Making of the Modern World

They have not discovered audio editing yet. Each lecture begins with three minutes of silence. At the end there are ten minutes of silence. Still UCSD Prof. Matthew Herbst’s lecture series MMW4 (New Ideas/Clash of Cultures) is the best history podcast I have listened so far.
These lectures are part of the Making of the Modern World Program at the Roosevelt College.

It is designed to encourage thinking historically, comparatively, and in an interdisciplinary way about the Western and non-Western cultures studied in the course sequence. Disciplinary perspectives include those from literature, history, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, political science, and the fine arts. Students examine and interpret primary documents and artifacts from diverse eras and cultures, and enhance their understanding with information gained from secondary sources. [Roosevelt College]

While most beginners in history start with the usual Western Civilization till 1500 course, which ignores India, China and the Muslim world, the MMW series is quite comprehensive. This particular one, going on in the Fall session, examines the world from 1200 to 1750 covering the Mongols, Mamluks, Mughal Empire, Ottomans, Saffavids, the Western explorers and China.
His lecture on the Mughal Empire would give a heart attack to some “eminent” Indian historians. After talking about Akbar, he contrasts him with Aurangzeb and explains how he destroyed the temple at Varanasi and built a mosque in place. Following this he explains the rise of Shivaji.
But that is not why MMW4 is great. His style of teaching history is exceptional. He does not read out the text book, but tells it like a story. At each point, he asks questions like why is this important or why a certain decision was taken instead of another? As you think, various patterns emerge and expands your mind.
The course is going on right now in San Diego and it is available for download or listening online. The UCSD folks have not discovered storage unlike the UC Berkeley folks and so the course will be deleted as soon as the Fall quarter ends. (mid December).

7 thoughts on “Making of the Modern World

  1. This seems great! I usually listen to History Audiobooks in my car during work commute. Mostly by the Teaching Company.
    This looks great. Obviously the Teaching Company lectures are professional recordings so the quality is great. But still, university lecture podcasts open up a totally new window. Hope more and more universities do this.
    Unfortunatly there doesnt seem to be a way to download them onto the computer as mp3 or something. They stream from their embedded player. Let’s see if they can be copied on a cd/usb drive. If you know any way this can be done… let me know.
    Hours of audio for the commute 🙂

  2. Hi JK,
    I am really excited to find this review here. First of all, I completely agree with you: MMW by Matthew Herbst is a very worthwhile history lecture series.
    You are also right to warn your readers of the flaws in UCSD podcasts.
    Have you ever tried using Audacity? It is a free software that will make editing the sound files VERY easy. I must say I haven’t used it on UCSD podcasts yet, but on a lot of other sound files I have.
    Last but not least, you have read my reviews of Matthew Herbst’s lectures (I guess), but I’ll give the links for you and your audience:

  3. This got me hooked. Found a couple of more History Podcasts
    Historyzine: The History Podcast
    History narrative, linguistic history trivia and history podcast reviews, all topped off with the current special feature, which is the War of the Spanish Succession.
    Hardcore History Archive by Dan Carlin
    Military History Podcast
    Bringing you the strangest anecdotes, innovative technology, and most significant events of Military History.
    List of misc history podcasts
    Hope this doesnt go into spam because of all the links.

  4. Saad,
    I listened to the UCSD podcasts on my iPod. On the website, near each course, you will see an iTunes link. If you click on that it will open iTunes and download the lectures in the Podcasts tab. If you are not an Apple fan boy, you can copy the RSS link for the course and give it to your favorite audio tool.
    If you are interested in such lectures from Stanford, Berkeley, MIT etc, go to iTunes store from your iTunes. Then select iTunes U from the main page. It opens up a life time of learning – all for free.

  5. Anne,
    Thanks! I wish I could listen to as many podcasts as you do. I did not have the patience to run audacity on all the 18 or 19 lectures, and so the fast forward button is my friend for this. The good thing about UCSD podcasts are that the iPod remembers the last heard location, whereas in the Berkeley lectures I found it does not. Have you seen this happening?

  6. Hi JK,
    Yes I have seen this happening in a variety of lectures. You can change this yourself in iTunes. Before you copy the file to your iPod, right click it and ‘get info’ then go to the ‘options’ tab and check: “remember playback position”
    The reason this happens is because somehow iTunes didn’t recognize this as a podcast, but rather classifies it as any audio file. Only podcasts have the remember playback setting by default. But as you see, you have power over this.

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