History 820-99: Seminar: Trends in World History

Hist 820-99: Seminar in World History
Trends In World History

Prof. Jonathan Dresner
e-mail: jdresner@pittstate.edu
Online Course
Spring 2015
Phone: 620-235-4315
Office: RH 406F
Office Hours: MWF 12-2, and by appointment

This is not a survey of World History, that ubiquitous introductory course, but an introduction to  the way in which scholars have broadened the study of history by crossing national and regional boundaries. The focus of the course is on the fields of global and transnational history as a whole, so we’ll be looking at examples of regional, topical and global histories which go beyond traditional methods and boundaries. There’s a great deal of creative and productive history being done at this level, and we’ll be looking at some good work as well as discussing the problem of translating complex global histories into narratives that undergraduates and secondary students can understand.


History is about real people, diverse cultures, interesting theories, strongly held belief systems, complex situations, conflicts and often-dramatic actions. This information may be disturbing. Such is the nature of historical study.


Feel free to get the books for purchase from any source; the campus bookstore should have copies as well.

Core Readings

  • Sidney Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History, Penguin (Non-Classics) (1986), 978-0140092332 (17)
  • W. Caleb McDaniel, The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery: Garrisonian Abolitionists and Transatlantic Reform, Louisiana State University Press (May 6, 2013) ISBN-13: 978-0807150184 (44)
  • Jürgen Osterhammel, translated from the German by Patrick Camiller, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century. Princeton University Press, 2014 ISBN 978-0691147451 (SEE Cooper’s review: http://www.publicbooks.org/nonfiction/a-world-of-connections-and-inequality) (40)
  • Prasenjit Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern, Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. ISBN-13: 978-0742530911 (38)
  • Patrick Manning, Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past, Palgrave Macmillan (May 16, 2003) ISBN-13: 978-1403961198 (45)

Course Goals

Students will gain a strong background in the practice of history as done by professional historians and the issues of World history. Students will apply their learning to the selection and execution of an in-depth historiographical essay.


Students are expected to behave respectfully towards their peers and instructor. Online comments must be constructive and reasonable. Disruptive behavior will result in participation penalties. This does not mean that there can’t be lively discussions and disagreements, but personal attacks, vulgar language, threats, and failure to give others a chance to speak and be heard are not acceptable.

Academic Honesty

Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course, and will be punished if discovered. As a graduate student, you should know what plagiarism is and how to properly document your sources in your work. If you have any questions, ask someone who knows what they’re doing.

Other forms of academic dishonesty — recycling work without permission, using someone else’s work, etc. — will also be punished if discovered. Punishments may include zero credit for an assignment, failure for the course, or reporting to university authorities for XF, suspension or expulsion. For more details, see the student handbook and university catalog on students rights and responsibilities.


Advising is a very important resource designed to help students complete the requirements of the University and the History program. Students should consult with their advisor at least once a semester to decide on courses, check progress towards graduation, and discuss career options and other educational opportunities. Advising is a shared responsibility, but students have final responsibility for meeting degree requirements.

Student Accommodation

Any student with a documented disability or temporary problem who would like to request accommodations should contact the instructor as early in the semester as possible. For more information, contact the Center for Student Accommodations (235-4309, csa@pittstate.edu).

“Dead Week”

I am aware of the University policy regarding the final week of classes before final exams. As per that policy, I have scheduled, as noted in this syllabus, an essay draft due in that week. Students should plan accordingly.

Syllabus Supplement

For official PSU policies and information about campus resources, notifications, attendance, financial aid, expectations, grades, etc., see: http://www.pittstate.edu/office/registrar/syllabus-supplement.dot (Spring 2015)


In the event of a disparity between the original syllabus and online schedule, the online schedule will be correct. In the event of weather-related cancellations or other interruptions, you should continue to follow the syllabus schedule of readings and homework until and unless I notify you of changes. I reserve the right to change readings, test dates, due dates, grade weights and assignments as necessary throughout the semester.


Reading and Assignment Deadlines

All assignments are due — posted or drop-boxed — by midnight of the date indicated (i.e., the end of the day) unless otherwise scheduled earlier. Since you have to complete the readings to do the assignments, you will want to make sure that you start doing them well before the deadlines. Students are responsible for ensuring that the uploads have succeeded, files are functional, etc. If you have technical problems, contact the Gorilla Geeks help desk.

Late work will be penalized, but late work is always worth more than no work.

Professionalism: Preparation, Attendance and Preparation

This is not just an online classroom: it is a work space, and you are adults. You are expected to be present and prepared, not only physically but intellectually, and to carry out your assignments in a timely and careful fashion. You are responsible for keeping track of assignments, due dates, and announcements made through the course website.

The earliest motto of Pittsburg State University was “By Doing, Learn.” The essence of scholarship is constructive engagement; the best learning comes from doing. It is very important that everyone keep up with the readings, and are prepared to think and talk and question and listen. The class should be a collaborative conversation, with a wide range of contributions; this requires respect and civility towards your classmates as well as your instructor. Specifically, students are responsible for responding in a timely fashion to each other’s postings with comments, arguments and constructive criticism. Asking good questions is an important form of participation. Asking questions which can be easily answered by referencing the syllabus, course website or textbooks is not.

Absences may be excused for unusual school-related events (not athletic practices), illness or family-related problems, but only if I am informed in advance (email is fine) or you have documentation (such as a doctor’s note). Unexcused absences and late assignments will affect your professionalism grade. Failure to complete assignments, or consistently sloppy or incorrect work, will also affect your professionalism grade.

There will sometimes be homework assignments which do not fall into the above categories which will be considered part of the professionalism grade. The first is that all students are expected to find the student information form on the course website, complete it, and email it to the instructor before the next class.

Reading Assignments

For each book on the reading list, we will work through it in sections, with discussion boards, and then each student will write a review. (The exception is Osterhammel, for which a review is not required.) The discussion boards will be based on questions that I suggest, but these works are substantial and complex, so if there are other issues that you notice and wish to bring up, the boards are available for that as well. There aren’t lectures in a course like this, but I will write introductions for each discussion board addressing some of what I consider interesting or important about the work, and you are more than welcome to respond to that as well.

Replies to at least two of your colleagues should be posted within 48 hours of the assignment deadline (but not before, so that everyone has a chance to post their initial thoughts). Comments must be substantive and civil. Questions are also permitted as comments, if there’s something unclear, or worth expanding on.

Book reviews will be 1500-3000 words, and will focus on a critical reading of the overall argument, evidence presented, and usefulness of the work in its proper historiographical context. Your review grade will be based on the clarity, completeness and effectiveness of your writing. For more details, see the Book Review Assignment handout.

Historiographical Essay: See Last Page.

Grading: Writing grades are based primarily on the strength of your argument as an answer to the question: thesis, evidence (completeness and handling), logic. Be careful to address a question thoroughly: for example, it’s not enough to say what the positive argument for your thesis is without addressing relevant arguments or evidence to the contrary. Clarity is crucial; structure is essential to a clear and effective argument. I am expecting real essays, with introductions, thesis, paragraphs, conclusions, etc.

Course Final Grade Distribution:

Professionalism  30%
Book Reviews (4)  30%
Bibliography Assignment  5%
Historiography Essay Preparation Assignments  15%
Historiography Essay  20%

Schedule of Readings and Assignments

Administrative Deadlines and Instructional Holidays are in Italics

Assignments and Tests are in Bold

Assignments are due by midnight at the end of the day indicated.

Comments and responses are due within 48 hours of assignment deadlines.

Date Topic/Event
1/12 Classwork begins
1/13 (Tu) Introduction to World History: Experience and UtilityStudent information form to instructor
1/16 (F) Manning, Navigating World History, to 105: Historiography as progressive narrative.
1/19 Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
1/20 Last day for full fee refundLast day to add new classes without permissionLast day for late online enrollment
1/20 (Tu) Manning, Navigating World History, 107-180: Historiography as disciplinary organization
1/23 (F) Manning, Navigating World History, 181-296: State of the Field
1/26 Final day for dropping course without grade report
1/27 (Tu) Manning, Navigating World History, 297-end: Issues going forward: method, logic, curriculum.
1/30 (F) Manning, Review
2/3 (Tu) Osterhammel, “Bibliography,” 1021-1118.
Bibliography Project 1: Update Manning.
2/6 (F) Mintz, Sweetness and Power, to 73: Production/Technology
2/10 (Tu) Mintz, Sweetness and Power, 74-150: Consumption/Culture
2/13 (F) Mintz, Sweetness and Power, 151-end: Power and Experience
2/17 (Tu) Mintz, Review
2/20 (F) McDaniel, Democracy in the Age of Slavery, to 85: Development of connections and networks
2/24 (Tu) Research Topic Selection due (1 page)
2/27 (F) McDaniel, Democracy in the Age of Slavery, 89-180: Core ideas
3/3 (Tu) McDaniel, Democracy in the Age of Slavery, 183-end: Ideas in Crises
3/6 (F) Scholarly bibliography (monographs, journals) due
3/9 D/F Grades Due Noon
3/10 (Tu) McDaniel, Review
3/13 (F) Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity, to 86: Historiography of nation, empire, Manchukuo
3/16-20 Spring Break
3/24 (Tu) Annotated and expanded bibliography
3/27 (F) Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity, 87-169: Conceptual Civilization, especially in Asia, women
3/30 Summer/Fall Early Enrollment Begins
4/1 (Tu) Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity, 171-255: Authenticity, Nation, Frontier and local.
4/3 (F) Thesis and Outline
4/6 Final day for dropping course unless withdraw from school
4/7 (Tu) Duara Review
4/10 (F) Osterhammel, Transformation of the World, to 113 and 902-919: Periodization and historiography. See also Cooper’s review: http://www.publicbooks.org/nonfiction/a-world-of-connections-and-inequality
4/13 Final day for first draft of theses.
4/14 (Tu) Osterhammel, Transformation of the World. Pick One:pp. 117-240: Social Realities: Migration and Living Standards
pp. 241-391: Dynamic Spaces: Cities and Frontiers
4/17 (F) Partial Draft  (10+ pages)
4/21 (Tu) Osterhammel, Transformation of the World. Pick One:pp. 392-513: Empires, Nation-States, Internationalism
pp. 514-633: Revolutions! State Evolutions!
4/23 Last day to withdraw from university
4/24 (F) Osterhammel, Transformation of the World. Pick One:pp. 637-743: Economics, Energy, Technology, Labor, Communicationspp. 744-901: Social/Cultural, Hierarchy, Knowledge, “Civilization”, Religion
4/28 (Tu) Complete Draft (15+ pages)
5/1 (F) no assignments due.
5/7 (Th) Final Essay (15+ pages) due.

Historiographical Essay

Historiography is the study of history itself: the themes, growth, errors, changes and methods of historians. For this essay you will either examine the work of a particular historian who has made a significant contribution to the field, or you will examine a topic or school of thought within world history. You will need to come to a conclusion about the state of scholarship on the topic, as well as your own ideas for fruitful directions or new questions.

For the first assignments (Topic, Scholarly Bibliography, Online/Primary sources, Annotated Bibliography, Thesis/Outline) you will post your assignment in the appropriate discussion forum and you will comment on at least two other students’ assignments. For the drafts, posting is voluntary, but encouraged.

The drafts (partial, complete, final) will be turned in through the Canvas Dropbox. The final draft will also be posted in a discussion forum.

Topic Selection due (1 page)                                                                                     2/24 (Tu)

A short description of the subject and basic issues you’ll be researching.

Scholarly bibliography (monographs, journals) due                                                 3/6 (F)

Library work! You must find at least three monograph and five journal article citations. The library catalog and digital databases are good, but don’t forget to go into the library and look around.

Annotated and expanded bibliography                                                                     3/24 (Tu)

Based on your instructor’s feedback and your own searches, evaluate your resources for utility and expand on them if possible. “Annotation” means short commentaries making it clear to your readers the relevance and value of the sources for your paper.

Thesis and Outline                                                                                                     4/3 (F)

First, a clear statement — a paragraph, at most — of the issue, the state of scholarship, and your perspective. Then, an outline (bullet points, classic outline, whatever format is clear and useful to you) explaining how you will present the material, and bring your reader to that conclusion as well.

Partial Draft  (10+ pages)                                                                                          4/17 (F)

This is an incomplete draft, but it should be a substantial portion of the essay. It does not have to be the first ten pages. Include your outline (revised, no doubt) so that I can see where it all fits together and what remains to be done.

Complete Draft (15+ pages)                                                                                      4/28 (Tu)

Ideally, this will be a complete, but unpolished, draft.

Final Essay (15+ pages) due.                                                                                    5/7 (Th)

This is the finished product: thesis, argument, conclusion, citations (bibliography, too, though that doesn’t count for pages).

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