Video Review: Great Courses: A History Of England From The Tudors To The Stuarts: Part 4

Great Courses:  A History Of England From The Tudors To The Stuarts: Part 4, by Professor Robert Bucholz

This lengthy course, which began with a discussion of the medieval context for the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, ends in a satisfying fashion with a look at a Great Britain which has one foot in the Middle Ages with its classical ideals and one foot moving towards modernity.  Although I must admit that is not necessarily my favorite era of British history or one I know the most about, it is definitely a satisfying and mostly chronological examination of the period, and it certainly ends with a demonstration of the author’s firm awareness of Atlantic history as a whole and with those historians who study its issues well [1].  What this professor does particularly well is not only cover an interesting era of history but also demonstrate how it is of value to his intended audience, namely Americans with an interest in English history and an ability to be motivated by the aspirations and hopes of the English populace as a whole, despite their flaws.  This is a course about flawed people who nevertheless made a great deal of achievement possible for the world.

The content of these last twelve lectures, totaling six hours or so of instruction is mostly chronological in nature, but it ends with three lectures that place the time period in a useful context and provide a great deal of balance and symmetry to the course as a whole.  The nine lectures that deal with time periods cover the history of late Stuart Britain as follows:  the Popish plot and the Exclusion crisis from 1678-85, the short reign of James II from 1685-1688, the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689, two lectures on King William’s War from its inglorious beginnings to its successful conclusion from 1689-1702, a discussion of partisan politics at the beginning of Queen Anne’s reign and then two lectures on the War of Spanish Succession/Queen Anne’s War as well as the successful peace at Utrecht from 1702-1714, and finally a discussion of the Hanoverian Epilogue from 1714-30 that confirmed Parliamentary supremacy and British strength in trade.  The course ends with two lectures on the land of Great Britain and its people in 1714 that look at economics and class as well as a considerable amount of attention on art and culture during the period and the way that the art and culture were no longer the province of rulers and elites but had expanded to commoners, and a placement of the history of England and its surrounding areas from 1485 to 1714 in a larger context both temporally as well as conceptually that demonstrates its high degree of relevance to a thoughtful American audience.

After 48 lectures and 24 hours of instruction, this course ends the way it should, with a look at the transition between the Stuart and Hanoverian dynasties, a consistent focus on the life and well-being of commoners, and a marked tendency towards speaking on behalf of those who have received undeservedly unfavorable coverage.  This professor is definitely a fan of the underdog.  While previous lectures demonstrated the author’s fondness for social history, something these lectures show at least a little about, these lectures also revel on celebrating the matronly and feminine virtues of Queen Anne, a much maligned ruler who like the reviewer struggled mightily with gout and also point out the way that England’s struggle towards toleration and constitutional  government inspired anti-colonial movements, antislavery agitation, as well as the constitutionalism of the United States.  In the end, this particular series of lectures performs admirable duty not only in informing the viewer or listener of a key period of time in English history but also in being honest about the flaws of the people involved and also encouraging those who pay attention to these lectures to engage in further study of the larger history of England and its people in the broader context of the world.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, History, International Relations, Military History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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