Cover art for The Gift of Therapy

The Gift of Therapy

51 ratings

Summary

The culmination of master psychiatrist Dr. Irvin D. Yalom's more than 35 years in clinical practice, The Gift of Therapy is a remarkable and essential guidebook that illustrates through real case studies how patients and therapists alike can get the most out of therapy. The best-selling author of Love's Executioner shares his uniquely fresh approach and the valuable insights he has gained - presented as 85 personal and provocative "tips for beginner therapists", including: Let the patient matter to you Acknowledge your errors Create a new therapy for each patient Do home visits (Almost) never make decisions for the patient Freud was not always wrong A book aimed at enriching the therapeutic process for a new generation of patients and counselors, Yalom's Gift of Therapy is an entertaining, informative, and insightful read for anyone with an interest in the subject.

©2002 Irvin D. Yalom (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers

Length: 7 hrs and 39 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Case Against Education

The Case Against Education

19 ratings

Summary

Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education Despite being immensely popular - and immensely lucrative - education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students' skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity - in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. Learn why students hunt for easy A's and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy. Caplan draws on the latest social science to show how the labor market values grades over knowledge and why the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers. He explains why graduation is our society's top conformity signal and why even the most useless degrees can certify employability. He advocates two major policy responses. The first is educational austerity. Government needs to sharply cut education funding to curb this wasteful rat race. The second is more vocational education, because practical skills are more socially valuable than teaching students how to outshine their peers. Romantic notions about education being "good for the soul" must yield to careful research and common sense - The Case Against Education points the way. Cover design by Leslie Flis. PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2018 Princeton University Press (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

Available on Audible
Cover art for Celle qui ne pleurait jamais

Celle qui ne pleurait jamais

6 ratings

Summary

Séverin semble bien avoir raté sa vie : un divorce, une fille qui se passerait volontiers de son père, un boulot de flic sans intérêt et des troubles de la personnalité qui ont achevé de faire le vide autour de lui. Lorsqu'il se rend sur la première scène de crime de sa carrière, son seul désir est de se débarrasser de l'affaire au plus vite. Mais il va très vite comprendre que ce meurtre le concerne bien plus qu'il ne s'y attendait.

Une trace génétique est trouvée sur les lieux du crime et l'assassin est tout désigné. Mais pour Séverin, il est hors de question d'accepter l'évidence. Déterminé à retrouver le véritable tueur, il décide de suivre son propre instinct. Jusqu'à la plus effrayante des vérités.

©2017 Les Nouveaux Auteurs (P)2019 Audible Studios

Length: 11 hrs and 17 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Native American Tribes: The History of the Blackfeet and the Blackfoot Confederacy

Native American Tribes: The History of the Blackfeet and the Blackfoot Confederacy

5 ratings

Summary

They call themselves "Niitsitapi" ("Original People"), but in the United States, they are known as the Blackfeet. In Canada, they are known by their more particular band names, one of which is Blackfoot, but regardless of the name, they are a tribe of Native American peoples ("First Nations" in Canada) who, until the modern time period, lived in small, decentralized bands and hunted the bison on the northern Great Plains. Stories vary, but the name "Blackfeet" or "Blackfoot," applied to them by others, may have come originally from their practice of dying their moccasin soles black. That said, their use of an Algonquian language group may indicate that they were relatively recent newcomers to the region from somewhere in the Northeast. The territory of the Blackfeet, at its greatest extent, encompassed a vast area from the eastern Rocky Mountains of Alberta and Montana and extending several hundred miles out onto the Great Plains, around the upper reaches of the Saskatchewan River and its tributaries in Alberta and the upper reaches of the Missouri River and its tributaries in Montana. The area of the land most sacred to the Blackfeet is the Sweet Grass Hills, which are located just south of the Canadian border in the central part of Montana. These are a group of buttes forested with balsam firs rising several thousand feet above the surrounding plains and which can be seen for a considerable distance. This was also Napi's favorite resting place in the mythology of the Blackfeet. Young Blackfeet went up into the Hills on their vision quests and, as their predecessors had done for several thousands of years, left inscriptions and petroglyphs on the surface of the tall sandstone cliffs. Many of the stories told by the Blackfeet take place there.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jack Chekijian
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 26 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Marcus Garvey: The Life and Legacy of the Jamaican Political Leader Who Championed Pan-Africanism

Marcus Garvey: The Life and Legacy of the Jamaican Political Leader Who Championed Pan-Africanism

5 ratings

Summary

After the Civil War, the fight for civil rights spawned a multitude of heroic African American activists, but it is remembered in large part for the work of a few iconic African American men of stature. Much like their later counterparts, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, the debate between gradual integration through temporary accommodation and overtly insistent activism was led by Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois. Through the last years of the 19th century, Washington’s gentler approach of enhancing Black prospects through vocational education, largely accomplished with white permission and funds, seemed the popular choice. His legacy can be sensed in King’s subsequent willingness to extend an olive branch to white Americans in a sense of unity, although Washington’s propensity for accommodation held no place in King’s ministry.  Ultimately, however, the vision that oversaw the creation of the Tuskegee Institute faded in the early 20th century as Black intellectualism and stiffening resolve came to the fore. This side’s greatest proponent, William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, still stands among the greatest and most controversial minds of any Black leader in his country. The first African American to receive a doctorate from Harvard University, Du Bois rose to become one of the most important social thinkers of his time in a 70-year career of combined scholarship, teaching, and activism.  The third and most improbable approach toward American civil rights for Black citizens blended the beliefs of Washington and Du Bois, and it was spearheaded by global activist Marcus Aurelius Garvey. The Jamaican began his career as an activist with a devotion to Washington’s path, but he subsequently leaned to the alternative and beyond. Beyond the worldview of both colleagues, Marcus Garvey’s bigger-than-life scheme was to establish a Black-owned and managed shipping line to transport much of America’s Black population back to Africa. Repatriation of Black residents to the African continent had been proposed and debated before, even by Abraham Lincoln, but Garvey’s second and equally prodigious vision proposed that once the African diaspora returned to its homeland, an immense empire would assume rule over the continent, housing Black cultures from around the globe. This realization of racial segregation would be a boon to Black and White societies, at peace but thriving in distinctly separate cultures and economies from the white world. 

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Dan Gallagher
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Mysterious Canada: A Collection of Hauntings, Mysteries, and Strange Creatures Across the Canadian Nation

Mysterious Canada: A Collection of Hauntings, Mysteries, and Strange Creatures Across the Canadian Nation

5 ratings

Summary

Canada has the reputation of being a boring place. More tranquil than its southern neighbor, it goes along in its quiet way sustaining one of the most stable and prosperous democracies in the world, and does so with little fuss or drama. It doesn't get in the news much, which considering the content of most news stories is a good thing. People get along, the economy is expanding, and there are no regular disasters. While all this makes Canada a pleasant place to live, it does not make it particularly interesting. But dig a little below the surface, and you'll find a different Canada, a stranger Canada, one of murder, mystery, and paranormal experiences. The stories that follow will show that Canada, far from being a dull, staid nation where nothing much happens, is an epicenter of the mysterious. Mysterious Canada: A Collection of Hauntings, Mysteries, and Strange Creatures Across the Canadian Nation offers a sampling of the many strange stories and unexplained phenomena that make Canada such an intriguing place. It is part of an ongoing series by Sean McLachlan and Charles River Editors that covers the mysteries and oddities of various places across the world, including The Weird Wild West, Weird West Coast, Mysteries of the South, Mysterious New England, and Weird Ireland. You will learn about the weird legends and mysteries of Canada like never before.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Klondike Gold Rush

The Klondike Gold Rush

4 ratings

Summary

"Alaska is the land of the 19th century Argonauts; and the Golden Fleece hidden away among its snowcapped and glacier-clad mountains is not the pretty creation of mythological fame, but yellow nuggets, which may be transformed into the coin of the realm. The vast territory into which these hardy soldiers of fortune penetrate is no less replete with wonders than the fabled land into which Jason is said to have led his band of adventurers. There is this difference, however, between the frozen land of the North and the fabled land of mythology. There is nothing conjectural about Alaska or its golden treasure. Jason led his band into an unknown country without the certain knowledge that the treasure he was seeking was there." (A.C. Harris, author of Alaska and the Klondike Gold Mines ) One of the most important and memorable events of the United States' westward push across the frontier came with the discovery of gold, in the lands that became California, in January 1848. Located thousands of miles away from the country's power centers on the East Coast at the time, the announcement came a month before the Mexican-American War ended. It brought an influx of an estimated 90,000 "Forty-Niners" to the region in 1849, hailing from other parts of America and even as far away as Asia. All told, an estimated 300,000 people would come to California over the next few years, as men dangerously trekked thousands of miles in hopes of making a fortune. In a span of months, San Francisco's population exploded, making it one of the first mining boomtowns to truly spring up in the West. This was a pattern that would repeat itself across the West anytime a mineral discovery was made, from the Southwest and Tombstone to the Dakotas and Deadwood. Of course, it was all made possible by the collective memory of the original California gold rush.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 20 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Arawak: The History and Legacy of the Indigenous Natives in South America and the Caribbean

The Arawak: The History and Legacy of the Indigenous Natives in South America and the Caribbean

3 ratings

Summary

On October 12, 1492, one of the most important “first contacts” of the modern era was made when three ships of Spanish origin approached the island archipelago now known as the Bahamas, cautiously dropping anchor as the captain of the fleet gazed across to what he assumed was the coast of India. According to the popular version of the story, amazed at the sight of ships and men of such unfamiliar appearance, the native people of the island plunged into the clear waters of the Western Atlantic, expertly swimming or aboard dugout canoes, and came out to greet the strangers. In all probability, the meeting was much more cautious and incremental, but the idea that these innocent people, raised in a tropical Eden, might embrace with such open enthusiasm their own destruction is picturesque and no doubt appeals to contemporary perceptions. By whatever means one might choose to view it, this meeting of cultures certainly did mark the beginning of a bold new chapter in the history of Europe and the beginning of the end of an ancient race of native people occupying a vast new continent.  The entries into Christopher Columbus’ log as he recorded his first encounters with the indigenous people of the “Indies” are very telling. The island people arrived alongside his ships, offering humble gifts that Columbus described as “parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells”. These were the Taínos people, or the “Arawaks”, as they would come to be known, and Columbus described them as “well built...with good bodies and handsome features”.  This description, while deceptively simple, had a chilling implication, because Columbus was not taking note of these facts out of idle interest but in terms of how best to exploit them. As the natives offered up gifts and the open hand of friendship, and by implication the freedom of their islands, Columbus remarked simply on their primitive appearance, their primeval technology, and how easy they would be to overcome. He noted, “They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron.... They would make fine servants.” What Columbus wanted in the first instance was gold, and he was quick to observe the small items of gold jewelry worn by his visitors, which alerted him immediately to the fact there was gold to be found somewhere on these islands. To get to the bottom of it, Columbus would waste no time. Thus, a chain of events was set in motion that would permanently affect Western civilization. The Arawak: The History and Legacy of the Indigenous Natives in South America and the Caribbean examines the culture and history of the indigenous groups and what happened when they came into contact with the Europeans. You will learn about the Arawak like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Dan Gallagher
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 34 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic: The History and Legacy of the World's Deadliest Influenza Outbreak

The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic: The History and Legacy of the World's Deadliest Influenza Outbreak

3 ratings

Summary

"One of the startling features of the pandemic was its sudden flaring up and its equally sudden decline, reminding one of a flame consuming highly combustible material, which died down as soon as the supply of the material was exhausted. There is every reason to believe that, within a few weeks of its onset, the infection was universally present in the nose and throat of the people, disseminated by mouth spray given off on talking by innumerable carriers and, in addition, by the coughing and sneezing of the sick. Susceptibility was very general, though it varied greatly in degree. Among those who escaped well marked sickness there are few who could not recall having had an occluded or running nose, or a raw feeling in the throat, or a cough, or aches and pains, at some time during the period of the prevalence of the disease, these probably representing the price such persons paid for their immunization." - Dr. Bernard Fantus In many ways, it is hard for modern people living in first-world countries to conceive of a pandemic sweeping around the world and killing millions of people. And it is even harder to believe that something as common as influenza could cause such widespread illness and death. Although the flu still takes hundreds of lives each year, most of those lost are very young or old or ill with something else that had already weakened them. In fact, most people contract influenza at least once, and many suffer from the flu several times in their lives and survive it with a minimum amount of medical attention. In 1918, the world was still in the throes of the Great War, the deadliest conflict in human history at that point, but while World War I would be a catastrophic war surpassed only by World War II, an unprecedented influenza outbreak that same year inflicted casualties that would make both wars pale in comparison.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Steve Marvel
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 43 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Cossacks

The Cossacks

2 ratings

Summary

"Had I just 10,000 Cossacks, I would have conquered the whole world." (Napoleon Bonaparte) "Save us Lord, from Cossacks." (Sir Wilson, reporting the prayers of conquered Germans, 1813) The modern myth of the Cossack presents striking images of a stern warrior mounted on horseback, with a long woolen coat, papakha (distinctive tall fur cap ) and fur-lined cloak, with bandoliers holding large-caliber bullets crisscrossing his chest. The warrior is armed with a mixture of rifle, lance, daggers and pistols, but he always has his signature weapons: the shashka (a single-edged, guard-less, slightly curved saber originally designed by the Circassian foes) and the nagyka (short, thick whip of braided leather with a heavy weight worked into the end originally designed for fighting off wolves but more commonly used in later years against enemies of the state in the streets of Moscow or Odessa). As enemies conjured up the Cossack as semi-tamed steppe barbarian, a dog of the state, and the fist of the Czar, it's no surprise they were terrified. Even as the origins of these ferocious fighters remain murky and obscure, the Cossacks have continued their growing international appearance with the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in 2014. The conflict over the Crimea and the southeastern Donbass region has had thoroughly Cossack overtones; on the one hand, the Ukrainian Nationalists view themselves as the descendants of the freedom minded Cossack Republics and on the other hand, Russia has leaned heavily upon Cossack "volunteers" to staff its informal militias in the Donbass and to seize and police Crimea.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Doron Alon
Category: History, Russia
Length: 1 hr and 4 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Yugoslavia: The History of the Eastern European Nation from Its Founding to Its Breakup

Yugoslavia: The History of the Eastern European Nation from Its Founding to Its Breakup

2 ratings

Summary

Yugoslavia was arguably one of the most unusual geopolitical creations of the 20th century. The Yugoslav state had never existed in any historical sense, and the ties that bound together its constituent peoples were tenuous at best. Although nominally all “Slavs,” the country was an amalgamation of languages, alphabets, cultures, religions, and traditions, which ensured its short existence was littered with splits, conflicts, and shocking violence. In a sense, it’s somewhat surprising that it lasted as long as it did.  In the wake of World War I, as the political boundaries of Europe and the Middle East were redrawn, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, initially known as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, came into existence with a monarch as its head of state. Confirmed at the 1919 Versailles Conference, the “first” Yugoslavia was a particularly fragile enterprise, and there was almost constant tension between the majority Serbs and the other Yugoslav nationalities, especially the Croats. As a result, the Kingdom was a land of political assassinations, underground terrorist organizations, and ethnic animosities. In 1929, King Alexander I suspended democracy and ruled as a dictator until he himself was assassinated in 1934.  The Kingdom of Yugoslavia was particularly vulnerable to the forces that engulfed the rest of Europe at the end of the 1930s, including fascism and communism. When the Axis forces attacked in 1941, the country quickly capitulated and was dismembered by the Nazis and their allies. A separate Croatian state was formed, led by Ante Paveli, who committed some of the worst crimes and human rights abuses of the war. The Balkan region was virtually emptied of its Jewish population, victims of the Nazi Holocaust.  During his reign, Tito managed to quash the intense national feelings of the diverse groups making up the Yugoslavian population, and he did so through several methods. He managed to successfully play the two superpower rivals, the United States and Soviet Union, off against each other during the Cold War, and in doing so, he maintained a considerable amount of independence from both, even as he additionally received foreign aid to keep his regime afloat. All the while he remained defiant, once penning a legendary letter to Joseph Stalin warning the Soviet dictator, “To Joseph Stalin: Stop sending people to kill me! We've already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle... If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send a very fast working one to Moscow and I certainly won't have to send another.” Internal issues plagued the country in its final years and Tito had tinkered with Yugoslavia’s constitution on several occasions. His final attempt, in 1974, saw the partial separation of Kosovo - crucial in the Serb national story - from the rest of Serbia.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Military
Length: 3 hrs and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Captain John Franklin's Lost Expedition

Captain John Franklin's Lost Expedition

2 ratings

Summary

"The sad story takes us back to the June of 1845. The two discovery ships, the Erebus and Terror, are at sea, with the transport containing their supplies in attendance on them. The time is noon; the place on the ocean is near the island of Rona, 70 or 80 miles from Stromness; and the two steamers, Rattler and Blazer, are taking leave - a last, long leave - of the Arctic voyagers." - The Living Age, 1859 Most anyone who has received a basic education in world history knows the story of how "in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." Most also know that Christopher Columbus made first contact with the Americas while searching for a water route to Asia. However, far fewer people remember that the search for such a route continued for centuries after Columbus' death. After the discovery of the Americas, several European countries were interested in finding the route, and nations from France to Spain sent out explorers searching for the mysterious route. While these voyages did not reveal the hoped for route, they did result in large parts of both North and South America being mapped, and as more of the new land mass was determined, the parameters of the search for such a route were narrowed. By the 18th century, explorers began to seek such a route to the north, looking for the legendary Northwest Passage.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Kenneth Ray
Category: History, World
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Partition of Ireland and the Troubles: The History of Northern Ireland from the Irish Civil War to the Good Friday Agreement

The Partition of Ireland and the Troubles: The History of Northern Ireland from the Irish Civil War to the Good Friday Agreement

2 ratings

Summary

“The Honorable Member must remember that in the South they boasted of a Catholic State. They still boast of Southern Ireland being a Catholic State. All I boast of is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State. It would be rather interesting for historians of the future to compare a Catholic State launched in the South with a Protestant State launched in the North and to see which gets on the better and prospers the more.” (Sir James Craig) One of the most bitter and divisive struggles in the history of the British Isles, and in the history of the British Empire, played out over the question of Home Rule and Irish independence, and then later still as the British province of Northern Ireland grappled within itself for the right to secede from the United Kingdom or the right to remain. What is it within this complicated relationship that has kept this strange duality of mutual love and hate at play? A rendition of “Danny Boy” has the power to reduce both Irishmen and Englishmen to tears, and yet they have torn at one another in a violent conflict that can be traced to the very dawn of their contact. This history of the British Isles themselves is in part responsible. The fraternal difficulties of two neighbors so closely aligned, but so unequally endowed, can be blamed for much of the trouble. The imperialist tendencies of the English themselves, tendencies that created an empire that embodied the best and worst of humanity, alienated them from not only the Irish, but the Scots and Welsh too. However, the British also extended that colonial duality to other great societies of the world, India not least among them, without the same enduring suspicion and hostility. There is certainly something much more than the sum of its parts in this curious combination of love and loathing that characterizes the Anglo-Irish relationship. The Partition of Ireland and the Troubles: The History of Northern Ireland from the Irish Civil War to the Good Friday Agreement analyzes the tumultuous events that marked the creation of Northern Ireland, and the conflicts fueled by the partition. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about Northern Ireland like never before.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 50 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Kingdom of Kush

The Kingdom of Kush

2 ratings

Summary

"The desert lands of Egypt will remain desert, however many millions of pounds are expended in Nile reservoirs. All that man can do is to extend somewhat the narrow strip of green running along the banks of the Nile." (Sir Benjamin Baker, Royal Institution, June 6, 1902) During the several centuries that ancient Egypt stood as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, civilizations of the ancient world, conflicts with its neighbors often played a central role in hieroglyphic texts and art from temples and tombs. The three primary enemies of the Egyptians were the Libyans who occupied the Western Desert and its oases, the so-called Asiatics who lived in the Levant, and finally the Nubians to Egypt's south. Among the three peoples, the Nubians were the most "Egyptianized" and at times were integral to the development of Egyptian history. Truly, the Nubians were the greatest of all sub-Saharan peoples in pre-modern times and deserve to be studied in their own right, apart from ancient Egyptian history. Unfortunately, it is often difficult for scholars to separate aspects of ancient Nubian culture that were truly unique and "Nubian" from those elements that were Egyptian, as the Nubians borrowed heavily in terms of culture from their northern neighbor. One historian noted, "As expected, strong Nubian features and dark coloring are seen in their sculpture and relief work. This dynasty ranks as among the greatest, whose fame far outlived its actual tenure on the throne. Especially interesting, it was a member of this dynasty that decreed that no Nehsy (riverine Nubian of the principality of Kush), except such as came for trade or diplomatic reasons, should pass by the Egyptian fortress and cops at the southern end of the Second Nile Cataract. Why would this royal family of Nubian ancestry ban other Nubians from coming into Egyptian territory? Because the Egyptian rulers of Nubian ancestry had become Egyptians culturally; as pharaohs, they exhibited typical Egyptian attitudes and adopted typical Egyptian policies." Robert S. Bianchi went even further: "It is an extremely difficult task to attempt to describe the Nubians during the course of Egypt's New Kingdom, because their presence appears to have virtually evaporated from the archaeological record. The result has been described as a wholesale Nubian assimilation into Egyptian society." An in-depth examination of the ancient Nubians reveals that although the Nubians were closely related culturally in many ways to the Egyptians, they produced a culture that had many of its own unique attributes and was far more advanced than any other culture in sub-Saharan Africa. The Kingdom of Kush: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Nubian Empire examines the amazing history and legacy of one of the most interesting places in the world.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The 1759 Battle of Quebec: The History and Legacy of Britain's Most Important Victory of the French & Indian War

The 1759 Battle of Quebec: The History and Legacy of Britain's Most Important Victory of the French & Indian War

2 ratings

Summary

"[W]e observed the enemy marching down towards us in three columns, at 10 they formed their line of battle, which was at least six deep, having their flanks covered by a thick wood on each side, into which they threw above 3,000 Canadians and Indians, who gauled us much; the regulars then marched briskly up to us, and gave us their first fire, at about 50 yards distance, which we did not return, as it was General Wolfe's express Orders not to fire till they came within 20 yards of us...." (The British sergeant-major of Gen. Hopson's Grenadiers) On September 13, 1759, a battle was fought on the Plains of Abraham outside the old city of Québec. It was one of the turning-point battles in world history. Thanks to the British victory and the events that followed, Canada went from being a colony of France (New France) to being a colony of Great Britain. This permanently changed Canadian history. In many ways the outcome of the battle brought about several American attempts to seize Canada during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Ultimately it ensured that when Canada became an independent country it was part of the British Commonwealth with an Anglophone majority and a Francophone minority. Frictions over cultural and political issues between the English Canadians and the Québécois, dating back to the battle, continue to impact the state of affairs in Canada today. While the battle had a profound impact, it has also been romanticized and mythologized beyond even epic proportions. Though often forgotten today, more than 250 years after the battle, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was the culmination of a long siege.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: William Turbett
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 20 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Odin: The Origins, History and Evolution of the Norse God

Odin: The Origins, History and Evolution of the Norse God

2 ratings

Summary

A one-eyed old man, with a gray cloak and a wide-brimmed hat leaning on a staff. A wanderer who appears when least expected, bringing triumph or doom. The god of prophecy, poetry and fate. A shape changer. A sorcerer. The god Odin cuts a dramatic figure in Norse mythology and is still a part of the popular imagination. He is the inspiration for figures like J.R.R. Tolkien's Gandalf the Grey, and he still appears in modern literature as varied as Marvel Comics and Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods. Alongside his son Thor, Odin is one of the best known Norse gods, and it's often easy to forget that he was once at the heart of a pantheon devoutly worshiped by millions of Europeans. Odin has numerous names and titles (over 200 by one account), but his best known title is "The All-Father," the co-creator of Earth ("Midgard"), humanity and all of the creatures that inhabitant this world. He is also, importantly, the god of prophecy, ecstasy, and poetry, all roles that were closely connected in the Norse world. Odin was a god of life and death as well, and was famous for taking the souls of warriors who died in combat back to his realm of Valhalla. This role was tied to his position as a god of war, a position that does not perhaps seem obvious to a modern reader for a god of knowledge and wisdom. However, Odin was the king of the gods and the master of Asgard; therefore, in the Norse understanding, one of his crucial tasks was the defense of that realm through military might if necessary. His living followers would call upon him in battle, and he was said to have taken champions and even led human armies to triumph.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Maori

The Maori

2 ratings

Summary

In 1769, Captain James Cook’s historic expedition in the region would lead to an English claim on Australia, but before he reached Australia, he sailed near New Zealand and spent weeks mapping part of New Zealand’s coast. Thus, he was also one of the first to observe and take note of the indigenous peoples of the two islands. His instructions from the Admiralty were to endeavor at all costs to cultivate friendly relations with tribes and peoples he might encounter, and to regard any native people as the natural and legal possessors of any land they were found to occupy. Cook, of course, was not engaged on an expedition of colonization, so when he encountered for the first time a war party of Maori, he certainly had no intention of challenging their overlordship of Aotearoa, although he certainly was interested in discovering more about them.  Approaching from the east, having rounded Cape Horn and calling in at Tahiti, the HMS Endeavour arrived off the coast of New Zealand, and two days later it dropped anchor in what would later be known as Poverty Bay. No sign of life or habitation was seen until on the morning of the 9 October when smoke was observed to be rising inland. Cook and a group of sailors set off for shore in two boats and leaving four men behind to mind the boats, the remainder set off inland over a line of low hills. The sentries, however, were surprised by the arrival of a group of four Maori, who adopted an aggressive posture, and when one lifted a lance to hurl, he was immediately shot down. The impression that all of this left on Cook and the scientific members of the expedition was mixed. By then there had already been several encounters with Polynesian people scattered about the South Pacific, and although occasionally warlike, there were none quite so aggressive as the Maori. In fairness, it must be added that the Maori understanding of Cook’s appearance, and what it represented was by necessity partial, and in approaching it they simply fell back on default behavior, applicable to any stranger approaching their shores. Taking into account similarities of appearance, customs, and languages spread across a vast region of scattered islands, it was obvious that the Polynesian race emerged from a single origin, and that origin Cook speculated was somewhere in the Malay Peninsula or the “East Indies”. In this regard, he was not too far from the truth. The origins of the Polynesian race have been fiercely debated since then, and it was only relatively recently, through genetic and linguistic research, that it can now be stated with certainty that the Polynesian race originated on the Chinese mainland and the islands of Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Oceania was, indeed, the last major region of the Earth to be penetrated and settled by people, and Polynesia was the last region of Oceania to be inhabited.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Dan Gallagher
Length: 1 hr and 48 mins
Available on Audible
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The Greek Dark Ages

2 ratings

Summary

When people think of ancient Greece, images of philosophers such as Plato or Socrates often come to mind, as do great warriors like Pericles and Alexander the Great. But hundreds of years before Athens became a city, a Greek culture flourished and spread its tentacles throughout the Western Mediterranean region via trade and warfare. Scholars have termed this pre-Classical Greek culture the Mycenaean culture, which existed from about 2000 to 1200 BCE, when Greece, along with much of the Eastern Mediterranean, was thrust into a centuries-long Dark Ages. Before the Mycenaean culture collapsed, it was a vital part of the late Bronze Age Mediterranean system and stood on equal footing with some of the great powers of the region, such as the Egyptians and Hittites. Despite being ethnic Greeks and speaking a language that was the direct predecessor of classical Greek, the Mycenaeans had more in common with their neighbors from the island of Crete, who are known today as the Minoans. Due to their cultural affinities with the Minoans and the fact that they conquered Crete yet still carried on many Minoan traditions, the Mycenaeans are viewed by some scholars as the later torchbearers of a greater Aegean civilization, much the way the Romans carried on Hellenic civilization after the Greeks.  Given that the Mycenaeans played such a vital role on the history in the late Bronze Age, it would be natural to assume there are countless studies and accurate chronologies on the subject, but the opposite is true. Although the Mycenaeans were literate, the corpus of written texts from the period is minimal, so modern scholars are left to use a variety of methods in order to reconstruct a proper history of Mycenaean culture, and what came after.  The Greek Dark Ages, sometimes referred to as the Homeric Age or the Geometric Period, spans the era of Greek history from the end of the Mycenaean civilization around 1100 BCE and the emergence of the Greek poleis in the ninth century BCE. It is an era that has provided little in terms of extant archaeological evidence, which in part explains the name “Dark Ages”, but this lack of evidence has led some archaeologists and historians to make the very great assumption that little of any real significance occurred during these 200 years. Instead, they view it as a sort of hiatus between the collapse of the Mycenaean culture and the emergence of Archaic Greece. As with other so-called “Dark Ages”, this assessment is simplified, and an absence of evidence should never be assumed as evidence of absence. While these two centuries were, indeed, a period of transition, they included events and developments that were specific to the time, most notably the development of iron for weaponry, and many of these developments were highly significant in the subsequent evolution of Archaic Greece. After all, it’s crucial to keep in mind that places like Athens and Sparta were inhabited throughout this time, and the impact of the Minoans, Mycenaeans, and others shaped their futures. The Greek Dark Ages: The History and Legacy of the Era Between the Fall of the Mycenaeans and the Rise of the City-States examines the overlooked time period, what life was like during it, and how it facilitated the rise of the famous poleis.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 48 mins
Available on Audible
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Native American Tribes: The History and Culture of the Mound Builders

2 ratings

Summary

"There being one of these [mounds] in my neighborhood, I wished to satisfy myself whether any, and which of these opinions [regarding the identity of the Mound Builders] were just. For this purpose I determined to open and examine it thoroughly." (Thomas Jefferson) In the 18th century, when Europeans first came upon the giant mounds and earthworks dotting the North American landscape, they couldn't imagine that the Native Americans they came into contact with were capable of producing such advanced technology and masterful engineering. In fact, when President George Washington sent adventurer and military strategist Rufus Putnam to survey the land at the convergence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers in southeastern Ohio for settlement, Putnam reported that he'd discovered an impressive walled earthwork complex near present-day Marietta, which was obviously the breastwork of an ancient fortress built by some long-forgotten ancient civilization. Like others of his time, Putnam couldn't conceive that indigenous Americans had at one time reached an advanced level of cultural and technical sophistication. As detailed by Thomas Jefferson in his 1783 book Notes on the State of Virginia, the future American president began to excavate a mound near Monticello, his Virginia estate, around 1780. He noted, "I determined to open and examine it thoroughly. It was situated on the low grounds of the Rivanna [River], about two miles above its principal fork, and opposite to some hills, on which had been an Indian town. It was of a spheroidical form, of about 40 feet diameter at the base."

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: James Weippert
Length: 1 hr and 20 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for What If Carthage Won the Punic Wars?

What If Carthage Won the Punic Wars?

2 ratings

Summary

Rome and Carthage rarely could maintain peace after the end of the fourth century BCE. As the two most powerful civilizations in the western Mediterranean region, they were destined to clash, curse or not. Roman historians placed the foundation of Carthage at approximately 814 BCE, several decades before Rome. The settlers of Carthage were of Phoenician descent, tracing their ancestry back to the great city of Tyre on the southern coast of Lebanon, but Carthage soon transformed from a minor Phoenician colony into the capital of its own growing civilization. The city itself was well positioned for shipping, and it soon dominated maritime trade. Along with that, the Carthaginians built a powerful and well-trained navy, whose protection, combined with its strategic location, made the city of Carthage a formidable prospect to attack. At its height, Carthage housed several hundred thousand inhabitants, living under a republican governmental system operated by the Carthaginian Senate. As Carthage grew, it began to expand, conquering by sea and establishing new colonies to improve trade networks. One of the Carthaginians’ key objectives was Sicily. Certain foreign policy decisions led to continuing enmity between Carthage and the burgeoning power of Rome, and what followed was a series of wars which turned from a battle for Mediterranean hegemony into an all-out struggle for survival. Although the Romans gained the upper hand in the wake of the First Punic War, Hannibal brought the Romans to their knees for over a decade during the Second Punic War. While military historians are still amazed that he was able to maintain his army in Italy near Rome for nearly 15 years, scholars are still puzzled over some of his decisions, including why he never attempted to march on Rome in the first place. After the serious threat Hannibal posed during the Second Punic War, the Romans didn’t wait much longer to take the fight to the Carthaginians in the Third Punic War, which ended with Roman legions smashing Carthage to rubble. As legend has it, the Romans literally salted the ground upon which Carthage stood to ensure its destruction, once and for all. Despite having a major influence on the Mediterranean for nearly five centuries, little evidence of Carthage’s past might survives. The city itself was reduced to nothing by the Romans, who sought to erase all physical evidence of its existence, and though its ruins have been excavated, they have not provided anywhere near the wealth of archaeological items or evidence as ancient locations like Rome, Athens, Syracuse, or even Troy. Today, Carthage is a largely unremarkable suburb of the city of Tunis, and though there are some impressive ancient monuments there for tourists to explore, the large majority of these are the result of later Roman settlement. The Punic Wars spanned more than a century, brought the loss of approximately 400,000 lives, and eventually led to the utter defeat and destruction of Carthage, but it was no easy victory for Rome, and on several occasions, the young Roman Republic was close to annihilation. Given what happened in the wake of the Punic Wars, historians have long been left to ponder what might have happened had the Carthaginians won, especially given how close Hannibal came to accomplishing such a victory against Rome during the Second Punic War. What If Carthage Won the Punic Wars?: An Alternative History of the Conflict Between Rome and Carthage profiles the conflict and examines how events may have gone quite differently for Europe if Rome had been defeated.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 2 hrs and 38 mins
Available on Audible
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The Maurya Empire

2 ratings

Summary

During the last centuries of the first millennium BCE, most of the Mediterranean basin and the Near East were either directly or indirectly under the influence of Hellenism. The Greeks spread their ideas to Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia and attempted to unify all of the peoples of those regions under one government. Although some of the Hellenistic kingdoms proved to be powerful in their own rights -- especially Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid Empire, which encompassed all of Mesopotamia, most of the Levant, and much of Persia during its height -- no single kingdom ever proved to be dominant. The Hellenic kingdoms battled each other for supremacy and even attempted to claim new lands, especially to the east, past the Indus River in lands that the Greeks referred to generally as India. But as the Hellenistic Greeks turned their eyes to the riches of India, a dynasty came to power that put most of the Indian subcontinent under the rule of one king.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Why Intelligence Fails

Why Intelligence Fails

1 rating

Summary

The U.S. government spends enormous resources each year on the gathering and analysis of intelligence, yet the history of American foreign policy is littered with missteps and misunderstandings that have resulted from intelligence failures. In Why Intelligence Fails, Robert Jervis examines the politics and psychology of two of the more spectacular intelligence failures in recent memory: the mistaken belief that the regime of the Shah in Iran was secure and stable in 1978, and the claim that Iraq had active WMD programs in 2002. The Iran case is based on a recently declassified report Jervis was commissioned to undertake by the CIA thirty years ago and includes memoranda written by CIA officials in response to Jervis's findings. The Iraq case, also grounded in a review of the intelligence community's performance, is based on close readings of both classified and declassified documents, though Jervis's conclusions are entirely supported by evidence that has been declassified. In both cases, Jervis finds not only that intelligence was badly flawed but also that later explanations - analysts were bowing to political pressure and telling the White House what it wanted to hear or were willfully blind - were also incorrect. Proponents of these explanations claimed that initial errors were compounded by groupthink, lack of coordination within the government, and failure to share information. Policy prescriptions, including the recent establishment of a Director of National Intelligence, were supposed to remedy the situation. In Jervis's estimation, neither the explanations nor the prescriptions are adequate. The inferences that intelligence drew were actually quite plausible given the information available. Errors arose, he concludes, from insufficient attention to the ways in which information should be gathered and interpreted, a lack of self-awareness about the factors that led to the judgments, and an organizational culture that failed to probe for weaknesses and explore alternatives. Evaluating the inherent tensions between the methods and aims of intelligence personnel and policymakers from a unique insider's perspective, Jervis forcefully criticizes recent proposals for improving the performance of the intelligence community and discusses ways in which future analysis can be improved. The book is published by Cornell University Press.

©2010 Cornell University (P)2013 Redwood Audiobooks

Available on Audible
Cover art for Thor

Thor

1 rating

Summary

"Across the rainbow bridge of Asgard, Where the Booming Heavens Roar, You'll behold in breathless wonder, the God of Thunder, Mighty Thor!" (Theme song from the television show Mighty Thor [1966]) "In swelling rage | then rose up Thor, - Seldom he sits | when he such things hears, - And the oaths were broken, | the words and bonds, The mighty pledges | between them made." (Völuspá Line #26 from the "Poetic Edda") A hammer no mortal can lift. A flame-haired, fiery storm god. A comic book alien-hero-god who defends humanity. The swastika. Even the name "Thursday" ("Thor's Day"). Despite the virtual disappearance of the indigenous Norse religion and mythology several centuries ago, modern society still regularly encounters the storm god Thor, who continues to be brought back to life in the form of literature and was recently the protagonist in a big-budget Hollywood movie. What is it about this god, out of the hundreds (if not thousands) of deities that were consigned to the dustbin of history by the world's major religions, that so captures people's imaginations today? A better understanding of Thor's appeal can be found in just about every aspect of the history and evolution of the figure over the centuries, including the origins of the god, the evocative imagery used to describe him, and even the parallels between Thor and similar gods and heroes.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 16 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Uighurs

The Uighurs

1 rating

Summary

Most today are all too familiar with the unimaginable horrors, hardship, and heartache suffered by millions of North Koreans each passing day, as well as the unspeakable circumstances in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and other war zones, as they very well should be. Average consumers of international news, however, are completely ignorant of the hideous plight and even the existence of the Uighurs themselves, a unique, multi-faceted people paddling strenuously in similarly dire straits.

For the most part, the Uighurs are based in East Turkestan, more commonly referred to as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. This prodigious plot of land boasts a total land area of over 1.665 million km², or 640,000 mi², and is, as China puts it, the largest administrative division in the country. The pro-independence inhabitants of East Turkestan, on the other hand, have been fighting for decades to regain sole control of their motherland - as of now, to no avail.

The Uighurs' active pursuit for independence is not an isolated phenomenon. It is reminiscent of the ongoing friction between Taiwan and China, as well as Hong Kong and China, the independence-seekers of the former states struggling to sever its ties with the Red Dragon. That being said, unlike Taiwan, which is managed by an entirely separate constitutional democratic government, and Hong Kong, classified as a special administrative region run by a Chief Executive and Executive Council with its own judicial system, Xinjiang, though technically autonomous, is still very much under the Chinese yoke.

Xinjiang is overseen by its own Communist Party Secretary and Chairman, who are reviled as “puppets of Beijing” behind closed doors. In 2012, Uighurs discreetly disseminated a poem about a former Xinjiang Chairman entitled “Salaam, Nur Bekri”, which skewered Bekri for his ineffective leadership; among their concerns were the climbing unemployment rates within the Uighur community, and the overtly preferential treatment the Han Chinese received. “Closed doors” and “discreet” are key words here. See, while China has been known to breach its agreements with Taiwan and Hong Kong regarding non-intervention on judicial cases and their rights to self-govern, the residents of these states possess the power to exercise freedom of speech, and are granted unfettered access to the internet. This concept, regrettably, has been forgotten by the Uighurs and the country's majority Han Chinese population.

Even more alarming, insiders say its people are imperiled, and this once thriving culture itself is no longer inching, but hurtling towards extinction. An untold number of Uighurs have, and continue to vanish without a trace. The Chinese government claims that the 13,000 or so imprisoned (and executed) since 2014 were radical separatists and “murderous devils” with poisonous vendettas.

A fraction of the Uighurs have been connected to violent acts of terrorism, but the often flimsy and incomplete evidence presented to defense teams certainly warrants some pause for thought. On top of the countless others supposedly snatched off the streets for speaking their minds, fostering their customs, or simply being kin to Uighurs who fled and turned refugee, over a million have been bussed to so-called “re-education camps” or “vocational training centers”. These are no different from “boarding schools”, Xinjiang officials insist, yet survivors have likened these detention centers to inescapable concentration camps.

The Uighurs: The History and Legacy of the Turkic Muslim Minority Group in Asia examines the origins of the Uighurs, their long history, and the notorious current events involving the Uighurs in China.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 40 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Soviet Invasion of Hungary in 1956

The Soviet Invasion of Hungary in 1956

1 rating

Summary

For 30 years, much of the West looked on with disdain as the Bolsheviks took power in Russia and created and consolidated the Soviet Union. As bad as Vladimir Lenin seemed in the early 20th century, Joseph Stalin was so much worse that Churchill later remarked of Lenin, “Their worst misfortune was his birth...their next worst his death”. Before World War II, Stalin consolidated his position by frequently purging party leaders (most famously Leon Trotsky) and Red Army leaders, executing hundreds of thousands of people at the least. And in one of history’s greatest textbook examples of the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, Stalin’s Soviet Union allied with Britain and the United States to defeat Hitler in Europe during World War II. As it turned out, however, the Soviets would not cede any of the territory the Red Army took while pushing the Wehrmacht back to Berlin in the latter stages of World War II, ensuring that the Iron Curtain would envelop much of Central and Eastern Europe. In almost no time at all, most of these countries were transformed into authoritarian, communist, one-party states, and opponents were exiled or jailed. In 1955, Moscow had brought together all the satellites as part of the Warsaw Pact, a collective security organization to challenge the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which had been founded in 1949 by the United States and Western European allies. Nonetheless, the mid-1950's were tumultuous for the Soviet Bloc. Several countries saw Stalin’s death and the apparent change of direction, even the softening of policy under Khrushchev, as an opportunity to pursue a reformist path. In East Germany, Poland, and Hungary, demonstrations against the communist regimes induced uncertainty, and Hungarian leaders attempted to incorporate the protestors and orientate themselves towards the West, leading to a notorious Soviet invasion. Only occasionally did the peoples of the so-called Eastern Bloc attempt to break free from the status quo, or at least register their dissatisfaction. These mass demonstrations and uprisings act as markers of the Cold War, including 1953 in East Berlin, 1968 in Czechoslovakia, 1980-81 in Poland, and, of course, 1989 in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. The fall of the Berlin Wall is likely the most famous, but the uprising with the greatest impact on the bulk of the Cold War took place in Hungary in 1956, when protestors took to the streets to demand freedom from tyranny and a greater say in their own destiny. When the Hungarians rose up against the status quo in October 1956, they were met with a brutal response from Moscow. The history of Hungary is one of a country that experienced almost constant expansion and contraction, along with waves of autonomy and domination. It is this sense of history that played such a dominant role in 1956 and why the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution has such a searing place in the national consciousness. Above all, 1956 brought about a sense of helplessness that Hungary had little chance to tread a path of national self-determination, as the threat of Soviet military intervention hung over the country. Of course, that was the Soviets’ intention all along. By crushing the Hungarian Uprising, the Soviets dampened the hopes of the people of Central and Eastern Europe that they might be able to pursue a more independent-minded path. The one exception to this rule would be Tito’s Yugoslavia. The Soviet Invasion of Hungary in 1956: The History and Legacy of the Hungarian Uprising and the Military Operations That Put It Down looks at the events that brought about the most famous rebellion against Soviet authority during the Cold War; you will learn about the Soviet invasion of Hungary like never before.

Public Domain (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Stephen Platt
Category: History, Russia
Length: 2 hrs and 6 mins
Available on Audible
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The Roma

1 rating

Summary

“We are all wanderers on this earth. Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams.” (Old Romani proverb) In the 21st century, cultural differences and individuality are often celebrated and protected across much of the world, and given society's conscientious awareness of such phenomena, it is, therefore, all the more surprising when considering the ignorance or indifference that the world, at large, exhibits toward the Romani people.  Otherwise known as the “Roma” or by their popular misnomer “the gypsies”, the members of this highly undervalued and grossly misrepresented community have long been considered outcasts.  More often than not, the Romani are branded by even those who fancy themselves liberals as “pikeys”, “gyppos”, and “gips”. There's also a regrettably common term “gypped” meaning “to cheat, or swindle” which perpetuates the damaging stereotype that the Roma are dishonest nuisances and societal pests.  Even well-intentioned attempts to shine the spotlight on the community have sometimes been counterproductive, for they are often reduced to no more than exotic, whimsical entertainers for the privileged.  According to a shocking email authored by an anonymous whistleblower in 2012, the staff at the Laurieston Job Center in Glasgow's Southside regularly referred to their Romani customers as “gypos, scum, beggars, suicide bombers, thieves, and pedophiles”. The whistleblower cited the staff's disturbing comments regarding an unnamed Romani woman who had brought her two children along to the job center: “The staff were all joking and saying they should sanction her for claiming whilst pimping out her kids. They then went on to make horrible remarks about the children, saying they were "mongs". On August 5th of the same year, over 700 far-right “activists” stormed the heavily Romani-populated Hungarian village of Devescer. “Gypsy criminals,” the mob chanted as they hurled rocks, paving stones, and other projectiles at the homes of their prey. “We will set your homes on fire. You will burn inside your homes!” The police, who were called to the scene, supposedly stood on the sidelines with their arms crossed, unwilling to intervene.       The dangerous blanket statements issued by various European politicians in the past and recent years are also a cause for concern. In 1992, Bert Karlsson, a prominent member of the Swedish New Democracy Party, claimed that “Gypsies [were] responsible for 90 percent of crime against senior citizens”. In June 2008, the conservative Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ordered the fingerprinting of the 150,000 Romani, children included, as a way to crack down on street crime. In France, political parties from either end of the spectrum have blamed the Romani for the nation's problems, economic and otherwise. The gypsies, asserted one interior minister, were responsible for one in every 10 crimes.  It’s fair to wonder why the abhorrent treatment of the Romani continues to slip below the radar of many social justice warriors, particularly in this age of globalization. This is all the more confounding given that many are aware of the ways the Roma have been persecuted over several centuries, most notoriously during the holocaust. 

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, World
Length: 1 hr and 35 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Peshtigo Fire of 1871

The Peshtigo Fire of 1871

1 rating

Summary

"Why is this story not known? You see endless stories about Johnstown. What happened at Peshtigo makes Johnstown look like a birdbath.... The air burned hotter than a crematorium and the fire traveled at 90 mph. I read an account of a Civil War veteran who had been through some of the worst battles of the war. He described the sound - the roar - during the fire as 100 times greater than any artillery bombardment." - Bill Lutz, co-author of Firestorm at Peshtigo In arguably the most famous fire in American history, a blaze in the southwestern section of Chicago began to burn out of control on the night of October 8, 1871. It had taken about 40 years for Chicago to grow from a small settlement of about 300 people into a thriving metropolis with a population of 300,000. But in just two days in 1871, much of that progress was burned to the ground. Due to the publicity generated by a fire that reduced most of a major American city to ash, the Peshtigo Fire of 1871 might fairly be called America's forgotten disaster. Overshadowed by the much better-covered and publicized Great Chicago Fire that occurred on the same evening, the fire that started in the Wisconsin logging town of Peshtigo generated a firestorm unlike anything in American history. In addition to destroying a wide swath of land, it killed at least 1,500 people and possibly as many as 2,500 - several times more than the number of casualties in Chicago. While people marveled at the fact that the Great Chicago Fire managed to jump a river, the Peshtigo fire was so intense that it was able to jump several miles across Green Bay. While wondering aloud about the way in which the Peshtigo fire has been overlooked, Bill Lutz noted, "Fires are normally very fascinating to people, but people seem resistant to Peshtigo."

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Tim Harwood
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 25 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Master of Suspense

The Master of Suspense

1 rating

Summary

"I am a typed director. If I made Cinderella, the audience would immediately be looking for a body in the coach." - Alfred Hitchcock, 1956 In the opening pages of his seminal book-length study of Alfred Hitchcock, Hitchcock's Films (1965), Robin Wood famously asked, "Why Should We Take Hitchcock Seriously?" Wood then proceeded to offer a detailed examination of Hitchcock's career to that point, arguing that the Master of Suspense belonged among the ranks of the preeminent directors in Hollywood, and that his films were among the most important in American culture. When Wood was asking that question, he wasn't asking it rhetorically and was arguing for Hitchcock's relevance, which seems strange today because Hitchcock is now a Hollywood icon. No one would even think of asking that same question today, as just about every American is familiar with Hitchcock's work in some way or another. Hitchcock is regarded as perhaps the most famous and influential director in history, so Wood's question back in 1965 at least demonstrates the evolution of Hitchcock's reputation and the critical reception of his career. Indeed, as revered as Hitchcock is today, it is telling that he was never awarded an Academy Award during his career (though he was given an honorary Oscar after his retirement.) Vertigo (1958), for example, is now considered one of the landmark films of the classical Hollywood cinema, but it was both a box office and a critical flop upon its release. Other Hitchcock films, such as Psycho (1960) and North by Northwest (1959), performed well at the box office but were not viewed as high art.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Cira Larkin
Length: 1 hr and 27 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Iranian Revolutionary Guards

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards

1 rating

Summary

In early November 2016, Salar Abnoush, a leader in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), stated that the IRGC "will be in the US and Europe very soon." This quote came just before the US presidential election, a time when President Barack Obama was winding down his presidency and American society was busy reflecting on his past actions over the eight years of his presidency. Of those actions that incoming President Donald Trump has decided to focus on, "tearing up" the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (also more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal) was near the top of the list. The crux of the deal focuses on Iran's agreement to roll back uranium stockpiles and enrichment capabilities in exchange for the ending of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran. Due to the IRGC's current involvement in the Iranian economy, they stand to gain from the ending of the sanctions. Possible threats to the deal by the incoming Trump Administration are of concern in Iran, and the threat of the IRGC spreading in western countries is a concern as well. The impact of the changing of terms to the Iran Nuclear Deal is just one concern among many of members of the IRGC. The multi-party conflict of the Syrian Civil War has pulled Iran deeper into this global conflict, as the numbers of refugees and internally displaced people rise. Through it all, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has held a position of power and prestige in Iranian society and has inspired both revolution and concern around the world. The IRGC is notable for its involvement in conflicts around the Middle East, particularly in supporting Shi'a groups through military training and finance, as well as backup support on the battlefield. This is not to say the IRGC enters into conflicts for the sake of being involved, but rather, they see these particular situations as serving the interests of Iran and furthering their brand of Shi'ism, a sect of Islam. The IRGC sees itself as a protector of Islam, Iran's theocracy, and the principles of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, so its involvement is always framed in terms of benefits to the overall goals of promoting revolutionary ideals. As analyst Afshon Ostovar puts it, "The IRGC is a multifaceted organization with reach into many different areas. It is a security service, an intelligence operation, a social and cultural force, and a complex industrial economic conglomerate." The IRGC operates in a very similar manner to other Islamist paramilitary organizations, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and - their current enemies on the battlefield - the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat Al-Nusra. These Islamist groups' power and influence comes from their control over the societies in which they operate and whether or not they have influential allies. The main difference for the IRGC, however, is the support of Iranian leadership in carrying out their main mission of maintaining and exporting the revolution. In essence, the IRGC has rooted itself in Iranian society and spread its influence through association with the society's most integral components - the education system, businesses, civil organizations, and religion - all at the request and blessing of the Supreme Leader of Iran. This is a similar model ISIL and Jabhat Al-Nusra are attempting to carry out in Syria and Iraq, and the one that Hamas and Hezbollah currently carry out in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. The IRGC is also very much involved in Iran's economy and has a stake in its nuclear ambitions.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Dan Gallagher
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 2 hrs
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Gulags

The Gulags

1 rating

Summary

One of the most idiosyncratic horrors of Soviet Russia was the Gulag system, an extensive network of forced labor and concentration camps. Part of the rationale behind this system was that it could serve as slave labor in the drive for industrialization while also serving as a form of punishment. The name Gulag is in fact an acronym, approximating to “Main Administration of Camps” (in Russian: Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagerei) and operated by the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior. The Gulag consisted of internment camps, forced labor camps, psychiatric hospital facilities, and special laboratories, and its prisoners were known as zeks. Such was the closed and secretive nature of the Soviet state that to this day, knowledge of the Gulag system comes mainly from Western studies, firsthand accounts by prisoners such as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and some local studies after the fall of communism. The most recognizable version of the Gulag, a term that was never pluralized in Russia itself, existed from the 1930s to 1950s, a period in which a huge network of camps and prisons was established across the vast Soviet federation. Prisoners were often used as forced labor, made to do physically arduous and soul-destroying tasks. Some workers helped to build large infrastructure projects, and indeed, the system was partly rationalized in terms of economics. By the early 1960s, Gulags were synonymous with various forms of punishments, including house arrest, imprisonment in isolated places, or confinement to a mental hospital where a prisoner would be declared insane or diagnosed with a “political” form of psychosis. In its later years, the Gulags held a particular place in the public’s imagination, both within the USSR and in the outside world. They could mean exile, brutal punishment, or simply being banished to Siberia. Though it’s often forgotten today, in many respects, the Gulags represented a continuation (albeit a more far-reaching version) of the kind of punishment meted out during the Russian Empire under the Romanov dynasty, which was overthrown in 1917. Therefore, it is necessary to examine the system in the context of the broader history of Russia and its empire, even as the system of repression, imprisonment, and punishment persisted for decades in the Soviet Union and has been primarily aligned with the rule of one leader: Josef Stalin. The USSR collapsed in December 1991, and it can be argued that the labor camps were not only integral to the very existence of the Soviet Union, but also a damning indictment of the Soviets’ failed experiment in communist totalitarianism. The Gulags: The History and Legacy of the Notorious Soviet Labor Camps examines the rise of the labor camps, how they were institutionalized by Soviet leaders, and what life was like for the prisoners.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jim D. Johnston
Category: History, Russia
Length: 1 hr and 53 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Denisovans

The Denisovans

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Summary

The study of paleoanthropology is the branch of anthropology that examines the development of humans and pre-humans - often called collectively hominins - through history. Although paleoanthropology is directly concerned with human history, it diverges from traditional historical studies in that historians use historical records as their primary sources to reconstruct history, while paleoanthropologists work with bones and other artifacts hominins left as their records. Historians deal with the last 5,000 years of human history, while paleoanthropologists go back more than four million years to when the first proto-humans walked the Earth. Although the subject of paleoanthropology covers a much longer chronology than historical studies, the study itself is actually fairly new. As soon as man discovered writing, he began engaging in historiography (historical writing and philosophy), but paleoanthropology only really began in the late 1800s. As archaeologists began finding bones in European caves of a human race that was very different than any race in the modern world, the study of paleoanthropology was born. The race of those early humans who were found in the European caves were later termed Neanderthals, and for quite some time, they were believed to have been the race from which many modern humans were directly descended. Over time, the remains of more hominin races were discovered, leading many scholars to postulate a definite evolutionary line from proto-humans to modern humans, but at the same time, it seemed more questions were raised. Many anthropologists began questioning if the Neanderthals were direct ancestors of modern humans, and now, most believe that they were not, although scholars grant that they were closely related, and many modern humans do indeed carry some Neanderthal genetics. This debate was unsettled until recently, when new scientific knowledge and methods were utilized to answer some of the most important questions pertaining to early human and pre-human development. Advances in genetic testing have allowed the field of paleoanthropology to make great leaps, one of the greatest was when the remains of five individuals discovered in a Siberian cave had their DNA sequenced in 2010. However, the results of the DNA testing dramatically changed the course of paleoanthropology once more when it was revealed that although the hominins from what is known as the Denisova Cave were closely related to Neanderthals, much more so than modern humans are related to Neanderthals, they represented a distinct species of humans. Scholars began examining this new hominin race - which became known as “Denisovans”, “Denisovan Man”, or Homo denisovan - for connections to the Neanderthals and modern humans.  Although it has been less than 10 years since the Denisovans were truly discovered, much has been learned about them, particularly about their interactions with the Neanderthals and modern humans, their range, and their culture. It has been revealed that although the Denisovans were very similar to the Neanderthals in terms of genetics, phenotype, and material culture, the Denisovans possibly had a much wider range and left a bigger genetic imprint on modern human populations.  The Denisovans: The History of the Extinct Archaic Humans Who Spread Across Asia During the Paleolithic Era looks at the evolution of these mysterious humans and examines the theories regarding their history.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 2 hrs and 21 mins
Available on Audible
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The Cumans and Magyars

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Summary

Of all the steppe peoples in the medieval period, perhaps none were more important to European history than the Magyars. Like the Huns and Avars before them and the Cumans and Mongols after them, the Magyars burst into Europe as a destructive, unstoppable horde, taking whatever they wanted and leaving a steady stream of misery in their wake. They used much of the same tactics as the other steppe peoples and lived a similar, nomadic lifestyle. The Magyars also had many early cultural affinities with other steppe peoples, following a similar religion and ideas of kingship and nobility, among other things. That said, as similar as the Magyars may have been to other steppe nomads before and after them, they were noticeably different in one way: The Magyars settled down and became a part of Europe and Western Civilization in the Middle Ages. The Magyars exploded onto the European cultural scene in the late ninth century as foreign marauders, but they made alliances with many important kingdoms in less than a century and established their own dynasty in the area, roughly equivalent to the modern nation-state of Hungary. After establishing themselves as a legitimate dynasty among their European peers, the Magyars formed a sort of cultural bridge between the Roman Catholic kingdoms of Western Europe and the Orthodox Christian kingdoms of Eastern Europe. Ultimately, the Magyars chose the Roman Catholic Church, thereby becoming a part of the West and tying their fate to it for the remainder of the Middle Ages.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 2 hrs and 23 mins
Available on Audible
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The Cumans

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Summary

Let us begin this narration, brethren, from the old times of Vladimir to this present time of Igor, who, strengthened his mind with courage, who quickened his heart with valor and, thus imbued with martial spirit, led his valiant regiments against the Kuman land in defense of the Russian land.” (The Tale of Igor’s Campaign) Before the Mongols rode across the steppes of Asia and Eastern Europe, the Cumans were a major military and cultural force that monarchs from China to Hungary and from Russia to the Byzantine Empire faced, often losing armies and cities in the process. The Cumans were a tribe of Turkic nomads who rode the steppes looking for plunder and riches, but they rarely stayed long after they got what they wanted. From the late 9th century until the arrival of the Mongols in 1223, there was virtually nothing that could be done to stop the Cumans. Old Russian chronicles, Byzantine texts, Western European chronicles, and travel diaries of Islamic scholars all reveal that the Cumans were a threat to any kingdom in their path. Some kingdoms chose to fight the Cumans and often suffered heavy destruction, while others believed buying them off was the more reasonable course of action. The latter course often brought them into intimate contact with the most powerful kingdoms of medieval Eastern Europe before the Cumans were eventually replaced by the Mongols, with the remaining Cumans dispersing and integrating into various European and central Asian kingdoms in the 13th century. Many Cumans joined the Mongol Golden Horde and later became Muslims, while some helped found dynasties in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania. The Cumans came from somewhat mysterious origins before they became the western vanguard of a massive nomadic horde that grew in ferocity and effectiveness as the centuries passed, but they were far more than mindless barbarians interested in violence alone. Although violence did play a major role in early Cuman culture, sources reveal they were also interested in diplomacy and eventually integrated with their sedentary neighbors. Archaeological discoveries further indicate that their culture was unique, complete with mythology and some art, but in the end, the Cumans disappeared as quickly as they appeared on the historical scene, much like other nomadic peoples before and after them. The Cumans: The History of the Medieval Turkic Nomads Who Fought the Mongols and Rus’ in Eastern Europe examines how the Cumans became a major fighting force in the region, and the influence they had. You will learn about the Cumans.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 15 mins
Available on Audible
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The Battle of Grunwald

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Summary

“We accept the swords you send us, and in the name of Christ, before whom all stiff-necked pride must bow, we shall do battle.” (Polish?King Vladislav II) As the dissipating fog gave way to an unnerving sight, the mass of frightening figures clad head to toe in gleaming armor would have been enough to take anyone's breath away. Some of them were mounted on the backs of handsome stallions, while others leaned forward with squared shoulders, ready to attack. In one swift motion, the men unsheathe their swords and raise it over their heads, their weapons winking as the glare of the sunlight bounces off the blade.  To the somewhat trained eye, these warriors in Norman-inspired gear would have appeared to be one of the Crusader forces, but it is that bold, black cross painted across their chests and shields that give them away. These men were none other than the fabled Teutonic Knights. The knights of the Teutonic Order have since been compared to the surreal creature that appeared to the biblical Ezekiel, one that bore 2 faces - one of a man's and one of a lion's. The human side of the creature is said to symbolize the order's charity whereas the lion was a metaphor for its valor and gallant spirit, which they relied on to vanquish the heathens of the world.  Like other secretive groups, the mystery surrounding the Teutonic Knights has helped their legacy endure. While some conspiracy theorists attempt to tie the group to other alleged secret societies like the Illuminati, other groups have tried to assert connections with the Teutonic Knights to bolster their own credentials. Who they were and what they had in their possession continue to be a source of great intrigue, even among non-historical circles.  While the military orders are now often tied to religion or conspiracy theories, they did once wield great power and influence in Europe, and their actions had consequences centuries after they had reached their peak. This was made clear in the wake of a major battle fought between German and Russian forces from August 26-30, 1914, during the First World War. It occurred in Masuria, a region of marshes, woodland, and numerous lakes in northern Poland, and almost 400,000 men were involved, and it was a decisive victory for the Germans, who annihilated the Russian army. The Germans named the battle after Tannenberg (Polish Stebark), and the battle, though widely fought over 100 miles, did indeed encompass the village, but there was a historical reason for assigning the name to the battle. On July 15, 1410, Tannenberg was the site of another decisive battle between the army of the Germanic Teutonic Order and that of Poland-Lithuania, a battle now commonly referred to as the Battle of Grunwald (after another nearby village). German nationalism saw the destruction of the Russians as vengeance upon the Slavs for the defeat of 1410, and the Nazis also exploited that sentiment during their invasions of Poland and Russia. Conversely, for Poles and Russians, the Teutonic Knights were precursors of the rapacious Germans of the Second and Third Reichs, and Grunwald was a symbol of freedom and resistance. These sentiments remain strong to this day.  These considerations aside, the Battle of Grunwald was significant for a number of reasons. It marked the end of the German colonization of Slavic and Baltic lands in northeastern Europe that had begun in the 12th century. It, therefore, also marked the beginning of an age when the Slavic (principally, the Polish) peoples could grow and expand without interference from the West. The battle also signified the end of the Teutonic Knights as a major power and marked the rise of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 40 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Amber Road

The Amber Road

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Summary

“Pytheas says that the Gutones, a people of Germany, inhabit the shores of an estuary of the Ocean called Mentonomon, their territory extending a distance of six thousand stadia; that, at one day's sail from this territory, is the Isle of Abalus, upon the shores of which, amber is thrown up by the waves in spring, it being an excretion of the sea in a concrete form; as, also, that the inhabitants use this amber by way of fuel, and sell it to their neighbors, the Teutones...” (Pliny the Elder)

The story of the Silk Road has been a popular topic among tourists, academics, economists, state parties, and daydreaming children for many centuries. In many ways the Silk Road can be seen everywhere, and it has existed for as long as people have traveled across Eurasia. Its impact is widely felt among the diverse peoples that live on the continent, through the unique regional art and architectural styles, as well as in countless films, books, academic studies, and organized tours devoted to the ancient trade routes.

At the same time, however, the Silk Road is an entirely abstract invention, first coined by the 19th century German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen. There has never existed a single route - let alone a road - that was used to transfer goods, nor was silk the primary commodity traded across Eurasia. Instead, the Silk Road is more a multi-layered narrative about the rise and fall of nomadic confederations and sedentary societies, the consolidation and dissolution of kingdoms and empires, the exchange of commodities and fine crafts, and the transfer and mixture of ideas, religions, technology, science, art, architecture, myths, and legends. It is a story that is relevant for the present-day countries through which this exchange once took place, as they lay claim to the artifacts, heritage sites, and symbolic meaning of the Silk Road for political and economic purposes and to build their national identity.

In fact, international trade in the ancient world was a more intricate and far-reaching system than many have been led to believe. The Silk Road and the Incense Trade Route have been heavily investigated in recent decades, but the Amber Road trade network dominating northern Europe has been given far less attention. Amber, the hardened sap of prehistoric trees, has washed up on Baltic shores for generations, and though it had little value to the locals beyond religious symbolism and aesthetic beauty, they learned that foreign civilizations would pay massive sums for the beautiful substance.

Though written sources are scattered and tend to come and go depending on the civilization involved, much has been written by ancient authors, particularly of Greek and Roman origins. More importantly, archeologists have traced the spread of amber through the discovery of pieces with specific chemical construction, linking it back to the Baltic region. Once thought to have mainly been exported to Rome, Baltic amber has also been found in Mycenaean Greece, Egypt and Syria, though perhaps not surprisingly, it was Roman demand that formed the height of the amber exchange.

Perhaps even more interesting than the movement of the amber is regarding shifting trade operations from government controlled systems to private merchant enterprises to monopolies of guilds and orders, a return to government control, and finally, the selling of the trade to individual countries. It is a fascinating microcosm of changing political and governmental landscapes through millennia of change and development in northern Europe and the wider ancient Mediterranean world.

The Amber Road: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Trade Network that Moved Amber across Europe looks at the development of this crucial trade, and its impact on antiquity.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Legendary Philosophers: The Life and Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

Legendary Philosophers: The Life and Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

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Summary

"There are no facts, only interpretations." (Nietzsche) A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? Among all the knowledge and pursuits handed down by our ancestors, few were as important as philosophy, which literally taught people how to think and became directly responsible for ideas like reason and empiricism. Men like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle formed the backbone of Western philosophy, and subsequent philosophers like Marcus Aurelius and Thomas Aquinas expounded on previous philosophy. In Charles River Editors' Legendary Philosophers series, listeners can get up to speed on the lives of the most important philosophers in history in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known. It might be fair to say that everyone's thinking has been influenced at one point or another by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, or at least someone who was influenced in turn by Nietzsche. Nietzsche (1844-1900) was one of the most influential men of the 19th century, a German philosopher, poet, and composer who wrote at length about everything from religion to science. In addition to the importance of his work, he was a deft writer and polemic, ensuring his continuing popularity among readers. Nietzsche's influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy today, most notably in existentialism, nihilism, and postmodernism, all thriving movements in the 21st century.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
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Lawrence of Arabia

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Summary

He was recognized by many as a curious scholar and archaeologist, brilliant linguist, British soldier, extraordinary adventurer, and avid writer, though he called himself an "ordinary man". He was a gifted translator, a shrewd diplomat, a brilliant tactician, and an instinctive leader. T.E. Lawrence, more popularly known as Lawrence of Arabia, was a seminal figure in the shaping and reshaping of the politics of Arabia in the early 20th century, serving as an expert in Arab affairs in the British military and playing a key role in the Great Arab Revolt of 1916-1918. World War I, also known as the Great War of 1914-1918, was one of the deadliest conflicts in human history, leading to the deaths of millions of soldiers and civilians, and it was a war that produced too many casualties and too few heroes. However, after the war was over, the world was told of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed British officer named Thomas Edward Lawrence, and his experiences in Arabia during the fighting. Pictures of Lawrence in a flowing white robe of Arabia's Bedouin tribes were distributed, and Lawrence's autobiography, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, further catapulted his fame and sensationalized his public image. Lawrence's story served to boost the spirits of many who were struggling to recover after the tragedy of the war. It is telling of just how remarkable the tale is that the world’s fascination with Lawrence of Arabia has endured today. Articles, books, films, and documentaries about Lawrence and his exploits are continuously released on an annual basis. Historian Phillip Knightley once commented, "Along with Winston Churchill, [T.E. Lawrence] remains perhaps the best-known Englishman in the world." Decades since the end of the war, and with a completely changed Middle Eastern geopolitical landscape, Lawrence of Arabia and his legacy are still remembered and referenced as politically, militarily, and socially pertinent. However, Lawrence was by no means everything he claimed to be. Like many great men touched by fame and celebrity, he exaggerated some details, underplayed others, and strove to maintain an image of himself that he had created in his own mind. Thus, Lawrence was and still is a very controversial figure. He was the first in the 900 year history of the British monarchy to refuse a knighthood, and the film Lawrence of Arabia, starting Peter O’Toole as Lawrence and widely lauded as a masterpiece, was banned in many Arab and Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan and Turkey. Turkey especially has long vilified Lawrence, questioning the veracity of many of his accounts. Just recently, in October 2014, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went so far as to declare T.E. Lawrence a greater enemy than the radical terrorist organization that is operating in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State (IS). In a furious anti-Western diatribe, Erdogan described Lawrence as an "English spy disguised as an Arab", and he warned of the threat posed by modern-day Lawrences in Turkey "disguised as journalists, religious men, writers, and terrorists" who are allegedly aiming to destabilize the country and region.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ken Teutsch
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 37 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for John Dee

John Dee

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Summary

“Who does not understand should either learn, or be silent.” (John Dee) With the golden glow of the candlelight kissing his cheeks, he hovered over a spirit mirror - a flat, exquisitely lustrous “shew-stone” fashioned out of raven-black obsidian. Gazing intently upon his reflection in the dark volcanic glass, he chanted in hushed tones as he ran his fingers across the engravings on the oat-colored wax wheel next to him, the Sigilla iEmeth, which featured a septogram and runic carvings and symbols in minuscule print. Contrary to what one might expect, it was not a phantom, hobgoblin, or demon that he sought, but rather, the seraphic voice, and perhaps even the face of an angel - the one bridge between mankind and their Creator, one who holds the key to all of life's unanswerable questions.   Was this man delusional? Perhaps so, but perhaps, not. But there was no question among those on hand that this was not an ignorant, philistine, unlettered buffoon of a man who readily boarded the train of groundless superstition. Far from it, this was a man who held not only a master's degree, but a doctorate, and his simultaneously stimulating and mesmerizing lectures drew crowds of royals and nobles from near and far. This was a man who was well-versed in a host of academic fields, and he would go on to serve as one of his queen's foremost personal advisers. He was also a prolific author whose revolutionary ideas helped chart the path for the burgeoning British Empire.  The man in question is none other than John Dee, one of the greatest scientific minds of his time, but also one of the most controversial. He was a learned man in fields as varied as mathematics and astronomy, centuries before they became formalized fields of study, but he is better remembered for performing magic and alchemy. Instead of astronomy, he became renowned across England for astrology, and he was one of the country’s most notorious occult writers during his life. Given the variety that the Elizabethan Era had to offer, it should come as little surprise that some eccentric characters with seemingly unique skills pushed to the forefront and became lauded members of society.  Over the course of her long reign, Queen Elizabeth I became one of England’s most famous and influential rulers, and it was an age when the arts, commerce, and trade flourished. It was the epoch of gallantry and great, enduring literature. It was also an age of wars and military conflicts in which men were the primary drivers and women often were pawns.  John Dee himself has been credited with coming up with the name “British Empire” in the first place. As all of this suggests, to say that John Dee was a storied man would be a grave understatement, to say the least. His multifaceted reputation preceded him, and his name became synonymous with both brilliance and disconcerting eccentricity. By all means, he certainly looked the part - the occultist towered over his peers, his wiry frame cloaked in a charcoal-black artist's gown with a ruffled white collar, his veined hands peeking out of his flared sleeves. He bore a pasty, pallid complexion, which seemed almost ghostly, paired with a magnificent beard that was “as white as milk”. Chilling rumors about his immeasurable magical abilities have kept his name alive for centuries. Legend has it that this was a man who singlehandedly cast a crippling curse on the Spanish Armada as the fleet sailed toward England, conjuring up the merciless storms and violent waves that threatened to swallow the ill-starred convoy whole, and left them with no choice but to turn back. This was a man who was once branded “the greatest rogue in the neighborhood of London".

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Delaine Daniels
Length: 1 hr and 39 mins
Available on Audible
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Eridu

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Summary

"After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridu." - Excerpt from the opening paragraph of the Sumerian King List Emerging from the desert flats of southern Iraq can be seen the remains of a large mound, approximately 1750 feet x 1750 feet in size, surrounded by several smaller mounds. Known today as Tell Abu Shahrain, or in the ancient world as Eridu, this site contains some of best examples of the Ubaid culture, and it was one of the first urban centers of civilization in southern Mesopotamia, if not the first itself. Many famous stories came from the mythical landscapes of Iraq's deep south. In the literature of ancient Sumer, Eridu was regarded as the primordial city, the first urban center, believed to have existed long before the great mythical flood that wiped out human culture in the Book of Genesis and other earlier traditions. It was to places like this that Western explorers first came in the 19th century, searching for the origins of the lands which the Bible described as the cradle of the human race. In doing so, they discovered that Eridu was also a real place. The astonishing site is located about eight miles southwest of the Sumerian city of Ur, and when it was first excavated in the mid-19th century, Western archaeologists were confused as to how a city as large as this could have existed in such a vast and waterless desert. But Eridu is positioned on the edge of the great alluvial plain of Sumer, a wild and beautiful marshland where the Tigris and the Euphrates meet. This was the Biblical "Garden of Eden", an ancient landscape that was renowned for its fertility in the past.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 3 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Catholic Legends: The Life and Legacy of St. Thomas Aquinas

Catholic Legends: The Life and Legacy of St. Thomas Aquinas

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Summary

It would be hard to overstate the influence that St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) has had on both the Catholic world and the West as a whole over the last 750 years. Even in secular circles, Aquinas is known as one of the most important medieval philosophers, and in many respects a harbinger of the Renaissance that began to flourish across Europe in the centuries that followed his life. His groundbreaking work, Summa Theologica, remains one of the most influential philosophical texts in history, earning him a place in the pantheon alongside Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates. Aquinas had just as great an influence on Christianity as well. His philosophical works forged and established natural theology, squaring Catholicism with reason and logic, the ideals and aspects of modern thought that really took hold during the Renaissance. With his work on logic, theology, and metaphysics, as one of the Church's Doctors, Thomas Aquinas remains the Catholic Church's greatest theologian and philosopher, and he is still held out by the Church as the role model for those studying to become a Catholic priest. Catholic Legends: The Life and Legacy of St. Thomas Aquinas details the remarkable life he lived and analyzes his writings, explaining how strong and enduring his legacy has become.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Charles Craig
Length: 52 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Armenian Myths and Legends

Armenian Myths and Legends

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Summary

Armenia is considered to be one of the oldest cradles of civilization, with the area of historical Armenia roughly extending to the area stretching from the Euphrates River in the west, the region of Artsakh, parts of Caucasian Albania to the east, parts of the modern state of Georgia to the north, and its southern boundary abutting the northern tip of Mesopotamia. Armenia is a landlocked mountainous plateau that rises to an average of over 6,000 feet above sea level, and for this reason, the territory was commonly referred to as the Armenian Highlands. In these highlands, Armenian culture, as well as its language, started to develop.  Rich cultural material, mythological and legendary tales, toponyms and names, as well as historical sources serve as evidence the Armenian Highlands have been inhabited by Armenians since the dawn of time. Like many other people all over the world, Armenian people also created their own mythology and heroes. The first pantheon of the Armenian pagan gods had gone through its formation parallel to the development of the Armenian people as a consequence of the religious beliefs the people bore. Before being the first kingdom to convert to and accept Christianity as its religion in the year of AD 301, Armenians were pagan and believed in a multitude of gods and goddesses. These were attributed with many natural elements. The main sources that have conveyed the Armenian pagan myths and legends to the following generations are the Armenian historians of the fourth to seventh centuries, such as Agathangelos, Faustus the Byzantine, Movses Khorenatsi, and Sebeos. Another prime source containing many clues that helps us grasp and comprehend these myths and legends is the Armenian national heroic epic Daredevils of Sassoun. Armenian Myths and Legends: The History of the Mythology and Folk Tales from Armenia looks at the stories that came from Armenia in ancient times, including their influences from other cultures. You will learn about Armenian mythology like never before. 

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 9 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Apartheid in South Africa: The History and Legacy of the Notorious Segregationist Policies in the 20th Century

Apartheid in South Africa: The History and Legacy of the Notorious Segregationist Policies in the 20th Century

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Summary

Although apartheid is typically dated from the late 1940s until its dismantling decades later, segregationist policies had been the norm in South Africa from nearly the moment European explorers sailed to the region and began settling there. Whether it was displacing and fighting indigenous groups like the Khoi and San, or fighting other whites like the Boer, separation between ethnicities was the norm in South Africa for centuries before the election of Malan signaled the true rise of the Afrikaner far right. The man most associated with dismantling apartheid, of course, is Nelson Mandela. With the official policy of apartheid instituted in 1948 by an all-white government, Mandela was tried for treason between the years of 1956-61 before being acquitted. He participated in the Defiance Campaign of 1952, and oversaw the 1955 Congress of the People, but when the African National Congress was banned in 1960, he proposed a military wing, despite his initial reluctance toward violent resistance, a reluctance which had its roots in original nonviolent protests through the South African Communist Party. The ANC did not openly discourage such an idea, and the Umkhonto we Sizwe was established. Mandela was again arrested in 1962 and tried for attempts to overthrow the government by violence. The sentence was five years of hard labor, but this was increased to a life sentence in 1964, a sentence handed down to seven of his closest colleagues as well. Mandela would eventually serve 27 years, but his statements made in court received enormous international coverage and acclaim, and his reputation grew during his time in Robben Island Prison of Capetown, the Pollsmoor and Victor Verster Prisons. He was ultimately released in February 1990, in large part as a result of the international campaign generated by his words and the current South African story. Shortly after that, he was elected as the first man of African descent to the presidency of South Africa, which he held from 1994–1999. Most significant was that Mandela was elected from the first multi-factional, multi-racial election ever held in the country, a result of extensive negotiations with then President F.W. Klerk. Apartheid in South Africa: The History and Legacy of the Notorious Segregationist Policies in the 20th Century looks at the controversial policies, the background behind them, and their influence on the country. Along with pictures and a bibliography, you will learn about apartheid in South Africa like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Africa
Length: 2 hrs and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for American Legends: The Life of Judy Garland

American Legends: The Life of Judy Garland

1 rating

Summary

"I was born at the age of 12 on a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot." - Judy Garland A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known. In many ways, Judy Garland's rise to fame seems almost predestined. Not only was she a national sensation at a young age, but her parents and sisters were all vaudeville entertainers. On top of that, Garland's parents owned and operated a movie theater, making it all the easier to draw the conclusion that singing and acting were simply professions which she was born into by virtue of her pedigree. Judy's early childhood quickly demonstrated that she had a gifted voice that developed well beyond its years and seemingly did not require any formal training in order to achieve success; her first performance before a public audience came when she was still a toddler, and she would continue to act up until her death, never pausing for more than a few months at a time. That Garland was able to secure starring roles almost immediately after signing a contract with MGM in 1935 only corroborates the belief that Garland was practically born with the ability to succeed in show business and the motion picture industry.

©2013 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Beacon Audiobooks

Length: 1 hr and 18 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for American Legends: The Life of Gene Kelly

American Legends: The Life of Gene Kelly

1 rating

Summary

"Fred Astaire represented the aristocracy, I represented the proletariat." - Gene Kelly When people think of musicals, two of the first names that immediately spring to mind are Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, two giants of one of Hollywood's most distinctive genres. Without question, both men played an instrumental role in popularizing and sustaining the musical from the 1930s through the 1950s, the final decades of Hollywood's Golden Age. Although they did collaborate on two occasions, in many ways Gene Kelly's rise to popularity in the 1940s amounted to a changing of the guard. For film historians and fans of the musical, however, even if they weren't contemporaries, Astaire and Kelly will forever be viewed as rivals, with each having left an indelible stamp on the genre that defined their careers. While it is true that a comparison between Astaire and Kelly is indispensable to any study of Kelly's life, much can also be gained simply by focusing mostly on his life and career. What made Kelly unusual for actors of that era is that he did not actually arrive in Hollywood until he was nearly 30 years old, so his early life and work before film had a crucial influence on his star image. Furthermore, given that he came to prominence after Astaire, Kelly’s career offers a valuable lens through which to chart the evolution of the musical genre, as well as a look at the prevailing standards of masculinity within Hollywood at the time.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Todd Van Linda
Length: 1 hr and 10 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Mother of Theosophy: The Life and Legacy of H. P. Blavatsky

The Mother of Theosophy: The Life and Legacy of H. P. Blavatsky

1 rating

Summary

Among the New Age Movement and modern spiritualists, one name stands above the rest: Helena Petrovna (H.P.) Blavatsky. Blavatsky is best known today for co-founding the Theosophical School, a religious school of thought that she labeled "the archaic Wisdom-Religion, the esoteric doctrine once known in every ancient country having claims to civilization", and nobody was more qualified than Blavatsky to forge such a creation. During her second marriage, Blavatsky traveled to various parts of the world, including Egypt, France, Germany, Mexico, South America, Canada, and India, absorbing all the diverse cultures, customs, religions, and philosophies she came across. Once she had extensively studied all of the different movements she had experienced, Blavatsky went about synthesizing Theosophy and creating a worldview that offered explanations for the origin, workings and ultimate fate of every aspect of mankind's existence, in order to "form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color." Blavatsky did so by becoming an incredibly prolific writer, and some of her works have become cult classics, particularly The Secret Doctrine and Isis Unveiled. These works included her unique blend of science, esoteric ideas, the occult, and ancient religions and philosophies, and they remain popular today. The Mother of Theosophy: The Life and Legacy of H.P. Blavatsky profiles the life, works, and legacy of the influential scholar, writer, philosopher and theologian, examining her movement and its origins.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Doron Alon
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
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The Magyars

1 rating

Summary

"Having crossed the Danube, they encamped beside the Danube as far as Budafelhévíz. Hearing this, all the Romans living throughout the land of Pannonia, saved their lives by flight. Next day, Prince Árpád and all his leading men with all the warriors of Hungary entered the city of King Attila and they saw all the royal palaces, some ruined to the foundations, others not, and they admired beyond measure the stone buildings and were happier than can be told that they had deserved to take without fighting the city of King Attila, of whose line Prince Árpád descended. They feasted every day with great joy in the palace of King Attila, sitting alongside one another, and all the melodies and sweet sounds of zithers and pipes along with all the songs of minstrels were presented to them.... Prince Árpád gave great lands and properties to the guests staying with them, and, when they heard this, many guests thronged to him and gladly stayed with him.” (An excerpt from Gesta Hungarorum) Of all the steppe peoples in the medieval period, perhaps none were more important to European history than the Magyars. Like the Huns and Avars before them and the Cumans and Mongols after them, the Magyars burst into Europe as a destructive, unstoppable horde, taking whatever they wanted and leaving a steady stream of misery in their wake. They used much of the same tactics as the other steppe peoples and lived a similar, nomadic lifestyle. The Magyars also had many early cultural affinities with other steppe peoples, following a similar religion and ideas of kingship and nobility, among other things. That said, as similar as the Magyars may have been to other steppe nomads before and after them, they were noticeably different in one way: The Magyars settled down and became a part of Europe and Western civilization in the Middle Ages.  The Magyars exploded onto the European cultural scene in the late ninth century as foreign marauders, but they made alliances with many important kingdoms in less than a century and established their own dynasty in the area, roughly equivalent to the modern nation-state of Hungary. After establishing themselves as a legitimate dynasty among their European peers, the Magyars formed a sort of cultural bridge between the Roman Catholic kingdoms of Western Europe and the Orthodox Christian kingdoms of Eastern Europe. Ultimately, the Magyars chose the Roman Catholic Church, thereby becoming a part of the West and tying their fate to it for the remainder of the Middle Ages.  The Magyars: The History and Legacy of the Medieval Tribes That Established the Kingdom of Hungary examines the Magyars and their culture, from their origins through the Arpad Dynasty to their raids on Europe, the establishment of a royal dynasty, and their integration into Western civilization, marking the transition from the Magyars to Hungarians. You will learn about the Magyars like never before. Please note: The audio references supplemental material that is not included with the purchase of this audiobook.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 14 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Franco-Prussian War: The History of the War that Established the German Empire

The Franco-Prussian War: The History of the War that Established the German Empire

1 rating

Summary

After Prussia was victorious in the Austro-Prussian War, Bismarck played a waiting game where the unification of Germany was concerned, as the joining of the southern states - initially resistant to Prussian rule, friendly with Austria, and bent on independence - would have to be overcome. What was needed was “a clear case of French aggression” toward either Prussia or the southern states. Not only would such a move by Emperor Napoleon III trigger the terms of the treaty between the German states, but it would keep the remaining world powers out of the conflict.  The Franco-Prussian War started in August 1870, and a number of victories followed for the Prussians in battles in northeast France. By September, the strategic city of Metz was under siege, and forces fought a major battle at Sedan. Led by Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, the Prussians forced the French to surrender at Metz, and then at Sedan. Emperor Napoleon III, commanding his country’s forces at Sedan, was taken prisoner, humiliating France and its impetuous leader.  The Prussians immediately marched on Paris, but the capital refused to submit, and a separate siege was mounted that ended up lasting 130 days. Obviously, French society was in tumult, but a Third Republic and Government of National Defence was pronounced in place of the French Empire. An uprising subsequently took place in the stricken city, dubbed the "Paris Commune", which sought to establish a radical alternative to the status quo and was itself put down by French troops. Prussian forces besieged Paris starting in September 1870, and although French units attempted to make inroads at battles in the north and east of the country, the Prussians were in comfortable control of the conflict. Food was becoming scarce, and an armistice was signed on January 26, 1871 with Paris on the brink of starvation. The Prussians lost 45,000 men during the conflict, while France suffered almost three times as many dead and wounded.  On January 18, 1871, King Wilhelm I was crowned Kaiser of the German Empire, and though the Franco-Prussian War was still taking place, this moment was essentially the point at which Germany was unified. German unification was the territorial expansion of Prussia by another name, but Berlin demonstrated it could protect the interests, or at least the safety, of German-speakers under their watch.  Despite the campaigns of nationalists and liberals over the previous decades, it was ultimately a victory on the battlefield that united the German states. This was the real-world application of Bismarck’s "Blood and Iron" concept. From this position of strength during war, Prussia achieved an unassailable position. During the relatively short wars of 1864, 1866, and 1870-71, Bismarck roused nationalist sentiment, and in so doing, he achieved the long awaited goal of German unification. 

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 47 mins
Available on Audible
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The First Sino-Japanese War

1 rating

Summary

Completing the Meiji Restoration that heralded the dawn of a new era for both Japan and Asia, the island nation found itself thrust into the modern world, a world of industry and conquest. Flexing its new muscles, the burgeoning power soon came to blows with the regional power that for centuries dominated the area politically and culturally: China. Also seeking to modernize in the wake of Western exploitation, China struggled to adapt to the changing times, doing everything it could to maintain a balance between modernity and tradition. Japan found that balance, and, with its new industry desperate for raw materials, looked to the peninsula of Korea for new markets and resources. China, in contrast, refused to strike such a balance, adopting a veneer of modernity while maintaining the status quo, both domestically and with regards to Korea.   For decades Korea existed as a protectorate of China, paying homage to the mighty Chinese dynasties while minding its own business as best it could. However, sensing weakness in the former regional power after being defeated by the Europeans during the Second Opium War, escalating tensions over Korea between the old power of China and the new power of Japan led to the First Sino-Japanese War. In its first modern war, the modernized Japanese empire went to war against the dominant power in the region, and though interested Western powers favored China, Japan won the day, claiming Korea as their conquest and permanently upsetting the balance of power in the region. The conflict paved the way for the future Empire of Japan and the collapse of the Qing Dynasty.   Though both nations modernized, and China far outweighed Japan in terms of men and materiel potential, the island nation handily won its first modern war. 

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 15 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Earp Brothers: Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp

The Earp Brothers: Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp

1 rating

Summary

Of all the colorful characters that inhabited the West during the 19th century, the most famous of them all is Wyatt Earp (1848-1929), who has long been regarded as the embodiment of the Wild West. Considered the "toughest and deadliest gunman of his day", Earp symbolized the swagger, the heroism, and even the lawlessness of the West. He was notorious for being a law enforcer, gambler, saloon keeper, and vigilante. The Western icon is best known for being a sheriff in Tombstone, but before that he had been arrested and jailed several times himself, in one case escaping from prison. And he was not above gambling and spending time in "houses of ill-fame". Though they have long been overshadowed by their more famous brother Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp played decisive roles in some of the most famous events in the history of the Old West. Most notably, the two brothers were at Wyatt's side for America's most famous gunfight: the gunfight at the O. K. Corral. Though the gunfight lasted less than a minute, it is still widely remembered as the climactic event of the period, representing lawlessness and justice, vendettas, and a uniquely Western moral code. Fought in the middle of Tombstone, Arizona, the gunfight pitted the three Earp brothers and Doc Holliday against Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury. By the time the 30-second gunfight was over, the McLaury brothers were dead in the street; Billy Clanton had suffered a painful and fatal gunshot wound to the chest; and Holliday, Virgil, and Morgan Earp were all wounded.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Length: 2 hrs and 45 mins
Available on Audible
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The CIA

1 rating

Summary

Though it might be hard to believe, the Americans did not have a covert operations organization when they joined the war, and like the British, it took them some time to realize it could be a powerful tool. As a result, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was not established until June 13, 1942, six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Voices within the Pentagon, State Department, and White House all opposed the establishment of this new and untested organization that would carry out activities normally considered unacceptable, so officials within the OSS had to fight for the very existence of the organization, battling through layers of bureaucracy to get the resources he needed and ensure its independence of action. They also worked hard to justify the use of covert tactics in warfare, to the extent that its leader, William “Wild Bill” Donovan, cited precedents that stretched back to the Bible. In time, all the hard work led to the growth of the OSS into an organization with over 13,000 staff and 40 offices scattered across the world. Its purposes were initially similar to that of Britain’s Special Operations Executive, including espionage, sabotage, and intelligence assessments, but with time and experience, it expanded to include economic, psychological, and guerrilla warfare, as well as counter-intelligence work. And of course, it would all chart a path for the early days of America’s most famous intelligence agency, the CIA. The 28-year period from 1933-1961, bracketed on one end by Hitler’s rise to power in Germany and on the other by the very height of the Cold War, was marked by a remarkably stable succession of American presidents. In fact, only three men held office in this period, and that predictability led to a general stability among government agencies. The CIA had five different directors in its first 15 years, from 1946-1961, but nine different directors in the next 20, with four of those directors serving less than a year. Although plagued by its own share of problems in its early existence during World War II and the early Cold War years, the agency’s early problems, smoothed over by a string of tenured presidents, paled in comparison to those it would face in the coming decades. The presidency became much more tumultuous and plagued by scandal and tragedy in the following decades. Beginning with Kennedy, the country had five presidents in the span of less than 20 years, and none of them completed two full terms, so it is perhaps not surprising that the CIA felt its way through its own tough days during this period. To place the agency’s blame for its own very real mistakes at the feet of the ever-churning office of the presidency is not entirely fair, because in many cases the CIA made its own bed and was forced to lie in it, but the continuously changing executive landscape and the subsequent jerky and often haphazard changes of directions certainly played a part in the agency’s troubles of this period. Through the 1980s and 1990s, presidential terms regained a measure of predictability, but the agency continued to struggle through the traps it had set for itself in the prior decades while trying to find its place in the new world of computers, 24 hour news coverage, and the sheer avalanche of information that came with technological advancements. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, it appeared the CIA might no longer have an adversary formidable enough to keep the agency funded and staffed, but 9/11 ended that fairy tale and brought the CIA’s next era into sharp focus. A war on terrorism replaced the Soviet Union as the spy service’s primary foil, and the years following the 9/11 attacks were dire for the agency, but the misguided invasion of Iraq and persistent claims of detainee torture and murder sullied the spy agency’s reputation right from the start of the 21st century.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 4 hrs and 11 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Battle of Sekigahara

The Battle of Sekigahara

1 rating

Summary

On October 21, 1600, two massive Japanese armies, totaling an estimated 200,000 soldiers armed to the teeth with swords, yari (spears), arrows, muskets, and cannons, faced off on a battlefield near the town of Sekigahara. A bitter fight to the death ensued, and the results would determine the course of Japanese history for the next 250 years. On the battlefield was the warlord Leyasu Tokugawa, a man desiring domain over the entire island of Japan, but standing in his way was Ishida Mitsunari, a warlord controlling vast swaths of western Japan. Moving with his armies from the east, Ieyasu maneuvered into a position at Sekigahara. Leyasu was relying heavily on the legendary Japanese samurai, but contrary to popular belief, the samurai warriors of that era were avid firearm users, and this battle would be no exception, as both armies bristled with muskets and cannons. Leyasu was outnumbered, but he had a trump card: Traitors placed in the enemy army. These treacherous warlords would join Leyasu in the midst of the battle, turning it in his favor. When Leyasu became shogun (military dictator) of Japan, he presided over the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate, which brought peace and stability to all of Japan if only by ending the constant civil wars. Many changes took place, most notably in the capabilities of the samurai, Japan’s ruling military class, who were no longer active combat participants. Instead, most of these warriors were fighters in name only, ruling, instead, as privileged bureaucrats. They served the Tokugawa Shogunate, a military government that moved to isolate Japan from the rest of the world, for more than two centuries, and military service became the exclusive domain of a privileged warrior class that combined the military with an intricate network of social status and vassalage to feudal lords. As a feudal government, the Tokugawa shogunate split control of state domains under feudal lords known as daimyo. Although given a high degree of autonomy, the daimyo were responsible to the shogun to provide “maintenance of armed forces, the protection of the coastline, and attendance on the shogun at appointed times”. The maintenance of these functions required a large amount of support from society in general, including merchants, peasants, and artisans, but this system of military governance ensured that the warriors’ social status was elevated to a position of high prestige. Thus, samurai held a virtual monopoly not only on military positions, but also administrative positions at both the central and regional levels, and as a symbol of their status, samurais were the only class allowed to carry weapons - a longsword and shortsword - in public. The blissful isolation changed with the arrival of American Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853. In awe of the American weapons and ships, the Tokugawa shogunate quickly realized that they needed to evolve and modernize their military to survive, and a time of rapid change descended on Japan. As it turned out, however, the shogunate would not have a chance to modernize the nation, because the Meiji Restoration supplanted the shogunate with a new dynasty, and within a mere 30 years, the Tokugawa shogunate and its samurai caste would be relics of the past. The Battle of Sekigahara: The History and Legacy of the Battle that Unified Japan under the Tokugawa Shogunate chronicles the events that led to one of the most important conflicts in Japanese history. You will learn about the Battle of Sekigahara like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 27 mins
Available on Audible
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Simcoe's Rangers

1 rating

Summary

The American Revolution is replete with seminal moments that every American learns in school, from the "shot heard 'round the world" to the Declaration of Independence, but the events that led up to the fighting at Lexington and Concord were borne out of 10 years of division between the British and their American colonies over everything from colonial representation in governments to taxation, the nature of searches, and the quartering of British regulars in private houses. From 1764-1775, a chain of events that included lightning rods like the Townshend Acts led to bloodshed in the form of the Boston Massacre, while the Boston Tea Party became a symbol of nonviolent protest. The political and military nature of the Revolutionary War was just as full of intrigue. While disorganized militias fought the Battles of Lexington and Concord, George Washington would lead the Continental Army in the field while men like Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia and Benjamin Franklin negotiated overseas in France. Benedict Arnold would become one of his nation's most vital war heroes and its most notorious traitor, French forces would play a crucial role at the end of the war, and the Treaty of Paris would conclude the Revolution with one last great surprise. However, while the bigger pitched battles are well known, a lot of clandestine fighting and espionage took place behind the scenes, and it contributed to the results of the American Revolution.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Mark Norman
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 40 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Loki: The Origins and History of the Famous Norse Trickster God

Loki: The Origins and History of the Famous Norse Trickster God

1 rating

Summary

Much of what is known of the Norse myths comes from the 10th century onwards. Until this time and, indeed, for centuries afterwards, Norse culture (particularly that of Iceland, where the myths were eventually transcribed) was an oral culture. In fact, in all Scandinavian countries well into the 13th century laws were memorized by officials known as "Lawspeakers" who recited them at the "Thing." The Thing was the legislative assembly in Scandinavia "held for judicial purposes". One of the most famous of these Lawspeakers was the Icelander Snorri Sturluson, a masterful writer who wrote the Prose Edda in the 13th century. There are other sources for the Norse myths, namely the later "Poetic Edda", a collection of poems and prose work, and other sagas but the Snorri's Prose Edda is the most complete work whose attribution is known to modern scholars. It is believed that Snorri, a Christian, recorded these pagan beliefs so as to preserve and explain the stylistic poetry of Iceland, particularly the popular descriptive devices known as kennings. A kenning is made up of a base word and a modifying word that is used to describe a separate object. For example, "Gold" had a great many kennings, one of which was "Sif's Hair". If, however, the memory of Loki cutting off Sif's hair and replacing it with gold were lost, then this kenning would make no sense to later generations. There are many of these allusions to the myths and it is thanks to them that the myths have survived.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 31 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Legends of the Renaissance: The Life and Legacy of Lorenzo de' Medici

Legends of the Renaissance: The Life and Legacy of Lorenzo de' Medici

1 rating

Summary

Discusses Lorenzo's relationships with other famous Renaissance legends, including Leonardo and Michelangelo. Includes a bibliography for further reading. "How beautiful is youth that is always slipping away." (Lorenzo de' Medici) A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? When historians are asked to pick a point in history when Western civilization was transformed and guided down the path to modernity, most of them point to the Renaissance. Indeed the Renaissance revolutionized art, philosophy, religion, sciences, and math, with individuals like Galileo, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Dante, and Petrarch bridging the past and modern society. In Charles River Editors' Legends of the Renaissance, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of the most important men and women of the Renaissance in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known. Most historians credit the city-state of Florence as the place that started and developed the Italian Renaissance, a process carried out through the patronage and commission of artists during the late 12th century. If Florence is receiving its due credit, much of it belongs to the Medicis, the family dynasty of Florence that ruled at the height of the Renaissance. The dynasty held such influence that some of its family members even became pope. Among all of the Medicis, its most famous member ruled during the Golden Age of Florence, at the apex of the Renaissance's artistic achievements. Lorenzo de' Medici, commonly referred to as Lorenzo the Magnificent, was groomed both intellectually and politically to rule Venice, and he took the reins of power at just 20 years old.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 3 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Homo Erectus: The History of the Archaic Humans Who Left Africa and Formed the First Hunter-Gatherer Societies

Homo Erectus: The History of the Archaic Humans Who Left Africa and Formed the First Hunter-Gatherer Societies

1 rating

Summary

Most scientists believe the evolution of humans has a history as long as life itself. Anatomically modern humans and all other life that has existed on the planet first came about from the single-celled microorganisms that emerged approximately 4 billion years ago. Through the processes of mutation and natural selection, all forms of life developed, and this continuous lineage of life makes it difficult to say precisely when one species completely separates from another. In other words, scientists still debate when a human became a human rather than the ancestor species that came before. Around 1.8 million years ago, a third species of Homo appeared in the fossil record. H. erectus would have shared the landscape for a time with H. habilis and H. rudolfensis, but the fossils of H. erectus are not limited to eastern and southern Africa. Instead, they are found across Africa and parts of mainland and insular Asia. This is the first species of Homo to be found outside Africa (Rightmire 1993). Features of H. erectus suggest an evolution toward modern humans, and the features that separate H. erectus from the other Homo species are found in the skull. The size of the brain was approximately 900 cc, making it larger than the brain size of H. habilis. H. erectus would not have the largest brain capacity of the Homo genus during its existence, with the emergence of H. heidelbergensis approximately 800,000 years ago. The larger brain size may not matter much when the size of the brain is considered with the size of the body, which also increased.  While the facial features of H. erectus would have made them noticeably different if they were alive today, their postcranial morphology may have been similar to modern humans. A key difference is the density or thickness of the bones; in H. erectus the limb bones are more robust, but otherwise they appear very similar to modern humans. The length of the hindlimbs in relation to the arms is similar to modern humans, which means that H. erectus may have been able to walk in a similar way. (Richtmire 1993: 57–84). This may or may not be linked with the widespread distribution of H. erectus.  Perhaps more important for H. erectus than simply being able to walk out of Africa would have been the ability to adapt to changing climates and essentially modify the environment around them. Most notably, the major advantage that H. erectus would have had is the ability to control fire. This skill, which no other animal has mastered, helped H. erectus travel across the world, and it may date as far back as 1.7 million years ago to as recently as 200,000 years ago. Most scientists agree that H. erectus was able to control fire by at least 600,000 years ago. Homo Erectus: The History of the Archaic Humans Who Left Africa and Formed the First Hunter-Gatherer Societies examines how H. erectus evolved, and what their lives were like. 

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 49 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Everything You Need to Know About The Divine Comedy

Everything You Need to Know About The Divine Comedy

1 rating

Summary

"But already my desire and my will were being turned like a wheel, all at one speed, by the Love which moves the sun and the other stars." (Dante, The Divine Comedy) One of the surest signs of fame is to be known solely by one's first name, with the mention of just that first name making clear who is being spoken of. So it is with Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), known simply as Dante thanks to the success of The Divine Comedy, one of the seminal works in Western literature. With Divine Comedy, Dante is often considered the master of contemporary Italian, as well as a forerunner of the Renaissance, which began to flourish in Florence around the same time. The Divine Comedy tells of Dante's journey through Hell (the Inferno), Purgatory, and Paradise, guided by famous poets including Virgil. Dante's epic discusses religion, philosophy, and a wide range of subject matter throughout his travels. Dante took nearly 13 years to compose The Divine Comedy, all the while living in exile from his home city of Florence, and the work influenced just about every important writer any literary scholar can name, among them, Boccaccio (1313-75); Chaucer (circa 1344-1400); John Milton (1608-74); William Blake (1757-1827); Victor Hugo (1802-85); Joseph Conrad (Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski) (1857-1924); James Joyce (1882-1941); and Ezra Pound (1885-1972). One of the greatest poems in English, T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land", is in many ways derivative of Dante. Dante Alighieri, especially when one considers his time and environment, was bold and fearless, following the calling and mission of the artist in the purest sense. He not only took his contemporaries to task in an enormous fashion, he also embraced the timeless challenges that metaphysical questions present. Dante had the nerve to force his listener to question life's toughest mysteries, and offer at least one possible blueprint for redemption. His mind, his language and his contributions to art, culture and intellect remain unsurpassed. Everything You Need to Know About The Divine Comedy is a comprehensive guide that provides a synopsis, a description of the characters, and a summary and analysis of every chapter. You can use this as a guide while you listen, or as a way to brush up on everything you once knew and since forgot.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Mark Norman
Length: 2 hrs and 40 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Baldr: The Origins and History of the Famous Norse God Whose Death Leads to Ragnarok

Baldr: The Origins and History of the Famous Norse God Whose Death Leads to Ragnarok

1 rating

Summary

One of the most influential and famous of the Norse Gods, Baldr "the Bright", Odin’s second son, occupies a place in Norse mythology like no other. His fate was either that of the harbinger of doom or of salvation, depending on the interpretation of his myths. His story is one of the few that plays a pivotal role in the early days of the gods, as well as in their cataclysmic end?-?Ragnarök?-?and was even one of the very few to return to the light after the devastation. Baldr was not just a key figure in Norse mythology, however, features of his story?-?his apparent resurrection being one?-?are central to some of the most pivotal myths to emerge from Indo-European traditions and they make for fascinating learning to anybody with an interest in the movement and development of Scandinavian culture as well as that of Christianity. Featuring miracles and magic, descents into the underworld and the destruction of the gods, Baldr’s story remains one of the most beloved in all world mythology. Baldr: The Origins and History of the Famous Norse God Whose Death Leads to Ragnarok looks at the story and the legendary Norse deity. You will learn about Baldr like never before.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 53 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition

1 rating

Summary

“Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all law-religions, or religions established by law.” (Thomas Paine, Rights of Man) In this day and age, people will fight tooth and nail to right cases of discrimination and injustice, from seeking legal action to filing criminal charges against the discriminating party. Multiple organizations around the world exist to help combat and protect its citizens from prejudicial inequities. Social media has also become a channel for those around the world to voice these injustices. Resulting boycotts, petitions, and negative backlash from social media and the Internet have been known to play a significant role in contributing to the downfall of individuals and corporations that have been accused of discrimination of any kind. The road to the modern age of cultural harmony and acceptance is one of the finest feats of human progress, but having said that, there was once a time when the mere doubt of a religious figure's existence was not only punishable by law, it could very well cost a man his life. This was the crime of heresy. This kind of religious persecution has been around for thousands of years, and Christians were often the victims, but when the Catholic Church began its rapid expansion throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, the tables were turned. In 1184, Pope Lucius III issued a papal bull that would kick off a long-standing tradition of heretic-hunting, and as a result, the Age of the Inquisitions commenced. From then on, the Roman Catholic Church took it upon itself to hold tribunals, or judicial courts, in a quest to exterminate heresy once and for all. None of these would hold a candle to the one birthed in the 15th century - the Spanish Inquisition...an era darkly remembered for its oppression, barbarous torture, and religious tyranny. The Portuguese found access to the trade regions that they had been searching for, but sailing from Portugal to India and beyond would require too many resources to travel with at once. To remedy this problem, Portugal began establishing a number of forts and trading posts along the route. The Portuguese were able to establish a fort on the west coast of India, Fort Manuel, in 1500, and in 1505 a fort was erected off the coast of Tanzania, thus beginning a trend of European colonization in Africa and Asia that would last for the next 400 years. However, as the Catholic empires expanded across the globe, persecution would travel with them. The Spanish Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition: The History and Legacy of the Roman Catholic Church’s Most Infamous Institutions looks at how the Inquisitions came to be, and how people were tortured and executed; you will learn about the Inquisitions like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ken Teutsch
Length: 2 hrs and 50 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Portuguese Empire and Africa

The Portuguese Empire and Africa

1 rating

Summary

By the mid-15th century, the Byzantine Empire had collapsed and the various Crusades that had taken place in the region had largely disrupted the overland routes of the Silk Road and trade. Compounding the difficulties of trade was the rise of the Ottoman Empire in place of the Byzantines and the outbreak of the Black Death in Europe. Around this time, a period of European exploration began, and major factors that contributed to this period of exploration were introduced by the Chinese, albeit indirectly. The magnetic compass had already been developed and used by the Chinese sailors, the Song Dynasty then began using the device for land navigation in the 11th century. The technology slowly spread west via Arab traders, although a case can be made for the independent European creation for the compass (Southey 1812: 210). Trade was able to increase around the world due to more effective ships being introduced, which were first introduced by the Chinese. The introduction of multiple mast ships and the sternpost rudders allowed the ships to travel quicker and be more maneuverable, with a minimum number of crew aboard. The Portuguese started exploring the west coast of Africa and the Atlantic under orders from Prince Henry the Navigator. At this point, Europeans had not yet been capable of navigating completely around Africa, but the Portuguese continued pushing down the western African coast looking for ways to bypass the Ottomans and Muslims of Africa who had been making overland trade routes difficult. In 1451, Prince Henry the Navigator helped fund and develop a new type of ship, the caravel, that featured triangular lateen sails and would be able to travel in the open ocean and sail against the wind. In 1488, Bartholomew Diaz rounded the southern tip of Africa, named the Cape of Good Hope by King John of Portugal, and entered the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic. When it became clear Christopher Columbus hadn’t landed in Asia, it was understood by everyone that this was not necessarily the route the Europeans were searching for, and the Portuguese continued to send explorers around the Cape of Good Hope in an attempt to reach the East Indies. After a two-year voyage, in 1499, Vasco da Gama had successfully reached India and returned to Portugal. They had found access to the trade regions that they had been searching for, but it would require too many resources to travel with at once; Portugal began establishing a number of forts and trading posts along the route and were able to establish a fort on the west coast of India, Fort Manuel, in 1500, and in 1505 a fort was erected off the coast of Tanzania, thus beginning a trend of European colonization in Africa and Asia that would last for the next 400 years.  This audiobook chronicles the early efforts by the Portuguese that helped initiate the Age of Exploration, and the ramifications the colonization had across the world.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Africa
Length: 1 hr and 29 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail

1 rating

Summary

This audiobook explains the literary evolution of the legend of the Holy Grail. It also discusses the scholarship over the historicity of the Grail and theories about the origins of the legend. "And He took a cup and when He had given thanks He gave it to them saying 'Drink this, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom.'" - Matthew 26:27 "The Grail is the womb of the beloved." - Robert Anton Wilson The Holy Grail is one of the most famous relics of Christianity, but also one of the least understood. Today, it is mostly associated with Christ's Last Supper, possibly used during the meal as a serving cup. The gospels in the New Testament specifically mention the Holy Chalice that Jesus used to serve wine, so it's no surprise that images of the Holy Grail depict a similar kind of cup. Initially, the Holy Chalice was a separate tradition, but over time, the Holy Grail has come to be indistinguishable from the Holy Chalice itself, a concept that probably would have been foreign to the earliest Christians. While churches throughout Christendom were familiar with traditions regarding the Holy Chalice and some even claimed to have the venerated object, the legend of the Holy Grail was given life during the Middle Ages through folklore. Today, the legends written about the Holy Grail are better known than the traditions surrounding the Holy Chalice.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: John Gagnepain
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Mohenjo-daro

Mohenjo-daro

1 rating

Summary

What is a city? A simple definition is a "largely constructed landscape", and through inferences and comparisons with modern states, a successful ancient city is generally said to have a number of defining characteristics: evidence of political hierarchies; a centralized authority that is simultaneously dependent on the accumulation of resources and the suppression of competitors; the maintenance of continuous negotiation, alliance building, and occasionally costly and risky investments such as warfare; specialized crafts; a hinterland supplying food; and monumental statements of central planning and communal effort, such as the Mesopotamian ziggurats. Mohenjo-daro was the largest city of the Indus Valley civilization, one of the most advanced civilizations ever to have existed, and the best-known and most ancient prehistoric urban site on the Indian subcontinent. It was a metropolis of great cultural, economic, and political importance that dates from the beginning of the 3rd millennium BCE. Although it primarily flourished between approximately 2500 and 1500 BCE, the city had longer-lasting influences on the urbanization of the Indian subcontinent for centuries after its abandonment. It is believed to have been one of two capital cities of the Indus Civilization, its twin being Harappa located further north in Punjab, Pakistan. Mohenjo-daro is an enigmatic settlement, which confuses simple definitions of what a city consists of. It has revealed little evidence of palaces, contains few definite religious buildings, and appears to have never been involved in any external or internal military conflict. The inhabitants' writing has not been deciphered, and little is known about their religious and post-mortuary beliefs. Nonetheless, the city's importance is epitomized by its monumental buildings and walls, enormous manmade platforms, innovative architectural techniques, and evidence that they engaged in trade over vast distances, with high-quality artifacts sent from the Indus Valley as far as Mesopotamia and even Africa. Of particular note was their ingenious drainage system – one of the earliest means by which sewage was drained out of the city. No other urban site of similar size had a hydraulic network as complex and effective as that of Mohenjo-daro, and it would only be surpassed thousands of years later by the network of aqueducts in Rome during the third century CE. For centuries this city was believed to have sprung into existence suddenly and without precedent, with a highly standardized system of urban development, art, and architecture that is emulated in contemporary settlements across the Indus River Valley in a phenomenon known as the "Pan-Indus system". Although this view has changed over the last few decades, there exists no definitive hypothesis as to how they grew such a complex urban society so quickly. Fittingly, the city has an equally intriguing and mysterious narrative that explains its decline and eventual disappearance, a tale that gives the site its name: the "Hill of the Dead". The Indus Valley Civilization was forgotten for millennia, until 20th century archaeologists rediscovered and began excavations at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. Today only foundations remain, but the site's importance is represented by its UNESCO World Heritage status, awarded in 1980 for being a site of outstanding cultural importance to the common heritage of humanity.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 7 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Mining Towns in the Wild West

Mining Towns in the Wild West

1 rating

Summary

The Lewis and Clark Expedition, notwithstanding its merits as a feat of exploration, was also the first tentative claim on the vast interior and the western seaboard of North America by the United States. It set in motion the great movement west that began almost immediately with the first commercial overland expedition funded by John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company and would continue with the establishment of the Oregon Trail and California Trail.  The westward movement of Americans in the 19th century was one of the largest and most consequential migrations in history, and as it so happened, paths across the West were being formalized and coming into use right around the time gold was discovered in the lands that became California in January 1848.  Located thousands of miles away from the country’s power centers on the East Coast at the time, the announcement came a month before the Mexican-American War had ended, and among the very few Americans that were near the region at the time, many of them were army soldiers who were participating in the war and garrisoned there. San Francisco was still best known for being a Spanish military and missionary outpost during the colonial era, and only a few hundred called it home. Mexico’s independence, and its possession of those lands, had come only a generation earlier. Everything changed almost literally overnight. While the Mexican-American War technically concluded with a treaty in February 1848, the announcement brought an influx of an estimated 90,000 “Forty-Niners” to the region in 1849, hailing from other parts of America and even as far away as Asia. All told, an estimated 300,000 people would come to California over the next few years, and while the California gold rush brought about the first major mining towns and established Los Angeles and San Francisco as major cities, other boomtowns would be built almost overnight alongside the discovery of other mineral deposits like silver. Perhaps, the most famous was Tombstone, a frontier boomtown in Arizona that came to symbolize everything about the Wild West.  In many ways, Tombstone fit all the stereotypes associated with that era in American history. A dusty place on the outskirts of civilization, Tombstone brought together miners, cowboys, lawmen, saloons, gambling, brothels, and everything in between, creating an environment that was always colorful and occasionally fatal. Those characteristics might not have distinguished Tombstone from other frontier outposts like Deadwood in the Dakotas, but some of the most famous legends of the West called Tombstone home for many years, most notably the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. And ultimately, the relationships and rivalries forged by those men in Tombstone culminated in the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881. The West’s most famous fight all but ensured that Tombstone would be the epicenter of Western lore, but that did nothing to stop the dwindling of the city’s population at the end of the 19th century. Fires, the negative environmental effects of so much mining, and the closing of the frontier all made sure that the populations in such places never grew back to anything resembling their peaks in the late 19th century, and today, the remains of such mining towns tend to be objects of curiosity and tourism sites than anything else.  Mining Towns in the Wild West: The History of the Construction and Abandonment of the Frontier’s Most Famous Sites profiles some of the most important events and camps that popped up in response to mineral discoveries. The audiobook also describes their history and how they were often left behind nearly as quickly as they peaked.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Americas
Length: 4 hrs and 22 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Mary, Queen of Scots: The History and Legacy of Mary Stuart of Scotland

Mary, Queen of Scots: The History and Legacy of Mary Stuart of Scotland

1 rating

Summary

"Did I not tell you this would happen? I knew they would never allow me to live, I was too great an obstacle to their religion." - Mary, Queen of Scots The position in history of Mary Queen of Scots is a paradoxical one. Her fame as a monarch lies less in her personality or achievements than in her position within the dynastic maneuvers and political-religious upheavals taking place in northwest Europe in the 16th century. Most monarchs spend their early years learning in preparation to rule and then spend the latter part of their lives wielding power and status. Mary was thrust upon the throne when she was only a week old, and she ceased to be queen nearly 20 years before her death. Mary's was an unusual reign in a tumultuous period, and her tragedy was intertwined with her country's transformation. In Mary's case, she was a second cousin once removed of England's Queen Elizabeth I, which made her a rival for the throne. Mary was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII's sister, and her Catholicism made Mary the true and rightful Queen of England in the eyes of many Catholics and the Vatican. These facts, coupled with the realization that several English supported Mary, made Elizabeth I uneasy. Mary also did not help herself when she married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, who was widely accused of raping her. The Scottish people rebelled, and Mary abdicated and fled southwards towards England. Elizabeth I was unsure at first what to do with Mary, so she kept Mary imprisoned in several castles and manor houses inside England (making escape difficult and thus unlikely). After 18 years in Elizabeth's custody, it became clear that the situation was becoming untenable.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Maria Chester
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 38 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Gamal Abdel Nasser: The Life and Legacy of Egypt's Second President

Gamal Abdel Nasser: The Life and Legacy of Egypt's Second President

1 rating

Summary

"Our path to Palestine will not be covered with a red carpet or with yellow sand. Our path to Palestine will be covered with blood.... In order that we may liberate Palestine, the Arab nation must unite, the Arab armies must unite, and a unified plan of action must be established." (Nasser) Gamal Abdel Nasser has been called many things. The father of modern-day Egypt. The founder of Arab nationalism. The leader of the Egyptian Revolution. The second president of the Egyptian Republic. The creator of his own brand of political and social governance - Nasserism. Anthony Eden, the former British prime minister, called him the "Mussolini of the Nile." Nasser was all of these things and much more. Indeed he led the revolution that overthrew the monarchy of Egypt and subsequently shaped and led the new Egyptian government. He became a prominent regional and world leader, playing a significant role in the Non-Alignment Movement that he cofounded, formed during the midst of the Cold War. He led his country toward modernization and industrialization, implementing social and economic reforms focused on strengthening the nation and improving the lives of the people. Yet Nasser's legacy goes beyond state governance and policies; his name, to this day, evokes great emotion among Egyptians and much of the Arab world. His funeral in 1970 drew millions of mourners and an outpouring of genuine grief across the Arab world. Nasser continues to remain an iconic figure in the region, symbolizing Arab dignity, pride, and unity. In addition to working to carve a path for a new Egypt, Nasser aimed to help the rest of the Arab nations of the Middle East by uniting the historically uncooperative Arab countries and encouraging them to act as a united front.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Robin McKay
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 38 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for British Legends: The Life and Legacy of Vivien Leigh

British Legends: The Life and Legacy of Vivien Leigh

1 rating

Summary

What made 1939 the watershed year was the release of several critically acclaimed movies, including The Wizard of Oz and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But the most famous of the bunch, and perhaps the most famous movie of all, is Gone With the Wind, and one of the most remarkable aspects of the film is that the quintessential Southern belle was played by Vivien Leigh, a British actress still relatively unknown in Hollywood. Vivien was an accomplished stage actress and had already appeared in foreign films during the 1930s, but she was a complete dark horse to get the iconic role she's still associated with, and it only came about because of her persistence in getting cast for the role. 30 years after Gone With the Wind was released, one film critic credited Selznick's "inspired casting" of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett with the film's success. Another 30 years later, the same critic wrote that Leigh "still lives in our minds and memories as a dynamic force rather than as a static presence." While Gone With the Wind made Leigh a big name practically overnight, she continued to buck the usual trend by doing Broadway and even appearing on stage in London during the 1940s, instead of focusing on movies. A lot of this was no doubt due to her famous marriage to Laurence Olivier, himself an accomplished stage and film actor. At the same time, Vivien became notorious for being difficult to work with and unusually temperamental, a byproduct of bipolar disorder that frequently affected her mood and occasionally left her incoherently hysterical. Nevertheless, Vivien was able to recapture the magic in 1951's A Streetcar Named Desire, which cast her in the role of Southern belle yet again. Phyllis Harnoll praised Leigh's Blanche DuBois by saying that, in the London stage production of the play, she showed, "proof of greater powers as an actress than she had hitherto shown". In fact, it was actually during her time as DuBois that she reached the pinnacle of her stage career. Likewise, her role in the movie was described as one "of the greatest performances ever put on film" and "one of those rare performances that can truly be said to evoke both fear and pity." Unfortunately, her life and career faced constant upheaval by both her mental and physical maladies, including tuberculosis, which led to a premature death in 1967. British Legends: The Life and Legacy of Vivien Leigh examines the life and career of one of Hollywood's most famous actresses.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Sally Martin
Length: 1 hr and 32 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Three Mile Island Accident: The History and Legacy of America's Worst Nuclear Meltdown

The Three Mile Island Accident: The History and Legacy of America's Worst Nuclear Meltdown

1 rating

Summary

"On Wednesday, March 28, 1979, 36 seconds after the hour of 4:00 a.m., several water pumps stopped working in the unit 2 nuclear power plant on Three Mile Island, 10 miles southeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Thus began the accident at Three Mile Island. In the minutes, hours, and days that followed, a series of events - compounded by equipment failures, inappropriate procedures, and human errors and ignorance - escalated into the worst crisis yet experienced by the nation's nuclear power industry. The accident focused national and international attention on the nuclear facility at Three Mile Island and raised it to a place of prominence in the minds of hundreds of millions. For the people living in such communities as Royalton, Goldsboro, Middletown, Hummelstown, Hershey, and Harrisburg, the rumors, conflicting official statements, a lack of knowledge about radiation releases, the continuing possibility of mass evacuation, and the fear that a hydrogen bubble trapped inside a nuclear reactor might explode were real and immediate. ...The reality of the accident, the realization that such an accident could actually occur, renewed and deepened the national debate over nuclear safety and the national policy of using nuclear reactors to generate electricity." - Findings in a report by the Presidential Commission established to investigate the accident.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 15 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Scramble for Africa: The History and Legacy of the Colonization of Africa by European Nations During the New Imperialism Era

The Scramble for Africa: The History and Legacy of the Colonization of Africa by European Nations During the New Imperialism Era

1 rating

Summary

The British South-African Company's shares May be at a discount - (Trade-martyrs! - trade-martyrs!) But he, our Colossus, strides on, he declares, Whether with or without chums or charters - or charters. Hooray! We brave Britons are right now to the front - Provided we've someone to boss us - to boss us; And Scuttlers will have their work cut out to shunt This stalwart, far-striding Colossus - Colossus! —Excerpt from an editorial in Punch, December 10, 1892 The modern history of Africa was, until very recently, written on behalf of the indigenous races by the white man, who had forcefully entered the continent during a particularly hubristic and dynamic phase of European history. In 1884, Prince Otto von Bismark, the German chancellor, brought the plenipotentiaries of all major powers of Europe together, to deal with Africa's colonization in such a manner as to avoid provocation of war. This event - known as the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 - galvanized a phenomenon that came to be known as the Scramble for Africa. The conference established two fundamental rules for European seizure of Africa. The first of these was that no recognition of annexation would be granted without evidence of a practical occupation, and the second, that a practical occupation would be deemed unlawful without a formal appeal for protection made on behalf of a territory by its leader, a plea that must be committed to paper in the form of a legal treaty. This began a rush, spearheaded mainly by European commercial interests in the form of Chartered Companies, to penetrate the African interior and woo its leadership with guns, trinkets, and alcohol, and having thus obtained their marks or seals upon spurious treaties, begin establishing boundaries of future European African colonies. The ease with which this was achieved was due to the fact that, at that point, traditional African leadership was disunited, and the people had just staggered back from centuries of concussion inflicted by the slave trade. Thus, to usurp authority, to intimidate an already broken society, and to play one leader against the other was a diplomatic task so childishly simple, the matter was wrapped up, for the most part, in less than a decade.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The East African Slave Trade

The East African Slave Trade

1 rating

Summary

"It is certain that large numbers of slaves were exported from eastern Africa; the best evidence for this is the magnitude of the Zanj revolt in Iraq in the 9th century, though not all of the slaves involved were Zanj. There is little evidence of what part of eastern Africa the Zanj came from, for the name is here evidently used in its general sense, rather than to designate the particular stretch of the coast... to which the name was also applied." (Ghada Hashem Talhami, "The Zanj Rebellion Reconsidered", The International Journal of African Historical Studies) It has often been said that the greatest invention of all time was the sail, which facilitated the internationalization of the globe and thus ushered in the modern era. It was the sail that linked the continents of Africa, Asia, and Europe, and thus it was also the sail that facilitated the greatest involuntary human migration of all time. The transatlantic slave trade was founded by the Portuguese in the 15th century for the specific purpose of supplying the New World colonies with African slave labor. It was soon joined by all the major trading powers of Europe, and it reached its peak in the 18th century with the founding and development of plantation economies that ran from the South American mainland through the Caribbean and into the southern states of the United States. The East African Slave Trade, on the other hand, or the Indian Ocean Slave Trade as it was also known, was a far more complex and nuanced phenomenon, far older, significantly more widespread, rooted in ancient traditions, and governed by rules very different to those in the western hemisphere. It is also often referred to as the Arab Slave Trade, although this, specifically, might perhaps be more accurately applied to the more ancient variant of organized African slavery, affecting North Africa, and undertaken prior to the advent of Islam and certainly prior to the spread of the institution south as far as the south/east African coast. It also involved the slavery of non-African races. The African slave trade is a complex and deeply divisive subject that has had a tendency to evolve according the political requirements of any given age, and is often touchable only with the correct distribution of culpability. It has for many years, therefore, been deemed singularly unpalatable to implicate Africans themselves in the perpetration of the institution, and only in recent years has the large-scale African involvement in both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean Slave Trades come to be an accepted fact. There can, however, be no doubt that even though large numbers of indigenous Africans were liable, it was European ingenuity and greed that fundamentally drove the industrialization of the transatlantic slave trade in response to massive new market demands created by their equally ruthless exploitation of the Americas.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Africa
Length: 1 hr and 11 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Gnosticism

Gnosticism

1 rating

Summary

Gnosticism is one of the great mysteries in the history of Western religion. At its core is an ancient Greek word, gnosis, a word prominent in the writings of Plato, which refers to a deep personal knowledge or understanding that often transcends the physical world. The Gnostics painted a picture of a fallen, broken world in which physicality was a product of a lesser deity. This deity was created in defiance of the One and in order to trap humans and blind them to the truths of their predicament and divine origins. By acquiring insight, or gnosis, in this secret nature of the world, humans might escape their prison. Only through knowledge can people be set free.  As that makes clear, Gnosticism as a belief system is difficult to define since it is not a well-organized or uniform doctrine like Christianity or Judaism, but at one time there was some synchronization with Christianity that nurtured both movements. As a religion and philosophy, Gnosticism flourished alongside Christianity, and it is not easy to say which one came first, but it is certain that both movements influenced each other. To paraphrase John Dominic Crossan, it is unclear whether Gnosticism was a Christian heresy, a Jewish heresy, or an original religion that powerfully merged with both. Gnosticism borrowed elements from Christians, just as the whole of Christianity took a certain Gnostic flavor, to the point that some books of the New Testament, especially the Gospel of John, could easily pass as a proto-Gnostic document. At the risk of oversimplifying, Gnosticism was the belief that the souls are divine sparks imprisoned in imperfect physical bodies, due to the machinations of a lesser and evil god who created the world. This evil god is identified with the creator of the Genesis and the Hebrew Bible. The material world and the body are prisons separated from the divine realm, from which humans must escape through the ascent of various levels. This is possible through the acquisition of secret knowledge reserved for the elect. This special revelation or gnosis (knowledge) was supposedly disclosed by Jesus to his dearest disciples, and it can be found in the Gnostic books, deliberately written in cryptic language. The acquisition of the secrets necessary for the salvation of the soul in many cases implied a radical asceticism and corporal sacrifice.  

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Available on Audible
Cover art for Cosa Nostra: The Notorious History and Legacy of the Sicilian Mafia

Cosa Nostra: The Notorious History and Legacy of the Sicilian Mafia

1 rating

Summary

"[T]he term mafia found a class of violent criminals ready and waiting for a name to define them, and, given their special character and importance in Sicilian society, they had the right to a different name from that defining vulgar criminals in other countries." (Leopoldo Franchetti, 1876)

It is hard to find an island on the map more central than Sicily. Located at the crossroads between Europe and Africa, and between the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, Sicily has rarely been governed as an independent, unified state, yet the island has always occupied a front-row seat to some of the most important events in history, and nowhere is this more obvious than during antiquity.

Over the course of the 19th century, the people of Sicily found themselves at the center of a struggle for freedom, one that ended up being long and often very bloody. It was during these crucial years of struggle that the Sicilian mafia, La Cosa Nostra ("Our Thing"), started to take shape. The original word "mafia" was a part of Palermitan slang, and although the origins of the word are not completely certain, some linguistic historians believe it originally meant "flashy". One historian of the mafia, Salvatore Lupo, helpfully suggests that it was used in its earliest iterations to vaguely refer to a "pathological relationship among politics, society, and criminality."

In response to the rise of the mafia, the Italian state propagated a doctrine of Sicilian backwardness, which they used to introduce martial law and suspend civil liberties, under the pretext that they were not "ready" for the freedoms enjoyed by other Italian regions. Northerners and foreigners mistakenly (and snobbishly) believed that the mafia was just a relic of the primitive, peasant culture that had dominated the island for centuries, and that it was destined to die out once the island had been properly absorbed into the dominant, mainland culture. Others hypothesized that the corruption in Sicilian culture was just a holdover from the Bourbon government and would soon be extinguished once a formal transition was completed.

Of course, they proved to be dead wrong. The Sicilian mafia was not a criminal underworld or a form of political rebellion, but more of a kingdom within a kingdom. In other words, according to historians of the mafia, it was a network of hidden power, an alternative hierarchy that sometimes worked in concert with and sometimes superseded official forms of law and order.

By 1890, the Cosa Nostra had already developed into a sophisticated criminal organization with a great deal of blood on its hands. In fact, its tentacles reached into the highest levels of politics and beyond the borders of Sicily and Italy, traveling across the Atlantic to the United States. Today, their power has been dwarfed by the Neapolitan mafia, La Camorra, yet the Cosa Nostra has continued to wreak havoc in Sicily. In 1992, they were responsible for one of the most high-profile assassinations in Italy since the fall of fascism.

Ironically, the murderous actions of a small segment of society have caused the Sicilian people in general to be perceived as "mafiosi", even though the vast majority of them have been victims rather than perpetrators. Cosa Nostra: The Notorious History and Legacy of the Sicilian Mafia examines how the world’s most famous mob formed, its inner workings, and the events that made it feared around the world. You will learn about the Sicilian mafia like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jim D. Johnston
Length: 1 hr and 30 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

1 rating

Summary

Chichen Itza was inhabited for hundreds of years and was a very influential center in the later years of Maya civilization. At its height, Chichen Itza may have had over 30,000 inhabitants, and with a spectacular pyramid, enormous ball court, observatory and several temples, the builders of this city exceeded even those at Uxmal in developing the use of columns and exterior relief decoration. Of particular interest at Chichen Itza is the sacred cenote, a sinkhole was a focus for Maya rituals around water. Because adequate supplies of water, which rarely collected on the surface of the limestone based Yucatan, were essential for adequate agricultural production, the Maya here considered it of primary importance. Underwater archaeology carried out in the cenote at Chichen Itza revealed that offerings to the Maya rain deity Chaac (which may have included people) were tossed into the sinkhole. Although Chichen Itza was around for hundreds of years, it had a relatively short period of dominance in the region, lasting from about 800-950 A.D. Today, tourists are taken by guides to a building called the Nunnery for no good reason other than the small rooms reminded the Spaniards of a nunnery back home. Similarly the great pyramid at Chichen Itza is designated El Castillo ("The Castle"), which it almost certainly was not, while the observatory is called El Caracol ("The Snail") for its spiral staircase. Of course, the actual names for these places were lost as the great Maya cities began to lose their populations, one by one. Chichen Itza was partially abandoned in 948, and the culture of the Maya survived in a disorganized way until it was revived at Mayapán around 1200. Why Mayan cities were abandoned and left to be overgrown by the jungle is a puzzle that intrigues people around the world today, especially those who have a penchant for speculating on lost civilizations. Chichen Itza: The History and Mystery of the Mayan's Most Famous City comprehensively covers the history of the city, as well as the speculation surrounding the purpose of Chichen Itza and the debate over the buildings.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Doug Miller
Length: 1 hr and 3 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Buzz Aldrin: The Life and Legacy of the Second Astronaut to Walk on the Moon

Buzz Aldrin: The Life and Legacy of the Second Astronaut to Walk on the Moon

1 rating

Summary

“Some things just can't be described. And stepping onto the moon was one of them.” (Buzz Aldrin)  At 9:32 a.m. on July 16, 1969, time stood still throughout the world, as thousands converged on the Kennedy Space Center and millions tuned in on live television. At that instant, the first rumbles began to shake the ground, as a small spacecraft attached to the giant Saturn V rocket several hundred feet tall started lifting off. Quickly being propelled several thousand miles per hour, it takes just a few minutes to reach a speed of 15,000 miles per hour, and just a few more minutes to enter orbit at 18,000 miles per hour. Apollo 11 was on its way to a historic first landing on the Moon. The journey had begun over a decade earlier as part of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union. While landing on the Moon was a noble goal proposed as early as 1961 by President Kennedy, NASA and the nation as a whole moved with urgency simply to best the Soviet Union, which had spent the 1950s beating America to important space-related firsts, including launching the first satellite and cosmonaut in orbit. In fact, President Eisenhower’s administration began the design for the Apollo program in 1960, hoping to get a head start to the Moon, despite the fact the plans originated a year before the first Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, orbited the Earth and two years before John Glenn did. Over the decade, NASA would spend tens of billions on the Apollo missions, the most expensive peacetime program in American history to that point, and even though Apollo 11 was only one of almost 20 Apollo missions, it was certainly the crown jewel. only one of nearly 20 Apollo missions conducted by NASA. And to make Apollo 11 a success, it would take nearly a decade of planning by government officials, hard work by NASA scientists, intense training by the astronauts, and several missions preceding Apollo 11. It also cost over $20 billion, making the Apollo program the most expensive peacetime program in American history at the time.  When the Apollo program reached its pinnacle, one of the men at the center of it was Buzz Aldrin, which was somewhat fitting given his family’s past. His father was a military test pilot, and Aldrin would follow a similar path on his way to becoming a member of the Gemini program and ultimately the Apollo 11 mission. Despite reaching the peak of his fame and career before the age of 40, Aldrin has continued to work in the field and has been one of the most effective advocates of further space travel, particularly to Mars. Buzz Aldrin: The Life and Legacy of the Second Astronaut to Walk on the Moon profiles his life and chronicles the most memorable space mission in history. You will learn about Buzz Aldrin like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Length: 2 hrs and 25 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Virgin of Guadalupe

The Virgin of Guadalupe

1 rating

Summary

No other artwork in the world is comparable to the Virgin of Guadalupe. What makes this painting unique - located in the Basilica of Guadalupe, north of Mexico City - is not precisely its artistic quality, as is the case with the Mona Lisa by Leonardo or The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, nor its place in the evolution of painting. It clearly does not constitute a landmark in art history, and the most visited painting in the world is certainly not the summit or the harbinger of a new aesthetic movement, like Dali's melting watches or Van Gogh's Starry Night. In fact, for some, the execution of the image is coarse and all its elements fit well known techniques. For others, it is merely a copy of a sculpture of the Virgin found in Spain. What distinguishes the Virgin of Guadalupe of Mexico is her universality: unlike any work of art in the world, it can be recognized by any local resident, certainly the most ubiquitous symbol in her country. It would be difficult to find a Mexican who cannot name her. The other thing that makes the Virgin of Guadalupe incomparable is her power to unite her nation, something that has been widely demonstrated throughout history. At different moments, and raised by different hands, the Virgin of Guadalupe (never the original painting) has led the troops that changed the history of the territory now known as Mexico. Not even a few hours had passed after the start of the War of Independence when the rebel army was already carrying the image of Guadalupe; in the twentieth century the image was present at the indigenous rebellion in Chiapas in 1994 and also materialized during the Mexican "perestroika" of 2000, which ended the single-party regime that had lasted for seven decades. Going further back, during Mexico's conquest, Hernán Cortés carried an image of the Virgin that, to the disinterested observer, is obviously the prototype of the Mexican Madonna. For some, Guadalupe is the work of a talented Indian painter, and this work was retouched and embellished by others in later centuries. The majority of scholars note how the image "appeared" at a very convenient time in Mexico´s history, when evangelization functioned as the ideological arm of the material conquest of the Aztec empire. There are even reasons to wonder whether the image currently on display in Mexico City is the same as in the 17th century since it is known from testimonies of the time that Mary had a crown on her head. That means if it's the same, at the very least it has been retouched, doctored and tampered with again. Conversely, for the believers, the image was miraculously stamped on the tilma or cloak of a man named Juan Diego. Among the latter are most of the 17 million persons who visit the original every year in Mexico City, which makes it the most visited painting in the world. By comparison, the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris receives six million visitors per year. What nobody questions —believers, skeptics or atheists— is that the Virgin of Guadalupe has been the most important symbol, religious or not, in Mexico´s history, a kind of non-official flag. Her influence has spread even to the Mexican diaspora, where it has become a sign of identity, pride and resistance among undocumented immigrants in the United States. For Mexicans, it's not necessary to be religious to believe in the power of the Virgin of Guadalupe as a unifying symbol and embodiment of national identity.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Length: 1 hr and 5 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Sinking of the Lusitania: The Most Controversial Submarine Attack of World War I

The Sinking of the Lusitania: The Most Controversial Submarine Attack of World War I

1 rating

Summary

In 1906 the RMS Lusitania was at the forefront of transatlantic shipping. Briefly the largest ship in the world, the designers and engineers who built the Lusitania aimed for her to represent the height of luxury for passengers while also being the harbinger of a new technological age, replete with revolutionary engines that would allow the gigantic ship to move at speeds that would have been considered impossible just years earlier. Indeed the highly competitive industry would spur the development of bigger and better ocean liners in the coming years, the most famous being the Titanic. The Lusitania and the Titanic would become the two most famous ships of the early 20th century for tragic reasons, but the circumstances could not have been more different. While the Titanic is still notorious for being the world's best ocean liner at the time of its collision with an iceberg in 1912, the Lusitania's role as a popular ocean liner has been almost completely obscured by the nature of its sinking by a German U-boat in 1915. The Germans aimed to disrupt trade by the Allied forces, but they did not have the naval forces capable of seizing merchant ships and detaining them. Furthermore the Germans rightly suspected that the British and Americans were using passenger liners and merchant ships to smuggle weaponry across the Atlantic, but since their sole edge in the Atlantic was their fleet of submarines, the Germans had no way of confirming their suspicions short of sinking a ship and seeing if a detonation onboard suggested the presence of munitions and gunpowder.

©2012- Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 21 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for La Camorra: The Notorious History and Legacy of the Neapolitan Mafia

La Camorra: The Notorious History and Legacy of the Neapolitan Mafia

1 rating

Summary

“I saw four knights with lance and buckler, black capes around their shoulders. They saw me and smiled. At that moment I understood that I was given the task of rebuilding the Camorra on new and more efficient bases, so that the tradition of our fathers would not be lost. I am the reincarnation of the most glorious moments of the Neapolitan past, I am the messiah for the suffering prisoners, I dispense justice, I am the only real judge who takes from the usurers and gives the poor. I am the true law, I do not recognize the Italian justice.” (Don Raffaele Cutolo) The history of Naples is long and tortured, or at least for centuries that was how its history has been told. Inhabited almost continuously from the Neolithic era to the present, Naples was founded by the Greeks and conquered by the Romans. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Naples passed between various foreign rulers for its entire history prior to Italian unification. Starting in 1040, when the Norman French invaders conquered Campania, Naples was ruled in a dizzying succession by Germans, then French, then Spanish, then Austrians, then Spanish, then French, and then Spanish.   Nonetheless, Naples does not enjoy an excellent reputation, within the context of Italy or of Europe. High rates of petty crime, a decaying urban fabric and the infamous presence of the mafia (known in Naples as the Camorra) all combine to ensure fewer tourists venture to explore Naples, and many Italians (civilians and politicians alike) consider it the ultimate “problem city”. Nonetheless, it bears keeping in mind the words of one of Naples’ foremost historians, John Marino, who noted, “Naples, like each of Italy’s cities, [is] unique, but far less different than is generally believed.”   The word “mafia”, Sicilian in origin, is synonymous with Italy, but Italy is home to several different mafias, with three being particularly notorious. While the Cosa Nostra of western Sicily is the most infamous, other powerful groups include the ferocious ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria and the Camorra, the third-largest mafia, which is active in Naples and the Campania region. A “mafia” is loosely defined as a criminal organization that is interested in social, economic, and political power, combining elements of a traditional secret society with those of a business, but further levels of nuance are necessary in order to understand these groups. In a general sense, this is because each mafia creates a myth about the development of the organization, which becomes like an unquestionable truth. In essence, part of what makes its members so completely loyal to it is also what makes outsiders so utterly afraid of it.    In the particular case of the Camorra, the difficulty of understanding an underground criminal association is made all the more intense because it is so heterogeneous in terms of its development, its different functions, and the diversity of economic sectors in which it operates. To reflect that diversity, some scholars like to refer to it as Camorre, the plural version of Camorra. This decision is more than just a question of semantics, because using the plural form helps emphasize the internal differences and conflicts within the Neapolitan mafia, which, in turn, helps explain the very nature of the organization itself. The Neapolitan mafia is famous for its pervasive nature, which is due to the fact that it is organized in a horizontal, decentralized way. This means there is not one single “boss” who dictates policy and can be more strategic in how and when violence is deployed. Unlike other mafias, in the Camorra there has been no long-term reigning family, nor extensive coordination between families to form an alliance and function as a unified mafia for their shared benefit.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for British Legends: The Life and Legacy of Margaret Thatcher

British Legends: The Life and Legacy of Margaret Thatcher

1 rating

Summary

A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' British Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of Great Britain's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known. Sir Winston Churchill is often cited as Britain's greatest prime minister for leading the United Kingdom against Hitler's Nazi war machine during World War II, and indeed he was the idol of the one person who many think might have surpassed him: Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher not only became Britain's first female prime minister; she also became its longest serving prime minister. The political precedents Thatcher set as a woman would be enough of a legacy in their own right, but Thatcher effectively wielded her power in a way that made a lasting contribution to both geopolitics and the perception of female politicians in general. Thatcher is widely credited, along with Ronald Reagan, as one of the principal Cold Warriors who brought about the demise of the Soviet Union, whose leaders gave her the famous nickname "Iron Lady". And, of course, Thatcher was recently in the spotlight again with the release of the critically acclaimed movie The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep. With the success of that movie, Thatcher has undergone a cultural revival and reiconization in many quarters for her political stances and political achievements. At the same time, however, the role she played as a woman is now often overlooked out of the expedience of political correctness, and it is considered uncivil to analyze Thatcher's political rise through the prism of sex. In fact at times the former prime minister claimed to understand an issue better due to her sex and sometimes used her sex more subliminally. British Legends: The Life and Legacy of Margaret Thatcher details the Iron Lady's life and career, but it also humanizes her and explores the role gender played in her rise to power and ultimately her legacy.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 53 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Boudica: The Life and Legacy of the Celtic Queen Who Rebelled Against the Romans in Britain

Boudica: The Life and Legacy of the Celtic Queen Who Rebelled Against the Romans in Britain

1 rating

Summary

The famous conqueror from the European continent came ashore with thousands of men, ready to set up a new kingdom in England. The Britons had resisted the amphibious invasion from the moment his forces landed, but he was able to push forward. In a large winter battle, the Britons’ large army attacked the invaders but was eventually routed, and the conqueror was able to set up a new kingdom. Over 1,100 years before William the Conqueror became the king of England after the Battle of Hastings, Julius Caesar came, saw, and conquered part of “Britannia”, setting up a Roman province with a puppet king in 54 BCE. In the new province, the Romans eventually constructed a military outpost overlooking a bridge across the River Thames. The new outpost was named Londinium, and it covered just over two dozen acres. Londinium had become the largest city in Britannia shortly before being burned down in a native revolt led by an infamous Celtic Iceni queen named Boudica. With a name meaning “Victory”, Boudica was a charismatic woman who commanded nearly 100,000 Celts and led them on a campaign to expel the Roman overlords from Britain around the year 61 CE. Often called the “Celtic Queen”, she wore a warrior’s necklace around her delicate neck and rode upon a sturdy steed. According to the ancient historian Cassius Dio, “In stature, she was very tall, in appearance most terrifying, in the glance of her eye most fierce, and her voice was harsh.” It is said she had a piercing glare that could shrink her people’s enemies, which in this case were the Roman legionnaires under the vengeful general Suetonius. Boudica was not only a woman of high intelligence but also a Druid priestess of great repute, which caused the Romans a unique kind of concern. The Celts have fascinated people for centuries, and the biggest fascination of all has been over the Druids, a religious class at the heart of Celtic society that wielded great power. Naturally, people have been interested in Druids for centuries mostly because they don’t understand much about the Druids or their practices. The word comes from the Romans, who labeled them "Druidae" in reference to the white robed order of Celtic priests living in Gaul, Britain, and Ireland. They were a well-organized, secretive group who kept no written records and performed their rituals - allegedly including human sacrifice - in oaken groves, all of which interested and horrified Roman writers.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 3 hrs
Available on Audible
Cover art for Yuri Bezmenov

Yuri Bezmenov

Summary

“The main emphasis of the KGB is not in the area of intelligence at all. Only about 15 percent of time, money, and manpower is spent on espionage and such. The other 85 percent is a slow process which we call either ideological subversion or active measures...or psychological warfare.” - Yuri Bezmenov The KGB is one of the most famous abbreviations of the 20th century, and it has become synonymous with the shadowy and often violent actions of the Soviet Union’s secret police and internal security agencies. In fact, it is often used to refer to the Soviet state security agencies throughout its history, from the inception of the inception of the Cheka (Extraordinary Commission) in 1917 to the official elimination of the KGB in 1992. Whether it’s associated with the Russian Civil War’s excesses, Stalin’s purges, and even Vladimir Putin, the KGB has long been viewed as the West’s biggest bogeyman during the second half of the 20th century.  Inevitably, some of the Cold War’s most shadowy actions involved trying to turn Soviet assets, whether for propaganda or intelligence purposes, but the Soviet system constantly had to worry about defections, as evidenced by the construction of the Berlin Wall in the early 1960s. That said, while the whistleblowers may be celebrated if they damage the public relations of an adversary, they can be controversial if they damage one’s own country, as evidenced by the polarizing reputations of individuals like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.  Yuri Bezmenov was among the first Soviet whistleblowers to attract attention on a global scale, and interest in his story has recently been revived thanks to his surprising cameo in the teaser trailer for Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War in August 2020. This came despite the fact he was far from the first ex-KGB agent or Russian to pull back the curtains on the Russian government and reveal the harrowing “truths” they were once sworn to harbor.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 2 hrs and 16 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Woolly Mammoths

Woolly Mammoths

Summary

It was a frosty, wintry September morning in 2012 when 11-year-old Yevgeny “Zhenya” Salinder donned his warmest quilted jacket, a knitted woolen cap, and matching mittens and headed out the door with his faithful, tail-wagging dogs in tow.  Like most mornings, the kid ambled about near the Sopkarga polar weather station, an isolated region in the northern Russian Taymyr Peninsula where he resided, but this particular morning, his pace was slowed by a foul, almost eye-watering stench.  Intrigued, Salinder and the dogs sniffed out the source of the strange miasma, and in the process, they stumbled upon a defrosted pair of heels from an unknown creature protruding from the cold earth. When young Salinder relayed what he had found to his parents, they alerted the authorities, but initially, nobody had the slightest notion how profound the discovery was. The heels, as it turned out, were attached to the carcass of a 16-year-old woolly mammoth that perished some 30,000 years ago, almost completely intact.  The mammoth, initially nicknamed “Zhenya” after its discoverer, was said to be the most significant discovery of a mammoth since 1901, and it is the second-best preserved of its kind that has ever been uncovered. Not only was its skeleton in near-pristine condition, it also bore one of its tusks, a mass of skin, fat, meat, an eye, an ear, and many of its organs. It was this stunning find that allowed scientists to confirm the purpose of the “humps” found on the backs of these creatures, which were extra compartments of insulatory fat. By the time Zhenya made the discovery, people had been quite familiar with the extinct giants for many years, and people across the world have seen models and depictions of them to go along with the fossils.  Since Georges Cuvier recognized the specimens as an extinct elephant species near the end of the 18th century, various finds of mammoth fossils, particularly in places where they were well preserved in the cold, have made the woolly mammoth perhaps the most popular extinct animal outside of the dinosaurs.  Standing around 10 feet tall and weighing several tons, woolly mammoths seem like the stuff of legend, but ancient cave art indicated that unlike dinosaurs, woolly mammoths were contemporaries of early humans, with the last ones going extinct only about 4,000 years ago. All of that explains why people have long been fascinated by woolly mammoths and have even envisioned bringing them back to life via genetics sometime in the future. Woolly Mammoths: The History and Legacy of the Most Famous Extinct Elephant Species looks at the geological origins of the area and analyzes the fossil finds from the tar.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 1 hr and 37 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Witchcraft in the United States: The History of Witches, Practices, and Persecution in America

Witchcraft in the United States: The History of Witches, Practices, and Persecution in America

Summary

“Since man cannot live without miracles, he will provide himself with miracles of his own making. He will believe in witchcraft and sorcery, even though he may otherwise be a heretic, an atheist, and a rebel.” (Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov) When people hear the word “witchcraft”, certain images come to mind. American history buffs will immediately think of Salem, where hysteria in the 17th century led to notorious trials that continue to be the source of several historical studies, with scholars analyzing things from every direction. Was it a religious fervor? Was it a land grab? Was there fungus in the grain? Over 400 years later, there are still fundamental questions regarding the complete breakdown of moral order that pinned friend against friend and neighbor against neighbor. As Salem proved, there has long been a natural curiosity about witchcraft. Some of the best-selling children’s books and adult novels have been about witchcraft, such as The Witch of Blackbird Pond. One of Roald Dahl’s most famous works was The Witches, and Harry Potter became a global phenomenon. As adults, fans of Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, and Alice Hoffman will find books about witches among their reading list, and there are countless movies and television shows devoted to the topic. All cultures and belief systems have ideas and definitions of what makes a witch, and this ultimately comes down to the human mind’s natural need to break things into opposites. For all good, there must be evil, and for those who started to settle North America in the 17th century and beyond, witchcraft became the perfect explanation for what they couldn’t understand or control. Settling a new land - whether by choice or not - came with its own set of complications and ills. Life was hard in an unsettled area, especially when Europeans and Native Americans clashed in the New World, and when the European settlers started importing African slaves, that introduced new ideas about what constituted good and evil. As a result, while most studies of witchcraft in the United States tend to focus on Salem, that hardly does the subject matter justice, because understanding Native American and African concepts about witchcraft are just as important to American history as European ideas. Witchcraft in the United States: The History of Witches, Practices, and Persecution in America examines how various cultures perceived witchcraft, and the impact it had in the United States and the colonial period. You will learn about the history of witchcraft in America like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Americas
Length: 2 hrs and 11 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for William Powell: The Life and Legacy of One of Early Hollywood's Most Acclaimed Actors

William Powell: The Life and Legacy of One of Early Hollywood's Most Acclaimed Actors

Summary

"My first scene with Bill, a night shot on the back lot, happened before we'd even met. Woody was apparently too busy for introductions. My instructions were to run out of a building, through a crowd, and into a strange car. When Woody called 'Action', I opened the car door, jumped in, and landed smack on William Powell's lap. He looked up nonchalantly: 'Miss Loy, I presume?' I said, 'Mr. Powell?' And that's how I met the man who would be my partner in fourteen films.” (Myrna Loy) Movie stars are revered for their ability to captivate audiences, and Hollywood began to flourish before the onset of television, allowing movies to enjoy relatively uncontested supremacy over American entertainment. The popularity of various actors would thus extend well beyond the success of any of their individual films, reflecting their much broader cultural significance as monuments of Hollywood during its Golden Age.  In the 1920s, the burgeoning movie industry was starting to come into its own, and while older silent film stars like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton reached the peak of Hollywood, some actors born near the beginning of the 20th century were ready to capitalize. While actors like Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant remain household names, and actresses like Greta Garbo are still widely remembered, few had careers that enjoyed the success of William Powell. In a career spanning several decades, Powell would receive three Oscar nominations for Best Actor for critically acclaimed movies, so it is somewhat ironic that he is mostly remembered today for his association with the more famous Myrna Loy. Together, they starred in 14 films, including the 1934 box office hit, The Thin Man.  One thing that helped Powell’s career along in the old days when Hollywood would only cast white actors in major roles, no matter what the nationality of the character was supposed to be, were his dark good looks. In pointing this out, a contemporary profile of Powell explained, “Many people imagine that William Powell has a foreign look. His first big stage success, his first big picture roles, were all in foreign parts - Spanish, Italian, Cuban. As a matter of fact, he is American to the core. Perhaps, that look is his heritage from a paternal grandfather named Brady. The black Irish fit into any nationality. There is, too, a good strong strain of Holland Dutch, and a bit of French and English.” William Powell: The Life and Legacy of One of Early Hollywood’s Most Acclaimed Actors chronicles the long life and diverse career of Powell on and off the screen.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 29 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for William McKinley

William McKinley

Summary

"That's all a man can hope for during his lifetime - to set an example - and when he is dead, to be an inspiration for history." (William McKinley) Although he is often overlooked in American history today, few presidents marked a turning point for the country quite like William McKinley. As the last president to have served in the Civil War, he represented the end of an era, while at the same time his pro-business policies set in motion the Progressive Era, a period almost universally associated with Theodore Roosevelt. Of course, the reason that period is aligned with Roosevelt is because McKinley had the unfortunate distinction of being one of the only four presidents to be assassinated. In September 1901, the city of Buffalo was full of celebration. The Pan-American Exposition was ongoing, and it brought notable figures to northern New York, including President McKinley, who had been reelected less than a year earlier. But also in Buffalo was Leon Czolgosz, a young man who had turned to anarchy, years earlier, after losing his job. Embracing his philosophy wholeheartedly, Czolgosz believed it was his mission to take down a powerful leader he considered oppressive, and McKinley’s attendance gave him the chance. President James Garfield had been assassinated just 20 years earlier, but McKinley didn’t worry about presidential security or his own safety, and that was the case in Buffalo. McKinley’s insistence on greeting the public and shaking hands allowed Czolgosz to walk up to him on September 6, 1901, at a public reception in the Temple of Music on the expo grounds and shoot him point blank, with one bullet grazing the president and another lodging in his abdomen. In the aftermath of the shooting, as Czolgosz was beaten and seized by the crowd, he uttered, "I done my duty." For his part, McKinley said, “He didn't know, poor fellow, what he was doing. He couldn't have known." Despite being president, McKinley’s medical services were shoddy, and given the still primitive medical standards of the early 20th century, gunshots to the abdomen often brought death. One of the best known aspects of the assassination is that Thomas Edison’s x-ray machine was on hand and may have been used to try to locate the bullet that doctors couldn’t find, but for reasons that remain unknown, the x-ray machine was not used. Nevertheless, McKinley seemed to improve over the next few days, and people became optimistic that he would be all right. As H. Wayne Morgan, one of McKinley’s biographers, noted, “His hearty constitution, everyone said, would see him through. The doctors seemed hopeful, even confident. It is difficult to understand the cheer with which they viewed their patient. He was nearly 60 years old, overweight, and the wound itself had not been thoroughly cleaned or traced. Precautions against infections, admittedly difficult in 1901, were negligently handled.”  Ultimately, McKinley’s wounds became gangrenous a week after he was shot, and after he took a turn for the worse, he died on the morning of September 14, nearly eight days after he was shot. William McKinley: The Life and Legacy of the Third President to Be Assassinated chronicles the life and death of the president.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Hadrian Howard
Category: History, Americas
Length: 3 hrs and 2 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison

Summary

When one is looking quickly over the lives of the Presidents of the United States, it is easy to overlook William Henry Harrison. After all, he only served as the Chief Executive for 30 days, and he spent the majority of those in bed, fighting for his life and eventually losing. However, to ignore Harrison because he served such a short time in the White House is just as foolish as ignoring Patrick Henry or Alexander Hamilton because they were never elected to the nation's highest office. In fact, like Henry, Hamilton, and many others from the early days of the Republic, Harrison served his country in many ways and was one of the most consequential figures both in politics and the military, which makes it all the more unfortunate that much the same way Hamilton is remembered for the duel with Aaron Burr, Harrison is remembered for being the first president to die in office. The manner of Harrison's death, and the length of his inaugural address, have overshadowed the various facets of his life and career. For instance, few people know of his famous family, how he dropped out of medical school to become a soldier, and how he eloped with a young woman and went on to have 10 children with her. Harrison's early political career also remains relatively unknown; few realize that he spent much of his early adulthood in what was then still wilderness, first as a soldier, then as the territorial governor of the Indiana Territory.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 44 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for What If Alexander the Great Had Lived?

What If Alexander the Great Had Lived?

Summary

In the 19th century, the Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle famously wrote that history is “the biography of great men", popularizing the “Great Man” theory that the course of history is shaped by a select few heroic individuals. While historians and others continue to debate the accuracy of the Great Man theory of history, there is no question that the course of history is permanently altered by decisive moments in time, where a different result would have produced drastically different outcomes. As a result, while some of history’s most famous people and events have been permanently etched into the world’s collective imagination, there is a flip side to that coin: Just how differently would history have turned out if certain events never took place? Charles River Editors’ “What If” alternative history series examines some of these people and events, profiling what happened in reality and how things might have been drastically different otherwise. Over the last 2,000 years, ambitious men have dreamed of forging vast empires and attaining eternal glory in battle, but of all the conquerors who took steps toward such dreams, none were ever as successful as antiquity’s first great conqueror. Leaders of the 20th century hoped to rival Napoleon’s accomplishments, while Napoleon aimed to emulate the accomplishments of Julius Caesar. Caesar himself found inspiration in Alexander the Great (356 - 323 BCE), the Macedonian king who managed to stretch an empire from Greece to the Himalayas in Asia by the age of 30. It took less than 15 years for Alexander to conquer much of the known world. In 323 BCE, Alexander the Great was on top of the world. Never a man to sit on his hands or rest upon his laurels, Alexander began planning his future campaigns, which may have included attempts to subdue the Arabian Peninsula or make another incursion into India. But fate had other plans for the young Macedonian king. Alexander died of still unknown causes at the height of his conquests, when he was still in his early 30s. Although his empire was quickly divided, his legacy only grew, and Alexander became the stuff of legends even in his own time. Alexander was responsible for establishing 20 cities in his name across the world, most notably Alexandria in Egypt, and he was directly responsible for spreading Ancient Greek culture as far east as modern-day India and other parts of Asia. For the ancient world, Alexander became the emblem of military greatness and accomplishment. It was reported that many of Rome’s greatest leaders, including Pompey the Great, Augustus, and Caesar himself all visited Alexander’s tomb in Alexandria - a mecca of sorts for antiquity’s other leaders. Thus, while it could be said that Alexander’s empire continued on through its successors, and that the Hellenistic kingdoms of Macedonia, Seleucia, Pergamon, and Ptolemaic Egypt shaped the course of Western history in the centuries that followed and spread Greek culture throughout the known world, their divisions and animosities also weakened them and made them easier to conquer. One by one, they would fall to Rome. But what if Alexander had not died in Babylon years before anyone expected to lose him? How would the world have changed had Alexander remained sole king of the Macedonian Empire and lived long enough to designate an heir? Would history eventually have progressed essentially as it did, or would the world look vastly different? What if Alexander the Great Had Lived?: An Alternative History of the Macedonian King and His Empire profiles Alexander’s life and examines how events may have gone differently if Alexander had survived.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Military
Length: 2 hrs and 7 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Western Democracy

Western Democracy

Summary

In today’s modern world every political regime, even the most authoritarian or repressive, describes itself as democracy or a Democratic People’s Republic. The concept of rule by the people, on behalf of the people, has come to be accepted as the norm, and very few would overtly espouse the cause of dictatorship, absolute monarchy or oligarchy as the most desirable political system upon which to base the government of any country. It is also generally accepted that democracy, as a political ideology, began in Greece, specifically in Athens, in the 7th century BCE and reached its zenith in the 5th century under the leadership of Pericles. Dating an exact starting point is impossible, but at the beginning of the 7th century BCE, Solon inaugurated a series of reforms that began the movement away from rule by individuals, or tyrants, and by the end of that century the reforms of Cleisthenes provided the basis of the Athenian democratic system that culminated in the radical institutions introduced by Ephialtes and Pericles in the 5th century. The result was the first, and possibly only, truly participative democratic state. The Greeks and Romans would not have recognized, or accepted, any of today’s modern versions of democracy as being truly “democratic”. A rejection of dictatorships masquerading as democracies would be understandable, but the ancients would have been equally scathing of Western-style representative democracies that they would undoubtedly have seen as anti-democratic. The key to democracy, as far as the Greeks and Romans were concerned, was active participation by the citizen body in all political aspects of life.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jim Johnston
Length: 3 hrs and 48 mins
Available on Audible
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Werewolves

Summary

Werewolves have long been a staple of popular culture. In the 19th and 20th century, there were countless books, plays, and films about people who turned into wolves or wolf-like humanoids and went on rampages. The figure of the werewolf is so familiar that people across the world are familiar with the folklore, and the beliefs that they transform during a full moon, can only be stopped with silver, and transmit their disease by biting their victims.  In fact, those beliefs were not originally part of werewolf folklore, but later embellishments by artists. The belief in lycanthropy is far older and more complex than most people suspect, dating all the way back to antiquity, and werewolves were once assumed to be very real. Indeed, people were even put on trial and executed because the courts of law were convinced they could change their form and kill innocent people. For thousands of years, werewolves have represented a strange and ancient tradition that still echoes through culture to this day.  Werewolves: The Legends and Folk Tales About Humans Shapeshifting into Wolves chronicles the ancient traditions and origins behind the belief in the existence of werewolves. You will learn about werewolves like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 12 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Welcome to the Neighborhood: The History and Legacy of Fred Rogers and His Iconic Show

Welcome to the Neighborhood: The History and Legacy of Fred Rogers and His Iconic Show

Summary

“This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, You've made this day a special day, by just your being you. There's no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are. And I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.” (Fred Rogers)

When one does happen upon such an abnormality, the public is quick to defend the gentle soul. “It takes a special kind of scum to hate Mister Rogers,” reads the top comment on the aforementioned video, posted by user Sergei Ivanovich Mosin. The video has been picked apart by multiple journalists from the likes of Huffington Post and Pittsburgh Magazine, among many others.

The reactions are so swift in part because millions of people become instantly nostalgic upon hearing the sweet, xylophonic melody that kicks off the theme song of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, including today’s children and their Gen-X and millennial parents. The show represented a simpler time, a world wherein the noses of children and teenagers weren't glued to their phones and the countless distractions of social media. Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was a revolutionary, one-of-a-kind program featuring a host that placed the welfare of children above ratings and profits. The philosophy of the mild-mannered, cardigan-wearing show creator and host was as straightforward as it was powerful: “When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary."

Welcome to the Neighborhood: The History and Legacy of Fred Rogers and His Iconic Show profiles one of America’s most influential kids shows and how it developed. You will learn about Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Length: 1 hr and 53 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Weird Rome

Weird Rome

Summary

"Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city.” In that short line, Anatole Broyard, a 20th century American writer, compactly captures the timeless and enchanting beauty that resides within the Eternal City of Rome. This tourist destination is often one of the highest ranked on bucket lists, for how could one not want to experience its marvelous ruins, mirror-like rivers, and spectacular stretches of aqueducts, firsthand? As one sips on fine Italian wine on a terrace overlooking the grand remnants of the Colosseum, one can practically hear the roars of the battling gladiators and the raucous applause of the spectators. And as one strolls through the coarse yet quaint cobblestone streets, one can almost hear the galloping horses and screeching wheels of chariots in the distance, and even feel the brush of the breeze as they charge past. It is difficult not to fall in love with a city so effortlessly nostalgic, it verges on utopian. The ambitious and fearless emperors who built the legendary Roman Empire from scratch, the broad-shouldered and bronzed gladiators with their iconic plume helmets and glinting swords, and elaborate parties attended by toga-wearing Romans fueled by alcohol, violence, orgies, and other godless acts all paint a picture of Roman life. Indeed, many people are well-versed with these unique scenes of Roman history, but few are familiar with the equally riveting years preceding the dawn of the Roman Republic, and even less people are acquainted with the fabled Seven Hills sitting east of the Tiber River - the core geographical components of Rome and the very foundations that the Eternal City was built on.  Ancient Rome is understandably an object of enduring fascination, and its legacy still survives today, especially in the West, where Roman architecture, law, and philosophy all influence modern societies. But the Romans were also startlingly different - a deeply superstitious society, they believed in all sorts of omens and magic spells, while their leaders were capable of cruelties that would make a modern war criminal blush. Regular Romans performed strange religious practices, and they engaged in even stranger sexual practices. Weird Rome: A Collection of Mysterious Stories, Odd Anecdotes, and Strange Superstitions from the Ancient Romans looks at the more bizarre sides of Roman civilization, helping people understand the true nature of Rome and examining aspects that documentaries and museum exhibitions tend to gloss over. Learn about the weirder parts of Rome like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 2 hrs and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin & Leon Trotsky

Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin & Leon Trotsky

Summary

Among the leaders of the 20th century, arguably none shaped the course of history as much as Vladimir Lenin (1870-1942), the Communist revolutionary and political theorist who led the Bolshevik Revolution that established the Soviet Union. In addition to shaping the Marxist-Leninist political thought that steered Soviet ideology, he was the first Soviet premier until his death and set the Soviet Union on its way to becoming one of the world's two superpowers for most of the century, in addition to being the West's Cold War adversary. As it turned out, the creation of the Soviet Union came near the end of Lenin's life, as he worked so hard that he had burned himself out by his 50s, dying in 1924 after a series of strokes had completely debilitated him. Near the end of his life, he expressly stated that the regime's power should not be put in the hands of the current General Secretary of the Communist Party, Joseph Stalin. Of course, Stalin managed to do just that, modernizing the Soviet Union at a breakneck pace on the backs of millions of poor laborers and prisoners. If Adolf Hitler had not inflicted the devastation of World War II upon Europe, it's quite likely that the West would consider Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) the 20th century's greatest tyrant. Before World War II, Stalin consolidated his position by frequently purging party leaders (most famously Leon Trotsky) and Red Army leaders, executing hundreds of thousands of people at the least. Along with Vladimir Lenin, Trotsky led the October Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and held crucial posts in the early Soviet governments, but after Lenin’s death Trotsky was exiled, persecuted and finally murdered at the behest of his arch-rival, Joseph Stalin.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Johnston
Category: History, Russia
Length: 4 hrs and 41 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Uruk

Uruk

Summary

In southern Iraq, a crushing silence hangs over the dunes. For nearly 5,000 years, the sands of the Iraqi desert have held the remains of the oldest known civilization: the Sumerians. When American archaeologists discovered a collection of cuneiform tablets in Iraq in the late 19th century, they were confronted with a language and a people who were at the time only scarcely known to even the most knowledgeable scholars. The exploits and achievements of other Mesopotamian peoples, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians, were already known to a large segment of the population through the Old Testament and the nascent field of Near Eastern studies had unraveled the enigma of the Akkadian language that was widely used throughout the region in ancient times, but the discovery of the Sumerian tablets brought to light the existence of the Sumerian culture, which was the oldest of all the Mesopotamian cultures. Although the Sumerians continue to get second or even third billing compared to the Babylonians and Assyrians, perhaps because they never built an empire as great as the Assyrians or established a city as enduring and great as Babylon, they were the people who provided the template of civilization that all later Mesopotamians built upon. The Sumerians are credited with being the first people to invent writing, libraries, cities, and schools in Mesopotamia, and many would argue that they were the first people to create and do those things anywhere in world. For a people so great it is unfortunate that their accomplishments and contributions, not only to Mesopotamian civilization but to civilization in general, largely go unnoticed by the majority of the public. Perhaps the Sumerians were victims of their own success; they gradually entered the historical record, established a fine civilization, and then slowly submerged into the cultural patchwork of their surroundings. They also never suffered a great and sudden collapse like other peoples of the ancient Near East, such as the Hittites, Assyrians and Neo-Babylonians did. A close examination of Sumerian culture and chronology reveals that the Sumerians set the cultural tone in Mesopotamia for several centuries in the realms of politics/governments, arts, literature, and religion. The Sumerians were truly a great people whose legacy continued long after they were gone. No site better represents the importance of the Sumerians than the city of Uruk. Between the fourth and the third millennium BCE, Uruk was one of several city-states in the land of Sumer, located in the southern end of the Fertile Crescent, between the two great rivers of the Tigris and the Euphrates. Discovered in the late 19th century by the British archaeologist William Loftus, it is this site that has revealed much of what is now known of the Sumerian, Akkadian, and Neo-Sumerian people. Although Uruk was not the only city that the Sumerians built during the Uruk period, it was by far the greatest and also the source of most of the archeological and written evidence concerning early Sumerian culture. Uruk went from being the world’s first city to the most important political and cultural center in the ancient Near East in relatively quick fashion. Around 3200 BCE, the Sumerian Uruk culture began to expand beyond the borders of Sumer, which coincided with the emergence of writing. The form of writing that the Sumerians developed became known by its Greek name, cuneiform for the wedge style characters that it employed. Writing, like many other inventions throughout world history, appears to have been created because of necessity as the Uruk culture grew.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ken Teutsch
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 26 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Ur

Ur

Summary

When American archaeologists discovered a collection of cuneiform tablets in Iraq in the late 19th century, they were confronted with a language and a people who were at the time only scarcely known to even the most knowledgeable scholars of ancient Mesopotamia: the Sumerians. The exploits and achievements of other Mesopotamian peoples, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians, were already known to a large segment of the population through the Old Testament. The nascent field of Near Eastern studies had unraveled the enigma of the Akkadian language that was widely used throughout the region in ancient times, but the discovery of the Sumerian tablets brought to light the existence of the Sumerian culture, which was the oldest of all the Mesopotamian cultures. Long before Alexandria was a city and even before Memphis and Babylon had attained greatness, the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur stood foremost among ancient Near Eastern cities. Today, the greatness and cultural influence of Ur has been largely forgotten by most people, partially because its monuments have not stood the test of time the way other ancient cultures' monuments have. For instance, the monuments of Egypt were made of stone while those of Ur and most other Mesopotamian cities were made of mud brick and as will be discussed in this report, mud brick may be an easier material to work with than stone but it also decays much quicker. The same is true to a certain extent for the written documents that were produced at Ur. The people of Mesopotamia, which Ur was part of, employed the cuneiform system of writing; since cuneiform was almost always written on clay tablets, modern scholars have been faced with the unfortunate problem that many of those tablets have been broken and made unreadable by the passage of time. Despite the ephemeral nature of its monuments and to some extent its written texts, Ur proved to be an inspiration to the Sumerians who built the city and also to later cultures and dynasties that inhabited Mesopotamia. An examination of primary sources relating to Ur, as well as archaeological excavations done in the ancient city reveal that it was a cultural beacon for thousands of years. Ur began as a Sumerian city of secondary importance but quickly grew to importance in the region. At its height Ur was the center of a great dynasty that controlled most of Mesopotamia directly through a well maintained army and bureaucracy, and the areas that were not under its direct control were influenced by Ur's diplomats and religious ideas. This study will also reveal that Ur was a truly resilient city because it survived the downfall of the Sumerians, outright destruction at the hands of the Elamites, and later occupations by numerous other peoples, which included Saddam Hussein most recently. Ur inspired the imaginations of ancient peoples, but it has also enraptured the minds of modern people, who have worked for over 150 years to unlock the city's mysteries. Truly, when it comes to important ancient cities, Ur should be counted among the greatest.

©2015 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 31 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Underground Warfare in World War I

Underground Warfare in World War I

Summary

"It was a pretty gloomy business. We started sinking this shaft and it filled with water, so we pumped it out with hand pumps - lift and force. We got down about 10 feet or so. It was heartbreaking - I hated it. But I had to keep my men going. The Boche [Germans] saved us. We were making a lot of noise with spiling [timbering the tunnels]. The Boche opposite us were Saxons, rather friendly, and they put up a notice on a blackboard, 'No good your mining. We've tried. It can't be done.' The notice was in English. I reported this to my OC and it went up to HQ and they stopped the mine." - Major General F. Gordon Hyland World War I, also known in its time as the "Great War," or the "War to End all Wars," was an unprecedented holocaust in terms of its sheer scale. Fought by men who hailed from all corners of the globe, it saw millions of soldiers do battle in brutal assaults of attrition which dragged on for months, with little to no respite. Tens of millions of artillery shells and untold hundreds of millions of rifle and machine gun bullets were fired in a conflict that demonstrated man's capacity to kill each other on a heretofore unprecedented scale, and as always, such a war brought about technological innovation at a rate that made the boom of the Industrial Revolution seem stagnant. World War I was the first truly industrial war, and it created a paradigm which reached its zenith with World War II, and towards which virtually all equipment, innovation, and training were dedicated throughout the Cold War and the remainder of the 20th century. To this day, modern warfare remains synonymous with tanks and mass infantry battles, although a confrontation of this nature has not occurred, (except briefly during Operation Desert Storm), since World War II. The enduring image of World War I is of men stuck in muddy trenches, and of vast armies deadlocked in a fight neither could win. It was a war of barbed wire, poison gas, and horrific losses, as officers led their troops on mass charges across No Man's Land, and into a hail of bullets. While these impressions are all too true, they hide the fact that trench warfare was dynamic and constantly evolving throughout the war, as all armies struggled to find a way to break through the opposing lines. Underground Warfare in World War I: The History and Legacy of the Fighting Beneath and Between the Trenches examines one of the most forgotten aspects of the fighting on the ground during the Great War.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Umma

Umma

Summary

When American archaeologists discovered a collection of cuneiform tablets in Iraq in the late 19th century, they were confronted with a language and a people who were at the time only scarcely known to even the most knowledgeable scholars of ancient Mesopotamia: the Sumerians. The exploits and achievements of other Mesopotamian peoples, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians, were already known to a large segment of the population through the Old Testament. The nascent field of Near Eastern studies had unraveled the enigma of the Akkadian language that was widely used throughout the region in ancient times, but the discovery of the Sumerian tablets brought to light the existence of the Sumerian culture, which was the oldest of all the Mesopotamian cultures.  Although the Sumerians continue to get second or even third billing compared to the Babylonians and Assyrians, perhaps because they never built an empire as great as the Assyrians or established a city as enduring and great as Babylon, they were the people who provided the template of civilization that all later Mesopotamians built upon. The Sumerians are credited with being the first people to invent writing, libraries, cities, and schools in Mesopotamia (Ziskind 1972, 34), and many would argue that they were the first people to create and do those things anywhere in world. There were many great cities in the ancient Near East that influenced the course of history. Babylon and Jerusalem are two of the better known, but Nineveh, Damascus, Ur, Uruk, Memphis, Thebes, and Sidon were just a few of the great cities where science and literature were created, theologies proposed, and empires born. There are numerous reasons why these cities became prominent, many of which were related to the fortuitous circumstances of environment and politics, but for every one of the great cities, there were many more that flourished and then had their prestige overshadowed by the growth of their larger neighbors. These cities often played important roles in the historical processes of the region for a time, but due to numerous circumstances, their influence proved to be ephemeral. One of the most interesting of these early ephemeral cities was Umma. Located in the southern region of Mesopotamia known as Sumer, Umma became a prominent Sumerian city in the early third millennium BCE, and while Uruk was the most important Sumerian city during that era, Umma was close behind in influence and power and for a time, seemed poised to become the most important place in Sumer. A powerful dynasty arose in Umma that expanded its influence across southern Mesopotamia, uniting the Sumerian cities under one government, but the central position that Umma enjoyed proved to be temporary because Semitic conquerors from the north forced Umma and the other cities to accept their rule. Umma continued to exist and even prosper, and it eventually became a somewhat important city again under the Neo-Sumerian Third Dynasty of Ur in the late third millennium BCE  It was not until the sixth century BCE that Umma went unmentioned in the historical record during the Neo-Babylonian Period. By then, the city was a shadow of its former self, but some of the earliest known Mesopotamian historiographical inscriptions were recorded in Umma, the god of its city became an important deity in the Mesopotamian pantheon, and its merchants became well-known for introducing a type of silver standard for trade. Thus, even as Umma was forgotten even as far back as ancient times, it continues to fascinate modern historians and archaeologists.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ray Howard
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 30 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Uluru: The History and Legacy of the Australian Landmark Considered Sacred by the Local Aborigines

Uluru: The History and Legacy of the Australian Landmark Considered Sacred by the Local Aborigines

Summary

The magnificent monolith the locals call “Uluru”, situated in the heart of Australia, hovers over a patchy bed of desert poplars and spinifex grasslands. The pleasant, but otherwise unexceptional, surroundings of the spellbinding sandstone landform only further accentuates its majesty - one that can be appreciated from a variety of angles.  To lime-colored budgerigars, mighty brown falcons, passengers in planes and helicopters, and other creatures blessed with the gift of flight, the free-form rock is reminiscent of the fossil of a spiky fish, a misshapen arrowhead, or perhaps a peculiar, ocher-tinged seashell peeking out of the sand. To those gazing upon the natural gem on solid ground, the flat-topped, burnt sienna beauty marked with character-forming dimples, ripples, and ridges looks more like a sleeping, 1000-year-old turtle, particularly through squinted eyes.    Its striking appearance aside, Uluru, also known as “Ayers Rock”, is far more than an unmissable landmark. Uluru represents an inimitable symbol of life and culture, and a place of worship sacred to the region's aboriginal inhabitants. Given the long and riveting history attached to this hallowed rock, the aura of mysticality and mystery that clings to Uluru should come as no surprise. Not only does the rock's flaky surface change color throughout the day - going from a deep violet with hints of gray to a light lilac to a fiery orange-red during sunrise and from its usual apricot-gold to a faded orange to a dreamy purplish-pink at dusk - Uluru, they say, is an endless source of inexplicable happenings and paranormal occurrences.    Although the natives have spared no effort in underscoring the rock's spiritual and cultural significance to the aborigines, their pleas for visitors to respect the rock have been repeatedly ignored. Indeed, the lack of courtesy displayed toward Uluru has heightened in recent years, and the land's inhabitants have been forced to navigate the so-called age of the “social media influencer”. Thousands of tourists swarm the rock every year, sticking their head through aboriginal spy holes and modeling pretentious yoga poses with captions to match.  Perhaps, most notoriously, a 25-year-old French-born exotic dancer named Alizee Sery angered netizens around the globe in 2010 when she hiked up to the top of Uluru and stripped down to nothing but an Akubra cattleman hat, bikini bottoms, and white go-go boots. Sery spoke to various news outlets shortly thereafter and defended the strip tease, filmed for a documentary, which she claimed was meant as an homage to the indigenous peoples. According to Sery’s partially paternalistic explanation, “My project is a tribute to the greatness of the rock. What we need to remember is that, traditionally, the aboriginal people were living naked. So, stripping down was a return to what it was like.”  Aboriginal elders, on the other hand, branded the attention-seeking stunt “stupid” and compared it to relieving oneself on the Vatican steps. As Kon Vatskalis, minister of the Northern Territory government, put it, “How would...French people feel if an Australian danced semi-naked on the altar of the Notre Dame?” Uluru: The History and Legacy of the Australian Landmark Considered Sacred by the Local Aborigines examines the geological origins of the famous rock, its most interesting characteristics, and its history. Along with details about important people, places, and events, you will learn about Uluru like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: David Bernard
Length: 1 hr and 50 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Ugarit

Ugarit

Summary

My father, behold, the enemy's ships came (here); my cities(?) were burned, and they did evil things in my country. Does not my father know that all my troops and chariots(?) are in the Land of Hatti, and all my ships are in the Land of Lukka?...Thus, the country is abandoned to itself. May my father know it: The seven ships of the enemy that came here inflicted much damage upon us.” (King Ammurapi) Not far from the Latakia, Syria, near the Mediterranean Sea coast, is the politically insignificant town of Burj al-Qasab. Throughout most of its history, Burj al-Qasab was overshadowed by Latakia, but this was not always the case. More than 3,000 years ago, on a hill known as Ras Sharma located just outside Burj al-Qasab, a sprawling metropolis much more important and powerful than Latakia, or most other modern cities in the region for that matter once existed. Ras Sharma was the location of Ugarit, an extremely wealthy and powerful Bronze Age city-state that received and sent merchants far and wide through its gates. It also developed complex geopolitical relationships with some of the most powerful empires of the period, including the Hittites, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Mitanni. Ugarit was a truly cosmopolitan city, where dozens of languages were spoken, people from all over the Near East lived, and exotic goods were as common as the sands on its beaches. When Ugarit was at the pinnacle of its power and wealth, it was destroyed by foreign invaders and quickly forgotten. Thanks to modern archaeologists, philologists, and historians, the secrets of Ugarit were uncovered in the early 20th century when it was revealed that Ras Sharma was part of an ancient city. As scholars excavated the ancient site and documented the plethora of art and written texts found there, they realized that it was the important city of Ugarit that had been mentioned in texts and inscriptions by major Bronze Age Near Eastern kingdoms. Modern scholars learned that although Ugarit was not one of the major kingdoms or so-called Great Powers of the Late Bronze Age Near East, it was powerful and important in its own right. Ugarit was extremely important economically, as its merchants played the role of middlemen between the empires, bringing goods from major empires of the period to be traded in Ugarit’s markets. The culture of Ugarit was also important - it was similar to other Canaanite peoples of the Levant region and also influenced later peoples of the region, especially in terms of religion. Ugarit also bore witness to the transition from the Bronze to the Iron Age during the late 13th and early 12th centuries BCE, which arguably changed the structure and course of world history more fundamentally than any period before or since. During this period, numerous wealthy and enduring kingdoms of the eastern Mediterranean Sea region collapsed, and new ones rose in their places. At the center of this period of turmoil was a group of people known today as the Sea Peoples, the English translation of the name given to them by the Egyptians. Despite their prominent role in history, however, the Sea Peoples remain as mysterious as they were influential; while the Egyptians documented their presence and the wars against them, it has never been clear exactly where the Sea Peoples originated from, or what compelled them to invade various parts of the region with massive numbers. Whatever the reason, the Sea Peoples posed an existential threat to the people already living in the region, and ultimately the people of Ugarit would be among their many victims.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Length: 1 hr and 31 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Typhoid Mary

Typhoid Mary

Summary

Plague and pestilence have both fascinated and terrified humanity from the very beginning. Societies and individuals have struggled to make sense of them, and more importantly, they’ve often struggled to avoid them.  Before the scientific age, people had no knowledge of the microbiological agents - unseen bacteria and viruses - which afflicted them, and thus the maladies were often ascribed to wrathful supernatural forces. Even when advances in knowledge posited natural causes for epidemics and pandemics, medicine struggled to deal with them, and for hundreds of years, religion continued to work hand-in-hand with medicine.  Outbreaks of disease, much like wars, inevitably produce a series of public figures who serve as emblematic heroes or villains of the era and event. In the case of Mary Mallon, now known around the world as “Typhoid Mary", only a few deaths and a relatively small group of infections actually occurred before she was arrested.  That her small but deadly outbreak incited such a firestorm among New York’s health agencies was certainly driven by the fact that the “ghetto disease” had suddenly appeared in New York City’s wealthy neighborhoods. A further difficulty lay in the late discovery of a few individuals who were not susceptible to the disease of typhoid itself, but who were nevertheless carriers. Invisible but contagious, these rare cases spread the pathogen both prolifically and unwittingly. As a natural social conflict rose, public debate came to the fore over the civil rights of those apprehended for carrying major diseases.  The phenomenon of a carrier immune to typhoid and other afflictions had been noted by the early 19th century and can be found in the journals of obscure researchers. However, even prominent medical practitioners were generally unaware of ever having observed such an individual, and the chances are slim that an uneducated domestic servant from a rural county in Ireland would encounter the research or possess the knowledge with which to identify the carrier. In fact, in a state of disbelief maintained throughout her adult life, Mallon defied the medical community’s depiction of her as infected at all. Originating in a culture where disease was still believed to be the result of noxious vapors, and where one was not sick unless she appeared so, Mallon viewed the entire investigation as pure persecution. Along the way, she did herself little good with an aggressive, explosive temper and a general belligerence toward any idea of cooperation with medical personnel whom she took to be frauds. As a carrier of any sort, Mallon would never have been identified at all had it not been for the detailed and relentless work of an agent working in conjunction with the New York City Health Department. For Mallon, the outcome was tragic at the hands of a city government that had no idea what to do with her. Mallon had in the beginning not knowingly committed a crime, but she spent nearly three decades incarcerated in one of the bleakest holding pens in New York City’s history. As with all past outbreaks in developed societies, cultural, religious, gender, and economic lines were drawn between the wealthiest and poorest of the population, and in the minds of many, the disease was connected to a moral standard the poor could not possibly uphold. Typhoid Mary: The Notorious Life and Legacy of the Cook Who Caused a Typhoid Outbreak in New York chronicles the life and work of Mary Mallon, and why she remains so famous today.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ray Howard
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 22 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Ty Cobb

Ty Cobb

Summary

"I had to fight all my life to survive. They were all against me, but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch." (Ty Cobb) "Cobb is a prick. But he sure can hit. God Almighty, that man can hit." (Babe Ruth) As one of America's oldest and most beloved sports, baseball has long been touted as the national pastime, but of all the millions of people who have played it over the last few centuries, few have influenced Major League Baseball like Ty Cobb, whose career spanned over 20 seasons. The Georgia Peach overcame early hardships to set nearly 100 MLB records in his time as a player and player-manager for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics. With an MVP and Triple Crown under his belt by the age of 25, Cobb went on to produce statistics that still lead MLB in several categories, including 4,065 combined runs scored and RBIs, a career batting average over .365, and at least 11 batting titles. In cases where he's no longer the record holder, it would take decades for players like Pete Rose to play in more games and collect more at bats and hits, for Rickey Henderson to score as many runs, and for Lou Brock to steal more bases.  Even Americans who are relatively unfamiliar with baseball's storied history have likely heard of Ty Cobb and can recognize him as one of the sport's all time greats, but today his legacy is better known for controversy. In his day, Cobb was cast as a villain by fans of teams he played against, but he was portrayed in flattering manners shortly after his death. Things changed when other contemporary accounts came out and cast him as a vile racist, among other personal failings, much of which can be credited to the writing of sportswriter Al Stump and the modern biopic Cobb, released in 1994. It has only been recently that modern historians have pushed back a bit on those portrayals of Cobb and attempted to depict him in a more balanced light, and even then some of them have struggled. For example, in The Journal of American Culture, writer Hunter M. Hampton noted that biographer Charles Leerhsen's Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, released in 2015, "succeeds in debunking the myth of Cobb that Stump created, but...spawned a new myth by conflating Stump's shortcomings to depict Cobb as an egalitarian".  Ty Cobb: The Life and Legacy of the Player Who Set the Most Major League Baseball Records profiles the controversial legend, both on the field and off it. You will learn about Ty Cobb like never before."

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Tsar Nicholas II and the End of the Romanov Dynasty

Tsar Nicholas II and the End of the Romanov Dynasty

Summary

The 17th century was marked by multiple pro-democratic revolutions exploding in both hemispheres. In Europe and its neighbors to the east, border-changing wars were fought incessantly. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the underlying premises of political, governmental and social structures within several European and Asian states were shaken to the core after centuries of royalty and one-family rule. By the onset of World War I, royal families began to experience a long, slow decline, with some quietly fading into the status of national symbols and others experiencing political overthrow. Some were horrified by the suddenness of a changing public, while others barely noticed. In the ensuing chaos brought about by the Great War, the last ruling family in Russia suffered the most brutal form of regime change at the hands of the Bolsheviks following a revolution in 1917, as the public outcry for individual equality mirrored the violence of the French Revolution from a prior century. The Romanov dynasty, which had enjoyed unbroken control over the throne since the early 1600s, represented a dilemma for a dissatisfied and restless workforce that nevertheless viewed the royal family through the lens of an ancient mystique. The modern Romanov saga was rife with intrigue, including the exploits of and mystique surrounding Grigory Rasputin, suspicion directed toward the German roots of Tsarina Alexandra, and fascination with the almost beatified children of the Tsar, their image buoyed by the powerful new medium of photography. When this mystical and fictitious portrait of the beloved ruler and happy peasant collided with Lenin’s Bolshevik uprising, a movement largely devoid of mercy or sentiment, the pathos of the Romanov executions was felt all the more deeply around the world, and it has remained a topic of intense inquiry well into the following century. At the same time, gossip surrounding their fates, particularly that of the lost Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, have ensured that the Romanovs remain relevant nearly a century after their downfall.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ken Teutsch
Category: History, Russia
Length: 1 hr and 35 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Tom Horn

Tom Horn

Summary

“You're the sickest looking lot of sheriffs I ever seen.” (Tom Horn) The exploration of the early American West, beginning with Lewis and Clark’s transcontinental trek at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson, was not accomplished by standing armies, the era’s new steam train technology, or by way of land grabs. These came later, but not until pathways known only to a few of the land’s indigenous people were discovered, carved out, and charted in an area stretching from the eastern Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, and the present-day borders of Mexico and Canada. Even the great survey parties, such as Colonel William Powell’s exploration of the Colorado River, came decades later. The first views of the West’s enormity by white Americans were seen by individuals of an entirely different personality, in an era that could only exist apart from its home civilization. In the span of scarcely more than a half century, the West developed from a handful of scattered fur-trapping enterprises - predominantly inhabited by males - to a region full of burgeoning rustic communities, and before the government’s official “closure” of the frontier as a lawless expanse, Western societies were essentially living apart from traditional American rule of law. What judicial structures were at work across the West were erratic, often willing to exercise extremes without evidential justification, and manipulated by major corporate interests of the day, most notably cattle. The latter 19th century brought about both the heyday and decline of that industry, but the modernized and increasingly technology-oriented societies began to bloom while many of the legendary frontier figures were still alive. In some cases, the old and new worlds were able to coexist as the lone wolves and lawmen of the frontier became obsolete as an archetype, but still a part of folklore.  Wyatt Earp was the subject of several early motion pictures and lived long enough to consult on their productions and meet actors. Iconic rodeo stars, lawmen, and notorious outlaws who made themselves famous on horseback witnessed the beginnings of the age of flight. However, the transition from a mostly lawless region to an ordered society that more closely mirrored the East Coast could be rough for some, and, perhaps, nobody struggled to adapt to societal progress more than the infamous Tom Horn.  At the close of the 19th century, Horn undertook virtually every form of employment available on the frontier before ending his career as a paid assassin for the cattle industry, anonymously ambushing cattle rustlers. According to an ongoing debate, he was either the perpetrator or scapegoat in the murder of a young boy in Iron Mountain, Wyoming, an ambush execution that occurred in the context of a raging feud between the cattle and sheep industries that broke all borders of rationality. With a raft of unanswered questions, Horn remains among the most prominent and controversial figures in the annals of frontier America, a reputation due in large part to the sensationalistic autobiography he wrote in prison: Life of Tom Horn, Government Scout and Interpreter. Tom Horn: The Controversial Life and Legacy of One of the Wild West’s Most Famous Gunslingers chronicles Horn’s time as a scout, cowboy, Pinkerton agent, and writer, and how he became one of the most famous folk legends.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 21 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Thrace

Thrace

Summary

By the seventh century BCE, Thrace was experiencing the migration of Cimmerians and Scythians. The result was that the northern Black Sea Scythians developed first on the territory of Byzantium, and trade and industrial colonization stretched from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Azov and the lower Don region. In addition, the Sarmatians and Getae on the lower Don were also involved in a profitable trade with this area. The continuing economic and political ties with the Don region and the Getae, with trade contacts reaching the Middle Don and the Southwestern Urals, even linked Byzantium with Russia prior to Constantine. From 580 to 300 BCE, Ionian colonization of the Bosporus gave rise to a number of systems that created powerful regimes to protect their strategic assets. Spartan colonists against the Scythian state from the Dniper to the Dardanelles also created a violent combination that almost constantly placed the region in chaos. At the same time, the region helped transmit Greek culture to Central Asia and southern Russia. During the last three centuries BCE, the region focused on trade with the new masters of the steppes, the Sarmatians, living in Asiatic Scythia on its border with the European Don area. The trade network near the Don region in the beginning of the third century BCE was marked by the city of Tanais. It was not until the first century BCE that the region was firmly part of the Roman Empire, and the Romans' influence also ultimately led to the spread of Judaism and Christianity.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Mark Norman
Length: 1 hr and 55 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for Thoth

Thoth

Summary

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of ancient Egyptian civilization was its inception from the ground up, as the ancient Egyptians had no prior civilization they could use as a template. In fact, ancient Egypt itself became a template for the civilizations that followed. The Greeks and the Romans were so impressed with Egyptian culture that they often attributed many attributes of their own culture - usually erroneously - to the Egyptians.  To the ancient Egyptians, as was the case with any society made up of inquiring humans, the world was a confusing and often terrifying place of destruction, death, and unexplained phenomena. In order to make sense of such an existence, they resorted to teleological stories. Giving a phenomenon a story made it less horrifying, and it also helped them make sense of the world around them. Unsurprisingly, then, the ancient Egyptian gods permeated every aspect of existence.  Baboons held a prestigious place in Egyptian religion. They were kept as sacred animals in many temples because contemporary Egyptians considered them the original religious observers, particularly with respect to the sun god Re. Ancient Egyptians took the wild baboons stretching on their hind legs, forelegs raised to the sky, to be an oration to the sun god at dawn. Furthermore, these ancient ancestors of the land of Egypt were greeted at dawn by the concatenations of the baboons nattering, which the religious-minded took to be an early-morning devotion. They even believed the baboons spoke the original language of religion, and a claim they could understand baboons was often one asserted by certain members of the priestly class. However, it is his association with the ibis that most defines Thoth’s visual imagery. Since the ancient Egyptians believed the universe arose from the swamplike waters of Nun, it was the water bird that garnered the most prestigious veneration. Birds like geese, herons, and the ibises were associated with this period of creation, and according to some beliefs, the world came about thanks to the great “honk” of a primordial goose, whose eggshell was said to be preserved in the temple of Thoth. It was believed Re created Thoth’s baboon form to be that of his “shining moon”, but his ibis form was that of a messenger between heaven and earth (although he was much more than this). Thoth: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Egyptian God Who Maintains the Universe looks at the mythology surrounding one of antiquity’s most famous deities. You will learn about Thoth like never before.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Dan Gallagher
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 39 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Yakuza and the Triads

The Yakuza and the Triads

Summary

A pack of men in sharp, tailored suits and dark sunglasses strut down the street. Their eyes are shielded, but the icy scowl on their faces is a clear sign to stay out of their paths. A few of their collars hang open, showing off a glimpse of the vibrant and intricate ink work on their chests, and presumably, their entire bodies. Tattoos are the norm these days, but then, one suddenly spots a man with a peculiarly pint-sized pinkie. Perhaps it is only a deformity, but upon a closer look, it appears that the entire upper half has been sliced cleanly off, almost as if it were done intentionally. Since the beginning of civilization, crime and injustice has existed. At the same time, gangs in all shapes and sizes have been around - from rebels, dissidents, and rogue soldiers to the average circle of miscreants loitering in alleys and behind convenience stores. In Japan, a gang of a different breed would arise - one underscored by honor, respect, family, and a code of ethics. They are the Yakuza. From running guns to white-collar crimes in cyberspace and illegal seafood, the Triads - the mafia of China - are potent figures in the world of organized crime.  Going by enigmatic names like the 14K Triad and the United Bamboo Gang, these criminal groups are enormous, with some organizations boosting memberships ranging in the tens of thousands. A powerful factor in China and throughout Asia, Triads are entrenched in society and the masters of multiple enterprises ranging from extortion, narcotics, prostitution, and white collar crime.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Length: 2 hrs and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Wounded Knee Massacre and the Sand Creek Massacre

The Wounded Knee Massacre and the Sand Creek Massacre

Summary

On the morning of November 29, 1864, Colonel John Chivington led 700 militiamen in a surprise attack against Cheyenne leader Black Kettle's camp at Sand Creek. Chivington was a fire and brimstone Methodist minister who had publicly advocated indiscriminately killing Native American children because "nits makes lice." Warning his men ahead of battle, Chivington stated, "Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! I have come to kill Indians and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God's heaven to kill Indians!" According to Cheyenne oral tradition and several surviving soldiers' accounts, as soon as Black Kettle saw Chivington's men coming, he raised an American flag on a pole and waved it back and forth calling out that his Wutapai band was not resisting. Ignoring his cries for mercy, the soldiers commenced firing, cutting down an estimated 70-200 Cheyenne, about two-thirds of whom were women and children. The Cheyenne claimed that soldiers shot babies in the head at point-blank range, raped Cheyenne women, and scalped dead warriors. The following morning, Army Lieutenant James Connor, who had refused to follow Chivington's orders, visited the scene of the massacre and reported, "In going over the battleground the next day I did not see a body of man, woman, or child but was scalped, and in many instances their bodies were mutilated in the most horrible manner - men, women, and children's privates cut out... I heard one man say he cut out a woman's private parts and had them for exhibition on a stick... I also heard of numerous instances in which men had cut out the private parts of females and stretched them over saddle-bows and wore them over their hats while riding in the ranks."

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Larson
Category: History, Americas
Length: 3 hrs and 18 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The World's Greatest Generals

The World's Greatest Generals

Summary

"I got there first with the most men." (Nathan Bedford Forrest)  Despite the fact that the Civil War was fought nearly 150 years ago, it remains a polarizing topic for the country to this day. And nowhere is this more evident than in the life and legacy of Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the war's most controversial soldier.  When the war broke out, Forrest enlisted in the army and was instructed to raise a battalion of cavalry. A self-made man with no formal military training, Forrest spent the entire war fighting in the Western theater, becoming the only individual in the war to rise from the rank of private to lieutenant general. By the end of the war, Forrest was known throughout the South as the "Wizard of the Saddle", and anecdotes of his prowess in battle were legendary. In addition to being injured multiple times in battle, Forrest has been credited with having killed 30 Union soldiers in combat and having 29 horses shot out from under him.  History has properly accorded Forrest his place as one of the most courageous soldiers of the Civil War, and he attained a number of command successes in the Western theater of the war. But Forrest was also at the head of Confederate troops accused of massacring a Union garrison comprised mostly of Black soldiers at Fort Pillow, and he was also a prominent slave trader, an overt racist, and likely a leader of the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War. When he died in 1877, in part due to various war wounds, he was the nation's most notorious unreconstructed rebel. John E. Stanchack, an editor of the Civil War Times Illustrated, aptly noted in 1993, "Everything...about [Forrest] is bent to fit some political or intellectual agenda." 

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 26 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The World's Greatest Civilizations: The History and Culture of the Inca

The World's Greatest Civilizations: The History and Culture of the Inca

Summary

During the Age of Exploration, Native American tribes fell victim to European conquerors seeking legendary cities made of gold and other riches, attempts that were often being made in vain. And yet, of all the empires that were conquered across the continent, the one that continues to be most intimately associated with legends of gold and hidden riches is the Inca Empire. The Inca Empire, which flourished in modern day Peru and along the west coast of South America, was the largest Native American empire in pre-Columbian America until Pizarro and the Spanish conquistadors conquered them in the 16th century. What ultimately sealed their doom was the rumor that huge amounts of gold were available in regions south of the Andes Mountains. The culture and legacy of the Inca Empire has continued to endure throughout the centuries in both Europe and South America, due in no small part to the fact they were one of the most advanced and sophisticated cultures on the continent. Their religion, organization, and laws were effectively centralized and tied to the rulers of the empire, and their military mobilization would have made the ancient Spartans proud. After the Spanish conquest, several rebellions in the area attempted to reestablish the proud Inca Empire over the next two centuries, all while famous Europeans like Voltaire glorified the Inca Empire in optimistic artistic portrayals. The mystique and aura of the Inca continue to fascinate the world today, and nowhere is this more prominent than at Machu Picchu, which was "lost" for over 300 years and remains the subject of intense debate among historians. The World's Greatest Civilizations: The History and Culture of the Inca comprehensively covers the culture and history of pre-Columbian America's largest empire.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Neal Arango
Category: History, World
Length: 49 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Wizard of the Saddle

The Wizard of the Saddle

Summary

"I got there first with the most men." (Nathan Bedford Forrest)  Despite the fact that the Civil War was fought nearly 150 years ago, it remains a polarizing topic for the country to this day. And nowhere is this more evident than in the life and legacy of Confederate lieutenant general Nathan Bedford Forrest, the war's most controversial soldier.  When the war broke out, Forrest enlisted in the army and was instructed to raise a battalion of cavalry. A self-made man with no formal military training, Forrest spent the entire war fighting in the Western theater, becoming the only individual in the war to rise from the rank of private to lieutenant general. By the end of the war, Forrest was known throughout the South as the "wizard of the saddle", and anecdotes of his prowess in battle were legendary. In addition to being injured multiple times in battle, Forrest has been credited with having killed 30 Union soldiers in combat and having 29 horses shot out from under him. Northerners weren't the only ones who felt his wrath; Forrest famously feuded with several commanding officers and notoriously killed an artillery commander in his unit after a verbal confrontation spiraled out of control.  History has properly accorded Forrest his place as one of the most courageous soldiers of the Civil War, and Forrest attained a number of command successes in the Western theater of the war. But Forrest was also at the head of Confederate troops accused of massacring a Union garrison comprised mostly of Black soldiers at Fort Pillow, and he was also a prominent slave trader, an overt racist, and likely a leader of the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War. 

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 2 hrs and 24 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Weird Middle Ages

The Weird Middle Ages

Summary

In the time period between the fall of Rome and the spread of the Renaissance across the European continent, many of today’s European nations were formed. The Catholic Church rose to great prominence. Some of history’s most famous wars occurred. And a social class system was instituted that lasted over 1,000 years.  A lot of activity took place during a period frequently labeled derogatorily as the “Dark Ages”, and while that period of time is mostly referred to as the “Middle Ages” instead of the Dark Ages today, it has still retained the stigma of being a sort of lost period of time in which Western civilization made no worthwhile progress after the advances of the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome. In reality, this oversimplification of the Middle Ages overlooks the progress made in the studies of sciences and philosophy, especially during the High Middle Ages. It also ignores the fact that one of the most important inventions of the last millennium was created in Germany during the Late Middle Ages, the printing press, which allowed the Renaissance to move across the continent and help position Western Europe as the wealthiest region in the world. If anything, the one aspect of the Middle Ages that has been romanticized is medieval warfare. Indeed, the Middle Ages have long sparked people’s imaginations, thanks to imagery of armored knights battling on horseback and armies of men trying to breach the walls of formidable castles.  What is generally forgotten is that medieval warfare was constantly adapting to the times as leaders adopted new techniques and technology, and common infantry became increasingly important throughout the period. Starting around 1000 CE, there was a gradual consolidation of power in the region after the fragmentation of the Early Middle Ages, and it brought about the rise of more centralized states that could field large armies. The Normans, one of the first groups to do this, were notable for their discipline and organization, and it’s little surprise that they were the last foreigners to successfully invade Britain under William the Conqueror in the mid-11th century. The Middle Ages have always gripped people’s imaginations, and knights, fair ladies, castles, jousting, and feasts make for a pleasant picture, but the reality was quite different. People were dirty, disease was rife, war was cruel, and life was short. People died in bizarre ways, frequently insisted they saw visions in the sky, and invented marvelous devices seemingly way before their time. British writer L.P. Hartley famously wrote, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Europe in the Middle Ages was more like a different planet. The Weird Middle Ages: A Collection of Mysterious Stories, Odd Customs, and Strange Superstitions from Medieval Times includes all kinds of tales about people and events during the era.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Kelly McGee
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 43 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Warsaw Uprising of 1944

The Warsaw Uprising of 1944

Summary

After a brief revival following World War I, during which it successfully defeated a Soviet attempt to invade in an effort to carry "international revolution" into Germany and Central Europe, Poland once again fell victim to its neighbors in 1939. Adolf Hitler's Third Reich and Josef Stalin's USSR collaborated in the conquest and then split Poland between them. The Germans instituted oppressive rule in their portion of Poland, executing some 7,000 people on political grounds and imprisoning thousands of others. One and a half million Poles became forced laborers in Germany, and though seldom noted, the Soviets applied equally brutal methods in their sector, executing 22,000 Polish officers at the Katyn Forest Massacre. NKVD death squads murdered 40,000 civilians and deported 1.4 million people to Siberia and other remote areas, from which a sizable percentage never returned alive. As the Soviets began to push the Germans back west, the Red Army plunged headlong into Poland in late June 1944, on the heels of German Army Group Center's retreating forces. The British urged the AK to cooperate with the Soviets, but the Russians wanted Poland and treated the Resistance as enemy partisans. The NKVD arrested AK members by the thousands, executing their leaders out of hand. By late July the Polish government in exile thought it was time to order the AK to lead an uprising in Warsaw. The sight of German units retreating and Soviet tanks seen on July 31 very close to the city prompted the order to openly retake Poland's capital for the nation. Unfortunately it was a decision also predicated on a naively optimistic faith in Anglo-American support. As a result the Poles fought bravely but futilely in August and September against the Nazis, and the Nazis, as they so often did, mercilessly destroyed the city causing the trouble. Heinrich Himmler, the head of the notorious SS, told his men, "The city must completely disappear from the surface of the earth and serve only as a transport station for the Wehrmacht. No stone can remain standing. Every building must be razed to its foundation." In fact the Germans had intended to destroy Warsaw from the beginning of the war, and they were terribly successful. One Allied pilot recalled, "There was no difficulty in finding Warsaw. It was visible from 100 kilometers away. The city was in flames, but with so many huge fires burning it was almost impossible to pick up the target marker flares." It's estimated that up to 200,000 Poles were killed in the process, and to top it all off, the Soviets arrested and executed countless more after the Nazis were finally gone.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: David Hubbard
Category: History, Military
Length: 2 hrs and 1 min
Available on Audible
Cover art for The War of the Spanish Succession

The War of the Spanish Succession

Summary

The War of the Spanish Succession, fought at the beginning of the 18th century, was the last major war engaged in by French King Louis XIV, the legendary Sun King, and it was also the most famous of all military conflicts during his reign. While the length and the scope of the conflict are the primary reasons why people have given so much attention to it, another reason for its historical popularity is, no doubt, the fact that its outcome humbled the French king, to the delight of his many critics. He was, after all, the one who had given himself the lofty nickname of “the Sun King". During this lengthy European conflict, King Louis XIV of the Bourbon dynasty was pitted against Emperor Leopold of the Habsburg Dynasty of Austria as well as Leopold’s British and Dutch Allies. Lasting 13 years, the war spread from France and Austria to involve countries across the globe. All of it centered on what would become of Spain’s massive empire after the death of King Carlos II, who had no obvious successor to his crown. As an only child who had no children himself, Carlos II had been sickly his entire life, but as enfeebled as he was, he did preside over a rich empire that spread all the way across the Iberian Peninsula and included European territories in Italy and the Low Countries, land in North Africa, North and South America, and even as far away as the Philippines. Such an immense and wealthy empire needed a ruler, and as King Carlos II aged and weakened, everyone wanted to know who that would be.  Considering the age-old rivalry between the kingdom of France and the Austrian Empire, it is no surprise that those two powers both set their sights on the Spanish throne. As each side started to advance a claim that they were the legitimate heir to the throne, the initial idea across the continent was to find a peaceable solution that would manage to avoid a full-blown conflict. At the end of the 17th century, it seemed as though diplomacy would prevail and that King Louis XIV would emerge victorious, but the prideful king made some unexpected mistakes that pushed the continent and then the globe into a lengthy war. Indeed, the War of the Spanish Succession ended up being one of the largest wars the world had ever seen, with fighting taking place all across Western Europe, southern Germany, the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, a significant portion of the Italian Peninsula, and even Scotland, the West Indies, and French Canada. Despite the massive scope of the conflict and the magnitude of the stakes, historians mostly concur that the War of the Spanish Succession was fought in a civilized manner, such that even prisoners of war were well treated, generally speaking. The generals in command on each side actually knew one another, counting some of their “enemies” as friends and even family. When the war finally came to an end, the Spanish people found themselves happy with the king who declared victory, a satisfactory solution after 13 bloody and expensive years. The War of the Spanish Succession: The History of the Conflict Between the Bourbons and Habsburgs That Engulfed Europe looks at the events that brought about the war, the major battles, and the results.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Voyager Program

The Voyager Program

Summary

Today, the Space Race is widely viewed poignantly and fondly as a race to the Moon that culminated with Apollo 11 “winning” the race for the United States. In fact, it encompassed a much broader range of competition between the Soviet Union and the United States that affected everything from military technology to successfully launching satellites that could land on Mars or orbit other planets in the Solar System. Moreover, the notion that America “won” the Space Race at the end of the 1960s overlooks just how competitive the Space Race actually was in launching people into orbit as well as the major contributions the Space Race influenced in leading to today’s International Space Station and continued space exploration.

Although Apollo 11’s successful mission to the Moon is seen as the culmination of the Space Race and the Apollo program remains NASA’s most famous, one of the space agency’s most successful endeavors came about a decade later. In 1977, two spacecraft were launched from Earth to explore the outer Solar System, and incredibly, the now-ancient technology from the 1970s is still working, sending daily reports back to the planet that sent the two robotic envoys on their way, over 40 years ago.

Voyager 1 and 2 have done far more than accomplish their original missions. In fact, they are now exploring interstellar space, far beyond the outer planets, in the cold wasteland between the stars. Each spacecraft carries a copy of a golden record which contains an introduction to Earth, should some alien civilization happen to encounter either Voyager 1 or Voyager 2. In the first Star Trek movie, writers imagined just that, creating a story of a Voyager spacecraft being captured and adapted for its own uses. 

Whatever happens to these emissaries from Earth, they have delivered a wealth of data about the outer Solar System, and Voyager 2 remains the only probe to travel to Neptune and Uranus. 

The Voyager Program: The History and Legacy of NASA’s First Probes That Traveled to the Outer Solar System examines the origins behind the missions, the space probes involved, and the historic results.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 24 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Voice of Libertarians: The Life and Legacy of Ayn Rand

The Voice of Libertarians: The Life and Legacy of Ayn Rand

Summary

"Government 'help' to business is just as disastrous as government persecution.... The only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off." (Ayn Rand) Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, to Jewish parents on February 2, 1905, as Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, and she lived through the turbulence and transformation of early 20th-century Russia. Her first exposure to reading came after she taught herself how to read at age six, and she decided at nine years old to become a writer after a chance encounter with the books of Victor Hugo, the writer she admired most. The seminal events in the young would-be writer's life came just a few years later, when she witnessed firsthand the Bolshevik Revolution and the ultimate Communist victory as a teenager. Rand's experience with the maelstrom of this revolutionary zeal and cultural breakdown greatly contributed to the formation of Rand's philosophy of objectivism, individualism, and antireligious ideas. During her last year of high school, she was introduced to the history of the United States and immediately decided to make America her model of what an ideal society should look like. Rand came to the United States as a young woman for a visit in 1925, and, as fate would have it, she never returned to Russia. In middle age Rand continued trying to write in some capacity as a profession, but she had also formed her personal philosophy of integrating ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics, and sexuality into what came to be called objectivism, or, as she called it, "a philosophy for living on earth".

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 29 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Varangian Guard

The Varangian Guard

Summary

The Byzantine Empire was the heir to two great cultures that cradled and nurtured European civilization: Greece and Rome. Constantinople, now called Istanbul, became a center of power, culture, trade, and technology poised on the edges of Europe and Asia, and its influence was felt not only throughout Europe but the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, and the Far East. Coins dating from the reign of Emperor Justinian I (r.527-565) have been found in southern India, and Chinese records show that the “Fulin”, as the Chinese named the Byzantines, were received at court as early as 643 CE. For a thousand years, the Byzantine Empire protected Europe from the Islamic Arab Empire, allowing it to pursue its own destiny. Finally, Byzantium was a polyglot society in which a multitude of ethnic groups lived under the emperor prizing peace above war, an inspiration surely for the modern age when divisive nationalism threatens to dominate society once more. Despite all this, the Byzantine Empire is often treated as a medieval oddity, an absolute state stunted by a myopic religion, a corrupt, labyrinthine bureaucracy, and an inability to adapt to change. In truth, none of these judgments bear any serious scrutiny - Byzantium was a strong, organized, highly effective, and adaptable civilization for most of its long history. It owed its success in no small part to its military, which, in contrast to the feudal armies of Western Europe and the tribally based forces of the Middle East, operated with a high level of discipline, strategic prowess, efficiency, and organization. At the same time, the Byzantines relied heavily on mercenaries, and the Hetairoi or foreign soldiers formed an important and often vital component of the army. The ability to call upon warriors from many nations demonstrated the power and wealth of the emperor, so they were recruited as much for prestige as for military utility. The most famous of the foreign units was without question the Varangian Guard. The Varangians came from the land in Eastern Europe known in the Middle Ages as Rus, which is now part of modern Russia and Ukraine. They were descendants of Viking warriors from Sweden who came to rule the waterways and population of Russia. Varangian mercenaries were fighting for the Byzantines by the 10th century, and in 988 they formed a permanent elite guard for the emperor. They took an oath of allegiance to him and served directly under the Acolyte or Akolouthos, who was usually of Byzantine origin. They also assumed responsibilities for the security of Constantinople. They served in battles outside the capital, but usually only when necessity called for it. The Varangian Guard’s primary duty was always to protect the emperor, and inevitably, the Varangians became a political force, taking part in the numerous palace coups. They displayed a fierce devotion not necessarily to the emperor but to the throne itself - for example, when Emperor Nicephorus II was murdered by John I Tzimiskes in 969, the Varangian Guard immediately pledged its allegiance to the usurper. The Varangian Guard consisted of heavily armored infantry bearing shields, heavy swords, and Norse battle axes, either single-bladed or double-bladed. They were amongst the fiercest and most feared military units in Christendom, which made the unit an attractive station for many soldiers of fortune came to Constantinople hoping to pursue lucrative military careers in the service of the Byzantine emperors. Those from the West were called at various times Frankoi, (Franks), Latinoi (Latins, i.e. Latin Rite Christians), or Normans. Frankish knights were often hired to combat the Turks in the 11th century.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 31 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings

Summary

Africa gave rise to the first humans, and Egypt probably gave rise to the first great civilizations, which continue to fascinate modern societies across the globe nearly 5,000 years later. From the Library and Lighthouse of Alexandria to the Great Pyramid at Giza, the ancient Egyptians produced several wonders of the world, revolutionized architecture and construction, created some of the world's first systems of mathematics and medicine, and established language and art that spread across the known world. With world-famous leaders like King Tut and Cleopatra, it's no wonder that today's world has so many Egyptologists. Given the abundance of funerary artifacts that have been found within the sands of Egypt, it sometimes seems as though the ancient Egyptians were more concerned with the matters of the afterlife than they were with matters of the life they experienced from day to day. One of the most abundant sources of these funerary artifacts is the Valley of the Kings, a royal necropolis located on the west bank of the Nile at Thebes. Here, pharaohs of the New Kingdom Period were buried in elaborate, treasure-filled tombs that were cut deep into the cliffs that walled the Nile Valley. In many of the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings, intricate reliefs were painted on the walls that depicted the sun god and the dead king on their nightly journey through the underworld, which was known in Egyptian as the Duat (Wilkinson 2003, 82). These scenes, which vary slightly from tomb to tomb, are known collectively by modern scholars as The Book of Gates because they depict the sun god’s journey through 12 gates or pylons, one for each hour of the night (Wilkinson 2003, 81). As the sun god and the dead king travel through the night, they have to contend with various demons and a giant snake known as Apophis (Lesko 1991, 119). The Egyptians believed this journey was cyclical, as they viewed time itself, so it took place daily (Lesko 1991, 119). Though these tombs have been extensively plundered, they still stand as gateways to the afterlife that provide a murky window into the past of a fascinating civilization. Most importantly, the relatively untouched tomb of the young King Tutankhamun offered clear insight. Many of the objects that were discovered in Tutankhamun’s tomb were clearly made specifically for him and his burial, such as the coffins, funerary masks, canopic equipment and statues. Other objects, such as the furniture, clothing, and chariots, were obviously items that had been used during Tutankhamun’s lifetime. The motifs found upon many of his possessions depicted him in triumph over his enemies. For example, a painted wooden chest bears a fine example of such a scene; the king is shown in his chariot, followed by his troops, attacking a group of Nubians. Scenes depicting aggression and triumph over Egypt's enemies by Egypt's king are classical examples of Egyptian kingship.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The United States Colored Troops

The United States Colored Troops

Summary

After the Battle of Fort Sumter made clear that there would be war between the North and South, support for both the Union and Confederacy rose. Two days after the surrender of the fort, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call-to-arms asking for 75,000 volunteers, a request that would rely on Northern states to organize and train their men. While most Americans had hoped to avert war, many abolitionists had come to view war as inevitable, and the news from Fort Sumter suggested a chance to rectify the country's original sin through the defeat of the South. Though abolitionists were a minority that was mostly confined to New England and often branded as radicals, they had long sought to end slavery and secure basic civil rights for blacks. One of the most famous abolitionists, the escaped slave Frederick Douglass, realized immediately what kind of opportunity the Civil War presented to all blacks, whether they were slaves or free: "Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, US, let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship."

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Military
Length: 2 hrs and 31 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Unification of Italy: The History of the Risorgimento and the Conflicts that Unified the Italian Nation

The Unification of Italy: The History of the Risorgimento and the Conflicts that Unified the Italian Nation

Summary

In the 18th century, Italy was still divided into smaller states, but differently than during medieval times when the political entities were independent and were flourishing economic and cultural centers almost unrivaled in Europe. During the 18th century, all of them were submitted, in one way or another, to one of the greater hegemonic powers. This process of conquest and submission began during the early 16th century, when France was called on by the Duke Milan to intervene in his favor and from there never stopped. Starting from the northwest, the kingdom of Sardinia was controlling the Alpine western area and the island from which it took its name and ruled by the Savoy family. The kingdom of Sardinia was the youngest political entity in Italy and, possibly because of that, the strongest and most independent. Milan was found dominating part of the central plane, Venice was in control of the east, and Genova was dominating the coastal area south of the kingdom of Sardinia. Central Italy was ruled by the Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States, while the south was united under the kingdom of Sicily. In 1847, the Austrian Chancellor Klement von Metternich referred to Italy as merely a “geographical expression,” and to some extent, he was not far off the mark. The inhabitants did not speak Italian; only a literate few wrote in the Italian of Dante and of Machiavelli, and a mere estimated two and a half percent spoke the language. The rest spoke their own regional dialects, which were so distinct from one another as to be incomprehensible from town to town. Similarly, most future Italian citizens knew nothing of the history of the peninsula, but instead learned of their own local traditions and histories. The events of 1848-1849 began to pull the peninsula together, however. In January 1848, Sicily had a major revolution, which provoked widespread uprisings and riots, after which the kingdoms of Sardinia, the Two Sicilies, the Papal States and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany all were granted constitutions. In February, the Pope fled Rome and a three-month long Republic was declared, headed by Giuseppe Mazzini. In March, a revolution in Venice led to the declaration of a republic. In April, Milan also rebelled and became a republic. Soon, the Austrian government clamped down again on the peninsula with such intensity that not even the most optimistic would have been able to fathom the nationalist Risorgimento movement would unify Italy a little more than a decade later. The Unification of Italy: The History of the Risorgimento and the Conflicts that Unified the Italian Nation chronicles the turbulent events and wars that unified Italy, and the struggle to maintain the new nation. You will learn about Italian unification like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 2 hrs and 40 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Ultimate Pirate Collection

The Ultimate Pirate Collection

Summary

Examines the lives, legends and legacies of 11 of history's most famous pirates, including Blackbeard, Francis Drake, Captain Kidd, Captain Morgan, Grace O'Malley, Black Bart, Calico Jack, Anne Bonny, Mary Read, Henry Every and Howell Davis. Explains how the myths and legends of pirates, like Blackbeard, created the instantly recognizable pirate stereotypes of today. Includes contemporary accounts of the pirates written by Captain Charles Johnson. The people who have lived outside the boundaries of normal societies and refused to play by the rules have long fascinated the world, and nowhere is this more evident than the continuing interest in the pirates of centuries past. As the subjects of books, movies, and even theme park rides, people continue to let their imaginations go when it comes to pirates, with buried treasure, parrots, and walking the plank all ingrained in pop culture's perception of them. While there is no question that the myths and legends surrounding history's most famous pirates are colorful, in some instances their actual lives made for even better stories. Before the golden age of piracy, men and women like Sir Francis Drake and Grace O'Malley straddled the line between pirate and privateer, with Drake being knighted for fighting the Spanish and O'Malley representing many things to the Irish, including queen, legend, pirate, and folk hero. While Captain Morgan's ruthless piracy has actually been forgotten due to his association with the spiced rum company using his name, Captain William Kidd insisted he wasn't a pirate at all, and his entire reputation is based on the most notorious trial in the history of piracy. "The golden age of piracy" generally refers to the era when history's most famous pirates roamed the seas of the West Indies from 1670-1720.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 11 hrs and 11 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Tuskegee Airmen

The Tuskegee Airmen

Summary

The United States has no shortage of famous military units, from the Civil War's Iron Brigade to the 101st Airborne, but one would be hard pressed to find one that had to go through as many hardships off the field as the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American fighter pilots who overcame Jim Crow at home and official segregation in the military to serve their country in the final years of World War II. In fact, it required a concerted effort by groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the extreme circumstances brought about by World War II that the military eventually decided to establish the "Tuskegee Experiment". The black crews trained at Tuskegee before being sent overseas, and even then, they faced discrimination from those who didn't trust them to do more than escort bombers flown by white pilots.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Kenneth Ray
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 24 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Tulsa Massacre of 1921

The Tulsa Massacre of 1921

Summary

It all began on Memorial Day, May 31, 1921. Around or after 4:00 p.m. that day, a clerk at Renberg’s clothing store on the first floor of the Drexel Building in Tulsa heard a woman scream. Turning in the direction of the scream, he saw a young black man running from the building. Going to the elevator, the clerk found the white elevator operator, 17-year-old Sarah Page, crying and distraught. The clerk concluded that she had been assaulted by the black man he saw running a few moments earlier and called the police. Those facts are just about the only things people agree on when it comes to the riot in Tulsa in 1921. By the time the unrest ended, an unknown number of Tulsa’s black citizens were dead, over 800 people were injured, and what had been the wealthiest black community in the United States had been laid to waste. In the days after the riot, a group formed to work on rebuilding the Greenwood neighborhood, which had been all but destroyed. The former mayor of Tulsa, Judge J. Martin, declared, “Tulsa can only redeem herself from the country-wide shame and humiliation into which she is today plunged by complete restitution and rehabilitation of the destroyed black belt. The rest of the United States must know that the real citizenship of Tulsa weeps at this unspeakable crime and will make good the damage, so far as it can be done, to the last penny.” However, financial assistance would be slow in coming, a jury would find that black mobs were responsible for the damage, and not a single person was ever convicted as a result of the riot. Indeed, given that racist violence directed at blacks was the norm in the Jim Crow South, and accusations of black teens or adults violating young white girls were often accepted without evidence, people barely batted an eye at the damage wrought by the riot, which would remain largely overlooked for almost 70 years. Only in the last two decades have Oklahomans reckoned with this shameful episode in their history.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Stephen Platt
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 16 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Triassic Period

The Triassic Period

Summary

Scientists have long attempted to understand Earth’s past, and in service to that effort, they have divided the world’s history into eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages. For example, the current eon is called the Phanerozoic, which means “visible life”. This is the eon in which multi-cellular life has evolved and thrived. Before this, life was microscopic (single cell). The Phanerozoic eon is divided into 3 eras - Paleozoic (“old life”), Mesozoic (“middle life”) and Cenozoic (“new life”). From there, the Mesozoic era is divided into 3 periods - Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. Before the Triassic, primitive life had built up in the oceans and seas, and some lifeforms finally had crawled onto land during the Paleozoic era. With that, life had become well established, but then came the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, the worst extinction event in the history of the planet. At the end of the Triassic, another extinction event cleared the way for dinosaurs to become the dominant set of species in the Jurassic. Though the Triassic does not have as interesting a list of creatures as those in the Jurassic and Cretaceous, such as Tyranosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, Pterodactyls, Brontosaurus, and the like, the life which reclaimed the Earth and then thrived during this period was no less important. Life during the Triassic spent nearly 60 percent of its time recovering from the Permian-Triassic extinction event, roughly 30 million years. What had been built up was then slammed by nature, effectively clearing the board once more for new species to take over. The Triassic Period: The History and Legacy of the Geologic Era that Witnessed the Rise of Dinosaurs looks at the development of the era, the extinction events that preceded it, and how dinosaurs began to evolve in the Late Triassic. You will learn about the Triassic Period like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Length: 1 hr and 11 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Summary

"Word had spread through the East Side, by some magic of terror, that the plant of the Triangle Waist Company was on fire and that several hundred workers were trapped. Horrified and helpless, the crowds - I among them - looked up at the burning building, saw girl after girl appear at the reddened windows, pause for a terrified moment, and then leap to the pavement below, to land as mangled, bloody pulp. This went on for what seemed a ghastly eternity. Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street. Life nets held by the firemen were torn by the impact of the falling bodies. The emotions of the crowd were indescribable. Women were hysterical, scores fainted; men wept as, in paroxysms of frenzy, they hurled themselves against the police lines." (Louis Waldman, a New York State Assemblyman) During the afternoon of March 25, 1911, shortly before workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in the Asch Building left for the day, a fire broke out in a scrap bin on the eighth floor of the building. Fires were nothing new in such situations, and the industrial journal The Insurance Monitor noted that garment factories were, "[F]airly saturated with moral hazard." On this particular day, the spread of the fire to the main staircase made it impossible for workers still stuck on the ninth and 10th floors to escape. Furthermore, without today's labor regulations in place, an advanced warning of the fire never even made it to the ninth floor, despite the fire starting just one floor below, and the door to the only other stairway had been locked.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Todd Mansfield
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Transatlantic Slave Trade: The History and Legacy of the System that Brought Slaves to the New World

The Transatlantic Slave Trade: The History and Legacy of the System that Brought Slaves to the New World

Summary

"The deck, that is the floor of their rooms, was so covered with the blood and mucus which had proceeded from them in consequence of the flux, that it resembled a slaughter-house. It is not in the power of the human imagination to picture a situation more dreadful or disgusting. Numbers of the slaves having fainted, they were carried upon deck where several of them died and the rest with great difficulty were restored. It had nearly proved fatal to me also." - Dr. Alexander Falconbridge, an 18th century British surgeon The sail linked the continents of Africa and America, and thus it was also the sail that facilitated the greatest involuntary human migration of all time. There can be no doubt that even though large numbers of indigenous Africans were liable, it was European ingenuity and greed that fundamentally drove the industrialization of the Transatlantic slave trade in response to massive new market demands created by their equally ruthless exploitation of the Americas. In time, the Atlantic slave trade provided for the labor requirements of the emerging plantation economies of the New World. It was a specific, dedicated and industrial enterprise wherein huge profits were at stake. It existed without sentimentality, without history, and without tradition, and it was only outlawed once the advances of the industrial revolution had created alternative sources of energy for agricultural production.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: David Otey
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 9 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Trail of Tears

The Trail of Tears

Summary

"I fought through the War Between the States and have seen many men shot, but the Cherokee Removal was the cruelest work I ever knew." - Georgia soldier on the Trail of Tears The "Five Civilized Tribes" are among the best known Native American groups in American history, and they were even celebrated by contemporary Americans for their abilities to adapt to white culture. But tragically, they are also well known tribes due to the trials and tribulations they suffered by being forcibly moved west along the "Trail of Tears". Though the Trail of Tears applied to several different tribes, it is most commonly associated today with the Cherokee. The Cherokee began the process of assimilation into European America very early, even before the establishment of the Unites States, but it is unclear what benefits that brought the tribe. Throughout the colonial period and after the American Revolution, the Cherokee struggled to satisfy the whims and desires of American government officials and settlers, often suffering injustices after complying with their desires. Nevertheless, the Cherokee continued to endure, and after being pushed west, they rose from humble origins as refugees new to the southeastern United States to build themselves back up into a powerhouse both economically and militarily. The Cherokee ultimately became the first people of non-European descent to become U.S. citizens en masse, and today the Cherokee Nation is the largest federally recognized tribe in the United States, boasting over 300,000 members.

©2013 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Dave Wright
Category: History, Americas
Length: 2 hrs and 47 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Three Kingdoms of Ancient China

The Three Kingdoms of Ancient China

Summary

One of the most turbulent and romanticized eras in ancient Chinese history is that of the three kingdoms period. During the third century AD in China, warlords battled for supremacy. This turbulent and bloody era is known as the three kingdoms period. It's also one of the most romanticized eras in Chinese history; heroes and villains like Cao Cao, Liu Bei, and Zhuge Liang have served has inspiration for poetry, novels, opera, and song in China. Perhaps the most celebrated is Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, considered a masterpiece of Chinese literature. In The Three Kingdoms of Ancient China, you'll learn about the events before and after the three kingdoms period and its most famous characters.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Category: History, Asia
Length: 50 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers

Summary

In the second decade of the 19th century, the precarious state of America's transatlantic relationships began to stabilize. The War of 1812 ended, and the border status with Canada grew somewhat more settled. Turning its efforts toward the taming of an unwelcoming West, the young country faced new and less well-understood enemies. These included a vast array of indigenous Native American tribes, a general lawlessness roaming free from an absence of social protections, and Mexico's historical claims on a large swath of the westernmost portions of the continent.  The contested ownership of Texas produced hostility over the following decades in what is now the 28th American state. The threat of relocating the border with Mexico far to the south at the Rio Grande River, was seen as an American land grab of enormous proportions. The Comanche, and other large tribes of the region, forced out by farmed acreage and barbed wire fence, viewed the onslaught of American settlement in much the same way. Within these cultural and legal collisions, an outlaw culture took advantage of the structural void. The creation of the Texas Rangers, as a response to Indian retaliations and renegade assaults on the banking and transportation systems, was born of a need to react quickly. Special skills were required, and unlike the military, resourcefulness and improvisatory thinking were prized, alongside obedience to orders. Author Mike Cox described the ideal Texas Ranger as one who is "able to handle any situation without definite instruction from his commanding officer."  It is this resourcefulness, a colorful and non-conformist personality, and a sense of vigilantism that has lent the Texas Rangers a special charisma since their formation. From 19th-century newspaper articles and short stories through early films, the legend of this paramilitary organization has never been without a willing audience. The Ranger’s Bride was released in 1901, followed by The Border Ranger, and The Ranger and His Horse, over the next four years. Radio of the 1940s created a sensation with its treatment of the old Lone Ranger story. The tale continued to bloom on television with Clayton Moore as the Ranger and Jay Silverheels as his companion, Tonto. Karate champion, Chuck Norris, continued the trend with his serial titled, Walker, Texas Ranger, employing the name of a famous figure from the Rangers’ early years. Uniformly idealized, the true nature of the organization could not be accurately captured by entertainment media. The Texas Rangers: The History and Legacy of the West’s Most Famous Law Enforcement Agency, chronicles the remarkable story of the Rangers and their place in fact, legend, and lore. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Texas Rangers like never before. 

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 21 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Teutonic Knights

The Teutonic Knights

Summary

As the dissipating fog gave way to an unnerving sight, the mass of frightening figures clad head to toe in gleaming armor would have been enough to take anyone's breath away. Some of them were mounted on the backs of handsome stallions, while others leaned forward with squared shoulders, ready to attack. In one swift motion, the men unsheathe their swords and raise it over their heads, their weapons winking as the glare of the sunlight bounces off the blade. To the somewhat trained eye, these warriors in Norman-inspired gear would have appeared to be one of the Crusader forces, but it is that bold black cross painted across their chests and shields that give them away. These men were none other than the fabled Teutonic Knights. The knights of the Teutonic Order have since been compared to the surreal creature that appeared to the biblical Ezekiel, one that bore two faces - one of a man's, and one of a lion's. The human side of the creature is said to symbolize the order's charity, whereas the lion was a metaphor for its valor and gallant spirit, which they relied on to vanquish the heathens of the world.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Mark Norman
Length: 1 hr and 33 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Terracotta Army

The Terracotta Army

Summary

"The terracotta army was a one-off creation, original in both concept and execution, unmentioned in any source, no sooner buried than destroyed and forgotten. ...Why so realistic? Why this many? Why full-size? Why clay? ...The initial inspiration was the need to duplicate a new force, of which the main element was infantry, conscripted from the emperor's newly acquired masses of peasants, and protected not with custom-made armor but with scales of leather and simple, standardized weapons. It was the combination of archers, infantry and charioteers, this particular balance between officers and men, that had enabled the First Emperor to unify the nation." - John Man, The Terracotta Army: China's First Emperor and the Birth of a Nation China has always fascinated outsiders, much in the same way that distant light fascinates someone looking down a dark road. It is both familiar and mysterious, ancient and new, and fully understanding it seems to always remain just out of reach. From the Great Wall to the ancient teachings of Confucius, China's natural and man-made wonders have been topics of interest among Westerners since the Middle Ages and the pursuit of trade routes both by land and sea, amazing Marco Polo and 19th century British expeditions in similar ways despite the passage of several centuries between them. For these reasons, it comes as little surprise that people across the world were excited when it was revealed in 1974 that archaeologists had uncovered a new and amazing find: an underground army consisting of thousands of clay soldiers, still standing at their posts despite being over 2,000 years old.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Curt Simmons
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 23 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Temple of Solomon: The History of Jerusalem's First Jewish Temple

The Temple of Solomon: The History of Jerusalem's First Jewish Temple

Summary

"In the 480th year after the Israelites came out of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, the second month, he began to build the temple of the Lord." (1 Kings 6:1) "In the year that king Uzziah died. I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and lifted up, and his train filled the hekhal (sanctuary)." (Isaiah 6:1) There was not any one entity more central to the Yahwistic Judean religion during the monarchy than the temple of Solomon. It symbolized the presence of YHWH in the nation, as well as his enduring protection of the nation and the Davidic royal throne. Judean worshippers directed their prayers toward the Solomonic temple, and eventually, the Judean prophets and theologians declared that this was the only legitimate location where priests could perform sacrifices and other religious rites for YHWH. Its significance can be seen most clearly in the dramatic cognitive dissonance experienced by the Judeans in Babylonian captivity after the destruction of the temple, which had been so central to their religious conception that they had great difficulty reconciling its destruction with their continued belief in YHWH. The Temple and the Biblical descriptions of it have fascinated people for centuries and led to all kinds of conjecture and imagination. In addition to countless works of art, Isaac Newton tried to make a model of it in his writings, and he wrote about the temple extensively. Even Freemasons give a nod to Solomon's Temple by calling their meeting places temples as well. That said, the Temple remains an enduring mystery due to conflicting accounts and descriptions of it in the Bible, and some scholars have even put forth theories that the structure was not originally designed to serve religious purposes in the first place.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 26 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Surveyor Program

The Surveyor Program

Summary

Today the Space Race is widely viewed poignantly and fondly as a race to the Moon that culminated with Apollo 11 “winning” the Race for the United States. In fact, it encompassed a much broader range of competition between the Soviet Union and the United States that affected everything from military technology to successfully launching satellites that could land on Mars or orbit other planets in the Solar System. Moreover, the notion that America “won” the Space Race at the end of the 1960s overlooks just how competitive the Space Race actually was in launching people into orbit, as well as the major contributions the Space Race influenced in leading to today’s International Space Station and continued space exploration.  The Apollo space program is the most famous and celebrated in American history, but the first successful landing of men on the Moon during Apollo 11 had complicated roots dating back over a decade, and it also involved one of NASA’s most infamous tragedies. Landing on the Moon presented an ideal goal all on its own, but the government’s urgency in designing the Apollo program was actually brought about by the Soviet Union, which spent much of the 1950s leaving the United States in its dust (and rocket fuel). In 1957, at a time when people were concerned about communism and nuclear war, many Americans were dismayed by news that the Soviet Union was successfully launching satellites into orbit.  Among those concerned was President Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose space program was clearly lagging a few years behind the Soviets’ space program. From 1959-1963, the United States worked toward putting satellites and humans into orbit via the Mercury program, but Eisenhower’s administration was already designing plans for the Apollo program by 1960, a year before the first Russian orbited the Earth and two years before John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.  On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed Congress and asked the nation to “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Given America’s inability to even put a man in orbit yet, this seemed like an overly ambitious goal, and it isn’t even clear that Kennedy himself believed it possible; after all, he was reluctant to meet NASA Administrator James E. Webb’s initial funding requests.  As Apollo 11’s name suggests, there were actually a number of Apollo missions that came before, many of which included testing the rockets and different orbital and lunar modules in orbit. In fact, it wasn’t until Apollo 8 that a manned vehicle was sent towards the Moon and back, and before that mission, the most famous Apollo mission was Apollo 1, albeit for all the wrong reasons.  Throughout the 1960s, NASA would spend tens of billions on missions to the Moon, the most expensive peacetime program in American history to that point, and Apollo was only made possible by the tests conducted through the Surveyor Program. Between May 1966 and January 1968, the Surveyor Program launched seven unmanned spacecraft to the lunar surface to gather data and test the feasibility of landing a manned vehicle on the Moon. Although largely forgotten now, without these missions the later series of manned Moon landings would not have been possible.  The Surveyor Program: The History and Legacy of NASA’s First Successful Moon Landing Missions examines the origins behind the missions, the space probes involved, and the historic results.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Americas
Length: 2 hrs and 7 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Sumerians

The Sumerians

Summary

When American archaeologists discovered a collection of cuneiform tablets in Iraq in the late 19th century, they were confronted with a language and a people who were at the time only scarcely known to even the most knowledgeable scholars of ancient Mesopotamia: the Sumerians. The exploits and achievements of other Mesopotamian peoples, such as the Assyrians and Babylonians, were already known to a large segment of the population through the Old Testament, and the nascent field of Near Eastern studies had unraveled the enigma of the Akkadian language that was widely used throughout the region in ancient times, but the discovery of the Sumerian tablets brought to light the existence of the Sumerian culture, which was the oldest of all the Mesopotamian cultures. Although the Sumerians continue to get second or even third billing compared to the Babylonians and Assyrians, perhaps because they never built an empire as great as the Assyrians or established a city as enduring and great as Babylon, they were the people who provided the template of civilization that all later Mesopotamians built upon. The Sumerians are credited with being the first people to invent writing, libraries, cities, and schools in Mesopotamia (Ziskind 1972, 34), and many would argue that they were the first people to create and do those things anywhere in world. For a people so great, it is unfortunate that their accomplishments and contributions, not only to Mesopotamian civilization but to civilization in general, largely go unnoticed by the majority of the public.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Neil Holmes
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 15 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Studebaker Brothers

The Studebaker Brothers

Summary

“The automobile has come to stay. But when a man has no business, it is a rather expensive luxury, and I would advise no man, be he farmer or merchant, to buy one until he has sufficient income to keep it up. A horse and buggy will afford a great deal of enjoyment...” (John M. Studebaker)  For a couple of generations of Americans, along with Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors, there was Studebaker, and though it is no longer in existence, the Studebaker Automobile Company is still part of the popular culture. When a 1950's family is depicted on television today, the likelihood is that the family car is a Studebaker. The symbolic power of the Studebaker name was recently exemplified when South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced his candidacy for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Kris Maher, writing in The Wall Street Journal, noted “For decades, the biggest symbol of this Midwestern city’s decline was the vacant Studebaker plant at one end of the city with its broken windows". Kevin Smith, a business owner in South Bend who bought the property to renovate it, said "the empty relic was holding the city back. It looms over the town", he said. "Everyone had the feeling that we could no longer compete. These days, some 40 organizations, including tech companies and a school that teaches coding to children, rent space on the 1.2 million-square-foot campus, including one building with an open floor plan and interior glass walls. Now called the Renaissance District, it is a symbol of the rebound in the state’s fourth-largest city". Today, people have likely heard of the name Studebaker without realizing that before Detroit was dominated by the Big Three automakers, there was a fourth major automobile company. The story of the Studebaker company and the Studebaker family exemplifies both the American dream and the difficulty in sustaining that dream. The Studebaker Brothers: The Lives and Legacy of the Family Behind the Famous Automobile Company chronicles how the family built up a manufacturing empire and made some of America’s most famous cars; you will learn about the Studebaker brothers like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Statue of Liberty: The History and Legacy of America's Most Famous Statue

The Statue of Liberty: The History and Legacy of America's Most Famous Statue

Summary

"[A] masterpiece of the human spirit [that] endures as a highly potent symbol - inspiring contemplation, debate and protest - of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, abolition of slavery, democracy, and opportunity." (The UNESCO Statement of Significance, describing the Statue of Liberty) Among America's countless monuments and landmarks, none embodies the principles of the nation quite like Lady Liberty, the colossal statue that stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. A gift from the French that was built and transported in the late 19th century, the Statue of Liberty has been a symbol of the United States' guarantee of individual freedom. Its location took on added meaning as it welcomed millions of immigrants sailing across the Atlantic to nearby Ellis Island. People around the world are instantly familiar with the statue today, whether from seeing pictures or depictions of it or actually visiting it and going inside. But the story of its construction is just as fascinating. Conceived as a monument that would commemorate the crucial alliance between America and France, the statue was a massive undertaking, from fundraising to the construction of the sculpture and a pedestal. The project took several years and a precarious transport of the statue's pieces across the Atlantic to New York, where it was officially dedicated in 1886 and celebrated with a ticker tape parade.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ian H. Shattuck
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 16 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Start of the Russo-Turkish Wars

The Start of the Russo-Turkish Wars

Summary

In terms of geopolitics, perhaps the most seminal event of the Middle Ages was the successful Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1453. The city had been an imperial capital as far back as the fourth century, when Constantine the Great shifted the power center of the Roman Empire there, effectively establishing two almost equally powerful halves of antiquity’s greatest empire. Constantinople would continue to serve as the capital of the Byzantine Empire even after the Western half of the Roman Empire collapsed in the late fifth century. Naturally, the Ottoman Empire would also use Constantinople as the capital of its empire after their conquest effectively ended the Byzantine Empire, and thanks to its strategic location, it has been a trading center for years and remains one today under the Turkish name of Istanbul. The end of the Byzantine Empire had a profound effect not only on the Middle East but Europe as well. Constantinople had played a crucial part in the Crusades, and the fall of the Byzantines meant that the Ottomans now shared a border with Europe. The Islamic empire was viewed as a threat by the predominantly Christian continent to their west, and it took little time for different European nations to start clashing with the powerful Turks. In fact, the Ottomans would clash with Russians, Austrians, Venetians, Polish, and more before collapsing as a result of World War I, when they were part of the Central powers. In the wake of taking Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire would spend the next few centuries expanding its size, power, and influence, bumping up against Eastern Europe and becoming one of the world’s most important geopolitical players. It was a rise that would not truly start to wane until the 19th century, and in the centuries before the decline of the “sick man of Europe”, the Ottomans frequently tried to push further into Europe. Some of those forays were memorably countered by Western Europeans and the Holy League, but the Ottomans’ most frequent foe was the Russian Empire, which opposed them for both geopolitical and religious reasons. From negotiations to battles, the two sides jockeyed for position over the course of hundreds of years, and the start of the fighting may have represented the Ottomans’ best chance to conquer Moscow and change the course of history. For anyone trying to understand the origins of modern Russia and the start of the Russo-Turkish Wars, the search should begin with Tsar Peter I (1672-1725), who titled himself Peter the Great during his lifetime. The moniker is fitting, considering the manner in which Peter brought Russia out of the Middle Ages and into the 18th century. Through a series of campaigns, Peter turned Russia into a formidable empire that would subsequently become a major force on the European continent, while also emulating Western Europe and turning Russia into an international state that interacted with the other continental powers. By revolutionizing and modernizing Russian arms, including the creation of Russia’s first naval force, Peter was able to pursue an aggressive and expansionist foreign policy that set the stage for the way the European map would be redrawn again and again over the coming centuries. The Start of the Russo-Turkish Wars: The History of the Initial Conflicts Between the Russian Empire and Ottoman Empire looks at the various origins of the belligerence, how the first battles went, and how they influenced the course of both empires’ histories. You will learn about the the start of the Russo-Turkish Wars like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 49 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The SS Eastland Disaster: The History of the Deadliest Shipwreck on the Great Lakes

The SS Eastland Disaster: The History of the Deadliest Shipwreck on the Great Lakes

Summary

When people discuss deadly maritime disasters during the second decade of the 20th century in which more than 800 people were killed, they're often talking about the Titanic or Lusitania, not the Eastland on the Chicago River. However, shockingly enough, on July 24, 1915, a ship full of sightseers out for a day on the Great Lakes capsized while still tied to a dock, sending more than 2,500 passengers into the frigid water. By the time the ship was righted and rescue efforts were completed, nearly 850 people had been killed. As unbelievable as the incident seemed, the Eastland was actually susceptible to just such a problem as a result of its issues with listing, and on top of that, the ship seemed to have all sorts of bad luck in its past, including a collision with another boat and even a mutiny on board. If anything, the safety protocols established after the sinking of the Titanic, most notably the inclusion of enough lifeboats on board for every passenger, made the Eastland even more top heavy and contributed to the disaster. Ultimately, several individuals were charged with crimes in connection with the Eastland disaster, but none would be found guilty. The SS Eastland Disaster: The History of the Deadliest Shipwreck on the Great Lakes chronicles the story of the disaster and its aftermath.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Pam Tierney
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Spanish Inquisition

The Spanish Inquisition

Summary

In many modern societies, laws have been put in place to protect citizens from discrimination based on their gender, beliefs, race, and sexuality. The sheer thought of having these rights impeded upon in any way is something people in the West often consider unthinkable. In this day and age, people will fight tooth and nail to right cases of discrimination and injustice, from seeking legal action to filing criminal charges against the discriminating party. Multiple organizations around the world exist to help combat and protect its citizens from prejudicial inequities. Social media has also become a channel for those around the world to voice these injustices. Those around the world who empathize with the discriminated band together and condemn the accused bigots. Resulting boycotts, petitions, and negative backlash from social media and the Internet have been known to play a significant role in contributing to the downfall of individuals and corporations that have been accused of discrimination of any kind. The road to the modern age of cultural harmony and acceptance is one of the finest feats of human progress, but having said that, there was once a time when the mere doubt of a religious figure's existence was not only punishable by law, it could very well cost a man his life. This was the crime of heresy.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Kenneth Ray
Length: 1 hr and 23 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War

Summary

“I've been in love (truly) with five women, the Spanish Republic and the 4th Infantry Division.” (Ernest Hemingway) The Spanish Civil War has exerted a powerful impact on the historical imagination. Without question, the conflict was a key moment in the 20th century, a precursor to World War II, and an encapsulation of the rise of extremist movements in the 1930s, but it was also a complex narrative in and of itself, even as it offered a truly international theater of war. It marked one of the seminal moments, along with the 1929 Wall Street Crash, between the two apocalyptic wars of the early 20th century, and since it occurred between 1936 and 1939, Spain proved to be a testing ground of tactics, weaponry, and ideology ahead of World War II.  For the Allied powers Britain and France, Spain became a nadir of “appeasement”, yet, as the name suggests, the conflict had distinctly Spanish characteristics. The pressures that led to war were particular to the country, its social challenges, and its long and intricate history, and it was a conflict between two sides that included disparate elements like the clergy, socialists, landowners, and even anarchists. It is estimated that somewhere between 500,000 and 2,000,000 people were killed in the war.  Unlike World War II, the Spanish conflict attracted artists and writers, many of whom reflected upon events and even volunteered to fight. Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica, journalist Martha Gellhorn’s reports, Robert Capa’s iconic photography, George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls are just some examples of the art and literature that documented the war, and 80 years later, the conflict and its causes still inspire musicians and writers.  Ultimately, the forces of reaction, led by General Francisco Franco, triumphed, and after his victory in 1939, Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist for 36 years. Upon his death, however, a reconstructed version of the Spanish Republic was enacted, albeit this time as a constitutional monarchy. Part of the tacit agreement that led to democracy in the 1970s was a burial of former grievances and the memory of the civil war, but a lack of reconciliation has left the conflict’s unresolved issues bubbling under the surface of Spanish society. In recent years, new material and accounts have been published, firmly demonstrating the impact of the war is far from done.  The Spanish Civil War: The History and Legacy of the Controversial Conflict That Established Francisco Franco’s Dictatorship in Spain examines one of the 20th century’s most important wars and how it affected the world. You will learn about the Spanish Civil War like never before. 

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 30 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Spanish Armada

The Spanish Armada

Summary

"My loving people, we have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourself to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people.... I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm." (Queen Elizabeth I) On July 12, 1588, the legendary Spanish Armada started for the English channel. The Spanish plan was to take this invasion, led by the duke of Parma, to the coast of southeast England, where they would be released to conquer Elizabethan England for the Spanish monarch and Catholic Christendom. The Armada included over 150 ships, 8,000 sailors, and 18,000 soldiers, and it boasted the firepower of 1,500 brass guns and 1,000 iron guns. Just leaving port took the entire Armada two days. As everyone who has been taught history now knows, the Armada was one of the most famous military debacles in history. Now, whether it was simple mathematical miscalculation or plain bad luck, coupled with English fire ships assailing the Spanish ships, the Armada was decisively defeated. The Armada ultimately found its reluctant way home in awful condition, having permanently lost over one third of the ships. And on the Irish coast the Armada had suffered further losses. Not yet knowing what had happened to the Armada, internal English gentry and militias sought to secure and protect England. This was when Elizabeth I consolidated her image as mother-protector of her people.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 20 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Soviet Union During the Brezhnev Era

The Soviet Union During the Brezhnev Era

Summary

For 30 years, much of the West looked on with disdain as the Bolsheviks took power in Russia and created and consolidated the Soviet Union. As bad as Vladimir Lenin seemed in the early 20th century, Joseph Stalin was so much worse that Churchill later remarked of Lenin, “Their worst misfortune was his birth... their next worst his death.” Stalin had ruled with an iron fist for nearly 30 years before his death in 1953, which may or may not have been murder, just as Stalin was preparing to conduct another purge. With his death, Soviet strongman and long-time Stalinist Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971), became the Soviet premier. A barely known figure outside of the Eastern bloc, Khrushchev was derided as a buffoon by one Western diplomat and mocked for his physical appearance by others, but any Western hopes that he would prove a more conciliatory figure than Stalin were quickly snuffed out as the hard-line Khrushchev embraced confrontational stances. Personal histrionics aside, Khrushchev meant business when dealing with the West, especially the United States and its young president, John F. Kennedy. After sensing weakness and a lack of fortitude in Kennedy, Khrushchev made his most audacious and ultimately costly decision by attempting to place nuclear warheads at advanced, offensive bases located in Cuba, right off the American mainland. As it turned out, the Cuban Missile Crisis would show the Kennedy Administration’s resolve, force Khrushchev to back down, and ultimately sow the seeds of Khrushchev’s fall from power. By the time he died in 1971, he had been declared a non-citizen of the nation he had ruled for nearly 20 years. Leonid Brezhnev became First Secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union in late 1964 after a plot to oust Khrushchev. Little is remembered in the public imagination about Brezhnev in comparison to Mikhail Gorbachev, Vladimir Lenin, or Joseph Stalin, despite the fact Brezhnev ruled the USSR from 1964-1982, longer than any Soviet leader other than Stalin. In fact, he held power during a tumultuous era that changed the world in remarkable ways, and that era has been favorably remembered by many former Soviet citizens. It marked a period of relative calm and even prosperity after the destruction of World War II and the tensions brought about by Khrushchev. Foremost amongst Brezhnev’s achievements would be the détente period in the early 1970s, when the Soviets and Americans came to a number of agreements that reduced Cold War pressures and the alarming threat of nuclear war. On the other side of the balance sheet, Brezhnev oversaw a malaise in Soviet society that later became known as an era of stagnation during which the Communist Bloc fell far behind the West in terms of economic output and standard of living. His regime also became notorious for its human rights abuses.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Russia
Length: 1 hr and 59 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Soviet Nuclear Weapons Program

The Soviet Nuclear Weapons Program

Summary

Tens of millions died during World War II as the warring powers raced to create the best fighter planes, tanks, and guns, and eventually that race extended to bombs which carried enough power to destroy civilization itself. While the war raged in Europe and the Pacific, a dream team of Nobel Laureates was working on the Manhattan Project, a program kept so secret that Vice President Harry Truman didn’t know about it until he took the presidency after FDR’s death in April 1945.

The Manhattan Project would ultimately yield the "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" bombs that released more than 100 Terajoules of energy at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but weeks earlier, on July 16, 1945, the first detonation of a nuclear device took place in Alamogordo, New Mexico. The first bomb was nicknamed the "gadget", to avoid espionage attempts to discover that it was, indeed, a bomb. In some sense, the device detonated in July was not really a "bomb" anyway; it was not a deployable device, though it was a detonatable one.

With this success, word reached President Truman, who was then attending the Potsdam Conference, and while there, he presented the news to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Stalin feigned surprise; in an ironic twist of fate, espionage missions had revealed American nuclear research to the Soviets before it had even reached Vice President Truman.

The attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, along with the Cold War-era tests and their accompanying mushroom clouds, would demonstrate the true power and terror of nuclear weapons, but in the late 1930s these bombs were only vaguely being thought through, particularly after the successful first experiment to split the atom by a German scientist. Despite the fact the Nazis’ quest for a nuclear weapon began in earnest in 1939, no one really had a handle on how important nuclear weapons would prove to war and geopolitics, so the Germans were hesitant to expend resources on it. Moreover, they were hampered by the fact their policies had compelled Jewish scientists like Liz Meitner and Albert Einstein to flee before the war.

For their part, Stalin’s regime had been working on a nuclear weapons program since 1942, relying greatly upon successful Soviet espionage to help lead the way. With intelligence sources connected to the Manhattan Project, Stalin was able to keep abreast of the Allies’ progress toward creating an atomic bomb, so that by 1945, the Soviets already had a working blueprint of America’s first atomic bombs.

On August 29, 1949, the Soviets successfully tested an atomic bomb, and with that, the Soviet Union became the second nation after the US to develop and possess nuclear weapons. The nuclear age itself was still in its infancy, but within a few short years the advent of nuclear war loomed over the world and the prospect of a malign dictatorship possessing nuclear superiority kept Western leaders awake at night.

The Soviet Nuclear Weapons Program: The History and Legacy of the USSR’s Efforts to Build the Atomic Bomb examines the Soviets’ race to reach the ultimate goal during and after World War II, and how they went about their objectives. You will learn about Nazi Germany’s nuclear weapons program like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Russia
Length: 2 hrs and 16 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Sons of Liberty: The Lives and Legacies of John Adams, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock

The Sons of Liberty: The Lives and Legacies of John Adams, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock

Summary

For over 200 years, Americans have been fascinated by the Revolutionary period and the patriots who led the growing resistance movement against British authority. In particular, the clandestine activities of Boston's Sons of Liberty in the decade before the war continue to be a source of both intrigue and mystery. The American Revolution had no shortage of compelling characters with seemingly larger than life traits. Perhaps no Revolutionary leader has been as controversial as Samuel Adams, who has been widely portrayed over the last two centuries as America's most radical and fiery colonist. Paul Revere was one of the most prominent citizens in Boston, heralded for his silversmith work, his participation in the Sons of Liberty, and his service in the Massachusetts militia. Given everything he did, it would have no doubt greatly surprised Revere if he had known he would become an American legend for his midnight ride on the night of April 18, 1775. John Adams remained a celebrated figure in Boston for all the work he did in Massachusetts before and after the Revolution, but his national reputation has experienced quite a renaissance over the past decade. Most Americans are familiar with John Hancock because of his famous signature on the Declaration of Independence. That overshadowed the various and important contributions Hancock made in Boston before the Revolution, the Continental Congress during the Revolution, and Massachusetts state politics after the Revolution. The Sons of Liberty chronicles the amazing lives and careers of the four most famous members of the Sons of Liberty, examines their relationships before and during the Revolution, and analyzes their lasting legacies. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about Samuel Adams, John Adams, Paul Revere and John Hancock like you never have before.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Chris Brinkley
Category: History, Americas
Length: 4 hrs and 56 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War: The History of the Military Conflicts that Established Israel as a Superpower in the Middle East

The Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War: The History of the Military Conflicts that Established Israel as a Superpower in the Middle East

Summary

Despite losing the 1948 War, Arab nations throughout the Middle East had still refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist. After the Suez Crisis, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser envisioned creating a unified Arab world, commonly referred to as pan-Arabism. Nasser was the consummate pan-Arab leader in the 1960s, positioning himself as the leader of the Arab world through increasing incitement against Israel with rhetoric.  Israel found itself in possession of more land after 1948 than envisioned by the U.N. Partition Plan, but the Green Line still left it less than 10 miles wide in some positions. In the summer of 1967, the armies of Jordan and Syria mobilized near Israel’s borders, while Egypt’s army mobilized in the Sinai Peninsula just west of the Gaza Strip. Combined, the Arab armies numbered over 200,000 soldiers.  In early June 1967, the Israelis captured Jordanian intelligence that indicated an invasion was imminent, and on June 5, 1967, the Israel Broadcasting Authority aired an Israeli Defense Force communique. “Since the early hours of this morning,” it read, “heavy fighting has been taking place on the southern front between Egyptian armored and aerial forces, which moved against Israel, and our forces, which went into action to check them.”   Over the next six days, the Israelis overwhelmed the Egyptians in the west, destroying thousands of tanks and capturing the Gaza Strip and the entire Sinai Peninsula. At the same time, Israel drove the Jordanians out of Jerusalem and the West Bank, and it captured the Golan Heights from Syria near the border of Lebanon. In the span of a week, Israel had tripled the size of the lands it controlled. Israel had gone from less than 10 miles wide in some spots to over 200 miles wide from the Sinai Peninsula to the West Bank. Israel also unified Jerusalem.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ken Teutsch
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 3 hrs and 14 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis

Summary

"I awoke. I was in the air. I saw a bright light before I felt the concussion of the explosion that threw me up in the air almost to the overhead. A torpedo had detonated under my room. I hit the edge of the bunk, hit the deck, and stood up. Then the second explosion knocked me down again. As I landed on the deck I thought, 'I've got to get the hell out of here!'" - Dr. Lewis Haynes The United States lost hundreds of ships during the course of World War II, from the deadly explosion of the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor to the sinking of John F. Kennedy's PT-109, a patrol boat with a crew of less than 15. However, few of the ships lost in the Pacific suffered a fate as gripping or tragic as the sinking of the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis on July 30, 1945. The USS Indianapolis had been launched nearly 15 years earlier, and it had already survived kamikaze attacks while fighting the Japanese. In July 1945, the cruiser and its crew of nearly 1,200 delivered parts for the first atomic bomb to an air base at Tinian, but due to a chain of events and miscommunication, the cruiser veered into the path of a Japanese submarine shortly after midnight on July 30. Torpedo attacks sank the ship within 15 minutes of the encounter, and about 300 men went down with the ship, but unfortunately, the trials and tribulations were just starting for the survivors. After the call to abandon ship and distress signals were sent out, nearly 900 men found themselves in the water, but the Navy remained unaware of the fate of the Indianapolis, so the survivors would end up spending over four days adrift at sea.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Charles Craig
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 27 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Siege of Masada

The Siege of Masada

Summary

Many westerners have never even heard of the Siege of Masada, and those who have may simply know it as an obscure reference to a minor battle fought in a remote location of the Roman world. By contrast, virtually all Israeli school children know the story of Masada as a premier example of nationalistic pride. The heroic story of a small band of fighters facing incalculable odds has many elements that are reminiscent of both the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of the Alamo. The refrain "Masada shall not fall again", coined in a poem on the subject by Yitzak Lamdan, became a cry of resolve in battle for Israeli soldiers in the 20th century, just as the cry of "Remember the Alamo" had galvanized Americans. For decades the Israelite military used the site of Masada as the location for swearing in their new recruits; the choice of the site was designed to evoke within the new soldiers a deep sense of connection with their national history. The Siege of Masada was the final battle in a long series of fights that constituted the First Jewish-Roman War. The Roman Empire had established control over the region in the first century BCE, when the Roman proconsul Pompey the Great took control of Jerusalem and ceremonially defiled their temple by entering it. This mix of political control and religious desecration was a contentious issue for the Judeans throughout the Roman period, and militant activists opposed to Roman rule, often espousing strongly held religious beliefs, frequently developed large followings to challenge the Roman authorities. This led to multiple violent clashes between the Judeans and the Romans, and the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 CE) was one such clash (albeit on a larger scale than most). The Roman troops marched through and made their military might felt, first in the northern region of Galilee, then down the coast where they finally laid siege to the capital city of Jerusalem. This left three Roman fortress outposts, including Masada, that had been built by Herod the Great but had been taken over by various Judean factions. Masada was the last of these fortresses that the Romans attacked and proved the most difficult for them to seize, but seize it they did. However, what made this battle qualitatively different from most was not just the difficulty Rome had in retaking control of it with incredibly disproportional military equipment and numbers, but also the actions of the Judean defenders. In the final hours of the battle, just as the Romans were about to breach the walls of the city, the defenders gathered together and committed mass suicide, rather than being killed or taken captive by the Romans. Josephus, a contemporary historian of the era, vividly described the mass suicide.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 49 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Siege of Jerusalem in 1099

The Siege of Jerusalem in 1099

Summary

"I, or rather the Lord, beseech you as Christ's heralds to publish this everywhere and to [persuade] all people of whatever rank, foot-soldiers and knights, poor and rich, to carry aid promptly to those Christians and to destroy that vile race from the lands of our friends. I say this to those who are present, it is meant also for those who are absent. Moreover, Christ commands it." (Pope Urban II, 1095) Of the many campaigns during the Middle Ages, few are as remarkable or seemingly impossible to win at the start as the First Crusade (1095-99), and the true crowning achievement of that crusade, which resulted in two centuries of Western European Christian states in the Middle East and the permanent firing of the European imagination, was the conquest of Jerusalem on July 15, 1099 after three weeks of siege. That victorious siege came four years after the call for a crusade first went out, and had the Crusaders not taken Jerusalem, the First Crusade would not likely have been followed by any more and the campaign might have been no more than an historical footnote of what could have been. As it turned out, the siege of Jerusalem and the crusade as a whole says much about the first major clash of Western and Eastern military tactics after the fall of the Roman Empire, as well as the power of faith and even fanaticism to motivate people beyond ordinary human endurance. For better and worse, the siege and fall of Jerusalem to the Crusaders has become a fundamental piece in the current view of the West in that part of the world. Indeed, to this day, the First Crusade remains a polarizing event, even among modern historians.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jared Wekenman
Length: 1 hr and 56 mins
Available on Audible
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The Shipwreck of the Essex

Summary

"I turned around and saw him about 100 rods [500 m or 550 yards] directly ahead of us, coming down with twice his ordinary speed of around 24 knots (44 km/h), and it appeared with tenfold fury and vengeance in his aspect. The surf flew in all directions about him with the continual violent thrashing of his tail. His head about half out of the water, and in that way he came upon us, and again struck the ship." (Owen Chase, First Mate aboard the Essex) Although Herman Melville was a popular writer during his day, he had become mostly obscure until a literary revival in the early 20th century resurrected his legacy. At the forefront of the revival was the book that is now considered a classic around the globe, and one of the greatest American novels ever written: Moby Dick. The novel is about Captain Ahab hunting a whale named Moby Dick, with a sailor named Ishmael narrating the story. Throughout the novel Ishmael speculates upon concepts such as good and evil, society and religion, and by the time the novel ends, readers come to understand that the novel's plot and characters (including the whale itself) are comprised of metaphors and allegories that Melville leaves for readers to interpret for themselves. However, while Moby Dick remains a staple among students, Melville was actually inspired by a true story: the shipwreck of the whaleship Essex in 1820. While it was always dangerous to work on a whaleship, the Essex was the first known American ship to be badly damaged by a massive sperm whale's attack, and though whales would sink other ships in the ensuing decades, the entire ordeal encountered by the crew made headlines when the survivors were rescued. When the Essex was wrecked, its crew of 21 tried to survive on uninhabited islands and resorted to desperate measures, including cannibalism of those who began to die.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 22 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Severan Dynasty: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Roman Empire's Rulers Before Rome's Imperial Crisis

The Severan Dynasty: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Roman Empire's Rulers Before Rome's Imperial Crisis

Summary

“If a man were called upon to fix that period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the deaths of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.” (Edward Gibbon) “The Five Good Emperors,” a reference to the five emperors who ruled the Roman Empire between 96 and 180 CE (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius), was a term first coined by Machiavelli and later adopted and popularized by historian Edward Gibbon, who said that under these men, the Roman Empire “was governed by absolute power under the guidance of wisdom and virtue.” The Severan dynasty came shortly after the Five Good Emperors, and it also consisted of five emperors who ruled the empire from 193-235, except for a brief interlude between 217 and 218 when Macrinus held the imperial throne. In chronological order, the five were Septimius Severus the Founder (193-211), Caracalla (198-217), Geta (209-211), Elagabalus (218-221), and Alexander Severus (222-235). Their reigns coincided with the period in Roman history characterized by academics as the "High Point" of the empire, but this specific dynastic period, following the troubled years after the rule of Marcus Aurelius’ son Commodus, did not see the empire return to the heights reached under the Five Good Emperors. It was a period in which the inherent weaknesses of the imperial system were exacerbated, and the policies of successive emperors paved the way for the era generally known as Rome’s Imperial Crisis or “The Time of Chaos” (235-284).  The Severans' story encapsulates many highs and lows, including able and venal emperors, expansion and loss of territory, great artistic achievements, and intellectual advancements coupled with some of the worst cruelty ever perpetrated by Romans. The Severans have also fared well historically thanks to their successors, because the 50 years following the assassination of Severus Alexander on March 19, 235, has been generally regarded by academics as one of the lowest points in the history of the Roman Empire. Severus Alexander was the last of the Severan emperors, and the subsequent years of crisis (235-285) were characterized by a series of short reigns, usually ending in the violent death of the reigning emperor. At the same time, this period of time also saw the empire beset by threatening forces on all sides. The Romans faced a newly resurgent Persia in the east, as well as significant forces from German tribes on the Rhine and Goths along the Danube. The various conflicts would result in the unprecedented death of a sitting emperor in battle, which took place in 251 with Emperor Decius, and Emperor Valerian was also captured in 260.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jim D. Johnston
Length: 1 hr and 40 mins
Available on Audible
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The Scotch-Irish: The History and Legacy of the Ethnic Group in America

Summary

"It was no more sin to kill me then to kill a dogg, or any Scotch-Irish dogg."  “Scotch-Irish” is an American term that became popular in the latter 1800s, referring to the largely Protestant immigrants to the United States originating in the northern Irish province of Ulster. The majority of Scotch-Irish were people intentionally settled in Ulster as a counter to the native Catholic Irish, who immigrated to Ulster from the lowlands of Scotland and the borderlands between England and Scotland.  The Ulster settlers were a solution to depopulation caused by the wars in Ireland, and it was hoped that the Protestant settlers would counterbalance the habitually rebellious Catholic Irish. The regions they came from had a history of violence and poverty. The heritage of violence was thought to have prepared them for withstanding Irish disorder, and poverty made migration to Ulster an attractive proposition. They were deliberately selected by various proprietors, landowners, and King James (1601-1623).  The large number of Ulster immigrants to British American colonies in the 1700s were usually simply called “Irish,” but modern historians prefer the term Scots-Irish, on the grounds that “Scotch” refers to whiskey. This is unnecessarily pedantic, not to mention that Scotch-Irish is deeply embedded in the history books and in American tradition.   During the colonial era, it is estimated that some 200,000 Scotch-Irish migrated to the mainland colonies. How many may have migrated to Canada (British after 1763) or various Caribbean colonies is not well-known. The colonies, particularly Pennsylvania, attracted the Scotch-Irish for several reasons, the most important of which was the ready availability of farmable land, but also, there was no established church (the official and politically dominant religion in Ireland was the Church of England) that discriminated against dissenters such as the Presbyterians. The colonies were also more stable. In Ireland, wars between Irish and Protestants and Irish rebellions were periodic and sometimes extremely destructive when it came to life and property. Yet another reason was that the colonies had nothing much in the way of social hierarchy — there was no class of aristocrats and no class of gentleman property owners who saw themselves as the social betters over what was predominantly a population of renters.  The stereotypes are based on the simplified view that the Scotch-Irish originated in Scotland, migrated to Ulster, and then to Pennsylvania. They are commonly supposed to have all been Presbyterian, but the Scotch-Irish were a quite mixed group. Not only did the British settle Lowland Scots in Ulster but English from the borderlands. There were also Quakers who settled in Ulster because of its relative religious tolerance, and some French Protestants who had fled repression in Catholic France. There was also a scattering of people from elsewhere, including Germans and Flemish Calvinists.  The standard view is that the Scotch-Irish moved south from Pennsylvania to settle all of Appalachia and that they were tough Indian fighters. Their animosity to British rule has also been credited with helping provoke the American Revolution, but they also played vital roles in the Confederate armies, and their courage accounted for much of the offensive power of those armies during the Civil War. At the same time, there is a countercurrent that sees the Scotch-Irish in Appalachia as lost in time, a Celtic bubble of poverty, Elizabethan English, quilts, fiddle tunes, and old Irish songs. Obviously, these views create a mishmash of stereotypes, but what’s clear is that Scotch-Irish history in America is amazing enough, in and of itself.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 35 mins
Available on Audible
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The Saratoga Campaign

Summary

The American Revolution is replete with seminal moments that every American learns in school, from the “shot heard ‘round the world” to the Declaration of Independence, but the events that led up to the fighting at Lexington and Concord were borne out of 10 years of division between the British and their American colonies over everything from colonial representation in governments to taxation, the nature of searches, and the quartering of British regulars in private houses. From 1764-1775, a chain of events that included lightning rods like the Townshend Acts led to bloodshed in the form of the Boston Massacre, while the Boston Tea Party became a symbol of nonviolent protest.  The political and military nature of the Revolutionary War was just as full of intrigue. While disorganized militias fought the Battles of Lexington and Concord, George Washington would lead the Continental Army in the field while men like Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia and Benjamin Franklin negotiated overseas in France. French forces would play a crucial role at the end of the war, and the Treaty of Paris would conclude the revolution with one last great surprise.  On October 7, 1777, Benedict Arnold rode out against orders and led an American assault against British forces led by General John Burgoyne in one of the climactic battles and ultimate turning point of the war at Saratoga. Near the end of the most important American victory of the revolution, Arnold’s leg was shattered by a volley that also hit his horse, which fell on the leg as well. Arnold would later remark that he wished the shot had hit him in the chest, and if it had, Benedict Arnold would be remembered as one of America’s greatest war heroes, second only to George Washington among the generals of the revolution. In fact, when Arnold was injured at the height of his success in October 1777, he had been the most successful leader of American forces during the war. Arnold had been instrumental in the seizure of Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, he constructed the first makeshift American navy to defend Lake Champlain and delay British campaigning in 1776, and he was the principal leader at Saratoga in 1777. Even his unsuccessful campaign to Quebec in the winter of 1775 is remembered primarily for the amazing logistical feats undertaken by Arnold and his men to even reach the target.  All of that was overshadowed by Arnold’s treacherous plot to turn over West Point to the British in 1780, but his controversial actions at Saratoga and the results may very well have saved the cause he subsequently betrayed.  By the time the decisive American victory was finished, Burgoyne had lost nearly 20 percent of his effective fighting during the battles at Saratoga, and after a few days his trapped army surrendered to the Americans. In December 1776, Benjamin Franklin was sent by Congress to France to attempt to secure a critically needed alliance. Franklin was an ideal choice for enlightened France, which revered Franklin for his scientific accomplishments and his known reputation as a brilliant man. Franklin had also been a diplomat before the revolution, spending several years in London on behalf of the colonies. However, the French refused to provide more than arms and money throughout 1777, until they learned in December 1777 about Saratoga and Burgoyne’s surrender. With that news, French King Louis XVI entered into a formal military alliance with the United States, and in February 1778, France joined the war.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Military
Length: 2 hrs and 59 mins
Available on Audible
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The Santa Muerte

Summary

This is the story of Santa Muerte, the so-called cult of crisis, a red-hot combo of a kermesse (Mexican carnival), Catholicism and New Age; a hedonist practice but involving bodily sacrifice too. It is an expression of economic, psychological and social forces, bigger than perhaps any of her acolytes suspect. This book looks at the folk saint and the manner in which her cult grew. You will learn about Santa Muerte like never before.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Available on Audible
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The Santa Fe Trail

Summary

The Lewis and Clark Expedition, notwithstanding its merits as a feat of exploration, was also the first tentative claim on the vast interior and the western seaboard of North America by the United States. It set in motion the great movement west that began almost immediately with the first commercial overland expedition funded by John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company and would continue with the establishment of the Oregon Trail and California Trail.  The westward movement of Americans in the 19th century was one of the largest and most consequential migrations in history, and as it so happened, the paths were being formalized and coming into use right around the time gold was discovered in the lands that became California in January 1848.  Located thousands of miles away from the country’s power centers on the East Coast at the time, the announcement came a month before the Mexican-American War had ended, and among the very few Americans who were near the region at the time, many of them were army soldiers who were participating in the war and garrisoned there. San Francisco was still best known for being a Spanish military and missionary outpost during the colonial era, and only a few hundred called it home. Mexico’s independence, and its possession of those lands, had come only a generation earlier. Everything changed almost literally overnight. While the Mexican-American War technically concluded with a treaty in February 1848, the announcement brought an influx of an estimated 90,000 “Forty-Niners” to the region in 1849, hailing from other parts of America and even as far away as Asia. All told, an estimated 300,000 people would come to California over the next few years, as men dangerously trekked thousands of miles in hopes of making a fortune, and in a span of months, San Francisco’s population exploded, making it one of the first "mining boom" towns to truly spring up in the West. This was a pattern that would repeat itself across the West anytime a mineral discovery was made, from the Southwest and Tombstone to the Dakotas and Deadwood.  At the same time, the journey itself was fraught with risk. It’s easy for people with modern transportation to comfortably reminisce about the West, but many pioneers discovered that the traveling came with various kinds of obstacles and danger, including bitter weather, potentially deadly illnesses, and hostile Native Americans, not to mention an unforgiving landscape that famous American explorer Stephen Long deemed “unfit for human habitation.” Nineteenth century Americans were all too happy and eager for the transcontinental railroad to help speed their passage west and render overland paths obsolete.  One early trail got its start in Independence, Missouri, one of many cities marked as starting points for pioneers, settlers, or traders. From there, the trail went all the way to Santa Fe, which at that time was part of the newly independent country of Mexico. As Americans pushed steadily west along the frontier and the Mexican-American War was fought, both ends of the trail became part of the United States as well as the Santa Fe Trail that connected with other trails that continued on to Mexico.  From 1822 to 1880, the trail remained the prominent method of transportation until the railroads reached Santa Fe, ending the widespread use of a route that once connected two countries.  The Santa Fe Trail: The History and Legacy of 19th Century America’s Most Popular Overland Route to the Southwest examines how the path was forged, the people most responsible for it, and the most famous events associated with the trail’s history.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 59 mins
Available on Audible
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The Sandinistas

Summary

"I will not abandon my resistance until the... pirate invaders...assassins of weak peoples...are expelled from my country...I will make them realize that their crimes will cost them dear....There will be bloody combat...Nicaragua shall not be the patrimony of Imperialists. I will fight for my cause as long as my heart beats... If through destiny I should lose, there are in my arsenal five tons of dynamite which I will explode with my own hand. The noise of the cataclysm will be heard 250 miles. All who hear will be witness that Sandino is dead. Let it not be permitted that the hands of traitors or invaders shall profane his remains." (Augusto César Sandino) For much of the 20th century, Latin American governments in large part lived under a system of military junta governments. The mixture of indigenous peoples, foreign settlers and European colonial superpowers produced cultural and social imbalances into which military forces intervened as a stabilizing influence. The proactive personalities of military heads and the rigid structures of such a hierarchy guaranteed the “strong man” commanding officer an abiding presence in the form of executive dictator. Such leaders often bore the more collaborative title of “President”, but the reality was, in most cases, identical. Likewise, the gap between rich and poor was often vast, and a disappearance of the middle class fed a frequent urge for revolution, reenergizing the military’s intent to stop it. With no stabilizing center, the ideologies most prevalent in such conflicts alternated between a federal model of industrial and social nationalization and an equally conservative structure under privatized ownership and autocratic rule drawn from the head of a junta government. Whichever belief system was in play for the major industrial nations of Central and South America, a constant bombardment of foreign influence pushed the people of states such as Nicaragua, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and others toward overthrow, in one direction or the other. To the left came Stalinist influences from the Soviet Union and Castro’s Cuba, while the German World War II model and an anti-communist mindset from the United States worked behind the scenes to upset any movement toward extreme liberalism. The tacit acceptance of these right-wing dictators across South America was part of an overarching effort known as Operation Condor, consisting mostly of CIA operations that are as infamous and controversial as ever, with a lasting legacy that affects current events such as reactions to the ongoing unrest in Venezuela. Few examples remain as memorable as the conflict in Nicaragua, where the Frente Sandinista de Liberation Nacional (FSLN), a left-wing revolutionary party, seized power in the small Central American nation of Nicaragua in July 1979, toppling four decades of dictatorial rule perpetrated by the Somoza dynasty. A decade later, on February 25, 1990, in an election organized by the FSLN, one that the party was fully confident it would win, the FSLN suffered a shocking defeat at the hands of a coalition generally thought to be associated with the American-funded Contra movement. This was a sobering moment for the Latin American leftist revolution, and, as many were apt to see it, a triumph for American policy in the region. What happened in that critical decade in Nicaragua, what was the Sandinista movement that led Nicaragua into a leftist revolution, and why did the Americans vehemently oppose the Sandinistas with force? The Sandinistas: The Controversial History and Legacy of Socialist Resistance, Civil War, and Politics in Nicaragua looks at the turbulent 20th century in Nicaragua, and the various roles the Sandinistas have played; you will learn about the Sandinistas like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 2 hrs and 5 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906

Summary

"[I]t does not seem to have affected anyone with a sense of final destruction, with any foreboding of irreparable disaster. Everyone is talking of it this afternoon, and no one is in the least degree dismayed. I have talked and listened in two clubs, watched people in cars and in the street, and one man is glad that Chinatown will be cleared out for good; another's chief solicitude is for Millet's 'Man with the Hoe'. 'They'll cut it out of the frame', he says, a little anxiously. 'Sure.' But there is no doubt anywhere that San Francisco can be rebuilt, larger, better, and soon. Just as there would be none at all if all this New York that has so obsessed me with its limitless bigness was itself a blazing ruin. I believe these people would more than half like the situation." - H.G. Wells On the morning of April 18, 1906, most of the residents of the city of San Francisco were sound asleep when the ground started to shake. But what started as fairly soft tremors turned into a violent shaking in all directions. The roar of the earthquake unquestionably woke up residents, at least those fortunate enough not to be immediately swallowed by the cracks opening up in the ground. The earthquake lasted about a minute, but it had enough destructive force to divert the course of entire rivers and level much of the ninth-largest city in America at the time. Unfortunately for San Franciscans, the worst was yet to come. During the earthquake, the city's gas mains and water mains were ruptured, which had the effects of starting a number of fires and preventing the residents from being equipped to fight them.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Kat Marlowe
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Sac and Fox

The Sac and Fox

Summary

Few people need to be reminded in the 21st century of the cost of European imperialism and colonization on indigenous and native cultures around the world. The increasingly controversial view of Columbus Day, still represented on the United States commemorative calendar, attests quite clearly to an ambiguous modern view of early European encounters with Native Americans. Slavery, disease, land and resource appropriation, and the rapid disintegration of indigenous societies are all characteristics of European global expansion. There are those societies, particularly in Asia and Africa, that proved resilient enough to weather the European imperialism, but others, most notably those of Australia and North America, certainly did not. The development of North America as a series of British colonies prior to the end of the 18th century went ahead without any definitive policy in regards to the Native Americans who were impacted, displaced and not infrequently overwhelmed by the process. The vast majority of Native American people continued to live in a state of grace long after the formation of the colonies and did not begin to feel the impact until the expansion west. Likewise, there could never be a coordinated, pan-tribal unity to confront this gathering invasion, since the indigenous population of the land was heterogeneous, speaking some 300 separate languages, and thousands of regional dialects, and very often they were at war with one another. Some saw an advantage in collaboration with the forces of colonization, and some not. The fate of the former was usually some form of unequal assimilation, and of the latter, removal or extermination, and often both. Natives in the east, vastly superior in numbers and resistant to the importation of pernicious disease, proved better able to surmount the colonial experience and emerge as an independent nation. No such good fortune attended the colonial experience of Native America. While the introduction of various epidemics of smallpox, measles, diphtheria, and many other diseases, and numerous lingering and communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and syphilis, steadily eroded populations, the far greater political and social trauma took place as a consequence of an ongoing, and unending hunger for land. The end of the American Revolution and the 1776 Declaration of Independence introduced no particular change in the circumstances of the indigenous tribes, and no alteration of attitudes across a broad front. As the great territorial acquisitions from France and Mexico were joined to the United States, the attitude of white Americans began to shift in the direction of Manifest Destiny, and the God-given right of the nation to expand to occupy every corner of the continent. To facilitate this, there was a general interest on the part of the federal government to open these new territories for white settlement. The idea, then, was to push the Indians west of the Mississippi River, where space was infinite, and the problem could be deferred for another generation. Whenever and wherever negotiations to achieve this failed, the US Army would usually appear. The Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress in 1830, under the administration of President Andrew Jackson, which authorized these forced removals. Perhaps the most memorable and iconic episode of this period was the Trail of Tears, a 20-year exodus of the Cherokee, Muskogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Ponca, and Ho-Chunk-Winnebago nations across the Mississippi into new territories designated as Indian lands. More than 4,000 men, women and children perished during this tragic episode. The only possible success that the entire policy could claim was that it sent the Indians in as an advance guard to lands that would later be made available to white homesteaders. To the native tribes, it was the beginning of a long nightmare.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: David Bernard
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 47 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Rothschild Family

The Rothschild Family

Summary

The Rothschild dynasty of power and wealth would not only become a force to be reckoned with in the banking industry, but they would also become the ceaseless subject of scandal, conspiracy theories, and awe. Descriptions full of hyperbole have been on public display for centuries, such as the family description that appeared in the Niles' Weekly Register in 1836, "The Rothschilds are the wonders of modern banking ...Not a cabinet moves without their advice. They stretch their hand, with equal ease, from Petersburgh to Vienna, from Vienna to Paris, from Paris to London, from London to Washington...They are the brokers and counselors of the kings of Europe and of the republican chiefs of America. What more can they desire?" The Rothschild Family: The History and Legacy of the International Banking Dynasty looks at one of the richest families in history.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Length: 1 hr and 13 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Rosicrucians

The Rosicrucians

Summary

To many, the quest to obtain the secrets and truths of the universe is one nearly impossible to complete. More importantly, this broad topic comes with an unending assortment of answers. For some, the secret to life is success. To others, it is conquering one's innermost fears. While there are those who simply do not care enough to venture an answer, there are also those who believe they, and they alone, knew the real meaning behind life. Early Europe saw a sudden burst of Gnostic and mystical religions and organizations, each with their own take on the true path to enlightenment. Conflicts that arose within the Catholic Church and other Christian communities only encouraged the growing wave of dissenters. In the 17th century, intrigued Parisians learned about one of these unconventional groups - perhaps the most prestigious of all these secret schools. This was the Fraternity of the Rose Cross, a brotherhood of Rosicrucians founded by Christian Rosenkreutz.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 27 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Romans in Scotland

The Romans in Scotland

Summary

The Romans were master builders, and much of what they built has stood the test of time. Throughout their vast empire, they have left grand structures, from the Forum and Pantheon in Rome, to the theatres and hippodromes of North Africa, and the triumphal gates in Anatolia and France. Wherever they went, the Romans built imposing structures to show their power and ability, and one of their most impressive constructions was built on the northernmost fringe of the empire. Shortly after Emperor Hadrian came to power in the early second century CE, he decided to seal off Scotland from Roman Britain with an ambitious wall stretching from sea to sea. To accomplish this, the wall had to be built from the mouth of the River Tyne - where Newcastle stands today - 80 Roman miles (76 miles or 122 kilometers) west to Bowness-on-Solway. The sheer scale of the job still impresses people today, and Hadrian’s Wall has the advantage of being systematically studied and partially restored. Of course, the masterful architecture of the wall belied the fact that it was built for defense, because Scotland (known as Caledonia to the Romans) was never fully conquered or incorporated into the Roman Empire, a fact that many modern Scots remain quite proud of today. While the Romans made several efforts to subdue Scotland, it is not entirely clear whether their failure to complete the subjugation of the northern part of the British Isles was due to the ferocity of the Caledonian/Pictish tribesmen or whether the Romans simply came to the conclusion that the region had far too little to offer in the way of resources (either minerals, metals, or slaves) to warrant repeated major campaigns. Scotland in the first century CE had no settlements of any size, so profitable trade was not easy to establish, and so, did not offer any major motivation for military conquest.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 2 hrs and 27 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Roman Republic

The Roman Republic

Summary

“Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city”. In that short line, Anatole Broyard, a 20th century American writer, compactly captures the timeless and enchanting beauty that resides within the Eternal City of Rome. The ambitious and fearless emperors that built the legendary Roman Empire from scratch, the broad-shouldered and bronzed gladiators with their iconic plume helmets and glinting swords, and elaborate parties attended by toga-wearing Romans fueled by alcohol, violence, orgies, and other godless acts all paint a picture of Roman life. Indeed, many people are well-versed with these unique scenes of Roman history, but few are familiar with the equally riveting years preceding the dawn of the Roman Republic, and even less people are acquainted with the fabled Seven Hills sitting east of the Tiber River - the core geographical components of Rome, and the very foundations that the Eternal City was built on. The study of Roman history is usually divided into three distinct phases: the time of the Kings, the Roman Republic, and the Roman Empire. Roman tradition dated the foundation of Rome to 753 BCE, and this first period of its history ended with the overthrow of King Tarquinius Superbus in 510 BCE. There is very little remaining historical evidence pertaining to this period, so much of what is known is at best legend, possibly based on varying degrees of historical fact. The period of the Roman Republic, generally dated from 509-27 BCE, is an entirely different matter. There is significant documentation that enables historians to analyze how Rome cemented its position within the Italian peninsula before pushing ever outward to create the new provinces that formed the core of the vast Roman Empire in the third phase that came to dominate all of Europe for so long. The period of the Republic saw those with the emerging powers having to grapple with new political situations, the administration of a diverse domain while contending with political disorder at home, commercial and financial expansion, and complex issues of land distribution, the role of the military, new ideas in religion, and the emergence of new class systems. These years were certainly vibrant and laid the foundations of such characteristics as Roman discipline and the ability to adapt, as well as witnessing the formation of its political structure. The unique farmer-soldier society evolved to the extent that a few Roman citizens were able to dominate their world and time. It was not a tranquil era, but it was one in which those interested in new ideas and philosophies could thrive, and in which the conflicts between the aspirations of the great Roman philosophers and the pragmatically minded senior political and military figures drove the formation of the Roman state and provided the bedrock for its success.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Length: 3 hrs and 9 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Restoration of Rome

The Restoration of Rome

Summary

The 50 years following the assassination of Severus Alexander on March 19, 235 CE has been generally regarded by academics as one of the lowest points in the history of the Roman Empire. In stark contrast to the previous 150 years, which included the reigns of the Five Good Emperors and has been universally praised as one of the high points of the empire. This period of time also saw the empire beset by threatening forces on all sides. The Romans faced a newly resurgent Persia in the east, as well as significant forces from German tribes on the Rhine and Goths along the Danube. Despite the disasters, there was at least some good news for the Romans. Aurelian and Probus both managed to recover lost territory, and they recovered some of Rome’s prestige in doing so. The final turning point came with the accession of Diocletian in 284 CE. From that point on, the empire embarked upon a period of restoration, but before reaching that stage, the empire had no fewer than 20 emperors in those 50 years, even with the exclusion of an additional five Gallic "emperors" who set themselves up as independent rulers between 260 and 274 CE. Diocletian's reign would see reforms put into place to achieve the desired end of the Imperial Crisis, and several of the emperors before him may well have had the ability to manage the reform process, but the army’s power and willingness to use and abuse power ensured that few of them truly had a chance to really make their marks. It was the worst period in the history of the Roman Empire to that point, even as it forced the Romans to deal with belligerent foreign powers and problems created by the emergence of increasingly powerful and populous provinces.  Many historians have debated how the Roman Empire managed to survive in any form at all, let alone remain robust enough to allow Diocletian and his successors to restore it. Given the many people involved, and the relatively short era in which everything transpired, Rome’s Imperial Crisis has been difficult for historians to summarize, which is why, despite being one of the most intriguing periods in Roman history, it is often overlooked by people who have chosen to focus on the more cohesive periods before and after it. It would be hard if not outright impossible to overstate the impact Roman Emperor Constantine I had on the history of Christianity, Ancient Rome, and Europe as a whole. Best known as Constantine the Great, the kind of moniker only earned by rulers who have distinguished themselves in battle and conquest, Constantine remains an influential and controversial figure to this day. He achieved enduring fame by being the first Roman emperor to personally convert to Christianity, and for his notorious Edict of Milan, the imperial decree which legalized the worship of Christ and promoted religious freedom throughout the empire.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jim Johnston
Length: 2 hrs and 24 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Republic of Zimbabwe

The Republic of Zimbabwe

Summary

“The only white man you can trust is a dead white man.” (Robert Mugabe) The modern history of Africa was, until very recently, written on behalf of the indigenous races by the white man, who had forcefully entered the continent during a particularly hubristic and dynamic phase of European history. In 1884, Prince Otto von Bismark, the German chancellor, brought the plenipotentiaries of all major powers of Europe together to deal with Africa's colonization in such a manner as to avoid provocation of war. This event - known as the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 - galvanized a phenomenon that came to be known as the Scramble for Africa. The conference established two fundamental rules for European seizure of Africa. The first of these was that no recognition of annexation would be granted without evidence of a practical occupation, and the second, that a practical occupation would be deemed unlawful without a formal appeal for protection made on behalf of a territory by its leader - a plea that must be committed to paper in the form of a legal treaty. Thus began a rush, spearheaded mainly by European commercial interests in the form of chartered companies, to penetrate the African interior and woo its leadership with guns, trinkets, and alcohol, and having thus obtained their marks or seals upon spurious treaties, begin establishing boundaries of future European African colonies.  The ease with which this was achieved was due to the fact that, at that point, traditional African leadership was disunited, and the people had just staggered back from centuries of concussion inflicted by the slave trade. Thus, to usurp authority, to intimidate an already broken society, and to play one leader against the other was a diplomatic task so childishly simple, the matter was wrapped up, for the most part, in less than a decade. There were some exceptions to this, however. The most notable of which was perhaps the Zulu Nation, a centralized monarchy of enormous military prowess that required a British colonial war - the storied Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 - to affect pacification. Another was the amaNdebele, an offshoot of the Zulu, established as early as the 1830s in the southeastern quarter of what would become Rhodesia, and later still Zimbabwe, in the future. Both were powerful, centralized monarchies, fortified by an organized and aggressive professional army, subdivided into regiments and owing fanatical loyalty to the crown. The Zulu were not dealt with by treaty, and their history is, perhaps, the subject of another episode of this series, but the amaNdebele were, and early European treaty and concession gatherers were required to tread with great caution as they entered their lands. It would be a long time before the inevitable course of history forced the amaNdebele to submit to European domination. Although treaties and British gunboat diplomacy played a role, it was ultimately war, conquest, and defeat in battle that brought the amaNdebele to heel. Rumors of gold in the land helped lead Cecil John Rhodes to obtaining a royal charter in October 1889 for a private company to exploit the resources. After tricking the amaNdebele with a dubious agreement, members of Rhodes’ company began to establish a fledgling colony, and after the British defeated the amaNdebele and began driving them away from the land during the First Matabele War, the seeds were sown for two colonies to take root. But little did the British know just how politically turbulent those efforts would be and how much more fighting would have to take place to consolidate their position.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Africa
Length: 2 hrs and 15 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Republic of Venice and Republic of Genoa: The History of the Italian Rivals and Their Mediterranean Empires

The Republic of Venice and Republic of Genoa: The History of the Italian Rivals and Their Mediterranean Empires

Summary

Founded in the wake of the decline of the Roman Empire, the Republic of Venice lasted for more than a thousand years, from 697-1797, and in order to understand its singular position in world history, it is necessary to first note its geographical positioning and its topographical makeup: Located in northeastern Italy at the head of the Adriatic, the city is made up of 120 islands that are connected by 430 bridges that cross over 170 canals, referred to as a “rio” or plural “rii” (Italian for river). As a maritime power, the interests of Venice once reached all the way to Asia, which allowed it to form an important crossroads within the Eastern Mediterranean, in terms of trade. In Venice, a vast array of products (raw materials, spices, cloth) came all the way from North Africa, Russia, and India and were exchanged for the goods and wealth of Europe. In a country that is as crowded with famous cities as Italy, Genoa is usually not one that first leaps to mind, at least for an English-speaking audience. If Venice, Florence, and Rome are the top three, they are often followed by Pisa, Sienna, and Naples, not to mention the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. Indeed, Genoa would come toward the end of a much longer list, and it might be most closely associated with its famous native son, Christopher Columbus, who ultimately sailed for Spain. For avid tourists, Genoa might be the port of call for those wishing to visit the stunning Cinque Terre on the Ligurian coast nearby, and for an expert in world politics, the city of Genoa might recall the memories of the tragic events of the 27th G8 summit in July 2001, when, at the height of the anti-globalization movement, protests turned violent and resulted in the death of a 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani. In today’s news, Genoa might represent Italy’s crumbling infrastructure and the apparent powerlessness of its government to repair it - on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, one of the main bridges of the city, the Morandi Bridge, collapsed, killing 43 people and leaving 600 homeless. The bridge’s demise also destroyed Italy’s reputation as an expert in mechanical engineering. Although Genoa cannot compete in the popular imagination with some of Italy’s more famous cities, this busy port town perched above the sea once boasted a powerful empire that rivaled that of Venice. It also lasted for roughly the same time period, rising in the early Middle Ages and coming to an end at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte near the end of the 18th century. Today, historians are starting to correct the imbalance that has focused on Venice, Florence, and Rome, and new histories are gradually introducing Genoa to the world, even as much remains to be uncovered.  The Republic of Venice and Republic of Genoa: The History of the Italian Rivals and Their Mediterranean Empires looks at the origins of the cities, their rise to power across the Mediterranean, and their inevitable demises.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 3 hrs and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Republic of Venice

The Republic of Venice

Summary

“As in the Arsenal of the Venetians Boils in winter the tenacious pitch To smear their unsound vessels over again For sail they cannot; and instead thereof One makes his vessel new, and one recaulks The ribs of that which many a voyage has made One hammers at the prow, one at the stern This one makes oars and that one cordage twists Another mends the mainsail and the mizzen…” (Dante’s Inferno) To the first settlers of the unpromising, marshy islands of Venice in the 5th century BCE, it appeared as if any attempt at civilization was doomed to fail. Yet, even with the cards stacked against them, the artful inhabitants mastered the unlivable terrain and slowly pieced together a society that would put the small, unassuming city right on the map. In time, the city evolved into the most powerful maritime empire in all of Europe. Founded in the wake of the decline of the Roman Empire, the Republic of Venice lasted for more than a thousand years, from 697-1797, and in order to understand its singular position in world history, it is necessary to first note its geographical positioning and its topographical make-up: Located in northeastern Italy at the head of the Adriatic, the city is made up of 120 islands that are connected by 430 bridges that cross over 170 canals, referred to as a “rio” or plural “rii” (Italian for river). As a maritime power, the interests of Venice once reached all the way to Asia, which allowed it to form an important crossroads within the Eastern Mediterranean, in terms of trade. In Venice, a vast array of products (raw materials, spices, cloth) came all the way from North Africa, Russia, and India and were exchanged for the goods and wealth of Europe.” Venice, of course, earned its remarkable reputation on its own merit, but the reason for its current fame should be credited at least in part to its status as one of the most important tourist destinations of all time, attracting travelers interested in religion, art, culture, architecture, the seashore as well as shopping. As far back as the 16th century, pilgrims flocked there to take in its numerous holy sites, the remnants of the city’s medieval heritage, and in the 17th century, rich northern Europeans flocked to the city as part of their lengthy Grand Tour, hoping to feast their eyes on the unusual cityscape and its unique cultural heritage. Many of those famous writers penned unforgettable accounts of the city in English and in German, stories that only served to increase its fortunes over time. The Republic of Venice: The History of the Venetian Empire and Its Influence across the Mediterranean dives into the city's origin story, how it became one of the most important powers in Europe, and its inevitable undoing. Along with information about important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Venetian Republic like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 2 hrs and 7 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Republic of Genoa

The Republic of Genoa

Summary

If Venice, Florence, and Rome are the top three, they are often followed by Pisa, Sienna, and Naples, not to mention the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. Indeed, Genoa would come towards the end of a much longer list, and it might be most closely associated with its famous native son, Christopher Columbus, who ultimately sailed for Spain. For avid tourists, Genoa might be the port of call for those wishing to visit the stunning Cinque Terre on the Ligurian coast nearby, and for an expert in world politics, the city of Genoa might recall the memories of the tragic events of the 27th G8 summit in July 2001, when, at the height of the anti-globalization movement, protests turned violent and resulted in the death of a 23-year-old Carlo Giuliani. In today’s news, Genoa might represent Italy’s crumbling infrastructure and the apparent powerlessness of its government to repair it - on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, one of the main bridges of the city, the Morandi Bridge, collapsed, killing 43 people and leaving 600 homeless. The bridge’s demise also destroyed Italy’s reputation as an expert in mechanical engineering. Although Genoa cannot compete in the popular imagination with some of Italy’s more famous cities, this busy port town perched above the sea once boasted a powerful empire that rivaled that of Venice. It also lasted for roughly the same time period, rising in the early Middle Ages and coming to an end at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte near the end of the 18th century. Beyond its own success, the city’s position at the head of the Mediterranean gave it an important strategic location from which to observe Italian and European history, as well as the world beyond. Today, historians are starting to correct the imbalance that has focused on Venice, Florence, and Rome, and new histories are gradually introducing Genoa to the world, even as much remains to be uncovered. The Republic of Genoa: The History of the Italian City that Became Influential across the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages examines the highs and lows of Genoa La Superba (“The Proud”), including its humble origins in the first century CE, its felicitous rise after the fall of the Roman Empire, its golden age as a mercantile power during the “Genoese Century,” and its demise at the hands of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 24 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Red Baron

The Red Baron

Summary

"Now I am within 30 yards of him. He must fall. The gun pours out its stream of lead. Then it jams. Then it reopens fire. That jam almost saved his life." - The Red Baron Few participants in World War I are more famous than Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, better known as the Red Baron. A German known for victories in a war that his country lost, a cavalry officer made famous as mounted combat disappeared, and an aristocratic hero in a century dominated by democracy; Richthofen's celebrity stands in stark contrast to the era. Furthermore, World War I is not remembered as a period in which the advance of technology empowered or emboldened individual human beings, and it certainly did not support the old romantic image of the lone, skilled warrior. The terrible grinding power of Europe's first great industrial war saw advances in gunnery and factory production that chewed up millions of young men and spit them out in fragments across the anonymous mud of no man's land. A soldier was more likely to be killed by an artillery shell flung from half a mile away than up close in combat, where his own skills might save his life, so there was little heroism and no glory to be found in the forms of violence provided by the modern war machine. However, for the handful of men fighting in the air, it was a different matter, because World War I brought about the emergence of full-blooded aerial combat for the first time. In fact, airplanes were so foreign to past examples of warfare that few military officers were sure of how to utilize them at the start of the war.

©2014 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jem Matzan
Length: 1 hr and 27 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Race to the Top of New York City's Skyline

The Race to the Top of New York City's Skyline

Summary

Of all the great cities in the world, few personify their country like New York City. As America's largest city and best known immigration gateway into the country, the Big Apple represents the beauty, diversity and sheer strength of the United States, a global financial center that has enticed people chasing the "American Dream" for centuries. Given that history, it's no surprise that New Yorkers have always wanted to construct the biggest and best structures possible, even in the early 1930s at the height of the Great Depression. Indeed, those years produced the Empire State Building, which remains the city's most iconic building, but New York's most famous skyscraper wouldn't have been possible without the Chrysler Building, a landmark in its own right that was the tallest building in the world for nearly a year before its more famous counterpart's completion. In fact, the spirit of competition between the groups working on the two buildings helped ensure that both look like they do today, and the Chrysler Building only reached the height it did because a large skyscraper at 40 Wall Street was also trying to claim the mantle of tallest building at the same time. The Chrysler Building was the first man-made object to surpass 1,000 feet in height, and while it has been surpassed by considerably taller projects since, it remains the largest steel-supported brick building in the world. As its name suggests, the Chrysler Building was named after Walter P. Chrysler, who ran the car company at the time, and yet his corporation never owned the building because he cherished it so much that he personally paid for the skyscraper and kept it in his family.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ian H. Shattuck
Category: History, Americas
Length: 2 hrs and 40 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Pueblo of Yesterday and Today

The Pueblo of Yesterday and Today

Summary

When European settlers - and later American settlers - came into contact with Native American tribes on the continent, they were frequently unable to differentiate between the subcultures within individual tribes. This led to all kinds of misunderstandings. When the Spanish came into contact with different tribes in the Southwest, they categorized several of them as Pueblo. Thus, while most Americans have heard of the Pueblo and Navajo, many remain unfamiliar with distinctions within the tribes. The Pueblo fascinated those who came across their settlements, especially those located in desert regions and the sides of cliffs. One such settlement, Oraibi, was created around AD 1100. It remains one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in North America. The Spanish were so intrigued by the structure of the communities that they gave the natives the name Pueblo, a term they used to measure certain sizes for their own settlements. Today's Puebloan tribes are descended from tribes known as the "ancestral Puebloan people", one of which was the Anasazi. The name Anasazi came from their enemies; it is a Navajo word that means "enemy ancestor". While that name understandably continues to offend the descendants of the Anasazi, it also underscores that there is still a lot of uncertainty regarding the history of the Anasazi. It is still unclear what the Anasazi called themselves, and though they resided near the "Four Corners" area of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico for more than 700 years, they mysteriously abandoned their settlements shortly after they truly began to flourish around AD 1050-1150.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Steve Toner
Category: History, Americas
Length: 2 hrs and 41 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Price of Defeat

The Price of Defeat

Summary

After the last shots of World War II were fired and the process of rebuilding Germany and Europe began, the Western Allies and the Soviet Union each tried to obtain the services of the Third Reich's leading scientists, especially those involved in rocketry, missile technology, and aerospace research. Naturally, this was a delicate affair due to the fact many of the German scientists were not only active Nazis but had helped the Nazi war machine terrorize the world. At the same time, by the late war period, the Anglo-American Allies formed a clear picture of the Soviet state. Though forced to ally with the USSR's dictator, the West came to understand Communist Russia represented yet another hungry totalitarian power, and thus a very real threat to an independent Europe. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill realized the menacing character of the Soviets from the Katyn Forest Massacre of Polish army officers, if not before, while the Americans only gradually shed a naïve assumption of continued Russian friendliness after the war. 

The Western approach, however self-interested, typically met with voluntary compliance on the German scientists' parts. In contrast, the Soviet answer to Paperclip, Operation Osoaviakhim, used the implied threat of imprisonment, torture, and death, the characteristic tools of Stalinist Russia, to coerce assistance from German scientists and engineers following the war. These men yielded rich dividends to the Soviet state in terms of achieving at least temporary technical parity with the USSR's western rivals. 

To say these operations had a profound impact on the Cold War and American history would be an understatement. The most well-known example of Operation Paperclip’s “success” was Wernher von Braun, who was once a member of a branch of the SS involved in the Holocaust before becoming known as the “father of rocket science” and fascinating the world with visions of winged rockets and space stations as a “new” Manhattan Project, one that NASA would eventually adopt. In addition to the weaponization of ballistic missiles that progressed throughout the Cold War, von Braun’s expertise was used for America’s most historic space missions. While NASA developed rockets capable of first launching a spacecraft into Earth’s orbit, and then launching it toward the Moon, the Soviets struggled throughout the 1960s to design rockets up to the task. Thanks to von Braun, NASA got it right with the Saturn V rocket, which to this day remains the most powerful launching rocket NASA ever used. 

There is an enormous amount of documentation about the American efforts, particularly Operation Paperclip and its ultimate outcomes, yet the parallel programs involving the transfer of personnel, intellectual property (IP), and equipment to the UK have attracted limited academic study and are almost forgotten by the general public. A pioneering article by John Farquharson in 1997 assessed the extent and nature of British transfers, but research into the military and civilian units that carried out the transfers had to wait until the partial declassification of official files in 2006. This was followed by the publication of sensationalist and generalized allegations of unethical practices in the mass media, which prompted personal memoirs in book form from Michael Howard (2010) and in the popular press.  

The Price of Defeat: The History of British Operations to Transfer Personnel, Technology, and Equipment from Germany to Britain after World War II examines the Nazis’ technologies and personnel, and the various efforts by the British to access them as the war was coming to a close.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Category: History, Military
Length: 2 hrs and 3 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Powder River Expedition of 1865

The Powder River Expedition of 1865

Summary

The Bozeman Trail ran through the Powder River country, which included the traditional hunting grounds of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho peoples. Attempts by the natives to prevent encroachment and armed defense of settlers along the trail led to conflicts in short order. Due to the presence of the Sioux in the region, as early as 1864, travelers were advised not to traverse the Bozeman Trail except in very large wagon trains. The US Army also suffered - that year, when a party led by Captain Townshend and several soldiers set out along the Trail with a wagon train, the Sioux attacked his train, killing four soldiers in the assault. In response to Sioux raids along the Bozeman Trail, the United States Army closed the trail in 1865 to mount the Powder River Expedition against the Sioux alliance that kept ravaging settlers and the beleaguered Crows. With the Civil War nearing its end, spare men were hard to come by, but still, the Powder River Expedition was prepared under the leadership of Brigadier General Patrick Connor. Charged with keeping the roads and trails of the plains open, Connor’s expedition was war in all but name. Underequipped, and without enough men, the expedition turned out to be little more than a series of limited skirmishes, fortification construction, and requisitions for more men and materiel. Almost from the start, the expedition faced trouble. The various division commanders had a foggy notion of which parts of the Powder River Country they were to march through, with the varied surveys of the region not helping. The biggest problem, however, was the soldiers’ refusal to march. Occurring at the climax of the Civil War, the expedition’s soldiers expected to be discharged and allowed to return to their homes, not stuck in the middle of nowhere, fighting another battle. Dissuaded from mutiny with the helpful aid of artillery, the various divisions finally got underway in July. The expedition faced vast open country, and that, coupled with lack of supplies, logistics, and communication beyond runners and scouts, quickly took their toll. Men succumbed to scurvy, and the east and middle divisions failed to link up on schedule, thanks largely to the lack of proper surveys of the region and general lack of knowledge of the terrain. This lack of knowledge resulted in supply failures, further exacerbating the expedition’s plight. With the soldiers lacking food in a region sparse of forage for anything except oxen and birds, the natives pounced, attacking the separated divisions. The natives’ attacks were a rude awakening for the soldiers, as among the three divisions only the Native American scouts had knowledge of the area or experience fighting in the West. Expecting nearly nude savages flinging spears and arrows, the natives’ use of rifles and captured army uniforms took them completely by surprise. Despite the lack of supplies and the Native American raids, the middle and east divisions managed to link up in early September, but as the united divisions marched onward to join with General Connor’s division, 225 horses and mules died from heat exhaustion, starvation, or cold, thanks to a recent mountain storm. Both the natives’ view of the expedition and General Connor’s offer an idea of the end result. "The Indians, thinking that the commander had voluntarily retired from their front, again hastened to the road, passing General Connor's retiring column to the east of his line of march, and again commenced their devilish work of pillage, plunder, and massacre." General Connor himself is reported to have stated in regard to the expedition, "You have doubtless noticed the singular termination of the late campaign against the Indians. The truth is, rather harm than good was done, and our troops were, in one sense, driven out of their country by the Indians..." 

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Military
Length: 2 hrs
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Pleistocene Era

The Pleistocene Era

Summary

The Pleistocene spans a period from around 2.5 million years ago (mya) to just over 12,000 years ago, and it was an epoch of enormous change on Earth, mainly characterized by climate changes involving fluctuations between periods of extreme heat and long periods of glaciation. This period is commonly known as the Ice Age, despite the fact there were actually a number of separate periods of cold. Along with the climate challenges, this was also the period that saw the development of modern humans. The origin of our ancient ancestors is still a matter of debate among paleontologists, and classification systems for early hominoids are constantly being updated as new discoveries are made.  What is generally agreed upon is the species Homo sapiens belong to the order primates and the suborder anthropoids. Within the anthropoids suborder, humans belong to the family hominids, which also includes other animals such as the orangutan and the great apes. Drilling down even further, humans belong to a subgroup of hominids known as hominin. The subgroup hominin includes humans as well as chimpanzees and gorillas. Discoveries have revealed more than 20 species of the genus Homo, all of which appeared during the Pleistocene Epoch, and all but Homo sapiens became extinct during the same period. The challenge is in understanding which of these groups are predecessors to Homo sapiens and which are separate groups that died out leaving no current representation. Not knowing this information makes it difficult to determine neat classification and establish precisely when hominins separated from the rest of the non-hominin primates. It is generally accepted that hominoids and the first hominins evolved in what is now Africa. Somewhere around seven mya, the common hominoid lineage split into two distinct evolutionary lines: the ancestors of modern chimpanzees and those of modern humans. Around 2.5 mya, a new genus of hominin appeared. Homo had larger brains than their predecessors as well as smaller jaws and teeth. The very first stone tools date to this period, when there were a number of different hominin species. The very first true humans, Homo erectus, appeared around two mya. These new creatures could hardly have chosen a more difficult time to appear. In addition to facing the challenges of simply surviving in a generally hostile environment, the world was about to enter a period of convulsive climatic change. The new humans would face drought and extreme heat, as well as long periods of cooling where glaciers spread across the surface of the planet, but they survived, and by the time the Pleistocene Epoch ended around 12,000 years ago, Homo sapiens had become one of the most significant species on the planet. The Pleistocene Era: The History of the Ice Age and the Dawn of Modern Humans looks at the development of the era, what life on Earth was like, and the origins of archaic humans.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 2 hrs and 22 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Pioneer Program

The Pioneer Program

Summary

Today the Space Race is widely viewed poignantly and fondly as a race to the Moon that culminated with Apollo 11 “winning” the Race for the United States. In fact, it encompassed a much broader range of competition between the Soviet Union and the United States that affected everything from military technology to successfully launching satellites that could land on Mars or orbit other planets in the Solar System. Moreover, the notion that America “won” the Space Race at the end of the 1960s overlooks just how competitive the Space Race actually was in launching people into orbit, as well as the major contributions the Space Race influenced in leading to today’s International Space Station and continued space exploration. Space exploration was always an expensive business, and throughout NASA’s history, the agency has had to justify to Congress its need for every dollar it intended to spend. This problem has helped NASA to be more careful and more creative with the money they did receive, and scientists had to justify the equipment they wanted to include on each space probe. They had to justify the size and the power demand, too. If they wanted too much, the entire mission might be scrubbed, and all their work would have been for naught. This made planning and designs leaner and more efficient, as scientists and engineers were more careful with their recommendations. At the same time, scientists have been repeatedly surprised by their discoveries. Some of those discoveries revealed the dangers of space, like the Van Allen radiation belt, dangerous to astronauts without the right kind of protection. NASA also discovered the massive radiation belt surrounding Jupiter thanks to the Pioneer probes in 1973 and 1974. Similarly, with the knowledge that Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, has a thick atmosphere, later missions were sent to investigate the moon up close. Thus, the Huygens lander pierced the Titan atmosphere in January of 2005 to investigate. Although Apollo 11’s successful mission to the Moon is seen as the culmination of the Space Race, and the Apollo program remains NASA’s most famous, one of the space agency’s most successful endeavors came a few years later. In fact, the Pioneer program was the most diversified sequence of any of NASA’s programs, and though they’re now remembered for being among the first probes in history to reach the Outer Solar System, the elaborate planning changed goals several times over several years before resulting in historic successes. NASA had wanted to do a Grand Tour of the Solar System toward the end of the 1970s to take advantage of the scheduled alignment of planets, which meant the Pioneer missions were meant to be test runs prior to the main events (Voyager 1 and Voyager 2), and a great many things discovered by Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 were essential to the successful planning of the Voyager probes. The Pioneer Program: The History and Legacy of NASA’s Unmanned Space Missions to the Outer Solar System examines the origins behind the missions, the space probes involved, and the historic results. You will learn about the Pioneer program like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 46 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Patty Hearst Kidnapping

The Patty Hearst Kidnapping

Summary

For most of the 20th century, the name Hearst was most closely associated with one of America's most famous (and infamous) newspaper magnates, William Garrison Hearst, whose life was the inspiration for Citizen Kane. But in the 1970s, his granddaughter Patricia made headlines thanks to a series of events that would wind up being one of the most bizarre chapters of the 20th century. In 1974, Hearst was a 19 year old college student at Berkeley when she was kidnapped by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), an obscure left-wing group with ties to the local area. In fact, the SLA abducted Hearst in part because she lived nearby, and it was hoped that her famous lineage would help them ransom her, either in exchange for imprisoned members of their group or for money that could be donated throughout the community. Those plans would never come to fruition, and as the SLA got more and more frustrated, they continued threatening their captive. Hearst recalled that the group's leader, Donald DeFreeze, "told me that the war council had decided or was thinking about killing me or me staying with them, and that I better start thinking about that as a possibility." The Heart kidnapping helped propel the SLA into the headlines, but what followed was almost too much for anyone to believe. Whether through coercion or some other factors, Hearst became the SLA's most high profile member, and she was involved in the group's robbery of the Sunset District branch of the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. Surveillance photos of Hearst carrying a gun shocked the nation, and Patty immediately became one of the country's most notorious fugitives. When she was caught in 1975, Hearst called herself an "Urban Guerilla" and continued to be an advocate of the SLA, but within weeks, within weeks she had disavowed the group. As a result, the trial would hinge on issues like Stockholm Syndrome, coercion, rape, and even the belief that Hearst had been brainwashed. While the prosecution tried to depict her as being a willing bank robber, her defense argued, "There was talk about her dying, and she wanted to survive." Eventually, she was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail by a judge, who asserted "rebellious young people who, for whatever reason, become revolutionaries and voluntarily commit criminal acts, will be punished." However, her sentence was commuted by President Carter a few years later, and President Clinton pardoned her altogether decades later. To this day, the Hearst case remains controversial and is still the subject of debate. Through it all, Hearst has claimed she had virtually no free will: "I had been, you know, held in the closet for two months and, you know, abused in all manner of ways. I was very good at doing what I was told."

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jim D. Johnston
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 14 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

Summary

"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood..." - Theodore Roosevelt Most people have heard of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but while not as many have heard of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, those who have are aware that the Panama Canal is considered one of them. In a world where few natural rivers carved out over eons of time have reached a length of more than 50 miles, the idea that a group of men could carve a canal of that length seemed impossible. In fact, many thought it could not be done. On the other hand, there was a tremendous motivation to try, because if a canal could be successfully cut across Central America to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it would cut weeks off the time necessary to carry goods by sea from the well-established East Coast of the United States to the burgeoning West Coast. Moreover, traveling around the tip of South America was fraught with danger, and European explorers and settlers had proposed building a canal in Panama or Nicaragua several centuries before the Panama Canal was actually built. By the late 19th century, the French actually tried to build such a canal, only to fail after a great deal of resources were put into construction and after workers died of malaria and other illnesses. At the turn of the 20th century, not only was the need for a canal still there, but the right man was in the White House.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 16 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Ottoman-Russian Wars of the 19th Century

The Ottoman-Russian Wars of the 19th Century

Summary

In terms of geopolitics, perhaps the most seminal event of the Middle Ages was the successful Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1453. The city had been an imperial capital as far back as the fourth century, when Constantine the Great shifted the power center of the Roman Empire there, effectively establishing two almost equally powerful halves of antiquity’s greatest empire.  Constantinople would continue to serve as the capital of the Byzantine Empire even after the western half of the Roman Empire collapsed in the late fifth century. Naturally, the Ottoman Empire would also use Constantinople as the capital of its empire after their conquest effectively ended the Byzantine Empire, and thanks to its strategic location, it has been a trading center for years and remains one today under the Turkish name of Istanbul. In the wake of taking Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire would spend the next few centuries expanding its size, power, and influence, bumping up against Eastern Europe and becoming one of the world’s most important geopolitical players. It was a rise that would not truly start to wane until the 19th century, and in the centuries before the decline of the “sick man of Europe,” the Ottomans frequently tried to push further into Europe.  Some of those forays were memorably countered by Western Europeans and the Holy League, but the Ottomans’ most frequent foe was the Russian Empire, which opposed them for both geopolitical and religious reasons. From negotiations to battles, the two sides jockeyed for position over the course of hundreds of years, and the start of the fighting may have represented the Ottomans’ best chance to conquer Moscow and change the course of history. By the 19th century, the tsar was notoriously referring to the Ottoman Empire as the “sick man of Europe”, and by the start of World War I, the Ottoman Empire was often described as a dwindling power, mired by administrative corruption, using inferior technology, and plagued by poor leadership.  The general idea is that the Ottoman Empire was “lagging behind”, likely coming from the clear stagnation of the empire between 1683 and 1826. Yet, it can be argued that this portrayal is often misleading and fails to give a fuller picture of the state of the Ottoman Empire. The fact that the other existing multicultural empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, also did not survive World War I should put into question this “accepted narrative”.  Looking at the reforms, technological advances, and modernization efforts made by the Ottoman elite between 1826 and the beginning of World War I, one could really wonder why such a thirst for change failed to save the Ottomans when similar measures taken by other nations, such as Japan during the Meiji era, did in fact result in the rise of a global power in the 20th century.  During the period that preceded its collapse, the Ottoman Empire was at the heart of a growing rivalry between two of the competing global powers of the time, England and France. The two powers asserted their influence over a declining empire, the history of which is anchored in Europe as much as in Asia. However, while the two powers were instrumental in the final defeat and collapse of the Ottoman Empire, their stance toward what came to be known as the “Eastern Question” - the fate of the Ottoman Empire - is not one of clear enmity. Both England and France found, at times, reasons to extend the life of the Sick Man of Europe until it finally sided with their shared enemies.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2021 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 2 hrs and 29 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Ottoman-Russian Wars of the 18th Century

The Ottoman-Russian Wars of the 18th Century

Summary

In terms of geopolitics, perhaps the most seminal event of the Middle Ages was the successful Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1453. The city had been an imperial capital as far back as the fourth century, when Constantine the Great shifted the power center of the Roman Empire there, effectively establishing two almost equally powerful halves of antiquity’s greatest empire. Constantinople would continue to serve as the capital of the Byzantine Empire even after the Western half of the Roman Empire collapsed in the late fifth century. Naturally, the Ottoman Empire would also use Constantinople as the capital of its empire after their conquest effectively ended the Byzantine Empire, and thanks to its strategic location, it has been a trading center for years and remains one today under the Turkish name of Istanbul.  In the wake of taking Constantinople, the Ottoman Empire would spend the next few centuries expanding its size, power, and influence, bumping up against Eastern Europe and becoming one of the world’s most important geopolitical players. It was a rise that would not truly start to wane until the 19th century, and in the centuries before the decline of the “sick man of Europe", the Ottomans frequently tried to push further into Europe.  Some of those forays were memorably countered by Western Europeans and the Holy League, but the Ottomans’ most frequent foe was the Russian Empire, which opposed them for both geopolitical and religious reasons. From negotiations to battles, the two sides jockeyed for position over the course of hundreds of years, and the start of the fighting may have represented the Ottomans’ best chance to conquer Moscow and change the course of history.  For anyone trying to understand the origins of modern Russia and the start of the Russo-Turkish Wars, the search should begin with Tsar Peter I (1672-1725), who titled himself Peter the Great during his lifetime. The moniker is fitting, considering the manner in which Peter brought Russia out of the Middle Ages and into the 18th century. Through a series of campaigns, Peter turned Russia into a formidable empire that would subsequently become a major force on the European continent, while also emulating Western Europe and turning Russia into an international state that interacted with the other continental powers. By revolutionizing and modernizing Russian arms, including the creation of Russia’s first naval force, Peter was able to pursue an aggressive and expansionist foreign policy that set the stage for the way the European map would be redrawn again and again over the coming centuries.  In the late 17th century, Peter the Great launched an attack on Azov, an Ottoman fortress near the mouth of the Dnieper as it flows into the Sea of Azov. Conquest of the stronghold would provide Muscovy with a port and the ability to attack Crimea from sea, but even after the Russians accomplished this, the ultimate prize - free access to the Black Sea - remained out of Russia’s reach on account of the strength of the Ottoman fleet in the Black Sea and the logistical challenges of conquering the Crimean Peninsula. Furthermore, soon after the conquest of Azov Peter engaged in a much costlier war in the north against Sweden for the conquest of ports on the Baltic Sea. The Ottoman Empire, which had just signed a humiliating treaty with Austria, Poland and Venice which gave up Hungary and other conquests, was pleased with the respite, but it came unto conflict with Russia again over Peter’s enemy King Charles XII of Sweden, who had taken refuge in Ottoman Moldavia after his defeat at the Battle of Poltava in July 1709.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 2 hrs and 15 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Order of the Holy Sepulchre

The Order of the Holy Sepulchre

Summary

"But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me." (Luke 19:27) For centuries, Christians and Muslims were embroiled in one of the most infamous territorial disputes of all time, viciously and relentlessly battling one another for the Holy Land. In the heart of Jerusalem sat one of the shining jewels of the Christian faith, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Legend has it that this was where their Savior had been buried before his fabled resurrection. What was more, it was said to house the very cross Jesus Christ had died upon. It was for precisely these reasons that fearless pilgrims, near and far, risked their lives and made the treacherous trek to Jerusalem. Of course, this also made the basilica a perfect target, so much so that a powerful company of knights was founded to guard the church and defend its presence in the Promised Land. Though the Equestrian Knights of the Holy Sepulchre no longer sport the fancy coats of mail or shiny swords of their ancestors, their noble cause lives on, and they continue to aim to protect one of Christianity's holiest sites. Today, there exists 20,000-30,000 Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre in over 60 nations around the globe, a figure that is constantly growing. Its members today continue to provide support (now mostly financial and moral) to its main basilica, and they focus on enriching the order's philanthropic operations, as well as "strengthening the practice of Christian life amongst its members." Its members also serve as missionaries, spreading the gospel and the order's mission to both Catholics, non-Catholics, and even the non-religious, all over the world. The Order of the Holy Sepulchre: The History of the Catholic Order Established During the Crusades for the Promised Land examines the events leading up to its founding, its development throughout the years, its inner workings, and the lives of these famous knights of God. You will learn about the Order of the Holy Sepulchre like never before.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Length: 1 hr and 21 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Oracle of Delphi

The Oracle of Delphi

Summary

"Not often nor regularly, but occasionally and fortuitously, the room in which they seat the god's consultants is filled with a fragrance and breeze, as if the adyton were sending forth the essences of the sweetest and most expensive perfumes from a spring." - Plutarch "[T]he seat of the oracle is a cavern hollowed down in the depths... from which arises pneuma [breath, vapor, gas] that inspires a divine state of possession." - Strabo, Geography 9.3.5 The Oracle of Delphi was one of the greatest religious institutions in Ancient Greece. It played a significant role not only in the formation and collective decisions of Hellenic localities and city-states but also in the personal lives of Greeks known and unknown. The site was dedicated to the god Apollo, and the Greeks believed the god spoke his oracles through his prophetess known as the Pythia. The judgments and decisions rendered by the oracle were so important to the Greeks that they often put them above all other interests, even security threats posed by the likes of the Persians. Delphi was popular even amongst outsiders. The Pythia delivered the god's oracles to such famous persons as Midas and Croesus, and it provided consultations during such important historical moments as the Persian War and the Peloponnesian War. Many authors of antiquity mention the oracle for one reason or another, and there even survive epigraphic collections that preserve the god's words on stone. The ancient Greeks called Delphi the omphalos ("navel") of the Earth. The black rock that symbolized this imagined center stands at the site to this very day. Sitting at the foot of Mt. Parnassos, Delphi overlooks the Gulf of Corinth, so it is no wonder why the setting mesmerized contemporaries.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 9 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The New York City Subway

The New York City Subway

Summary

Of all the great cities in the world, few personify their country like New York City. As America's largest city and best known immigration gateway into the country, NYC represents the beauty, diversity, and sheer strength of the United States, a global financial center that has enticed people chasing the "American Dream" for centuries. One of the most significant needs of a growing civilization is an efficient transportation system, and by the time the burgeoning New York City had reached the latter half of the 19th century, the waterways and narrow streets were no longer sufficient to get people from one part of the city to another. Something new was needed, and in a place where real estate was already at a premium, building above ground was not an economically efficient option. As such, the leaders of the city commissioned companies to explore the world under the busy streets, and to build a rail system that would allow people to move quickly below the feet of those walking above. First one company and then another rose to the challenge, and the first decade of the 20th century found the city with one of the best subway systems in the nation. As the city grew, so did the companies, and they continued to dig like human gophers into more expansive areas. Perhaps not surprisingly, barely anything went smoothly, and for every mile of track put down, there was at least another mile of red tape that had to be cut through.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 32 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Mysteries of Mithras

The Mysteries of Mithras

Summary

In the early Roman Empire, as Christianity struggled to gain a foothold and survive in the polytheistic pool of Roman theology, its greatest rivals weren't the Caesars or the Roman aristocracy but rather the faith and devotion of the common Roman legionary. The faith of these men was centered on the god Mithras, who, they believed, led them to victory upon the field of battle and had done so for nearly four centuries. Despite this widespread belief among soldiers, the cult of Mithras was not a creation of the Romans, although they would eventually add their own rituals and mysteries to the ancient religion. In fact, the Mithraic religion was an Indo-Persian creation, a theology which managed to travel from India and back into the Hellenic and Roman world by way of Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire. Eventually, the cult of Mithras would spread across the ancient world, and Mithras would be worshiped from the mountains of India to the coasts of Spain. As a result, the cult of Mithras could ultimately be found in every corner of the Roman Empire. The Mithras cult was one of the many "mystery religions" that the Romans adopted, several of which came from cultures outside of Rome. Isis, an Egyptian goddess, and Cybele, an Anatolian goddess, were both popular with Roman women, while Mithras, which was a variation of the name of the Zoroastrian demigod Mithra, was popular with Roman soldiers and the political elite for over 400 years. Since the Mithras cult, like all of the Roman mystery cults, was esoteric in nature, the exact nature of the influence other cultures had on the cult remains unknown, but some archaeological evidence has led modern scholars to make educated deductions. Some believe that the conscription of Persian soldiers into the Roman army and continued contact between the Parthians and Romans led to some members of the ever-eclectic Roman society adopting the cult directly from the Parthian/Zoroastrian religion (Clark 2001, 157). This seems like the most plausible explanation, but others have argued that the Mithras cult was actually a Roman religion that was given a Parthian façade to make it appear more exotic in order to attract Romans who were enthralled with eastern spirituality (Clark 2001, 157). The best evidence to determine the origins of the Mithras cult can be found in the many temples throughout Europe that the Romans erected to the god. These temples, known as mithraea, were subterranean chambers where the secret rituals of the cult took place. The best evidence from extant mithraea are the reliefs on the altars, which depict a graphic mythological story. The altar reliefs usually depict the god slaughtering a bull, often accompanied by a leaping dog (Clark 2001, 158). The references to Zoroastrian theology are unmistakable; the bull slaughter is similar to an account from a Zoroastrian text (the Bundahishen), while dogs were viewed as asha animals in Zoroastrian theology and an important part of the funerary ritual (Clark 2001, 158). The detailed iconography on the Mithras altars suggests that the inventors of the Mithras cult had more than just a superficial knowledge of Zoroastrianism, which in turn indicates a provenance of the religion somewhere in Persian or Parthia.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ken Teutsch
Length: 1 hr and 22 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Mycenaeans: The History and Culture of Ancient Greece's First Advanced Civilization

The Mycenaeans: The History and Culture of Ancient Greece's First Advanced Civilization

Summary

When people think of ancient Greece, images of philosophers such as Plato or Socrates often come to mind, as do great warriors like Pericles and Alexander the Great. But hundreds of years before Athens became a city, a Greek culture flourished and spread its tentacles throughout the Western Mediterranean region via trade and warfare. Scholars have termed this preclassical Greek culture the Mycenaean culture. It existed from about 2000 to 1200 BCE, when Greece, along with much of the Eastern Mediterranean, was thrust into a centuries-long dark age. Before the Mycenaean culture collapsed, it was a vital part of the late Bronze Age Mediterranean system and stood on equal footing with some of the great powers of the region, such as the Egyptians and Hittites. Despite being ethnic Greeks and speaking a language that was the direct predecessor of classical Greek, the Mycenaeans had more in common with their neighbors from the island of Crete, who are known today as the Minoans. Due to their cultural affinities with the Minoans and the fact that they conquered Crete yet still carried on many Minoan traditions, the Mycenaeans are viewed by some scholars as the later torchbearers of a greater Aegean civilization. This is similar to the way the Romans carried on Hellenic civilization after the Greeks. Given that the Mycenaeans played such a vital role in history in the late Bronze Age, it would be natural to assume there are countless studies and accurate chronologies on the subject, but the opposite is true. Although the Mycenaeans were literate, the corpus of written texts from the period is minimal, so modern scholars are left to use a variety of methods in order to reconstruct a proper history of Mycenaean culture.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Gabrielle Byrne
Length: 1 hr and 16 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Muslim Brotherhood: The History of the Middle East's Most Influential Islamist Group

The Muslim Brotherhood: The History of the Middle East's Most Influential Islamist Group

Summary

In 2011, Egypt quickly became one of the most active countries during the Arab Spring, with Tahrir Square in Cairo becoming the focal point of both violent protests and peaceful political demonstrations. Inspired by the protesters in Tunisia, beginning in January 2011, Egyptians rallied to the square and in the streets by the thousands, marching, protesting, and calling for the fall of then-President Hosni Mubarak. Throughout the next several months until the overthrow of Mubarak in February 2011, millions of protesters from a wide range of socio-economic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds demanded a regime change across Egypt. As significant as it was for the Egyptian people, the Egyptian Arab Spring was a key turning point for the Muslim Brotherhood - Egypt's largest and long-oppressed opposition group. The Brotherhood played a key role in organizing demonstrations, pitting the Egyptian and world media against the Mubarak regime, and orchestrating violent riots and clashes between civilian protesters and the Egyptian security forces, further portraying the regime in a negative light. But it was after the revolution that the Brotherhood truly reaped its rewards; it formed a legal political party and ran in the subsequent parliamentary elections, winning a large number of seats that were previously unavailable to them. Then, in June 2012, the Brotherhood made history in Egypt when it successfully managed to install its candidate Mohamed Morsi as president. Perhaps no group was more surprised by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's swift and largely unopposed rise to power than the Brotherhood itself; for decades, the group had suffered a long history of severe oppression and internal crises, but in the political environment created by the Arab Spring, it only took less than two years for the Brotherhood to control the Egyptian government.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator:
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 37 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars

The Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars

Summary

Though history is usually written by the victors, the lack of a particularly strong writing tradition from the Mongols ensured that history was largely written by those who they vanquished. Because of this, their portrayal in the West and the Middle East has been extraordinarily (and in many ways unfairly) negative for centuries, at least until recent revisions to the historical record. The Mongols have long been depicted as wild horse-archers galloping out of the dawn to rape, pillage, murder and enslave, but the Mongol army was a highly sophisticated, minutely organized and incredibly adaptive and innovative institution, as witnessed by the fact that it was successful in conquering enemies who employed completely different weaponry and different styles of fighting.  The Mongols were pushed out of the region by the Poles and Lithuanians, who then occupied state territories in the 14th century. Poland seized areas in the west, known as Galicia, while Lithuania occupied a northern area called Volynia. The Mongol-Tatars, however, retained control of the Crimean Peninsula, using it as a base for trade, including that of slaves, with the Ottoman Empire. The Tatars would actually strengthen their grip on the Crimea after the Golden Horde’s demise and continue terrifying other European powers. By allying themselves with the Ottomans, the Tatars seemingly lost the potent position they had when they were a part of the Mongol Empire, they were still close to being a superpower from Southeast Europe and the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Ottomans would continue to expand their territory and threaten other European nations for centuries to come.  Meanwhile, Russia also began expanding its influence by playing a role in defeating the Mongol hordes. The Russian ruler, Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan III, married the final heir to the Byzantine throne, Sophia (born Zoe) Palaiologina, the daughter of the last emperor of Byzantium, in 1480. Sophia would go on to be the grandmother of Ivan the Terrible, the first tsar of Imperial Russia from 1547-84. As a result of this lineage, the Romanov tsars would claim they were the torchbearers of Orthodox Christianity, descending directly from Byzantium.  All of this political maneuvering would bring about one of the most famous battles in the history of Eastern Europe as the various parties sought to fill the power vacuum. The battle would be fought around Orsha, which is today a city of about 118,000 inhabitants on the fork of the Dnieper and Arshytsa Rivers in northern Belarus. One of the oldest settlements in that nation, Orsha has historically been an important center of communication and trade, situated as it is on a major river that flows down into the Black Sea.  In 1514, Orsha was a much smaller town, home to a population of no more than 5,000 as part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but on September 8 of that year, the normally quiet and unpretentious town was thrust into the world’s gaze when over 100,000 troops engaged in one of the 16th century’s biggest battles outside the town walls. The battle pitted the forces of the King of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania against the Grand Duchy of Moscow, and it was part of a conflict known to history as the Fourth Muscovite-Lithuanian War. That war was part of a series of conflicts that began in the 15th century, and the fighting would not end until Poland and the lands of Grand Duchy of Lithuania were completely annexed by the Russian Empire in 1795.  The Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars: The History of the Russian Conflicts Against the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania examines the turbulent history of the region and the series of conflicts between the various powers.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Russia
Length: 1 hr and 58 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Munich Agreement of 1938: The History of the Peace Pact that Failed to Prevent World War II

The Munich Agreement of 1938: The History of the Peace Pact that Failed to Prevent World War II

Summary

"My good friends," the mustached, bony man with thick eyebrows and large, strong teeth somewhat reminiscent of those of a horse, shouted to the crowds from the second-floor window of his house at 10 Downing Street, "[T]his is the second time in our history, that there has come back to Downing Street from Germany peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time." The man addressing the crowd, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, had just returned from the heart of Nazi Germany following negotiations with Adolf Hitler, and the crowd gathered outside the English leader's house on September 30, 1938 greeted these ringing words with grateful cheers. The piece of paper Chamberlain flourished exultantly seemed to offer permanent amity and goodwill between democratic Britain and totalitarian Germany. In it, Britain agreed to allow Hitler's Third Reich to absorb the Sudeten regions of Czechoslovakia without interference from either England or France, and since high percentages of ethnic Germans - often more than 50% locally - inhabited these regions, Hitler's demand for this territory seemed somewhat reasonable to Chamberlain and his supporters. With Germany resurgent and rearmed after the disasters inflicted on it by the Treaty of Versailles following World War I, the pact - known as the Munich Agreement - held out hope of a quick end to German ambitions and the return of stable, normal international relations across Europe. Of course, the Munich agreement is now notorious because its promise proved barren within a very short period of time. Chamberlain's actions either failed to avert, or actually hastened, the very cataclysm he wished to avoid at all costs.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: John Skinner
Length: 1 hr and 54 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Mormon Trail

The Mormon Trail

Summary

Among all the various figures in 19th century America who left controversial legacies, it is hard to find one as influential as Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Mormonism, and the Latter-Day Saint movement. Revered as a prophet on the level of Moses by some, reviled as a perpetrator of large-scale fraud by others, what everyone can agree on is that Joseph Smith founded a religious movement that played a crucial role in the settlement of the West, especially in Utah. Smith’s dream of Zion would lead the way for the trials and the tribulations of the Mormons for the rest of the 19th century, including countless conflicts with local authorities and the U.S. government. Smith himself would be a casualty of the clashing, murdered by a mob in 1844 after being imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois near the settlement of Nauvoo, which Smith had painstakingly tried to create as a commune for his people. Smith’s death was one of the catalysts for the Mormons’ great migration to Utah, and today that state and the Mormons are virtually synonymous. To this day, Mormons still form a majority of the population, and members of the Church have prominent political and economic roles. Both of Utah’s U.S. Senators, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, are Mormons, as is Governor Gary Herbert. The story of the Mormon pioneers and the trail they trod is one of the great stories of the westward expansion of the United States. Frenchman Hyppolite Taine wrote of the migration in romantic terms in the 1860's: “Since the exodus of the Israelites there is no example of so great a religious emigration executed across such great spaces in spite of such obstacles, by so great a number of men, with so much order, obedience, courage, patience, and devotion. But the mainsprings of this great will was faith. Without it men would not have done such things. These exiles thought that they were founding the city of God, the metropolis of mankind. They considered themselves the renovators of the world. Let us remember our youth, and with what force an idea...merely by the fact that it seems good and true to us hurls us forward despite natural egotism, daily weakness, habits that we have contracted, surrounding prejudices, and accumulated obstacles! We don’t know of what we are capable”. Stanley Kimball pointed out the “curious fact” that the Mormons, “who did not want to go west in the first place, were among the most successful in doing so”. He noted, “Mormons, in as much as they did not go west for a new identity, missionary work, adventure, furs, land, health, or gold, but were driven beyond the frontier for their religious beliefs, were not typical westering Americans. While their trail experience was similar to other westering Americans, their motivation was different. It hardly seems necessary to document such a well known fact, but it will be helpful, in this respect, to refer to the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, itself. It was not a typical frontier community, nor did it resemble other frontier communities peopled by those pushing west. Nauvoo, rather, resembled an established New England city. It contained the many brick and substantial frame homes of people intending to remain, not the temporary log cabins of people on the move. The pioneer group was not concerned with just getting themselves safely settled, but with making the road easier for others of their faith to follow. Furthermore, the Mormons moved as villages on wheels, transplanting an entire people, rather than isolated, unrelated groups as was the case with the Oregon and California migrations..."

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Stephen Platt
Length: 2 hrs and 5 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Moon Missions Before Apollo

The Moon Missions Before Apollo

Summary

Today, the Space Race is widely viewed poignantly and fondly as a race to the Moon that culminated with Apollo 11 “winning” the race for the United States. In fact, it encompassed a much broader range of competition between the Soviet Union and the United States that affected everything from military technology to successfully launching satellites that could land on Mars or orbit other planets in the Solar System. Moreover, the notion that America “won” the Space Race at the end of the 1960s overlooks just how competitive the Space Race actually was in launching people into orbit, as well as the major contributions the Space Race influenced in leading to today’s International Space Station and continued space exploration. The Apollo space program is the most famous and celebrated in American history, but the first successful landing of men on the Moon during Apollo 11 had complicated roots, dating back over a decade, and it also involved one of NASA’s most infamous tragedies. Landing on the Moon presented an ideal goal all on its own, but the government’s urgency in designing the Apollo program was actually brought about by the Soviet Union, which spent much of the 1950s leaving the United States in its dust (and rocket fuel). In 1957, at a time when people were concerned about communism and nuclear war, many Americans were dismayed by news that the Soviet Union was successfully launching satellites into orbit. At the same time, America would begin missions to the Moon as early as 1958. On March 27, 1958, Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy announced a lunar project for the International Geophysical Year, consisting of three Air Force launches followed by two Army launches of a JPL-designed lunar probe. ARPA directed the Air Force to launch its probes "as soon as possible consistent with the requirement that a minimal amount of useful data concerning the Moon be obtained". Throughout the 1960s, NASA would spend tens of billions on missions to the Moon - the most expensive peacetime program in American history to that point - and Apollo was only made possible by the tests conducted through earlier missions, including the historic Ranger Program.  Conceived as an early part of the attempt to land a man on the Moon, Ranger was designed to photograph the lunar surface in preparation for future landings. Until Ranger, images of the Moon were only available through Earth-based telescopes, which lacked the detail necessary to determine safe sites for landing a spacecraft. Ranger aimed to fill in that gap of knowledge, and like many of NASA’s missions during the 1960s, the program exemplified both the successes and the failures of the agency’s early years. Nonetheless, the Ranger Program would set important precedents by taking the first close-up photos of the Moon and landing the first American spacecraft on the lunar surface. Subsequently, between May 1966 and January 1968, the Surveyor Program launched seven unmanned spacecraft to the lunar surface to gather data and test the feasibility of landing a manned vehicle on the Moon. Although largely forgotten now, without these missions, the later series of manned Moon landings would not have been possible. The Moon Missions Before Apollo: The History of NASA’s Pioneer, Ranger, and Surveyor Programs examines the origins behind the missions, the space probes involved, and the historic results.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Americas
Length: 3 hrs and 11 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Mesopotamian Campaign of World War I

The Mesopotamian Campaign of World War I

Summary

Most books and documentaries about the First World War focus on the carnage of the Western Front, where Germany faced off against France, the British Empire, and their allies in a grueling slugfest that wasted millions of lives. The shattered landscape of the trenches has become symbolic of the war as a whole, and it is this experience that everyone associates with World War I, but that front was not the only experience. There was the more mobile Eastern Front, as well as mountain warfare in the Alps and scattered fighting in Africa and the Far East. Then there was the Middle Eastern Front, fought across the Levant and Mesopotamia, which captured the imagination of the European public. There, the British and their allies fought the Ottoman Turkish Empire under harsh desert conditions hundreds of miles from home, struggling for possession of places most people only knew from the Bible and the Koran. The war to push the Ottoman Empire out of the Middle East ended up being a total success, and it has had far-reaching ramifications in the past 100 years.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 20 mins
Available on Audible
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The Massachusetts Bay Colony

Summary

The first successful American colony in North America was settled in 1607 at Jamestown, Virginia. Though the Virginian colonists had difficulty in the beginning, by the late 1620s the Chesapeake area was thriving, having become a haven for those seeking economic opportunity in the new world. Pressures in England were growing as King Charles I was on the throne. Though Charles I himself was an Anglican, many suspected him of Catholic sympathies, a suspicion not alleviated by Charles I marriage to a French Catholic princess. Many Protestants had a growing desire to practice their faith and conduct their lives away from the mother country, and sought refuge in a destination called New England. The land chosen by this group, who "could pay their own way across the Atlantic" in contrast to the poorer settlers of the Chesapeake region was "colder, less abundant, but far healthier" than Virginia. Alan Taylor sees this decision as one in "classic Puritan fashion", citing one settler's view: "If men desire to have a people degenerate speedily, and to corrupt their minds and bodies too...let them seek a rich soil, that beings in much with little labor; but if they desire that Piety and Godliness should prosper...let them choose a Country such as [New England] which yields sufficiency with hard labor and industry." The Puritans who came to America were, therefore, primed for hard work, discipline and the independent life, unlike their English counterparts who "preferred Anglicanism and the traditional culture characterized by church ales, Sunday diversions, ceremonial services, inclusive churches, and deference to the monarch."

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Tracey Norman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 15 mins
Available on Audible
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The March to Antietam

Summary

The bloodiest day in American history took place on the 75th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. On September 17, 1862, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia fought George McClellan’s Union Army of the Potomac outside Sharpsburg along Antietam Creek. That day, nearly 25,000 would become casualties, and Lee’s army would barely survive fighting the much bigger Northern army.  Although the battle was tactically a draw, it resulted in forcing Lee’s army out of Maryland and back into Virginia, making it a strategic victory for the North and an opportune time for President Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in the rebellious states.  For those reasons, Antietam is remembered as one of the major turning points of the Civil War, but it is often overlooked that the bloody battle only represented the climactic culmination of a 3-week campaign that saw George McClellan cautiously pull a fragmented Union army together and begin tracking Lee’s army into Maryland.  Sizing up McClellan, Lee had split his army up during its invasion, including sending Stonewall Jackson’s men to Harpers Ferry, but the whole course of the campaign and possibly the war changed when the Union Army somehow found a copy of Lee’s marching orders, telling them where the Confederate army would be and when. To Lee’s surprise, McClellan’s army began advancing far more rapidly, including attacking them at South Mountain before cornering them along Antietam Creek outside of Sharpsburg. The March to Antietam: The History of the Confederate Invasion of Maryland Before the Bloodiest Day of the Civil War looks at the events that led up to the Battle of Antietam, one of the crucial turning points of the Civil War. You will learn about the march to Antietam like never before, in no time at all.

©2015 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 18 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Mamluks

The Mamluks

Summary

Egypt in the 14th century was a glorious kingdom to behold. Spice merchants from Europe, Asia, and Africa sailed up the Nile River to the great port city of Alexandria, carrying riches such as silk, jewels, and spices. Cairo, the capital of Egypt, was the greatest city in the Islamic world, with a larger population and more wealth and splendor than any city in Europe. Cairo was a shining pinnacle of cosmopolitan splendor in the medieval world, and besides being a major trading hub, Cairo was famous for its scholars and intellectual class, offering countless academic opportunities for scholars across the Islamic world. The culture of Cairo was dynamic and famous for its wide range of intellectual debates on Islamic sciences and other academic fields, all of which far surpassed any contemporary city at the time. From across the Islamic world, scholars from all the major schools of thought were represented in Cairo. Spirited lectures occurred frequently in public squares and madrasas were often packed with patrons eagerly listening to readings by famed scholars. Cairo was a city filled with art, trade, and knowledge. However, there was another factor that made Cairo infamous. The city represented the last bastion of the Muslim world - a great Islamic caliphate, centered in Iraq, had once stretched from the edges of Central Asia to Spain, but invasions by outside enemies had mostly overrun this once mighty empire. The Mongol armies, pouring forth from their grasslands in Asia, had sacked Baghdad in 1258, destroying the caliphate and sending the Islamic world into a state of deep peril. Moreover, European crusaders had launched multiple invasions into Palestine and the Levant, threatening the very existence of the Muslim world. Ultimately these foreign invaders were all stopped by one group: the Mamluks of Egypt, a group of warriors, slaves, and kings. Hailing from the Eurasian steppes, the Mamluks were not Arab, but ethnically Turkish, enslaved at a young age, and sold into military service in Egypt, where they underwent intense military training in Cairo. Thus, these Turkish warriors were utterly alien from the Arab populations they eventually ruled over in ethnicity, language, and culture, but they were remarkably skilled in the mounted warfare styles of the nomadic tribes of the Eurasian grasslands and other aspects of medieval warfare. As a result, the Mamluks were some of the finest professional soldiers of their time, which they proved on multiple occasions through their brilliant military campaigns against the numerous enemies of Islamic Egypt. Critically, the Mamluks were one of the only groups to defeat the seemingly unstoppable Mongol hordes in open battle, potentially saving the Islamic world from annihilation. It could be argued that without the Mamluks, the Islamic world would have been completely destroyed, changing the course of history. As the Mamluks took power in Egypt, they rapidly became the center of the Islamic world. Egypt’s political system made it unique when compared to other parts of the Muslim world, and though the daily management of the kingdom required interactions between the foreign Mamluks and their Egyptian subjects, a vast degree of separation remained the law of the land. The Mamluks held a tight grip on political and military power (ordinary Egyptians were even forbidden to ride horses), and this system of recruitment from abroad and social isolation created an elite army loyal to the state and succeeded in barring the ruled people, even the sons of the Mamluks, from entering the ruling classes. Nothing symbolized this system better than the Citadel, a complex of mosques, offices, living quarters, stables, and palace that stood on a rocky prominence 250 feet above the city of Cairo. It was from the Citadel that the Mamluk sultan presided over his royal court and regiments.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: David Bernard
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 2 hrs and 18 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Maccabean Revolt

The Maccabean Revolt

Summary

In 722 BCE, the Neo-Assyrian Empire destroyed the kingdom of Israel, and after a siege of three years, the city of Samaria fell to the troops of Sargon II. As was a common practice in the ancient world, the victor uprooted the inhabitants and forced them into exile, scattering the refugees throughout Asia Minor and possibly Africa to destroy them as a cohesive group and prevent them from possibly revolting. That exile brought about the end of the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Only the much smaller and less important kingdom of Judah, nestled in the arid lands of the south, survived the campaign of the king of Assyria in 701 BCE, which the Bible attributed to the intervention of angels. Modern historians believe that the failure of an army as powerful as Sennacherib's to finish the job was due to a plague or a disease spreading among the ranks and forcing them to withdraw. However it happened, for a few more decades, the kingdom of Judah survived, at the southern tip of the ancient Promised Land, along the western shore of the Dead Sea. It was subjected first to the empire that had tried to destroy it, and then to the Neo-Babylonians. Finally, King Nebuchadnezzar II razed Jerusalem.  Jerusalem was uninhabited for much of the 6th century BCE. This period is known as the exile to Babylon, and Bible scholars believe that it was during those years that the Jewish people came into contact with several stories and legends that would later be incorporated into their sacred writings. A generation later, Achaemenid Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great allowed the Jews who so wished to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and reestablish their nation.  The reborn country, settled in the province called Yehud Medinata, survived semi-independently, although to a lesser extent than before, until it was again absorbed by the Greek kingdoms that arose after the conquests of Alexander the Great. After that, the Jews remained under the rule of the Hellenistic Seleucids, who ruled their Near Eastern kingdom from Mesopotamia, and occasionally under the rule of the Ptolemies, who reigned from Alexandria, Egypt.  For nearly two centuries, the Jews and Greeks of the region were able to live in relative peace. The Seleucid rulers allowed the Jews to practice their religion unmolested, and many of the Jews adopted aspects of Hellenism in order to ingratiate themselves with the rulers. Eventually, though, a number of factors led to a Jewish revolt against Seleucid rule that started in 167 BCE and came to be known as the Maccabean Revolt.  The uprising came about as the result of a growing sense of Jewish identity and a sort of proto-nationalism that viewed the Seleucids as enemy occupiers of the Holy Land. On the other side, the Seleucid King Antiochus IV (r. 175-164 BCE) viewed the Jews with suspicion due to their often insular nature and unwillingness to accept Hellenism. These attitudes collided, leading to the Maccabean Revolt.  The Maccabean Revolt never clearly ended, so historians continue to debate the timeline, but as it dragged on for some time, it evolved from an independence movement into a war of Jewish conquest. Judea’s sovereignty and temple worship were restored in Jerusalem, but as their luck would have it, the Jewish nation wouldn’t last long due to the rise of Rome. Nevertheless, the revolt had permanent effects on Jewish culture and identity, the Bible, the celebration of Hanukkah, and the geopolitical situation in the ancient Near East.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 36 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Lost City of Ubar

The Lost City of Ubar

Summary

The story of Atlantis has captured the minds and hearts of historians, scientists, artists, and writers for millennia, and yet, it never ceases to amaze people when told that the only literary evidence that exists comes from a single 4th century BCEE author. The Athenian philosopher Plato, famous for his dialogues in which the Socratic Method was invented, was the first writer to mention the mysterious continent of Atlantis. In his works Timaeus and Critias, Plato outlines the beginning of the story of Atlantis, but the Critias, where the longer and more detailed account takes place, was never finished and, therefore, has become the mysterious germ for millennia of thought. The annals of world history are filled with intriguing, although often outlandish stories of lost cities and kingdoms, and in addition to Atlantis, there are also Hyperborea, Shambhala, and Aztlan, to name just a few. Besides being cities and kingdoms that have been lost, often through some sort of catastrophe, all of these places are mentioned in religious texts or as part of a peoples’ national history. They play a major role in the identity of certain groups, at least in how certain groups identify with these mythical places. Although many, if not all, of these locations are mythical, they may have been based on actual locations, even if modern scholars are yet to definitively discover any such places. One of these lost cities is that known as Ubar, Wabar, or Iram, names which are all believed to refer to the same, possibly mythical, location. The city is mentioned as a den of iniquity that was destroyed by God, both in the Quran as well as the mythical Arabian Nights. As such, Ubar became a metaphor for how good Muslims should not act, and what could happen to non-believers, especially when allowed to congregate in a specific area. Later Islamic historians and geographers describe Ubar as being somewhere in the Arabian Desert, in what is today the nation-state of Oman. In modern times there were a few attempts to locate the lost city, but, for the most part, they were futile. Ubar and its location continued to fascinate people around the world, and it seemed as though its secrets would remain hidden beneath the Arabian sands until the 1980s, when a photojournalist named Nicholas Clapp became interested in the city. Clapp eventually turned his interest into a full-time endeavor to find Ubar and put together a team of adventurers and archaeologists, receiving funding from a number of different sources. Working backwards from the few scant historical and geographical accounts that portray Ubar as a prosperous city or kingdom in the centuries before Islam, Clapp and his team narrowed their search to a location on the edge of the Arabian Desert in the Dhofar region of Oman. It is there that they believed they found Ubar, which appeared to be a productive, wealthy, and growing city from the early 1st millennium BCEE until as late as the 6th century BCEE. Clapp received great fame for his discovery and recorded his journey in a book, even as some historians remained convinced that he had not actually discovered Ubar. In fact, some continue to believe that Ubar was a purely mythical place, even as others are convinced that it was a large, historical kingdom that remains lost. The Lost City of Ubar: The History and Legends of the Ancient Arabian City Known as the Atlantis of the Sands chronicles the origins of the city, the stories about it, the way the stories spread as they became more popular, and their impact on history. You will learn about the Atlantis of the Sands like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Lost City of Mari

The Lost City of Mari

Summary

For a period of just under 100 years, the city of Mari in northern Mesopotamia (Eastern Syria) was one of the most - if not the most - important cities in the Near East. Mari was ruled by a dynasty of powerful Amorite kings who were not afraid to use their military power to keep subordinate provinces in line and their enemies at bay, but more often, they relied upon a combination of diplomacy and trade to establish their dominance. Founded by seminomadic Amorite tribes, Mari was gradually transformed over the span of centuries from a sleepy stop along the Euphrates River to the premier power in Near East during the early second millennium BCE. It remained a relatively obscure city for quite some time, overshadowed by more powerful dynasties and city-states in Akkad and Ur, until its kings took advantage of the collapse of the Ur III Dynasty and the return to the process of competing city-states that so often marked interregnum periods throughout ancient Mesopotamian history. If it were not for some very fortunate events and circumstances, the modern world might never have known about Mari. After Mari was conquered by Babylonian King Hammurabi, its cultural and political influence quickly diminished, until it was literally relegated to being a backwater on the Euphrates. As time went on, later rulers ignored the site, and it was eventually all but forgotten, so when modern scholars began deciphering and studying the enigmatic cuneiform script in the late 1800s and early 1900s, they noticed that though the city of Mari was mentioned in numerous important texts, no one knew where it was nor how big it was.  The city was finally discovered and excavated in the 1930s, and almost as soon as the first picks went into the soil, there was the realization that it was one of the most important sites of its time was made. When archaeologists uncovered one of the greatest caches of cuneiform documents from ancient Mesopotamia at the site of Mari, it instantly expanded modern scholarly knowledge, not just of the city, but of ancient Mesopotamia in the early second millennium BCE.  The “Mari Archives”, as they became known, brought the lost city to life, relating many different aspects of the city-state’s culture and what made it important and unique, as well as what made it similar to other Mesopotamian city-states of the era. The Mari archives ultimately showed the world that for a brief moment in history, there was no other city as important as Mari. The Lost City of Mari: The History and Legacy of an Ancient Mesopotamian Power Center chronicles the dramatic rise and fall of the mysterious city and why it was forgotten for so long.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 1 hr and 36 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Livonian Brothers of the Sword

The Livonian Brothers of the Sword

Summary

For centuries, Christians and Muslims were embroiled in one of the most infamous territorial disputes of all time, viciously and relentlessly battling one another for the Holy Land. In the heart of Jerusalem sat one of the shining jewels of the Christian faith, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Legend has it that this was where their Savior had been buried before his fabled resurrection. What was more, it was said to house the very cross Jesus Christ had died upon. It was for precisely these reasons that fearless pilgrims, near and far, risked their lives and made the treacherous trek to Jerusalem. Like other secretive groups, the mystery surrounding the Catholic military orders that sprung up in the wake of the First Crusade helped their legacies endure. While some conspiracy theorists attempt to tie the groups to other alleged secret socities like the Illuminati, other groups have tried to assert connections with them to bolster their own credentials. Who they were and what they had in their possession continue to be a source of great intrigue. Although many have heard of the Crusades and some of the more famous orders like the Templars, few know about the Livonian Crusade or the Livonian Brothers of the Sword. This organization was one of many Catholic military orders that sprung up during the Middle Ages in response to the papacy’s call for holy war, and the Livonian Crusade is the term used to group together dozens of military actions undertaken by German knights in Eastern Europe. In essence, the Holy Roman Empire sought to control influential trade routes throughout the region by subjugating the native peoples and forcefully converting them to Christianity, and in this regard, the differences between the Livonian Crusade and those taking place further east, where crusaders attempted to retake the Christian Holy Land of Jerusalem, are readily apparent. In particular, there was no actual religious justification for the Livonian Crusade, and many of the knights deciding to join were often more interested in the political and economic benefits gained from the war. When it comes to understanding the history of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, scholars have their work cut out for them, as few primary sources survived the conflict, and the order has had many different names over the years, including the Swordbrothers, the Livonian Order, and the Swordbrothers. All that said, the Livonian Brothers of the Sword bore many similarities to their counterparts in other countries, including being affiliated with the Catholic Church. Many of the knights took vows of celibacy and poverty, and the internal structure of the organization could be compared to the Knights Hospitaller or the Templars. Moreover, while relatively few people know of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword by their original name, the order would go on to become one of the most influential of religious knighthoods by incorporating into the Teutonic Knights. The order was also significant for consolidating the power of the Holy Roman Empire in Eastern Europe, as well as subjugating the native peoples and spreading Christianity by force, leading to numerous tensions that lasted centuries between the future nations of Estonia, Prussia, and others. The Livonian Brothers of the Sword: The History of the Medieval Catholic Military Order that Fought Pagans in Eastern Europe chronicles the known history of the order and examines the important battles the order fought in. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Livonian Brothers of the Sword like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Mark Norman
Length: 1 hr and 43 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial

Summary

Includes accounts of the memorial's construction by people who worked on it. Explains how the memorial's site was chosen and how it was built. "In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." (The epitaph by Royal Cortissoz engraved in the Lincoln Memorial) People have always loved symbols and monuments. Even before there was any sort of written language, there were places and things considered sacred, whether it was the Mesopotamians' ziggurats or the Egyptians' pyramids. Thus, it had long been a practice to make some sort of memorial to those who had died as a way to remember and honor them. Abraham Lincoln is one of the most famous Americans in history and one of the country's most revered presidents. Schoolchildren can recite the life story of Lincoln, the "Westerner" who educated himself and became a self-made man, rising from lawyer to leader of the new Republican Party before becoming the 16th President of the United States. Lincoln successfully navigated the Union through the Civil War but didn't live to witness his crowning achievement, becoming the first president assassinated when he was shot at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865. Given the importance of Abraham Lincoln to the country, it's no surprise that plans to build monuments to him began within months of his death. There are countless ways that the Great Emancipator has been commemorated across America, but the most famous is the Lincoln Memorial, which would not be completed until well over half a century after his death.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: James Weippert
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 15 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Life of Joan Crawford

The Life of Joan Crawford

Summary

"I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star. If you want to see the girl next door, go next door." Joan Crawford A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known. The life of Joan Crawford is one of the most famous Hollywood rags-to-riches tales. While it is common to think of Hollywood as a land offering great opportunity to hardworking actresses, the Horatio Alger myth rarely applies in reality, but it applied almost perfectly to Joan Crawford. Crawford grew up in relative poverty, with both of her childhood father figures abandoning the family before she became a teenager, and she relied on undying ambition in order to progress through the ranks of the show business circuit and then the Hollywood studio system. This drive to succeed continued throughout her entire career, and Crawford's public battles with both studios (MGM in particular) and other stars (first Norma Shearer and later Bette Davis) were borne out of an unmatched competitive streak. Joan Crawford's life and career also shed light on the treatment of women in pop culture and in cinema during the early 20th century. Her career was not only limited to film acting, as she acted in musical revues and was previously an unabashed flapper during the Roaring Twenties. As her career progressed, she acted in silent films, flourished with the rise of sound cinema in the late 1920s, became a leading lady in the 1930s and 1940s, and finally became a sort of caricature of herself during the late stages of her career in the 1950s and 1960s.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Kate Fisher
Length: 1 hr and 11 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Life Cycles of Stars

The Life Cycles of Stars

Summary

When people look up into the night sky, the stars seem fixed and immutable, as unchanging as the darkness of space itself, but the truth is that stars are born, live, and die in a never-ending cycle of creation and annihilation. These cycles stretch over such vast spans of time that to short-lived humans, they seem to last forever.  No one knows just how many stars there are, but their number is almost beyond comprehension. When people look up into the night sky, they can see further than they might guess: Up to 19 quadrillion miles, the distance to Deneb in Cygnus, a star that is visible from most inhabited parts of Earth. In total, around 5,000 stars are visible to the naked eye, though only around 2,000 are visible at any one time from a particular place on Earth. All the visible stars are bigger and brighter than the Sun. Of course, there are many more known stars than those that can be seen with the naked eye. Astronomers estimate that in the Milky Way alone, there may be more than 300 billion stars, and every other galaxy may have a similar number of stars. How many galaxies are there in the Universe? Again, no one is certain, but most astronomers agree that there must be many billions.  Stars begin as vast clouds of dust and gas within galaxies and are known as nebulae. Due to Newton’s Law of Global Attraction, the densest areas in these nebulae pull in matter from the surrounding space. The more mass they gain, the more mass they attract. Over time, this accumulation can lead to the creation of a star. From that moment on, an eternal battle begins. Gravity tends to contract the star while its growing inner pressure tends to expand it. Nebulae are stellar nurseries, the places where stars are created and an essential part of the life cycle of the Universe.  Stars do not last forever. Over time they gradually lose energy and finally die. This process of the creation of new stars and the gradual death of existing stars is part of a vast, cosmic process of recycling that continues all the time. However, that raises the question of how the very first stars were formed and that in turn leads to questions about the origin of the Universe itself.  However, the life cycle of stars also has a direct relationship to life here on Earth. Singer Joni Mitchell famously included the line “We are stardust” in her hit song “Woodstock". Surprisingly, it seems that she was absolutely right. In the beginning, the Universe comprised hydrogen, small quantities of helium, minuscule amounts of lithium, and almost nothing else. Stars are the engines that provide the raw material from which life itself as well as stellar bodies are created. Each star is like a factory that uses nuclear fusion to convert hydrogen into helium, and that in turn is used to create carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and many other elements.  When a star dies, it ejects its outer layers, throwing these elements off as cosmic dust. The gravity of planets attracts and captures this dust which settles on the surface, introducing new elements. It is estimated that more than 40,000 tons of cosmic dust arrives on Earth every year, and this process has continued as long as there has been a planet Earth.  Some of the tiny pieces of dust (most are smaller than 1/100th the width of a human hair) are very old indeed. Scientists have found what they call “original stardust” on meteorites and asteroids. Many of these have been drifting in space since before the Sun was created. The elements in this dust are the fundamental building blocks of life, and every living organism on Earth is created from elements that were originally produced in long-dead stars.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2021 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 21 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Life and Trial of Lizzie Borden

The Life and Trial of Lizzie Borden

Summary

"Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one." Like so many others, this ditty and similar ones sacrificed accuracy in the name of rhyme and rhythm, as Abby and Andrew Borden were not hit 81 times but "only" 29. Of course, that still proved to be more than enough to kill both of them and propel their daughter, Elizabeth, into infamy. Today, cases are often referred to as the trial of the century, but few could lay claim in the 19th century like Lizzie Borden's in the wake of her parents' murders. After all, the story included the grisly axe murders of wealthy socialites and a young daughter as the prime suspect. As Trey Wyatt, author of The Life, Legend, and Mystery of Lizzie Borden, put it, "Women were held to strict standards and genteel women were pampered, while at the same time they were expected to behave within a strict code of conduct. In 1892, Fall River, Massachusetts wealthy society ladies were not guilty of murder, and if they did kill someone, it would not be with an axe." When questioned, Lizzie gave contradictory accounts to the police, which ultimately helped lead to her arrest and trial, but supporters claimed it may have been the effects of morphine that she had a prescription to take. Much like subsequent famous murder cases, such as the O.J. Simpson case or Leopold & Loeb, Lizzie Borden's trial garnered national attention unlike just about anything that had come before. The case sparked Americans' interest in legal proceedings, and as with Simpson, even an acquittal didn't take the spotlight off the Borden case, which has been depicted in all forms of media ever since. Lizzie became a pariah among contemporaries who believed she'd escaped justice, and she remains the prime suspect, but the unsolved nature of the case has allowed other writers to advance other theories and point at other suspects.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 24 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Library of Alexandria: The History and Legacy of the Ancient World's Most Famous Library

The Library of Alexandria: The History and Legacy of the Ancient World's Most Famous Library

Summary

"When I wrote 'The Alexandria Link,' I discovered that we are only aware of about 10 percent of the knowledge of the ancient world. In the ancient world, most of the knowledge was destroyed." (Steve Berry) In the modern world, libraries are taken for granted by most people, perhaps because their presence is ubiquitous. Every school has a library, large libraries can be found in every major city, and even most small towns have public libraries. However, the omnipresent nature of libraries is a fairly recent historical phenomenon because libraries were still few and far between before the 19th century. For centuries in the Western world, during what is known as the Middle Ages, written knowledge was guarded closely and hidden away in private repositories, usually by the religious classes. The lack of libraries in the West has helped contribute to the popular imagination of the ancient Library at Alexandria and all the myths and legends that have come to be associated with it, but the Library of Alexandria deserves its reputation. Before the Middle Ages, Greek scholars carefully collected and inventoried books and other written materials in the Library of Alexandria, which truly made it a sort of precursor to all modern libraries. In fact the Library of Alexandria proved to be one of the greatest institutions created in the ancient world because it influenced the minds of countless people in profound ways for centuries.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Maria Chester
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 22 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Legendary Kings of Babylon: Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar II

The Legendary Kings of Babylon: Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar II

Summary

The Babylonians were one of the earliest of history's great ancient civilizations, and the most famous Babylonian of them all was Hammurabi, who came to the throne as the first king of the Babylonian empire around the beginning of the 18th century B.C. Hammurabi had a long and fruitful reign that saw him consolidate most of Mesopotamia under his control, but he's best known today for Hammurabi's Code, one of the earliest known code of laws in human history. Inscribed on stone tablets, Hammurabi's Code was found over 3,500 years later in the early 20th century, making him one of antiquity's most famous men. Babylonian culture, including art, architecture and literature, flourished during his reign, and Hammurabi (or the scribes in his employ) wrote enough public royal inscriptions and personal official letters to store in museums across the world. There are also many letters from other contemporary rulers that make reference to him or to significant events during his reign. The large amount of documentation available, both from and about him, has allowed modern scholars to paint a colorful picture of the famous king and the various facets of his life. Alongside Hammurabi, Nebuchadnezzar II is remembered as one of Ancient Babylon's most influential kings. Nearly 1,000 years after his famous predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar oversaw the expansion of the Neo-Babylonian Empire during the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., which placed him in conflict with Egypt and the ancient kingdom of Judah. His ruthless conquest of Judah resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the entire kingdom, and it ultimately earned him notoriety in the Old Testament, where he is mentioned in the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. The Legendary Kings of Babylon chronicles the lives, legends, and legacies of the famous Babylonian kings.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Nate Daniels
Length: 2 hrs and 18 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Landsknechts

The Landsknechts

Summary

When historians are asked to pick a point in history when Western civilization was transformed and guided down the path to modernity, most of them point to the Renaissance. Indeed, the period revolutionized art, philosophy, religion, sciences, and math, with individuals like Galileo, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Dante, and Petrarch bridging the past and modern society. The Renaissance also spawned the use of the label “Renaissance Man” to describe a person who is extremely talented in multiple fields, most notably Leonardo da Vinci, who found time to be a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. However, while the Renaissance is remembered mostly for art and advances in philosophy and thinking, it’s often overlooked that the era was also a transitional period in the history of warfare. The Middle Ages have long been remembered for armored knights battling on horseback and armies of men trying to breach the walls of formidable castles, but what is generally forgotten is that medieval warfare was constantly adapting to the times as leaders adopted new techniques and technology, and common infantry became increasingly important throughout the period. Meanwhile, political and technological progress led to continuous change of tactics and equipment. Cavalry became ascendant, only to be later replaced by infantry as their weapons improved, and by the end of the period, warfare was radically changing, thanks to the rise of gunpowder weapons such as the handgonne and the bombard. Artillery and handgonnes had been known since the early 14th century, but only became effective near the end of the 15th century, when they were the final factor in the infantry revolution and began to change warfare forever. By the middle of the 15th century, artillery was knocking down castle walls that had stood for generations. Infantry also proved their worth with powerful longbows and tight formations of polearms upsetting the long dominance of mounted, heavily armored knights, and handheld firearms threatened to make armor obsolete. New types of warriors were developed, and new tactics had to take the emerging era of black powder weapons into account, ushering in a time of great change in military strategy, tactics, and technology. The Middle Ages witnessed almost constant warfare in Europe, so mercenaries were a constant on the battlefield, but the 15th century also saw the rise of mercenary usage by the increasingly wealthy aristocracy. One of the finest groups of mercenaries were the Landsknechts from central and northern Europe. The term means “servant of the country”, and they mostly served the Holy Roman Empire, first under Emperor Maximilian I (r. 1508-1519) and then under his successors. The Landsknechts (German: Landsknechte) were masters of the battlefield, adept at pike, sword, and dead shots with the crude matchlocks of the day. The only mercenaries rivaling them were the famous Swiss, who they hated and often fought bitterly. The Landsknechts were as famous for their flamboyant costumes as much as their prowess on the battlefield, and they became symbols of rebellion and freedom in early modern Europe, even as they fought in service of Europe’s largest empire. The Landsknechts: The History and Legacy of the German Mercenaries Who Fought for the Holy Roman Empire examines the events that led to the rise of the mercenaries, what their lives and battles were like, and their impact.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Stephen Platt
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 45 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The La Brea Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits

Summary

Even at a distance, the acrid stench of asphalt and sulfur singes the hairs of people’s nostrils, and when the blustering winds subside, the potent miasma lingers in the air. To the untrained eye, the La Brea Tar Pits seem to be nothing more than simply pools of thick, viscous black sludge, its obsidian-like surface bestrewn with an assortment of autumn leaves and dirt. Gooey methane bubbles spurt up periodically, shattering the glassy veneer of the grease-black lakes, and the shiny bubbles swell to varying sizes and wiggle from side to side before popping, the sticky collapse almost reminiscent of cracking open a chocolate molten lava cake. This black sludge might seem rather unremarkable after a few moments, as it appears to just sit there in its idle state, but in fact, the seemingly innocuous bubbles are symptomatic of the treacly dark substance lurking on the bottom of the pit. The pit’s contents have spelled the doom for a countless number of creatures both large and small, from legions of insects to mighty mastodons, mammoths, and snarling saber-toothed cats from the Pleistocene Era. Of course, this is what makes the area a natural landmark in the first place, and today the La Brea Tar Pits are considered by many scientists to be among the greatest finds in modern history. Technically, these lustrous lakes of ink-black, while branded “tar,” are in actuality pools of asphalt seeps that have remained in place for several millennia, gushing forth from a natural subterranean petroleum spring underneath the city of Los Angeles known as the “Salt Lake Oil Field.” Needless to say, the tar pits are a far cry from the glittering, crystalline ponds cooled by the shade of surrounding palm trees found throughout the City of Angels. Indeed, the pungent reek of asphalt, pulsing methane bubbles, and their hauntingly black surfaces, making it impossible to gauge the true depth of the asphalt abysses, should have seemingly served as clear deterrents to the animals that roamed the vicinity prior to their entrapment. Instead, judging by the treasure trove of bones and remnants that have been uncovered within the pits, the sludge seemed to have figuratively emitted a siren song that no animal, regardless of stature or physical power, could resist. The disturbing and fascinating implications of the silent death traps, situated in what is now 5801 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, only further heightens their mystery. Evidence shows that the slow, torturous deaths of many of the creatures who became permanently ensnared in the asphalt quicksand were worsened by passing predators who essentially stumbled upon supper served on a sticky platter. Unfortunate, or rather, clumsy predators sometimes slipped, struggled, and were ultimately swallowed up by the tar pit themselves, creating a macabre, yet natural cycle of death and despair. Unsurprisingly, the La Brea Tar Pits have also become a wellspring of supernatural legends. According to one such legend, the disembodied, bone-chilling shrieks of a desperate woman, supposedly the La Brea Woman, victim of Los Angeles' oldest cold murder case, can still be heard in the dead of the night. More curious yet, these liquid time capsules are swaddled in another layer of mystique, its fossils not only solving mysterious riddles of a bygone age, but also offering up even more questions that are begging to be answered. The La Brea Tar Pits: The History and Legacy of One of the World’s Most Famous Fossil Sites looks at the geological origins of the area and analyzes the fossil finds from the tar. Along with pictures depicting important people, places, and events, you will learn about the tar pits like never before."

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 1 hr and 30 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Know Nothing Party

The Know Nothing Party

Summary

“Immigration during the first five years of the 1850s reached a level five times greater than a decade earlier. Most of the new arrivals were poor Catholic peasants or laborers from Ireland and Germany who crowded into the tenements of large cities. Crime and welfare costs soared. Cincinnati's crime rate, for example, tripled between 1846 and 1853, and its murder rate increased sevenfold. Boston's expenditures for poor relief rose threefold during the same period.” (James McPherson) It is not uncommon that a failed movement or group from the past might be cited as a “cautionary” example for the world today. In the wake of contemporary debates over immigration, the “Know Nothings” have been regularly cited as an example of how dangerous nativist attitudes can become and, indeed, have proven to be in America’s history. Several columnists, for instance, have striven to make comparisons between the Know Nothings of antebellum America and President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, helping, in part, to generate modern interest in a political party that many Americans have heard of, but tend to know little about. The Know Nothing movement can actually be tied to a number of violent episodes and ethnically charged riots that occurred during the last 1850s. The debate over immigration in the 1850s was more than a clash of worldviews - it touched upon the core of America’s values. While nativists, like the Know Nothings, believed that immigrants who embraced politics from their native lands represented a threat to America’s values, those who opposed them argued that it was precisely America’s values that made immigration a necessity and a valuable component of American life. As the Republicans and Know Nothings spread from the ashes of the Whig Party, the Republicans, led by President Lincoln, rejected nativism and embraced a kind of American exceptionalism. Lincoln did not believe that America was “better” or even more “moral” than other nations, but his brand of exceptionalism advanced the view that America represented a great experiment, one that proposed that a society based on the ideals of the Declaration of Independence (i.e. life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness). Should it fail, Lincoln believed it would shatter the hopes of the rest of the world, as people sought to overcome despotic and tyrannical forms of rule. Thus, to the Republicans, when it came to the issue of immigration, America’s economy and democracy itself were at stake. At the same time, there was quite a bit more to the background of this short-lived, but widely impactful “third party” than xenophobia and religious intolerance. In places like Boston, where the Know Nothings took over nearly all of the city’s elected offices, including capturing the state’s governorship in 1854, the Know Nothings were largely viewed as a progressive party. While the North’s Know Nothings supported the party’s national anti-immigrant positions, it also embraced an anti-slavery policy, supported an expansion of the rights of women, believed that industries should be more heavily regulated, and supported a variety of measures intended to support the labor class. Accordingly, in order to understand the Know Nothing party’s nativism, it requires more nuance than simply condemning them as xenophobes. It is typical in the contemporary media and in political commentary to cite a caricature of the Know Nothings as an example of “hate” and a dark xenophobic history, but the movement grew out of the controversial political landscape of the mid-19th century, and the party achieved prominence and power across wide sections of the society.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Kelly McGee
Length: 1 hr and 35 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Kingdom of Mitanni

The Kingdom of Mitanni

Summary

Includes excerpts of ancient accounts  Includes a bibliography for further listening Includes a table of contents  The Late Bronze Age Near East (c. 1500-1200 BCE) was a time and place where great kingdoms and empires vied for land and influence, playing high stakes diplomatic games, trading, and occasionally going to war with each other in the process. The Egyptians, Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians, and several smaller Canaanite kingdoms were all part of this system, which was one of the first true “global” systems in world history and also one of the most materially prosperous eras in antiquity. The major kingdoms are well-known to most people, but among them, for about 150 years, was another great kingdom that is often overlooked or forgotten.  When scholars study the history of the ancient Near East, several wars that had extremely brutal consequences (at least by modern standards) often stand out. Forced removal of entire populations, sieges that decimated entire cities, and wanton destruction of property were all tactics used by the various peoples of the ancient Near East against each other, but the Assyrians were the first people to make war a science. When the Assyrians are mentioned, images of war and brutality are among the first that come to mind, despite the fact that their culture prospered for nearly 2,000 years. The Assyrians, like their other neighbors in Mesopotamia, were literate and developed their own dialect of the Akkadian language that they used to write tens of thousands of documents in the cuneiform script (Kuhrt 2010, 1:84). Furthermore, the Assyrians prospered for so long that their culture is often broken down by historians into the “Old,” “Middle,” and “Neo” Assyrian periods, even though the Assyrians themselves viewed their history as a long succession of rulers from an archaic period until the collapse of the neo-Assyrian Empire in the 7th century BCE. In fact, the current divisions have been made by modern scholars based on linguistic changes, not on political dynasties (van de Mieroop 2007, 179).  One of the successor states that bridged the gap between the Old Assyrian Empire and Middle Assyrian Empire was the Kingdom of Mitanni, which remains somewhat of an enigma to modern scholars and has therefore so far failed to gain the attention of wider, popular audiences. However, while it existed, Mitanni affected the course of history in the Near East just as much as any of the other major kingdoms, and there is little doubt that the kingdom was just as powerful and technologically advanced as its peers during its apex.  The kingdom had a number of unique features in the region. The ethnic composition of Mitanni is relatively well-known, but the background of the rulers remains a source of debate. The physical extent of the empire is also another problem historians face because the capital has never been positively identified and details of the nature of the Mitanni government remain in question. Furthermore, since few monumental structures have been uncovered, details about Mitanni religion and court life are mostly unknown.  Thankfully, many of the Mitanni’s contemporaries kept detailed records, and thanks to Egyptian, Hittite, and Assyrian historical annals, along with Hurrian and Akkadian-Mitanni administrative and legal texts, a picture of this brief Bronze Age empire can be painted. The Mitanni kingdom sprung from the Hurrian people to rule over the disparate Canaanites of the northern Levant, but within a few short generations its powerful neighbors to the west and east had obliterated it and all but erased its memory from history.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: David Pickering
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 34 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Kingdom of Italy: The History and Legacy of the Italian State from Unification to the End of World War II

The Kingdom of Italy: The History and Legacy of the Italian State from Unification to the End of World War II

Summary

“Few people in 1830 believed that an Italian nation might exist. There were eight states in the peninsula, each with distinct laws and traditions. No one had had the desire or the resources to revive Napoleon's partial experiment in unification." (Denis Mack Smith)

In the 18th century, Italy was still divided into smaller states, but differently than during medieval times when the political entities were independent and were flourishing economic and cultural centers almost unrivaled in Europe. During the 18th century, all of them were submitted to one of the greater hegemonic powers. This process of conquest and submission began during the early 16th century, when France was called on by the Duke Milan to intervene in his favor and from there never stopped. 

This was the geopolitical picture in Italy when the tumult of the French Revolution crossed the Alps, and the military campaigns of the legendary Napoleon Bonaparte would initiate a chain of events that would have massive reverberations across Italy throughout the 19th century. The different Italian states on the peninsula experienced Napoleonic rule in the early 1800s, followed by a brief restoration that led to widespread political upheavals in the 1820s. As the 1840s came to a close, the Italian peninsula was in major disarray. In 1847, the Austrian Chancellor Klement von Metternich referred to Italy as merely a “geographical expression,” and to some extent, he was not far off the mark. The inhabitants did not speak Italian; only a literate few wrote in the Italian of Dante and of Machiavelli, and a mere estimated two and a half percent spoke the language. The rest spoke their own regional dialects, which were so distinct from one another as to be incomprehensible from town to town. Similarly, most future Italian citizens knew nothing of the history of the peninsula, but instead learned of their own local traditions and histories.

The events of 1848-1849 began to pull the peninsula together, however. In January 1848, Sicily had a major revolution, which provoked widespread uprisings and riots, after which the kingdoms of Sardinia, the Two Sicilies, the Papal States and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany all were granted constitutions. In February, the Pope fled Rome and a three-month long Republic was declared, headed by Giuseppe Mazzini. In March, a revolution in Venice led to the declaration of a republic. In April, Milan also rebelled and became a republic. Soon, the Austrian government clamped down again. No one would have fathomed the nationalist Risorgimento movement would unify Italy a little over a decade later.

The Kingdom of Italy: The History and Legacy of the Italian State from Unification to the End of World War II chronicles the turbulent events and wars that unified Italy into one kingdom, and the struggle to maintain it over the next 75 years. You'll learn about the Kingdom of Italy like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 4 hrs and 26 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Kingdom of Alashiya

The Kingdom of Alashiya

Summary

International trade in the ancient world was a more intricate and far-reaching system than many have been led to believe. The Silk Road and the Incense Trade Route have been heavily researched in recent decades, and the Amber Road trade network dominating northern Europe has become a more prominent area of focus for historians as well. Trade was at the forefront of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1500-1200 BCE), especially in the Near East, where great kingdoms developed a network of trade and diplomacy stretching from Persia to Egypt and from Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) down to Arabia. The system these kingdoms built is well-documented in texts from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and other places, and archaeological excavations have uncovered more. Studies of the Late Bronze Age system have revealed that although it may have lacked the technology of later eras, it was just as sophisticated as any other geopolitical system in terms of the manner in which the kingdoms interacted and conducted business with each other. Most importantly, alliances were formed and dissolved and trade was carefully negotiated and documented by its members.  Most major powers in the system are quite well-known, including Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Hatti, and Mittani, but one of the members remains fairly enigmatic: the Kingdom of Alashiya. The primary mystery concerning the Kingdom of Alashiya was its precise location, because the known Egyptian, Akkadian, and Hittite texts mentioning Alashiya fail to properly place the kingdom geographically. For years scholars were torn between its possible location, with most believing it was either in Cyprus, Cilicia, or somewhere in Syria, but today, most accept that Alashiya was in Cyprus.  Nevertheless, there are still a number of stumbling blocks preventing a true understanding of this Bronze Age culture. Although the people of Cyprus were literate in the Bronze Age, scholars have yet to decipher the Cypro-Minoan script, just as they have been unable to decode the Minoan Linear A script. This inability to read ancient Cypriot script means that scholars are left with no readable Cypriot/Alashiyan list of kings, so a true chronology cannot be constructed. For these reasons, the history of Bronze Age Cyprus and Alashiya have been largely outlined through a combination of archaeological work and mentions in Egyptian, Akkadian, and Hittite texts.  Although the record is incomplete, enough is known to suggest that Cyprus was home to thriving kingdoms that played a major role in the development of the Mediterranean and Near East. Indeed, evidence demonstrates that Alashiya became a major power through trade and commerce due to its possession of copper, an incredibly valuable commodity. But eventually, Alashiya suffered the same fate as many of its neighbors at the end of the Bronze Age when it was overwhelmed by the migrations of various warrior bands collectively known as the Sea Peoples. Fortunately, even though the invasions of the Sea Peoples marked the end of Alashiya and the Bronze Age, remnants of the Alashiyan culture persisted and were augmented by Greek and Phoenician culture during the early Iron Age.  The Kingdom of Alashiya: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Trading Kingdom on Cyprus during the Bronze Age examines the mysterious kingdom and its relationships with various other kingdoms nearby. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about ancient Cyprus like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 27 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Khmer Rouge: The Notorious History and Legacy of the Communist Regime That Ruled Cambodia in the 1970s

The Khmer Rouge: The Notorious History and Legacy of the Communist Regime That Ruled Cambodia in the 1970s

Summary

The reign of the Khmer Rouge, a Cambodian communist regime, began on April 7, 1975 as Khmer Rouge militants entered the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, ultimately gaining control and forcing out its residents. For the next four years, the regime would remain in power and commit what is now referred to as the Cambodian Genocide. Their reign would result in economic turmoil, cultural destruction, and mass death, impacting Cambodia to this day. That legacy continues to be the subject of discussion among governments and academics, who would debate not only their intentions and actions but also the appropriate course of pursuing legal action against its leaders. The Communist Party of Kampuchea, also known as the Khmer Rouge, took control of Cambodia’s capital city of Phnom Penh on April 7, 1975. Upon seizing Phnom Penh, the Communist forces of the Khmer Rouge began to eliminate all aspects of public life that were viewed as contrary to communist ideals. Military forces began to seize all private property, outlawed religion, repealed all existing laws, eliminated markets and currency, closed public gathering spaces, and declared all anti-regime activity as treason. The existing borders of Cambodia, then known as Democratic Kampuchea, were immediately closed by the military. International citizens were not permitted to enter Cambodia, and, more importantly, Cambodians were not permitted to exit. Citizens of all large cities, such as the capital of Phnom Penh, were quickly moved to the countryside to work in forced labor camps. The ultimate goal of the Khmer Rouge regime was to return Cambodia to a nation centered around agriculture that lacked social classes and individuality. As a result, Pol Pot aimed to eliminate any groups he viewed as a barrier to achieving that vision, which mostly included ethnic, religious, and political groups within Cambodia. These groups ranged from Buddhist Monks and Muslim Cham to ethnic Thais and Vietnamese. Ethnic Khmer were also targeted, mainly for perceived political beliefs or activities. Over the course of about four years, millions of Cambodians would die at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime. In all, the rise of the Khmer Rouge to power resulted in the deaths of over a million Cambodian residents and the diaspora of about 1.5 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. It would come to be known as the Cambodian Genocide. The Khmer Rouge: The Notorious History and Legacy of the Communist Regime That Ruled Cambodia in the 1970s chronicles the destructive history of the regime and their impact on the region.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 32 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Khmer Empire

The Khmer Empire

Summary

The Khmer Empire, also known as the Angkor Empire, was a powerful empire of Southeast Asia that was established in AD 802 and ended in 1431 with the invasion of the Siamese and abandonment of Angkor. The Khmer Empire was responsible for many of the historic monuments and temples found throughout the jungles of modern-day Cambodia and also in other countries of Southeast Asia, all made possible by the fact the Khmer Empire reached across modern-day Cambodia, parts of Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, making it a strategic trading partner with ships traveling from China and India.   Of all the architecture, the empire is best known for constructing Angkor Wat, one of the modern world’s greatest wonders. Known in English as Angkor Wat (“City Temple”), the gigantic complex was built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century to serve as the king’s state temple and capital city. Since it has remained so finely preserved, it has maintained religious significance for nearly 900 years, first dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, and then Buddhist.  Understandably, it has become one of Cambodia’s most potent symbols and tourist attractions, and it even appears on the Cambodian national flag. Angkor Wat continues to fascinate the world, both due to its sheer grandeur and size as well as its ornamental decorations both inside and out. With political strife in Cambodia having cooled, Angkor Wat is now a major tourist attraction, bringing upwards of half a million foreigners per year, which accounts for more than half of the nation’s tourists.   As a result, the long-lasting influence this empire had on the people of Cambodia can still be felt today, with Angkor Wat being featured on the national flag.  The Khmer Empire: The History and Legacy of One of Southeast Asia’s Most Influential Empires chronicles the remarkable history of the Khmer and their impact on the region. You will learn about the Khmer Empire like never before. 

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Dan Gallagher
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 39 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Jurassic Period

The Jurassic Period

Summary

The early history of our planet covers such vast stretches of time that years, centuries, and even millennia become virtually meaningless. Instead, paleontologists and scientists who study geochronology divide time into periods and eras. The current view of science is that planet Earth is around 4.6 billion years old. The first four billion years of its development are known as the Precambrian period. For the first billion years or so, there was no life in Earth. Then, the first single-celled life-forms, early bacteria and algae, began to emerge. We don’t know where they came from or even if they originated on this planet, at all. This gradual development continued until around four billion years ago, when suddenly (in geological terms) more complex forms of life began to emerge. Scientists call this time of an explosion of new forms of life the Paleozoic Era, and it stretched from around 541 to 250 million years ago (Mya). First of all, in the oceans and then on land, new creatures and plants began to appear in bewildering variety. By the end of this period, life on Earth had exploded into a myriad of complex forms that filled virtually every habitat and niche available in the seas and on the planet’s only continent Pangea. Then, a mysterious event that became known to early paleontologists as “The Great Dying” wiped out more than 95 percent of all life on Earth. No one is entirely certain what caused this, but the effect of this cataclysm was as if someone had pressed a great cosmic “reset” button and it took 30 million years for the development of life on Earth to start again. The next period of Earth’s history is known as the Mesozoic Era, from about 252 to 66 Mya. This era is further divided into three periods - the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. During this era, one type of life came to dominate the planet more completely and for a longer period than had been seen before or since; this was the Age of Reptiles.  Beginning in the Triassic, but especially in the Jurassic period, reptiles came to dominate the oceans, land and even the skies. There has never been anything else quite like this period in terms of the success of a particular type of creature. For almost 200 million years, reptiles were the only significant creatures on Earth. They were so successful and so diverse that they evolved to take advantage of every available habitat and no other type of large creature had a chance to develop.  To put the 200 million years of reptile dominance in perspective, the entire span of recorded human history - the time since people advanced from tribes of primitive, nomadic hunter-gatherers into recognizable societies - covers less than 6,000 years. To put this in context, if the entire history of the planet were to be laid out on the length of a football field, the period of dominance of the age of reptiles would not begin until the five-yard line and would stretch for twelve feet. All of human history would occupy a tiny strip at the end of the field, less than the width of a human hair.  It was during the Jurassic period that reptiles began rule the Earth and some of the best-known prehistoric creatures first emerged. The Jurassic Period: The History and Legacy of the Geologic Era Most Associated with Dinosaurs looks at the development of the era, the extinction events that preceded it, and how life began to evolve during it. You will learn about the Jurassic Period like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 48 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Johnstown Flood of 1889

The Johnstown Flood of 1889

Summary

Includes accounts of the flood written by survivors. Includes a bibliography for further reading. "The deluge released by the dam's collapse carried more than 12,000 cubic meters of debris-filled water each second. Flow rates in the Mississippi River typically vary between 7,000 and 20,000 cubic meters per second." - Sid Perkins, Science News, Vol.176 In 2005, the world watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, and the calamity seemed all the worse because many felt that technology had advanced far enough to prevent such tragedies, whether through advanced warning or engineering. However, the failure of human engineering like that seen in New Orleans was nothing new, and it had previously had even deadlier consequences in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Although floods rarely get as much coverage as other kinds of natural disasters like volcanic explosions, the Johnstown Flood of 1889 has remained an exception due to the sheer destruction and magnitude of the disaster. On May 31, 1889, Johnstown became a casualty of a combination of heavy rains and the failure of the South Fork Dam to stem the rising water levels of Lake Conemaugh about 15 miles away. The dam's inability to contain the water and its subsequent collapse resulted in a catastrophic flood that swept through the town with virtually no warning. With water flowing at a rate equivalent to the Mississippi River, a tide of water and debris 60 feet high and traveling 40 miles per hour in some places surged through Johnstown and swept away people and property alike. The flood ultimately resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 people and destroyed thousands of buildings, wreaking damages estimated to be the equivalent of nearly half a billion dollars today.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ian H. Shattuck
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 16 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Iran Hostage Crisis

The Iran Hostage Crisis

Summary

On February 1, 1979, amid great fanfare, exiled cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini landed in Tehran. The return of the leader of the revolution to his home country was one of the final markers of the Iranian Revolution, a national phenomenon that had global implications. The Iranian Revolution of 1979 has been described as an epochal event, called the peak of 20th century Islamic revivalism and revitalization, and analyzed as the one key incident that continues to impact politics across Iran, the Middle East, and the even the world as a whole. As a phenomenon that led to the creation of the first modern Islamic Republic in the world, the revolution marked the victory of Islam over secular politics, and Iran quickly became the aspiring model for Islamic fundamentalists and revivalists across the globe, regardless of nationality, culture, or religious sect. When Ayatollah Khomeini was declared ruler in December 1979 and the judicial system originally modeled on that of the West was swiftly replaced by one purely based on Islamic law, much of the world was in shock that such a religiously driven revolution could succeed so quickly, especially when it had such sweeping consequences beyond the realm of religion. Furthermore, while the focus of the revolution was primarily about Islam, the revolution was also colored by disdain for the West, distaste for autocracy, and a yearning for religious and cultural identity. This point was driven home on November 4, 1979 when Iranians stormed the US embassy and took dozens of Americans hostage, sparking a crisis that would last for the rest of President Jimmy Carter's term. A few Americans escaped the embassy and hid in Tehran before being extracted (a mission that was recently adapted into the movie Argo), but for nearly 450 days, the crisis remained at the forefront of America's daily life, and aside from an embarrassing failed rescue mission, the administration seemed uncertain over how to approach the crisis and protect the American hostages. Eventually, all of the hostages were freed on the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president in 1981, but the Iran hostage crisis had far reaching ramifications that have lasted to this day. Most notably, formal diplomatic contact between the United States and Iran ended, and no American embassy is open in that country nearly 35 years later. For anyone born during the 1960s, the Iran Hostage Crisis marked a change in American identity both as people and a nation. Those born in earlier decades had little to no understanding of radical Islam, and those born later could not conceive of a world without it. Some would say that the crisis was ultimately a good thing, in that it ushered Ronald Reagan into the White House and thus led to the fall of communism, while others would say that it was a harbinger of doom, a demonstration that even as one geopolitical foe declined, another was on the rise. Some say America was singled out because it was seen as too strong, others because it was seen as too weak. The bottom line is that, while no one knows what might have been done to prevent it, everyone has an idea about how it might have been ended sooner.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Dan Gallagher
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 44 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Internment of Japanese Americans During World War II

The Internment of Japanese Americans During World War II

Summary

"The truth is - as this deplorable experience proves - that constitutions and laws are not sufficient of themselves…. Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment's command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action under Executive Order 9066." - Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark "I don't want any of them here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty.... It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty.... But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map." - General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Command Even before Congress declared war on Japan the day after Pearl Harbor, the implications for people of Japanese ancestry living in the United States had begun. On December 7, several hundred Issei, or first-generation Japanese immigrants, were arrested in Hawaii and on the mainland, having been earlier identified by the FBI as potentially disloyal to the United States. In the months that followed, the scope of suspicion would expand to include all of the 125,000 Japanese living on the mainland, and, though a smaller percentage, many in Hawaii as well. By the time the war ended, the period of internment of Japanese immigrants and citizens, lasting from 1941-1945, was considered one of the most unfortunate episodes of American history. Many government officials in the immediate aftermath of the war era continued to defend internment, citing the possibility of attack and the need to protect Americans at all costs. There were many Americans, however, whose rights as citizens went unprotected, and political arguments aside, no American can fail to acknowledge the costs of internment to Nikkei families, physically, financially, socially, and psychologically. It was not until the first week of September in 1945, just a few weeks after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan and the surrender of the Japanese that followed, that Japanese internees knew for sure they would be allowed to leave the camps. The Internment of Japanese Americans During World War II: The History of the Controversial Decision to Relocate Citizens Across the West Coast examines one of the darkest chapters in American history.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 52 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Inquisition in the New World

The Inquisition in the New World

Summary

“When you tell someone your secret, your freedom is gone.” (Fernando de Rojas)

The notorious Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century, the subject of multiple documentaries, movies, and other pop culture mediums, is remembered for its oppression, barbarous torture, and religious tyranny. 

It was roughly around this time that a period of European exploration began. Trade was able to increase in Europe from around the world due to more effective ships being introduced. The introduction of multiple mast ships and sternpost rudders allowed the ships to travel quicker and be more maneuverable. By the start of the 15th century, ships were much larger and able to support long-distance travel with a minimum number of crew aboard. 

One explorer, Christopher Columbus, sought funding from the Portuguese to search for a passage to Asia by sailing westward, but he was rejected. At this time in the late 15th century, Portugal’s domination of the West African sea routes prompted the neighboring Crown of Castile and the Catholic monarchs in modern Spain to search for an alternative route to South and East Asia (termed Indies) so they provided Columbus with the funding he required. Ultimately, Columbus discovered the Americas in 1492, and Spanish settlements in the “West Indies” would eventually be established.  

New Spain was established in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1521, and as the most spectacular conquest and the richest province, New Spain quickly became the focus of Spanish America. The Viceroyalty of New Spain was established in 1535, comprising a vast region of what is now the American Southwest: all of Mexico, Central America, the various Spanish-held islands of the Caribbean, the “Spanish Main”, and the Spanish Far East Empire (comprised mainly of the Philippines). The Viceroyalty of New Castile (later named the Viceroyalty of Peru) was established in 1542 and comprised all of Spain’s South American territory, such as it was defined, excluding the Guianas. In 1610, the viceregency of New Granada was established with its capital in Cartagena, comprising the modern states of Columbia, Venezuela, a portion of Ecuador, and Panama. In 1776, after much jostling with the southern frontier of Portuguese Brazil, the viceregency of Rio la Plata was formed, comprising Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, with Buenos Aires as its capital. The Portuguese, of course, established their territory of Brazil with its capital as Rio de Janeiro.

Not surprisingly, as the Catholic empires expanded across the globe, persecution would travel with them, and the horrors experienced by indigenous populations in these colonies rivaled anything heretics back in Europe faced. The Inquisition in the New World looks at how the Inquisitions came to be, the manner in which it was exported west, and how people were tortured and executed.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Dan Gallagher
Length: 2 hrs and 11 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Imperial Scramble for the Nile

The Imperial Scramble for the Nile

Summary

Includes a bibliography for further reading  Includes a table of contents  “Before this time tomorrow I shall have gained a peerage, or Westminster Abbey.” (Admiral Horatio Nelson before the Battle of the Nile) In 1798, an initial review of France’s naval forces had led Napoleon to conclude his navy could not hope to outfight the power of the Royal Navy, which had been the dominant naval power for centuries, so he was forced to look elsewhere. After months of planning, Napoleon crafted a scheme to attack and conquer Egypt, denying the British easy access to their colonies in India, with the ultimate goal of linking up with the Sultan Tipoo in India itself and defeating the British in the field there. Napoleon sailed with Admiral Brueys and 30,000 troops that June, heading for Egypt. Notionally part of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt was de facto a weak independent regime run by the breakaway Mamelukes. For France, it offered an overland route to India and a chance to beat Britain at her own game via economic strangulation.  Napoleon could not have known it, but his campaign was the start of 150 years of imperialism along the Nile River, as Europeans endeavored to explore, control, and colonize the Nile River. This would bring them into all kinds of conflicts, not just with the indigenous natives residing there but also with each other, as each empire sought to get a leg up on the competition.  Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign failed in all of its objectives other than in the acquisition of knowledge. Far from frustrating British ambitions in the Orient, the British triumphed in the minor war that Napoleon triggered, and it was the British who would dominate Egypt for the next 150 years.  Even after the British took control of Egypt, knowledge about the Nile remained sparse, most importantly the source of the river, and exploration all over the continent took place among adventurers of various nationalities. Other countries also sought to get a foothold on the continent, to the extent that near the end of the 19th century, Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor, brought the plenipotentiaries of all major powers of Europe together to deal with Africa's colonization in such a manner as to avoid provocation of war. This event, known as the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, galvanized a phenomenon that came to be known as the Scramble for Africa. The conference established two fundamental rules for European seizure of Africa. The first of these was that no recognition of annexation would granted without evidence of a practical occupation, and the second, that a practical occupation would be deemed unlawful without a formal appeal for protection made on behalf of a territory by its leader, a plea that must be committed to paper in the form of a legal treaty.  This began a rush, spearheaded mainly by European commercial interests in the form of Chartered Companies, to penetrate the African interior and woo its leadership with guns, trinkets and alcohol, and having thus obtained their marks or seals upon spurious treaties, begin establishing boundaries of future European African colonies. The ease with which this was achieved was due to the fact that, at that point, traditional African leadership was disunited, and the people had just staggered back from centuries of concussion inflicted by the slave trade. Thus, to usurp authority, to intimidate an already broken society, and to play one leader against the other was a diplomatic task so childishly simple, the matter was wrapped up, for the most part, in less than a decade.  Even at that stage, however, the countries would keep jostling for position in Africa against each other, attempting to snap up more land and consolidate it.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Europe
Length: 3 hrs and 58 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Summary

As the Civil War was finally coming to an end in early 1865, reconstructing the divided nation was now top priority for President Abraham Lincoln and Republicans in Congress, and they were already well underway in their work. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution were being discussed, and the 13th had already been passed by the House and sent on its way for ratification from the states.  In Lincoln's mind, since the South had never legally seceded, forgiveness was to be his top priority. He wanted to allow states to be readmitted to the Union after only 10 percent of its citizens swore an oath of loyalty to the United States, an idea known as the 10 Percent Plan. However, Congress, now run by the so-called “Radical Republicans”, disagreed, and as early as the summer of 1864, Congress passed the Wade-Davis Bill, which required 50 percent of rebel states to swear an oath, not 10 percent. Lincoln vetoed the bill.  Lincoln envisioned a relatively short-lived Reconstruction process in which the former Confederate states would draft constitutions and rejoin the Union, and he thought the country could effectively continue operating much as it had before the war. Lincoln's vision, however, would remain just a dream, because his life, and thus his role in Reconstruction, was cut short just days after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in April 1865.  During the presidential campaign in 1864, the outcome of the Civil War was still very much in doubt, and while the Republicans renominated Lincoln for the presidency, they made an unprecedented move by nominating a Democrat, Andrew Johnson, for vice president. Senator Johnson was notable for being the only senator to remain loyal to the Union even when his state, Tennessee, had seceded. At the time, nominating Johnson seemed to be a mere token of goodwill - little did Republicans know what would happen the following April.  Today, Lincoln is almost universally regarded as one of the country’s greatest presidents, while his successor is remembered for being the first president impeached by Congress. Indeed, he came perilously close to losing his office. On the surface, the story is a simple one: Johnson intentionally violated several laws, including the recently passed Tenure of Office Act, which was designed to limit his involvement with Reconstruction. However, Johnson’s impeachment owed a great deal to his temperament, the unique situation Congress found itself in at the end of the Civil War, and the challenges facing the Republican Party now that slavery was abolished. For most of the republic’s history, the executive branch accrued power at the expense of the legislative branch, and impeaching Johnson over his failure to abide by the Tenure of Office Act (itself an encroachment on the president’s right to choose members of his cabinet) was a moment when that dynamic could have been reversed. Similarly, opposition to Johnson - and the ordeal of his trial in the Senate – helped forge the Republican Party into a cohesive political party that dominated the presidency for most of the next seven decades.  The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson: The History and Legacy of the First Attempt to Impeach an American President analyzes Johnson’s rocky presidency, his ongoing friction with Republicans, and how he came so close to being removed from office. You will learn about the impeachment of President Johnson like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 33 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Hyksos

The Hyksos

Summary

From approximately 3100 BCE until around 1075 BCE, ancient Egypt was ruled by 20 different dynasties. The length of the dynasties varied: some, such as those during the First and Second Intermediate periods could be quite short, while the 13th and 18th Dynasties each contained more a one dozen kings and ruled over the Nile Valley for around 200 years each. Although the first 20 Egyptian dynasties varied in number of rulers and length, most shared one important attribute: they were all native Egyptian dynasties. The one important exception came during Egypt's Second Intermediate Period when a mysterious foreign group of people, known as the Hyksos, conquered Egypt and established the 15th and 16th Dynasties some time shortly after 1700 BCE. For centuries, the Hyksos rule over Egypt was an enigma shrouded in half-truths and myth. The Hyksos were sometimes mistakenly associated with the biblical Israelites, but were for the most part forgotten in modern times due to the dearth of written texts that can be dated to their rule. It was only in the mid-20th century that Egyptologists, using newly discovered and translated texts, shed fresh light on the Hyksos to reveal details about their origins and rule in Egypt.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 1 hr and 14 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Hussite Wars

The Hussite Wars

Summary

"Therefore, faithful Christian, seek the truth, listen to the truth, learn the truth, love the truth, tell the truth, learn the truth, defend the truth even to death." (Jan Hus) The 15th century was a pivotal era for Europe, during which it transitioned from a social and religious union under Christendom into a disparate collection of nation-states, and it was during this period that the Middle Ages came to an end and the Modern Period began.  Less than a century earlier, in the mid-14th century, the Vatican called upon England and sought financial aid in the hopes of boosting papal defenses against French forces. It was then that John Wycliffe boldly stepped forth and appealed to the John of Gaunt, urging the Duke of Lancaster and Parliament to repudiate Rome's demands and citing what he believed to be the Church's abundance in wealth. According to Wycliffe, Christ's disciples, particularly clergymen, must aspire to live modestly and shun all material pleasures. Such was the word of the Lord.  Wycliffe's relentless criticism of the Church only continued to escalate, and eventually he was summoned to London and charged with the unforgivable crime of heresy. To the dismay of his detractors, the hearing was anything but black and white, and heated verbal exchanges soon spiraled into physical altercations. This resulted in a temporary deadlock that was broken only three months later when Pope Gregory XI published five papal bulls that unequivocally banned all of Wycliffe's teachings and found the heretic, dubbed the "master of errors", guilty of 18 counts of heresy. The end, it appeared, was nigh, but Wycliffe remained unfazed, declaring, "I profess and claim to be by the grace of God a sound...Christian and while there is breath in my body, I will speak forth and defend the law of it." Wycliffe told the archbishop at Lambeth Palace, "I am ready to defend my convictions even unto death...I have followed the Sacred Scriptures and the holy doctors." Though branded a heretic, the renegade did not die in Christ's name, but Hus would not be so fortunate. Moreover, while Wycliffe's critics rejoiced at the news of his demise, they soon discovered that his influence was far more difficult to extinguish than they initially anticipated. In 1427, a whole 43 years after Wycliffe's passing, his corpse was exhumed by local authorities and cremated, and the ashes were dumped into the River Swift, but Wycliffe's indelible ideas had taken on a life of their own, and they would be championed by Hus. The 17th century historian Thomas Fuller poetically described the ripple effect: "Thus the brook hath conveyed his ashes into Avon; Avon into Severn; Severn into the narrow seas; and they into the main ocean. And thus the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblem of his doctrine which now is dispersed the world over."   If Wycliffe was the "Morning Star of the Reformation", Jan Hus was the Guiding Star of the movement. Hus started as a Czech priest, but he quickly became notorious for debating several Church doctrines such as the Eucharist, Church ecclesiology, and many more topics. Today, he is viewed as a predecessor of the Lutherans, but the Church viewed him as a threat, and the Catholics eventually engaged Hus’ followers (known as Hussites) in several battles in the early 15th century. Hus himself was burned at the stake in 1415, but his followers fought on in a series of battles known as the Hussite Wars, and Czechoslovakia’s inhabitants by and large remained Hussite afterward. About 100 years later, Martin Luther would spark the Reformation across the continents.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 2 hrs and 35 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Holodomor

The Holodomor

Summary

“What are the causes of the famine? The main reason for the catastrophe in Russian agriculture is the Soviet policy of collectivization. The prophecy of Paul Scheffer in 1920-30 that collectivization of agriculture would be the nemesis of Communism has come absolutely true.” (Gareth Jones) Famine - one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation - continues to be one of the most crippling and destructive scourges of humanity. This inexorable affliction, traumatically fatal in the worst-case scenarios, has terrorized every single continent at some point throughout history, some more so than others. Perhaps the most famous was the notorious Irish Potato Famine of 1845, during which a noxious, fungus-like microorganism known as the “Phytophthora infestans” destroyed half of Ireland's potatoes and three-fourths of the crop in the following seven years, resulting in the deaths of 1.5 million and the forced migration of some two million citizens. The catastrophic Bengal Famine of 1943, which was precipitated by a dreadful cyclone and tidal waves the previous year, led to the deaths of an estimated seven million Bengalis.  Among some of history’s famines, the Holodomor’s death toll is considerably lower than others, such as the the Chalisa and South India Famines between 1782 to 1784, which killed roughly 11 million people altogether, or the Chinese Famine of 1907, which claimed up to 25 million lives in northern China. The Holodomor, however, which ravaged Ukraine between 1932 and 1933, was not a natural occurrence, but a ghastly man-made famine brought about by Stalinist policies.  When Ukraine was incorporated into the Soviet Union, communist ideology was enforced on every part of society, religion was effectively prohibited, and dissenters were sent to the Gulag prison camps. The church was an early target for the communists, as many buildings and religious icons were vandalized and believers were mocked.  As awful as that all was, Stalin’s economic plans were especially disastrous for Ukrainians. This Holomodor, calculatedly inflicted to serve the dictator's agenda, as well as to suppress Ukrainian nationalism and stamp out those who dared resist the regime, consequently resulted in the avoidable deaths of anywhere between 3.9 million and 10 million Ukrainian civilians. It was equivalent to roughly 25 percent of the population, a third of them children, and the victims all died in less than two years. One historian of the Soviet Union, Anne Applebaum, charted these events in her book Red Famine, concluding that the “Soviet Union’s disastrous decision to force peasants to give up their land and join collective farms; the eviction of ‘kulaks,’ the wealthier peasants, from their homes; the chaos that followed’ - these policies were ‘all ultimately the responsibility of Joseph Stalin, the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.’”  While Ukrainians marked this tragedy as the Holodomor (a composite of the Ukrainian words hunger (holod) and extermination (mor)), and the modern Ukrainian state recognized the period as a genocide in 2006, the Holomodor was deliberately swept under the rug for several decades. As a result, it remains widely unacknowledged to this day, and the nature of the famine - particularly whether it should be considered a genocide - is still debated by scholars.  The Holodomor: The History and Legacy of the Ukrainian Famine Engineered by the Soviet Union examines the events that brought about the famine and its terrible toll.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Russia
Length: 2 hrs and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Haitian Revolution

The Haitian Revolution

Summary

“I was born a slave, but nature gave me a soul of a free man....” (Toussaint L'Ouverture) The island of Hispaniola is the second largest island in the Antilles chain behind Cuba, and host to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Haiti, covering the western third of the island, is a French-speaking territory while the Dominican Republic, which occupies the other two thirds, is a Spanish-speaking territory. The Dominican Republic, although classified as a developing nation, has never been struck to the same degree by the malaise of poverty, corruption of its neighbor, languishing in the lower 10 percent of nations ahead only of some of the most conspicuous failed states in Africa. Many historians and analysts have posed the question of why, and the answer seems to lie in Haiti’s uniquely tortured history.  Hispaniola entered the European record in 1492 when Christopher Columbus made landfall on its southern shore during his first trans-Atlantic voyage, and he named his discovery in honor of the Spanish Crown that had funded and sponsored the voyage. Leaving the crew of the wrecked Santa Maria on the island, he returned to Europe, leaving his men to establish the foundations of the settlement of La Navidad and the first beachhead of the European seizure of the Caribbean and the New World. Columbus would revisit the island three times, leading a vanguard of pioneer colonists to commence the exploitation of the New World.  The indigenous people of Hispaniola, the Tainos and Arawak, initially greeted the landing with ambivalence, but as more and more of them were enslaved, and as their country was occupied, they entered a period of precipitous decline. Through a combination of disease, the violence associated with enslavement and general assimilation, they had virtually disappeared from the landscape within a century. Meanwhile, as the Spanish colonists looked around them, searching for a means to exploit this great discovery, and as the occupation spread to the mainland and the interior of South America, the early search for minerals yielded to the establishment of a plantation economy, with an emphasis initially on sugar, and later cotton, coffee, indigo and other crops.  Thus, even by the 16th century, slaves were being imported to Hispaniola, and over the next few centuries, the population of African slaves came to represent a sizable majority of the population there. This would set the stage for one of history’s most unique revolutions. The Haitian Revolution: The History and Legacy of the Slave Uprising that Led to Haiti’s Independence chronicles how the only successful slave uprising came about, and why it ended French control of the island. You will learn about the revolution like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, World
Length: 2 hrs and 4 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Gutians

The Gutians

Summary

Includes excerpts of ancient accounts  Includes a bibliography for further listening  Includes a table of contents   “Naram-Sin destroyed the people of Babylon, so twice Marduk summoned the forces of Gutium against him. Marduk gave his kingship to the Gutian force. The Gutians were unhappy people unaware how to revere the gods, ignorant of the right cultic practices. Utu-hengal, the fisherman, caught a fish at the edge of the sea for an offering. That fish should not be offered to another god until it had been offered to Marduk, but the Gutians took the boiled fish from his hand before it was offered, so by his august command, Marduk removed the Gutian force from the rule of his land and gave it to Utu-hengal.” (The Weidner Chronicle, 6th century BCE) World history is replete with many examples of nomadic barbarian hordes that swept into the kingdoms and countries of sedentary peoples, often leaving just as quickly as they had come. Sometimes, the hordes stayed in the territories they conquered and adopted the cultural attributes of the more sophisticated sedentary groups. It is important to know that barbarian invasions throughout history were usually not led by individuals or groups that hated or wanted to see the larger, often more powerful sedentary kingdoms or empires destroyed. Instead, they want a “taste” of it, and in many examples, they wanted to rule with the same style and ideology as the kingdom they had replaced. Many Sea Peoples bands of the eastern Mediterranean in the 13th century BCE entered the region as invaders and pirates, but many stayed and either assimilated into the sedentary kingdoms after their raids or even formed their own kingdoms, such as the Philistines, who were heavily influenced by the older kingdoms.  The Turkic nomads, Mongols, and other nomads of the steppe in the Middle Ages are another example of this phenomenon. These groups entered Europe and the Near East as classic hordes in every sense of the word, but after hundreds of years, they became part of the Christian and Islamic states in the region. Perhaps the best examples of this process is are the Germanic tribes who entered Europe, helping to bring down the Roman Empire while adopting countless aspects of Roman culture in the process, including elements of language, government, and religion.  The ancient Gutians are probably not one of the groups that come to most people’s minds when they think of barbarian hordes, but they were among the most important in the Bronze Age Near East. Little is known about the Gutians before they entered the historical record around 2200 BCE. in Mesopotamia, and even after that point, the contemporary records are open to interpretation because they are obviously biased against the outsiders. Since the Gutians had no written language, most of what modern scholars know about them has come from the works written by various groups in Mesopotamia, but they viewed the Gutians as uncivilized invaders, and with a healthy amount of fear and revulsion.  Given their foreign status and the fact that they forcibly conquered parts of Mesopotamia when they entered the historical record, the memory of the Gutians survived in Mesopotamia long after their short-lived dynasty had been overthrown. They continued to live on as a literary trope of what could happen if societies ignored their ancient cultural practices, particularly the worship of the gods and the proper maintenance of their cults. With this in mind, it is important to approach any proper study of the Gutians with the realization that nearly everything historians know about them comes from people who viewed them with absolute contempt, but along with that and available archaeological evidence, it is possible to get an idea of what the Gutians’ history was truly like.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 1 hr and 35 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Gullah

The Gullah

Summary

“If you do not know where you're going, you should know where you come from.” (Old Gullah Proverb) Charming drawls, bluegrass bops, NASCAR, mouthwatering barbecues, and the Great Smoky Mountains are all customs that make America’s Deep South home to some of the most vibrant, powerfully evocative, and culturally rich subregions on the continent, tethered to a heritage that rose from the ashes of the Civil War. There exists, however, a lesser-known, but equally indispensable subculture based within a 500-mile radius of the coastal South Atlantic states and Sea Islands. These culture bearers, who refer to themselves as the Gullah Geechee, or the “Gullah” for short, are the descendants and rightful heirs of the once-shackled slaves who resided in these parts. As the guardians and torch holders of the incredible legacy left behind by their persevering ancestors, the modern Gullah spare no effort in preserving the inherently unique customs and traditions, complete with their own creole tongue, that have been passed down from one generation to the next. Of course, the first Gullah people were not natives of the Deep South, nor were they eager immigrants who willingly crossed the North Atlantic in the hopes of landing opportunities available only in the “land of the free”. Rather, the Gullah were normal, everyday people who were forcibly extracted from their homes and shipped like chattel to a foreign land, where they were sold, purchased, and put to work on plantations, mines, factories, and elsewhere. Simply put, they were an ill-starred, yet fiercely diligent people who made the most out of their unimaginably horrific fates, constructing their own colorful customs and a remarkable legacy for their future successors. A number of notable figures have been linked with the Gullah in recent years. Michelle Obama, for instance, is said to be a descendant of a Gullah slave who once dwelled in a cotton plantation in the Low Country region of South Carolina. Little Melvinia was no older than eight when she arrived at the plantation of one Henry Wells Shields, soon after adopting the surname of her “master”, as per the customs of the mid-19th century. A teenaged Melvinia was ripped from her home once more in 1852 and relocated to Georgia, and it was there that she was impregnated by a white man and gave birth to the great-great-grandfather of the former First Lady. South Carolinian boxing icon Smokin' Joe Frazier and Cleveland Browns legend Jim Brown of St. Simons Island, Georgia also share Gullah blood. The Gullah: The History and Legacy of the African American Ethnic Group in the American Southeast examines the origins of the people, their culture, and how their history has winded over the centuries; you will learn about the Gullah like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 28 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Gulf War: The History and Legacy of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm

The Gulf War: The History and Legacy of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm

Summary

It was one of the 20th century’s most decisive wars, but also one of its most influential. In the wake of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, America led a coalition of dozens of nations that repelled the Iraqi attack and smashed Iraqi forces, much of which was captured on live television as global networks broadcast the images back home.  On the now ironic date of September 11, 1990, President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress to explain why he was assembling a coalition of nations to intervene against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Bush stated, “Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective -- a new world order -- can emerge…A new era, freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice and more secure in the quest for peace.” As his son would later attempt over a decade later in another war against Iraq, President Bush sought to present the coalition of nearly 40 nations as indicative of multilateralism, even though it was dominated by American forces. At the time, the Soviet Union was less than a year away from collapsing, leaving the United States as the sole superpower. In fact, the “new world order” that Bill Clinton and future presidents stepped into was one that allowed for American unilateralism.  Since World War II, the United States had protected the West during the Cold War, and President Kennedy had coined the term “Pax Americana” to describe his hope of peace for the world. 30 years later, American presidents now seemingly had the opportunity to use America’s unchecked power to instill and preserve peace across the world. As events have proved, the attempt to forge Pax Americana would be much easier said than done, and American involvement in the Middle East has been directly tied to the First Gulf War.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 22 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Greatest Civil War Battles: The Battle of Franklin

The Greatest Civil War Battles: The Battle of Franklin

Summary

"'Pickett's charge at Gettysburg' has come to be a synonym for unflinching courage in the raw. The slaughter-pen at Franklin even more deserves the gory honor." (Stanley F. Horn, The Army of Tennessee) As Sherman began his infamous march to the sea, Lincoln instructed Grant to redirect General George H. Thomas' efforts back to Tennessee to protect Union supply lines and stop the offensive mounted by Confederate general John Bell Hood. Hood had broken away from Atlanta and was trying to compel Sherman to follow him, thus diverting him from his intended path of destruction. With Sherman marching east toward the sea, he directed Thomas to try to block Hood around Nashville. In late November the Army of the Ohio, being led by Thomas' principal subordinate, John Schofield, all but blindly stumbled into Hood's forces, and it was only through luck that some of them had not been bottled up before they could regroup together. Receiving word of Union troop movement in the Nashville area, General Hood sent for his generals while attempting to hold off Schofield's advance. Hood knew that if Schofield reached Thomas' position, their combined armies would number more than twice his. Though the Confederates successfully blocked Schofield's route to Nashville, the Union general managed to execute an all-night maneuver that brought him to Franklin, about 18 miles south of Nashville. On November 30, the Union army began digging in around Franklin, and that afternoon Hood ordered a frontal assault on the dug-in Union army, which deeply upset his own officers. Hood stressed the necessity of defeating Schofield's forces before Thomas could arrive, though some historians believe his decision to mount a frontal attack was a rash decision made out of fury at the fact that Schofield had escaped his grasp.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 26 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Greatest Civil War Battles: The Appomattox Campaign

The Greatest Civil War Battles: The Appomattox Campaign

Summary

Of all the dramatic events that transpired during the Civil War, the end of the war in April 1865 brought perhaps the most remarkable of them all, and they came in such quick succession that it's still hard to believe nearly 150 years later. On April 2, the long siege of Petersburg by Ulysses S. Grant ended with Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia finally having its line broken, forcing Lee to retreat and give up Richmond in the process. Lee's battered army began stumbling toward a rail depot in the hopes of avoiding being surrounded by Union forces and picking up much-needed food rations. While Grant's army continued to chase Lee's retreating army westward, the Confederate government sought to escape across the Deep South. On April 4 President Lincoln entered Richmond and toured the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

©2012- Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Keith Peters
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 23 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Greatest Civil War Battles

The Greatest Civil War Battles

Summary

"Viewed from whatever point, Lookout Mountain, with its high palisaded crest, and its steep, rugged, rocky, and deeply-furrowed slopes, presented an imposing barrier to our advance." - Fighting Joe Hooker In late September 1863, the Confederates began laying siege to the Union Army of the Cumberland around Chattanooga. It would be their last gasp for supremacy in the West. Following the devastating Union defeat at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, the army and its shaken commander, General William S. Rosecrans, began digging in around the city and waiting for reinforcements to arrive. Meanwhile, the Confederate Army of Tennessee, under General Braxton Bragg, took the surrounding heights, including Missionary Ridge to the east and Lookout Mountain to the southwest, allowing them control over the vital rail and river supply lines needed by the Union forces in the city. Bragg planned to lay siege to the city and starve the Union forces into surrendering. Having lost faith in Rosecrans after Chickamauga, Washington delegated Ulysses S. Grant with the task of lifting the siege by placing him in command of nearly the entire theater. Grant replaced Rosecrans with George H. Thomas, who had saved the army at Chickamauga, and ordered him to "hold Chattanooga at all hazards. Thomas replied, "We will hold the town till we starve". Meanwhile, President Lincoln detached General Hooker and two divisions from the Army of the Potomac and sent them west to reinforce the garrison at Chattanooga.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: John Eastman
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 47 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Greatest Battles in History: The Peloponnesian War

The Greatest Battles in History: The Peloponnesian War

Summary

"Thucydides, an Athenian, wrote the history of the war between the Peloponnesians and the Athenians, beginning at the moment that it broke out, and believing that it would be a great war and more worthy of relation than any that had preceded it. This belief was not without its grounds.... Indeed this was the greatest movement yet known in history, not only of the Hellenes but of a large part of the barbarian world - I had almost said of mankind." (Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War) The Peloponnesian War, as the great historian Thucydides wrote in the introduction to his eponymous book, which has become one of the greatest historical treatises of antiquity, was an event of such calamitous magnitude that Greece had never witnessed its like in all of recorded history. Not the Trojan War, not the Dorian Invasion, not even the recent Persian invasions - which had devastated mainland Greece and seen Athens herself evacuated and put to the flame, the buildings on her Acropolis razed into dust - could compare to the scale of the devastation that engulfed all of Greece for almost three decades, causing the deaths of tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands. Entire populations were displaced, whole cities destroyed, and mountainous sums of money spent, all in order for Greece's two most famous city-states to establish who had dominion over Greece. Sparta, whose invincible armies had recently led the Greeks to victory against Xerxes' hordes at Plataea, was at the head of the Peloponnesian League. Their opponents were led by proud Athens, possessors of a fleet that virtually dominated the entire Mediterranean and decimated the Persian navy at Salamis and Mycale, at the head of the Delian League.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Doron Alon
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 32 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Greatest Battles in History: The Battle of Okinawa

The Greatest Battles in History: The Battle of Okinawa

Summary

"If you die there will be no one left who knows the truth about the Battle of Okinawa. Bear the temporary shame but endure it. This is an order from your army Commander." (Mitsuru Ushijima to Colonel Hiromichi Yahara) Near the end of 1944, as Allied forces were pushing across the Pacific and edging ever closer to Japan, plans were drawn up to invade the Ryuku islands, the most prominent of them being Okinawa. Military planners anticipated that an amphibious campaign would last a week, but instead of facing 60,000 Japanese defenders as estimated, there were closer to 120,000 on the island at the beginning of the campaign in April 1945. The Battle of Okinawa was the largest amphibious operation in the Pacific theater, and it would last nearly three months and wind up being the fiercest in the Pacific theater during the war, with nearly 60 thousand American casualties and over 100 thousand Japanese soldiers killed. In addition, the battle resulted in an estimated 40 thousand - 150 thousand Japanese civilian casualties. Okinawa witnessed every conceivable horror of war both on land and at sea. American ground forces on Okinawa had to deal with bad weather (including a typhoon), antitank moats, barbed wire, mines, caves, underground tunnel networks, and fanatical Japanese soldiers who were willing to use human shields while fighting to the death. Allied naval forces supporting the amphibious invasion had to contend with Japan's notorious kamikazes, suicide pilots who terrorized sailors as they frantically tried to shoot down the Japanese planes before they could hit Allied ships. As one sailor aboard the USS Miami recalled, "They came in swarms from all directions. The barrels of our ship's guns got so hot we had to use fire hoses to cool them down."

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Todd Van Linda
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 33 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Great Siege of Malta

The Great Siege of Malta

Summary

“The darkness of the night then became as bright as day, due to the vast quantity of artificial fires. So bright was it indeed that we could see St Elmo quite clearly. The gunners of St Angelo...were able to lay and train their pieces upon the advancing Turks, who were picked out in the light of the fires." (Francisco Balbi, a Spanish soldier at the siege) For centuries, Christians and Muslims were embroiled in one of the most infamous territorial disputes of all time, viciously and relentlessly battling one another for the Holy Land. In the heart of Jerusalem sat one of the shining jewels of the Christian faith - the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Legend has it that this was where their Savior had been buried before his fabled resurrection. What was more, it was said to house the very cross Jesus Christ had died upon. It was for precisely these reasons that fearless pilgrims, near and far, risked their lives and made the treacherous trek to Jerusalem. Like other secretive groups, the mystery surrounding the Catholic military orders that sprung up in the wake of the First Crusade helped their legacies endure. While some conspiracy theorists attempt to tie the groups to other alleged secret societies like the Illuminati, other groups have tried to assert connections with them to bolster their own credentials. Who they were and what they had in their possession continue to be a source of great intrigue. After being forced out of Rhodes by the Ottomans in the early 16th century, the Knights Hospitaller spent seven years residing in Sicily without an official home or garrison, but around 1530, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V decided to gift the order the islands of Malta and Gozo, as well as the port city of Tripoli in North Africa, as a fiefdom. The emperor’s motivations varied, but most historians believe he granted the knights the territory partially out of religious devotion and mainly to protect those regions from the looming Ottoman threat. Both Malta and Gozo were between Sicily and the North African coast and were prime locations for the Ottoman Empire to try to make their next move to gain inroads into Europe. In 1565, the Knights Hospitaller were attacked by Suleiman, who sent 40,000 soldiers to attempt to wrest control of Malta from them. This would become known as the Great Siege of Malta, lasting from May 18 to September 11. The first two months of the siege were devastating for the Hospitallers, who lost most of their cities and half of their 8,000 knights. Resources were scarce and supplies were running low, resulting in starvation and disease. By August 18, the lines were ready to crumble, especially since the series of fortifications were spread out and difficult to defend.  No help was forthcoming from the Viceroy of Sicily, who was under no obligation to assist because of the vague wording of the orders he received from King Philip II of Spain. Indeed, it could have been disastrous for Sicily, since sacrificing their own troops would have left Sicily and Naples open to Ottoman invasion. When told to withdraw to spare the rest of the order, Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette refused and held his ground, and finally, after months of ignoring the issue, the Viceroy of Sicily sent aid to the Knights Hospitaller after being badgered by his outraged officers. On August 23, the Ottomans launched their last assault upon Malta. The fighting was intense, and even wounded knights participated. The Ottoman army was unable to break through the Order’s fortifications, as the garrison had repaired the worst of the damages and any breakages to avoid giving the Ottomans an advantage.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 2 hrs and 39 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Great Schism

The Great Schism

Summary

For nearly a thousand years following its foundation, there was only one Christian church. Centered in the city of Rome, the church expanded and grew until it became the dominant religion in Europe and beyond. The early growth of the Church had been suppressed by the Romans until the Emperor Constantine became the first to convert the empire to Christianity. From that point forward, the growth of the Church was inextricably linked with the Roman Empire - the most powerful military, economic, and political force in the ancient world. For almost 600 years, from the defeat of Carthage in the Second Punic War in 201 BCE to around 395 CE, Rome was one of the most important cities in the world, but things were beginning to change around the time Constantine converted the empire. Rome controlled large areas of the world, but by the fourth century, the emphasis had shifted from military conquest to the control of lucrative trade routes. The problem was that the city of Rome, isolated in the southern half of the Italian peninsula, was far from these routes, and this compelled Constantine to establish a major Roman city on the site of ancient Byzantium. The new city Constantinople was located on a strategic site controlling the narrow straits between the Black Sea and the Aegean, meaning it was firmly astride some of the most important trade routes in the ancient world between Europe and Asia and between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Constantinople became the second most important city of the Roman Empire, thriving in parallel with Rome, but then, the empire split into eastern and western provinces, with Constantinople the capital of the east and Rome the capital of the west. Control of trade routes made Constantinople increase in power and influence while Rome became less important.  However, not all power and influence shifted east, because one important institution remained firmly linked with the city of Rome: the bishops of the Church. Under the rule of previous emperors, Christian bishops had not only been formally recognized, but had been given power within the Roman state. The most important of all was "I Sommi Pontefici Romani” the supreme pontiff of Rome. The earliest holders of this title were martyrs and saints of the Church, but by the time of the rise of Constantinople, this role was elected by the other bishops of the Church. This role would later become known as the Pope (from the Greek word “pappas” meaning “father”), but even before that title was adopted, the supreme pontiff in Rome was widely recognized as the leader of the Church. In historical terms, these early leaders of the Church are often referred to as “popes” even though that title was not formally adopted until after the division the Church. Rome’s preeminence was not a situation that was welcomed in Constantinople, now the center of the Byzantine Empire and a thriving and wealthy metropolis. After being sacked by outsiders, Rome had become a virtual ghost town, partially ruined and inhabited by a small number of hardy survivors. Yet, in center of the crumbling city was the Vatican Borgo, the palace of the supreme pontiff and the heart of the Church. In retrospect, it is easy to see that this was a situation that was bound to lead to conflict and disagreement, with the Greek-speaking Eastern Orthodox Church centered in Constantinople and being governed by Latin-speaking popes in a faraway city. Moreover, there had already been theological disputes as far back as Constantine’s time, which had led to the famous Council of Nicaea in the fourth century CE. This audiobook chronicles the events that led to the schism, the key figures that played a hand in the confusion, and how the contentious issues were finally resolved. 

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Stephen Platt
Length: 1 hr and 53 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef

Summary

"Coral is a very beautiful and unusual animal. Each coral head consists of thousand[s] of individual polyps. These polyps are continually budding and branching into genetically identical neighbors." (Antony Garrett List) People have always loved to build things, whether it's a feat of engineering in an underground subway or the construction of the world's tallest skyscraper. Thus, it's somewhat ironic that the largest structure ever built was not made by humans, but by incredibly tiny organisms known as coral polyps. Over the course of tens of thousands of years, these small organisms have put together a collection of nearly 3,000 reefs that form a collective stretching across 130,000 square miles. It is often mistakenly claimed that the Great Wall of China can be seen in space, but it's absolutely true that the enormous Great Barrier Reef is visible. The sheer size of the Great Barrier Reef is mind boggling, but its importance extends far past its physical extent. Put simply, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, offering kaleidoscopic colors thanks to the coral and the species that call it home. This is understandable because a staggering number of species inhabit the Great Barrier Reef, ranging from starfish and turtles, to alligators and birds. Scientists have counted about 1,500 different fish species that use the reef, and it's estimated that 1.5 million birds use the site. In designating it a World Heritage Site, UNESCO wrote of the Great Barrier Reef, "The Great Barrier Reef is a site of remarkable variety and beauty on the north-east coast of Australia. It contains the world's largest collection of coral reefs...."

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Jamie Ecklund
Length: 1 hr and 24 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Gray Ghost of the Confederacy: The Life and Legacy of John Mosby

The Gray Ghost of the Confederacy: The Life and Legacy of John Mosby

Summary

"Our poor country has fallen a prey to the conqueror. The noblest cause ever defended by the sword is lost. The noble dead that sleep in their shallow though honored graves are far more fortunate than their survivors. I thought I had sounded the profoundest depth of human feeling, but this is the bitterest hour of my life." - John Mosby The Civil War is best remembered for the big battles and the legendary generals who fought on both sides, like Robert E. Lee facing off against Ulysses S. Grant in 1864. In kind, the Eastern theater has always drawn more interest and attention than the West. However, while massive armies marched around the country fighting each other, there were other small guerrilla groups that engaged in irregular warfare on the margins, and perhaps the most famous of them was Colonel John Mosby. Mosby, the "Gray Ghost" of the Confederate lore that celebrates the Lost Cause, has an image that has proven nearly impossible to corrupt or change, and time has done little good against it. Unlike the vanished 19th century code of honor that he represented, Mosby has retained the image and all its connotations; evident in the pictures taken of him in his Confederate uniform and historical portrayals of him, whether they were written just after the Civil War or much later. But that image, which he helped fashion, was mostly an invention. Mosby styled himself a "Knight of the South", as other Virginians would do during the war, branding himself as a warrior of a culture who obeyed an unspoken code of honor. He defended women and lived by his word. Even the style of combat he chose conformed to the definition of honor that Southerners held.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Stacy Hinkle
Length: 1 hr and 58 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Golden Horde

The Golden Horde

Summary

Though history is usually written by the victors, the lack of a particularly strong writing tradition from the Mongols ensured that history was largely written by those who they vanquished. Because of this, their portrayal in the West and the Middle East has been extraordinarily (and in many ways unfairly) negative for centuries, at least until recent revisions to the historical record. The Mongols have long been depicted as wild horse-archers galloping out of the dawn to rape, pillage, murder, and enslave, but the Mongol army was a highly sophisticated, minutely organized, and an incredibly adaptive and innovative institution, as witnessed by the fact that it was successful in conquering enemies who employed completely different weaponry and different styles of fighting, from Chinese armored infantry to Middle Eastern camel cavalry and Western knights and men-at-arms. Likewise, the infrastructure and administrative corps which governed the empire, though largely borrowed from the Chinese, was inventive, practical, and extraordinarily modern and efficient. This was no fly-by-night enterprise but a sophisticated, complex, and extremely well-oiled machine. While the Golden Horde technically refers to part of the Mongol Empire, today the Golden Horde is often used interchangeably with the Mongol forces as a whole. As such, the Golden Horde conjures vivid images of savage, barbarian horsemen riding across the steppes, an unstoppable force mindlessly slaughtering and burning. It is often imagined that they conquered by sheer brutality and terror and that they epitomized everything that came from the East: uncivilized, brutal, and undisciplined.  This sensationalized image - impressed upon the West by Hollywood and by the perception of the “Yellow Peril” that has colored Western views toward Asia for a long time - began almost from the beginning. The Mongols treasured art and literature and protected religion, that of their subjects as well as their own, and trade, commerce, and cultural exchanges flourished under the Golden Horde and the other Mongol khanates, but that escaped the notice of their contemporaries. Giovanni de Plano Carpini, a papal envoy journeying through Russia on his way to the Khan of the Golden Horde, noted, “They [the Mongols] attacked Rus', where they made great havoc, destroying cities and fortresses and slaughtering men; and they laid siege to Kiev, the capital of Rus'; after they had besieged the city for a long time, they took it and put the inhabitants to death. When we were journeying through that land, we came across countless skulls and bones of dead men lying about on the ground. Kiev had been a very large and thickly populated town, but now, it has been reduced almost to nothing, for there are at the present time scarce two hundred houses there and the inhabitants are kept in complete slavery.”  What can’t be disputed is that the Golden Horde directly affected Eastern Europe for nearly 250 years, and even after its rapid rise brought about a long, tortuous decline, it has continued to shape the destiny of that region. The Golden Horde: The History and Legacy of the Mongol Khanate examines the events that led to the rise of the Khanate, what life was like there, and how the Mongols fought.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Asia
Length: 1 hr and 52 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

Summary

"To this Gate I give the name of 'Chrysopylae,' or Golden Gate, for the same reason that the harbor of Byzantium was called 'Chrysoceras,' or Golden Horn." (Captain John C. Fremont, 1846) "[A] perpetual monument that will make this city's name ring around the world and renew the magical fame which the Golden Gate enjoyed in the days of '49." (S.F. Examiner editorial, March 24, 1925) San Francisco has countless landmarks and tourist spots, but few are as associated with the city as the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the modern world's engineering marvels. The giant suspension bridge spans the San Francisco Bay, with a length of over 1.5 miles, a height of nearly 750 feet, and a width of around 100 feet. While it is a beautiful and instantly recognizable landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge was also a very practical one born of necessity. After the California Gold Rush helped turn San Francisco into a destination site, connecting people on both sides of the beautiful Golden Gate Strait became vitally important. There was a consistent ferry service in the area, but the advent of automobiles made a bridge even more imperative. At the same time, no one in the world had ever successfully built a bridge as long as this one would be, and indeed no one else would for another three decades after the Golden Gate Bridge opened. Given its size, it should come as little surprise that the Golden Gate Bridge was one of the most ambitious and expensive projects of its age. Indeed, it would take nearly 20 years from the time the bridge was proposed to its grand opening, and it cost hundreds of millions of dollars (the equivalent of several billion today).

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ian H. Shattuck
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Ghosts of Scotland: A Collection of Ghost Stories Across the Scottish Nation

The Ghosts of Scotland: A Collection of Ghost Stories Across the Scottish Nation

Summary

"In Scotland, beautiful as it is, it was always raining. Even when it wasn't raining, it was about to rain, or had just rained. It's a very angry sky." (Colin Hay) Scotland is a fascinating and ancient land filled with history. It has produced explorers, warriors, inventors, writers, and more than a few murderers. For many centuries, it fought bitter wars against England to maintain its independence, and even when those wars were finally lost, Scotland retained its distinct culture and identity. Though a part of the United Kingdom, it would be a mistake to lump it in with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as Scotland has its own tales to tell and traditions to maintain. Not everything in Scotland is as it appears, however. Some Scots say this is a land haunted by spirits, a place of strange disappearances and unexplained phenomena. There is no shortage when it comes to the strange stories Scotland has to offer, and the legends and lore have compelled many to dig a little deeper and even explore this wonderful land for themselves. Some of those tales are downright grisly. Scotland has always been a rival to its southern neighbor, and the rivalry extends to the number of hauntings in its medieval castles, stately homes, and old cobblestone streets. While many Englishmen claim that their country is the most haunted, the Scots can point to their own stories of ghosts as evidence they may beat the English in this dubious distinction. The Ghosts of Scotland: A Collection of Ghost Stories Across the Scottish Nation is a collection of such tales, just a few among the thousands of local legends and modern sightings that make Scotland one of the most haunted countries in the world. It is part of a collection of other books written by Sean McLachlan, including The Ghosts of England: A Collection of Ghost Stories Across the English Nation and The Ghosts of Ireland: A Collection of Ghost Stories Across the Emerald Isle. For other strange occurrences in Scotland, ranging from Nessie to jelly falling from the sky, check out another title in the series, Weird Scotland: Monsters, Mysteries, and Magic Across the Scottish Nation. You will learn about the ghosts of Scotland like never before.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 31 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Gangs of Chinatown

The Gangs of Chinatown

Summary

San Francisco, Chinatown, September 4, 1977, 2:00 a.m. Despite it being the middle of the night, Chinatown was still a hive of activity. Fresh produce glistening with dew was being delivered by vegetable vendors at grocery stores. Chinese barbeque chefs at neighborhood restaurants were preparing juicy roast duck and sticky sweet red barbeque pork for both the late-night crowd and tomorrow’s lunch rush. Walking down the dense streets, vibrant Cantonese could be heard from Chinatown residents, some jockeying for a seat at late-night dim sum restaurants, a favorite Cantonese staple of little steamed and fried dumplings and pastries. The restaurant Golden Dragon was no different, except on this night, instead of a peaceful late-night meal, a barrage of bullets would spray into the restaurant, unleashed by gunmen from the notorious Chinese Joe Boys street gang. The gangsters were aiming for their archrivals, the Wah Ching and the Hop Sing Boys. The attack was a revenge strike, as a Joe Boys street soldier had been killed in a running gun battle after a Wah Ching gang ambush on the Fourth of July at the Ping Yuen housing project in Chinatown. The Joe Boys were furious for revenge, and two months later, the death of their fellow gangster still fresh in their minds, the Joe Boys struck. An opportunity presented itself when a lookout spotted Wah Ching and Hop Sing gangsters at the Golden Dragon Restaurant. Ultimately, the gang shooting failed to kill a single street gang member. Instead, five innocent people were killed along with another 11 wounded. Chinatown and the city were shocked. Chinese gangs, once only a subject spoken in hushed tones among the residents of Chinatown, was now front-page news in America. Although the shooting was a shock to mainstream America, the attack represented a culmination of years of gang violence in the Chinese community. For years, gangs had killed dozens of people in Chinatown, an area that was both a tourist attraction and home to thousands of poor, mostly Chinese-born, immigrants. Most casualties in the gang wars of Chinatown had been criminals, combatants in vicious street combat. But the Golden Dragon shooting was different. This time the battle occurred in a popular restaurant, with victims being innocent civilians with no connection or knowledge to gangs or the revenge origins of the shooting. Chinatown would be changed forever after the Golden Dragon Massacre. Chinese gangs have been a part of the fabric of American Chinatowns since the first Chinese immigrants arrived in the nineteenth century to work on the railroads. Faced with intense racism and systematic oppression from mainstream society, secret societies called tongs were organized in the urban Chinatowns. These societies provided much needed social and financial support for the Chinese migrants who were treated as pariahs by American society. Eventually, as Chinese immigration increased after the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act, Chinese gangs evolved too. Chinese street gangs, ranging from the Ghost Shadows of urban New York Chinatown to the middle-class Taiwanese Americans that filled the gangs of Southern California, underground Chinese crime groups have continued to evolve and change in America. The Gangs of Chinatown: The History and Legacy of Chinese Street Gangs in America looks at how some of the gangs formed, what their activities were like, and their impact.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2021 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 1 hr and 41 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Summary

"First news from Galveston just received by train which could get no closer to the bay shore than six miles where the prairie was strewn with debris and dead bodies. About 200 corpses counted from the train. Large steamship stranded two miles inland. Nothing could be seen of Galveston. Loss of life and property undoubtedly most appalling. Weather clear and bright here with gentle southeast wind." (G. L. Vaughan, manager of Western Union in Houston, in a telegram to the chief of the US Weather Bureau on the day after the hurricane.) In 2005 the world watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, and the calamity seemed all the worse because many felt that technology had advanced far enough to prevent such tragedies, whether through advanced warnings or engineering. At the same time, that response tends to overlook all of the dangers posed by hurricanes and other natural disasters. After all, storms and hurricanes have been wiping out coastal communities ever since the first humans built them. As bad as Hurricane Katrina was, the hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas, on September 8, 1900, killed several times more people, with an estimated death toll between 6,000 and 12,000 people. Prior to advanced communications, few people knew about impending hurricanes except those closest to the site. In the days before television or even radio, catastrophic descriptions were merely recorded on paper, limiting our understanding of the immediate impact. Stories could be published after the water receded and the dead were buried, but by then the immediate shock had worn off, and all that remained were memories of the survivors. Thus it was inevitable that the category 4 hurricane would cause almost inconceivable destruction as it made landfall in Texas, with winds at 145 miles per hour.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Steve Rausch
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 7 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The French and Indian War

The French and Indian War

Summary

On September 13, 1759, a battle was fought on the Plains of Abraham outside the old city of Quebec that was one of the turning point battles in world history. Thanks to the British victory and the events that followed, Canada went from being a colony of France (New France) to being a colony of Great Britain, which permanently changed Canadian history. In many ways, the outcome of the battle brought about several American attempts to seize Canada during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, and ultimately it ensured that when Canada became an independent country, it was part of the British Commonwealth with an Anglophone majority and a Francophone minority. Frictions over cultural and political issues between the English Canadians and the Québécois, dating back to the battle, continue to impact the state of affairs in Canada today. While the battle had a profound impact, it has also been romanticized and mythologized beyond even epic proportions. Though often forgotten today (more than 250 years after the battle), the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was the culmination of a long siege, and the decisive action itself was an incredibly short affair at less than half an hour. Despite that brevity, both commanding generals were mortally wounded in the exchange, making British General James Wolfe a national hero on both sides of the Atlantic and French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm a convenient scapegoat. Only a few thousand soldiers were engaged on each side, and the battle ended with less than 1,500 casualties combined. While the Battle of Quebec is no longer famous among Americans, the broader conflict, known as the French and Indian War, certainly remains so. As part of the Seven Years’ War, which was being fought between the British and French across the world, the French and Indian War was the last in a long series of colonial conflicts between the two world powers and forever changed the colonial map in America and elsewhere. At the end of the war, disputed North American borders were finally settled, and both empires were left reeling from the costs of war. The war would cement British power in North America, end French colonial ambition for decades, and bring about a chain reaction that led to the formation of a new nation. The French and Indian War: The History and Legacy of the Conflict Between French and British Colonies in North America profiles the combatants and the political background that led to the war and influenced the American Revolution in the aftermath.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Europe
Length: 2 hrs and 6 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Franklin-Nashville Campaign

The Franklin-Nashville Campaign

Summary

"Never had there been such an overwhelming victory during the Civil War - indeed, never in American military history." - Wiley Ford's comment on the Franklin-Nashville Campaign As Sherman began his infamous march to the sea, Lincoln instructed Grant to redirect General George H. Thomas' efforts back to Tennessee to protect Union supply lines and stop the offensive mounted by Confederate general John Bell Hood. Hood had broken away from Atlanta and was trying to compel Sherman to follow him, thus diverting him from his intended path of destruction. With Sherman marching east toward the sea, he directed Thomas to try to block Hood around Nashville. In late November, the Army of the Ohio, being led by Thomas' principal subordinate John Schofield, all but blindly stumbled into Hood's forces, and it was only through luck that some of them had not been bottled up before they could regroup together. Receiving word of Union troop movement in the Nashville area, General Hood sent for his generals while attempting to hold off Schofield's advance. Hood knew that if Schofield reached Thomas' position, their combined armies would number more than twice his. Though the Confederates successfully blocked Schofield's route to Nashville, the Union general managed to execute an all-night maneuver that brought him to Franklin, about 18 miles south of Nashville. On November 30, the Union army began digging in around Franklin, and that afternoon Hood ordered a frontal assault on the dug in Union army, which deeply upset his own officers. After repeated frontal assaults failed to create a gap in the Union lines, Schofield withdrew his men across the river on the night of November 30, successfully escaping Hood's army. Meanwhile, Hood had inflicted nearly 8,000 casualties upon his army (men the Confederacy could scarcely afford to lose), while the Union lost about a quarter of that.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Military
Length: 2 hrs
Available on Audible
Cover art for The First Italian War

The First Italian War

Summary

In 1494, there were five sovereign regional powers in Italy: Milan, Venice, Florence, the Papal States, and Naples. In 1536, only one remained - Venice. These decades of conflict precipitated great anxiety among Western thinkers. Italians responded to the fragmentation, forevermore, of Latin Christendom, the end of self-governance for Italians, and the beginning of the early modern era in a myriad of ways. They were always heavily influenced by the lived experience of warfare between large Christian armies on the peninsula.  Most historians credit the city-state of Florence as the place that started and developed the Italian Renaissance, a process carried out through the patronage and commission of artists during the late 12th century. If Florence is receiving its due credit, much of it belongs to the Medicis, the family dynasty of Florence that ruled at the height of the Renaissance. The dynasty held such influence that some of its family members were even ordained as pope.   Among all of the Medicis, its most famous member ruled during the Golden Age of Florence, at the apex of the Renaissance’s artistic achievements. Lorenzo de Medici, commonly referred to as Lorenzo the Magnificent, was groomed both intellectually and politically to rule, and he took the reins of power at the age of 20. Lorenzo de Medici may have not been a king, prince, or duke, but he nevertheless held significant influence over all of the noble houses of the region, from Milan and Naples to the King of France. Between 1482 and 1484, Lorenzo’s influence prevented a close alliance between King Louis IX of France and the city of Venice, which was at war with Ferrara. Lorenzo’s personal influence helped reduce Venice’s power in the region. During the Baron’s War of 1485 and 1486, while Florence sided with the pope, Lorenzo favored Ferdinando of Aragon, who had close ties with Naples, giving Lorenzo the chance to attempt to negotiate an improvement in relations between the pope and Naples. While the two had once been allied against Florence, their alliance had ended with the war. Lorenzo proposed a new agreement between the two, largely centered around financial obligations, in 1489. It was accepted in 1492, creating an enduring peace for some time. Perhaps fittingly, once Lorenzo the Magnificent died, the tenuous peace would go with him, touching off the Italian Wars. The First Italian War: The History and Legacy of the Italian Wars’ Initial Conflict at the Height of the Renaissance chronicles the various nations and city-states that jousted for power throughout the peninsula during the late 15th century. The audiobook presents places and events that'll help you learn about the First Italian War like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 7 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Fermi Paradox: The History and Legacy of the Famous Debate over the Existence of Aliens

The Fermi Paradox: The History and Legacy of the Famous Debate over the Existence of Aliens

Summary

“The size and age of the universe incline us to believe that many technologically advanced civilizations must exist. However, this belief seems logically inconsistent with our lack of observational evidence to support it. Either (1) the initial assumption is incorrect and technologically advanced intelligent life is much rarer than we believe, or (2) our current observations are incomplete and we simply have not detected them yet, or (3) our search methodologies are flawed and we are not searching for the correct indicators, or (4) it is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself.” (The Fermi Paradox) As technological advances and the creation of flying aircraft became realities, the sighting of UFOs increased, as did the interest in potential contact with aliens. While incidents like the one at Roswell led to conspiracies and a craze among those who insisted the government was hiding proof of extraterrestrials’ existence, governments across the world were actually secretly studying UFO sightings by the mid-20th century. Given all of that, it would hardly be groundbreaking for scientists in the 20th century to have a lunchtime discussion in which the search for extraterrestrial life arises, and the question of where it might reside is innocuous enough. However, a furor was created somewhat innocently when physicist Enrico Fermi voiced his “casual lunchtime remark” in the presence of colleagues in 1950. The august company included Edward Teller, a Hungarian physicist, Herbert York, am American nuclear physicist whose lineage included Mohawk heritage, and Emil Konopinski, a nuclear physicist of Polish origin. Fermi himself, an Italian-American born in Rome, was renowned for developing a statistical base for subatomic phenomena, work on nuclear alterations caused by neutrons, and for leading the first controlled chain reaction from nuclear fission. In pursuit of managing the atom, he created the first nuclear reactor. A gifted theoretician, he advanced the field of statistical mechanics, and won the Nobel Prize over a decade before he asked his important question. The four men represented a fair percentage of the research core during the Manhattan Project that developed and produced the atomic bomb. Despite the sophisticated conversation that appears to have followed, Fermi’s oft-asked question soon became elevated within the scientific community as the Fermi Paradox. The subsequent musings on our search for extraterrestrial life have grown to such proportions that extensive lists of solutions to the inquiry proliferate with each passing year. Not only is the core of the question bombarded with speculative theory, but the viability of the term paradox is itself called into question. Merriam-Webster characterizes a paradox as “a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true”. The definition adds to the same contradictory statement the caveat of appearing to be true at first. By every account of the Fermi conversation, the physicist raised a question as to where extraterrestrial life might be hiding, not a statement as to whether it existed. For a contradictory statement to be true on a first hearing would require a reversal for the case of extraterrestrial search, as it requires a first observable example. It must begin as an untrue statement, or one that is perceived so. Evidence-based science must proceed then, from the most skeptical position to a hopeful reversal. Similarly, the Merriam-Webster paradox requests a premise steeped in a reasonable model. With no external observations accomplished, our own is the only one available.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2021 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 30 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover: The History and Legacy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Under Its First Director

The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover: The History and Legacy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Under Its First Director

Summary

"We are a fact-gathering organization only. We don’t clear anybody. We don’t condemn anybody.” (J. Edgar Hoover)  No single figure in 20th century American history inspires such opposing opinions as J. Edgar Hoover, the iconic first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In his time, he was arguably the most powerful non-elected figure in the federal government. Serving under eight presidents (and outliving two of them), he remains the longest-serving head of a major government office, and Hoover died as he began: a civil servant, having been appointed by the Attorney General and serving at the pleasure of the president. That said, no civil servant had ever accrued to themselves the power and public attention that Hoover did.  To many Americans in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, Hoover was a real American hero. In a country suffering from the Great Depression and the crime wave of the early 1930s, Hoover was the symbol of law and order as his “G-Men” used the newest in scientific crime solving methods to bring gangsters like John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Baby Face Nelson to justice. In the 1940s, he protected a country at war from German and Japanese spies and saboteurs. In the 1950s, he led the charge against Soviet spies and domestic communists who he saw as undermining the institutions of the country. Every boy in the country wanted to be a G-Man, helping Mr. Hoover ferret out anyone who would harm the United States.  However, by the 1960s and 1970s, Hoover the hero had become Hoover the villain. Various exposes and investigations revealed a darker side to the legend, one that included serious violations of the civil liberties of individuals. Hoover’s G-Men, it was discovered, engaged in illegal break-ins and wiretaps of suspected subversives, wrote fake letters that undermined the reputations of public individuals, paid informants for information, and pushed the groups they belonged to into committing illegal acts. It was alleged that Hoover led a personal vendetta against Martin Luther King, Jr. and the entire Civil Rights Movement. Hoover, it was said, had stayed in office so long by gathering secret files of damaging information about politicians (including presidents) that shortly after his death in 1972, the Hoover legend was in tatters, replaced by a caricature of a vain, vindictive, power-mad petty dictator who was a closet cross-dresser.   As with most larger-than-life figures, the truth lies somewhere between two myths. Views of Hoover as hero and Hoover as villain contain elements of truth. The same man who took a small insignificant office of the Justice Department and transformed it into the premier national law enforcement agency in the world was the same man who approved (or at least had knowledge of) actions that violated the Constitution he was sworn to uphold. The director who ordered his agents in the 1960s to destroy the Ku Klux Klan when they were engaging in violent acts against Civil Rights protesters also surveyed the leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement. J. Edgar Hoover was in many ways a walking contradiction, but his apparent contradictions embodied the issues at the heart of 20th century America.   The FBI and J. Edgar Hoover: The History and Legacy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Under Its First Director examines the events that led to the formation of the FBI, the most important cases it was involved in, and the controversies surrounding Hoover’s methods. You will learn about the FBI under Hoover like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Length: 2 hrs and 42 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Explosion of the SS Sultana

The Explosion of the SS Sultana

Summary

There is a popular saying that declares "timing is everything", and in no other field of study is that truer than in history. For instance, under normal conditions, a ship that sank with more than 2,000 passengers aboard - most of whom died - would be big news, yet today the sinking of the SS Sultana is often overlooked if not entirely forgotten. While it might have generated the type of publicity and reaction of the Johnstown Flood of 1889 or the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 under normal circumstances, the explosion and sinking of the Sultana on April 27, 1865, has become something of a historical footnote. The irony is that the Sultana is a historical footnote because of the Civil War, but it was also intimately tied to the war. Although Robert E. Lee's surrender to Ulysses Grant at Appomattox was not technically the end of the Civil War, it took one of the last remaining Confederate armies out of the field. Furthermore, on the night of April 14, many of the Union's hopes for the future were dashed when President Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D. C. The people of the nation quickly became a volatile mix of grief and outrage, uninterested in anything that did not relate to the death of their beloved president. In fact, just the day before the disaster, as the Sultana was sailing up the Mississippi River to her rendezvous with destiny, Union Army soldiers cornered and killed Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ronald Printz
Category: History, Military
Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The English Sweating Sickness

The English Sweating Sickness

Summary

Plague and pestilence have both fascinated and terrified humanity from the very beginning. Societies and individuals have struggled to make sense of them, and more importantly, they’ve often struggled to avoid them. Before the scientific age, people had no knowledge of the microbiological agents - unseen bacteria and viruses - which afflicted them, and thus, the maladies were often ascribed to wrathful supernatural forces. Even when advances in knowledge posited natural causes for epidemics and pandemics, medicine struggled to deal with them, and for hundreds of years, religion continued to work hand-in-hand with medicine. It was only in the mid-19th century that scientists established a definitive link between viruses and bacteria and disease, and this allowed the development of vaccines to prevent the spread of killers such as smallpox, typhus, and diphtheria. In the early 20th century, the development of antibiotics helped immensely, but as the Spanish Flu of 1918 and the recent coronavirus outbreak demonstrated, people have not succeeded in conquering all infectious diseases. In fact, it was not until World War II that most of the pestilences that have afflicted people in the past could be effectively prevented, but the fear of contagion remains strong. The plague, for all its horrors, became a known quantity that moved through a predictable progression, so by the 15th century, citizens learned to go on with their lives, resigned to the fact that these curses seemed inescapable. However, in the mid-15th century, a new “febrile” disease of an entirely unknown cause struck again in Britain in a series of erratically paced and lethal outbreaks between 1485 and 1551. Confined almost entirely to England, the new and unfamiliar wave of illness paled before the statistical destruction caused by the Black Death. However, what came to be known as the “English sweating sickness” reappeared through the decades in a stunning display of unpredictable timing and terrifying symptoms. The anxiety produced by its rapid and grim emergence rivaled that of the previous continental scourge. Surviving the disease offered no defense against reinfection, and what began as mild discomfort in the morning often left a victim dead by nightfall. The new plague’s arrival was indeed poorly timed for a country still recovering from the Black Death. To worsen the burden, respiratory diseases already stalked various communities throughout the British Isles, and a syphilis epidemic was widespread. Typhus and malaria were well known to larger Britain. All that the citizens of England knew was that the new peril was different, lacking the rash of typhus or the boils of bubonic plague, cold comfort at best. The new “sweating sickness” was not preying on Britain - only England. In an uncustomary manner, the sweating sickness chose the aristocracy for its primary target, rather than the usual assault on the poor. Worse for the wealthy and ruling class, including the royals, the sweating sickness uncharacteristically infiltrated the ranks of young men aspiring to high places in society and government. In turn, few men and women in their households were spared. The poor suffered as well, but as with the plague, they were mandated to continue their daily regimens in the absence of any alternative. For the well-to-do, the disease struck at the heart of England’s existence, personal and economical, with a predilection for those being groomed for state leadership or royal positions

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ray Howard
Length: 1 hr and 23 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The English Bulldog and French Poodle in Africa

The English Bulldog and French Poodle in Africa

Summary

Napoleon could not have known it, but his campaign was the start of 150 years of imperialism along the Nile River, as Europeans endeavored to explore, control, and colonize the Nile River. This would bring them into all kinds of conflicts, not just with the indigenous natives residing there but also with each other, as each empire sought to get a leg up on the competition.  Napoleon’s Egyptian Campaign failed in all of its objectives other than in the acquisition of knowledge. Far from frustrating British ambitions in the Orient, the British triumphed in the minor war that Napoleon triggered, and it was the British who would dominate Egypt for the next 150 years.  Even after the British took control of Egypt, knowledge about the Nile remained sparse, most importantly the source of the river, and exploration all over the continent took place among adventurers of various nationalities. Other countries also sought to get a foothold on the continent, to the extent that near the end of the 19th century, Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor, brought the plenipotentiaries of all major powers of Europe together to deal with Africa's colonization in such a manner as to avoid provocation of war.  This event, known as the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885, galvanized a phenomenon that came to be known as the Scramble for Africa. The conference established two fundamental rules for European seizure of Africa. The first of these was that no recognition of annexation would be granted without evidence of a practical occupation, and the second, that a practical occupation would be deemed unlawful without a formal appeal for protection made on behalf of a territory by its leader, a plea that must be committed to paper in the form of a legal treaty.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, World
Length: 4 hrs and 26 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Empires of Ancient Persia

The Empires of Ancient Persia

Summary

Lying in the middle of a plain in modern day Iran is a forgotten ancient city: Persepolis. Built two and a half thousand years ago, it was known in its day as the richest city under the sun. Persepolis was the capital of Achaemenid Persian Empire, the largest empire the world had ever seen, but after its destruction, it was largely forgotten for nearly 2,000 years, and the lives and achievements of those who built it were almost entirely erased from history. Alexander the Great’s troops razed the city to the ground in a drunken riot to celebrate the conquest of the capital, after which time and sand buried it for centuries. It was not until the excavations of the 1930s that many of the relics, reliefs, and clay tablets that offer so much information about Persian life could be studied for the first time. Through archaeological remains, ancient texts, and work by a new generation of historians, a picture can today be built of this remarkable civilization and their capital city. Although the city had been destroyed, the legacy of the Persians survived, even as they mostly remain an enigma to the West and are not nearly as well understood as the Greeks, Romans, or Egyptians. In a sense, the Achaemenid Persian Empire holds some of the most enduring mysteries of ancient civilization. The Parthian people created an empire that lasted almost 500 years, from the mid-3rd century BCE until 224 CE, and it stretched from the Euphrates River in the west to Central Asia and the borders of Bactria in the east (Brosius 2010, 83). In fact, the expansive empire challenged the Romans on numerous occasions for supremacy in the Near East, created the first sustainable link between the peoples of Europe and East Asia, and followed a religion that many consider to be the oldest form of monotheism in the world; but despite these accomplishments the Parthians are often overlooked in favor of the Achaemenid and Sassanid Persians who came before and after them respectively, not to mention the Romans themselves. Although the Parthians may not get top billing in most popular histories of the period, they left an indelible mark on the world that cannot be overstated. During the first half of the 1st millennium CE, an empire arose in Persia that extended its power and influence to Mesopotamia in the east, Arabia in the south, the Caucasus Mountains in the north, and as far east as India. This empire, known alternatively as the Sasanian Empire or Sassanid Empire, was the last of three great dynasties in Persia—the Achaemenid and the Parthian being the first two dynasties—before the rise of Islam. In fact, many scholars consider the Sasanian Empire to be the last great empire of the ancient Near East because once it had been obliterated, Islam became the standard religion of the region, ushering in the Middle Ages.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 5 hrs and 44 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Empire State Building: The History of New York City's Most Iconic Landmark

The Empire State Building: The History of New York City's Most Iconic Landmark

Summary

"I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man-made visible.... Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window - no, I don't feel how small I am - but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would like to throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body." - Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead Of all the great cities in the world, few personify their country like New York City. As America's largest city and best known immigration gateway into the country, the Big Apple represents the beauty, diversity, and sheer strength of the United States, a global financial center that has enticed people chasing the "American Dream" for centuries. Given that history, it's fitting that the Empire State Building is the city's most famous building, a soaring skyscraper that has been one of the tallest buildings in the world for nearly a century and the most recognizable landmark in New York. The Empire State Building was constructed using the art deco style, which was trendy during the era. It had been used for other skyscrapers like the Chrysler Building, but that's where the comparisons end. At the time, the Empire State Building was unprecedented in almost every aspect of its creation. With a race for dizzying heights underway, ground was broken on the Empire State Building on St. Patrick's Day 1930. The ceremony marking its completion would come just a little more than a year later.

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Ian H. Shattuck
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 21 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Eiffel Tower: The History of Paris' Most Famous Landmark

The Eiffel Tower: The History of Paris' Most Famous Landmark

Summary

"Being the most striking manifestation of the art of metal structures by which our engineers have shown in Europe, it is one of the most striking of our modern national genius." - Gustave Eiffel It's the home of kings, emperors, and aristocrats, and the home of the Champs-Élysées, the Bastille, the Louvre and the salons that fueled the Enlightenment. For foreigners like Benjamin Franklin, it was the most beautiful city in the world, and millions of people still visit those same sites every year. Known as the "City of Light," Paris seamlessly blends its rich past with all the trappings of a modern city, and the city's features and qualities are taken for granted today, but Paris was not always that way. In fact, it took nearly half a century of redesigning the city during the 19th century to transform it into the city it is today. Though it may be hard to believe today, the Eiffel Tower was initially met with derision by many Frenchmen, some of whom compared it to the Tower of Babel and complained that the "useless and monstrous" structure would obscure treasures such as Notre Dame. In response to such criticisms, Eiffel himself pointed out, "Can one think that because we are engineers, beauty does not preoccupy us or that we do not try to build beautiful, as well as solid and long lasting structures? Aren't the genuine functions of strength always in keeping with unwritten conditions of harmony? Besides, there is an attraction, a special charm in the colossal to which ordinary theories of art do not apply." It's safe to say that Eiffel was correct. Each year, millions of people refute those original notions by riding to the top and making it the most visited paid monument in the entire world. Indeed, the Eiffel Tower has welcomed over 250 million visitors in less than 130 years. Eiffel had the good fortune of being vindicated in his lifetime, and as he once joked, "I ought to be jealous of the tower. She is more famous than I am."

©2012 Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Maria Chester
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 35 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Dynasties of Ancient Egypt

The Dynasties of Ancient Egypt

Summary

Africa may have given rise to the first human beings, and Egypt probably gave rise to the first great civilizations, which continue to fascinate modern societies across the globe nearly 5,000 years later. From the Library and Lighthouse of Alexandria to the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Ancient Egyptians produced several wonders of the world, revolutionized architecture and construction, created some of the world’s first systems of mathematics and medicine, and established language and art that spread across the known world. With world-famous leaders like King Tut and Cleopatra, it’s no wonder that today’s world has so many Egyptologists. What makes the accomplishments of the Ancient Egyptians all the more remarkable is that Egypt was historically a place of great political turbulence. Its position made it both valuable and vulnerable to tribes across the Mediterranean and the Middle East, and Ancient Egypt had no shortage of its own internecine warfare. Its most famous conquerors would come from Europe, with Alexander the Great laying the groundwork for the Hellenic Ptolemy line and the Romans extinguishing that line after defeating Cleopatra and driving her to suicide. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of ancient Egyptian civilization was its inception from the ground up, as the ancient Egyptians had no prior civilization which they could use as a template. In fact, ancient Egypt itself became a template for the civilizations that followed. The Greeks and the Romans were so impressed with Egyptian culture that they often attributed many attributes of their own culture (usually erroneously) to the Egyptians. With that said, some minor elements of ancient Egyptian culture were, indeed, passed on to later civilizations. Egyptian statuary appears to have had an initial influence on the Greek version, and the ancient Egyptian language continued long after the pharaonic period in the form of the Coptic language. The Dynasties of Ancient Egypt: The History and Legacy of the Pharaohs from the Beginning of Egyptian Civilization to the Rise of Rome chronicles the tumultuous history of Ancient Egypt.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Middle East
Length: 5 hrs and 5 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Dutch Revolt

The Dutch Revolt

Summary

During the 17th century, the Netherlands, despite having only 1.5 million people in 1600, became a global maritime and trading power. By contrast, France at the time had 20 million people, Spain had eight million, and England had five million. Nevertheless, Amsterdam became one of the most important urban centers in the world and the location of the world’s first stock market, and Dutch merchant ships and pirates plied the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. The Dutch acquired colonies in the East Indies, where they seized control of the spice trade from the Portuguese, and in the West Indies, they acquired a number of islands from the Spanish (several of which are still Dutch today). They became the only Westerners who were allowed to trade with Shogunate Japan from a small island next to Nagasaki, and they settled the town that ultimately became New York City. Naturally, all of this imperialism generated enormous amounts of wealth that flowed into the Netherlands.  The Netherlands has had a complex and turbulent history involving the interplay of multiple political entities, ethnicities, and languages. The term "Netherlands" (Nederland in Dutch, Pay-Bas in French) refers to the low-lying topography of the region and today is used specifically to describe the country bordering Germany and Belgium, but historically it referred to the entire region occupied by Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. In English, the term "Low Countries" is still used in this sense. Located largely on the deltas of the Rhine and Maas Rivers, much of it consisted of sand dunes and peat bogs until, centuries ago, humans began building dikes, pumping out water and laboriously reclaiming the land. Much of the land falls below sea level. As an old saying goes, “God created the earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.” The long struggle with nature is an important part of the Dutch identity.  What made the Netherlands’ global influence in the 17th century all the more remarkable is that the Dutch had only recently achieved political independence through the process of fighting a long and brutal war of resistance against rule by the Spanish Hapsburgs, starting in 1568. In 1581, the seven northern provinces - Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Overijssel, Friesland, and Groningen - declared their independence, and fighting took place back and forth on land and sea for decades, with the Dutch receiving some much-needed assistance from England’s Queen Elizabeth I. Thousands of civilians were massacred by the rampaging Spanish armies, and on the water, Dutch “sea beggars” attacked and harassed the Spanish fleet. Pro-Spanish privateers operating out of Dunkirk did the same against Dutch shipping.  Although there were several issues behind the revolt, like heavy taxation, the war was also in large part a religious revolt. The Dutch in the northern and western provinces had mostly become Protestants, followers primarily of the French theologian John Calvin, and there were some Lutherans and Anabaptists present as well). Calvinism as institutionalized in the Dutch Reformed Church would become the officially recognized faith of independent Netherlands, but Philip II, the Catholic monarch of Spain, was determined to restore Catholicism through the strict use of the Inquisition against “heretics", and the Catholics were strongest in the 10 southern provinces. Religious differences between the north and south were accentuated because of the migration of Protestants and Catholics across the border during the long war, ensuring that there would continue to be tensions even after the fighting stopped and Dutch independence was secured.

©2021 Charles River Editors (P)2021 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 49 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Dreyfus Affair

The Dreyfus Affair

Summary

Sometime in 1889, a woman named Madame Marie Bastian was recruited as an agent of the secretive “Statistical Section”, an espionage and counter-intelligence agency attached to the military intelligence office of the French General Staff. Mme. Bastian was a cleaner employed by the German Embassy in Paris. Thanks to her Romany origins, she was somewhat acquainted with Germany and marginally conversant in the German language. She enjoyed complete and unrestricted access to the private residences of many important German diplomats and functionaries, and as she gathered up the torn-up documents in the various wastepaper baskets, she routinely passed them on to a handler attached to the Statistical Section.

In September 1890, among a pile of torn-up documents delivered by Mme. Bastian was found a note handwritten in French which, when pieced together, proved to be a list of French military secrets handed over to the Germans by an unknown French officer of the General Staff. This discovery, which proved the existence of a traitor in the department, triggered a ferment in the corridors of the Conseil Supérieur de la Guerre, and the hunt was on for the culprit.

By a process of elimination, officers of the military intelligence were able to narrow down a list of probable traitors, among whom was a young Jewish staff officer Captain Alfred Dreyfus who was immediately earmarked as the chief suspect. Dreyfus’ handwriting was compared to that on the bordereau and although the various handwriting experts who conducted the comparison failed to reach a common consensus, it was nonetheless judged that Dreyfus was indeed the culprit. In December 1894, Dreyfus was court-martialed, convicted, and sentenced to a term of life in prison. 

On January 5, 1895, in a formal parade, Captain Dreyfus was stripped of his rank, his sword was broken over the knee of a sergeant, and he was shipped overseas to the penal colony of Devil’s Island on the coast of French Guiana.

These are the essential facts of the “Dreyfus Affair” as it came to be known, an episode that, in many respects, defined French anti-Semitism in the late 19th century. A case was built with the central objective of protecting the integrity of French military establishment, and in the process, the relatively muted anti-Semitism in France (at least in comparison to other European nations) was transformed into an era of virulent and violent Jew-hatred that characterized and sullied the final decade of the 19th century in France.

The Dreyfus Affair: The History and Legacy of France’s Most Notorious Antisemitic Political Scandal examines the chain of events that produced one of the most notorious episodes in modern French history.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2019 Charles River Editors

Category: History, Europe
Length: 1 hr and 16 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Domestication of Dogs

The Domestication of Dogs

Summary

“Isn't it strange that our being such an intelligent primate, we didn't domesticate chimpanzees as companions, instead? Why did we choose wolves, even though they are strong enough to maim or kill us?” (Wolfgang Schleidt) As the oft-repeated and invariably accurate pearl of wisdom goes, a dog truly is man's best friend. For a long time, people have almost universally loved dogs, and it seems to have been that way for at least tens of thousands of years. When affection is abundantly and consistently expressed, this pure, unspoken, wholesome love is one that is very much requited, and then some. This bond can be demonstrated by the mere existence of pet keepers who unironically refer to themselves as “dog parents,” not merely “dog owners”. Of course, this camaraderie between man and dog did not materialize overnight. Quite the contrary, the relationship between people and dogs gradually evolved and steadily strengthened over several millennia, following a premise best summed up by the dog's metamorphosis from a predator to a lifelong companion. Apart from friendship and companionship, dogs may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and they have been trained to provide loyal and competent service in a variety of fields, ranging from seeing-eye dogs to vest-wearing police partners, among other lines of work. The Domestication of Dogs: The History of Dogs’ Genetic Divergence from Wolves and the Origins of Their Relationship with Humans examines the origins of this exceptional bond, including scientific and mythical theories, and explores how wolves gave rise to a new species marked by hundreds of breeds. It also looks at the cultural roles that canines have played around the world throughout the ages.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Category: History, World
Length: 1 hr and 23 mins
Available on Audible
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The Domestication of Cats

Summary

Mankind's obsession with felines is an enigma in and of itself. Unlike dogs, famously known as man's most excitable, trustworthy, and loyal friend, cats are oftentimes indifferent, guarded, and yet finicky little furry creatures that only yearn for attention and affection when one is neck-deep in work or otherwise preoccupied. And still, people adore them all the same. In a recent poll that surveyed 600 American college students, 60 percent of the participants identified themselves as “dog lovers” whereas only 11 percent pledged their love for cats. The remaining 29 percent regarded themselves as fans of both critters or fans of neither. Be that as it may, there is said to be anywhere between a staggering 88 - 94 million pet cats in the United States alone, which eclipses the roughly 84 - 90 million pet dogs in the country. In the same breath, while more households around the world share a roof with a canine companion, as reflected in the results of this particular survey and most other similar polls, more cat owners have taken it upon themselves to look after more than one pet. This just goes to show that the passion that cat lovers have for their feline friends is evidently comparable with, if not arguably greater than that of dog lovers as a whole. The Domestication of Cats: The History of the Only Domesticated Felidae Species and Their Relationship with Humans examines the origins of this exceptional bond, including scientific and mythical theories, and explores how cats were domesticated.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 1 hr and 45 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

Summary

If the world had a navel, it would be the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth where one can still stand on dry land. The photographs of this unique lake seem to be taken from a science fiction movie, or a land devastated after a nuclear holocaust. To others, the fluffy shores could remind them of Antarctica although it is in one of the warmest spots on the planet. Its white, creamy masses, scattered along golden beaches, are not ice floes or frozen water, but effervescent salt formations. The famous Jordan River, where the Hebrew people entered the Promised Land and Jesus was baptized, flows into the lake, but the basin is so deeply sunk into the face of the planet that the waters never leave, as if they had fallen into a small black hole where nothing can escape. If the level of the lake does not increase, despite having no drainage to the sea, it is as a result of intense evaporation.  The Dead Sea is also an archaeological site loaded with history. Known among the first civilizations in the region as "Sea of Asphalt" and "Salt Sea", innumerable myths and legends lend it an air of mystery, as if it attracted sterility and misfortune while eradicating all life from its waters. It was perhaps the inhospitable feel of the place, the almost total desolation surrounding it, which led the writer of the Pentateuch to imagine that many years ago, a cataclysm sent to annihilate perverted people had taken place there. The Book of Genesis, possibly picking up the memory of a catastrophic event, placed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah near the Dead Sea, and they were left desolate after fire rained from the sky. An Arab explorer from the Middle Ages called it "the gate of hell" due to its desolate landscapes, extreme temperature, and stinking air. Nothing can live in the waters of the Dead Sea aside from some single-celled organisms and certain fungi due to its high salinity - the third part of the blue that fills the basin are minerals.  If the waters contain no life, the desert shores, which in some places form fantastic salt statues, reflect this desolation. As a reminder of its scanty hospitality, the largest group of cemeteries in the ancient world, with tens of thousands of graves, are located in the area. The Dead Sea truly lives up to its name.  Today the Dead Sea is of interest not only to historians, archaeologists, and geologists, but also for tourists, as it has become one of the preferred destinations in visits to the Middle East. The sight of naked bathers covered in dark mud, like black statues of asphalt floating without sinking on the silent waters may have inspired ancient travelers to say that some sorcerers lived there.  However, in recent years, the growing demand for water for the development of Israel and Jordan, which has required more and more extraction from the Jordan River, is jeopardizing the viability of this wonder of nature. In the last 50 years, it is estimated that the lake area decreased to almost half of what it was a century ago. Reviving the Dead Sea is one of the priorities for the nations that share its waters, and to achieve this, pharaonic projects have been resurrected, such as carrying water from other oceans to prevent Lake Asphaltites, which has never been conducive to life, to end up dying itself. The Dead Sea: The History and Legacy of the Most Unique Lake in the World traces the tragedies and stories associated with one of the most fascinating sites on Earth. Along with pictures of important people, places, and events, you will learn about the Dead Sea like never before.

©2019 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Daniel Houle
Length: 2 hrs and 13 mins
Available on Audible
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The Culper Ring

Summary

After the siege of Boston forced the British to evacuate that city in March 1776, Continental Army commander George Washington suspected that the British would move by sea to New York City, the next logical target in an attempt to end a colonial insurrection. He thus rushed his army south to defend the city. Washington guessed correctly, but it would be to no avail. Unlike Boston, New York City's terrain featured few defensible positions. The city lacked a high point from which to launch a siege, as the peninsula of Boston was fortunate to have. Moreover, Washington wasn't sure defending the city was necessary, hoping that an expedition launched toward Quebec like the one Benedict Arnold had led in late 1775 would keep the British away from New York anyway. However, Congress thought otherwise, and demanded that Washington defend New York. Washington thus did what he was told, and it nearly resulted in the army's demise.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2016 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
Available on Audible
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The Cuban Missile Crisis: 13 Days That Brought the Cold War to the Brink

Summary

"For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal." (President John F. Kennedy, June 1963) When young president Kennedy came to power in 1961, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was eager to test his mettle from the start. Khrushchev's belief that he could push the inexperienced American leader around grew in the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the inconclusive Vienna summit in June 1961 that left Kennedy complaining to his brother, Bobby, that Khrushchev was "like dealing with Dad. All give and no take." After the events of the previous year, 1962 saw Khrushchev making his most bellicose decision. Still questioning Kennedy's resolve and attempting to placate the concerns of Cuban leader Fidel Castro following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Khrushchev attempted to place medium-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles off the coast of the United States. Though Castro warned him that it would seem like an act of aggression to the Americans, Khrushchev insisted, moving the missiles in quietly under the cover of darkness. The missiles could serve not only as a deterrent against any invasion of Cuba but also as the ultimate first-strike capability in the event of a nuclear war. However, in October 1962, American spy planes discovered that the Soviets were building nuclear missile sites in Cuba, and intelligence officials informed Kennedy. It went without saying that nuclear missile sites located just miles off the coast of the American mainland posed a grave threat to the country. Find out how Kennedy responded.

©2012- Charles River Editors (P)2015 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Cynthia O'Brien
Category: History, Russia
Length: 1 hr and 36 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Crypto-Jews

The Crypto-Jews

Summary

The road to the modern age of cultural harmony and acceptance is one of the finest feats of human progress, but having said that, there was once a time when the mere doubt of a religious figure's existence was not only punishable by law, it could very well cost a man his life. This was the crime of heresy. This kind of religious persecution has been around for thousands of years, and Christians were often the victims, but when the Catholic Church began its rapid expansion throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, the tables were turned. In 1184, Pope Lucius III issued a papal bull that would kick off a long-standing tradition of heretic-hunting, and as a result, the Age of the Inquisitions commenced.   By the end of the 14th century, the distrust and prejudice against Jewish communities quickly spread to Spain. In 1391, James II of Aragon boarded the bandwagon; backed into a corner by the Roman Catholic Church, he established a law that banned Jews from Spain altogether. Jews were shunned in droves, and the remaining were given an ultimatum to either convert/revert to Catholicism or face immediate death. Yet another wave of gory pogroms ensued across the country, especially in Barcelona. For nearly 400 years, the city of Barcelona had served as the central hub of the European Jewish communities, but in just 3 years, all 23 Jewish synagogues in Barcelona had been forcibly demolished. Nothing but charred remnants and ashes lay in its place.  Converso was the term given to any individual of Jewish or Muslim faith who had been converted to Catholicism. While some conversos were coerced into the conversion, others, like ha-Levi, willingly converted. This was a label given not only to the generation of the converted, it was also inherited by their children and descendants as well. Conversos prided themselves on being a new generation of Christians. Although they were of Jewish descent, they embraced the “true” Catholic religion. There were even those who claimed that the conversos had a deeper connection with God and were simply better than the “Old Christians.” According to the conversos, as Jews, they were related by blood to Christ.  When the Spanish Inquisition was in full swing, the inquisitors' handbooks included tips and guidelines on how to identify a rogue Jewish converso, or as others mocked them, the “crypto-Jews.” Inquisitors were on the lookout for individuals who did their cooking and cleaning on Friday nights, which was a Jewish habit. These relapsos frequented local Jewish stores to stock up on kosher meals. The latter individuals were fairly easy to spot, as most Spaniards at the time consumed hearty amounts of pork, a staple prohibited in Jewish and Muslim law. The absence of chimney smoke on Saturday nights was another clue that those inside could be honoring the Sabbath.  Nonetheless, the “crypto-Jews” would continue to secretly practice their religion and run the risk of incurring the Inquisition’s wrath, all the way up until the notorious expulsion of the Jews in Spain at the end of the 15th century. The Crypto-Jews: The History of the Forcibly Converted Jews Who Secretly Practiced Judaism During the Inquisition examines the origins of the group, the laws that discriminated against them, and the efforts to maintain Jewish identity in Spain. You will learn about the crypto-Jews like never before.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Colin Fluxman
Length: 1 hr and 43 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Cretaceous Period

The Cretaceous Period

Summary

Scientists have long attempted to understand Earth’s past, and in service to that effort, they have divided the world’s history into eons, eras, periods, epochs, and ages. For example, the current eon is called the Phanerozoic Eon, which means “visible life”. This is the eon in which multicellular life has evolved and thrived. Before this, life was microscopic (single cells). The Phanerozoic eon is divided into three eras - Paleozoic (“old life”), Mesozoic (“middle life”), and Cenozoic (“new life”). The Mesozoic era is divided into three periods - Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous. Before the Triassic, primitive life had built up in the oceans and seas, and some lifeforms finally had crawled onto land during the Paleozoic era. With that, life had become well-established, but then came the Permian-Triassic mass extinction, the worst extinction event in the history of the planet. At the end of the Triassic, another extinction event cleared the way for dinosaurs to become the dominant set of species in the Jurassic. Though the Triassic does not have as interesting a list of creatures as those in the Jurassic and Cretaceous - such as Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, Pterodactyls, Brontosaurus, and the like - the life which reclaimed the Earth and then thrived during this period was no less important. Life during the Triassic spent nearly 60 percent of its time recovering from the Permian-Triassic extinction event, roughly 30 million years. What had been built up was then slammed by nature, effectively clearing the board once more for new species to take over. The Jurassic is best known, thanks to the series of dinosaur movies featuring its name, but the famous extinction of the dinosaurs took place during the Cretaceous. One of the problems of discussing the ancient history of the Earth is the unimaginably long spans of time involved. People tend to think of human history as old, but compared to other periods of the evolution of the planet, humans have been around for no more than the blink of an eye. Anatomically, modern people have been around for about 200,000 years, and while that may sound like a long time, it can be put in context if the whole history of the planet, from the time that it was first formed until the present day, covered a period of 24 hours. In that timescale, modern humans first appeared a little after 23:59:59, less than one second before midnight, and recorded human history - the point from when people first started writing things down - started less than 6,000 years ago. Despite people’s current ability to impact the planet and denude its resources, they represent a tiny blip in the history of the Earth, though the understanding of this is a relatively recent phenomenon. For much of recorded history, people imagined that human history and the history of the planet were pretty much the same thing. It was assumed that people had always been the dominant life on Earth. Early societies were aware of fossils, but they had no conception of just how old they were; the ancient Chinese, for example, classified many fossils as the bones of dragons. It wasn’t until 1822 that a new word “paleontology” was coined, and it was used to describe the emerging science of using the fossil record to understand what the world was like in the far distant past. Gradually, a better understanding emerged of the different periods through which the Earth had passed and a realization that for hundreds of millions of years, it wasn’t humans, but a very different species that ruled the Earth.

©2020 Charles River Editors (P)2020 Charles River Editors

Length: 1 hr and 42 mins
Available on Audible
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The Constitutional Convention of 1787

Summary

By 1787, it became evident that the Articles of Confederation were inadequate for the new nation. With these problems hampering the national government under the Articles of Confederation and the threat of default on the nation's massive war debt looming, plans began being made to fix the problems of the Articles of Confederation. Thus, that summer, a Constitutional convention was called, and each state sent delegates to Philadelphia. Among the delegates were prominent patriots and former members of the Continental Congress, including George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. However, while most of the delegates came to Philadelphia virtually starting with nothing, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison arrived in Philadelphia well-prepared and well-studied. Hamilton had been a leader in calling for a Constitutional Convention to restructure the nation's government at the convention in Annapolis a year earlier. At that convention, Hamilton had been elected to draft a document describing the reasons for a stronger national government. The letter was sent to each of the 13 states, and it was instrumental in leading to the opening of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Meanwhile, Madison had been brushing up on his political theory and actually prepared extensively for the Convention. Madison used his extensive knowledge of ancient and foreign languages to study Constitutions from across the world, which he had done this prior to helping craft the Virginia Constitution. Thus, he was already considered something of an expert on Constitutionalism. Given that background, and the fact that he had done more legwork than anybody else at the Convention, delegates looked to him as a leader on the subject. The Constitution was a decisive move away from the Articles of Confederation, which the proponents of the Constitution claimed promoted dissonance by giving the States too much autonomy. They argued that a strong federal government ought to be empowered to maintain standing armies, provide for a national militia, and be able to levy direct taxes to support its common defense and provide for economic prosperity. Certain fears about the federal government becoming omnipotent and abusing its military authority or right to tax, they argued, should be assuaged by understanding the role of legislature, or the representatives of the people, in determining the central government's authority to raise an army and levy taxes. This was a democratic experiment that had never been embarked upon before. The Constitutional Convention of 1787: The History and Legacy of the Drafting of the US Constitution looks at how America’s governing document came to be. You will learn about the Constitutional Convention like never before.

©2018 Charles River Editors (P)2018 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Hare
Category: History, Americas
Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Congo Free State

The Congo Free State

Summary

King Leopold II of Belgium emerges from the pages of history as a curious character. He was a member of a privileged clique of European monarchs, bereft of power but rich, indulgent, and indolent. Leopold certainly availed himself of all the pleasures of court life, but he was also shrewd, astonishingly competent, and avaricious to an almost unimaginable degree. His initial interest in foreign real estate was imperial, insofar as he desired on behalf of Belgium the main accoutrements of a first-rate power, which were, of course, foreign estates and colonies. He was, however, unable to move the Belgian parliament to act in accordance, the conservative belief perhaps being that Belgium could not afford to compete on that level. Belgium was a small European nation, existing between major and, at times, belligerent powers, and as such, it quietly went about its business with a determination not to rock the European boat. Displaying enormous ability and a masterful grasp of diplomatic maneuver, Leopold was able to secure primary rights over the territory of the Congo River catchment, a portion of the globe more than three times the size of France. By any standards, this was a monumental coup, and by the time the other European powers woke up to precisely what was underway, it was too late the arrest the momentum. Of all the issues on the agenda as delegates gathered in Berlin in 1884, foremost was the Congo question. The matter was debated, and although deeply troubled by the potential consequences, recognition was eventually afforded to Leopold's claim to the Congo.

©2017 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

Narrator: Scott Clem
Category: History, Africa
Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
Available on Audible
Cover art for The Condottieri

The Condottieri

Summary

In 1494, there were five sovereign regional powers in Italy: Milan, Venice, Florence, the Papal States, and Naples. In 1536, only one remained: Venice. These decades of conflict precipitated great anxiety among Western thinkers, and Italians responded to the fragmentation, forevermore, of Latin Christendom, the end of self-governance for Italians, and the beginning of the early modern era in a myriad of ways. They were always heavily influenced by the lived experience of warfare between large Christian armies on the peninsula. The diplomatic and military history of this 30-year period was a complex one - that one eminent Renaissance historian Lauro Martines described as "best told by a computer, so many and tangled are the treatises, negotiations and battles". The fighting went in tandem with the Renaissance and was influenced by it, and the Venetian involvement in the Holy