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Publisher's Summary

How do historians create their histories? What role do the historian's viewpoint and method play in what we accept as truth? Answer these and other questions as you go inside the minds of our greatest historians and explore the idea of written history as it has shaped humanity's story over 2,000 years.

These 24 intriguing lectures introduce you to the seminal thinking of historians such as: Herodotus, considered by many the first history writer, who replaced the poetic imagination of Homer with istorieis, or inquiry; Livy, the author of a 142-volume didactic history of Rome that spanned three continents and seven centuries; David Hume, who framed English history with an evolutionary vision of economic, political, and intellectual freedom; and Edward Gibbon, whose monumental Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire forged a complex picture of epic collapse and decay.

From the dramatic and military exploits of Xenophon and Thucydides in ancient Greece to Macaulay's dynamic career in the 19th century, from the bloody era of Christian Reformation to the revolutions of the Enlightenment, Professor Guelzo takes you into the trenches with great minds throughout history.

And beneath the surface of written history, you'll examine the processes that create accepted views of historical events, and you'll uncover the ways in which understanding how history is written is crucial to understanding historical events themselves. The journey rewards you with an unforgettable insight into our human heritage and the chance to look with discerning eyes at human events in their deeper meanings.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses

What listeners say about Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past

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Professor Shows Amazing Breadth of Knowledge

Would you listen to Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past again? Why?

I was aware that Professor Guelzo was a renown Civil War scholar, and I had listened also to the excellent job he did on his American Revolution Great Courses audio. Turns out that he has an incredible breadth of knowledge of history spanning the world and all periods. This course is not for everyone. It is for those who deeply appreciate history and who want to delve more into how historians have thought over the years and how the presentation of history has evolved over the years. Those who are patient will be amply rewarded.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Even thought all periods of history are covered, I still like the lectures on Greece and Rome, including Heroditus, Tacitus, and the lessons of the ancient Greek Wars.

What does Professor Allen C. Guelzo bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Professor Guelzo clearly appreciates this topic and the great historians of the past. His enthusiasm is contangious.

9 people found this helpful

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Western-centric

Great performance. The content is however wholly based on the take of history by Western historians. No mention of Chinese, Muslim, or any other “Great Historians” outside the western tradition. The course title( and many other Great Courses) should have included the phrase : A Western Perspective.

2 people found this helpful

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A History of History

Like any discipline, history didn’t spring full-fledged from the head of Zeus. In charting its development over the last 24 centuries, Professor Guelzo selects telling details—one of the tools included in his definition of the historian’s trade—and establishes the chain of intellectual cause-and-effect in the development of historical thought—a process distrusted by several of the historians he discusses.

Beyond the arc of intellectual schools and trends, Guelzo discusses how historical events and philosophical movements have shaped the writing of history, and how that writing can shape the outlook of historical figures. His last lecture, an outline of academic history's descent into "the faddish glamour of the Post-Moderns" offers hope to anyone not on board that anti-rational experiment against reality. For anyone interested in the question history strives to answer, (“How did it--a people, a civilization, a nation--get here?”) these lectures will make fascinating, stimulating, and widely instructive listening.

As in his shorter series on Lincoln, Guelzo’s highly polished delivery can (at times) verge on smugness. But the overall effect is deeply engaging and entertaining—much more so than the halting, attenuated approach of some other teachers in the Great Courses.

2 people found this helpful

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History Evolves

This is a nice series of lectures. The Teaching Company for years has provided lectures for customers yearning for that college experience. Essentially their courses are undergraduate level lectures in virtually any discipline. Also they provide supplementary materials--in this case, a PDF with an outline of all the lectures. I enjoyed this wide-ranging survey as history evolved from an informal literary endeavor to a more formal, rule following one. The instructor, Guelzo, takes us from the classical historians (primarily Roman ones) to modern ones (such as Braudel and the Annales school). I actually enjoyed learning about the classical historians because I did not know about the differences in outlook and methodology. It was always to my mind just one amorphous mass (Livy, Plutarch, etc) none of whom were distinguished to me as any different from another. Moving forward to more modern historians such as Gibbon and Macaulay (my personal favorite), Guelzo was clear to show that the historians like them still have much to offer, not least of which was writing with style and panache. Of course, it is the scientific historians who are most commended for their attention to facts and figures, as history evolved from a purely literary discipline to a more objective, scientific one. Guelzo does a good job parsing out how historians changed the profession and how the audience responded.

In terms of style, the only small complaint I had was that Guelzo occasionally gets a little too excited and his overheated style threatens to swamp his story. But this is truly a small complaint. Indeed, I suspect it's more my gripe than any kind of flaw. And despite this, I found this a very enjoyable listen. If you are interested in intellectual history, in the progress of ideas, then you will enjoy this a great deal.

2 people found this helpful

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Most Important Lecture for Future Historians

Making History: How Great Historians Interpret the Past is a lecture that teaches the Historian's Craft. Here you will learn how historians wrote and studied the past. From the Ancient World to today, you will be introduced to the most important historians and learn how to write the past, using or discarding their techniques within your own writing. It emphasizes how a historian's interpretation transformed throughout time. To narrow the study down, Professor Allen Guelzo introduces future historians to each major historian throughout the craft. Beginning with Herodotus, Guelzo answers the overall question "How do historians write the past?"

Using several different tones, Guelzo delivers an entertaining lecture on Historiography. He expresses the importance of studying the craft and the techniques that past historians used when they wrote history. Furthermore, he uses proper language accents and themes to describe each historian's culture and what influenced them to write history. As a historian with a Master of Arts History Degree, I find that Guelzo's Historiography lecture was far the best one that I ever heard. If you are struggling in your own Historiography class, you need to invest in this lecture. It will change your whole perspective and make it easier studying the "boring" Historical Theory of what we call Historiography.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Insightful but pompous...

I could not finish the course. The man is just too pompous and enamored of the sound of his own voice. There are interesting insights, though. But the course is more a mediocre summing up of world history than a reflection on the evolving understanding of the nature of history.

3 people found this helpful

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More Histrionics than History

A previous reviewer criticized the overwrought delivery on the part of this lecturer, and I failed to heed the warning, in part because a second reviewer rolled out an enthusiastic defense. From the sample, I thought I could manage. Wrong.

I hate to criticize a man who is obviously a good scholar, an enthusiast, and probably a fine, lively teacher in the flesh. But I'm afraid this venture just didn't work out. Perhaps at the publisher's urging, the material has been way, way over "popularized."

The thespian antics, wry chuckles, and jokiness seem aimed to hold the attention of a room full of six-year-olds. I almost picture the lecturer with hand puppets.I don't mind a bit of oomph and personality in a lecture. But this is so distracting I find it nearly impossible to grasp the content, which may be very good--but I'll never know.

There may be audience for this. If others feel differently, I hope they will write in. Perhaps I'm just old and mean, but I prefer scholarly lectures as I prefer a martini--straight up and dry, thank you.

13 people found this helpful

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Superb in every possible way.

As entertaining as it is enlightening. My favorite of all The Great Courses. It has really made me THINK. My synapses are on fire.

P.S. If the delivery seems too theatrical for some, please know that Guelzo is FAMOUS for his fabulous oratory, Don't allow what some perceive as "pomp" to outweigh his circumstance. The man is brilliant. Just sit back and ENJOY him. (BTW, the "wry remarks" another reviewer found irritating actually made me laugh out loud.)

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great entry to the subject

A great series of lectures looking, as it were, under the hood of history. Some commenters have complained about the lecturer's style, and he has a little bit of Kelsey Grammer as Frasier Crane going on, I grant them that. But his style becomes part of the story and I actually enjoyed it. The story, in any respect, more than makes up for one's stylistic views on oratory. Prof Guelzo has done a top notch job.

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  • Nelson C
  • 02-24-16

The Substance Underlying How History is Expressed

I thought this series was fantastic. I have a great interest in not just history, but the philosophy thereof. One cannot suppose that history may be objectively transmitted to others. We all colour it with our own subjective brushstrokes - even when it has an expressly objective intent - information is still selectively chosen and certain themes become the main focus. This series is an exploration of history and the way it is expressed, but this is what makes the writing of history so interesting. These viewpoints add richness to historical narrative and endeavor to add relevance to its words.

I really liked Prof Guelzo. Some people think he is a little pompous and over the top, but I really liked the way he discussed the material. He brought these lectures to life and added a dramatic and interesting flair.

Many might not like because the may assume it is a bunch of history lectures. These lectures, although they touch on history, are more of a philosophy of history, a look at historiography.

I give this course a solid 5 stars on all counts and will definitely relisten.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Deirdre E Siegel
  • 05-09-21

Professor Guelzo turning history into ear candy

This has been my funniest history up-grade, the professor does a splendid job of reviving old stodge in tasty morsels :-)

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  • David Graieg
  • 12-09-20

A solid survey of influential historians

An informative and engaging overview of how some of the influential historians in history have approached the writing of history. Guelzo does this primarily through case studies, namely:
1 History as the Second Question
2 Homer and Herodotus
3 Marching with Xenophon
4 The Unhappy Thucydides
5 Men of Mixed Motives—Polybius and Sallust
6 The Grandeur That Was Livy
7 Tacitus—Chronicler of Chaos
8 The Christian Claim to Continuity
9 Augustine’s City—Struggle for the Future
10 Faith and the End of Time
11 The Birth of Criticism
12 The Reformation—The Disruption of History
13 The Reformation—Continuity or Apocalypse?
14 Enlightening History
15 The Rise and Triumph of Edward Gibbon
16 History as Science—Kant, Ranke, and Comte
17 The Whig Interpretation of History
18 Romantic History
19 The Apocalypse of Karl Marx
20 Culture and History
21 Civilization as History
22 The American History Lesson
23 Closing the Frontier
24 The Value of History