Turning Points in Modern History Series

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24 episodes in this series

Episode 1 1433—The Great Voyages of Admiral Zheng He
Explore the idea of modernity and define "turning point." Then, consider why Chinese admiral Zheng He's voyages promoting the power of China's authority did not continue as part of a…
Episode 2 1453—The Fall of Constantinople
Although many educated people think they know about the fall of the Roman Empire, Professor Liulevicius says the end actually happened 1,000 years later with the fall of Constantinople to…
Episode 3 1455—Gutenberg’s Print Revolution
Trace how Johannes Gutenberg's introduction of a press with movable type sparked a print revolution, becoming a key factor in the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the…
Episode 4 1492—The Columbian Exchange
Without intending to, Christopher Columbus's search for Asia initiated an event that has been called the most important historical turning point of modern times. Investigate how Columbus's encounter with the…
Episode 5 1600—The British East India Company
The English and Dutch East India companies coexisted in the Spice Islands as they worked to outflank the Portuguese, but their rivalry soon escalated into war. Examine the founding and…
Episode 6 1648—The Treaty of Westphalia
The Thirty Years War involved some million soldiers and mass civilian casualties. Explore the significance of the Peace of Westphalia, the settlement that ended the war in 1648--a vital turning…
Episode 7 1676—Van Leeuwenhoek’s Microscope
Trace how Anton van Leeuwenhoek's striking discovery fit into the larger Scientific Revolution and shifted intellectual authority from classic texts to that which is observable and measurable.
Episode 8 1751—Diderot’s Enlightenment Encyclopedia
The Encyclopedie was the most ambitious reference work and publishing project of its time. Discover how the editors made knowledge accessible to a mass audience and championed the Enlightenment's progressive,…
Episode 9 1787—The American Experiment
Learn how America's founders established a model of a republic through debate, compromise, separation of powers, and a flexible Constitution.
Episode 10 1789—The French Revolution
How did France's fight for liberation from royal authority lead to Napoleon's rise and even greater despotism? Contrast events in America with those in France to see how attempts at…
Episode 11 1838—The British Slavery Abolition Act
Confront the harsh realities of the African slave trade and consider the role social mobilization played in eradicating the institution across the British Empire.
Episode 12 1839—The Opium War in China
Delve into the causes, conflicts, and consequences of the Opium Wars, in which China was psychologically devastated and subjugated by British imperialism.
Episode 13 1859—Darwin and the Origin of Species
Discover how a simple observation inspired Darwin's theories of evolution and natural selection, and why his Origin of Species was eagerly accepted by much of Victorian society. Then, look at…
Episode 14 1869—Binding Continents
In 1869, two events connected the world through modern technology, giving science vast significance as a source of authority. Learn how the building of the Transcontinental Railroad in the United…
Episode 15 1893—First Women Voters in New Zealand
Follow the fight for women's suffrage in New Zealand and America, as two global trends--the demand for women's political voice and the growth of settler societies--intersected.
Episode 16 1896—The Invention of Motion Pictures
Motion pictures revolutionized people's view of the world. Survey early movie culture, along with the contributions of Thomas Edison, Georges Melies, and others, then see how the medium became "weaponized"…
Episode 17 1903—Kitty Hawk and Powered Flight
Witness the dawning of the air age and meet the Montgolfier brothers, the Wright brothers, and others who brought humanity's dream of flying to fruition. Then, explore how aviation shaped…
Episode 18 1904—The Russo-Japanese War
To the world's surprise, Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War. Learn how this conflict fought with industrialized weapons reconfigured world politics by igniting the process of global decolonization, establishing…
Episode 19 1928—The Discovery of Penicillin
The advance of antibiotics occurred amid the larger context of the development of germ theory. Trace how scientists' understanding of the mechanisms of infection and disease evolved during the 19th…
Episode 20 1942—The Dawn of the Atom
When German physicists split the atom, Albert Einstein warned President Roosevelt of the potential for "extremely powerful bombs of a new type." Chart the course of the nuclear bomb from…
Episode 21 1969—Walking on the Moon
The moon landing expanded humanity's sense of the possible. Learn how the space program grew out of advances in rocketry during World War II and advanced rapidly due to cold…
Episode 22 1972—China Enters the World Balance
Nixon's meeting with Mao shifted the cold war's balance and returned China to the world stage. Learn the reasons for Nixon's trip, the consequences of which still reverberate, and plot…
Episode 23 1989—The Fall of the Berlin Wall
How did a bureaucratic blunder by a Politburo member lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall? Find out as you examine the surprisingly peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union…
Episode 24 2004—The Rise of Social Media
Are the Web and social media making us more globally connected or locking us into niche societies and creating an epidemic of loneliness? Probe both the power and the perils…

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