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

A Crash Course in World His­to­ry

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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