Syllabus: World History Since 1500 (Spring 2012)

History 102: World History from 1500

Prof. Jonathan Dresner
Phone: 235-4315
Office: RH 406F
Pittsburg State University, Spring 2012

Section 02: MWF 12-12:50pm, RH 301
Section 03: MWF 2-2:50pm, RH 301
Office Hours: MWF 11-2, 1-2, TuTh 9-11


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, 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.

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.

Students who actively engage the course material and assignments will not only be gaining knowledge, but will also be developing important skills as articulated in the General Education goals, especially the “Human Heritage” skills:

  • Demonstrate an appreciation for the range and diversity of humankind’s wisdom, values, ideas, beliefs, and reasoning.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of human behavior, the human condition, and human institutions in the context of historical, literary, or philosophical inquiry.
  • Demonstrate recognition of the inter-relatedness of the past, present, and future

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 Website:

Bookmark it. Check it regularly. I will use it for announcements (assignments, special events, extra credit), to maintain the schedule (particularly if it changes), to post handouts (so if you lose or miss one, it’ll be there) and keep a small library of useful links. In the event of a disparity between the original syllabus and the website, follow the website: I reserve the right to change readings, test dates, due dates, grade weights and assignments as necessary throughout the semester. This website largely takes the place of ANGEL for this class, though I will use ANGEL for email, the syllabus and for certain material which shouldn’t be available publicly.


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.
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 and other devices is permitted only if they are relevant to the material at hand: note-taking, fact-checking, assignment scheduling, etc. Web surfing, video, gaming, email and messaging are not appropriate classroom activities and can be distracting to the instructor and fellow students. Moreover, 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.


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 more information on deadlines, severe weather policy, visas, grades, attendance, final exams, student support, etc. please see the University Catalog or the 2012 Spring Syllabus Supplement, available through the Registrar’s office:


All schedules, assignments, and policies in the syllabus are subject to change. Check the website, which will have the most current and accurate information possible as well as copies of course handouts.



  • 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
  • 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, also should be read in full (unless otherwise indicated in the syllabus) before class on the assigned date. Pop quizzes will be used to monitor your completion and comprehension of the material (especially primary source readings), and will be part of your Professionalism grade. There will also be short response assignments for some readings.

Lectures and Discussions

My lectures do not “cover” the textbook or other readings. The lectures and textbook are intended to supplement each other, not duplicate material: you are responsible for learning from both. Some of my lectures will expand on the history presented in the textbook, adding detail and alternative understandings. Some of my lectures will introduce and raise questions about historical sources or historians’ arguments. Some of my lectures will be about historical practice and theory as it applies to specific topics. Some of my 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 of my lectures won’t even be lectures: they will be discussions with the class, which is to say, with you.


There will be five short essay ID tests based on lists of terms — names, events, concepts, sources — which will be distributed as a study guide. I have scheduled a day before each test for catching up, discussion, practice or questions. I will drop the lowest of the five grades from your final grade calculation. See the study guide for more detail.

Book Assignments and Essays

There will be homework assignments based on each of the supplemental texts – Eating History and The Sunflower – which are intended to monitor your reading and prepare you for class discussion. The homework will be included in the Professionalism grade. There will also be an essay assignment for each, which will be due after the class discussion days.

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.

Professionalism: Preparation, Attendance and Participation

This is not just a classroom: it is a work space, and you are adults. 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 the course website.

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. Pop quizzes will be used to monitor your completion and comprehension of assigned readings, and will be part of your Professionalism 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). Unexcused absences will lower your professionalism grade. I 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 two weeks of the semester in closed classes with students waiting to enroll.

There may be days on which there will be a video 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 second class meeting. There will also be short response assignments for some of the readings. Failure to complete assignments, or consistently sloppy or incorrect work, will also lower your professionalism grade.

Extra Credit

I will announce cultural and historical events for which extra credit may be earned. Check the website for current listings. Visits to museums, art galleries, historical sites and other cultural institutions may 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. 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. Extra Credits are added to the professionalism score at the end of the semester.

Academic Honesty
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, 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. For more detail, see the relevant sections of the University Catalog:

Grade Policies

  • Grades are generally recorded on a 100-point scale. For some assignments, I may use a 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.
  • If hard copy (printed) is required, email will only be accepted as proof of completion in emergencies: the student is still responsible to get a printed copy to the instructor as soon as possible. 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 an assignment due date, the student is responsible for turning in the work no later than the next class, unless other arrangements have been made.
  • Unexcused late assignments, due to absence, technical problems, etc., will be penalized one grade level (B to C, etc.) per class period late.
  • Even very, 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.
  • NOTE: I do not post grades on ANGEL. 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.

Grade Distribution

Professionalism 20%
Tests (4 of 5) 40%
Book Essays (2) 20%
Final Exam: Take-home Essays (2) 20%


Schedule of Topics, Readings and Assignments

Administrative Deadlines and Instructional Holidays are in Italics

Assignments and Tests are in Bold

A more complete version of this schedule, with links to assignments, additional readings and handouts, can be found on the course website at





1/18 (W) First Day of Class Syllabus
1/20 (F) State of the World
1/23 (M) Columbian Exchange Chapter 21. The World Economy
1/24 Last day for full fee refund, to add new classes, for late online enrollment
1/25 (W) Early Modernity, catching up with China
1/27 (F) Protestant Reformation Chapter 22. The Transformation of the West, 1450–1750
1/30 (M) Scientific and Commercial Revolution

Final day for dropping course without grade report

2/1 (W) Kennedy Thesis Chapter 23. The Rise of Russia
2/3 (F) Imperialism, Plantations, Migrations Chapter 24. Early Latin America
2/6 (M) Catch-up/Review
2/8 (W) Test #1
2/10 (F) World Systems Theory Chapter 25. Africa and Africans in the Age of Atlantic Slave Trade
2/13 (M) Ottoman, Safavid, Mughal Chapter 26. The Muslim Empires
2/15 (W) Ming-Qing Transition v. Unification of Japan Chapter 27. Asian Transitions in an Age of Global Change
2/17 (F) Enlightenment and Industrialization Chapter 28. The Emergence of Industrial Society in the West, 1750–1914
2/20 (M) Historiography of Revolutions: UK, US, French, Latin American

President’s Day/ No Holiday

2/22 (W) Rights and Responsibilities

Document Homework

English Bill of Rights“/”French Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen“/”US Declaration of Independence
2/24 (F) Intellectual History
2/27 (M) Catch-up/Review
2/29 (W) Test #2
3/2 (F) Book Homework Eating History, all
3/5 (M) The Case of Korea Chapter 29. Industrialization and Imperialism: The Making of the European Global Order
3/7 (W) North and South Chapter 30. The Consolidation of Latin America, 1830–1920
3/9 (F) Decline and Fall of Great Empires

Book 1 Essay Due

Chapter 31. Civilizations in Crisis: The Ottoman Empire, the Islamic Heartlands, and Qing China
3/12 (M) Meiji and Comparative History

D/F Grades

Chapter 32. Russia and Japan: Industrialization Outside the West
3/14 (W) Catch-up/Review
3/16 (F) Test #3
3/19-23 Spring Break
3/26 (M) Fronts and Technologies Chapter 33. Descent into the Abyss: World War I and the Crisis of the European Global Order
3/28 (W) Age of Anxiety Chapter 34. The World between the Wars: Revolutions, Depression, and Authoritarian Response
3/30 (F) Great Depression and Fascism
4/2 (M) National Socialism and Holocaust Chapter 35. A Second Global Conflict and the End of the European World Order
4/4 (W) Technologies and Atrocities
4/6 (F) Catch-up/Review
4/9 (M) Test #4

Summer/Fall Early Enrollment Begins

Final day for dropping course unless withdraw from school

4/11 (W) Book Homework The Sunflower
4/13 (F) The Cold War Chapter 36. Western Society and Eastern Europe in the Decades of the Cold War
4/16 (M) Internationalization

Doc Homework

“Universal Declaration of Human Rights”
4/18 (W) Decolonization and Post-colonialism

Book 2 Essay Due

Chapter 37. Latin America: Revolution and Reaction into the 21st Century and Chapter 38. Africa, the Middle East, and Asia in the Era of Independence
4/20 (F) Mao and China Chapter 39. Rebirth and Revolution: Nation-Building in East Asia and the Pacific Rim
4/23 (M) 1980s Coalition and Post-Cold War Chapter 40. Power, Politics, and Conflict in World History, 1990–2010
4/25 (W) Integration and Particularism Chapter 41. Globalization and Resistance
4/26 Last day to withdraw from university
4/30 (M) Catch-up/Review
5/2 (W) Test #5
5/4 (F) Catch-up/Review
Final Essays Due

noon: 5/11, 12-1:50

2pm: 5/9, 2-3:50


“History consists, for the greater part, of the miseries brought upon the world by pride, ambition,avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetite.” — Edmund Burke

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