The Torch: The Great Courses Podcast


The Great Courses brings engaging professors from the best universities to lifelong learners on audio and video. We create a "university of the best," working closely with our customers to design each Great Course. With this podcast hosted by Ed Leon, you'll meet our fascinating professors and experts who create The Great Courses, listen to their stories and insights, and learn more about the great work they are doing.


Chantilly, VA


The Great Courses brings engaging professors from the best universities to lifelong learners on audio and video. We create a "university of the best," working closely with our customers to design each Great Course. With this podcast hosted by Ed Leon, you'll meet our fascinating professors and experts who create The Great Courses, listen to their stories and insights, and learn more about the great work they are doing.




4840 Westfields Blvd, Suite 500 Chantilly, VA 20151 800-832-2412


Was the American West as Wild as We Think?

Experience the grit and grandeur of an epic period in American history with a story more thrilling than any Hollywood Western. History professor Patrick N. Allitt dispels tall tales by sharing even more fascinating true stories of the American West. He reveals the facts behind accepted myths around the Cherokee, the Gold Rush, and even beaver fur hats.


Delve Into the Grand Drama of Spanish History

Spain has played a unique and pivotal role in Western civilization. It has historically stood at a critical crossroad of geography, of cultures, of religions, of ideas, of trade, and more. Join a seasoned expert on Spain to examine the dazzling unfolding of Spanish civilization: the birth and death of dynasties, the integrations of cultures, and the influence of religion. Professor Joyce E. Salisbury provides you with a deep understanding of Spain’s epic history and demonstrates how it has...


Discover Everything You Need to Know About What You Eat and Why You Eat It

Eating is as old as mankind but we are still learning so much about food, nutrition, and our own bodies. Examine the evolution of the human diet with award-winning professor and anthropologist Alyssa Crittenden. Discover how what’s old is new—the evolution and resurgence of the Paleo diet—and how people (and even civilizations) have defined themselves through what they make to eat.


What is Emotional IQ?

Don’t let your emotions run the show! Learn how to control your emotions and use them to help you achieve your goals with Professor Jason M. Satterfield, Professor of Clinical Medicine at UCSF. Delve into this fascinating topic and discover how being aware of your emotional intelligence (EQ) can help you become more perceptive and avoid knee-jerk emotional reactions.


Get Introduced to the Wonders of Birding

Going beyond basic bird identification, birding includes a far-reaching look into matters such as bird behavior, migration, habitats, conservation, and the science behind them. Join James Currie, birding expert, to discover more about this compelling, delightful, and multifaceted field. Even if you don’t plan to travel the country and become a birding professional, you can get to know the exceptional species in your own neck of the woods with helpful tips to make your backyard more...


The History of Higher Education

When we think of old universities, our minds may go to Cambridge or Oxford, or maybe the University of Bologna. But one of the earliest known universities was established in the Moroccan City of Fez. Join Professorial Lecturer in African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, Eamonn Gearon, to explore the fascinating story of an esteemed University that was established centuries before Oxford: Karaouine University, founded by Fatima Al-Fishri in 859.


Learn Music Fundamentals with a Master Guitarist

Colin McAllister, who studied guitar with Celin and Pepe Romero, interpretation with Bertram Turetzky, and conducting with Harvey Sollberger and Rand Steiger, and has connections to some of the most influential musicians in history, helps you learn how to play and appreciate music. Discover scales, fingering, and posture as he tells tales of being a rock star on the road. Plus, hear some amazing music!


Experience the Formation of America Through the Eyes of the Founders

Take a deep dive into the creation of the U.S. Constitution as it actually happened with New York Times best-selling author and professor Allen C. Guelzo of Gettysburg College. He reveals fascinating secrets behind some of the more famous Founding Fathers, using them as a lens through which to see powerful truths about the early political history of the United States. Discover the harsh lesson George Washington learned about how whiskey can make (or break) an election, how calling James...


Discover the secrets of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

A million and a half words, 2,500 pages long, and encompassing six volumes, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire has made a lasting and consequential contribution to history. Whether you’re familiar with this masterpiece of literature or not, you’ll gain fascinating insights and discover modern parallels revealed by Harvard professor emeritus of literature Leo Damrosch and Chief of Brand, Ed Leon in this eye-opening edition of The Torch.


Apply the Art of Debate to Your Real Life

Want to improve the discussions in your organization, in your house, or in your social circles? Join Ed Leon and Jarrod Atchison, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest University, to discover how learning the rules and structure of formal debate can improve your communication skills, even in informal situations. By applying the same logic that great debaters employ, you’ll see drastic improvements in your ability to persuade and influence others, and discover you can better...


Gain New Insights into the Holy Grail of Science: The Theory of Everything

Can one single theory explain everything in the universe? Providing a scientific explanation to the big questions of the universe such as “Why are we here?” is a huge undertaking—and one Einstein failed at, but this remains a quest many top scientists still work to unravel. Join physicist Don Lincoln from The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory as he discusses the latest discoveries and if this enigma will ever be resolved.


Separate fact from fiction; reveal facts; and explore fiction with The Torch!

The truth is out there! Explore misconceptions about how your mind works, uncover overlooked history, and define two-sides of the same literary coin. Join Ed Leon and three esteemed experts on this revealing edition of The Torch where we bust common myths about our own minds, expose the amazing contributions that came from the Islamic Middle Ages, and delve into the literary genres of utopian and dystopian fiction. Do brain games help us avoid Alzheimer’s? What percentage of our brain do...


Travel Deep Into History and Your Own Mind

How did the great philosophers view the connections between our minds and bodies? How did the ancient civilizations view the skies? How can stress benefit us? How did one singular period of history impact and influence the entire world? Ed Leon, Chief Brand Officer, and four renowned experts answer these questions providing profound insights into time, space, and our own bodies. How are our mental and physical perceptions connected? Professor Patrick Grimm tackles this problem from a...


Four ways we can impact our world by learning about our history

Ed Leon, Chief Brand Officer, and four renowned experts introduce us to what the new field of Big History can teach us about our future, how history’s greatest investor’s made their fortunes, what mysteries and wisdom are found in the Analects of Confucius, and how we can use history to predict which political candidate will win the presidency. Although Big History often focuses on the ancient past, Professor Craig Benjamin explains how we use Big History to learn much about the ways our...


The Literature of Mysteries, the Science of History, and Brain Hacks You Can’t Miss.

Solve the puzzles of great mystery fiction, uncover the depths of what paleontology can tell us about our past, and reveal secrets for outsmarting your own brain in this exceptional edition of The Torch. Join Ed Leon, Chief Brand Officer, as he talks to three renowned experts to learn more about these fascinating topics. Professor David Schmid, an award-winning associate professor, reviews the 200-year old genre of mystery and suspense by taking you backward and forward in time, around the...


Explore the Enigmas of History, Philosophy, Photography, and Math.

We’re revealing the secrets to histories mysteries, modern math, and phenomenal photographs in today’s edition of the Torch. Join Ed Leon as he talks with four esteemed experts to help you learn to crack the codes! One of the world’s foremost experts on Egyptology Bob Brier—known as Mr. Mummy—provides an overview of how to decrypt hieroglyphs. Professor Charles Mathewes deciphers the major themes and lessons from St. Augustine’s seminal work The City of God. National Geographic...


Exercise Your Body and Your Brain With Three Terrific Topics.

In this episode of The Torch, join The Great Courses Chief Brand Officer, Ed Leon, to explore the philosophies and benefits of tai chi, break down the complex concepts of Chemistry, and discover the incredible science behind decision making. No matter what your age or fitness level, the ancient art of tai chi can provide a multitude of benefits for you. Part exercise, part relaxation technique, the practice of tai chi can be considered a moving meditation. There is no one better to...


Finding Fun in Grammar, Economics, and Machiavelli

Discover fascinating, intriguing, and enlightening insights about three rewarding topics—grammar, economics, and Machiavelli. No matter how proficient at grammar you are, you’ll benefit from joining Professor Anne Curzan, a professor of English at the University of Michigan, to reveal the rules of words, to study the structure of sentences, and to explore how the elegance of English has evolved. They say money makes the world go round and nowhere is that more evident than when you look at...


The 50th Edition of the Torch: History, Literature, and Lightning!

This is our 50th episode of The Torch, hosted by Ed Leon, Chief Brand Officer for the Great Courses, and our podcast continues to entertain, inform, and provide our audience with more ways to continue their passion for lifelong learning. This milestone edition examines how music has reflected and affected major milestones in history, delves into the defining moments of Irish culture, and embarks on an exciting adventure into the science of extreme weather. First you’ll explore how history...


New Views on the Present, the Past, and Future

Learn the benefits of writing personal essays, examine the Bible as a work of literature, and explore what effects the future will have on your mind in this exceptional episode of The Torch, hosted by Ed Leon, Chief Brand Officer for the Great Courses. Begin by looking at a fantastic and flexible outlet for sharing your personal experience with the world: the essay. Dr. Jennifer Cognard-Black, Professor of English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, reveals the simplicity and ultimate...