A course on world history is unquestionably a challenge, for teachers and students alike



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Assessing Change over Time: Week 8 Homework

An important component of historical analysis is the assessment of change over time. Historians are interested in knowing when dominant patterns of a given society changed and why. But massive change in a society does not mean that everything changes: knowing what elements remained can be equally as important as knowing what elements changed.


Fill in the grid on the other side of this page with information about Russia in the time of Peter the Great. Which features of Russian society did Peter seek to change? Which features did he seek to retain? Then, at the bottom of this page or on a separate sheet, write an analytic paragraph or two in which you answer the following questions: What do the features Peter wanted to change have in common? What were his motivations?








Assessing Change Over Time







 

Social

Cultural

Political

Economic

Change

 

 

 

 

Continuity

 

 

 

 

Testing Historical Theories: Week 10 Homework
You have now been introduced to two major historical theories, the World Economy Theory and Modernization Theory. These two theories offer different explanations for developments in world history. In order to test the strengths and limitations of these two theories, we can compare the predictions that each would make for a given civilization.
For this exercise, consider the predictions each of these theories would make for nineteenth-century Latin America. Write a paragraph each for three of the following five statements, comparing the extent to which each theory does or does not account for the statements listed below. Do the theories make similar or different predictions for the Latin American case?
1. Latin American political structures will become more authoritarian during the nineteenth-century.

2. Latin American economies in the nineteenth century will continue to be based on the production of raw materials.

3. Latin American colonies will achieve independence from Europe in the nineteenth century.

4. The nineteenth century wars of independence will not change Latin American social structures.



5. Western nations will continue to have great influence over Latin American political and economic patterns.

Modern and Traditional Features of Culture in the Twentieth Century: Week 13 Homework
Modernization Theory predicts that certain elements of a modernizing society's culture will undergo significant change. In this exercise, we ask you to consider Japanese culture and sub-Saharan African culture in the twentieth century.
Fill in the grid on the reverse side of this sheet with "traditional" and "changing" features of twentieth-century Japanese and sub-Saharan African culture that are evident from the readings. Place a check mark () next to those changes that are predicted by modernization. You will need to rely on the documents, relevant textbook chapters, and the modernization handout. Then examine your grid and write a one-paragraph answer for the question below.
How helpful is Modernization Theory for explaining differences between patterns of cultural change in twentieth-century Japan and in Sub-Saharan Africa?


 

Traditional

Changing

Japan

 

 

Sub-Saharan Africa

 

 

Lectures and Discussions
Instructor interests and student capacities and interests vary widely. Nevertheless, a possible one-semester class schedule format, predicated on two lecture periods and one discussion section per week pattern, is appended simply as a suggestion. It has worked well for the author, though with periodic modifications. This plan emphasizes comparison while presenting a considerable array of theoretical or thematic issues (theory includes world-economy or modernization, or issues of periodization; themes consist of position of women, aspects of peasant society, the issues of art in a post-traditional world, and the like). For some student groups, a somewhat less ambitious approach, or simply additional class time through an additional semester, would usefully allow for careful and detailed coverage of individual civilizations and periods, as well as exploration of themes such as how different forms of government work, and so on. The point is to develop a set of topics that help students through material, provoke thought, and reflect as well as stimulate interest.
Sample Introductory Lecture
This course surveys major features of the principal existing civilizations of the world, as they were originally formed and as they have been altered during the past two to four centuries by the "forces of modernity." We will try to define what the major traditional features of each civilization were, what the "forces of modernity" have been, and how they mesh to produce the world that exists today.
Obviously, a survey of this sort in one semester imposes some burdens on all participants. So—some advance cues on what to look for in developing an analytical approach to a world history overview. We will be dealing with three main approaches to world history. These are outlined in the next paragraph, and then spelled out more fully (you may wish to save this fuller statement for later).
Approach 1 inquires into laws or patterns in world history. Approach 2 compares among the major civilizations, as wholes and in key features such as government or religion. Approach 3 discusses how the major civilizations change, particularly as traditional features encounter new forces during the past few centuries.
In Approach 1, we will look for some general patterns at key historical points. Some patterns result from human nature—people in all civilizations, for example, breed children and have families. Other patterns result from different kinds of contacts among civilizations, or "diffusion," as in the case of the spread of technologies or major religions. Still more patterns, finally, may exist because of laws, or near-laws, of human history: thus come statements such as "all societies carry within them the seeds of their own destruction," or "all societies that worsen their treatment of the unfortunate are doomed to decline." These hypotheses may or may not be right, but they, and others like them, can be tested as a way of finding meaning and even predictive power in world history.
Patterns, then, involve three kinds of generalizations: human nature, diffusion, and "laws."
In Approach 2, comparison is vital to analysis of world history. Each civilization can be compared, at major stages, to others. We suggest breaking down each civilization into political, cultural, economic, and social categories—that is, how it is governed, how it explains and conceptualizes the world, how it supports itself, and how it structures social groups and families. Each of these categories, and their interrelationships in forming a whole civilization, can be compared across space with other major civilizations. You can even keep an informal chart of each civilization, in its four aspects, for comparative purposes.
We will be dealing with seven civilizations: East Asia, India and Southern Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Western Europe (plus the United States, Canada, and Australia/New Zealand), Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America.
With Approach 3, the course will introduce the factor of change over time. After brief discussion of the earliest civilization phase, we will be dealing with four major time periods: a classical period, from about 1000 B. C. E. to about 500 C. E., in which large civilizations formed in China, India and around the Mediterranean; "spread of civilization" period, 500-1400 C. E., in which changes occurred in the classical civilizations and new civilizations arose to establish the total of seven ongoing cases under examination; next, the "rise of the West" or "creation of world economy" period, 1400-1900, in which new contacts and various ideological and economic developments brought some degree of change to each of the seven civilizations we are dealing with; and, finally, the twentieth century as a new period in world history, in which changes building in each major civilization in the previous period turn into full-fledged confrontations with the forces of modernity.
This division into major periods highlights the kinds of change that we will be considering. Historians are chiefly concerned with identifying and explaining the phenomenon of change, and so even in this introductory overview we will try to engage in aspects of this historical approach. Our principal concern involves the great issues of change in the past several centuries (i.e., the last two time periods we deal with), as traditional structures and values in each civilization confront some common issues about political organization, cultural values, and economic activity.
One other point about the purpose of the course: we will be relying on an essay-format textbook for general coverage, with particular issues and comparisons highlighted in lectures. We will also discuss some more specific readings, to deal with types of historical evidence and problems of conflicting interpretation—two skills areas that the study of history inevitably entails when it goes beyond straight memorization, as we intend to do.

One-Semester Class Schedule and Assignments
Lecture 1: Introduction: Why World History?

Lecture 2: The Nature of Agricultural Societies: What Is Civilization?

Discussion Session 1: The Organization of Human Societies
Lecture 3: Classical Civilizations: China and India

Lecture 4: Understanding Cultures: Definitions and the Problems of Change

Discussion Session 2: Indian and Chinese Philosophy: Concepts and Concerns
Lecture 5: Social History and the Classical World

Lecture 6: Theories on the Rise and Fall of World Civilization

Discussion Session 3: Women in Classical India and China, Including the Tang/Sung Period
Lecture 7: The Postclassical Period: Change, Continuity, and the Spread of World Religion

Lecture 8: The World Network: New Exchanges

Discussion Session 4: Islamic Philosophy and Change
Lecture 9: Expanding Civilization and the World Network: Japan and Europe

Lecture 10: Civilizations in Africa

Discussion Session 5: Feudalism and Religion: The Struggle for Power
Lecture 11: Civilization in the Americas

Lecture 12: Midsemester Examination

Discussion Session 6: Arms and Expansion
Lecture 13: Periodization and World Trends, 1450 Onward: Comparing the Fifteenth and the Twentieth Centuries

Lecture 14: The Transformation of Popular Mentalities in the West: The "Big Changes" and the Issue of Causation

Discussion Session 7: Colonies and World Economy
Lecture 15: The Rise of Russia: Change and Continuity

Discussion Session 8: Aspects of Change in Russia


Lecture 16: Categorizing Early Modern Reactions: Asia, Africa, and the Americas

Lecture 17: The Industrial Revolution: The West and the World

Discussion Session 9: Modernization Theory and Social Change
Lecture 18: Industrialization: Work, Family, and Progress

Lecture 19: Nationalism and Traditional Cultures

Discussion Session 10: The Problem of Latin American Civilization and the "New Nations" Issue
Lecture 20: Latecomer Modernizers: Russia and Japan

Lecture 21: The United States and World History

Discussion Session 11: Tradition and Change in Japan
Lecture 22: The Problem of the Twentieth Century

Lecture 23: Patterns of Revolution

Discussion Session 12: Comparing Revolutions
Lecture 24: The Third World, the World Economy, and Economic Development

Lecture 25: Comparative Issues for Asian, African, and Latin American Civilizations

Lecture 26: Patterns of Belief in the Contemporary World

Lecture 27: Comparative Issues: Modernization and Education

Discussion Session 13: Directions in Twentieth-Century Africa
Lecture 28: Issues of Democracy and Women: Updating Modernization

Lecture 29: Postindustrial Society and World Societies, Present and Future



Discussion Session 14: Modernization and Women: Comparative Studies
Part I
Chapter 1
From Human Prehistory to the Early Civilizations
This chapter covers some essential features of human prehistory, including the development of the species, its spread, and early tool use. It focuses considerable attention on the development of agriculture and the Neolithic revolution, with the resulting changes in population size, tool use (metals), and social organization (greater specialization). The chapter then turns to a definition of "civilization," noting too that "noncivilized" societies, though measurably different from civilizations, produced important cultures and social organizations. Finally, the chapter briefly surveys the four initial river-valley civilizations; the Middle East, including later offshoots in Phoenicia and Palestine; Egypt; the Indus; and the Hwang. The chapter ends with a summary of the accomplishments and impact as well as the limitations of these early civilizations.
The chapter invites a number of different lecture topics. In a one-semester course, there is likely to be little time for anything except a lecture or two dedicated to hammering home the basic concepts: what agriculture is, what a civilization is. In this context, it is useful to go beyond the chapter to talk about some fairly general features of all agricultural civilizations, including the ones covered later in greater detail—the limits on resources; the fact that cities, though central, do not seriously impact the lives of most people; the nature of peasant life and values; the tendency (not, to be sure, universal) for an aristocracy to arise on the basis of extensive land ownership. Certainly, the definition of "civilization" must be discussed in terms of what the two basic criteria—cities and writing—imply in terms of political potential (writing being essential for even small bureaucracies) and economic potential (cities and writing in relation to trade and specialization). Having students discuss the pros and cons of civilization is also a useful, generally engaging exercise; social inequality and issues of gender loom large here. The brief History Debate can be expanded into fuller discussion of the plusses and minuses of agriculture.
This is also a key place to introduce and define the concept of culture, and to discuss what functions it serves in human life.
Where more lectures or class sessions are available, many instructors will want to deal in greater detail with the specific river-valley cases. Students bring in some knowledge, particularly about Egypt, that can be built upon usefully. The brief coverage in this chapter leaves abundant opportunity for fuller explorations, especially concerning Egypt and Mesopotamia and Jewish monotheism. Source readings can include Mesopotamian and Jewish materials, and assignments can compare social structures, religion, and gender issues. The Martin Bernal debate about heritage (centering on Black Athena and its critics) can be engaged. Comparing Egypt and Mesopotamia, as the text chapter sketches, can introduce an important skill and raises interesting issues, including causes of differences, in its own right.
Possible Tests and Exercises
It is a very good idea with regard to this early chapter to give students some map drills. One can, of course, focus on the world of the early civilizations specifically, and, certainly, students should know at this point where the four initial centers were. It is probably preferable, however, to assign a contemporary map (such as the first map in the text) in addition, give students a list of 30–50 contemporary areas that also includes Egypt, Hwang River, Tigris-Euphrates region, and then test them on the basis of an outline map. Establishing durable geographic parameters now can save a lot of grief and confusion later on, and the exercise is sufficiently concrete, via the list of expectations, for students to manage. Supplementary map testing in later units, can reinforce this initial exercise.
Essay and Discussion Topics
Several essay possibilities follow from the chapter. Students might be asked to research one or more of the river-valley civilizations and produce a fuller report. Essay topics designed to spur thinking on the basis of the chapter itself include the following:
Short-Answer and Identification Questions
In addition to, or instead of, essay questions at this point, instructors may want to steer students toward short-answer identifications, in which the focus is fairly specific but still involves more than sheer recall. These exercises may also be preferable to a list of items to memorize.
Multiple-Choice Possibilities
Finally, there are abundant multiple-choice (or true-false) possibilities. Instructors may wish to avoid too much emphasis on factual recall: world history is such a vast subject that students can easily be distracted from main themes, or turned off, if a course turns into a demanding memorization exercise. At the same time, some factual retention is essential if main concepts are to be discussed. Where the more specific type of question seems preferable to a slightly more open-ended short-answer identification, possibilities will be suggested in each chapter.

Part II
The introduction to part II sketches features that apply to all the classical civilizations, based on their expansion and ensuing needs for political, cultural, and economic integration. These themes can usefully be explored more fully, either in introducing the whole unit or in summarizing it. Issues of causation (the role of iron, the role of disease, etc.) deserve attention in explaining the expansion process. This is a prime opportunity to talk with students about what periodization involves and the clear (though usually incomplete) differentiations among characteristics of previous periods. Specifically, in this case, the invitation is to explore what changed as well as what persisted between the river-valley civilization period and the classical period.

Chapter 2
Classical Civilization: China
In the case of chapter 2, classical China's contrasts with its river-valley past can be illustrated, along with the more decisive break at the end of the Han, but students can also be reminded that there were several crucial breaks within the classical period as well. A chronological chart on classical civilization placed in chapter 3 can aid in demarcating the classical period overall.
It is also desirable to discuss what a particular civilization means – how it defines itself – as suggested in the History Debate in the next chapter. How different were the major classical civilizations and why?
This chapter covers the establishment of the main features of Chinese civilization during the first three dynasties after the Shang (or Hwang ho period): the Zhou, Qin, and Han. The focus is on leading political institutions, territorial expansion through the Middle Kingdom and at points beyond, the main value systems (Confucianism and Daoism, with a bow to animism), and social structure and economic emphases, including the remarkable propensity for technological innovation.
China forms the logical starting point for a study of basic, enduring civilizations because of its primacy in time and due to the fact that its river-valley achievements flowed relatively smoothly into the more elaborate classical period. Chinese materials help students pull away from a predominantly Western focus and also provide a particularly clear, though not uncomplicated, model for subsequent comparisons.
A number of possible lecture and discussion topics derive from the chapter. One lecture might dwell on the important changes within the long classical period: the chapter, while treating the Zhou period, focuses particularly on the more durable, centralized institutions of the Qin and Han dynasties, and the theme of often painful evolution might be stressed in contrast. A lecture or discussion might also treat in depth the tensions within Chinese culture, which can otherwise appear to be relatively simple (though some of the simplicities do present a good starting point). Examples of tension: Confucianism stressed human goodness, but the Chinese state imposed harsh penalties for crimes; merchants were placed low on the official social scale, but internal trade was vital and elaborate, and made many merchants wealthy; much Chinese culture, including ancestor worship, turned toward tradition and the past, but China also produced unusual amounts of technological innovation. And, of course, the Chinese embrace of several formal belief systems, notably Confucianism and Daoism, may need attention to benefit students who, in the Western tradition, expect one system to win out. Gender issues loom large too, as China constituted a special version of patriarchal society; the biography of Ban Zhao raises important issues in this regard. If a single topic commands attention, however, it involves how the various aspects of classical China did come to fit together reasonably well; students should see the relationship among basic beliefs, politics, family structure, and the economy; elaboration on the theme of the lack of state-society separation can be a provocative starting point here.
Finally, time permitting since this is the first civilization extensively treated, lecture or discussion might guide students through some basics: what kinds of political problems characteristically mark an agricultural civilization (regionalism and landlords versus central functions); what constitutes a philosophical or religious system; what main social groups may be found in a complex civilization.
Possible Tests and Exercises
The chapter's map can be used to recall the earlier map lesson and also set students to thinking about the relationship between China's geography and the civilization's relative isolation. Some questions, or a discussion, might call attention to the artistic styles illustrated in the chapter and how they relate to other features of Chinese culture discussed in the text.
Several essay possibilities follow from the chapter: students might be asked, for example, on the basis of the chapter or with some additional reading, to chart China's political evolution from Zhou to Qin and Han. A number of excellent source books also introduce and facilitate assignments on topics in Chinese law, culture, and society, including family life, and present a good opportunity to introduce students to the problems of drawing interpretations from documents. Essay topics designed to spur thinking on the basis of the chapter include:

Chapter 3
Classical Civilization: India
Chapter 3 covers the development of Indian civilization from the Indo-European invasions until the fall of the Gupta dynasty. Three themes are stressed: first is the pattern of events as Indian society took shape after the Aryan devastations, embracing, ultimately, several major political episodes including the Mauryan and Gupta dynasties; second is the religious system of Hinduism and related cultural patterns, including art and literature, as a unifying thread in Indian culture; and the third covers the workings of the caste system as an additional unifying thread that also permitted considerable diversity including dynamic trading ventures in Indian life.
Classical Indian civilization is not as easy to grasp as its Chinese counterpart. The chapter does not play up the greater regional diversities (or at least their greater importance), but these cannot be entirely sidestepped. The fact that India does not offer as clear a set of political institutions is obvious, and it surely complicates discussion until students can realize the coherence provided by caste rules and come to some agreement on cultural fundamentals. Even the chief Indian religion was not created by a single, coherent doctrine-giver. None of this is to argue that Indian civilization cannot be understood at a satisfactory level, but it does suggest the need for lectures and discussions that will help students clarify major features and understand that, though these features sometimes seem strange, they did function well. A discussion of the "advantages" of the caste system — giving people fixed place and identity, avoiding much outright slavery, and providing a certain amount of toleration through distancing—can be useful in this regard.
The History Debate section invites discussion of how to define and question "coherences" in a civilization, using classical India as an example but also looking back a chapter to China.
It is also important, once the basics are covered, to emphasize India's varied achievement. While it is better for students to grasp Hinduism than to grasp nothing, it is preferable still for students to realize how Hinduism was compatible with rich and varied military, mercantile, and scientific activity.
Finally, the chapter is deliberately designed to provoke comparisons with China. A lecture or discussion that discusses the comparative approach, with illustrations from these two cases, is an obvious possibility here. Students should certainly be urged to realize that comparison logically involves noting similarities as well as differences. From this point onward, a section of the suggested questions will frequently involve comparative work. (Note: Even if comparative essays are not used at this point, questions might be distributed as study guides or as preliminaries to discussion sessions.)

Chapter 4
Classical Civilization in the Mediterranean: Greece and Rome
The focus here is on Greece, the Hellenistic period, and Rome. While recognizing important diversities among these three phases of classical Mediterranean civilization—not the least their locations — chapter 4 emphasizes some common patterns in politics, culture, economy, and society. These common features, deriving from imitation and shared circumstance, allow comparison with other classical civilizations, and will aid in the understanding of later civilizations in terms of subsequent impact on the West, Russia and the Middle East. In politics and culture, considerable diversity must be addressed not only in contrasting Greece, say, with imperial Rome, but within Greek or Roman societies themselves.
The History Debate involves discussion about the legacies of the classical Mediterranean, and how they relate, if at all to "the West." This is a complex topic on which students often have misleading assumptions.
The chapter's coverage invites lectures that will spell out in somewhat greater detail the special flavor of Greece in contrast to Rome, the importance of the Hellenistic period in the Middle East, or the movement from republic to empire in Rome. Chapter 4 presents an opportunity as well to introduce a comment on the Persian tradition, which the text deliberately downplays in the interest of relative simplicity. The chapter invites comparative discussion too, building on comparisons introduced earlier between China and India; the strengths and weaknesses, similarities and contrasts of the Roman and the Han empires form one possibility, and there are important comparisons to be made also between patterns of religion in the Mediterranean and in India, given the fact that both societies began with the introduction of a roughly common Indo-European religious heritage but then developed to quite different traditions. Explicit comparisons of this sort are vital both to maintaining one of the building blocks of a coherent world history approach and to curbing any tendency to blow Greece and Rome out of proportion owing to their relative familiarity in our own tradition in contrast to the Asian cultures. In this regard, comparison of later disruptions (a central theme in the next chapter) will help preserve perspective on achievements; so will attention to the inferior balance of trade that the Mediterranean maintained vis-à-vis Asia, the result of slightly laggard technology. The History Debate discussion of the complexities in the relationship between Greco-Roman and "Western" civilization invites further comment and debate.
For the classical Mediterranean as well as for comparative purposes, as the classical unit begins to draw to a close, some instructors at this point may find it fruitful to more explicitly spell out social and economic themes. Students generally find it easier to grasp political and cultural features than they do materials on social structure and family life. A lecture that spells out criteria for evaluating the bases of a classical society—land tenure, position of merchants, position of women, patterns of inequality and mobility—can help right the balance. A discussion of Mediterranean slavery, for example, works well as a more specific focus: How did it resemble labor systems in Asia? How did it relate to other economic features such as technology? And, of course, how did it impact on Mediterranean, particularly Roman, politics? The fact that some slavery was relatively common but that Rome's commercial exploitation of slaves was unusual for the period focuses attention on some crucial features of this time and place.
Finally, again by way of partial summary of the classical period, a lecture or discussion focusing on phenomena of cultural diffusion in the classical world can be extremely useful, reminding students of which societies were more and which less open, comparatively, and what kinds of ideas and methods were most readily diffused. Diffusion is also taken up in the next chapter, where the great religions are discussed.

Chapter 5
The Classical Period: Directions, Diversities, and Declines by 500 C. E.
This chapter deals with three themes while focusing on developments between 200-600 C.E. First is the theme of decline: the growing weakness of the Han dynasty and invasions that ushered in several centuries of political chaos in China; the decline and (partial) fall of Rome; the end of the Gupta dynasty and new political fragmentation in India. This theme, obviously, is intended to draw the classical period to a close around a series of events that moved in similar directions at roughly the same point in time. The second theme involves the development and spread of major religions. Hinduism and Daoism have been taken up already, but their increasing popularization fits into this period; the spread of Buddhism, particularly to China, and of Christianity in the Mediterranean world are newer developments. Finally, as the third theme, students are reminded of patterns in other parts of the world, where in some cases civilization was beginning to have some impact or where changes in agriculture portended further developments in the near future.
All three of these themes invite expansion in lecture and discussion. On the third theme, in addition to providing additional detail about Africa, northern Europe, or the Americas, an interesting summary discussion can focus on how a Byzantine or Chinese might have measured backwardness around the year 600, and which parts of the world would have been found promising or unpromising in these terms. Knowledge of the real backwardness of northern Europe is useful not only for Western humility, but also in terms of later raising questions about the firmness of some of our judgments of backwardness today. On more specific grounds, exploring what is known about Kush, Axum, and their heritage, and about the Olmecs and early Mayans, will fill important conceptual and factual gaps.
Comparison of religious values and structures is fruitful in lecture or discussion. Many students, if not hazy about religion as a topic for analysis altogether, bring assumptions to this area that are worth exploring in comparative context. How can a religion spread without a church? Why are some major religions more tolerant than others? In dealing with religion in this period, it is important also to note some common, if very general, features. For instance, animism was beginning to decline (though not disappear) in several otherwise different civilizations, and it is useful to compare monotheistic and animist religion in terms of intellectual and artistic potential, unifying potential and utility in daily life. Additionally, gaps in belief between elites and ordinary people, so important in the classical civilizations, may have begun to narrow somewhat, and this merits some comment as a general process. Finally, of course, the rough coincidence in time of the new religious extensions deserves attention. Some religions spread directly across civilization boundaries, as China exemplifies, but the expansion of powerful religions, aside from outright cultural diffusion, is a fascinating instance of parallel process in world history, and students can be led to explore causation—including the relationship to political confusion and decline that may have heightened interest in a powerful God and an afterlife.
The decline "and" fall theme invites several approaches in lecture or discussion. The chapter, by deliberately dealing with several civilizations in almost the same breath, encourages students to use what they know about the three cases examined thus far in comparative context. What aspects of decline seem similar among China, India, and the Mediterranean? What aspects are different? Why does Roman decline ultimately have more sweeping effects than decline in Han China? Here is a chance to blend some new knowledge about developments between 200 and 600 with features of the civilizations studied earlier. Relatedly, single cases can be taken up along the lines of causation delineated in the chapter: external forces as cause vs. internal forces, as well as internal forces divided between measurable changes in structure, like population decline or deteriorations in economic organization and moral factors like greed and irresponsibility in elites. In the category of external forces, it is useful to explain what advantages small central Asian armies could have.
Finally, the decline-and-fall topic lends itself to a lecture that addresses seeking laws in world history. The frequency of comparison between late imperial Rome and the twentieth-century West may be trotted out for discussion. Students can be fascinated with ideas of historical inevitability, and here is a good chance to test such ideas in not one but three cases, to see if a "laws" approach really works empirically.

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