February 28, 2010

Societies in Transition

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Available on iTunesU. I could not find a course website.

This is a series of 8 anthropology lectures on the topic Socities in Transition recorded at Linacre College, Oxford University during early 2009. Each podcast is just under an hour and audio only (occasional mention is made of slides). Each lecture is given by a different presenter. All are fairly academic in nature (a couple are quite dry and I found it hard to maintain concentration), but are still accessible to the non-expert. These lectures are not straight history, there is little discussion of historical events. Instead each podcast presents current research on the process of social transition during a notable period of history. They often provide an interesting snapshot (or at least intriguing tidbits) of life around the time of the transition.

The lectures are in chronological order, spanning the entirity of human history – and beyond. The first lecture is on the Neanderthals – their slow extinction and modern discovery. The next lecture deals with the spread of farming in South East Asia. Then follows an interesting lecture on the spread of metallurgy in the Bronze Age and what the metals meant to society at different times and places. Another interesting lecture details attempts to date and size the volcanic explosion at Thera (now Santorini). From this research the presenter trys to match up the likely effects with events and history in the region (mainly the Minoan society on Crete). The next two lectures are respectively on the beginning and end of Roman rule in Britain. Apparently the collapse of the British economy after the Romans left was particularly swift – previously common pottery and coins disappeared almost overnight and buildings quickly fell into disrepair. The last two lectures are on more modern topics – the industrial and the current information revolutions.

Worth a listen for background information on the timeperiods discussed.

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