Notes - World civilization 1

World Civilization 1 (CH 300 – 30)
August 27, 2013
Week 1 – Introduction to Class
Types of History
- Colonial
o Based on earliest attempts to define Us from Them
 We are civilized, have a rich history, and are destined for greatness
 They are savages or barbarians who are destined for servitude
o We have a selected history in which particular past peoples and events are chosen for a
lineage while others are ignored
 Western Europe imagined lineage from Greeks – Romans – Renaissance –
Reformation – Enlightenment
o The past is made-up of people “like us” (our lineage), and Others who are exotic and
fundamentally different
- Evolutionary
o Based on an attempt to meld together the wide array of humanity while also coming to
terms with the apparent progress of civilization
 All humans share a common point of origin as well as a shared goal of
 Different groups, past and present, have progressed to different levels
o Past peoples become more foreign the further they are away on the shared line of
o Histories are written to highlight how humanity has moved from simple to complex,
savage to civilized, and brutish to balanced
- Scientific
o Attempts to “flatten” out history by removing all narratives and judgments
 Past events are seen to influence later events, but there are no larger stories or
o The past is thought to be able to speak for itself
 Facts are available within historic documents and simply need to be decoded
o Past peoples are exactly like us, except they often have different technologies and
Another way toward history
- Social history
o History is fundamentally a political project taking place in the present
 It is impossible to construct a value-free history without simply producing a
 The goal of history is not to simply recount past events, but to see how these
events, and the histories made upon them, have acted to form the current
o How do we construct a social history?
 First step is to have a healthy skepticism about the written record
 The written record is very selective and written by people who often
have a strong agenda
 The scale of research needs to focus on the lives of the everyday person
While people in leadership roles are important, they gain their power
through the lives of the everyday person – often major social change
takes place through the actions of the average person
 While past events obviously happened, we cannot discover them – rather we
must invent them from fragmentary sources
 Often imagination is the most important tool for a historian
 Past peoples often have dramatically different ways of thinking about the world
that need to be addressed, but not made exotic
 Grand narratives of progress are not helpful for creating histories as they make
multiple goals impossible to discover or appreciate
 While grand narratives of progress need to be rejected, there are reoccurring
trends and processes that can be found through comparative research
 These reoccurring trends and processes are important because they are
often still at work today and continue to affect our lives today
 The final step is to connect past events, processes and trends to following
situations, including into the modern world
Structure of the class
o The class is designed to facilitate both a general understanding of pivotal past events as
well as to develop a critical engagement with history
o There are no tests; instead class discussion, presentations, and a research paper will be
used to demonstrate knowledge
o Discussion
 It is important to keep up with the readings and to demonstrate your
 This can be done through engagement in in-class discussions or through on-line
posts – or BOTH!
 Discussions, both on-line and in-class, are best when comments are made
among the class.
o Website Development
 Alongside our shared class space, we also have a shared digital space which will
grow as the semester progresses
 While the online space is currently a point for students to gain information
(syllabus, readings, etc.) it will soon be a place to present your work
 By the third week of class, everyone will sign up for a week in which they will
help develop the website through the addition of their own original research
 Based on the week you sign up for, you will take up the theme of the class and
investigate it further by engaging with a historic document, work of art, or
material object
 Creativity is welcome in this assignment – grading is based on how well you
make the subject matter come alive through a detailed analysis and interesting
presentation. We will continue to discuss this assignment in the coming weeks
o Presentation
 Every student will also sign up for a week in which they will offer a 20-30min
lecture and lead class discussion
 This presentation will focus on the readings for the week
 All students will sign up for a week by the third week of class
 Based on the number of students in the class, this will likely be a group project
You cannot sign up for both a presentation and website development for the
same week
o Research Paper
 An 8 page paper (double-spaced) is due on the last day of class
 Alternatively, students can offer a significant addition to the website instead of
a paper
 We will discuss this paper in more detail later in the semester, but the paper
topic is very open as long as it is based on an important past person, event,
movement, etc. that occurred between 1200 and 1800 AD.
 Students will provide an outline of the potential paper topic and a short
bibliography by Week 9 of the class
Preview of next class