A course on world history is unquestionably a challenge, for teachers and students alike. World History in Brief: Major Patterns of Change and Continuity is designed to make the process manageable—if not easy—and we hope, rewarding. This guide aims to aid manageability by summarizing each chapter and its key purposes, suggesting accompanying lecture and discussion topics, and offering various possible student exercises such as essay themes (also, in many cases, usable as test essay questions), short-answer questions, and some multiple-choice options.
The expectation is that World History will be used in a variety of course formats. It is certainly compatible with a one-semester course, in which these text materials may be combined with some additional reading. The book also permits two-semester coverage, though, here, unquestionably, instructors will wish to supplement it with readings dealing in greater depth with particular civilizations, periods, or processes, such as the rise of the modern world economy. Suggestions offered in this guide are not meant to favor any particular format, because world history can and should be taught in various settings and in various ways.
The text itself is deliberately brief: brevity is essential in a one-semester context. This aside, though, its brevity is also a tactic to encourage a break from the mammoth single text, which can be physically and intellectually overpowering with a wealth of hard-to-remember detail. World History in Brief: Major Patterns of Change and Continuity is intended to focus students on main themes, on concepts and comparisons that stimulate thought and questioning, rather than on massive factual recall. As a recent National Endowment for the Humanities report stressed, it is concept and framework, not great detail, that must drive the successful world history course. The book attempts as well, to free world history from an exclusively textbook approach, and direct students toward additional readings where appropriate.
The coverage of the text invites, of course, additional treatments from instructors themselves. Lectures, as well as the possibility of additional reading, can expand upon topics only briefly evoked. So, for example, while the text focuses on main themes in the development of early civilizations, for example, there is every opportunity to linger more lovingly over particular cultures and the marvels of their achievements. Indeed, events throughout history can be drawn out more fully, in complete harmony with the purposes and coverage of the text. Various possible lecture topics are suggested in this guide, but they inevitably only skim the surface, for the richness of world history invites a variety of special enthusiasms and expertise that should be given play in the classroom.
The text itself has three main structural characteristics: it defines relatively clear periods, it defines relatively consistent civilization areas, and it approaches each civilization in a manner that invites assimilation of major features as well as cross-civilization comparisons. Each of these features can aid in clarifying the organization of a world history course.
After discussion of prehistory and the early river-valley civilizations in chapter 1, the book focuses on a "classical" period spanning roughly 1000 B. C. E. to 500 C. E., in which leading characteristics of Chinese, Indian, and Mediterranean civilizations took shape. This is, then, a formative period for civilizations that have endured, in whole or in part, to the present day, though of course it built upon the earlier river-valley societies. The second period treated in detail runs from the fall or decline of Roman, Han, and Gupta empires to roughly 1450. This period can be labeled in various ways, though we resolutely eschew the "medieval" designation as being too strictly Western. The rise to prominence and subsequent decline of Arab society, the spread (and, in the case of Islam, the development) of major world religions, and the simple extension of civilization provide the intertwining themes for this period. By 1450, all of the major enduring civilizations and many of their variants (such as Japan) were clearly on the map, and all had developed a number of enduring features. The third period treated extensively runs from 1450–1900 and focuses on the rise of the West and the related development of the world economy. This period divides, to an extent, around 1800, with Western industrialization and its subsequent new imperialism. Finally, the twentieth century is addressed as a major new period in world history.
The focus on ongoing civilizations yields seven major cases: East Asia, India and Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Europe, Western Europe (including the United States, Canada, and Australia/New Zealand), Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Each of these civilizations develops a somewhat distinctive set of traditions; each undergoes, at various points, some unique processes of change. The text invites consideration of the many contacts and diffusions among the civilizations, for their boundaries have been far from impermeable. And it invites comparisons, not only to note distinctive features, but also to identify common processes, such as feudalism in Japan and the West.
The student should be able to gain, from these features of the text, a sense of what the key world's ongoing civilizations are and also how they experience the changes characteristic of each major period in world history.
Finally, the book treats these civilizations in an essentially similar fashion though each historical period. Major events and chronology are presented first, in a section headed "Patterns." Then each society/period is considered in terms of its characteristic political features, its dominant culture (religion, philosophy, the arts), its economic emphases, and its social forms—these defined particularly through social structure, family, and position of women. This approach derives from the premise that each society must accomplish certain key tasks: it must organize (politics), conceptualize the world works (culture), produce and trade (economics), and organize social relationships and the upbringing of children (society). This schema can be clearly explained to students and allows them to chart major continuities and changes in each civilization, and to compare civilizations' major defining features. The typical chapter organization that results from this schema is designed to promote analysis and comparison, and to urge students to draw meaning from what can sometimes be an overwhelming skein of names, dates, and events.
These organizational aspects of the text—the periodization, the identification of central civilizations, and the thematic emphases—are designed to make the course manageable to instructors and students alike, and meaningful to both as well. Each aspect invites discussion. Periods are to some extent heuristic, and while the periodization used in this text is defensible, it is not sacrosanct. As they become able, students can discuss how periods are defined and whether alternate patterns can be discerned. The definitions of civilization even more clearly invite debate: Is Japan really part of a coherent, China-derived East Asian whole? What should be done with the United States in the world history framework? Is Eastern Europe really a distinct civilization? These and other questions are excellent topics for exploration, and the purpose of the text is, in part, to facilitate discussion by providing the necessary facts and concepts. Finally, too much thematic division could obscure the ways in which a civilization coheres across religious, political, and economic-social lines, and here too there is ample basis to build, in lecture and discussion, from the integrations offered in individual chapters. Furthermore, maps and illustrations throughout and in setting a framework and provide subjects for discussion.
Texts such as World History provide a combination of factual materials and conceptual stimuli whereby students can grasp and enter into some of the key interpretive debates regarding what scholarship in world history involves. By promoting comparison, and by dealing through periodization with both continuity and change, this text is designed to spur analysis rather than just rote memorization. By the same token, the text deliberately attempts to encourage students to relate contemporary issues and trends to past trends and events, so that the task of locating their own world on the historical continuum is not left in abeyance. The present Teacher's Guide is an aid in this as well.
Any world history course is too brief; any such course will occasionally verge on asking students to learn more than they can handle in the time given. The twin tasks of providing manageability and analytical stimulus are hardly simple, though, again, both the text and the present guide are devoted to these ends. The rewards, however, are great. For the instructor—and this has surely been and remains the author's experience—the opportunities for new learning and new combinations are genuinely exciting; all of us teaching world history must continue to teach ourselves. For the student, a clearly organized course that stresses a manageable number of key themes can provide not only a rich array of unknown facts and insights, but also a greater understanding of how the world works.
Special Features of This Book
The first feature, already discussed, is that World History is a relatively short text when compared to most competitors, and so facilitates a variety of supplemental readings and exercises. The hope is that this combination will help to move world history courses toward providing the same kind of rich mixture of reading and analysis that many other survey offerings enjoy. Likewise, instructors are invited to include their own additional readings, which should create myriad specific schedules and assignments. To facilitate one kind of combination, a chart of document suggestions is presented at the end of this manual.
World History presents a fairly rich array of maps around which exercises and comparisons can be structured. Illustrations also may serve as bases for discussion and comparison. Each chapter includes suggestions for further reading, which, while brief, will facilitate additional work, including essay assignments. Finally, each part opener includes a timeline, to promote a sense of chronological sequence and juxtaposition.
World Profiles - - Biographies are offered in several chapters, and these too can serve as discussion points and lend ideas for assignments. The number of profiles has been increased in this edition. Students legitimately wonder, in world history, about the role of individuals, and it is appropriate to occasionally revive the old "great person" (it used to be "great man") debate in exploring causation.
In addition to the biographies, this edition presents in most chapters short "history debates," concerning issues such as the nature and coherence of particular civilizations or why slavery ended when it did. The debates are appetizers, designed to encourage instructors to expand on the issues raised and inspired in class discussion. World historians currently debate the civilizational approach, some arguing that civilizations exclude too many different kinds of societies while others contend that global forces, not geographic entities, should command exclusive attention and more still accept the civilization idea but worry that it unduly reifies certain areas whose characteristics were both overlapping and fluid. The History Debates sections are designed not to resolve these issues, or to emphasize them at the expense of manageable coherence, but to present them as stimuli for further exploration. Students get an opportunity to see that the discipline actually debates the pool.
A new feature, Understanding Culture sections, helps students explore specific cultural issues in world history, such as the role of cultures in causing historical change, the nature of culture contact, the role of culture in civilization comparison, or the intertwining of culture with social and economic forces.
The book also includes careful statements of basic world history periodization in the sections preceding each major part, with particularly elaborate discussion accompanying the early modern period, the point at which in some versions of the book a second volume begins. Here are opportunities to explore themes common to many different societies—such as the expansion of trade and the spread of world religions in the postclassical period, or the Colombian exchange in the early modern centuries. Students can be asked to show how themes applied—or did not apply, as the case may be with pre-Columbian America—to each major society. The same sections can encourage discussion of change over time, with the defining characteristics of one period contrasted with those of the next.
Other Features and Supplements:
Suggested Web Links at the end of each chapter encourage students to explore further a particular topic, period, or historical figure.
A comprehensive, full-color Timeline, free in every new copy of the text, gives students a chronological context in which to place their knowledge and compare important political and diplomatic, social and economic, and cultural and technological events as they occurred across the globe.
A Companion Website provides students and professors with a wealth of resources, including a syllabus manager, student practice tests, web activities, chapter links, and a glossary. Also on the website are additional analytical highlights under the heading Challenges. These are ideal for organizing further classroom analysis and discussion.
A StudyWizard CD-ROM helps students learn the major facts and concepts of world history through drill and practice exercises and diagnostic feedback. Students receive individual, self-paced review of text material using multiple-choice, short-answer, and true/false questions, and detailed feedback. Free when bundled.