The Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire is the first of The Great Courses that I have watched. The course is taught by Professor Teofilo Ruiz from UCLA and he is clearly passionate about the topic. There are 12 lectures that are 30 minutes apiece which is perfect for me since I try to watch one every day while my toddler naps and my dd has her quiet time. I loved the fact that I had something new and interesting to talk about to my dh in the evening (too often our conversations consist solely of work, children, and the weather).
Dr. Ruiz begins his lectures by painting a landscape of the Iberian Pennisula in the 15th century: there is no Spain, only several kingdoms in the area, and there is no Spanish language. He then talks about the role of Islam in the pennisula and the Reconquest and Repopulation by the Christians. The middle lectures focus on the culture and changing values of the people of Iberia when Isabella and Ferdinand take the throne. The Conquest of Granada and expulsion of first the Jews and then the Muslims is covered in detail before Dr. Ruiz introduces us to Christopher Columbus and the discovery of the New World.
I have to say that my grasp of history is appalling. I never really understood the connection between the spread of Islam and its presence in Spain (although an atlas should have taken care of that). I also believed that Columbus was courageous because most people at the time thought the world was flat (they didn’t: the Portugese knew the world was round and even approximately how large the Earth was). I had heard tales that Isabella needed to sell her jewels to finance the trip (she didn’t) and I though that Columbus wasn’t particularly bright. I now believe that Columbus was an accomplished sailor and a religious fanatic that was both misguided and incredibly lucky.
So, why was this the first course that I have watched from this company? Well, to tell the truth, it is because it was on sale for $10 and the subject sounded interesting. I did not realize that each of the courses go on sale at a deep discount at some point; I was under the impression that they were always quite expensive. I believe that if you are trying to get some self-education in or have a high schooler at home, then you should certainly look over the course offerings of this company.