Introduction to World History - Spring 2000



 Introduction to World History challenges students to think analytically about the major historical processes that shaped and continue to shape cultures and civilizations. The course is based on a series of case studies that focus on shifting power relations between and within civilizations. Three major themes connect the several topics discussed throughout the semester: issues of authority and inequality within civilizations; encounters and conflicts between civilizations; and patterns of continuity and change across space and time. The course demonstrates how historians explain what has happened in the past and in various civilizations and cultures; presents the kinds of evidence that historians use to reconstruct the past; and examines the interpretations historians make based on this evidence. The semester begins with a consideration of culture and power in classical civilizations, and then moves on to address: Byzantine Christianity and Islam; the Spanish and the Aztecs; the emergence of a transatlantic world and the growth of European dominance in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; and, finally, the forces of anti-colonialism and new forms of nationalism, as well as ethnic conflicts in the mid to late twentieth century.

Final Study Questions

NOTE: You should always draw on evidence from several readings and from lectures. You do not have to CITE works, but can refer simply to the author's name or title of the book/article.

1. A major consequence of the expansion of European power and culture throughout the world after 1500 was the creation of new and complex identities. This process began with the "Columbian exchange" between the New and Old Worlds, continued as Europeans advanced their commercial interests and, later, political power in Africa and India, and has extended up to today. Along the way, the formation of new identities encompassed individuals such as Equiano and Gandhi, sections of society such as the first Christians among the Ibo and indigenous soldiers in Queen Victoria's employ, and whole cultures such as Latin American societies. Write an essay in which you consider how and why European imperialism and colonialism shaped new identities. If you need a nudge, think of language, ideas/ideology/religion/beliefs, skin color, occupations, nationality...

2. In this course, we have looked at a number of cases of cultural contact/conflict in world history. Choose three of these cases and write an essay in which you consider the nature of cultural interaction. Was it peaceful or violent? What ?tools' ? be they technological or biological - shaped cultural contact? What role did race, religion, cultural practices, and economic interest play in determining the course of cultural interaction? What were some of the unintended consequences of cultural contact? Make sure you offer specific examples as well as a general interpretation of each case you address.

3. Both the Roman empire of late antiquity and the Islamic Empires of the medieval era created international markets and trade. Yet it is only after the conquest of the New World by European states that we speak of the emergence of a world economy. What were the features of the world economy that emerged between 1500 and 1900 and how did they inaugurate a new era in world history? Consider various aspects of economic relations within and between different regions, including trade patterns, the variety and sort of goods produced, and the types of labor employed and how laborers were treated.

4. The first reading for this course was Robbins' "Meaning of Progress." Using examples from at least three of the five case studies we've covered over the term, make an argument for or against interpreting world history as a record of human progress. Make sure you consider evidence from Parts I (China) or II (Mediterranean) as well as the post-mid term parts of the course.

Mid-Term Study Questions

The midterm examination will be given on Monday, 26 February in lecture.  The midterm will last fifty (50) minutes and will cover all materials presented in class, in the readings, and in discussion sections through 6 October.  I will select one of the following study questions.   You will  NOT be allowed to use notes, books, or any other materials during the examination.  I will provide blue books.  Please bring two (2) pens with  you to the exam.

     Hints: make sure you consider material from all the readings (i.e.  don't forget Robbins). Also, can the images and maps in Gallery Part I and  II provide you with evidence?

1.  Imagine that Mencius could have read about the religious beliefs and  practices of the ancient Romans (before the spread of Christianity), early  Christians (until the 6th c. or so), and early Islam (until about 800 or  so).   What would he have found sympathetic and what off-putting in each of  these religious communities and why?

2.  Between the first century CE and 800 CE, the world religions of  Judaism, Christianity, and Islam vied for people's souls in the  Mediterranean world.  What role did geography and the overlapping 'zones of  influence' of the three religions play in the evolution of their doctrines, social message, social/ethnic bases, and organization?
        The following maps might be helpful for this question (all found on the web-site, Gallery Part II): 29, 30, 8, 4, 6, 34.

3.  In the historical cases we've discussed,  each state has had an intimate connection - sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile -- to  particular religious beliefs and practices and/or to particular philosophies.   Write an essay in which you discuss the interaction between the state and religion/philosophy in two of the following cases: a. ancient  China b. ancient Rome c. Byzantine Empire d. Islamic empires.

4.  Write an essay about the evolution of social stratification from hunting/gathering societies through the emergence of imperial societies in  China and the Mediterranean.  How did social stratification change as societies become more complex? Did it become more or less pronounced?  How did it overlap with gender distinctions?


Readings in this course included books, articles, and documents.  The following books are required.  They are available for purchase at the CMU University Book Store.  You may, if you prefer, purchase them elsewhere or online.  If you choose to purchase the books on line, you should provide the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) so that you are sure to receive the same edition as the rest of the class.  The ISBN is given in square brackets after the title and publication information.

Three of these books are to be read in their entirety (Achebe, Equiano, and Sofri).  We will read selections from the other two.  Page numbers are specified on the syllabus.  All other readings are on the Website.  Readings are to be completed before the class for which they are scheduled.  For example, for Wednesday, 25 October, you are to read two articles, one by Alfred Crosby and the other by Sidney Mintz.  You should have read these articles before  coming to lecture on that day.  Lectures will not simply repeat what is in the readings, but will use the readings as a springboard into deeper discussions of the material.  Thus, your comprehension of the lectures will be severely compromised if you have not read the assignments in advance.  Completing the reading assignment before the scheduled class is especially important for the discussion sections.  Discussion sections will often concentrate on one particular reading.  For example, on 1 September, we will discuss "The Meaning of Progress" in detail. Other discussions, however, will focus on the entire week's work, including materials presented in lectures.  Sometimes this requires a good bit of advance planning.   The secret here is simple:  keep up with the readings and you will do well in the class; don't, and you won't.

Before reading the selections from Todorov, Conquest of America , you will find it helpful (I hope!) to read the short "Orientation to Todorov" provided on this Webpage.  Lectures for sections A-J will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1:30-2:20 p.m. in Doherty Hall 2210; for sections L-U on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30-1:20 p.m. in Doherty Hall 2210.  You are expected to attend lectures regularly.  Material presented in lectures will complement and expand on the readings and not merely repeat them. I will assume that everyone in the class is familiar with the assigned readings and will lecture accordingly.  You should endeavor to take close and careful notes during lectures.  For help on note-taking see the Webpage section on "Help."  Please arrive at lectures on time.

Discussion sections

 Discussion sections meet at various times on Fridays.  Discussion sections last fifty minutes.   Attendance is mandatory .  No unexcused absences are allowed; your grade will suffer for each unexcused absence.  Excused absences will be given for illness or serious family emergencies.  Your excuse must be presented in writing to your Teaching Assistant or to me personally.

Sections will be devoted to intense consideration of materials presented in class and, in particular, the readings.  You should come to class prepared to participate actively.  Please bring with you either the book to be discussed or your notes on the readings (or copies of the readings, if you choose to print them out).  20% of your grade will depend on your performance in discussion sections.  Mere attendance is not enough; you must talk.  Teaching Assistants may, at their discretion, give quizzes in their sections that will not be announced in advance (with the exception of the Map Quiz . A Map Quiz  will be administered during the second discussion section. We will provide you with a blank map and ask you to identify several geographical and geopolitical features.  You should prepare for the quiz by studying the maps presented on the syllabus.

Written Assignments

 There are two kinds of written assignments in this course:  examinations and papers.

 Examinations :  There are two examinations. Both examinations require you to write essays. The first is a midterm examination to be given in lecture.  The midterm will last fifty (50) minutes and will cover all materials presented in class, in the readings, and in discussion sections. The second is the final examination to be held during finals week at the end of semester.  The exact date will be announced in class.  The final will last two (2) hours.  The final is comprehensive and will cover the entire semester.  One question will ask you to draw on materials from the entire semester; the other question will focus more closely on the second half of the semester.  Study questions for the midterm will be distributed . The examination questions will be drawn directly from the study questions.   I will choose the question.  You will not be allowed to consult books, readings, or notes during the examination.  All you need to bring with you are two pens; I will provide the examination bluebooks.  Make-up examinations will be given only in the case of illness or a serious family emergency.  Once again, these excuses must be presented in writing.  You must inform your TA or professor as soon as possible if you will be missing, or have missed, an exam.

  Papers :  You are expected to write two papers.

Late papers will be accepted but severely penalized; one letter grade for each day late.  Paper extensions will only be given for illness or severe family emergencies and not for other reasons.  You must inform your TA or the professor as soon as you possibly can if you will miss, or have already missed, the due date for a paper.

 Paper topics are described below.  Papers will be graded on your ability to formulate a cogent and coherent argument, to marshall evidence to support your argument, and to present your materials in a organized, fluid manner.  Writing style will also be taken into consideration because there is NO difference between what you say and how you say it.  Papers are to be free of grammatical, spelling, and typing errors.  Points will be taken off for these mistakes.  Papers are to be typed on white paper.  Staple the pages together in the upper left-hand corner and please do not use binders or folders.  Please number pages.  All papers must be typed.  You can print on one or both sides as you choose.  Papers are to be double-spaced.  Please use a 12pt font, either Times Roman or Courier.

 References:  For this class, you may use an abbreviated footnote/ reference style.  Simply put the reference in parenthesis where it is required.  E.g. to make a reference to page 23 of Todorov's Conquest of America , use (Todorov, 23).

 TAs will be happy to discuss your papers with you before they are due.  They will also be willing to read rough drafts, IF such drafts are presented in a timely manner, at least several days before the paper is due.  In reading drafts, we will try to help you with arguments, ideas, and writing style, but we will not write the paper for you.  No re-writes will be accepted.

For more details on writing your paper see the section in "Help".

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense.  Plagiarism means to take the ideas, writing, or arguments of others and pass them off as your own.  Papers written for this class do not require you to use any materials other than those assigned in class.  If you quote directly from a book, you must enclose that material in double quotation marks and indicate the source.  In this class, it is sufficient to do so informally, that is, by placing a quick reference in parentheses, e.g. (Todorov, 231).   Plagiarism is discussed in The Word, the CMU undergraduate handbook, on pp. 48-49.  Please read this passage carefully!  I will penalize all cases of plagiarism severely.  The most common applied penalty will be failure in the course.   For more details on writing your paper see the section in "Help" on Plagiarism.
Paper Topic 1 :    due Feb. 16

Please consider the readings on ancient China and ancient Rome -- Waley,  Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China, and the selections for Friday, Feb.  9 (Porphyry; Symmachus; Theodosian Code and Codes; selections on Hypatia).  Write a four-page essay that discusses what these readings reveal about the  different responses of the Chinese and the people of the Mediterranean  world to the social and political unrest of their times.  Make sure you  focus in on specific issues such as tradition, custom, law, political  authority, community, learning, belief, tolerance, and morality.

Paper Topic 2: due April 19. 

Please write a four page essay on Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart in which you describe and explain the similarities and differences between the Christianization of Ibo culture in the 19th century and EITHER the rise of Christianity in ancient Rome OR the "encounter" between European Christians and Aztec culture in the 16th century. Your paper should consider differences in the beliefs of the polytheistic religions and Christianity, the reasons that some people converted rapidly and others resisted conversion, the methods used by the Christians to win and/or enforce conversion, and the methods of resistance used by the defenders of non-Christian beliefs and practices. 

Grades: Final grades will be calculated on the following approximate percentages.
Paper 1 15%
Midterm Exam 20%
Paper 2 20%
Discussion (including Map Quiz) 20%
Final Exam 25%