AP World History Study Guide and Graphic Organizers – Unit 1: Foundations, ~8000 BCE – 600 CE
Encounters and interactions between societies
1. Themes in AP World History
Changes and continuities across time periods
Cultural and intellectual developments
Gender and social structures
Overarching Themes in AP World History
Changes in the environment
Why you should know this: Knowledge of these themes assists you especially when developing a thesis for an essay. Moreover, because these themes are overarching, they will most likely be the basis of the essay questions. You should always keep these themes in mind when analyzing civilizations and societies, both when you are comparing two different societies and when you are tracing change over time within a society or region. Note the interaction/relationship between many themes.
Example: Analyze the impact of the Enlightenment
The Enlightenment is an example of a intellectual development that contributed to interactions
between societies (as philosophes contacted each other across countries and continents) and had a profound impact
on gender and social structures as well as political organization.
2. Regions of the World
To make comparisons and analysis of world events easier, the world is divided into geographical regions.
Modern countries in the region
Historical examples of countries in the region
China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea
Chinese dynasties, Japanese shogunates
Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Brunei
French Indochina, British colonies, Siam, Angkor Kingdom, Dutch East Indies
India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka
United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium
Roman Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Gaul, Aragon, Castile, Papal States, Prussia, Anschluss, European Union
Canada, United States, Mexico
Mexico, Panama, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Venezuela
Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Inca, Native tribal lands, European colonies
Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea
Why you should know this: Often, essay and multiple choice questions refer to regions of the world in the prompt. It is important to be familiar with where these regions are located, examples of countries located in the region (modern as well as historically), and to have knowledge of cultural, geographical (physical features), and political characteristics of these regions.
Example: Compare external migrations in TWO of the following world regions (North America, Southwest Asia, Western Europe) from 1914 to the present.
To answer this questions, you would need working knowledge not only of migration
patterns in the 20th/21st centuries, but also of the world regions addressed in the question.
Once you have identified what countries exist in that region in the time period requested by
the question, you can begin to identify examples of migration patterns to use in this
3. Geography of the world
You need a basic understanding of world geography to be successful in AP World History. Most importantly, you need knowledge of the historical significance of major physical features, especially the world’s oceans.
The Arctic Ocean:
where: extreme northern hemisphere
significance: topped with ice for most of the year, location of mythic “Northwest Passage” (passage does exist, but covered by ice most of the year)
significance: 3rd largest, extensive trade throughout history, earliest traders used monsoon winds to navigate, scene of intense rivalries (especially during European colonial times)
where: between North/South America and Europe/Africa
significance: 2nd largest, center-stage of Columbian Exchange, traversed by billions of immigrants
where: between North/South America and Asia/Oceania
significance: largest, many islands, Bering Sea/Straight (land bridge bringing people into the Americas), scene of intense modern warfare
Why you should know this: Both multiple choice and essay questions may require you to have an understanding of the historical significance of the world’s oceans.
Interactions between Muslims and Europeans during the seventeenth century were most commonly found in
the Atlantic Ocean
the Arctic Ocean
the South China Sea
the Indian Ocean
the Pacific Ocean
This question is specifically calling on your knowledge of the historical significance of
the world’s oceans and major seas. In the 17th century (1600’s), the most frequented oceans
were the Atlantic and Indian. Contact between Muslims and Europeans would only be
possible in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, remembering that the Indian Ocean was the busiest
ocean in terms of commerce (exotic spices and goods from Asia and India, luxury
commodities from the Middle East) at that time would help you immediately identify the
4. Definition of a civilization
Why you should know this: You may encounter questions that ask you to classify a group of people as a civilization or a society based on characteristics. If you know the traditionally accepted definition of a civilization, then a question such as this would be easy question.
1. All of the following are common characteristics of a civilization EXCEPT:
a. an established, complex institution such as a government
b. elaborate irrigation techniques
c. multiple large cities
d. agricultural practices
e. specialized workers
The only characteristic listed above that is not included in the accepted definition of
a civilization is (d) agricultural practices. Knowing the definition of a civilization helps you
eliminate incorrect choices.
5. Independent invention vs. diffusion
A major debate in the study of world history is the significance of independent invention and diffusion of ideas. Specifically, a debate surrounds attaching importance to the opposing ideas: Which is more important? Which has led to more progress for any given civilization?
Independent invention: an idea or technology was invented/created independent of outside influence
Why you should know this: You may be asked to identify the difference between these two ideas, or evaluate the significance in an essay. Always be aware that these ideas are associated with a great historical debate.
An example of diffusion rather than independent invention is
the Sumerian use of the wheel
the Mayan concept of zero as a place holder
the origin of the Greek alphabet
the cultivation of the banana in Southeast Asia
the origin of monotheism
The only example of something that originated outside the culture that used it is the
Greek alphabet, which was adapted from the older Phoenician alphabet.
6. The Agricultural Revolution
The first major world event studied in AP World History is the Agricultural Revolution, lasting from about 8000 BCE to about 3000 BCE.
what: implementation of farming techniques, usually followed by the domestication of animals
where: independent invention/development in this order: Mesopotamia, Egypt, Indus River Valley, Yangtze and Huang He River Valleys, Southeast Asia, Central America, South America (Andes)
^ uncertainty about diffusion vs. independent invention for some areas,
notably Egypt, Indus River, Southeast Asia, and South America
significance: humans transitioned from foragers to farmers; marked the beginning of the Neolithic Age, impact on gender roles; slash-and-burn techniques led to large migrations of farmers, which led to the spread of the use of agriculture; allowed civilizations to develop (permanent settlements, specialized workers, advanced technology, record keeping, government/institutions)
Why you should know this: The knowledge of the impact of the development and diffusion of agricultural practices is important for multiple choice questions because this theme dominates the beginnings of civilization (River Valley Civilizations)
Early agriculture in the Americas
developed as a result of cultural diffusion from the Eastern Hemisphere
did not produce the wide variety of crops that the Eastern Hemisphere did
saw the rise of the urbanization earlier than did the Eastern Hemisphere
saw the rise o urbanization earlier than did the Eastern Hemisphere
Knowledge of a general, relational time-line of the development of agriculture, as well
as the specific characteristics of the development of agriculture would allow you to
eliminate all but (d) which implies development in the Americas before the Eastern
7. Characteristics of Early Agricultural Civilizations
It is imperative that you know and understand the common characteristics of early agricultural civilizations. Note that the characteristics mentioned below expand on the definition of a civilization.
As people began to farm, they began to settle in one place. Eventually, villages, towns, and cities developed. Important examples of early permanent settlements are Catal Huyuk and Jericho. Early cities became the focus of a civilization because of their political, cultural, and economic importance
As farming produced food surpluses, many people did not have to farm and were able to specialize in other areas, such as ceramics and textile production. As civilizations advanced, people were able to specialize in other professions, such as commerce, civil engineers, religious leaders, and political leaders
Early agricultural/Neolithic civilizations developed the use of various metals (copper, gold, and bronze in that order) for items such as weapons and other luxury goods; other examples of technological innovations, largely due to the specialization of workers, include advanced irrigation apparatus, the wheel, weapons, sundials, etc.
As cities developed in the early civilizations, the inhabitants required large public works projects beyond the scope of private citizens. As a result, governments formed to organize and oversee the fabrication of roads, irrigation projects, public buildings, etc. and to regulate commerce (through the establishment of laws, courts, and a system of punishment. Moreover, governments functioned to protect citizens from invasions and to organize attacks on rival civilizations. Governments also collected taxes from the city dwellers
As people settled on land to farm, there were those who laid claim to more land than others, thus forming the first elite social classes. Early civilizations had an elite social class comprised of large land-owners. Many civilizations, such as Sumer, had a slave class, although in most cases slaves could buy their freedom. Likewise, men could sell women and children into slavery to pay off debts.
As people began to observe more closely their environment in an effort to increase agricultural productivity, knowledge of seasons and nature increased. Attempting to explain natural processes and natural disasters, people developed elaborate stories about the origin of life and rituals to appease gods they perceived as controlling nature. Over time, a group of specialized workers emerged to lead these rituals and devote their lives to the worship of deities.
Why you should know this: You will be asked to identify and compare characteristics of early civilizations.
Early urban dwellers
were dominated by peoples in agricultural settlements
left the pursuit of religious practices to agricultural peoples
saw the need for a government
were exempt from taxation
were offered few opportunities to carry out specialized tasks
Knowing the characteristics would help you eliminate all of the answers except for (c).
8. River Valley Civilizations
You are required to know the characteristics of the River Valley Civilizations, which were the first major civilizations in world history
River Valley Civilization
located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers
Achievements spread to Egypt and Indus Valley
Technology: bronze, copper, irrigation canals
~3500 BCE: Sumerians settle in southern Mesopotamia
cuneiform to write
ziggurats as religious monuments
Epic of Gilgamesh (flood story similar to Genesis)
flooding required construction of irrigation canals, which required the formation of government (city-states)
Social classes: ruling/elite landowning class, slavery
Patriarchal: men dominated government and the family
women wore a veil by the 16th century BCE but did have the opportunity to work outside the home in commerce, religious roles, and in record keeping
Lack of natural barriers led to frequent invasions of the region: Akkadians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Persians
Babylonian King Hammurabi: Code of Hammurabi
Distinction between class and gender in punishments
community cooperation to build large public works projects, especially irrigation projects
need for cooperation led to the development of increasingly centralized governments
knowledge of metallurgy (whether independently invented or acquired through diffusion) led to advanced tools, weapons, and art