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Wait for it... The Mongols!: In which John Green teaches you, at long last, about the most exceptional bunch of empire-building nomads in the history of the world, the Mongols! How did the Mongols go from being a relatively small band of herders who occasionally engaged in some light hunting-gathering to being one of the most formidable fighting forces in the world? It turns out Genghis Khan was a pretty big part of it, but you probably already knew that. The more interesting questions might be, what kind of rulers were they, and what effect did their empire have on the world we know today? Find out, as John FINALLY teaches you about the Mongols.
International Commerce, Snorkeling Camels, and The Indian Ocean Trade: In which John Green teaches you the history of the Indian Ocean Trade. John weaves a tale of swashbuckling adventure, replete with trade in books, ivory, and timber. Along the way, John manages to cover advances in seafaring technology, just how the monsoons work, and there's even a disembowelment for you Fangoria fans.
Venice and the Ottoman Empire: In which John Green discusses the strange and mutually beneficial relationship between a republic, the citystate of Venice, and an Empire, the Ottomans--and how studying history can help you to be a better boyfriend and/or girlfriend. Together, the Ottoman Empire and Venice grew wealthy by facilitating trade: The Venetians had ships and nautical expertise; the Ottomans had access to many of the most valuable goods in the world, especially pepper and grain. Working together across cultural and religious divides, they both become very rich, and the Ottomans became one of the most powerful political entities in the world. We also discuss how economic realities can overcome religious and political differences (in this case between Muslims and Christians), the doges of Venice, the sultans of the Ottoman empire, the janissaries and so-called slave aristocracy of the Ottoman Empire, and how money and knowledge from the Islamic world helped fuel and fund the European Renaissance. Also, there's a They Might Be Giants joke.
Russia, the Kievan Rus, and the Mongols: In which John Green teaches you how Russia evolved from a loose amalgamation of medieval principalities known as the Kievan Rus into the thriving democracy we know today. As you can imagine, there were a few bumps along the road. It turns out, our old friends the Mongols had quite a lot to do with unifying Russia. In yet another example of how surprisingly organized nomadic raiders can be, the Mongols brought the Kievan Rus together under a single leadership, and concentrated power in Moscow. This set the stage for the various Ivans (the Great and the Terrible) to throw off the yoke and form a pan-Russian nation ruled by an autocratic leader. More than 500 years later, we still have autocratic leadership in Russia. All this, plus a rundown of some of our favorite atrocities of Ivan the Terrible, and a visit from Putin!
Columbus, de Gama, and Zheng He! 15th Century Mariners: In which John Green teaches you about the beginning of the so-called Age of Discovery. You've probably heard of Christopher Columbus, who "discovered" America in 1492, but what about Vasco da Gama? How about Zheng He? Columbus gets a bad rap from many modern historians, but it turns out he was pretty important as far as the history of the world goes. That said, he wasn't the only pioneer plying the seas in the 1400s. In Portugal, Vasco da Gama was busy integrating Europe into the Indian Ocean Trade by sailing around Africa. Chinese admiral Zheng He was also traveling far and wide in the largest wooden ships ever built. Columbus, whether portrayed as hero or villain, is usually credited as the great sailor of the 15th century, but he definitely wasn't the only contender. What better way to settle this question than with a knock-down, drag-out, no holds barred, old-fashioned battle royal? We were going to make it a cage match, but welding is EXPENSIVE.
The Renaissance: Was it a Thing?: In which John Green teaches you about the European Renaissance. European learning changed the world in the 15th and 16th century, but was it a cultural revolution, or an evolution? We'd argue that any cultural shift that occurs over a couple of hundred years isn't too overwhelming to the people who live through it. In retrospect though, the cultural bloom in Europe during this time was pretty impressive. In addition to investigating what caused the Renaissance and who benefitted from the changes that occurred, John will tell you just how the Ninja Turtles got mixed up in all this.
The Columbian Exchange: In which John Green teaches you about the changes wrought by contact between the Old World and the New. John does this by exploring the totally awesome history book "The Columbian Exchange" by Alfred Cosby, Jr. After Columbus "discovered" the Americas, European conquerors, traders, and settlers brought all manner of changes to the formerly isolated continents. Disease and invasive plant and animal species remade the New World, usually in negative ways. While native people, plants, and animals were being displaced in the Americas, the rest of the world was benefitting from American imports, especially foods like maize, tomatoes, potatoes, pineapple, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and manioc. Was the Columbian Exchange a net positive? It's debatable. So debate.
The Atlantic Slave Trade: In which John Green teaches you about one of the least funny subjects in history: slavery. John investigates when and where slavery originated, how it changed over the centuries, and how Europeans and colonists in the Americas arrived at the idea that people could own other people based on skin color. Slavery has existed as long as humans have had civilization, but the Atlantic Slave Trade was the height, or depth, of dehumanizing, brutal, chattel slavery. American slavery ended less than 150 years ago. In some parts of the world, it is still going on. So how do we reconcile that with modern life? In a desperate attempt at comic relief, Boba Fett makes an appearance.
The Spanish Empire, Silver, & Runaway Inflation: In which John Green explores how Spain went from being a middling European power to one of the most powerful empires on Earth, thanks to their plunder of the New World in the 16th and 17th centuries. Learn how Spain managed to destroy the two biggest pre-Columbian civilizations, mine a mountain made of silver, mishandle their economy, and lose it all by the mid-1700s. Come along for the roller coaster ride with Charles I (he was also Charles V), Philip II, Atahualpa, Moctezuma, Hernán Cortés, and Francisco Pizarro as Spain rises and falls, and takes two empires and China down with them.
The Seven Years War: In which John teaches you about the Seven Years War, which may have lasted nine years. Or as many as 23. It was a very confusing was. The Seven Years War was a global war, fought on five continents, which is kind of a lot. John focuses on the war as it happened in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. the "great" European powers were the primary combatants, but they fought just about everywhere. Of course, this being a history course, the outcomes of this war still resonate in our lives today. The Seven Years war determined the direction of the British Empire, and led pretty directly to the subject of Episode 28, the American Revolution.
The Amazing Life and Strange Death of Captain Cook: In which John Green teaches you about the life and death of one of history's great explorers, Captain James Cook of the British Navy. He charted large swaths of the Pacific ocean, laid claim to Australia and New Zealand, and died a bizarre death in the Sandwich Islands, which are now called the Hawaiian Islands. Exactly how and why Captain Cook was killed in Hawaii is a long-running historical debate. John presents two interpretations of the event, and talks about what the differing interpretations say about history. It turns out how the story is told depends on who is doing the storytelling, and people from different backgrounds can interpret events in very different ways. Also, there is a celebration and a moustache involved in this episode, so you definitely don't want to miss it.