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Publisher's Summary

Twice in the first half of the last century, the great powers engaged in wars that killed nearly 70 million people, with the aftermath of each shaking the international political system, changing the maps of the world, and setting the scene for the next great conflict. And for most of the past 50 years, the Cold War dominated international politics. Is this the history we are condemned to repeat?

This series of eight lectures about international politics will hone your ability to approach that question with knowledge and insight. It reveals how concepts such as the balance of power and the international system interweave with and help shape history, showing you what actually happened in the great conflicts and why. The lectures will help you answer many of the key questions those concerned with creating a stable peace must answer every day; did the end of the Cold War bring peace and harmony or war and chaos? Does the United States play a dominant role in international affairs or is its role declining? Is military power still the key to world leadership, or has economic power become more important? Should the United States attempt to play the role of global police force, or should it withdraw from its overseas military commitments?

©1991 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)1991 The Great Courses

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  • Kristi R.
  • 29-09-15

“Beware of historians with bad analogies.”

1 Continuity and Change in World Politics

2 What Is an International System?

3 The Balance of Power and Its Problems

4 The Origins of the First World War

5 The Problems and Promise of Collective Security

6 The Origins of the Second World War

7 The Origins of the Cold War

8 Alternatives to the Present International System

This course was first released in 1991 so it was before the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of terrorism in the world, but I found it very enlightening and still relevant for today. I wish President Bush and his cabinet had listened to this course before plunging us in another war with Iraq, but what is happened.

Professor Nye gives a promising scenario for the future of the world and the United States in these lectures. The first three (around 45 minutes in length) lectures explain International politics and systems and how important the Balance of Power is.

The next three explain the origins of the World Wars and the different scenarios that could have happened instead of global conflicts. I have always thought that they were inevitable but through his perspective, I can see how things could have been different.

The seventh chapter takes on the Cold War and how it happened and if it was necessary. I found it fascinating.

My favorite lecture was his last on what the future may hold for us as a nation and the world at large. While he didn’t take on China or terrorism directly, he did show the way to a peaceful future in a global economy. If the world relies on each country for its economic base, than why would we want to fight? If we use democracy as a helpful tool for the poorer nations of the world, it is less likely that democracies fight each other.

This audible edition came with a pdf file with course notes which was very helpful.

I loved these lectures and it helped me understand why the world is so screwed up, but it also showed me why history doesn’t have to repeat itself.


14 people found this helpful

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  • Robert M Larson
  • 04-04-17

Dated but good.

Very interesting to listen to with the hindsight of over 25 years. The ability to go back and see what people were thinking before the final fall of the Soviet Union is a good reminder of the way the future is not inevitable.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Orange Monkey
  • 07-03-22

INTELLIGENT INSIGHTFUL - MOST CRUCIAL LISTEN TODAY

In December 1942 everything changed.
With CP1 "Chicago Pile #1", the first controlled chain reaction, weapons of mass destruction was becoming reality.

There is nothing like war to cause destruction and misery. With every war started we see technological advancements creating even more destruction and misery.

Technological progress can be seen. The moral, ethical, diplomatic, conflict resolution, strategic progress is severely lacking.

Prof. Nye does an absolutely amazing job in answering the most important question for our times: Must History Repeat the Great Conflicts of This Century?

It's a wonderful high-level systems-thinking exposé which will provide deeper insights and principles which enable all of us to learn from the past, to use insights, and apply to current day situations, and extrapolate to potential future consequences. These patterns are supported by crucial historical events that show the how, why and when.

With Russia having invaded Ukraine, and the highly dangerous pundit-smorgasbord of opinions offered (all the same) with moral outrage, and essentially completely lacking strategic thought, I fear for the future of the world.

One thing is sure: In the past, each war has bred resentment and hatred which is fed into the next to become even worse than the previous one. War is about contingent history, a careful web woven by our analysis and actions.

Like Einstein said: We cannot solve our current problems with our old way of thinking.
The same goes for this. If we are to put an end to total destruction of the planet, we had all better sit down and try to learn, and think rationally and strategically about foreign relations.

I fear what is to come.
This Great Courses will be the most important one you listen to in your whole life.
(Hopefully along with others!)

1 person found this helpful

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 23-09-20

A Complex Discussion Without a Satisfying Conclusi

Professor Nye brings some interesting, thought-provoking tidbits to the discussion but he doesn't tease them out more. Instead, he moves on to the next thought or "what if" and when he does choose to spend time on a theory he looks at it from so many various angles and viewpoints that your head is left spinning!

Ultimately this lecture series is one long series of hypotheticals and back and forth debates over causes of events such as World War I, World War II, and the Cold War but I never got the sense he provided much of a conclusion not only to the question in the course's title (though the answer one would presume would be "no") but even to the main discussion points in the lectures he would raise. For example he would pose a question like "Was World War I inevitable?" and proceed to provide a view point from a number of scholars and critics. He would then dispute some/most of them and it was not uncommon for him to essentially say, "one one hand...but..." and on it on it went without a satisfying conclusion or understanding of where he stands on certain things.

I get the sense the professor is a fan of complexity. I prefer simplicity. But it may just be that I am the problem here: these are very intricate and highly complicated historical dynamics to interpret and the professor obviously wants you to think through them on a number of levels. Still I hoped he would've organized things a bit better and would've still left us with some conclusions or at least summaries of the wild journey he has taken us on. But I get the sense this less of a structured course on organized topics and more of a highly qualified historian having a personal talk with you about what he likes to do most: talk history. If you approach this course from that perspective you may find it worth your time.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrew Gibbons
  • 10-08-17

long, but well presented

The message was decorated by thorough analyses of historical events and data: don't be to hasty when predicting the future.

1 person found this helpful

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  • AJ Meekins
  • 21-06-22

Great refresher

This course is a great refresher for the casual world history student, in that it assumes the listener has a general base of knowledge.

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  • Gus
  • 10-05-22

Interesting topic that seems to disappear in a medley of conjectures.

The lectures have a heavy dosage of what if’s in relation to historical events. If this or that would have happened differently then…we’ve a different outcome today. Judging the past from the vantage point of the present can be a useful yet dangerous endeavor. The temptation to presume we know better can be intense and seductive.

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  • Steve
  • 03-04-22

Good audiobook content and narration

The audiobook title is quite misleading. It is mostly about how WW1 and WW2 started and the dynamics. This Great courses is included as "free" in Audible Plus. Good explanation by professor.

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  • C Nelson
  • 17-08-21

well done by a true expert

balanced, engaging, and thoughtful course. It may be a bit dated, but still very much relevant.

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  • Aurelia de Gaviria
  • 17-09-16

Very old lecture

The analysis is superb but the conferences are very old. I guess they are from 1995. I couldn't find the date anywhere. If I had known they were so old I wouldn't have bought them.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-04-19

A Love for History

Enlightening, to say the least!
I'll enjoy revisiting this audio book again and perhaps again.