Get the History of the World in 46 Lectures: A Free Online Course from Columbia University

When you dive into our collection of 1,700 Free Online Courses, you can begin an intellectual journey that can last for many months, if not years. The collection lets you drop into the classroom of leading universities (like Stanford, Harvard, MIT and Oxford) and essentially audit their courses for free. You get to be a fly on the wall and soak up whatever knowledge you want. All you need is an internet connection and some free time on your hands.

Today, we’re featuring two classes taught by Professor Richard Bulliet at Columbia University, which will teach you the history of the world in 46 lectures. The first course, History of the World to 1500 CE (available on YouTube and iTunes Video) takes you from prehistoric times to 1500, the cusp of early modernity. The origins of agriculture; the Greek, Roman and Persian empires; the rise of Islam and Christian medieval kingdoms; transformations in Asia; and the Maritime revolution — they’re all covered here.

In the second course, History of the World Since 1500 CE (find on YouTube), Bulliet focuses on the rise of colonialism in the Americas and India; historical developments in China, Japan and Korea; the Industrial Revolution; the Ottoman Empire; the emergence of Social Darwinism; and various key moments in 20th century history.

Bulliet helped write the popular textbook The Earth and its Peoples: A Global History, and it serves as the main textbook for the course. Above, we’re starting you off with Lecture 2, which moves from the Origins of Agriculture to the First River – Valley Civilizations, circa 8000-1500 B.C.E. The first lecture deals with methodological issues that underpin the course.

Once you get the big picture with Professor Bulliet, you can find more classes in our list of Free Online History Courses, a part of our ever-growing collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Related Content:

Big History: David Christian Covers 13.7 Billion Years of History in 18 Minutes

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The Complete History of the World (and Human Creativity) in 100 Objects

The Podcast History of Our World Will Take You From Creation Myths to (Eventually) the Present Day

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Comments (12)
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  • I agree. These are remarkable courses with content you will find no where else.

  • lorraine says:

    this professor is boring! the Umm Umm Ahh… he uses through out the talk is annoying. I would hope other talks are more inspiring!

  • jane says:

    i am most disappointed in the content and presentation style of this lecture. content is high school level. efforts at humor interrupt presentation of information. his value system is displayed to the youth; both stealing antiquities and justifying it are unacceptable. i had looked forward to the series but will not be completing it.

    • Mark Jeffry Burke says:

      When you learn to capitalize the beginnings of sentences, you can then move on to the critique of others.

  • santone vincenzo says:

    this is great thank you

  • em says:

    My right ear feel lonely.

  • chris says:

    Interesting information to think about
    Open minds are required to learn and question – if you want the same old same old don’t listen – go back to 19th century books

  • Devin Manges says:

    I could only make it through three of these lectures, but I suppose his classes would be bearable if I also had the book to actually learn things. I do not know if in future classes he actually teaches some facts about anything pre-1500 ce, but my guess is that he continues to talk about things that could be summed up in much less time than he takes and aren’t quite worth my time. I do not recommend these videos for anybody looking to learn about history pre-1500 ce. There are certainly some good pieces of information, but it is not worth the massive amount of time he spends. All in all, I am very disappointed.

  • orly says:

    To all the naysayers, please read his incredibly boring book, “the camel and the wheel” you will learn a huge amount about camels and camel saddles, but once you get past that, and start putting that information in to the broader picture of roman and islamic history, it has an very big impact.

    i would say the same for his focus on domesticated animals in prehistoy, but i have not read any of his work on it.

  • Raymond Raphael says:

    I just finished the first semester on YouTube–the lectures are long, but very interesting as he talks a lot about things you have never heard much about. I suggest watching half at a time as there’s much to digest. Mr. Bulliet is a real scholer–knows names, places and details off the top of his head and does not pretend to know what he doesn’t.

  • James Wiegert says:

    Dear Mark Jeffry Burke,

    Whether or not the first word of a sentence begins with an upper-case letter has nothing to do with the quality of a critique. Indeed some recognized writers refuse to use upper-case letters where they would ‘normally’ be used. See E. E. Cummings’ writings for examples.

    James Wiegert

  • muhammad askari says:

    I have be studying Dr Bulliet’s lectures online for about a a year now and I watch all of his online lectures and writings everyday and I myself amature “historian” since grand school; but what I have learned from Dr. Bulliet in his world history lecture convinced me he is more than a world renown scholar scholar but also quite a genius in his area of specialty

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