The Western Tradition by Eugen Weber: 52 Video Lectures

The West­ern Tra­di­tion is a free series of videos that traces the arc of west­ern civ­i­liza­tion. Start­ing in Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, the sur­vey pro­ceeds to cov­er the Byzan­tine Empire and Medieval Europe, then the Renais­sance, Enlight­en­ment, and Indus­tri­al Rev­o­lu­tion, and final­ly ends up in 20th cen­tu­ry Europe and Amer­i­ca. Pre­sent­ed by UCLA pro­fes­sor Eugen Weber, an impres­sive Euro­pean his­to­ri­an, the video series includes over 2,700 images from the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art that illus­trate some of the West’s great cul­tur­al achieve­ments. Each of the 52 videos runs about 30 min­utes. So you’re get­ting an amaz­ing 26 hours of con­tent for free.

You can stream all of the videos from this page.

You can find The West­ern Tra­di­tion list­ed in our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

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Comments (30)
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  • Stephen says:

    I would love it if there was an audio ver­sion, or if it was OK to down­load these videos!

    But great find, any­way!

  • mememe says:

    $450 isn’t exact­ly ‘free’.bittorrent/piratebay is how to down­load it

  • MARC K ROSS says:

    I would like to make some down­loads.

  • Learning must be free! says:

    Here it’s also for free (although you need to down­load it from rapid­share);

  • Kaye says:

    imag­ine my delight when I found I could watch this won­der­ful series on my com­put­er. Imag­ine my dis­ap­point­ment when I found I was watch­ing on a view­er that mea­sured 2″ X 2″. There is no way to enlarge the view­er, or watch in full screen mode. My search con­tin­ues. :-(

  • Meatwad says:

    Kaye, once you do watch the small sized ver­sion of the show, you have a local copy that can be saved (if you know where to get it from the tem­po­rary fold­er), then pos­si­bly resize it in a bet­ter view­ing local pro­gram?? Most of them can be saved as a FileName.flv file, if your tem­po­rary copy has no dis­tinct video file type(extension).

    I have been watch­ing this off and on for years and I nev­er get bored of it. I just wish I could keep the sched­ule they have for it. I have only seen it on ITV (USA Cable ver­sion) along with a few oth­er great instruc­tion­al pro­grams. I was killing time wait­ing for a rel­a­tive in a Sal­va­tion Army store one day, brows­ing the cheap used books and what do I see!?! “The West­ern Tra­di­tion” for a buck. I like my books in hard back, but I made an excep­tion here.

    • Patricia Lynne Strong says:

      I will search 4 a copy. Glad to see oth­ers watch this repeat­ed­ly — it is what I have been doing for years now.

  • Patricia Lynne Paul Strong, MSW says:

    It is a plea­sure to have this course avail­able! Weber was such a remark­able pro­fes­sor. I do not think I had this par­tic­u­lar course from him at UCLA. Instead I took upper lev­el class­es.
    Anoth­er pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus once com­ment­ed that a sign that the UCLA Dept. of His­to­ry was mature, was that Weber was select­ed as Chair­man of the Dept. of His­to­ry because he lacked a doc­tor­ate.

  • Robadude32 says:

    I have had the plea­sure of watch­ing the West­ern Tra­da­tion a few times and I believe Mr. Weber pre­sent­ed his­tio­ry as if I was actu­al­ly there. This was a great his­to­ry pro­gram and it is sad to hear that he is gone now.

  • Adam O'Shaughnessy says:

    It sud­den­ly came to mind the won­der­ful lec­tures of Dr. Eugene Weber. I would often watch this series of lec­tures on PBS in the 80s/90s trans­fixed by his com­mand of the Eng­lish lan­guage. His elo­cu­tion was mes­mer­iz­ing. I thought him Eng­lish (as am I) so per­fect was his use of the lan­guage. I have just dis­cov­ered that he passed away in 2007, and I find myself sad­dened to know that he is gone. I could have met him as he lived for many years in LA. I know I would have liked him very much. I am so very glad that his incom­pa­ra­ble lec­tures are avail­able on this site. I will enjoy watch­ing them. Thank you for that.

  • dimitris petropoulos. says:

    i WANT to HAVE this lec­ture in my com­put­er for free!! i got no mon­ey to by IT.

  • bill says:

    if you can find this, get it. in my opin­ion it is the great­est thing ever put on tv. thank you, pbs(wliw tv, long island) for keep­ing this series on tv for so long.

  • ace says:

    For the peo­ple say­ing the video is too small, all you have to do is click on the icon on the bot­tom right of the video (the four arrows point­ing out­ward) to expand it to fullscreen.

  • John says:

    ace — Your com­ment about expand­ing the video is very recent. I have MOST of these episodes, on VHS, as tran­scribed from edu­ca­tion­al cours­es that orig­i­nat­ed-from the KET (KY Educ. Tele­vi­sion net­work). I’d like to fill-in the GAPS, so would you rec­om­mend an RSS feed? I have two, decent (but, old) PCs, a decent SONY VAIO, but also a new­ly-bought Apple. I’m won­der­ing WHICH com­put­er would be the best, to obtain the feeds. Thanks!

  • Richard Biagioli says:

    Do you know who wrote the theme song? Is it a clas­si­cal piece?

  • M Nelson says:

    I saw Eugen Weber for the first time this morn­ing at 4 am on PBS. It was fas­ci­nat­ing. When the pro­gram end­ed I saw his name in the cred­its and did a google search. That is how I found this site. PBS announced they are show­ing The Dark Ages tomor­row which is def­i­nite­ly a rea­son to rise at 4 am.

  • H Gregor says:

    I found the entire series at the Annen­berg Learn­er site. You can watch them in full screen mode.

  • H. Beaven says:

    Can any­one tell me whether Weber’s asser­tion that Christ’s “ser­mon on the mount” was writ­ten in 109 b.c. has any valid­i­ty? I can find noth­ing.

  • Millicent Roberts says:

    Is the west­ern tra­di­tion pro­gram still avail­able for pur­chase on DVD? If so what is the cost?

  • TomAss says:

    Annen­berg Learn­er used to sell the DVDs, for far too high a price, but their web­site now says are now out of stock. EarthStation1 adver­tis­es that they have the DVDs for sale for about $69, which is about the right price. But beware of EarthStation1, because of their bad rep­u­ta­tion. Very high risk that they can­not be trust­ed to fill your order, yet they will take your mon­ey.

  • Jimmie Kennard says:

    Well The West­ern Tra­di­tion was a Old school cor­re­spon­dence Course
    giv­en by the Inter­dis­ci­pli­nary Stud­ies for per­spec­tive Teach­ers. Pro­fes­sor Weber was still liv­ing of course. He invites dis­cus­sion how­ev­er you must think about his process­es, of syn­thetiz­ing the facts. The course was self paced it was the great paper chase. He was a high main­te­nance Pro😎

  • Chuck says:

    I’ve done some research and I’ve found out the rights our now back with WGBH Boston who pro­duced the series in 1989 (a live a few miles away!). As far as I can tell they don’t have any plans to do any­thing with it. The WGBH Media Library is in charge of it. Per­haps peo­ple can call the WGBH media library which would demon­strate that the series has a fol­low­ing. Just call the main num­ber and ask for the media library. If they hear from enough peo­ple, it could prompt them to stream it or offer it as DVD. WGBH has pro­duced many series over the years and is real­ly a great PBS sta­tion.

  • Watch Maga says:

    Ought to be sub­ti­tled, “A Eulo­gy.”

  • Magister Artium says:

    I have been watch­ing this since it debuted in 1988, the year I grad­u­at­ed in phi­los­o­phy. Through­out that time I kept read­ing his­to­ry and phi­los­o­phy, inspired in no small part by Eugen Weber’s lec­tures, which I could watch online once the inter­net got up and run­ning smooth­ly. They kept me sane dur­ing dif­fi­cult times. For years I put off buy­ing the DVD set from Annen­berg web­site, due to the gen­teel pover­ty asso­ci­at­ed with being a high school teacher. Just as I was fin­ish­ing an M.A. in his­to­ry, I had enough spare change to order the whole pack­age (DVDs, books, course mate­ri­als, etc.). But when I went to the Annen­berg site, The West­ern Tra­di­tion was no longer avail­able. I agree with you, Chuck, we should bom­bard WGBH Boston with requests to re-release it. I would help lead the charge in that cam­paign.

  • jimmie moglia says:

    Is it pos­si­ble to have access to the medieval minia­ture files used in these lec­tures on the Dark Ages, Mid­dle Ages, and Age of Charle­magne?
    Thank you

  • Gerald Montagna says:

    I can’t rec­om­mend this high­ly enough! So many bril­liant insights, expressed clear­ly and to the point. To this day I quote some of these insights when­ev­er they’re rel­e­vant.

  • Dave Miley says:

    I’m hap­py to say that all 51 episodes are avail­able for free on YouTube under The West­ern Tra­di­tion. I used to watch these shows at 3 in the morn­ing on PBS 12 in Philly. Thank you Pro­fes­sor Weber.

  • Jay says:

    Dave, I dis­cov­ered this series on WHYY 12 as well in the late ’90s. It was a trea­sure to find.

  • Lewis Brackett says:

    A seri­ous error in Dr Eugen Web­ber’s “The west­ern Tra­di­tion” series pro­gram #2 …
    dr Web­ber like­ly nev­er did read Pliny the Elder or Tac­i­tus about the cli­mate and lush regions in ancient times.
    dr Web­ber said repeat­ed­ly that North Africa, Pales­tine, Syr­ia and Iraq and Egypt were as bar­ren in ancient times as they are today. This is false!!!
    All through­out ancient times up to the Mid­dle Ages North Africa was lush green fer­tile. This was where all the grain eat­en in Roman cities was grown, shipped North from Cyrene, Carthage and Alexan­dria… Pales­tine and the Sinai, Lebanon was heav­i­ly forest­ed as was Egypt! The Fer­tile Cres­cent from Lebanon to Iraq was a well watered lush grass­land for grow­ing crops!
    All this is what the ancient eye­wit­ness­es like Pliny said!!!
    All this region start­ed to become bar­ren in the 13th cen­tu­ry…
    Per­haps you should update the series or at least do dis­claimers!
    thanks, Lewis Brack­ett in San Diego… 619–423-3371

  • Naya Perket says:

    Thank you for demand­ing a cor­rec­tion to the errors of Prof Weber con­cern­ing the rich and high fer­til­i­ty of that region in the world which is the rea­son for nam­ing it the “Fer­tile Cres­cent”. I want to add that The entire Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la was very fer­tile till cen­turies lat­er with sub-cli­mate changes that deser­ti­fi­ca­tion occurred leav­ing South­ern regions of the penin­su­la includ­ing Yemen and parts of Oman still fer­tile up to this date.

    Thank you

    Nad­wa Per­ket. San Diego. CA

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