Two of the all-time-best free history courses on the web are taught by a husband-wife team of historians, one at Stanford University and the other at its rival institution across the bay, University of California Berkeley. These stellar courses are The Rise and Fall of the Second Reich (iTunes) taught by Berkeley historian Margaret Anderson and History of the International System ( iTunes) taught by Stanford’s James Sheehan.
I wrote about these courses back in 2008 when I first started this blog, but my WordPress statistics show that very few of you are clicking on the links to these courses. And that’s a pity. So here’s a recap.
The Rise and Fall of the Second Reich
You all know about the Third Reich, Hitler’s “thousand year empire” that plunged the world into the worst war in history. But what about the Second Reich? Margaret Anderson, a specialist in German history, relates the fascinating tale of how Prussia, a small state in eastern Germany, became a world power and corralled the other German-speaking states into a Prussian-ruled empire in the last quarter of the 19th century. Along the way she covers artistic and literary trends, giving her students insights into the German Enlightenment, and the romantic movement. She finishes up with the cautionary tale of World War I and the fall of the German Empire. The syllabus is here.
History of the International System
James Sheehan covers the history of the 20th century through the lens of the international system–how nations define their self-interest and their relations with other nations. Sheehan gives historical shape and texture to many of the theoretical issues in international relations such as sovereignty, strategy and real politique. Before World War I the Europeans used an informal system that mostly kept the peace on the European continent although it condoned European colonization and colonial wars in the rest of the world. The breakdown of this system, and its eventual replacement by formal mechanisms forms the backdrop of Sheehan’s exceedingly well told tale. The syllabus is downloadable on the course’s iTunes page.