Book list for World Since 1500

(Hist 102 sections 02, 03; Spring 2012)

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 hypertext 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, supplemented by readings that will give greater depth and texture to subjects we will be discussing. 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.

Required Texts:

  • Peter N. Stearns, Michael B. Adas, Stuart B. Schwartz, Marc Jason Gilbert, World Civilizations: The Global Experience, Volume 2 (6th Edition). 978-0205659593
  • Simon Wiesenthal, The Sunflower: On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness, Schocken Books, Rev. and Expanded Ed., 1997. 978-0805210606
  • Andrew F. Smith’s Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine (Columbia University Press, 2009) 978-0231140935

History 101: World History to 1500

History is the study of humanity and change over time. In this class we’ll have lots of both: the whole world over about 4000 years (that’s about 2 years per minute of class time), from our pre-writing roots through some of the great civilizations the world has produced. Though this class ends five hundred years ago, many of the ideas will be familiar: Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism. Some will seem obscure — Zoroastrianism, Legalism, Jain, animism — but nonetheless their legacies endure.

This class will examine this history through many lenses: political, economic, social, cultural, personal. World Civilizations: The Global Experience will provide the basic survey of the history as well as documents and other sources that will give greater depth and texture to subjects we will be discussing. The lectures and discussions will guide the students through the readings and assignments, focusing on multiple perspectives, and an introduction to the challenges and pleasures of Doing History.

The textbook for Hist 101, sections 02 and 03 (MWF 12 and 2) will be

  • Peter Stearns, Michael Adas, Stuart B. Schwartz, Marc Jason Gilbert, World Civilizations: The Global Experience, Volume 1 (6th Edition), 2010, Pearson/Longman, ISBN 978-0205659586

You can purchase (or rent, I believe) the text from the Campus bookstore in the Overman Student Center, or you can get it a number of other ways, including through the publisher’s website, online stores, and as an e-pub (combined edition) through companies like Coursesmart.

There will be other readings, primarily online primary sources many of which can be found through my Resources Page.

I will send the syllabus to all registered students over the weekend, so you can look it over before class on Monday!

Let me know if you have any questions: I’m easiest to reach by email, but you can also leave a comment on this post.

Reminder: Sunflower

Don’t forget that you’re required to read part 1 of Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower:On the Possibilities and Limits of Forgiveness before April 18th, and to come to my office (RH 406F) to discuss it. One of the take-home essays will be on this reading. Part 2 is optional, though I don’t know anyone who’s ever read just part 1.

A note of caution: it is a vivid tale of the experience of the Holocaust. It is not easy reading.

Reminder: Test Review Assignment Due Midnight, Tuesday

As the syllabus says, your review assignment, which must be emailed to me no later than Tuesday midnight, is at least five multiple choice questions – based on the study guide terms – for each chapter covered in that section of the course. There are three chapters in this section – 15, 16 and 17 – so you need to do at least (I’m always happy to have more, if you want to do more) fifteen questions.

The questions should be multiple choice, though if you want to throw in a true/false or fill-in-the-blank now and then, that’s OK, but only a couple. You should clearly mark which chapter the question comes from, and indicate which answer you intend to be the correct one. If it’s not obvious which study term the question is based on, make sure you tell me that, too. The answers can and should be based on both the textbook, readings (de Busbeq is fair game), and lectures including powerpoints and resources.

The questions shouldn’t be about trivia: I don’t care about the precise date of Columbus’ voyage, or Zheng He’s religion as much as I care about what they did and why it matters. Don’t copy the language of the textbook or a powerpoint and expect students to remember the exact words used: the significance of events and people is about the connections and changes they were part of. For a brief tutorial on using multiple choice questions to test more advanced learning, read this overview of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning by a professor at the Other PSU

Multiple choice questions are tricky. The traditional question has:  one clearly right answer, one clearly wrong answer (if you know the material), and two answers that are appear possibly right but which are actually clearly wrong.  My problem writing questions is that I tend to assume that people know too much, so my ‘wrong’ answers are sometimes too close to actually correct. You may also use “all of the above” – including an item which looks wrong but is actually true makes it a challenging question – or “none of the above” as options, if you’re inspired.

I will make a selection of your questions available for review and may use, or modify, your questions on the test itself.

The 50-minute test will consist of 50 multiple choice (or other) questions. “Other” may include a short definition or two, as well as true/false, fill-in-the-blank questions. There may be extra credit opportunities: they will be clearly marked.

Test 2 Results

The most popular terms were Lincoln, Napoleon, Newton and the Declaration of Independence. The high score in the class was 35.5 out of a possible 40, not counting extra credit — a bit weaker than the first test. The median and modal score was a C, meaning that C was the most common grade and that about as many people got above a C as below. Here’s how the grade scale worked out:

Grade minimum points distribution
A+ 35.5
A 33.5 8%
A- 32
B+ 29
B 26.125 19%
B- 23.125
C+ 20.125
C 17.25 52%
C- 14.25
D+ 11.25
D 8.375 17%
D- 5.375
F 0 4%

It seemed to me that a lot more answers were ‘by the book’ rather than taking account of the connections and context that should come from the lectures. It also seemed the average answers were a lot shorter, which  means less definition, less context, less clarity.

Markings: When looking at your papers, you can ignore the little diagonal I put in the upper-left and lower-right corners of pages: that’s a note to me that there’s nothing before or after (respectively) that page which isn’t graded (just keeps me from having to flip more pages than necessary). If I underlined or circled something in one of your answers, though, it almost certainly means something you got wrong. “X” always marks an error. If I put an “approximately” sign in the margin (and I do this on essays, too) — it looks like this: ≈ — that means something which is almost right, or nearly wrong; questionable, in other words.

Midterm Info

The midterm will be on Friday, March 26, as scheduled.

The list of study terms covers all the chapters we’ve discussed, 15-24; basically from 1500 up to the 19th century. The vast majority of the terms are in the textbook; a few (like ‘early modern’ and ‘world systems theory’) come only from the lectures; most will have been covered in both the textbook and lectures and your answer should draw on both.

From the list of study terms, I’ll pick twenty-five; you will have to pick twelve to answer. Answers are usually short paragraphs.

The answers I’m looking for have three important components:

  • Definition: Basic information about what the person did or what the event involved or what the term means.
  • Context: What country or region, what time period does this fit into? What else is happening around this term that’s important to know? What other people or events or concepts play a role?
  • Significance: Why is this an important person or event or concept? What does this change about the world, and what comes after this that couldn’t have happened without it?

Definition alone, which is what you get if you memorize the textbook sidebar or a sentence or two from the text, gets you up to about a C. Context gets you to B-range. You need all three to make an A. (All of this assumes that you’re getting it right, of course.) You can get all that from the textbook, if you read it carefully, but it’s a lot easier if you listen to the lectures, too. Your answer on tests are not be limited to the material in a single chapter: many names and terms and processes will appear in multiple chapters.

You can find some exemplars of good work from previous semesters here and here. You can also see a comparison of good answers with the textbook sidebar definitions, if you’re thinking of memorizing those short definitions (hint: it’s not a good idea!)

I grade the individual questions on a 4-point scale: 4=A, 3=B, etc. I then total those up and, taking the highest grade in the class as 100%, convert them back to a letter grade with pluses and minuses. I record that grade (on a hundred point scale, so F is still worth more than zero) as your grade on the test.

I’m clearly going to need my catch-up day on Friday for finishing up the material on China and Japan, but we will talk about the test a little bit, and we have a review day on Monday the 22nd.

A quick guide to Dresnerworld

The main page at is structured like a blog, with the most recent postings at the top. I will use it for announcements, handouts, recommendations of interesting things to read and extra credit opportunities. If you use an RSS feed reader, you can follow the blog that way; otherwise, it’s a good idea to check in every few days.

There are also some stable pages which will be useful resources, most of which can be accessed through the tabs in the blog header. The “hist 102 (spring 2010)” tab contains the complete course schedule, including links to assignments, policies, handouts, etc. You can find the syllabus through that page, or through the “syllabi” tab. If there are changes to the schedule or assignments, I will announce them in class, on the blog, and I will change the schedule (but the syllabus will remain unchanged); in the event of a discrepancy between the syllabus and schedule (the result of a schedule change or other unforseen circumstance), the schedule is to be considered the authoritative source.

I recommend that you read the syllabus before class on Friday — I will not be distributing paper copies of the syllabus, or most of the assignments and handouts; if you need a paper copy, you are free to print them out yourself — and I will be happy to answer any questions about it at that point.

I also recommend that you get hold of the textbook as soon as possible. You will be expected to have read the first chapter by next Friday (the 22nd of January).

See you Friday!