Tuesday, May 15, 2007

History 5 - Thomas Laqueur

European Civilization from the Renaissance to the Present. If you got that pictured, you will have a firm grip on the world today, the western world in particular. Where to get that kind of education from, if not from a library full of books, or a course at the university?

The University of Berkeley offered such a course in 2006, in the spring and repeated in the fall, I had the privilege of being there. Not really, but by virtue of the podcasts they made out of the lectures. I didn't even miss out on the slide shows. I emailed the lecturer, Professor Thomas Laqueur (photo) and he made sure I got access to the Berkeley service area and could download the presentations, and I did.

This podcast is extremely worthwhile. It takes some getting used to the fact that one is not present in the room. Also the length of the lectures (80 minutes) and diversions in real time make for tough listening. Not to mention the professor's occasional absent-mindedness (he can stop mid sentence) or awkward giggling. I actually applaud his courage to put such raw material on line, one could easily burn the series down on account of these features. But all of this, for me, is invariably and for ever, compensated by the depth of the history. This course truly gives insight into 1450-2000, if you ever wanted it. Reading on from there, thinking on from there, listening on to more detailed podcasts on particular incidents from there, makes one blessed with a formidable frame of reference.

I am already waiting for the next world history course Berkeley is going to put on-line and until then, I keep going over Professor Laqueur's lectures one by one. If you want to know what my lunch break looks like: making and eating salad while listening to history 5.
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