I have enjoyed other lectures by Kenneth Harl in the past He is easy to listen to and does a good job of covering a number of aspects of the history of the period even including the prester John and the impact of the rise of the Mongols My only wish is that there had been coverage on the rise and fallof the monsatic fighting orders such as the templars. Good tempo, fun Kenneth Harl is one of the best of the Teaching Company lecturers I recommend any of his courses they are all packed with facts, laced with the occasional well supported and counter intuitive interpretation, and plenty of fun tidbits. So, time for another set of lectures from Teaching Company this time around I decided to revisit Crusades I had no high expectations, because by now I know that TTC courses in classical disciplines tend to be pretty elementary But I really enjoyed professor Harl s lecture set about steppe peoples I ve listened to couple of years ago, so I knew it would at very least be fun refresher run.My presumptions were correct on two accounts The lectures were a blast to listen to, simply because professor Harl has this rather unique gift of turning a lecture about history into a fascinating adventure tale Also, the level of the lectures were, at least on the surface, kept at introductory level Newcomers to the topic should have no problems keeping up with the story I was however completely wrong in my assumption that the lectures would mainly consist of repetition of material I was already familiar with In fact I could not have beenwrong in this respect, for one simple reason the story professor Harl tells may be familiar to people already acquainted with the subject of Cursades, but his analysis of those events is of the beaten path and quite briliant, if you ask me First of all, his lectures are completely free of the post colonial guilt trip that tends to polute Western studies about anything even vaguely associated with the Crusades This in itself is quite a breath of fresh air And if that wasn t enough, his take on Crusades as a series of interactions between three power centers quite ignorant of each other on pretty much every level and therefore quite prone to misunderstand both each other and the overall geo political situation, is nothing short of being brilliant For me at least, a lot of puzzle pieces suddenly fell into place after regarding the history of Crusades, as professor Harl suggests, through a pair of tragic comedy of misunderstandings and misconceptions spectalces The Era of Crusades needs, in my opinion, to be listened to by anyone with interest in the subject and in middle age history of Europe and Asia Minor You don t have to agree with the overall thesis presented by the good professor, but I guarantee that he will make you think about that period in a somewhat different manner. A good friend had written in his review that Harl did an even better job in this than he did in his The World of Byzantium I had a hard time believing that since Byzantium was a great work but I would say he was correct Harl speaks real fast and presumes you have a solid understanding of European and Mediterranean geography and leaders for about a 300 year period Don t ask me to write a paper on all the players No idea how Harl can know so much about so many people and places over such an extended period of time My takeaway from these 36 half hour lectures is that this era was very complex Western Europe, the Byzantines, and the Muslim world were all in their own multi directional civil wars during this time Add the Mongols completely destroying cities into the mix if life wasn t enough of a disaster So much of our lives around the world were shaped by this period Banking, logistics, statecraft, technology of all sorts, arts, architecture were all being developed and spread as a result of this era Yet another Great Course that makes me want to get back to Europe to explore areas I didn t appreciate enough. Little too much concentration characters and too little analyzis Still overall very enjoyable. I shall now ponder the whole idea of lecture as a medium I think Professor Harl is rather an intelligent man quite well versed in his subject area however, I took less than full pleasure in his lectures because his delivery suffered a sort of amateur flavor for the lack of polish due to lots of ahs and ums and a significant number of misstatements that had to granted immediately be corrected during the course of his talks It was enough to make me wonder whether the lectures ought not have been given by the professor, recorded, transcribed, and then read for production for the final product But then I suppose the series would have been produced by someone other than The Great Courses entity.But, as I say, the professor seems to know his subject Perhaps almost too well in some cases, where he made somewhat snarky asides about some personalities that he felt entitled to make due to his immense knowledge, but which he may not have fully supported with scholarly background A minor point, perhaps, but those of us with less than full knowledge of why a given king might have really been a dullard might be entitled to know whether the professor can support such a claim with relevant background.The final lecture in the series does give a useful rationale in the end for why the Crusades came to pass and their proper place in history It might have been well for such an overview to have been presented in advance, with appropriate reference to which lectures would focus on the main points that were going to be made in them The 36 lectures could seldom be called boring, but lacking the tightening up mentioned in the paragraph above one can easily envisage a pick and choose mode that might get one into the material for a taste and out again in four to six hours without having to slog through the entire eighteen, or so. What Were The Forces That Led To One Of History S Most Protracted And Legendary Periods Of Conflict How Did They Affect The Three Great Civilizations That Participated In Them And, Ultimately, Why Did They End And What Did They Accomplish In TheseLectures, You Ll Look At The Big Picture Of The Crusades As An Ongoing Period Of Conflict Involving Western Christendom We Would Now Call It Western Europe , The Byzantine Empire, And The Muslim World From This Perspective, You Ll Study The Complex But Absorbing Causes Of The Crusades, Which Include The Many Political, Cultural, And Economic Changes In Western Europe After The Fall Of The Roman Empire You Ll Examine The Crusades In Terms Of The Specific Military Campaigns The Eight Canonical Crusades That Took Place From Proclaimed To Retake Jerusalem And The Holy Land From Muslim Hands And Return Them To Christendom You Ll Consider The Immediate Circumstances The Leaders, Purposes, Key Battles, And Degrees Of Success Or Failure Surrounding These Often Monumental ExpeditionsYou Ll Also Explore A Wide Variety Of Misperceptions And Long Debated Questions About The Crusades Did The Popes Preach The Crusades As A Way To Increase Their Personal Power And Authority Why Did The Members Of The Fourth Crusade Decide To Sack Constantinople, Turning The Crusades From Christian Against Infidel To Christian Against Christian Taken Together, These Historically Rich Lectures Are An Opportunity To Appreciate Fully How Western Civilization Changed In Many Profound Ways During The Crusading Era This series of 36 lectures on the Crusades covers 300 years of history, and the lecturer is not shy about providing a slew of background and contextual detail Some previous knowledge of the history of the Middle Ages might help, since the era of the Crusades draws in just about every major historical figure of the time from Medieval Europe what the hell is a Hohenstauffen to the Byzantine Empire to the powerful Islamic and Turkomen empires It s a fantastic overview, but it is really easy to lose the forest for the trees here Harl has a tendency to get excited and stammer a bit while spewing outdetail than is necessary he is clearly a competent and passionate historian, but at times I wished this series had been edited better Or at all It s also a little disturbing that, according to GR, people with similar taste read Once Upon a Potty and Time to Pee An overview of the entire Crusader period with perspective about each of the participating empires and parties This course does an admirable job of keeping a very touchy subject in the realm of facts and not conjecture and manages not to bleed into political territory a feat in and of itself for this era More of an overview then an in depth analysis which is saying a lot since this is 18 discs long but I did learn quite a bit and evenimportant helped me put this time period into a broader perspective.