but here it's a misstep. The very brief discussions of three major African civilizations (Mali, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe) are interesting but ... in the context of this course, why? Then to try and cover the pre-Columbian world of North, South, and Mesoamerica in a half-hour lecture, well ... let's just say the three Great Courses entries by archaeologist/anthropologist Edwin Barnhart cover the same ground–in 48 hours (12 hours each on North and South America, 24 on Mesoamerica). I'm still not sure what it was Dr. Armstrong said about Machu Pichu that upset that reviewer, since it went by so fast I barely heard the words.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • BF Palo Alto
  • 2019-07-14

superb

I listen to almost all of professor Armstrong's courses. she is a pleasure to hear. although the clustering of events around 12:15 is somewhat contrived, It is an enjoyable course

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mike
  • 2019-07-30

Came for the Mongols, Stayed for the Magna Carta

Any professor who can make the Fourth Lateran Council interesting is gifted for sure :)

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jo Page
  • 2019-09-30

Dorsey Armstrong Rocks!

And not only that, she's got a golden year to deal with! I'm a Lutheran pastor so church history and medieval history is part of my stock in trade, sort of. In the other courses of hers, as with this one, she is personable, thorough and brings the time and the cultures she is dealing with into vivid focus. And who knew I would enjoy four lectures on the Mongols so very much? And I am psyched to see what she will tackle next. (She crushed it with her plague course!)

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Doyle
  • 2019-09-16

Excellent

The speaker presented the topic in a very efficient way. she explained the reason why things were the way they were and how it affected history.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • REN WANG
  • 2019-07-26

Only a small portion of the world

It’s surprising that the lecturer almost totally ignored China, where the Song Dynasty literally has world’s half population and economy. Its city Hangzhou was by far the most wealthy in the world in 11-13th century. I think Understanding Imperial China by this teaching company is a good way to fill in the blanke.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Kimberly Ames
  • 2019-06-18

Terribly

Her description of Machu Picchu completely discredit everything she has to say as far as I am concerned. I want a refund for this.

1 of 24 people found this review helpful