Crash Course World History

The BEST episodes of Crash Course World History

Every episode of Crash Course World History ever, ranked from best to worst by thousands of votes from fans of the show. The best episodes of Crash Course World History!

John Green teaches you the history of the world.

Last Updated: 11/11/2022Network:YouTube
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Wait For It... The Mongols!
star
9.75
4 votes

#1 - Wait For It... The Mongols!

Season 1 - Episode 17 - Aired 5/17/2012

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.

International Commerce, Snorkeling Camels, & The Indian Ocean Trade
star
9.67
3 votes

#2 - International Commerce, Snorkeling Camels, & The Indian Ocean Trade

Season 1 - Episode 18 - Aired 5/24/2012

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.

Columbus, de Gama, and Zheng He! 15th Century Mariners
star
9.67
3 votes

#3 - Columbus, de Gama, and Zheng He! 15th Century Mariners

Season 1 - Episode 21 - Aired 6/14/2012

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.

Decolonization and Nationalism Triumphant
star
9.50
4 votes

#4 - Decolonization and Nationalism Triumphant

Season 1 - Episode 40 - Aired 10/25/2012

In which John Green teaches you about the post-World War II breakup of most of the European empires. As you'll remember from previous installments of Crash Course, Europeans spent several centuries sailing around the world creating empires, despite the fact that most of the places they conquered were perfectly happy to carry on alone. After World War II, most of these empires collapsed. This is the story of those collapses. In most places, the end of empire was not orderly, and violence often ensued. While India was a (sort of) shining example of non-violent change, in places like The Congo, Egypt, Rwanda, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, things didn't go smoothly at all. John brings you all this, plus pictures of Sea Monkeys. Sadly, they don't look anything like those awesome commercials in the comic books.

Globalization I - The Upside
star
9.50
4 votes

#5 - Globalization I - The Upside

Season 1 - Episode 41 - Aired 11/2/2012

In which John Green teaches you about globalization, a subject so epic, so, um, global, it requires two videos. In this video, John follows the surprisingly complex path of t-shirt as it criss-crosses the world before coming to rest on your doorstep, and eventually in your dresser. (Unless you're one of those people who never puts their laundry away and lives out of a laundry basket. If that's the case, shame on you.) Anyway, the story of the t-shirt and its manufacture in far-flung places like China, Guatemala, and India is a microcosm of what's going on in the global economy. Globalization is a bit of a mixed bag, and there have definitely been winners and losers along the way. In this episode John will talk about some of the benefits that have come along with it. Next week, he'll get into some of the less-positive side effects of globalization.

Globalization II - Good or Bad?
star
9.50
4 votes

#6 - Globalization II - Good or Bad?

Season 1 - Episode 42 - Aired 11/9/2012

In which John asks whether globalization is a net positive for humanity. While the new global economy has created a lot of wealth, and lifted a lot of people out of poverty, it also has some effects that aren't so hot. Wealth disparity, rising divorce rates, environmental damage, and new paths for the spread of disease. So does all this outweigh the economic benefits, the innovation, and the relative peace that come with interconnected economies? As usual, the answer is not simple. In this case, we're living in the middle of the events we're discussing, so it's hard to know how it's going to turn out.

Democracy, Authoritarian Capitalism, and China
star
9.50
2 votes

#7 - Democracy, Authoritarian Capitalism, and China

Season 2 - Episode 30 - Aired 4/4/2015

In which John Green teaches you about the end of World History, and the end of the world as we know it, kind of. For the last hundred years or so, it seemed that one important ingredient for running an economically successful country was a western-style democratic government. All evidence pointed to the idea that capitalist representative democracies made for the best economic outcomes. It turns out that isn't the only way to succeed. In the last 40 years or so, authoritarian capitalism as it's practiced in places like China and Singapore has been working really, really well. John is going to look at these systems and talk about why they work, and he's even going to make a few predictions about the future. Also, thanks for watching this series. It has been amazingly fun to create, and we appreciate all of you.

Samurai, Daimyo, Matthew Perry, and Nationalism
star
9.33
3 votes

#8 - Samurai, Daimyo, Matthew Perry, and Nationalism

Season 1 - Episode 34 - Aired 9/13/2012

In which John Green teaches you about Nationalism. Nationalism was everywhere in the 19th century, as people all over the world carved new nation-states out of old empires. Nationalist leaders changed the way people thought of themselves and the places they lived by reinventing education, military service, and the relationship between government and governed. In Japan, the traditional feudal society underwent a long transformation over the course of about 300 years to become a modern nation-state. John follows the course of Japanese history from the emergence of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Restoration, and covers Nationalism in many other countries along the way. All this, plus a special guest appearance, plus the return of an old friend on a extra-special episode of Crash Course.

Iran's Revolution(s)
star
9.33
3 votes

#9 - Iran's Revolution(s)

Season 2 - Episode 26 - Aired 2/26/2015

In which John Green teaches you about Iran's Revolutions. Yes, revolutions plural. What was the1979 Iranian Revolution about? It turns out, Iran has a pretty long history of unrest in order to put power in the hands of the people, and the most recent revolution in 1979 was, at least at first, not necessarily about creating an Islamic state. It certainly turned out to be about that, but it was initially just about people who wanted to get rid of an oppressive regime. Listen up as John teaches you about Iran's long history of revolution.

USA vs USSR Fight! The Cold War
star
9.33
3 votes

#10 - USA vs USSR Fight! The Cold War

Season 1 - Episode 39 - Aired 10/18/2012

In which John Green teaches you about the Cold War, which was occasionally hot, but on average, it was cool. In the sense of its temperature. It was by no means cool, man. After World War II, there were basically two big geopolitical powers left to divide up the world. And divide they did. The United States and the Soviet Union divvied up Europe in the aftermath of the war, and then proceeded to spend the next 45 years fighting over the rest of the world. It was the great ideological struggle, with the US on the side of capitalism and profit, and the USSR pushing Communism, so-called. While both sides presented themselves as the good guy in this situation, the reality is that there are no good guys. Both parties to the Cold War engaged in forcible regime changes, built up vast nuclear arsenals, and basically got up to dirty tricks. If you had to pick a bad guy though, I would point out that the USSR had no intention of brining Laika the Cosmonaut Dog home alive. That poor dog never had a shot.

World War II
star
9.33
3 votes

#11 - World War II

Season 1 - Episode 38 - Aired 10/11/2012

In which John Green teaches you about World War II, aka The Great Patriotic War, aka The Big One. So how did this war happen? And what does it mean? We've all learned the facts about World War II many times over, thanks to repeated classroom coverage, the History channel, and your grandfather (or maybe great-grandfather) showing you that Nazi bayonet he used to keep in his sock drawer and telling you a bunch of age-inappropriate stories about his harrowing war experiences. So, why did the Axis powers think forceful expansion was a good idea? (they were hungry). So why did this thing shake out in favor of the Allies? HInt: it has to do with the fact that it was a world war. Germany and Japan made some pretty serious strategic errors, such as invading Russia and attacking the United States, and those errors meant that pretty much the whole world was against them. So, fins out how this worldwide alliance came together to stop the Axis expansion. All this, plus Canada finally gets the respectful treatment it deserves. Oh, and a warning: there are a few graphic images in this episode. Sensitive viewers may want to use caution, especially around the 9:15 mark.

Watch Now:Amazon
Capitalism and Socialism
star
9.33
3 votes

#12 - Capitalism and Socialism

Season 1 - Episode 33 - Aired 9/6/2012

In which John Green teaches you about capitalism and socialism in a way that is sure to please commenters from both sides of the debate. Learn how capitalism arose from the industrial revolution, and then gave rise to socialism. Learn about how we got from the British East India Company to iPhones and consumer culture in just a couple of hundred years. Stops along the way include the rise of industrial capitalism, mass production, disgruntled workers, Karl Marx, and the Socialist Beard. The socialist reactions to the ills of capitalism are covered as well, and John discusses some of the ideas of Karl Marx, and how they've been implemented or ignored in various socialist states. Plus, there are robots!

Latin American Revolutions
star
9.33
3 votes

#13 - Latin American Revolutions

Season 1 - Episode 31 - Aired 8/23/2012

In which John Green talks about the many revolutions of Latin America in the 19th century. At the beginning of the 1800s, Latin America was firmly under the control of Spain and Portugal. The revolutionary zeal that had recently created the United States and had taken off Louis XVI's head in France arrived in South America, and a racially diverse group of people who felt more South American than European took over. John covers the soft revolution of Brazil, in which Prince Pedro boldly seized power from his father, but promised to give it back if King João ever returned to Brazil. He also covers the decidedly more violent revolutions in Mexico, Venezuela, and Argentina. Watch the video to see Simón Bolívar's dream of a United South America crushed, even as he manages to liberate a bunch of countries and get two currencies and about a thousand schools and parks named after him.

Haitian Revolutions
star
9.33
3 votes

#14 - Haitian Revolutions

Season 1 - Episode 30 - Aired 8/16/2012

Ideas like liberty, freedom, and self-determination were hot stuff in the late 18th century, as evidenced by our recent revolutionary videos. Although freedom was breaking out all over, many of the societies that were touting these ideas relied on slave labor. Few places in the world relied so heavily on slave labor as Saint-Domingue, France's most profitable colony. Slaves made up nearly 90% of Saint-Domingue's population, and in 1789 they couldn't help but hear about the revolution underway in France. All the talk of liberty, equality, and fraternity sounds pretty good to a person in bondage, and so the slaves rebelled. This led to not one but two revolutions, and ended up with France, the rebels, Britain, and Spain all fighting in the territory. Spoiler alert: the slaves won. So how did the slaves of what would become Haiti throw off the yoke of one of the world's great empires? John Green tells how they did it, and what it has meant in Haiti and in the rest of the world.

The Atlantic Slave Trade
star
9.33
3 votes

#15 - The Atlantic Slave Trade

Season 1 - Episode 24 - Aired 7/5/2012

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.

The Columbian Exchange
star
9.33
3 votes

#16 - The Columbian Exchange

Season 1 - Episode 23 - Aired 6/28/2012

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.

Watch Now:Amazon
Conflict in Israel and Palestine
star
9.25
4 votes

#17 - Conflict in Israel and Palestine

Season 2 - Episode 23 - Aired 1/28/2015

In which John Green teaches you about conflict in Israel and Palestine. This conflict is often cast as a long-term beef going back thousands of years, and rooted in a clash between religions. Well, that's not quite true. What is true is that the conflict is immensely complicated, and just about everyone in the world has an opinion about it. John is going to try to get the facts across in under 13 minutes.

The Renaissance... Was it a Thing?
star
9.00
3 votes

#18 - The Renaissance... Was it a Thing?

Season 1 - Episode 22 - Aired 6/21/2012

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.

Capitalism and the Dutch East India Company
star
9.00
4 votes

#19 - Capitalism and the Dutch East India Company

Season 2 - Episode 29 - Aired 3/18/2015

In which John Green teaches you about the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, doing business as the VOC, also known as the Dutch East India Company. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Dutch managed to dominate world trade, and they did all through the pioneering use of corporations and finance. Well, they did also use some traditional methods like violently enforced monopolies, unfair trade agreements, and plain old warfare. You'll learn how the Dutch invented stuff like joint stock corporations, maritime insurance, and futures trading. Basically, how the Dutch East India Company crashed the US economy in 2008. I'm kidding. Or am I?

War and Nation Building in Latin America
star
9.00
3 votes

#20 - War and Nation Building in Latin America

Season 2 - Episode 25 - Aired 2/11/2015

In which John Green teaches you about nation building and nationalism in Latin America. Sometimes, the nations of Latin America get compared to the nations of Europe, and are found wanting. This is kind of a silly comparison. The rise of democratic, economically powerful nations in Europe came about under a very different set of circumstances than the way nations arose in Latin America, so the regions are necessarily a lot different. But why? John will explore whether it was a lack of international war which impeded Latin America's growth, which sounds like a crazy thing to say, but you should hear him out.

Water and Classical Civilizations
star
9.00
3 votes

#21 - Water and Classical Civilizations

Season 2 - Episode 22 - Aired 1/21/2015

In which John Green teaches you about water! So, we talk about resources a lot on Crash Course, and today is no exception. It turns out people can't live without water, which means it's absolutely necessary for civilization. Today John talks about water in the context of classical civilizations, but not like Greece or Rome or something. We're talking about the Maya civilization in Central America, and the Khmer civilization in what is now Cambodia. So this is an awesome video, OK?

Congo and Africa's World War
star
9.00
3 votes

#22 - Congo and Africa's World War

Season 2 - Episode 21 - Aired 1/16/2015

In which John Green teaches you about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which used to be Zaire, which used to be The Belgian Congo, which used to be the Congo Free State, which used to be the region surrounding the Congo River Basin in central Africa. So the history of this place is a little convoluted. The history of Congo is central to the history of central Africa, and the Congo Wars embroiled neighboring countries like Uganda and Rwanda. John will talk you through the history of Congo and the region.

World War II, A War for Resources
star
9.00
4 votes

#23 - World War II, A War for Resources

Season 2 - Episode 20 - Aired 12/14/2014

In which John Green teaches you about World War II, and some of the causes behind the war. In a lot of ways, WWII was about resources, and especially about food. The expansionist aggression of both Germany and Japan were in a lot of ways about resources. There were other reasons, to be sure, but the idea that the Axis needed more food can't be ignored.

The Mughal Empire and Historical Reputation
star
9.00
3 votes

#24 - The Mughal Empire and Historical Reputation

Season 2 - Episode 17 - Aired 11/21/2014

In which John Green teaches you about the Mughal Empire, which ruled large swaths of the Indian Sub-Continent from 1526 to (technically) 1857. While John teaches you about this long-lived Muslim empire, he'll also look at the idea of historical reputation and how we view people from history. Namely, he'll look at the reputations of Mughal emperors Akbar I and Aurangzeb. Traditionally, Akbar I is considered the emperor that made the Mughal Empire great, and Aurangzeb gets the blame for running the whole thing into the ground and setting it up for decline. Is that really how it was, though? It turns out, it's complicated.

Islam and Politics
star
9.00
3 votes

#25 - Islam and Politics

Season 2 - Episode 16 - Aired 11/14/2014

In which John Green teaches you about how Islam has interacted with politics during it's history, and how it continues to do so today. Islamist movements are in the news a lot lately, but how did that happen. John will point out that Islam has alway been tied to political movements. Mohammed was not only a religious leader, he led an empire. So how did this lead to modern movements like ISIS? Islam has traditionally been a pretty egalitarian religion, and its scriptures value peace, so it is surprising in a lot of ways that such a violent fundamentalist movement would come out of it. What is a caliphate? What is a Caliph? John will teach you all about it. Take it easy in the comments, y'all. Be kind and respectful to each other.

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