Watch History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach

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In History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach, you’ll study these crucibles of history to gain a better understanding of why a civilization took-or didn't take-a particular path. This course examines some of the world's most notable examples of military misfortune, from the destruction of a Roman army at the Battle of Carrhae to the tragic landings at Gallipoli in World War I.

The Great Courses Signature Collection
1 Season, 24 Episodes
September 25, 2015
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History's Great Military Blunders and the Lessons They Teach Full Episode Guide

  • Review the conflicts in this course to determine the major recurrent errors leading to such blunders. Then, turn to the final case study: a location and culture encompassing modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan that has been the target of some of history's greatest conquerors and empires across more than 2,000 years.

  • Operation Market Garden is routinely listed among the great military mishaps of World War II. Investigate the Allies€™ numerous errors in planning, organization, and execution in this bold air/land mission, from underestimating the Germans€™ resistance to ignoring important intelligence to making unrealistic timetables.

  • From conception to execution, the Dieppe raid was filled with unclear objectives and poor planning. Why did the Allies undertake such an ill-fated attack on this German-occupied French city? Find out here, along with a detailed account of what went wrong-from bad timing to overambitious strategies to unexpectedly difficult terrain.

  • Examine two of the worst naval disasters in the Britain's history, the causes of which include both grossly underestimating and overestimating the enemy: the sinking of the Royal Navy's most technologically sophisticated battleship by Japanese bombers in December 1941 and the destruction of merchant ships in Convoy PQ 17 by Germans in July 1942.

  • With World War I bogged down in trench warfare, Britain attempted to break the stalemate-which had tragic results in the Gallipoli campaign, an infamous episode of military incompetence. See where the Brits went wrong, from poorly allocating resources to giving the Turks ample time to prepare.

  • The Battle of Tannenberg was a brilliant victory for the Germans-made possible by the many errors committed by the Russians. Discover how the Germans turned the tables on Alexander Samsonov, fragmenting and tearing apart his once seemingly invincible battalions, leaving them lost in a nightmarish landscape of forest and bogs.

  • The Boer War's Battle of Colenso marked a turning point in military tactics, as the British forces clung to obsolete methods of fighting in the face of new weaponry and tactics. Explore how the stubborn determination of the British commanders to utilize outdated techniques resulted in a completely ineffectual attack.

  • Learn how overconfidence, miscommunication, and miscalculation were all displayed by the Italians at Adwa in Ethiopia, resulting in one of the greatest victories of a native people over an imperial power during the colonization era-a rare indigenous civilization that succeeded in establishing itself as an independent modern nation.

  • How could an army accompanied by cannon and rocket artillery be wiped out by Zulu warriors wielding spears, clubs, and a smattering of outdated firearms? Find out in this account of one of the most shocking and humiliating British defeats from the Napoleonic Wars up to World War I.

  • Military historians still argue over what happened and who was at fault in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Examine why this battle between George Custer's cavalry and the Lakota and their allies remains one of the most infamous in American history, and see how this rare victory for the indigenous tribes ultimately hastened their defeat.

  • Although a minor incident, the Charge of the Light Brigade has gained a reputation as both a glorious moment in the history of warfare and one of the greatest military blunders of all time. Follow the disastrous chain of events that lead the British to attack the wrong target.

  • Propelled by paranoia about Russian plots, the First Afghan War was an unmitigated disaster for the British. See how their attempt to protect the East India Company's interests resulted in the entire Army of the Indus-16,000 soldiers and camp followers-being wiped out by Afghan tribesmen.

  • Napoleon made many mistakes in his campaign to invade Russia, a fatal miscalculation that led to his downfall and blemished his legacy as a brilliant general. Investigate his errors here, from appointing his inept brother to an important role to using unimaginative frontal assault tactics, which resulted in a bloodbath.

  • The most spectacular battle of the War of Jenkins' Ear was a massive amphibious assault launched against the Spanish port city of Cartagena, Colombia. Trace how this expedition began with great enthusiasm among the British but ended in failure and embarrassment, due primarily to the enmity that arose between Britain's top-ranking naval and army officers.

  • The Battle of Nagashino was the culmination of a multi-generational conflict with some of the most memorable battles and colorful figures in Japanese history. Although both armies possessed guns, only one commander employed them to maximum effect. Delve into the battle and consider why mere access to a new technology isn't sufficient for victory-one must also understand how to use it effectively.

  • More than 40,000 Russians were slain at the hands of the Mongols at the Kalka River, including six princes and 70 noblemen. Examine the factors that led to the allied army's defeat, from underestimating the Mongols to repeatedly allowing their leader, Subotai, to maneuver his opponents onto ground of his own choosing.

  • Innocent III initiated the Fourth Crusade to recapture control of the Holy Lands from Muslim rulers, but Crusaders ultimately rampaged through Christendom. Learn what led to the brutal attack and looting of the city of Constantinople, a supposed ally of the Crusaders and the seat of the Greek Orthodox branch of Christianity.

  • Although waged 400 years apart, the battles of Adrianople and Pliska share a number of curious similarities. Explore how both defeats were triggered by the Romans€™ mistreatment of immigrant €œbarbarian€ groups from the north-who might otherwise have been converted into allies-and overconfidence on the part of the Roman emperors.

  • Even outstanding commanders can have a bad day, as evidenced by one of the most celebrated conflicts in Chinese history: the battle of Red Cliffs. How did general Cao Cao get fooled by an obvious ploy that set his armada ablaze-particularly when he had previously used such tactics himself?

  • The Roman military suffered one of its most humiliating defeats at the hands of the smaller Parthian force at the Battle of Carrhae. Discover how this shocking defeat involved glaring intelligence failures, overconfidence, and poor decisions, as well as crafty use of terrain and exploitation of weakness.

  • From initiating a second front with a new enemy to dividing supreme command among multiple generals, see how failures of decision-making and leadership spelled disaster for the Greek city-state of Athens in the outcome of the Peloponnesian War, fought with Sparta.

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