Fall 2022 - If you have an interest in ancient history, this is a really good GE to take. It's not unreasonably hard, and the workload is not bad at all. You really have to attend lectures if you want to do well, but if you attend lecture, you will have already done the majority of the work you will need to do. The professor covers everything you need to know in his lectures, and I didn't feel any need to read the textbook. The exams are really just about memorization, and the professor sends out a study guide with everything that will be on the exam a week before each exam. The hardest thing about the exam is that you have to memorize dates, or else you will lose a lot of points. As someone who enjoys learning about history, I found the lectures were really interesting and I learned a lot through this class.
Fall 2020 - With Professor Phillips, History 1A is probably one of the most straight-forward classes you will ever take. All the lectures for the entire quarter were posted at the beginning of the class, so it's very easy to get ahead in this class. I will say that there are a lot of required readings for this course, so it may be difficult to keep track of/afford all of the readings. The most important material was covered in the lectures, so I was able to be successful in the class without reading the textbook (Freeman, Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean, 3rd edition (ISBN: **********924) [EGR]) but the most important reading was N. M. Bailkey and R. Lim, Readings in Ancient History, 7th edition (ISBN: **********587) [B-L] and the course pack. To be honest you do not really need the other readings to be successful, but you do need to understand the content and the significance of them. There were 3 major exams, which were easy to prepare for since he provided a study guide. However, the study guide covers a lot of content (40+ terms to identify and 5 prompts, but only 8 of the terms and 2 prompts were on the exam), but as long as you thoroughly complete the study guide, you will do well on the exams.
He knows his stuff, but is so caught up in himself that he cannot even perceive his own weaknesses. If you want pure military history, of no real applicable importance or depth, he's your man. Screw Aristotle and Plato and Socrates! Screw Aristophanes! They are of no importance. We must know the troop movements of minimally important tyrants as they fought against their carbon copy enemies. He gave us a hypothetical question in a history class. If that doesn't fling your head off in a tizzy of epistemological fury, then you'll probably like him. The question itself was profoundly absurd. It was a bit like saying: What if the Byzantine Empire still existed? What if India had resisted colonization? Yes,and? If you step back, you'll see that it is pure nonsense. If you're going to give a hypothetical question in a history class, at least label the class as "Rhetoric 101" or rather, "Sophism 101". He is a good teacher and has a sort of obnoxious charm that only a good looking and confident man can posses. I am probably being too harsh. He knows he's intelligent, but doesn't even try to masque it in a charmingly aloof or slightly self-deprecating way. I've had far better and far more erudite professors that don't take themselves so seriously. Pure military history has been stale for decades. There is nothing to add and nothing to subtract, just slight reformulations of no actual substance. Does it really matter if X invasion happened in 435 BC or 436 BC? No it doesn't. Enough of my snot nosed rants! He is actually a good teacher,pay attention and you'll do just fine. He is a fair grader and a good orator, it is his methodology than I have a problem with. I have only written this rant knowing that such a conceited man probably checks this site every night, with the same predictable frequency of a Catholic schoolgirl giving thanks to Mary before sleep.
Phillips is one of the best professors I've had at UCLA. He is not friendly. He discourages questions during during his lectures, is stern with his rules, and will not take kindly to attempts by students to act buddy-buddy. He purposefully exudes an aura of aloofness, but if you take one of his classes you will quickly realize that he has every right to do so. That said, top tier professors are not obligated to be your friend. Phillips is quite obviously a master of his field; he effortlessly rails off ancient Greek quotes, and lays out Greek history in painstaking detail, mostly from the top of his head. If you do approach him with detailed questions during office hours or after class, he will undoubtedly have a straightforward answer. This is how UCLA professors should be. As others have stated, his lectures are whirlwind affairs. I type upwards of 110 WPM, and I still have trouble keeping up on my off days. However, the lectures progress logically and are incredibly well put together. He shapes classes in the form of an outline, and he speaks in a clear, monotone voice that ensures you won't miss what he says. Despite speaking at a breakneck pace for fifty minutes at a time, almost every piece of information he gives is relevant--a welcome relief from the tendencies of most professors. His occasional forays into humor are dry but generally hilarious. His style of history focuses on the wars and political intrigue of ancient Greece, a perspective that is all too rarely skipped these days in favor of "seeing through the eyes" of ancient civilizations. He touches on Greek culture when it is relevant, but you're not going to learn much about Socrates and Plato. This, in my opinion, is for the better. The class is not particularly easy, but if you want an A you can get it. The upside of Phillips' courses is that his lectures are entirely parallel with the assigned books. I have received A's in both classes taken despite never dusting off the textbook. His study guides are hefty, and he expects you to remember large amounts of information (especially dates), but he gives you everything you need to succeed in lecture. Take good notes and give yourself three nights of moderate studying, and you will rock his tests. Despite his statements otherwise, he is not that hard of a grader. I was not particularly interested in the Greeks pre-Phillips, but he makes Greek history into a very badass and interesting narrative. If you enjoy history, you should definitely take a Phillips course.
Winter 2020 - If you don't want to be treated like an idiot, Phillips is your man. He won't baby you or give you free points. He expects excellence, though it seems he has become accustomed to mediocrity, which in his eyes, is still a massive achievement considering how academically rigorous he can be. Expect to be simultaneously entertained and blown away at how much information can reside inside one plump and unassuming Doc Marten-wearing professor's brain. A probable candidate for smartest, most rigorous professor as well as best orator.
I can't imagine why people are saying this class is difficult or that Prof. Phillips assigns too much work. In my opinion, he is an excellent professor. He speaks very clearly and makes the subject material very easy to follow. The grading system in this class is outlined much more clearly than in other history classes and most of the material is available in the books. With a little bit of work, it is very easy to get an A in this class, as he basically spells out EXACTLY what he is going to ask on the midterm and the final. The only tricky part in the class is memorizing the various dates, but that is hardly an impossible task.