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World History Programs


The March of the Roman Legions

Wednesday, September 27, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

For nearly a thousand years, the Roman legions were the most successful infantry formation on a large part of the globe, carving out one of history’s mightiest empires. In heavy-soled hobnailed boots and precise cadence, they marched from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf bringing terror and death—as well as order and civilization. Military historian Barry Strauss examines some of Rome’s greatest battlefield victories as well as its failures.


Byzantine Art and its Legacy

Thursday, September 28, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

A key feature of the Byzantine Empire’s visual culture was an orientation toward religious themes as shaped by Orthodox Christianity. They were explored in a remarkable variety of media, from wall frescoes to miniature mosaics to exquisitely carved ivories. Art historian Aneta Georgievska-Shine explores some of the most important aspects of the visual arts of this empire at the cultural crossroads of west and east. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)


Faces of the Italian Renaissance

Friday, September 29, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

In the 15th and 16th centuries, portraits played a vital role in every aspect and stage of human life. Renaissance art historian Elaine Ruffolo provides fresh insights into fundamental issues of likeness, memory, and identity as she reveals a remarkable community of personalities—from princes, envoys, and merchants to clergymen, tradesmen, and artists­—whose faces speak to us of their times and lives. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


The Great Cathedrals and Basilicas of Italy

Saturday, September 30, 2023 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

The churches of Italy are renowned for their artistic treasures, from Giotto’s 14th-century frescoes in Florence, Padua, and Assisi to Giacomo Manzu’s great 20th-century bronze doors for St. Peter’s in Rome. In a splendidly illustrated seminar, art historian Sophia D’Addio of Columbia University explores churches that represent some of Italy’s greatest repositories of sacred art. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)


Expressionism: The Art of Emotions

Wednesday, October 4, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Expressionism as an artistic movement developed in the early 20th century, a period in which new and influential explorations of psychology and human behavior were taking place. Artists began to look at the world more subjectively, often distorting its depictions to achieve an emotional effect in artworks that still hold a power to move and challenge viewers. Art historian Joseph Paul Cassar traces the movement’s roots, meaning, influences, and most notable practitioners. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)


The Battle for America: The French and Indian War

Tuesday, October 17, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Before 1740, North America had never been more than a sideshow in the wars fought between the European superpowers. But that changed in 1756 as it took center stage in the world’s first truly global conflict: the French and Indian War. Historian Richard Bell focuses on the parts of this bitter 7-year contest among the great empires of Britain, France, and Spain that took place on American soil and how the colonists’ involvement sowed the seeds of the imperial crisis that would culminate in American independence just 20 years later.


Her Space, Her Time: Trailblazing Female Scientists Who Decoded the Hidden Universe

Tuesday, October 17, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Female physicists and astronomers helped discover the Big Bang and the cosmic calendar, make the moon landings possible, and discover the building blocks of the universe. However, the critical roles they played are not always recognized. Physicist Shohini Ghose brings together the remarkable stories of rule-breakers and trendsetters who illuminated our understanding of the universe.


Jews and Arabic: Judeo-Arabic, Its Literature, and Why It Matters

Wednesday, October 18, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Between the 6th and 11th centuries, Arabic was the native language of most of the Jewish population. Focusing on the writings of central thinkers and scholars during this critical era of Rabbinic Judaism, Miriam Goldstein of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem examines the sweeping linguistic and cultural transformations in Judeo-Arabic religious scholarship that shaped Judaism as we know it today.


Visiting the Normandy Battlefields: A Military History Travel Talk

Wednesday, October 18, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Journalist and military vet Kevin Dennehy, co-author of The D-Day Visitor’s Handbook, 80th Anniversary Edition provides an overview of what you need to know to make the most of your visit to the site of the biggest seaborne invasion in history: the Normandy battlefields. He provides information on tours, identifies monuments and attractions, locates museums and historical sites, and offers plenty of practical tips to make your planning easier and less stressful.


From Rococo to Realism: Masters and Masterpieces of 18th and 19th Century European Painting

Thursday, October 19, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

The cultural and political upheavals of the 18th and 19th centuries are reflected in the diverse approaches that contemporary visual artists took toward their work and the codification of—and rebellion against—rules laid down by various royal academies of the fine arts. In a lavishly illustrated series, art historian Nancy G. Heller focuses on the principal European cultural movements of the 1700s and early 1800s­—Rococo, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, and Realism—as reflected in paintings by masters of the period. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)


Exploring the Cluny Museum in Paris

Monday, October 23, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Step from the bustling sidewalks of the Left Bank in Paris into a veritable treasure house: the Cluny Museum. The remains of ancient Roman baths and the Gothic Paris residence of the abbots of Cluny provide the fairy-tale backdrop for marvels of medieval art. Barbara Drake Boehm, a curator emerita of The Met Cloisters, explores the museum, renovated and reopened last year. The masterpieces inside include the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, sculpture from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame that was buried during the French Revolution, and a Jewish wedding ring hidden by its owner during the Black Death. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


A Brief History of Taiwan

Wednesday, October 25, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Long before Taiwan became a global flashpoint, it experienced a revolving door of migrants and foreign conquerors, each of whom left a distinct legacy behind. Historian Justin M. Jacobs provides an overview of Taiwan's complex history over the past several centuries, from Austronesian seafarers and Dutch merchants to Japanese conquerors and Chinese refugees.


Religion in the Andes

Monday, October 30, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

Civilization in the Andes Mountains emerged in almost complete isolation from other parts of the world, as did religion there. Archaeologist Kevin Lane delves into the nature of Inca religious practice and traces the emergence of organized religion in the highland Andes.


Constantine the Great: The First Christian Roman Emperor?

Wednesday, November 1, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Constantine was the first Roman emperor to declare his support for Christianity, pouring imperial patronage and resources into the church and transforming what had been a persecuted minority into the empire’s favored religion. Some modern commentators, however, have questioned Constantine’s motives and the sincerity of his faith. Historian David Gwynn focuses on the words of Constantine himself to understand this intriguing emperor.


Women of the Medici: From Patrons to Queens

Friday, November 3, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

The story of the Medici's expansion of power in 15th and early-16th century Florence is well-known and documented. Less familiar is that of the wives, daughters, and sisters who bolstered the family's rise and furthered its interests. Art historian Elaine Ruffolo highlights the influential and fascinating Medici women and examines their contributions as patrons of the architectural, religious, and literary arts. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


Art Deco: Vibrant, Eclectic, and Dynamic

Saturday, November 4, 2023 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

With the advent of the Jazz Age, the art world searched for modern forms and decorative motifs to reflect this exciting new era. Drawing on a variety of historical sources, including ancient Egypt, the classical world, and Asian art, Art Deco soon reflected modern living, the machine age, and the skyscraper. Art historian Bonita Billman discusses this vibrant movement, highlighting examples of Art Deco in architecture, furniture, interiors, fashions, advertisements, and films. (World Art History Certificate elective,1 credit)


Three Pillars of Chinese Culture: Architecture, Film, and Ideology

Tuesday, November 7, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Chinese culture has a long, rich history. In this series, historian Justin M. Jacobs examines how it has been embodied in 3,000 years of architecture.


Exploring Ancient Anatolia: A Turkish Odyssey

Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

Anatolia’s colorful history has left a windfall of riches—ancient ruins, ornate Byzantine churches, supremely elegant mosques, and splendid Ottoman palaces. In an illustrated series, Serif Yenen, a Turkish-born tour guide and author, highlights the heritage and splendor of ancient Turkey through an examination of some of its cultural gems.


Mini Skirts, Pantsuits, and Go-Go Boots: Fashion in the 1960s

Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

From the middle of the 1800s until the 1960s, young women dressed like their mothers, striving to look curvaceous and ultra-feminine. Then influences such as Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique, the Rolling Stones, the civil rights movement, and antiestablishment creeds resulted in huge shifts in fashion. Join design historian and curator Elizabeth Lay for a delightfully illustrated look at the youthquake that shook the world of fashion.


Milan in the Footsteps of Leonardo da Vinci

Tuesday, November 14, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

In 1482, Leonardo da Vinci left his native Florence to seek his fortune at the ducal court of Milan. It was a bold move that profoundly transformed Leonardo’s career and personal life. Art historian Laura Morelli explores Milan through the eyes of Leonardo, offering a unique perspective on the enduring legacy of a Renaissance giant. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


Surrealism: The Canvas of Dreams

Wednesday, November 15, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Surrealism opened the door to the exploration of the unconscious and the creation of art based on inner reality. Freud’s dream research liberated Surrealist artists to see the truth of who we really are, and in their work, dreams became equivalent to imagination itself. Art historian Joseph Cassar explores the origins of Surrealism, its widespread influence, and many of its most prominent 20th-century artists. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


The Civic Bargain: How Democracy Survives

Wednesday, November 15, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Are there patterns or clues found in democracies that have sustained themselves for hundreds of years? Historians Brook Manville and Josiah Ober argue that democracy can survive—if citizens keep vital the implicit civic bargain they make with one another. Using the history of the four longest-surviving cases of democratic rule—ancient Athens, Republican Rome, British parliamentarianism, and American constitutionalism—they examine how all developed through earlier, incremental political bargains.


Magna Graecia: Early Greek Culture in Italy

Monday, November 27, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

In Plato’s time the South of Italy was known as “Greater Greece”—the beautiful land settled in the centuries after 800 B.C.E. by colonists from the Greek mainland. Author Ross King examines how these settlers brought trade and prosperity as well as their religion, customs, alphabet, and language—in addition to the political, philosophical, and artistic foundations that would influence the world of the ancient Romans and, much later, that of the Italian Renaissance.


London: Inventing Modernity

Tuesday, November 28, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Between 1500 and 1800, London became the largest city in Europe, its financial, commercial, cultural, and social capital, and the headquarters of a vast global empire. To survive the city’s many dangers, toils, and snares, its inhabitants needed to evolve into a new type of early modern urbanite, one that was flexible, resilient, entrepreneurial, optimistic, determined, and wryly humorous: the Londoner. Historian Robert Bucholz charts the city’s rapid growth, traces how its residents forged communities, and examines the panorama of London life from the splendid galleries of Whitehall to the damp and sooty alleyways of the East End.


Three Pillars of Chinese Culture: Architecture, Film, and Ideology

Tuesday, November 28, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Chinese culture has a long, rich history. In this series, historian Justin M. Jacobs examines how it has been represented in Chinese silent films of the early 20th century.


The Art of Gandhara: Where India Met Greece

Saturday, December 2, 2023 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

Situated between India, Persia, and the Greco-Roman world, the region of greater Gandhara (stretching through parts of modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan) produced artwork that blended influences and ideas from many cultures. Art historian Robert DeCaroli examines the origins of the region’s material culture, explores the ways imperial and religious power were displayed, and traces the role of trade in the exchange of ideas. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)


Privateers, Prisoners, and Britain’s Black Holes: POWs in the American Revolution

Monday, December 4, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

During the American Revolution, the British military took almost as many men prisoner at sea as they did on the battlefield. Most of those captured by Royal Navy were privateers—raiding crews licensed by the Continental Congress to torment British shipping and besiege Britain itself. Historian Richard Bell examines the untold history of America’s privateers and their lives both at sea and then behind bars, using their surviving diaries and journals to illuminate their ordeal.


Celebrating Christmas, Tudor Style

Tuesday, December 5, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Tudor monarchs certainly knew how to make the most of a holiday. The Twelve Days of Christmas provided the royal court with opportunities for midwinter merrymaking on a grand scale fit for a king (or queen). Tudor and Renaissance scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger provides a colorful glimpse into how members of the Tudor dynasty and their courtiers marked the festive season—as well as how the rest of the country celebrated Christmas in their homes.


The Art Treasures of Bologna

Wednesday, December 6, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Bologna is home to some of Italy’s most important art, including works by Michelangelo, Annibale Carracci, Lavinia Fontana, Domenichino, and Guercino. Rocky Ruggiero, an expert in Renaissance art, explores the city’s artistic treasures and great artists. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


The Christmas Truce of 1914

Friday, December 8, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

At Christmastime in 1914, months after World War I began, hundreds of soldiers in Flanders spontaneously stopped fighting one another, left their trenches, and shook hands in no man’s land. For a short time, British and German soldiers barely fired a shot, helped bury one another’s dead, and even played soccer together. Historian and battlefield guide Simon Jones tells the story of what happened in Flanders during the Christmas season in 1914.


The American Civil War and the World

Monday, December 11, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

The American Civil War was closely watched by other countries to see what its outcome might signal for personal liberty and what effect it could have on their own governments. Historian Paul Quigley explores international perspectives on the conflict, ranging from ideological affinities to economic calculations to strategic considerations.


Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul

Monday, December 11, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

The famous formulation that all Gaul was divided into three parts came from the self-serving pen of Caesar himself, whose conquest of Gaul served as the springboard for a quest for power that ended fatally on the Ides of March in 44 B.C.E., five years after he had famously crossed the Rubicon River en route to Rome from Gaul. Historian Jennifer Paxton tells the complex and fascinating story of how Rome gradually acquired commercial and military interests in southern Gaul that provided the pretext for Roman intervention in the complicated politics of the region.


Brutalism: Masterpieces or Monstrosities?

Tuesday, December 12, 2023 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Brutalism, an architectural style emphasizing clarity in presentation of materials, emerged during the 1950s, played a key role in the rebuilding of devastated European cities in the wake of WWII, and remained influential globally into the 1970s. With hallmarks including raw, unpainted concrete; exposed brick and steel; and glass employed in new and unconventional ways, Brutalist buildings appeared striking and arresting to some but soulless monstrosities to others. Bill Keene traces the spread of the style and examines its many facets, including some surprising twists to stereotypical structures and a recent revival of interest in the style. (World History Art Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


The Huns: Nomads, Attila, and the Fall of Rome

Wednesday, December 13, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

In the history of Western civilization, few peoples are as important and yet as mysterious as the Huns. They were only powerful for some 100 years, yet they played a critical role in the collapse of the western Roman empire. Historian David Gwynn covers the full breadth of the Hun world.


Einstein's Space and Times

Wednesday, December 13, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Einstein's theory of relativity was both scientifically and politically controversial in his day, with political enemies creating a public furor to undermine it. The result was a combination of death threats at home and celebrity abroad that led Einstein into exile as the world's most recognizable figure. Steven Gimbel of Gettysburg College offers a unique look into a part of Einstein’s past that is rarely discussed.


Picasso's War: How Modern Art Came to America

Wednesday, December 13, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

In January 1939, Pablo Picasso was renowned in Europe but disdained by many in the United States. One year later, the public clamored to view the groundbreaking exhibition Picasso: Forty Years of His Art, which launched Picasso in America and defined the Museum of Modern Art as we know it. Author and senior editor at Foreign Affairs Hugh Eakin reveals how a single exhibition irrevocably changed American taste, and in doing so saved dozens of the 20th century’s most enduring artworks from the Nazis. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


Sacred Images: The Christmas Story in Renaissance Art

Friday, December 15, 2023 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

The Christmas story has inspired some of the most affectionate, gentle, and intimate images in the history of Western art. How the biblical narrative was portrayed in Renaissance art dramatically evolved over time, mirroring changes in society and shifts in religious attitude. Moving from a narrow, sacred vision of mother and child to a full-blown cast of humans and animals, Renaissance art historian Elaine Ruffolo offers a lavishly illustrated exploration of the Christmas story as told through painting. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)


Machu Picchu: A Virtual Adventure

Monday, December 18, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Once it was "discovered" by explorer and academic Hiram Bingham in the first decade of the of 20th century, Machu Picchu became attached to seemingly endless speculation about its origins, purpose, and meaning. Cultural historian George Scheper traces the travels of Bingham to see the archaeological ruins as he first beheld them, and then, guided by modern scholarship, he revisits the site as it is today.


Drawing the Outlines of the Middle East: A History Rooted in Bad Faith

Monday, December 18, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

During World War I, Britain made a series of conflicting promises to Arab leaders, French diplomats, and Zionist representatives regarding the future of the Middle East, pledging to help establish an Arab empire, then offering to divide the same land with the French. Historian Ralph Nurnberger examines the figures involved in the often-contradictory secret negotiations, as well as how the results contributed to more than a century of conflicts in the region and the establishment of the modern states of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.


The Trojan War: Did It Happen?

Tuesday, December 19, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Archaeologists and historians have struggled to answer questions about the Iliad, Homer's magnificent account of the Trojan War. Is there any historical truth in a face that launched a thousand ships or was there simply a 10-year struggle for political hegemony in the Aegean? Classicist Eric Cline examines the latest archaeological and textual discoveries that lead to the conclusion that a Trojan War, or several such wars, did indeed take place during the Late Bronze Age.


Three Pillars of Chinese Culture: Architecture, Film, and Ideology

Tuesday, December 19, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Chinese culture has a long, rich history. In this series, historian Justin M. Jacobs delves into the sweeping changes enacted in the realms of gender, language, education, and architecture during the Mao years.