Syllabus: World Since 1500 (Spring 2015)

History 102: World History from 1500

Prof. Jonathan Dresner
Phone: 235-4315 ; Office: RH 406F
Office Hours: MWF 12-2

Pittsburg State University
Spring 2015, Face-to-Face
MWF, Russ Hall 405
Section 05: 11-11:50pm


History is the study of humanity and change over time. In this class we’ll have lots of both: the whole world over the last five hundred years (that’s about one year per four minutes of class time), from our pre-industrial heritage to our wireless present, from five hundred million people to over seven billion. We will recreate the present from the past, and see how our current situation is in many ways the legacy of earlier cultures and processes. Who we are and where we are in the world is very much a historical question, as we will discover.

This class will examine this history through many lenses: political, economic, social, cultural, personal. The textbook will provide the basic survey of the history; primary sources will allow students to work with historical materials; secondary scholarship will add new perspectives and information. The lectures and discussions will cover some of the same ground, but from different perspectives, including an introduction to the challenges and pleasures of Doing History.


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


In the event of a disparity between the original syllabus and online schedule, the online schedule will be correct: I reserve the right to change readings, test dates, due dates, grade weights and assignments as necessary throughout the semester.


Students are expected to behave respectfully towards their peers and instructor. Disruptive behavior, including failing to turn off cell phones during class, will result in penalties and possibly removal from the classroom. This does not mean that there can’t be lively discussions and disagreements, but personal attacks, excessive volume, threatening gestures or words, and failure to give others a chance to speak and be heard are not acceptable.

Technology in the classroom

The use of laptop computers, tablet computers, smartphones and other devices is not permitted.  While there are legitimate educational uses for these tools, most research on classroom use shows that they are more distracting than enabling, especially to fellow students. Students using computers or cell phones without permission will be asked to leave and will not get credit for attendance. Special exceptions may be made by the instructor for disability accomodation and official note-takers.

The use of recording equipment, audio, photographic or video, or speech-to-text transcription software in the classroom is not permitted. Arrangements may be made for students with documented disabilities. Students violating this restriction will be asked to leave and may face grade penalties and disciplinary action.

You should check your email and Canvas messages at least daily: if you don’t use a university email account regularly, set it to forward mail to your preferred address. I check email regularly: you should hear back from me within 24 hours.

I will be using Canvas for announcements and assignments, but many course resources will be available through my public site Anything assigned for class will be linked from Canvas, but feel free to explore the other resources available. If Canvas is termporarily unavailable, this will be the backup for course materials. If Canvas becomes unavailable for an extended period of time, we’ll figure something out.

Lectures and Discussions

Some lectures in this class will expand on the history presented in the textbook, adding detail and alternative understandings. Some lectures will introduce and raise questions about historical sources or historians’ arguments. Some lectures will be about historical practice and theory as it applies to specific topics. Some lectures will cover people, places and situations which aren’t in the readings at all. I will, on occasion, correct or disagree with the textbook or with other historians. Historians do that. Some lectures won’t even be lectures: they will be discussions with the class, which is to say, with you. Lectures do not “cover” or repeat or summarize the textbook or other readings; I will assume you have done the readings in advance of the lectures. The lectures and textbook are intended to supplement each other, not duplicate material: you are responsible for learning from both. You certainly will be tested on both.




Peter N. Stearns, Michael B. Adas, Stuart B. Schwartz, Marc Jason Gilbert, World Civilizations: The Global Experience, Volume 2 (6th Edition). 978-0205659593

Andrew F. Smith’s Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine (Columbia University Press, 2009) 978-0231140935

Additional Web-based primary source readings, etc.

Reading assignments – including sidebars and documents in the textbook — must be done before class on the day indicated. I strongly recommend that you read and think about the study questions in the textbook as preparation for class. Any other assigned readings, either books or web-based, should be read in full (unless otherwise indicated in the syllabus) before class on the assigned date. I will distribute a study guide for the textbook which will have lists of important terms, names, events, and concepts which you should be looking for, and which will form the basis of the homework and tests.

Document and Book Assignments

For each of the four primary source readings, students will write a summary and a short political analysis. For the Eating History book, students will write a summary of their five favorite chapters, as well as an overall summary. For more details, see the Document Assignment and Eating History handouts.

Book Essay

There will be an essay assignment based on Eating History, in which you will explore some theme that runs through the book. The grade is based primarily on the strength of your argument as an answer to the question: thesis, historical evidence (completeness and handling), logic, clarity. For details, see the Eating History assignment handout.


There will be four short essay ID tests based on lists of terms — names, events, concepts, sources — which will be distributed as a study guide. The terms will be based on the textbook and the lectures. A complete identification will include a definition of the term, the historical/cultural context in which it appears, and the historical significance or importance of the term. I have scheduled a day before each test for catching up, discussion, practice or questions. Before each test, students will do a review assignment based on the terms, due by midnight before the review date. See the study guide for more detail, including grading standards.

“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, a test and an essay assignment which are due in that week. Additionally, though I will probably distribute the final exam essay assignment earlier, it is possible that it may be presented to students in that last week of class, to be completed by the date scheduled for the final by the registrar. Students should plan accordingly.

Final Exam: Essays

The final exam will cover all readings, resources and lectures of the course. It will be consist of two take-home essay assignments. Questions and detailed instructions will be distributed well before the final exam due date.  The grade is based primarily on the strength of your argument as an answer to the question: thesis, historical evidence (completeness and handling), logic.

Professionalism: Preparation, Attendance and Participation

This is not just a classroom: it is a work space, and you are adults. 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 come to class prepared to think and talk and question and listen. Asking good questions is an important form of participation. Asking questions which can be easily answered by referencing the syllabus, course website or textbook is not.

You are expected to be present and prepared for class time, 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 Canvas and email. Failure to complete assignments, or consistently sloppy or incorrect work, will also lower your professionalism grade.

Unexcused absences will lower your grade. 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). I generally do not drop students for non-attendance: it is your responsibility to be aware of your course load and your grades. However, I reserve the right to drop students with no record of attendance in the first weeks of the semester.

There may be days on which there will be a video or lecture available online rather than an in-class lecture. Students are not required to come to class on those days, but are responsible for the material in the lectures. Recorded lectures may also be used to make up a day lost to weather or instructor absence; these are also required.

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 assignment is that all students are required to find the student information form on the course website, complete it, and email it to the instructor before the third class meeting. Additionally, Students are also required to visit my office hours at least twice during the semester — once before Spring Break, once after — with a question about a reading, assignment, or historical issue. If my listed office hours are not convenient, you will need to make an appointment.

Extra Credit

Extra credit may be earned for cultural and historical events. Almost any university-sponsored, non-sporting event qualifies: music, drama, lectures, poetry readings, art openings, etc.. This includes participating/performing. Similar events off-campus also qualify, including visits to museums, art galleries, or historical sites. Most so-called ‘historical’ movies are terrible history (though there are rare exceptions), but car shows, local festivals, etc, can count. If you know of an event or a cultural institution and would like to have it considered for extra credit, or announced to the class, let me know. To get extra credit, attend or participate in the event, and write a short (under two pages, single-spaced) summary of the event and describe your reaction and what you learned from it; submit extra credit by email or Canvas mail. Extra Credits are added to the professionalism score at the end of the semester, and are worth about a third of an absence.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course.

Plagiarism is the use of the words or ideas of another person without proper acknowledgement. Plagiarism is intellectual theft; in an educational setting it is particularly repugnant. Plagiarism in my courses will be punished. It’s simple: Anytime you copy words into your own work, you must clearly mark them and acknowledge the source of those words. Anytime you use someone else’s ideas in your own words, you must admit it. There are three options: put it in quotation marks and note the source; paraphrase and note the source; or be original. If you have any questions or any concerns about citation format or necessity, ask someone who knows what they’re doing.

Other forms of academic misconduct will not be tolerated either, including the use of unauthorized aid on tests, failing to write one’s own papers, using papers for more than one course without permission. None of this precludes group study and discussion: those are actually really good ideas.

I reserve the right to penalize any and all instances of academic misconduct, up to and including failure for the course and an XF notation on the transcript. For more detail, see the relevant sections of the University Catalog:

Grade Policies
  • NOTE: I do post grades on Canvas, but the Canvas gradebook will not include some portions of the course grade, nor does the overall calculation accurately reflect my weighting of the grades. I will be happy to go over your grades and let you know how you are doing in the course at any time. Come to my office hours, or email me.
  • Grades are generally recorded on a 100-point scale. For some assignments, I use the 4-point scale to calculate the letter grade, but it will be recorded as a 100-point scale value. I reserve the right to adjust grades upwards to reflect the performance of the class as a whole; I do not “curve” grades towards a target distribution, nor do I adjust grades downwards.
  • Assignment format, requirements and due dates will be included in the assignment instructions: read them carefully, and ask questions well in advance of the due date if there is anything you do not understand.
  • For assignments submitted on Canvas, it is the student’s responsibility to confirm that all files are properly uploaded and complete. For assignments which are to be turned in by email, I will send a confirmation email; If you have not gotten one in a reasonable amount of time (a day or so), it is your responsibility to confirm that your assignment was received.
  • In the event of an excused absence on (or immediately before) a due date or test, the student is responsible for turning in the work or arranging a make-up test at the earliest opportunity, generally no later than the next class except by specific permission of the instructor.
  • Unexcused late assignments, due to absence, technical problems, etc., will be penalized up to one grade level (B to C, etc.) per class period late.
  • Even very bad (or very late) work is still going to get an F, which is a lot better than a zero.
  • Plagiarism or other violations of academic honesty will result in zero credit on that assignment and may result in an F or XF for the semester depending on circumstances.

Final Course Grade Distribution

Roughly speaking, 1/3rd of your grade is showing up and doing homework, 1/3rd is tests, and 1/3rd is writing assignments at the end of the semester. Specifically:




Tests (4)


Eating History Essay




Final Exam Essays (2)



Course Application

Within the General Education requirements, this course counts towards the Human Heritage requirement. This course is also an important part of the History and History/Government majors.

Course Goals

This is a general education course, and no course which covers so much time and space could be anything but general. Nonetheless, students should master many specific historical, cultural and sociological facts related to world history since 1500, as well as themes and models of human development. Reading and writing will be very important skills developed in this course, as is respect for the cultures of the world throughout time.

In addition to the historical and cultural content, students will demonstrate increasing mastery of critical reading of primary and secondary sources in writing and discussion. “Critical” does not mean “attacking” but “analytical”: putting material in historical and cultural context, drawing appropriate inferences and deductions from the evidence of the text, and raising relevant questions for further inquiry.

History 102 supports PSU’s three-pronged general education goals in promoting effective communication, critical thinking, and responsible and thoughtful behavior. This course is specifically designed to meet the university’s “Human Heritage” objectives:

I. Demonstrate an appreciation for the range and diversity of humankind’s wisdom, values, ideas, beliefs, and reasoning.

II. Demonstrate an understanding of human behavior, the human condition, and human institutions in the context of historical, literary, or philosophical inquiry.

III. Demonstrate recognition of the inter-relatedness of the past, present, and future.

Students who successfully complete this general education History course will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an adequate ability to identify and characterize objective historical facts pertaining to the topic covered by this course; and
  2. Demonstrate an adequate ability to interpret the “why” and “so what” questions pertaining to the topic covered by this course.


Advising is a very important resource designed to help students complete the requirements of the University and their individual majors. 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 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,

Syllabus Supplement

For official information on important dates and administrative deadlines, severe weather policy, visas, grades, attendance, final exams, student support, etc. please see the University Catalog or the Spring 2014 Syllabus Supplement, available through the Registrar’s office:

“Africa, Asia, and Europe shared equally in the rise of capitalism prior to 1492. After that date Europe took the lead. This happened … because of Europe’s location near America and because of the immense wealth obtained by Europeans in America and later in Asia and Africa – not because Europeans were brighter or bolder or better than non-Europeans, or more modern, more advanced, more progressive, more rational. These are myths of Eurocentric diffusionism and are best forgotten.” — J. M. Blaut, The Colonizer’s Model of the World (1993), p. 206 cited in John F. Richards, “Early Modern India and World History” in Dunn, ed., The New World History, p. 318.

Schedule of Topics, Readings and Assignments
Administrative Deadlines and Instructional Holidays are in Italics
Assignments and Tests are in Bold
Document and Review assignments are due at midnight before the date indicated



Readings, Assignments

1/12 (M) First Day of Class Syllabus
1/14 (W) Doing History: The Two Things  
1/16 (F) World in 1500 email student information form to instructor
1/19 (M) Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday  
1/20 Last day for full fee refund
Last day to add new classes without permission
Last day for late online enrollment
1/21 (W) Early Modern: Definition and Application Chapter 15. Maritime Expansion in the Atlantic World, 1400–1600
1/23 (F) Columbian Exchange  
1/26 (M) Ming: Exploration, Neo-Confucianism, and Decline

Final day for dropping course without grade report

Chapter 16. Maritime Expansion in Afro-Eurasia, 1500–1700
1/28 (W) Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal Chapter 17. Religion, Politics, and the Balance of Power in Western Eurasia, 1500–1750
1/30 (F) Document Assignment #1 Due de Busbecq’s Turkish Letters
2/2 (M) Reformation and the Kennedy Thesis  
2/4 (W) Theories of Empire Chapter 18. Empires, Colonies, and Peoples of the Americas, 1600–1750
2/6 (F) Africa and Historiography: World-System Theory Chapter 19. The Atlantic System: Africa, the Americas, and Europe, 1550–1807
2/9 (M) catch-up/review

Review Assignment Due

2/11 (W) Test #1  
2/13 (F) Tokugawa and Qing Chapter 20. Empires in Early Modern Asia, 1650–1818
2/16 (M) India Becomes British

President’s Day/ No Holiday

2/18 (W) Scientific Revolutions Chapter 21. European Science and the Foundations of Modern Imperialism, 1600–1820
2/20 (F) Enlightenments

2/23 (M) Document Assignment #2 Due
Document Assignment #3 Due
“English Bill of Rights”
“French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen”
2/25 (W) Historiography of Revolution Chapter 22. Revolutions in the West, 1750–1830,
2/27 (F) Robespierre, Napoleon, and Reaction  
3/2 (M) Industrializations Chapter 23. The Industrial Revolution and European Politics, 1765–1880
3/4 (W) 19c Political thought  
3/6 (F) catch-up/review

Review Assignment Due

3/9 (M) Test #2

D/F Grades Due Noon

3/11 (W) Modernity and Nationalism Chapter 24. The Challenge of Modernity in China, Japan, and India, 1800–1910.
3/13 (F) North v. South Chapter 25. State Building and Social Change in the Americas, 1830–1895
3/16-20 Spring Break  
3/23 (M) New Imperialism: Korea Chapter 26. The New Imperialism in Africa and Southeast Asia, 1830–1914
3/25 (W) WWI: Fronts and Technologies Chapter 27. War, Revolution, and Global Uncertainty, 1905–1928
3/27 (F) WWI: Ending and Reforming  
3/30 (M) Age of Anxiety

Early Enrollment Begins

Chapter 28. Responses to Global Crisis, 1920–1939
4/1 (W) Great Depression  
4/3 (F) catch-up/review

Review Assignment Due

4/6 (M) Test #3

Final day for dropping course unless withdraw from school

4/8 (W) Naziism & Holocaust Chapter 29. The Second World War and the Origins of the Cold War, 1939–1949
4/10 (F) WWII: technologies of total war  
4/13 (M) “The Cold War” Chapter 30. The Cold War and Decolonization, 1949–1975
4/15 (W) Document Assignment #4 Due “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”
4/17 (F) 1980s Coalition & Globalization
Culture and Technology
Chapter 31. Toward a New World Order, 1975–2000
4/20 (M) Faiths and Freedoms, Law and Rights Chapter 32. Voyage into the Twenty-First Century
4/22 (W) Food History
Eating History summaries due.
Eating History
4/23 Last day to withdraw from university  
4/24 (F) catch-up/review

Review Assignment Due

4/27 (M) Test #4  
4/29 (W) Catch-up/Review  
5/1 (F) Eating History Essay Due

5/6 (W) Final Exam Essays Due 1 pm  

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