Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A History of India: a series of lectures presented by the Teaching Company

A History of India
A Great Courses Set on DVD
The Teaching Company
6 DVDs, 18 hours of lectures


I've long been impressed by the lecture sets produced by the Teaching Company, called The Great Courses.  They are a series of lectures, four or six to a DVD, each lecture being 30 or 45 minutes in length.  The sets range from 2 to 8 DVDs, and each DVD contains three hours of lectures.  The format is that of the ordinary classroom lecture, supplemented by appropriate visual and auditory aids.    Discussions of the arts will include photographs of the paintings  or sculptures under discussion while excerpts of music are presented during lectures on the work being discussed.

The topics covered include the sciences, mathematics, literature, religion, economics and finance, history, music, the fine arts, meditation, gardening, cooking, home decoration, various self-help topics, and a number of subjects I've forgotten to mention.  I think there's something here for just about everybody.


The lectures are geared for the average student who may know a little about the subject, but those who know nothing about the subject will have little or no difficulty understanding the lectures.   For example, I've viewed a number of lecture sets on astronomy and have found that most, if not all, begin with an introductory lecture on the beginning of the universe, the Big Bang theory or its variants.

This set of lectures on the history of India, presented by Professor Michael H. Fisher of Oberlin College,  begins with what is known about the earliest inhabitants of the subcontinent.  Most agree that they were there at least 35,000 years ago and some argue for a date of 70,000 years.  It appears as though, later, that there were three distinct cultural threads forming the early population, and DNA tests suggests that the survivors are still present today, though mixed and interspersed among the general population today.

Subsequent lectures include the various attempts to unify India, the development of  various religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism), and the effects of the interactions with other cultures and religions, including Islam and Christianity.  The last set of lectures include the results of the 1947 partition of the subcontinent into India,  Pakistan, and eventually Bangladesh and the violence that resulted.  The set came out in 2016, so it is quite up-to-date to that point.  However, it appeared prior to recent events in Pakistan, so the effects of the attempted coup are not covered. 

Viewing the lectures will not make me an expert on India, and they are not designed to do that.  They do provide an excellent overview of the subject, though, much like an introductory course on any subject.   One of the topics covered was Hinduism, of which I know little.   Another was Sikhism.  So, in the future, I will be looking for more information on those subjects.  I have already viewed its set of lectures on Buddhism and have some ideas about further research on that topic.  That's one of the benefits of courses such as this: it provides areas for further investigation.

I get these sets from the local library which has a wide variety of the Teaching Company offerings.  I have probably viewed around 50 of the sets over the past ten to fifteen years.  At present I have the following sets awaiting me:  The Nature of Earth: An Introduction to Geology,  How to Read and Understand Shakespeare, and The Great Tours:  Experiencing Medieval Europe.

The following is a link to the Teaching Company's web page where you can peruse its extensive collection.  The sets are for sale and can be purchased in a variety of formats, including downloads.

http://www.thegreatcourses.com/

I hope some of you are interested sufficiently to browse through the Teaching Company's offerings.  It's free.

18 comments:

  1. Thanks, Fred, for the well baited hook; my local libraries have some of the offerings, and I will check out several in the coming months. I also like many of the offerings available online from Yale -- http://oyc.yale.edu/courses

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    1. R.T.--I think you will enjoy them. Thanks for the tip about the Yale courses. I will take a look at them.

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  2. thanks for the update, Fred; i'm going to the library today and will see if they have any of those... they sound very interesting

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    1. Mudpuddle--I hope your library carries the sets.

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  3. These lectures sound generally great. This overview of Indian history sounds particularly fascinating. I need to now more about the history of this area.

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    1. Brian Joseph--I see them as good introductions to a particular topic, which then can lead to further more in-depth research.
      One set that I have on hold is _Africa's Great Civilizations_, about which I know nothing. This should also prove interesting and informative.

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  4. How lucky for you that your library has these lectures. I get adverts for them in the mail and they are tempting but I haven't bought any yet.

    I really like these sort of series that allow one to follow timelines and put the development of tribes, cultures and ethnicities into historical context.

    I wouldn't mind finding a book that traces Indian history. I am currently reading a thick book on the history of chess and its timeline travels through India with some interesting anecdotes about different leaders devoted to the game and what it looked like back then as compared to now.

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    1. Sharon--yes, very lucky. I couldn't afford to buy them.

      I hadn't realized there was a connection between India and chess, although now that I think of it-the rook (frequently depicted as an elephant with a tower on its back) probably comes from India. There was a very brief mention in the film of the use of elephants in warfare.

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  5. FRed: i got the first lectures on Astronomy and geology... my library doesn't seem to have them all, just a miscellaneous assortment...

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    1. Mudpuddle--same here. I think they purchase a set when someone requests it.

      I'm going to visit the Teaching Company web page and see which ones look interesting that the library doesn't have and request they order it.

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    2. Fred: i don't think my library does that... they have a committee, which is why they hardly ever get any good books...

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    3. Mudpuddle--this library has a committee also, but they sometimes purchase items requested by patrons. They purchased at least one of my requests last year, and since they couldn't find a copy of another book I ordered through InterLibraryLoan, they purchased it for me.

      On the library web page, amidst a long menu there's access to a site where one can either request a purchase or request an ILL. I usually go through ILL first. However, they won't do an ILL for DVDs, just books.

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  6. With your prompting I've been dipping into some TED lectures on YouTube and then moved on to some chunkier ones on Philosophy - so thanks for pushing me in that direction. I'll see about catching a lecture or two each week. That'll keep my educational juices flowing...

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    1. CyberKitten--sounds like a heavy schedule you are lining up for yourself.

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    2. Sounds like a relaxing way to spend an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon.... [grin] Plus the TED talks only last around 30 minutes. I'll use them as tasters probably..... [muses]

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    3. CyberKitten--yes, almost as relaxing as a Sunday afternoon nap. 30 minutes is a good length: most of the Teaching
      Company lectures are 30 minutes, although there are a few at 45 minutes.

      Enjoy!

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    4. i tried watching both of the ones i got, but neither had subtitles... so as i'm a bit hearing impaired, i couldn't make a whole lot of sense out of them... tx for the recommend anyway... Mrs. M, as one would expect, doesn't like a lot of noise...

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    5. Mudpuddle--Sorry to hear about that. I did find one with subtitles, but it was a very recent set. Perhaps they have decided to add subtitles now, but I don't think any of the earlier ones had them.

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