World War I: The "Great War"

Course No. 8210
Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
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Course No. 8210
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Course Overview

From August 1914 to November 1918, an unprecedented catastrophe gripped the world that continues to reverberate into our own time. World War I was touched off by a terrorist act in Bosnia and all too quickly expanded far beyond the expectations of those who were involved to become the first "total war"—the first conflict involving entire societies mobilized to wage unrestrained war, devoting all their wealth, industries, institutions, and the lives of their citizens to win victory at any price.

The cost was ghastly: Altogether, at least nine million soldiers died. Twenty million were wounded, seven million of them permanently disabled. Some estimates put the civilian deaths at almost six million. And countless survivors suffered from psychological trauma for decades after.

The world itself would never be the same. Governments had been given broad new powers to marshal resources for the battle to the death, and these powers have persisted ever since, even in peacetime. Another legacy can be seen almost daily in today's headlines, as border disputes, ethnic conflicts, and ideological arguments smolder on, almost a century after they were first ignited in the Great War.

Riveting, Tragic, Cautionary

World War I: The "Great War" tells the riveting, tragic, and cautionary tale of this watershed historical event and its aftermath in 36 half-hour lectures delivered by Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius of the University of Tennessee. Professor Liulevicius has a gift for cutting through the tangle of historical data to uncover the patterns that make sense of complex events. And few events are as complex as World War I, which pitted the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Ottoman Turkey, later joined by Bulgaria, against the Allies, principally France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and, after 1917, the United States.

Most narratives of the war focus on the Western Front in France and Flanders, with its mazelike trenches, gas attacks, constant shelling, assaults "over the top" into withering machine gun fire, and duels of dog-fighting aviators in the sky. Professor Liulevicius devotes great attention to this theater, which has become emblematic of World War I in the popular imagination. But the war had other important arenas of engagement that you will also explore in depth, including:

  • Eastern Front: In his writings Winston Churchill called this theater the "Unknown War," and its battles throughout Eastern Europe were much more fluid than those in the West—but certainly equally bloody.
  • Southern Fronts: In a disastrous attempt to break the stalemate in the West, the Allies landed troops at Gallipoli in the Turkish Dardanelles in 1915. Major action also raged in the southern Alps, Serbia, and northern Greece.
  • War at Sea: The war introduced submarines as a potentially decisive strategic weapon, particularly as deployed by Germany against Allied shipping. On the Allied side, Great Britain used its naval supremacy to blockade German ports.
  • Arab Revolt: Aided by archaeologist turned intelligence officer T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), the British encouraged Arab attacks against Turkish forces in the Middle East, feeding the cause of Arab nationalism.
  • Communist Revolution: A battle-exhausted Russia succumbed to the Bolshevik seizure of power in the fall of 1917, introducing a new factor into world politics: the ideologically guided utopian state, which would cast a dark shadow over subsequent history.
  • Armenian Massacre: The war formed the backdrop for the first full-scale modern genocide: the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey, in which as many as one million men, women, and children of the Armenian minority were killed or died from abuse.
  • Spanish Influenza: As a crowning horror in the concluding stages of the conflict, a worldwide pandemic swept the globe. The Spanish Influenza killed an estimated 50 million people, exceeding the war itself in lethality.

What You Will Learn

Professor Liulevicius combines chronological and thematic approaches for a sweeping survey of World War I's many dimensions. In Lectures 1–6 he depicts the state of Europe and the world in 1914 as the war approached. In Lectures 7–9 he examines the Western Front and the horrors of trench warfare. Then in Lectures 10 and 11 he covers the Eastern and Southern Fronts.

Lectures 12–15 are devoted to various war themes: the military and political objectives of the combatant nations; the experience of those living under foreign occupation; the wounds, psychological suffering, and medical treatment of ordinary soldiers; the fate of prisoners of war; the phenomenon of storm troopers and other enthusiasts for battle; and the technological advances that produced ever greater bloodshed through innovations such as the machine gun, poison gas, and recoilless artillery.

Lectures 16–18 explore the battleground in the air, at sea, and around the globe. Lectures 19–23 investigate issues on the home front: how different nations reacted to the war; the effects of propaganda, privation, and stress on the civilian populations; popular dissent; and the efforts of war leaders to remobilize domestic support in the last years of the struggle.

Lectures 24–28 examine some of the dramatic departures in world history brought about by the conflict: the Armenian massacres; the Communist revolution; and the entry of the United States into the fighting and how this affected life in America and the war's outcome. Lectures 29–33 cover the path to peace and the aftershocks worldwide.

Finally, in Lectures 34–36 Professor Liulevicius looks at the deeper and lasting impact of the war, which some scholars have called a civil war, or even a suicide attempt, of Western civilization.

You will also explore these themes:

  • The surprising eagerness of all parties to plunge into mutual slaughter
  • The unexpected endurance of societies undergoing total war
  • The radically different hopes and hatreds that the war evoked, with remarkable contrasts between Western and Eastern Europe
  • The meanings that the different sides ascribed to the war, both during the conflict and after
  • The way the war normalized previously unparalleled levels of violence, including against civilians
  • The role of various ideologies in the war's course and conduct.

World War I Is Still Part of Us

World War I has left its mark in many ways, both small and large. Mundane objects such as trench coats and wristwatches were popularized to meet the practical demands of the front lines. Expressions such as "in the trenches" and "No Man's Land" also trace to this experience. The war gave us Daylight Savings Time and the staple Western civilization courses in American colleges, introduced to inculcate young minds with the values that Americans were fighting to preserve.

The British royal family is now called the House of Windsor because during the war hostility to all things German led them to change their name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The same trend in the United States led to a temporary substitution of the word "liberty" in expressions that had quite innocent German associations. Hamburgers became liberty sandwiches. Sauerkraut became liberty cabbage. And German measles became liberty measles.

On the most significant level, the war led to changes in the status of the state, society, and the individual. Ironically, the widespread disillusionment engendered by the war produced an ideological style of politics with extremist views brooking no neutrality that culminated in the even worse disaster of World War II. Important figures in that conflict were molded by their experiences in the Great War, including Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Harry Truman.

World War I is still part of us. Paradoxically, the totality of the war is difficult for us to grasp precisely because our own identities, our own understandings of ourselves in the world, have been shaped by the experience of that total war and the totality it revealed.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Century's Initial Catastrophe
    The opening lecture presents the main themes of the course, beginning with the concept of total war. Other themes include the role of ideology, the meanings ascribed to the war by different sides, and the war's legacy. x
  • 2
    Europe in 1914
    This lecture examines the state of Europe and the world before the onset of the war in 1914. The emergence of the German Empire created strains in the international balance of power, as divided among Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia. x
  • 3
    Towards Crisis in Politics and Culture
    Even among those who expected war, there were widespread misconceptions about the nature of the conflict to come. In this lecture you explore the prevailing ideas and attitudes in Europe and then turn to the premonitions noted by contemporaries of coming disaster. x
  • 4
    Causes of the War and the July Crisis, 1914
    This lecture analyzes the immediate events that led to war, from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary at Sarajevo in June 1914 to the diplomatic chain reactions that followed in the July Crisis. x
  • 5
    The August Madness
    Hysterical celebration known as the August Madness greeted the outbreak of war between the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and the Allies (France, Great Britain, and Russia). You analyze new research that questions how widespread this emotional outburst really was. x
  • 6
    The Failed Gambles—War Plans Break Down
    This lecture follows the unfolding of the German Schlieffen Plan, which envisioned quick victory on two fronts, and the French Plan XVII, which aimed to recover lost French territories. Both were thwarted. x
  • 7
    The Western Front Experience
    The Western Front soon froze into static trench warfare and horrific slaughter from attempts to break this deadlock. Generals on both sides sought a breakthrough that would allow sweeping offensives and glorious cavalry charges. These never came. x
  • 8
    Life and Death in the Trenches
    This lecture gives a detailed overview of the trench landscape from the perspective of ordinary soldiers: the elaborate fortifications, the omnipresence of death, and the codes of behavior such as the Christmas fraternizations between the trenches in 1914. x
  • 9
    The Great Battles of Attrition
    Once the new dynamics of industrial war had been recognized, there followed a series of months-long battles of attrition. You examine the battles of Verdun and Somme in 1916, and in 1917 the French Champagne Offensive and the Third Battle of Ypres, also called Passchendaele. x
  • 10
    The Eastern Front Experience
    This lecture illuminates the unfamiliar clash of empires in the East, beginning with the Russian invasion of German East Prussia and the ominous disasters of the Austro-Hungarian war effort. The Germans achieved victory against the Russians at Tannenberg in 1914 and followed up with the "Great Advance" of 1915 into Russian territory. x
  • 11
    The Southern Fronts
    Turkish entry into the war expanded its scope. Allied landings in Gallipoli in 1915 were repulsed by Turkish defenders. Italy entered the war on the Allied side but met disaster against Austria-Hungary at the battle of Caporetto. x
  • 12
    War Aims and Occupations
    What goals did the Allies and the Central Powers pursue from the outset of the war? How did these goals change? After examining these questions, you turn to the experience of military occupation and how it affected civilian populations. x
  • 13
    Soldiers as Victims
    Historians estimate that half of the soldiers mobilized in the war were killed or wounded, and some suggest that nearly half of surviving soldiers experienced psychological traumas. This lecture seeks to convey the immense scale of this carnage. x
  • 14
    Storm Troopers and Future Dictators
    Attempts to break the immobility of trench warfare produced storm troopers, fearless warriors habituated to the trench landscape to a disturbing degree. Two ordinary soldiers seemed to enjoy the war too much: Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. x
  • 15
    The Total War of Technology
    An important element of World War I was the expanding destructive potential of technology. This lecture covers such developments as the machine gun, poison gas, and the submarine, as well as the economic weapon of ersatz materials. x
  • 16
    Air War
    While the war in the air was not yet decisive in World War I, it was a frightening portent of what future conflict would hold. This lecture surveys the rapid improvement in early airplanes and the growth of the myth of the fighter ace. x
  • 17
    War at Sea
    Like the land forces, the opposing navies also reached a stalemate. The Battle of Jutland in May 1916 was the only large-scale British-German naval clash, and it ended indecisively. The naval blockade imposed by the British on Germany was of far greater effect. x
  • 18
    The Global Reach of the War
    This lecture surveys fighting in the European colonies in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The diplomatic sparring for the sympathies of neutral states is also examined, along with the economic dimension of the global war. x
  • 19
    The War State
    Total war put new demands on the state to mobilize populations and economies for victory. For example, Britain broke with earlier liberal traditions to give the government increased power over the economy and political speech. x
  • 20
    Propaganda War
    This lecture examines the increasing sophistication of official propaganda. You also study the phenomenon of spontaneous propaganda produced by citizens, which could take the form of rumors, myths, and stereotypes of the enemy. x
  • 21
    Endurance and Stress on the Home Front
    The home fronts in all the warring countries met privation, shortages, and surveillance with both endurance and signs of growing stress. The British blockade led to severe hunger in Germany, and the employment of women in war industries disrupted social traditions. x
  • 22
    Dissent and Its Limits
    A range of voices spoke out against the conflict as it deepened, including workers, pacifists, and even a decorated British officer, Siegfried Sassoon. At the same time, radical socialists saw in the war an opening for world revolution. x
  • 23
    Remobilization in 1916–1917
    Increasing war-weariness led all the combatant powers to attempt to reinvigorate the war effort. In France and Britain new civilian governments took the lead in this effort, while in Germany the de facto military dictatorship inaugurated a new propaganda campaign. x
  • 24
    Armenian Massacres—Tipping into Genocide
    World War I saw the launching of what is considered the first full-scale modern genocide: the 1915 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey, in which between 500,000 and one million men, women, and children of the Armenian minority were killed or died from abuse. x
  • 25
    Strains of War—Socialists and Nationalists
    This lecture explores the growing divisions in wartime societies, which produced revolts such as the 1915 Easter Rising against British rule in Ireland, the French army's mutinies in 1917, and the growing alienation of subject nationalities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. x
  • 26
    Russian Revolutions
    The Russian Empire was the first to break under the pressure of war. In March 1917, the tsarist regime abruptly collapsed. Months later the liberal-led provisional government itself collapsed when Lenin's Bolsheviks seized power and inaugurated a new Communist state. x
  • 27
    America’s Entry into the War
    In this lecture you follow the path that led the United States to join the Allied cause against Germany in April 1917. America's entry gave the war a larger ideological character, articulated by President Woodrow Wilson in his Fourteen Points. x
  • 28
    America at War—Over There and Over Here
    World War I had a profound impact on American society. You explore the sophisticated propaganda campaign launched to rouse the nation to arms, the massive economic mobilization, and the encounter of American doughboys overseas with the "old continent." x
  • 29
    1918—The German Empire’s Last Gamble
    Hoping to win the war before the massed arrival of American troops, the Germans marshaled their reserves for a final offensive in March 1918. They advanced to within artillery range of Paris before being stopped by an Allied counteroffensive. x
  • 30
    The War’s End—Emotions of the Armistice
    When the guns fell silent on November 11, 1918, many Germans found it difficult to accept that they had lost the war. As a crowning horror, a worldwide pandemic swept the globe: the Spanish Influenza killed an estimated 50 million people. x
  • 31
    Toppled Thrones—The Collapse of Empires
    The defeated Central Powers saw their empires and political structures come crashing down. This lecture outlines the startling internal collapse of the Central Powers and the question of what new order would replace the extinct regimes. x
  • 32
    The Versailles Treaty and Paris Settlement
    The peace settlements ending World War I were beset with contradictions. Should the treaties reconcile enemies or punish the defeated? Were they meant to repair the prewar balance of power or abolish it? This lecture considers the resulting treaties in depth. x
  • 33
    Aftershocks—Reds, Whites, and Nationalists
    In the turmoil after the war, intense ideological conflict arose. Partisans of international Communism heralded by Soviet Russia (labeled Reds) battled counterrevolutionary forces (called Whites). New nation-states also collided repeatedly. x
  • 34
    Monuments, Memory, and Myths
    Vigorous debates surrounded the question of memorials to the fallen. This lecture analyzes such monuments as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Also investigated are myths that arose in the wake of the war, including the "Stab in the Back" legend in Germany. x
  • 35
    The Rise of the Mass Dictatorships
    World War I showed the power that could be mobilized by states organized for war. This experience provided the model for postwar totalitarian movements, including Fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany, and Communism in the Soviet Union. x
  • 36
    Legacies of the Great War
    This concluding lecture confronts the largest and most difficult question: What were the true meaning, legacy, and significance of World War I? You examine the economic, social, and political impact, as well as the individual human consequences of this disaster. x

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Your professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius

About Your Professor

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee
Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford...
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Reviews

World War I: The "Great War" is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 162.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview I really didn't know much about World War I until I listened to this course. Sometime the information is much more than I'd want to know, little details about politics, etc, but mostly it was just right. For example, I never understood wny it started from an assassination, but it was because everyone wanted war and thought it was inevitable. The attitude before the war and how the war changed it was just fascinating. In addition, starting to understand the really insane decisions that military leaders make when lots of lives are at stake is also rather fascinating. Frontal attacks against machine guns just don't work. So what's the solution, bigger frontal attacks with more men involved. If you don't mind the details and want a good overview of the thinking during the war and the whys of the war, this is a great course.
Date published: 2016-10-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good overview I had mixed feelings on this course, I think the Professor covered a lot of material and it delves deep into the Great War. I enjoyed the lecture on Storm Troopers as I was unaware of that aspect of WWI. I have to admit though that I found the Professor rather boring, he seemed to repeat himself and I lost focus in many of the lectures. This course has gotten many positive reviews though so I will chalk this to my personal taste.
Date published: 2016-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful course The course was well organized and presented. Each lecture starts with a summary of what will be in that lecture which made it very easy to follow while driving. The lecturer is very well spoken and made the events of WWI come alive. I highly recommend it. While traveling around Europe for three months this summer, I saw countless memorials and historical references to WWI and realized how important it is to understand WWI in order to understand modern day Europe. These lectures gave me that understanding.
Date published: 2016-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Fanstastic breadth and depth, including prelude, major events, and aftermath of the war. Engaging presentation style that holds your attention. World War 1 seems to be overshadowed in history classes by World War II, this series does the Great War justice.
Date published: 2016-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Detailed and Fascinating Account of a Tragic Eve I have always had a deep interest in World War 1. I clearly remember my high school history teacher in the 1960s claiming that it caused greater change than World War 2. Because of the immediacy of WW2 at that time I did not come to realize the accuracy of this comment until later in my life when I studied WW1 at greater length. If you have an interest in furthering your knowledge on this topic can I recommend? The Guns of August – Barbara Tuchman 1913 The Eve of War – Paul Ham 1914 The Year the World Ended – Paul Ham The War that Ended Peace – Margaret MacMillan The Sleepwalkers – Christopher Clarke Catastrophe. Europe Goes to War 1914 Both the causes and consequences of WW1 have interested historians for just on 100 years. I have read that Jack Kennedy read Tuchman’s book just prior to the Cuban crisis and he evidently said to his brother that he didn’t want a book to be written titled “The Missiles of October.” I think that George W Bush would have benefited from reading anyone of these books before his 2003 decision to invade Iraq. Back to Professor Liulevicius lectures, I was mightily impressed with the scope and range of lectures in this course. He did not just give a battle-by-battle account of the war. Many of the lectures are insightful and edifying The issues of the soldiers lives, the pressures they lived under on the front and their collective and individual responses. The early role of propaganda, the situation on the home front and finally the German peoples’ reaction the armistice and the Treaty of Versailles were all fascinating. The professor lectures in a clear engaging voice. His narrative follows are clear path. I appreciated the time he spent explaining the Armenian massacres, the war on the Eastern Front and the impact that the Gallipoli campaign had on Australia and New Zealand. On several occasions Professor Liulevicius quotes my favourite historian, A J P Taylor. I have not mentioned any of his books above but would recommend reading any of his books on the subject. I strongly recommend this course to any and all interested parties. It is truly of university standard. Participants will have a fuller understanding of the causes and consequences of this momentous period in world history. I am sure that if the Kaiser, Tsar, Emperor and the Sultan knew what the outcome was going to be of their country’s involvement in this conflict they would have done their utmost to prevent it.
Date published: 2016-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine overview of WWI narrative and thematic aspect Professor Liulevicius’ course “War, Peace and Power…” focuses as its central theme on the power dynamics and diplomacy of the European powers in the nineteenth century; and how these power dynamics, almost as if in a Greek tragedy, lead Europe into the abyss of WWI. All of this is brilliantly explained in that course, as well as in “Long 19th century…” (one of my favorites though I seem to be in a minority), but the detailed, chronological narrative of what actually went on leaves a lot to be desired. Possibly the best narrative description of WWI outside of the current course is in “Foundations of Western Civilization II”, by Professor Buckholz, but that is a broad survey course covering all of Western European narrative history from 1500 to 2000. The granularity is therefore, inevitably, quite coarse. The reason I am taking the trouble to write this is because there really is not a comparable resource within the TGC for understanding the mechanics of WWI and how it played out narratively. Having said this, the course does not allocate almost any time to discussing the sources of the conflicts, so in this sense “War, peace and power…” and “Long nineteenth century” complement in perfectly. For many, WWII’s horrors eclipse the story of WWI (myself included). I had much less knowledge of what actually went on during the Great War as compared to WWII, about which I learned since kindergarten and studied extensively on my own. For contemporaries, however, WWI was unbelievably traumatic, and they could not imagine a war more horrible. In this respect I found the course to fill in the gap very nicely. This course provides a very good, relatively fine grained military narrative of the many campaigns of WWI, including many that are less known to us in the West along the Eastern front. The Genocide of the Armenians in Turkey pops to mind as a good example. I have studied this subject before, but in the context of WWI – and the Armenian population’s sympathy to the Russians, many new contexts were added. It also provides, however, many analytical perspectives peculiar to WWI, including (among others) the war in the trenches, the huge toll this war was to take - primarily on soldiers, and many aspects of total war first fully manifested in WWI. It also provides a good picture of the unfolding of the political picture leading to Germany’s surrender, to the Versailles treaty, and to the birth of the “stab in the back” perception by many Germans (including Adolph Hitler for example) – in which they expressed their belief that the German army had actually been winning the war, but the army was betrayed by socialist, Jewish politicians who agreed to sign a totally superfluous surrender agreement. Obviously, there is a major thread here, leading from WWI to WWII, and Professor Liulevicius does indeed concede that many historians consider WWI and WWII to be in fact one war with twenty years of cease fire between them. As in the other courses I have heard given by Professor Liulevicius, I found him to be interesting, clear, entertaining and witty and the lectures were highly enjoyable.
Date published: 2016-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WWI revealed This course not only covers the Western front, with which I was fairly familiar, but also the war in the east and southeastern Europe, which was largely unknown to me. It reveals the extent of conflicts in those areas that are unresolved to this day. It is also good for understanding the origins of WW II.
Date published: 2016-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview of "The Great War" This is an excellent course on World War I by Professor Liulevicius. Photographs, posters, and movie clips are used very well to illustrate the points being raised by Professor Liulevicius. This course starts with discussions on the events and conditions that lead up the start of World War I including defining which countries joined which side and why. The motivations and objectives of the different parties are described. The next portion of the course describes the war itself including the major battles and the major military officers. Professor Liulevicius explains how the military command on both sides were very slow in adapting to the technology advances of the 20th century. In order, he explains how this military leadership is fighting a 20th century war with 19th century tactics and how this resulted in the horrible trench warfare that has come to represent World War I. In the last part of this course, Professor Liulevicius reviews the outcome of this war and its implications. As much as people what to believe, this was unfortunately not the war to end all wars. Instead as argued by many historian, it was just the first phase of a global that had a 20-year truce. As noted by Professor Liulevicius, World War I did not end on November 11th 1918 with the armistice with Germany. Fighting continued especially in eastern Europe. This continued fighting is explained in more detail in The Great Courses series “A History of Eastern Europe” which is also provided by Professor Liulevicius. I highly recommend this course because it is relevant to today. Even though, “The Great War” was about 100 years ago, it had a lasting impact on language, society, and beliefs that extend even to today.
Date published: 2016-05-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Starts slow, but gets better For the first few lectures, he seems to just be reading, in a monotone. Maybe he was tired or nervous. I almost gave up and asked for my money back. But his presentation gets much better later in the course.
Date published: 2016-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A good preview I thought the professor, whose name is Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, might be European and was looking forward to a European view of the war. Only to find out that he is from the exotic land of Chicago.. This is an excellent summary of the first World War. Of particular note, the professor devotes seven lectures to what happened after the war, believing (and he is surely correct) that the war was simply a rehearsal for World War II. He also discusses the ways in which actions taken during the war have led to today's Middle East mess and to the war in Vietnam. He notes that the United States seized the German patents on file. He doesn't say (perhaps he does not know) that many of the chemical patents turned out to have false information on the creation of the patented compound. Thus, our theft often didn't benefit us in the slightest. The professor recommends several books, and I bought a great many of them, plus a few that he did not mention but that were recommended by Amazon. I still haven't finished all of them, but I am vastly expanding my knowledge of the war. I also found a set of three-dimensional pictures. One of them shows a dead man impaled on barbed wire. Significantly, you cannot tell what nationality he is, and of course you have no way of knowing if his parents were still alive to learn they had lost a son. Did he have a wife? Children? There is no way to know. There are other things you think about as you listen to this course. One wonders in particular why no general said, "hey, this trench warfare is really dumb!" World War I continues to have an impact today. I recently embroidered the names of three members of my family (I didn't know them) from Canada who were killed. They will be part of a quilt an English organization is creating to memorialize the dead of the war. If you have any interest in this war, this course is the place to start learning about it. Then you can get all the courses on World War II....
Date published: 2016-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging presentation Professor Liulevicius' presentation combines an engaging delivery with a detailed and wide ranging review of all the aspects of WW 1.
Date published: 2016-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great understanding of war I listened to this lecture series because I really wanted to do one on WWII and realized I probably should know more of the preceding war first. The lecture series was very well presented. He provided a lot of good background for the start of the war and also some evaluation of how this war changed the world. I will listen to this one again, I am sure.
Date published: 2015-07-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Survey Course that Needs More Chronology I decided to listen to this course since this is the 100th Anniversary of WWI. I wanted to know more about this "Great War" that is so often overshadowed by WWII. The only two criticisms that I have is the lack of a chronology in the course and lack of an emphasis on the military history. The course is highly topical with lectures like: Air War, War at Sea, Propaganda War, Dissent and Its Limits, etc... All are well-researched and well-presented, but the lack of a clear chronology leaves some of these topics in a vacuum. I found myself on Wikipedia a few times being sure that I was not confusing some of the chronology. That being said, I understand why the professor decided to use a topical approach--it allowed him to tackle major issues in single comprehensive lectures rather than spreading those same issues throughout the course. The other thing missing from this course is a comprehensive discussion about the battles. The professor certainly mentions the major battles and provides some discussion, but this is far from a military history. The course is much more focused on the social and political issues than the military ones. If I was in charge of the Great Courses, I would expand this course by adding another six lectures--maybe two dedicated to a chronology and four emphasizing the military history. While these are significant criticisms, I need to emphasize that I still consider this course excellent. While I believe the course would benefit from more chronology and more military history, these are mere omissions. The quality of the course content that is included is outstanding. The professor is clear and organized. The professor is interested in the topic and knowledgeable. Since I was a history major in college and often read history books, I judge a history course by two factors: 1. Did I learn something? and 2. Do I understand the topic better? I can answer both of these in the affirmative after finishing this course. I learned much more than I previously did about the political fights throughout Europe that led up to the war and dominated military decisions. For instance, I found it fascinating that, at one point, German politicians were making strategic decisions about the conduct of the war with the next war clearly in mind--they wanted to be in a better position for the next time that Europe tore itself apart in bloody conflict. This certainly belays the myth that World War I was fought as the "War to End All Wars." The course did not make me an expert on the topic, but it gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the history of World War I.
Date published: 2015-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoughtful, not chronological What made this course stand out was the thoughtful, subject based structure of the course. There were the necessary timelines and lists of battles but the large majority of the lectures dealt with topics, such as the industrialization of war and the first modern genocide. This made the course much richer as I learned unexpected ideas or connections. I'd never heard that the WWI is regarded very differently in eastern Europe than it is in the West. There it was a war which led to independence for many countries of eastern Europe, so much so that in Poland Nov 11 is independence day. This is a course that deserves multiple listenings.
Date published: 2015-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is my favorite of all the Great Courses I have purchased so far! I cannot say enough about the quality and quantity of information this very engaging professor offers. His presentation is exceptional, and the material is at once inspiring, terrifying, plentiful, and urgent. This often understudied period of history is crucial for understanding later events in the 20th and 21st centuries, and the professor does a great job of showing many angles to it -- political, human, military, and more. I have listened to it twice, and eagerly await a third round. This is partly so I can fully grasp and recall the material, the mere facts and figures are astounding in every lecture. But I also want to somehow, in a tiny way, conceptualize what the war was like for those who experienced it, both on and off the battlefield -- and the professor makes this immensely more possible with his portrayal of the war. Crucially, he calls a spade a spade: when evil or good show their faces, he calls them that. In other words, he avoids political correctness. Yet he does not suggest that everyone in the Central Powers was evil -- or were not often victimized themselves -- and he also exposes some of the weaknesses and mistakes of the Allies. I am very interested in this professor's other courses. From the enlisted soldier to Great Power politics, this course is a superb review of one of the most horrific periods of modern history. My only (and admittedly significant) complaint, is that the course should contain 48 or 60 lectures. Maybe this professor and the TC will consider a new, longer version in the future -- please? Thank you, and God bless!
Date published: 2015-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous discourse on World War I This is the best Great Courses course that my wife and I have purchased. This is a truly serious, university level, presentation on the causes, underlying social issues, and implications for the future of what was known at the time as "The Great War" -- not at all like the continuing education courses you often find for retired adults who want an afternoon out. The professor has done a fantastic job of organizing the material. And he makes a point of **not** neglecting theaters other than the Western Front, which for many people equates to the war, even though the loses on the eastern front and in Italy were just as great. If you know very little, or if you know quite a lot (my wife, in particular, who has made a hobby of studying World War I [she's British by birth]), you will learn an enormous amount from this course.
Date published: 2015-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The "Forgotten" War that re-shaped the World World War I is often the "forgotten" war. It is often overshadowed by its successor, WWII. Professor Liiulevicius (L) brings to light the numerous ways in which WW1 resulted in fundamental changes in the world. WWI brought an end to absolute monarchy, effectively ended colonialism in Africa, opened the door for women's suffrage, and created one of the worst ever worldwide epidemics (the Spanish flu). With both sides encouraging native ethnic people to rise up against their empires, revolutions were inevitable with the Russian Revolution being the most significant. Warfare itself was fundamentally changed to "total war" on civilian as well as military targets. New tools of war were introduced that are still part of the military today; the first tanks, the first air war, submarines, machine guns, etc. New vocabulary was introduced with "in the trenches", "over the top", "trench coat", "wristwatch", etc. And forms of holocaust, normally associated with WWII, were initiated; the concentration camp, genocide (Armenian massacre), neglect of mentally ill, etc. Key individuals who went on to shape the 20th Century had their ideas and principles (or lack thereof) shaped during WWI; Hitler, Churchill, Mussolini are obvious, but others such as Ho Chi Minh or Herman Goering were also products of WWI. These topics are just a sampling of the eye-opening education Professor L teaches in this course. Probably like most Americans, I had learned that WWI was a European War and not of the Global Scale of WWII. Professor L teaches that while Europe was the main theater, WWI was very much a global conflict as naval battles occurred off South America, battles ensued in sub-Saharan Africa, a constant naval war engaged the Atlantic, and major fighting took place in the Middle East. Soldiers, not only from the principal combatant countries, but also from Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and India participated. Some earlier reviewers indicated disappointment that this course is based on various themes (e.g. pretext to the war, the war at sea, the air war, the homefront, propaganda war, etc.) rather than as a chronological series of battles indicating systematic conquest and liberation of territory. But this "battles" approach doesn't really fit; WWI was more about stalemates (e.g. soldiers fighting from trenches with no man's land in between) and naval blockades. Professor L's approach of teaching about the war through various contexts is entirely appropriate and effective way to teach this subject. Don't worry, he does describe battles as they occur. Many historians now tend to treat WWI and WWII as more-or-less a continuum of war (see Niall Ferguson's book "War of the Worlds"). It is quite clear that the terms of the Armistice of 1918, left many sources of tension unresolved, opened the door for Nazism and Fascism to flourish in Europe and led to a resumption of conflict in WWII. While it is not difficult for most to see the lingering effects of WWII and the Cold War on today's global political situation, Professor L reminds us of the many ways in which outcomes of WWI still have impact today. Perhaps the most significant lingering impact is how the defeated Ottoman Empire was divided. Boundaries of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Trans-Jordan (ultimately Israel and Jordan), were all carved out of the Ottoman Empire along prefecture boundaries defined by Britain and France. This legacy no doubt contributes to today's strife in that region. A similar picture emerges for post colonial Africa. Professor L. is an effective presenter. This is the second of his TGC courses I have taken. He is somewhat less effective in this course (produced in 2006) than "Turning Points in Modern History"(produced in 2013). This course uses the older "bricks in window" set while Professor L stands behind a podium and seems to be reading from both notes and a teleprompter. His body language is thus less effective than in the 2013 course he ditches the podium and notes, and speaks to the camera using a teleprompter. Nevertheless, his command of the material and his vocal inflection still lead to an effective presentation of this course. There are many visual aids, such as photographs and maps, used in this course which make the video version essential. The accompanying course guide is very complete with detailed lecture notes, a few maps (not as many as in video), a timeline, biographical notes and a bibliography. I fully recommend this course. It has peaked my interest in the time period. As I write this we are in the time period of the 100th anniversary of "The Great War". What better time to learn more about this major inflection point in World History.
Date published: 2015-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not a Footnote to History After a century, events, people, territories and politics change. Memories fade; new generations take-on different philosophies and political views. Thus, events of the past become short chapters in history books or simply footnotes to history. This cannot become the fate of the events of World War I. To understand the history of the 20th Century and to understand current and emerging events requires an understanding of World War I. The Treaty of Versailles and Paris Settlement did not resolve the events that caused the war, but served to inflame the desire for national autonomy, new political philosophies (namely democracy and communism), and new financial arrangements. World War II was not a new war, but a continuation of World War I; current problems in the Middle East stem from territorial divisions and ethnic alignments made at the Paris Settlement. Professor Liulevicius gives fluent, knowledgeable lectures on the events leading to World War I, the battles of the war, impact of the war on civilians and national economies, and on the lasting human damage to soldiers and their families. The lectures conclude with explanations of the subsequent consequences of the war on economics, politics ethnic groups and national states. The course, for me, put a vague event in history into a basis for understanding the 20th Century and events in Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East today. This is an outstanding course.
Date published: 2015-02-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Addressing some misleading criticisms... I thought this course was wonderful, but some other 4-5 star reviews have already touched on the main positive features of the series and I don’t think they need repeating. As such, the purpose of this review is to address what I believe are a few misleading, and in some cases unfair, criticisms posted by other reviewers. Note that I am not a teacher or a history expert (just a banker that loves learning), so take that as you will. 1) "Missing" content: Some reviewers seem incensed by the "missing" content (primarily battle history) in the lecture series. To them I would say, of course you will not learn everything you want to from this lecture series (I particularly would have liked to hear a bit more about the diplomacy leading up to the war, such as in The Sleepwalkers and The War That Ended Peace), but then you will NEVER be able to learn everything about anything, especially not in one go. More importantly, there is a list of the course lectures clearly visible to all before making a purchasing decision... if you don't see enough military history lectures in the content list for your taste, then don't buy the series and complain afterwards about the lack of military history lectures. This course is a wonderful overview and blend of military history, intellectual history, social history, and cultural history. The course is relatively high-level, but supplement these lectures with a few books/lectures with a more focused curriculum and you will have a very strong foundation on the subject. 2) Not a "Narrative": The course style is a blend of thematic and narrative story telling (leaning a bit more towards thematic), as noted by other readers with a bit of frustration. Again, I thought this was clear from the course description and lecture titles. 3) Professor's repetition: Many reviewers have claimed, correctly, that Prof. L. consistently repeats key ideas and themes. They view this as a weakness. On the contrary, I think this is the sign of a great educator... numerous academic studies have shown the importance of frequency to learning. You will likely not remember all the dates/names in these lecturers, but you WILL know the central ideas by the end. This will be instrumental in any further learning you do on the subject of WWI. That said, he does use the same WORDS repeatedly (e.g., clearly, particularly, etc)... I found this somewhat humorous, but could understand it being annoying to others. 4) Bias against Russia: A reviewer has commented that Prof. L. is biased against Russia because the "author does, in my understanding has Lithuanian origins". Gotta love that hypocrisy… all I can say is this reviewer’s comment should be entirely ignored by true learners.
Date published: 2014-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Informative. This is one of the best, if not the best, of all of the Great Courses that I have taken. The material is very well presented and I learned a lot with every lecture. The teacher reviews the causes of the war, its actual course, and its aftermath. He also brings out many of the links between this war and World War II and also the links to our present day. This course is very highly recommended.
Date published: 2014-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nearly Perfect I was utterly and completely nonplussed at the depth and rigor of this course. Without a doubt it is one of the best that I have ever seen from TGC. Pretty much every aspect of the war is analyzed or touched upon. It is a near perfect blend of military history, intellectual history, social history, cultural history, etc. My *only* complaint was that he did not touch upon the European nations that were seemingly neutral. For example, he never said a single word about Denmark or Spain. And while I would not expect much, since they were not in the war, I am curious to know how the war affected them or why they were left out, etc. A key motive of many players was expansion of empire. And some of the "neutral" countries provided key resources that would be ripe for empire. Nevertheless, AWESOME JOB!!!!
Date published: 2014-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A thought-provoking, timely, well-taught course You may find this series a good introduction to one of human history's major social and political events. Somehow, an evil but isolated act (a terrorist assassination) catalyzed a human catastrophe that set the conditions for even worse disasters soon afterward. Remarkably, as the instructor points out, this war's effects continue well into the digital age (for example, its demand for technology indirectly increased competition for technological innovation). As the old song goes, when will we ever learn? And, how can we learn it? Prof Liulevicius helps us understand how the war happened and why its effects continue. The course progresses chronologically, is nicely organized, and covers important functional areas (such as the war's effects on women's rights, other effects on culture and values, how it made terror and totalitarianism more likely, the role of propaganda and deception, and what life was like in the trenches and on the home front). The instructor seems well-qualified, he uses a matter-of-fact and respectful style rather than trying to be entertaining or cynical, and he solidly develops a few major themes rather than overwhelming you with details and detours. This goes nicely with a lecture format although, alas, some phrases may appear too frequently. We are now a century away from the war's beginning. We are glad we took the course. Even though the topic is unsettling, understanding and carefully thinking about it has value. Publicly, it might lead to better discourse. Personally, it just might help me develop some insights to help live in a way that somehow reduces the likelihood of a similar disaster, either privately or publicly. That, after all, is a good reason to study history.
Date published: 2014-06-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good survey...makes me hungry Dr. Liulevicius' presentation (downloaded audio) provided a firm basis from which to explore in more detail the causes, events and conclusions of this the world's introduction to modern warfare. The lecturer's even, clear manner was easy to follow, especially aided by online maps and articles (thanks Wikipedia!), and, of course, the trusty old pause button. I was inspired to listen to these lectures by reading Ken Follett's 'Fall of Giants'...and in turn I am curious to learn more about specific aspects of this war and the political implications it has to our world today. I think Dr. Liulevicius accomplished the mission of his (and really any) set of lectures by making the student curious. Those looking for an end-all set of lectures that answer all (possible) questions, simply don't understand how learning works. I recommend these lectures...on sale & with a coupon...but be prepared to leave hungry.
Date published: 2014-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Presentation of the Great War Like many people, my knowledge of WWI was limited to a brief treatment in a history class and perhaps a book or two. Prof. Liulevicius presents a thorough, yet fast paced, course that includes the implications of the war into modern times.
Date published: 2014-04-09
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too Much Info, Not Enough Enthusiasm The Great War was so massive in its scope and historical impact, one could literally lecture on it for longer than the war itself took. That of course is not practical, so any examination of these vital years in modern history must be selective when including and excluding material. Something will inevitably be left out. For someone with the obvious personal passion and depth of knowledge as the lecturer in this course, such a reality was probably a difficult one to accept. But for the sake of the material, and especially for those of us without at least a working knowledge of the war going into it, it is something he should have been made to accept more readily before producing this course. This course needed either less information total, or more information on fewer specific topics. 36 lectures was way too much, and in fact by the final disk, I was picking and choosing what to watch. Even then, I found my mind wandering a bit, as was the case with most of the other lectures in the previous five disks. This may not have been a problem if the professor was a charismatic speaker, but he sadly is not. He is near-monotone in his delivery, rambles a bit, loses his way, repeats points made, and often falls into multi-leveled digressions. That sort of presentation works in writing, when one can go back and re-read a sentence, but it's a bit harder to rewind and listen to 60 seconds of footage over and over again. Plus, the course as a whole attempts to cover way too much outside of the actual fighting of the war. I'd say about the first 12 lectures are on target as far as content, if not in presentation. But after number 12, I found them hit or miss, content wise. I don't doubt that issues such as the nature of dissent, use of propaganda and the victimization of soldiers were important affects of the war, inevitable results that must be understood by history. But again, when you don't have an already working knowledge of the actual war basics and occurrences, it can really wreck the rhythm of learning about same when 3 or 4 lectures can pass between concrete explanations about events of the war. Not that there are as many of those as there should have been...I didn't want a tactical military analysis, but more time spent on who was up, down, and for what reasons at any given point..and where (literally) that put any given army on the map would have been more helpful. Instead I see the effect of the war aims on the morale of the Balkan societies, or the adventures of Rasputin. Again, relevant, (in some cases more than others) but not instructional as to the true nature of the war. In short, this course was mostly about consequences of World War I, as opposed to the actual fighting and ending of same. Even those digressions and second-generation realities could have been made interesting by a superior public speaker. It took me months longer to get through this than I planned it to, and I still don't think I've retained the thesis of most of the lectures. I can't bring back the information on most of them in conversation. While there is a study guide, I'm drawn to Great Courses because of the living lectures, and not the truncated guides. We very much need people like Professor Liulevicius. The minute details of that devastating time must be preserved by knowledgeable people of great intellectual depth, who also have a passion for the subject. But for a Great Course on which I spent money I have to say it falls short.
Date published: 2014-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Material and Presentation I didn't know how much I didn't know about World War I, until I watched Dr. Liulevicius' wonderful course on this subject. It is amazing how WWI truly set the tone for the future of Western Civilization. "The Great War" rewrote the map of Europe, it set the stage for World War II, and its effects are felt strongly right down to the present day. I have watched this course twice, and will most certainly be watching it a third time. In the meantime, I have been reading some of the classic works of literature referred to by Dr. Liulevicius, which pertain to the World War I period. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2014-03-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Biased Review Against Russia I was quite enthusiastic to see the course on the World War I, but at the same time much disappointed by the author. While my review has nothing against the author personally, the author does, in my understanding has Lithuanian origins, and such his view is largely biased (as that of majority of Baltic nations) against the role of Russia in War. The author says: “Russia was an enormous multinational empire under the Romanov dynasty, spanning Europe and Asia. With a population of 164 million, it was vast in potential but still backward in development, compared with Central and Western Europe”. In fact, The Russia of Nikolai II was the strongest economy at that time. On one foot with USA, which the author does not mention at all. The reason why Germans attacked Russia, was the aim to destroy this growing economy. That is way such surnames as Alexander Parvus (also known as Lazarevich Gelfand) the agent of German sponsored Lenin to collapse the Tsar Regime. The Stolypin, who was shot by revolutionists, said nearly before the beginning of war: give us 20 years, without any distortions from inside and outside, and you won’t recognise the Russia. The author does not mention that the Russian – Japanese war was also sponsored by England, Usa, and Germany in the lead of such a person as Jacob Schiff. [Dissatisfied nationalities (Poles, Lithuanians, Finns, and others) saw Russia as a “prison of nations.”]. This might be true, but it is also to mention, that, after the Kerinsky Government was removed by Lenin (in fact Kerinsky was waiting for Lenin to arrive from Switzerland!! They were both agents of Germany), the hired army of Latvians was very active in the Red – White war. There are many facts to mention, but that will do.
Date published: 2014-02-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Sadly disappointed I really wanted to like these lectures, but unlike the Childers' lectures on WWII, which I think are excellent, I found these lectures disappointing. I have been a professor #of mathematics# for over 40 years and I appreciate a good, fact-filled, well-communicated lecture. However, I found these lectures to be filled with flamboyant rhetoric. I often found myself wishing he would speak in MUCH simpler, more direct language. I learned a lot about how the war began in Lecture 4 and how it ended in Lecture 29 but there were, after all, 36 lectures. Perhaps a young Professor Liulevicius was trying a bit too hard to project a scholarly and academic air.
Date published: 2014-02-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I have a PhD and teach survey US history. I wanted to learn more about battles involving the A.E.F. and the American home front. It didn't happen here. I wanted to see battle maps and explanations of movement and strategy at least at St. Mihiel---the turning point of the war. To that end, the course was a let down. Also, too much redundancy with the material. For instance, trench foot is discussed twice. We got it the first time. This happens with much of the material. And the overview for each lecture in some instances lasted 5 minutes long! A short summary of the information would suffice. Overall, a disappointment.
Date published: 2013-12-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding political and social history of WWI I had previously listened to this professor's course on European History (War, Peace, and Power: Diplomatic History of Europe, 1500–2000) and found him a good lecturer, with a pleasant voice and good delivery; and although I wouldn't call him terribly dynamic, I felt he was quite engaging, probably due as much to his selection & organization of the material as anything else. I was very interested to hear him drill into more detail on the topic having heard some of it in summary in the prior course.. Some reviewers have marked the course down for its lack of coverage of the more martial dimensions of the war. I think for the needs of the course it was reasonably well covered. Key battles and fronts were discussed. However, this is certainly most of all a political and social history course about the causes of the war and the wildly varying motivations and desires of all the combatants, the significant social transformations wrought by the war in each of the combatant countries (some obvious, and some which I hadn't previously appreciated) and the impact of the conflict on the map of Europe and a presaging of subsequent events. Personally, this is exactly the sort of history I wanted and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Date published: 2013-12-08
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