World History from 1500 (Spring 2016)

Prof. Jonathan Dresner
Phone: 235-4315
Office: Russ Hall406F
Office Hours: MWF 12-1, 2-3
and by appointment
Pittsburg State University
MWF, Russ Hall 405
Section 05: 11-11:50am
Section 06: 1-1:50pm


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 and fifteen 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 in different ways and include an introduction to the challenges and pleasures of Doing History.


Peter von Sivers, Charles A. Desnoyers, George B. Stow, Patterns of World History, 2nd edition, volume 2: Since 1400. Oxford University Press, 2015) 978-0-19-939963-5

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.


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. 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.


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 recommended.  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 disruptively will be asked to leave and will not get credit for attendance.

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 on most questions.

I will be using Canvas for announcements and assignments, and anything assigned for class will be linked from Canvas (on the “World History Resources” page). While I do use the Gradebook in Canvas to help you keep track of assignments and communicate feedback, it is not used to calculate your course grade. If Canvas is temporarily unavailable, the backup for course materials will be, and feel free to browse it for other useful material. If Canvas becomes unavailable for an extended period of time, we’ll figure something out.

Lectures and Discussions

The classroom and readings supplement each other; they are not duplicate material: you are responsible for learning from both. You certainly will be tested on both.

  • 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.
  • 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 sometimes correct or disagree with the textbook or with other historians. Historians do that.
  • Many classes won’t be lectures: they will be discussions with the class, which is to say, with you.

Powerpoint slides and other resources will be made available through Canvas. Slides will be posted after I have used them in class; other resources may be available prior to class, as support for the readings. Powerpoint slides are mostly outlines and visual or textual sources intended to help me: they do not replace attendance, notetaking, and paying attention.

I expect the lectures and classroom discussions to be reflected in your test and essay answers; if you’re not paying attention, participating and taking notes, you will almost certainly not do as well, gradewise.

The earliest motto of Pittsburg State University was “By Doing Learn.” The essence of education is active and constructive engagement: It is important to keep up with the readings, and come to class prepared to think and talk and question and listen. Questions, discussions, and arguments are what advance our understanding in any field; history is no exception. If you have questions about the textbook, about the history not represented in the textbook, about my presentations, about the primary sources and other homeworks, or about history being discussed outside of class, I will do my best to address those questions.



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 Assignments

“Primary sources” is what historians call documents from the time period being studied; these are the raw materials that historians use to answer questions and build our understanding of the worlds of the past. There are five primary source reading homeworks. For each one, students will do a short summary (200-500 words) and reaction (200+ words), which will be a starting place for our class discussions. These homeworks will be due in Canvas by midnight before the day that the source is to be discussed. There will also be a short essay comparing/contrasting the three Enlightenment/Revolution documents. For more details, see the Document Assignment handout.

Miscellaneous: There will be assignments which do not fall into the above categories which will be considered part of the Homework grade. The first assignment is to find the student information form on the course website, complete it, and submit it through Canvas before the third class meeting.

Grading Standard: Grades for homework are based primarily on timely completion. A small portion of the grade will be based on the quality and depth of the answers, depending on the assignment. Homework sources may appear on tests.

Eating History

For the Eating History book, students will write a short summary of their six favorite chapters, due midnight before the class discussion. There will be an essay assignment as well, 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 three tests based on lists of terms — names, events, concepts, sources — which will be distributed as a study guide. The answers will be based on the textbook and the lectures. Most of the test will be short essay identifications: A complete answer 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, an essay assignment which is due in that week, and if there are delays over the course of the semester, the third test will probably be pushed back into this period. 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. Attendance during that week is required and absences will be penalized, as normal. 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, submitted through Canvas. 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 lower your 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.

Office Visit: Students are also required to visit my office during office hours at least once during the semester, with a question about a reading, assignment, or historical issue. (Just checking on your grade doesn’t count.) If my listed office hours are not convenient, you will need to make an appointment. 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.

Extra Credit

I will list on Canvas cultural and historical events for which extra credit may be earned, but it’s safe to assume that any musical, theatrical, cultural, or public academic event at PSU qualifies. Visits to museums, art galleries, historical sites and other cultural institutions also qualify. 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. Extra Credits are added to your Professionalism grade.

To get extra credit, attend or participate in the event listed, and write a short (under two pages, single-spaced) summary of the event and describe your reaction and what you learned from it. This should be emailed to me. In addition, extra credit may be earned by noting historical errors in my lectures, with proper documentation.

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. 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

  • Reminder: I do post grades on Canvas, but the Canvas gradebook will not include all elements 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 recorded on a standard percentage scale. (For some assignments, I use the 4-point scale to calculate the grade, but it will be recorded as a percentage grade.) This doesn’t mean that each assignment is worth 100 points: grades are weighted as indicated below for their effect on the final course grade.
  • 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.

Late Work and Absence Policies

  • 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.
  • Tests may be made up, but the make-up test must take place at the soonest possible opportunity, preferably during scheduled office hours.
  • Final Exam Essays will be considered late and penalized if handed in after the submission deadline, and will not be accepted at all 24 hours after the submission deadline, except in extremely rare emergency circumstances.
  • 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:

Professionalism: Attendance, Participation, Preparation 20%
Tests (3) 30%
Document Analysis Assignment 5%
Eating History Essay 10%
Homeworks (15) 15%
Final Exam Essays (2) 20%

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:

  1. Demonstrate an appreciation for the range and diversity of humankind’s wisdom, values, ideas, beliefs, and reasoning.
  2. 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 2016 Syllabus Supplement, available through the Registrar’s office:

“The act of inventing a lie presupposes an effort which is distasteful to the mental inertia common to the majority of men. ” — Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft, p. 99.
“A good catchword can obscure analysis for 50 years.” — Wendell Willkie
“An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn’t happen today.” — Laurence J. Peter
“Nobody talks more of free enterprise and competition and the best man winning than the man who inherited his father’s store or farm.” — C. Wright Mills

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


Date Readings/Assignments Topics (Tentative)
1/11 (M) First Day of Class
Syllabus, Love of History
1/13 (W) Doing History: The Two Things
1/15 (F) Email Student Information Sheet to Instructor The World in 1500
1/18 (M) Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday No Class
1/19 Last day for full fee refund
Last day to add new classes without permission
Last day for late online enrollment
1/20 (W) Chapter 16. The Western European Overseas Expansion and Ottoman-Habsburg Struggle, 1450-1650 Columbian Exchange
1/22 (F) Early Modernity and State Formation
1/25 (M) Document Assignment 1: de Busbecq’s Turkish Letters Document Discussion
1/26 Final day for dropping course without grade report
1/27 (W) Chapter 17. The Renaissance, New Sciences, and Religious Wars in Europe, 1450-1700 Machiavelli and Scientific Revolution
1/29 (F) Reformations
2/1 (M) Chapter 18. New Patterns in New Worlds: Colonialism and Indigenous Responses in the Americas, 1500-1800 World-System Theory and Colonialism
2/3 (W) Chapter 19. African Kingdoms, the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the Origins of Black America, 1450-1800 World-System Theory and Atlantic Worlds
2/5 (F) Chapter 20. The Mughal Empire: Muslim Rulers and Hindu Subjects, 1400-1750 Religion and History, and Historiography
2/8 (M) Chapter 21. Regulating the ‘Inner’ and ‘Outer’ Domains: China and Japan, 1500-1800 Ming-Qing Transition
2/10 (W) Hideyoshi-Tokugawa Revolution
2/12 (F) Test Review 1
2/15 (M) Test 1 President’s Day/ No Holiday
2/17 (W) Chapter 22. Patterns of Nation-States and Culture in the Atlantic World, 1750-1851 Enlightenments
2/19 (F) Revolutions
2/22 (M) Document Assignments: English Bill of Rights, US Declaration of Independence, French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen Document Discussion
2/24 (W) Document Analysis Essay Tracking Change
2/26 (F) Chapter 23. Creoles and Caudillos: Latin America in the 19th Century, 1790-1917 Revolutions and post-colonial states.
2/29 (M) Chapter 24. The Challenge of Modernity: East Asia, 1750-1910 China’s Tragic 19th Century
3/2 (W) Japan and Korea: New Imperialism
3/4 (F) Chapter 25. Adaptation and Resistance: The Ottoman and Russian Empires, 1683-1908 Challenge-Response Models
3/7 (M) Chapter 26. Industrialization and its Discontents, 1750-1914
D/F Grades Due Noon
Industrialization Changes Everything
3/9 (W) 19c Intellectual Politics
3/11 (F) Chapter 27. The New Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century, 1750-1914 Africa and India
Settler Colonialism v. Imperial Control
3/16-20 Spring Break  
3/21 (M) Test Review 2
3/23 (W) Test 2
3/25 (F) Chapter 28. World Wars and Competing Visions of Modernity, 1900-1945 WWI: Total War Changes Everything
3/28 (M) Summer/Fall Early Enrollment Begins The Anxious 20s
3/30 (W) Global Depression
4/1 (F) Naziism and Holocaust
4/4 (M) WWII: Total War Changes Everything
4/6 (W) Chapter 29. Reconstruction, Cold War, and Decolonization, 1945-1962 Cold War Historiography
4/8 (F) Document: “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” Document Discussion
4/11 (M) Chapter 30. The End of the Cold War, Western Social Transformation, and the Developing World, 1963-1991 The 1980s Coalition
4/13 (W) Chapter 31. A Fragile Capitalist-Democratic World Order, 1991-2014 “The End of History”
4/15 (F) Catch-up/Review  
4/18 (M) Eating History, all.
Eating History summaries due.
Food History
4/20 (W) Test Review 3
4/21 Last day to withdraw from university
4/22 (F) Test 3
4/25 (M) Good Writing in History
4/27 (W) Eating History Essay due.
4/29 (F) Final Exam Review
5/4 Final Exam Essays Due