How Winston Churchill Changed the World

Course No. 8400
Professor Michael Shelden, PhD
Indiana State University
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Course No. 8400
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Learn how Churchill's passion for literature and history informed some of his greatest public speeches.
  • numbers Examine Churchill's early career as a liberal statesman trying to establish a social safety net for the working class.
  • numbers Study some of Churchill's political blunders, including the miscalculated adventure" in Gallipoli."
  • numbers Discover how Churchill collaborated with, and fought, political peers like Arthur Balfour and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
  • numbers Follow Churchill's postwar struggle to solve the emerging Cold War through his characteristic personal diplomacy.

Course Overview

Few individuals personify the tumultuous story of the 20th century more than Winston Churchill. Great Britain’s most celebrated statesman, Churchill didn’t just live history—he made it. His was a fascinating journey that would take him from the dawn of the Edwardian Age to the dawn of Beatlemania; from the days when the British Empire ruled the seas to its twilight as the preeminent global power; and from the chaos of two world wars to the equally fraught tensions of the Cold War era.

To follow Churchill on his epic course as a politician is to experience, on an intimate scale, the dramatic highs and lows of world history. It’s also a chance to honor the concepts of democracy and liberty he held so dear. Churchill’s life offers a stirring reminder of how, in times when freedom is threatened, people can still stand up to defend it.

Even still, too many biographies of Churchill are hagiographic, choosing to gloss over the many equally intriguing complexities of a man who both shaped and was shaped by the world around him. Just as important as Churchill’s championing of freedom were his moments of weakness, his political failures, and his personal struggles. Taken together, they all offer an invaluable context to both Churchill the man and Churchill the legend.

“Churchill rose to the occasion because that’s what great leaders do,” notes preeminent biographer, Professor Michael Shelden of Indiana State University. “That’s why his life will always be worth our attention. Whatever our political persuasion, we can learn from him.”

In How Winston Churchill Changed the World, enjoy a thorough, multifaceted exploration of Churchill’s life, accomplishments, complexities, and legacies. Over the span of 24 lectures that unfurl like a great story, you will delve into Churchill’s military leadership during World War I and World War II; his personal relationships with family and friends; his abiding passion for history, literature, and public speaking; and his political relationships with historical giants like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Queen Elizabeth II. With Professor Shelden as your authoritative guide, you’ll embark on an unforgettable adventure through the 20th century in the footsteps of the one man who helped not just Great Britain but all of humanity prevail during violent, dangerous times.

The Life and Times of a Master Statesman

Professor Shelden provides a biographer’s keen insights into Churchill and uses this course to help you arrive at an amazing conclusion: No matter how much you reveal about the man, Churchill in every way lives up to his legend.

How Winston Churchill Changed the World guides you chronologically through the life and times of this master statesman, taking you from the dawn of his political career to his final years in a much-changed geopolitical landscape.

  • The Early Years: Follow Churchill from his beginnings in the early 1900s as a young liberal statesman, his rise to the Admiralty in 1914 and his relentless push for an imposing naval force, and some of his disastrous miscalculations during World War I.

 

  • The Second World War: Discover why, more than any other British politician, Churchill denounced the rise of Adolf Hitler and why, after the breakout of war, he led the fight against the Nazis and refused to make peace with Hitler even when it seemed most prudent.
  • A Postwar Britain: Examine Churchill’s equally dramatic postwar career, when he was voted out of office and caught up in a time of political, social, and economic crisis, as well as two different cold wars—one with the Soviets and one with Britain’s Labour party.

 

As you tour the 20th century from Churchill’s perspective, you’ll get fascinating insights into his accomplishments and triumphs, including:

  • His diplomatic maneuverings with allies and foes;
  • His iconic public speeches (including his celebrated “Finest Hour” speech, which draws on lines from an Andrew Marvell poem);
  • His investment in Britain’s military (including his early championing of tanks and seaplanes); and
  • His early realizations of the dangers of both Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

 

Learning from Failure

Central to all 24 lectures of How Winston Churchill Changed the World is the profound sense of history that was so important to Churchill’s philosophy as a politician and a leader.

As Professor Shelden puts it, “Knowing what happened—and where it happened—was not trivia for Churchill. It was part of the process of knowing your place in time, of understanding how what you do today will affect tomorrow and how it will measure up to events of yesterday.”

These lectures offer a more contextualized perspective on Churchill’s life and career with an appreciation of this kind of historical knowledge. As a result, Professor Shelden doesn’t shy away from examining Churchill’s failures and how, on occasion, his preference for the backward glance of history distorted his view of the future, leading to missteps and disasters, including his failure to understand the rise of independence movements in the British colonies, his underestimation of Japan’s strength in the Pacific Theater, and his controversial World War II bombing campaigns in German cities like Dresden.

 

Both “Great Man” and “Everyman”

One of Professor Shelden’s skills in these lectures, aside from his incomparable scholarship, is his ability to make Churchill feel both bigger than life and entirely relatable, both a “great man” and “everyman.”

A celebrated biographer, Professor Shelden is the author of Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, as well as several other biographies of writers like George Orwell and Mark Twain. His literary background makes him the perfect biographer of Churchill, who himself was a celebrated and respected writer who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953.

“It’s not too bold a thing to say that it was Churchill who admirably filled the post of poet laureate without any official reason to do so,” says Professor Shelden, “taking his prose to poetic heights in his best speeches, and moving his audiences in the way that great verse often does.”

Poet, historian, statesman, soldier, prime minister, husband—Winston Churchill played many roles throughout his life. And How Winston Churchill Changed the World brings all these varied roles together to create a fascinating, multilayered biography.

By the end of the final lecture, you’ll discover that Churchill’s most enduring legacy is anchored in something deeply personal and timeless: his individual stance as a champion of freedom when the world was at a tipping point between darkness and light, and as someone whose voice and courage helped to shift the balance toward the light.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 29 minutes each
  • 1
    Churchill and the Muse of History
    First, establish a strong sense of how Winston Churchill looked at the world, and what he brought to politics that made him stand out from the start of his career. Then, learn how the connecting thread of history helped inspire Churchill to deliver his iconic Finest Hour" speech." x
  • 2
    Young Churchill
    Survey the remarkable accomplishments of Winston Churchill's life before he turned thirty. Follow the future statesman as he fights on the frontier of India, takes part in the British army's last great cavalry charge, survives capture in South Africa's Boer War, and wins a seat in Parliament. x
  • 3
    Churchill, the Edwardian Titan
    Few British politicians have risen as far-and as fast-as Winston Churchill did during the first decade of his parliamentary career. Examine Churchill's meteoric ascent, including his conflicts with political veterans Arthur Balfour and Joseph Chamberlain, his time as a liberal statesman, and his relationship with Violet Asquith. x
  • 4
    Churchill's Rise to the Admiralty
    Focus on Churchill's career as First Lord of the Admiralty and his efforts to make sure the British navy could win battles in the North Sea. Central to this were technological developments (including a massive new gun for ships) and his knowledge of the newest twist in naval warfare: aviation. x
  • 5
    Churchill and Failure in World War I
    With the military disaster in Gallipoli and the Dardanelles during World War I, Churchill pushed his luck too far. Discover what led to this major failure and his subsequent resignation from government, as well as how he overcame this fall from grace by joining the fight on the Western Front. x
  • 6
    Churchill in War and Peace
    Gain insights into Churchill's return to government in 1917 as Minister of Munitions and, after the end of World War I, as War Secretary. Then, examine Churchill's fraught relationship with Prime Minister Lloyd George and the publication of his grand, four-volume history of the war years: The World Crisis. x
  • 7
    Churchill as Chancellor of the Exchequer
    As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Churchill's primary job was to maintain Britain's economic prosperity. Here, learn how his efforts to cut wasteful spending, implement modest tax cuts, and return to the Gold Standard hurt the British economy in a way that would undermine most of his good work elsewhere. x
  • 8
    The Rise of Tyranny in the 1930s
    Take a step back to investigate just how tangled the relationship between Britain and Germany was becoming in the 1930s. Professor Shelden reveals how Churchill led an uphill battle to persuade his country about the dangers of Hitler and the Nazis-even as his fellow countrymen turned against him. x
  • 9
    Churchill as Author and Historian
    During the 1930s, Churchill kept his name and fame alive through his books and essays. In this lecture, explore some of his greatest works from the period, including Great Contemporaries (a dazzling study of major leaders of the day) and Marlborough: His Life and Times (a multi-volume biography of a famous ancestor). x
  • 10
    The Gathering Storm in Nazi Germany
    As international danger loomed on the horizon, Churchill knew the Royal Air Force would be the key to Britain's future. Learn how Churchill set in motion a chain of events that led to the legendary (and revolutionary) Spitfire, then examine how Churchill tried to save King Edward's monarchy from scandal. x
  • 11
    Churchill in the Age of Appeasement
    Explore just how pitifully disunited and disorganized the British government was as it stood on the verge of war with Hitler. How did the "age of appeasement" begin? What made Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain think he could do business with Hitler? How did Churchill continue to prepare for war? x
  • 12
    The Road to Dunkirk
    On May 8, 1940, a speech by David Lloyd George validating Churchill's premonitions of war with Germany led to Chamberlain's defeat-and Churchill's succession to the role of prime minister. But, as you'll learn, within a month of taking office Churchill faced one of his most serious challenges at Dunkirk. x
  • 13
    Churchill in Power
    When Churchill took power over the government, he knew he'd not only have to fight the Germans but also the simmering resentments within the Conservative Party. Take a closer look at cabinet battles and the famous speech to the House of Commons after the Dunkirk miracle" that effectively crushed Churchill's defeatists." x
  • 14
    Surviving the Nazi Blitz
    Explore how Churchill responded to the terror of the Blitz and how his long history of experience with aviation had a major impact on the war in the air. Then, conclude with a look at the wisdom of a particular-and overlooked-sentence from his famous speech of June 18, 1940. x
  • 15
    Turning the Tide against Hitler
    When did the course of war with Germany take the decisive turn for England that Churchill had hoped for? Why did his attention wander to Malaysia and Singapore? Why was the Suez Canal such an important lifeline for Britain? What was Churchill's long-term strategy for facing down the German juggernaut? x
  • 16
    Churchill and Roosevelt
    Learn how another historical giant-U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt-became the one vital person Churchill needed at his side to win the war. You'll learn what made these two men such effective partners, including their strong wills, their love of attention, and their hatred of being on the sidelines. x
  • 17
    Churchill and Stalin
    Turn now to Churchill's relationship with another historical giant: Russian leader Joseph Stalin. Why was Churchill's August 1942 trip to Moscow one of his most difficult wartime challenges? How did he and Roosevelt balance their desire to help an enemy of Hitler's without allowing Stalin more leverage than was prudent? x
  • 18
    Debating Churchill's Wartime Leadership
    Take a look at some of the more controversial decisions of Churchill's war record, including his possible delay of the D-Day invasion and the bombing campaign against Dresden and other German cities. Also, consider Churchill's early public stance against the threat to Jews under the Nazis. x
  • 19
    Churchill from Tehran to Yalta
    At the Tehran Conference, Churchill realized how small Britain was compared to the rising world powers of Russia and the United States. At the Yalta Conference, he discovered the only bond of victors is their common hate. Here, go inside Churchill's experiences at these critical diplomatic events from World War II. x
  • 20
    Peace, Churchill, and the British Voter
    In July 1945, at the height of his triumph over Hitler, Churchill was kicked out of office by the British electorate and replaced with Clement Attlee. Examine how Churchill's struggle to save Europe from despotism left Britain a minor world power instead of the major power it once was. x
  • 21
    Churchill on the Iron Curtain
    In this lecture on the dawn of the Cold War era, investigate how Churchill grew increasingly disappointed with Britain's postwar future-including its reduced power, influence, and economic prospects-and his realization that another ominous threat loomed over the world: Stalin and the Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe. x
  • 22
    Churchill and Britain's Postwar Crisis
    As prime minister, Churchill had shared his government with Labour leaders. Learn what happened once Labour assumed power and walked away from that spirit of partnership. From a fiscal meltdown to rationing to British troops at war in Asia, ceaseless opposition became the rule of the day. x
  • 23
    Churchill's Return to Power
    Churchill devoted as much energy as possible in his second period as prime minister to cementing ties between the United States and Britain in response to the Soviet Union's rise as a superpower. Discover how he became a powerful, persuasive advocate for peaceful coexistence in the face of atomic destruction. x
  • 24
    Churchill and the Legacy of Freedom
    Was Winston Churchill really the indispensable man of the 20th century? Can one person even make that much of a difference in the course of history? Professor Shelden concludes his lecture series with a pointed consideration of provocative questions that most academic historians won't even go near. x

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What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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Instant Audio Includes:
  • Download 24 audio lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
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DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 177-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 177-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos and illustrations
  • Answer Key
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Michael Shelden

About Your Professor

Michael Shelden, PhD
Indiana State University
Michael Shelden is Professor of English at Indiana State University, where he has won the top award for excellence in scholarship, the Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research/Creativity Award, three times. He earned his PhD in English from Indiana University. Professor Shelden is the author of six biographies, including Young Titan: The Making of Winston Churchill, which has been translated into Russian, Chinese, and...
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Reviews

How Winston Churchill Changed the World is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 101.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Recommended Professor Michael Shelden is an outstanding lecturer who captives the audience with his storytelling. He makes history enjoyable to learn. The audio version would also have been worthwhile, but I am glad I had the video version as I appreciated seeing all the maps he used as part of the lecture..
Date published: 2020-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A thoughtful, insightful and scholarly presentation. Highest rating.
Date published: 2020-07-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from How Winston Churchill Changed the World We are not done with the course yet, however we are enjoying it very much. The professor obviously knows his man and the history of Churchill's time. I was born in 1944, my English Grandparents we asked to pick my middle name, it starts with a W!! So, I have always wanted to know more about him, this course is providing that, thank you!!
Date published: 2020-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from comprehensive and enlightening I cannot say enough about this course. One of the best I have taken. Professor Sheldon is never boring. There are quotes and pictures to accompany the text. Highly recommend this course!!
Date published: 2020-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course I love these courses! My only concern is there simply isn’t enough in the HISTORY area, specifically Military History. I have completed the Churchill course, the World War II course, and the Abraham Lincoln course, but other history/Military History are lacking. MORE PLEASE!
Date published: 2020-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating and Superb Hagiography With a single if glaring exception, this is a superb course. Professor Shelden is one of the best. In command of every pertinent detail, he is eloquent and organized, and speaks with a gentle enthusiasm for a subject which is manifestly dear to his heart. (I very much recommend the video, which includes many wonderful photos, as well as helpful maps and written quotations.) Churchill's life is reviewed chronologically, but not as a mere list of dates and events. In addition to the expected discussion of the world history in which Churchill played so many diverse roles, many superficially minor but fascinating episodes are presented which provide often profound insight into the man and his times. And a trove of extraordinary quotations provides exquisite examples of his astonishing command of the language. I finished the course feeling as though I had truly come to know this remarkable and world-historical figure. It is important to note that the focus is very much on the biography; the earth-shaking historical events are there primarily to provide context for the life. If you are not comfortably familiar with the history of the first half of the twentieth century, it would be very worthwhile taking the relevant Great Courses first. (Of course, you could also read a book, but that seems so old-fashioned. . .) This brings me to the glaring exception: As other reviewers have noted, the course is very much a hagiography, the first definition of which in Webster's is "a biography of a saint". Our Churchill seems more closely related to the Archangel Michael than to any human of my acquaintance. Yes, his mistakes - some disastrous - are noted, but are generally downplayed or excused or explained away or blamed at least partially on others or all of the above. His glories, in contrast, are his and his alone. There is never a hint of doubt that he was one of the greatest human beings who ever lived. (An analogous side note is our professor's attitude towards international aggression. As expected, he rightly if repeatedly deplores the actions of the Nazis and the Soviets, but he treats the break-up of the British Empire as an unfortunate cleaving of a lovely historical gem.) Despite this one, very significant drawback, I highly recommend the course because of the exceptionally fine teaching of an important and fascinating life. Enjoy.
Date published: 2020-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The title says it all - outstanding If you knew nothing of Winston Churchill prior to taking this course, you will gain everything you need to know about the man. You can always learn more by reading actual Churchill writings but this course is everything the student of history would need.
Date published: 2020-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Title fits perfectly! Doctor Mike Shelden is awesome!! He not only knows the life of Churchill in great detail but shares it in a way that makes you feel that you are having a conversation with him not being lectured to. I wish my college professors were this good.
Date published: 2020-05-17
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