December 9, 2010 AT 9:47 am

James Burke: Connections – all 30 episodes online

James Burke: Connections – all 30 episodes online

Connections explores an “Alternative View of Change” (the subtitle of the series) that rejects the conventional linear and teleological view of historical progress. Burke contends that one cannot consider the development of any particular piece of the modern world in isolation.

Rather, the entire gestalt of the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events, each one consisting of a person or group acting for reasons of their own (e.g., profit, curiosity, religious) motivations with no concept of the final, modern result of what either their or their contemporaries’ actions finally led to. The interplay of the results of these isolated events is what drives history and innovation, and is also the main focus of the series and its sequels.

To demonstrate this view, Burke begins each episode with a particular event or innovation in the past (usually Ancient or Medieval times) and traces the path from that event through a series of seemingly unrelated connections to a fundamental and essential aspect of the modern world. For example, the “The Long Chain” episode traces the invention of plastics from the development of the fluyt, a type of Dutch cargo ship.

Videos here.

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7 Comments

  1. Certainly one of the finest science/technology/history shows every produced. I was raised by James Burke.

  2. “ever”, rather.

  3. Chris B. Behrens

    Boo-yah! This is the ultimate response to the Great Man theory of history. My favorite one is the episode where he connects Napoleon’s need to feed his troops to the development of the space shuttle (seriously).

    Also check out “The Day the Universe Changed”.

  4. I remember watching this as a kid – great stuff. Looking forward to reliving some of my youth!

  5. Thanks for exposing me to this, I have never seen it before, but I love it after the first episode!

  6. Connections is truly one of my favorites.
    Another was Tim Hunkin’s The Secret Life of Machines.

  7. Aw, crud, you just cut into my tinkering time. Thanks for the post, headed over that away.

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