The BEST Episodes of Crash Course World History
Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!
Last Updated: May 15, 2021
John Green teaches you the history of the world in 42 episodes of Crash Course. www.youtube.com/crashcourse
#1 - The Agricultural Revolution
Season 1 - Episode 1 - Aired Jan 26, 2012
In which John Green investigates the dawn of human civilization. John looks into how people gave up hunting and gathering to become agriculturalists, and how that change has influenced the world we live in today. Also, there are some jokes about cheeseburgers.
#2 - Indus Valley Civilization
Season 1 - Episode 2 - Aired Feb 2, 2012
In which John Green teaches you about the Indus Valley Civilization, one of the largest of the ancient civilizations. John teaches you the who, how, when, where and why of the Indus Valley Civilization, and dispenses advice on how to be more successful in your romantic relationships.
#3 - Mesopotamia
Season 1 - Episode 3 - Aired Feb 9, 2012
In which John presents Mesopotamia, and the early civilizations that arose around the Fertile Crescent. Topics covered include the birth of territorial kingdoms, empires, Neo-Assyrian torture tactics, sacred marriages, ancient labor practices, the world's first law code, and the great failed romance of John's undergrad years
#4 - Ancient Egypt
Season 1 - Episode 4 - Aired Feb 16, 2012
In which John covers the long, long history of ancient Egypt, including the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms, and even a couple of intermediate periods. Learn about mummies, pharaohs, pyramids and the Nile with John Green.
#5 - The Persians & Greeks
Season 1 - Episode 5 - Aired Feb 23, 2012
In which John compares and contrasts Greek civilization and the Persian Empire. Of course we're glad that Greek civilization spawned modern western civilization, right? Maybe not. From Socrates and Plato to Darius and Xerxes, John explains two of the great powers of the ancient world, all WITHOUT the use of footage from 300.
#6 - Buddha & Ashoka
Season 1 - Episode 6 - Aired Mar 1, 2012
In which John relates a condensed history of India, post-Indus Valley Civilization. John explores Hinduism and the origins of Buddhism. He also gets into the reign of Ashoka, the Buddhist emperor who, in spite of Buddhism's structural disapproval of violence, managed to win a bunch of battles.
#7 - 2,000 Years of Chinese History! The Mandate of Heaven & Confucius
Season 1 - Episode 7 - Aired Mar 8, 2012
In which John introduces you to quite a lot of Chinese history by discussing the complicated relationship between the Confucian scholars who wrote Chinese history and the emperors (and empress) who made it. Included is a brief introduction to all the dynasties in Chinese history and an introduction to Confucius and the Confucian emphasis on filial piety, the role the mandate of heaven played in organizing China, and how China became the first modern state.
#8 - Alexander the Great and the Situation... the Great?
Season 1 - Episode 8 - Aired Mar 15, 2012
In which you are introduced to the life and accomplishments of Alexander the Great, his empire, his horse Bucephalus, the empires that came after him, and the idea of Greatness. Is greatness a question of accomplishment, of impact, or are people great because the rest of us decide they're great? Also discussed are Kim Kardashian and the Situation, gender bias in history, Catherine the Great's death (not via horse love), the ardent love other generals--from Pompey the Great to Napoleon--had for Alexander, a bit of Persian history.
#9 - The Silk Road & Ancient Trade
Season 1 - Episode 9 - Aired Mar 22, 2012
The Silk Road and Ancient Trade: In which John Green teaches you about the so-called Silk Road, a network of trade routes where goods such as ivory, silver, iron, wine, and yes, silk were exchanged across the ancient world, from China to the West. Along with all these consumer goods, things like disease and ideas made the trip as well. As is his custom, John ties the Silk Road to modern life, and the ways that we get our stuff today.
#10 - The Roman Empire. Or Republic. Or... Which Was It?
Season 1 - Episode 10 - Aired Mar 29, 2012
In which John Green explores exactly when Rome went from being the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. Here's a hint: it had something to do with Julius Caesar, but maybe less than you think. Find out how Caesar came to rule the empire, what led to him getting stabbed 23 times on the floor of the senate, and what happened in the scramble for power after his assassination. John covers Rome's transition from city-state to dominant force in the Mediterranean in less than 12 minutes. Well, Rome's expansion took hundreds of years, he just explains it in under 12 minutes. The senate, the people, Rome, the caesarian section, the Julian calendar and our old friend Pompey all make appearances, but NOT the Caesar Salad, as Julius had nothing to do with it.
#11 - Christianity from Judaism to the Constantine
Season 1 - Episode 11 - Aired Apr 5, 2012
In which John Green teaches you the history of Christianity, from the beginnings of Judaism and the development of monotheism, right up to Paul and how Christianity stormed the Roman Empire in just a few hundred years. Along the way, John will cover Abram/Abraham, the Covenant, the Roman Occupation of Judea, and the birth, life, death and legacy of Jesus of Nazareth. No flame wars! Let's keep the commentary civil.
#12 - Fall of the Roman Empire... in the 15th Century
Season 1 - Episode 12 - Aired Apr 12, 2012
In which John Green teaches you about the fall of the Roman Empire, which happened considerably later than you may have been told. While the Western Roman Empire fell to barbarians in 476 CE, the Byzantines in Constantinople continued the Eastern Empire nicely, calling themselves Romans for a further 1000 years. Find out what Justinian and the rest of the Byzantine emperors were up to over there, and how the Roman Empire dragged out its famous Decline well into medieval times. In addition to all this, you'll learn about ancient sports riots and hipster barbarians, too.
#13 - Islam, the Quran, and the Five Pillars All Without a Flamewar
Season 1 - Episode 13 - Aired Apr 19, 2012
In which John Green teaches you the history of Islam, including the revelation of the Qu'ran to Muhammad, the five pillars of Islam, how the Islamic empire got its start, the Rightly Guided Caliphs, and more. Learn about hadiths, Abu Bakr, and whether the Umma has anything to do with Uma Thurman (spoiler alert: it doesn't). Also, learn a little about the split between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and how to tell if this year's Ramadan is going to be difficult for your Muslim friends. Let's try to keep the flame wars out of this reasoned discussion.
#14 - The Dark Ages... How Dark Were They, Really?
Season 1 - Episode 14 - Aired Apr 26, 2012
John Green teaches you about the so-called Dark Ages, which it turns out weren't as uniformly dark as you may have been led to believe. While Europe was indeed having some issues, many other parts of the world were thriving and relatively enlightened. John covers European Feudalism, the cultural blossoming of the Islamic world, and the scientific and artistic advances in China, all during these "Dark Ages." Along the way, John will raise questions about the validity of Europe's status as a continent, reveal the best and worst years of his life, and frankly state that science and religion were once able to coexist.
#15 - The Crusades - Pilgrimage or Holy War
Season 1 - Episode 15 - Aired May 3, 2012
In which John Green teaches you about the Crusades embarked upon by European Christians in the 12th and 13th centuries. Our traditional perception of the Crusades as European Colonization thinly veiled in religion isn't quite right. John covers the First through the Fourth Crusades, telling you which were successful, which were well-intentioned yet ultimately destructive, and which were just plain crazy. Before you ask, no, he doesn't cover the Children's Crusade, in which children were provoked to gather for a Crusade, and then promptly sold into slavery by the organizers of said Crusade. While this story is charming, it turns out to be complete and utter hooey.
#16 - Mansa Musa & Islam in Africa
Season 1 - Episode 16 - Aired May 10, 2012
In which John Green teaches you about Sub-Saharan Africa! So, what exactly was going on there? It turns out, it was a lot of trade, converting to Islam, visits from Ibn Battuta, trade, beautiful women, trade, some impressive architecture, and several empires. John not only cover the the West African Malian Empire, which is the one Mansa Musa ruled, but he discusses the Ghana Empire, and even gets over to East Africa as well to discuss the trade-based city-states of Mogadishu, Mombasa, and Zanzibar. In addition to all this, John considers emigrating to Canada.
#17 - Wait For It... The Mongols!
Season 1 - Episode 17 - Aired May 17, 2012
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.
#18 - International Commerce, Snorkeling Camels, & The Indian Ocean Trade
Season 1 - Episode 18 - Aired May 24, 2012
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.
#19 - Venice & The Ottoman Empire
Season 1 - Episode 19 - Aired May 31, 2012
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.
#20 - Russia, The Kievan Rus, and the Mongols
Season 1 - Episode 20 - Aired Jun 7, 2012
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!
#21 - Columbus, de Gama, and Zheng He! 15th Century Mariners
Season 1 - Episode 21 - Aired Jun 14, 2012
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.
#22 - The Renaissance... Was it a Thing?
Season 1 - Episode 22 - Aired Jun 21, 2012
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.
#23 - The Columbian Exchange
Season 1 - Episode 23 - Aired Jun 28, 2012
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.
#24 - The Atlantic Slave Trade
Season 1 - Episode 24 - Aired Jul 5, 2012
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.
#25 - The Spanish Empire, Silver, and Runaway Inflation
Season 1 - Episode 25 - Aired Jul 12, 2012
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.