Saturday, September 6, 2008

UCSD MMW 6 - history lecture podcast

Following lecture podcasts by UCSD is something of an ordeal as a result of the technical setup the lecturers use for recording. The only reason to put up with this is the high quality of the content. In the MMW (making of the modern world) series, I reported about MMW 3 which is roughly about the Middle Ages, and they were excellent.

UCSD has the recordings automated. Lecturers sign up and then at the set time and place, recording starts. At best this means some silence at the beginning and end of the lecture. It gets worse when lecture starts early, or the automation goes into effect when the series is already past the first lecture. Then you simply jump right into the middle. A final problem is that the feed goes off line at the end of the semester, which in cases can be a mere handful of days after the last lecture. Or you have to make do with whatever you downloaded.

MMW 6, of this summer is about modern times. Say, World War I until today. The first three lectures have been omitted from the feed (late sign up), so you'll drop in the middle of an expose about the history of Israel and the course moves on from over there.

The good thing I noticed immediately, is that the Professor - Ivan Evans - didn't start the Palestine history in 1948. We get a lot of facts and analysis from what happens before that. However, there were some rather weak points I noticed. Evans is not a very well ordered speaker, so it is hard to follow him. At the same time he is very outspoken in his opinions, which, together, leaves you wonder about various foundations for these opinions. On top of that, he slips up with the data, he is either inaccurate, vague, unsure, or on some points wrong. (For example, he persistently refers to the Israeli prime minister as 'the president of Israel')

There are quite a few good podcasts out there that in one way or the other touch upon the modern era (for example the closing lectures of Berkeley's History 5 or Stanford's The history of the International System). As a consequence, this MMW 6 installment falls short. Also with respect of Evans's standing as a professor and the quality of his opinions suffer from the errors and ambiguities. There are a lot of good and interesting points he makes, but in order to be able to have a good framework and not be distracted or misinformed, I'd advise to hear other podcasts first, before embarking upon listening to this course.

MMW 3:
Herbst,
Chamberlain.

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