Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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The Western Tradition

Course Outline

The following course outline is excerpted from the Western Tradition
preview book, published by Macmillan Publishing Company.

Unit One

Program 1. The Dawn of History
Program 2. The Ancient Egyptians

A vivid account of the evolution of the human race, the origins of agriculture, and a look at one of the earliest civilizations.

Students should understand the following issues:

  • Influences on the evolution of early anthropoids.
  • The relationship between early religions and the development of agriculture.
  • Characteristics of the Nile Valley and their influence on Egyptian society.
  • The pharaoh's changing role in Egyptian politics.
  • Ways in which art and architecture reflect Egyptian social and political life.
  • The relationship between Egyptian politics and religion.


Unit Two

Program 3. Mesopotamia
Program 4. From Bronze to Iron

An examination of how Western Europe, in many respects, owes more to Mesopotamian culture than to Egypt.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Ways in which Mesopotamian civilizations were shaped by the dangers to which they were exposed.
  • Major technological and intellectual contributions of Mesopotamian civilizations.
  • Roles of the great empires in spreading culture and technology.
  • Methods used by peoples on the edge of the empires to resist more powerful states.
  • Ways in which trade and economic issues led to important social and intellectual achievements.
  • The impact of literacy on the spread and development of civilization.
  • The continual mixing of peoples and cultures throughout the empires and their peripheries.


Unit Three

Program 5. The Rise of Greek Civilization
Program 6. Greek Thought

An exploration of the growth of Greek civilization and the deep connection between its philosophy and political institutions.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • The contrast between values of the Greek heroic age and those of the classical period.
  • Some factors that united the Greeks despite the many problems that separated them.
  • Problems that led to destructive rivalries among Greek cities.
  • The most important questions addressed by Greek thinkers.
  • The relationship of Greek art to Greek history, politics, and society.


Unit Four

Program 7. Alexander the Great
Program 8. The Hellenistic Age

Greek culture establishes itself throughout the eastern Mediterranean world as the successors of Alexander the Great establish empires of their own.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Reasons why various Greek states finally supported Alexander's campaigns in the east.
  • Motives that led Alexander and his successors to demand, in parts of their realms, to e worshipped as gods.
  • Differences between Hellenistic and classical art and the causes of those differences.
  • Ways in which Greek culture affected or failed to affect conquered peoples.
  • Principal features of the philosophical movements of the Hellenistic period.
  • Similarities and differences among various mystery religions.


Unit Five

Program 9. The Rise of Rome
Program 10. The Roman Empire

A small city in Italy rises to become one of the greatest empires and most influential forces of the Western tradition.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Cultural and economic strengths of the early Roman republic.
  • Changes in Rome's policies toward conquered nations.
  • The Roman state's successes and failures in adapting to new social conditions.
  • Ways in which social forces shaped the Roman army.
  • Ways in which the army affected Roman politics.
  • Principal differences between the Roman republic and the new state established by Augustus.


Unit Six

Program 11. Early Christianity
Program 12. The Rise of the Church

The growth and spread of Christianity influences in a hostile empire.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Important aspects of Roman humanism.
  • Sources of long-term instability in the Roman Empire.
  • Sources of instability and uncertainty that led many to seek consolation in religious creeds.
  • Reasons for the rise of Christianity.
  • Some of the continuities between Judaism and Christianity.
  • Similarities and differences between Christianity and the mystery religions.
  • Reasons behind Christian intolerance for other religions as well as dissension within the Church.


Unit Seven

Program 13. The Decline of Rome
Program 14. The Fall of Rome

The Roman Empire is battered from without by a series of barbarian invasions and from within by moral decay. With the fall of Rome, the church and barbarian kingdoms become heir to the Western empire.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Economic, administrative, and military causes of the fall of the Western empire.
  • The economic and political relationship between Roman cities and countryside.
  • Causes that tempted or forced barbarians to invade the Roman Empire.
  • Characteristics of various barbarian peoples and the tribes that were quickest to adopt the empire's customs.
  • Successes and failures of the Roman Empire's attempts to save itself in the third and fourth centuries.
  • The beginnings of Western Europe's manorial system.


Unit Eight

Program 15. The Byzantine Empire
Program 16. The Fall of Byzantine

Following the fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire based in Constantinople becomes the repository of culture from Egypt, Greece and Rome, thus preserving and enriching the ancient world throughout the Mediterranean.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Principal differences among Islam, Orthodox Christianity, and Roman Catholicism.
  • Political consequences that arose from these differences.
  • Ways in which Byzantine and Islamic empires preserved and transmitted culture.
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the Byzantine emperors.
  • Military strengths and weaknesses of the Byzantine and Islamic empires.


Unit Nine

Program 17. The Dark Ages
Program 18. The Age of Charlemagne

A new political and economic order formed in the centuries after the fall of the Western empire.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • The impact of Christianity on barbarian cultures.
  • Sources of the church's power within these cultures.
  • Ways in which the church promoted learning and education, especially in the monasteries.
  • The most important economic developments of the period.
  • The Carolingians' attempts to create a new European empire.
  • Effects of the ninth- and tenth-century barbarian invasions.


Unit Ten

Program 19. The Middle Ages
Program 20. The Feudal Order

A new society develops in the early Middle Ages, as Europe struggles to repel successive waves of invaders.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Conditions in the European countryside that created feudal relations.
  • Economic and military factors that affected feudal relations.
  • Difficulties faced by medieval rulers who tried to maintain large states or empires.
  • Changes that developed as Europe became more prosperous in the years after 1000.
  • Goals and achievements of various crusades.
  • The growth of increasingly secular culture.


Unit Eleven

Program 21. Common Life in the Middle Ages
Program 22. Cities and Cathedrals of the Middle Ages

An exploration into both the harsh realities of daily life in the Middle Ages and the blossoming of European trade and culture epitomized in the construction of some of the world's most magnificent churches.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Sources of conflict between the church and secular powers in the Middle Ages.
  • Limitations in food and shelter suffered during the Middle Ages.
  • Health standards and disease patterns that struck Western Europe during the Middle Ages.
  • Cultural and economic forces at work in building the great medieval churches.
  • The development of important trading patterns and techniques.
  • Social and economic forces that affected the growth of European commerce.


Unit Twelve

Program 23. The Late Middle Ages
Program 24. The National Monarchies

An examination of the importance of religious and political thought and the expansion of great states in the late fifteenth century, a time during which many rulers were centralizing power within their own domains.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Major wars of the late Middle Ages.
  • Economic recovery in Europe at the end of the Middle Ages.
  • Some of the most influential religious leaders and thinkers of the High Middle Ages.
  • The contributions of Thomas Aquinas to political thought.
  • The expansion of France, Spain, and the empire.
  • Successes and failures in the attempts to centralize power.
  • The relationship between warfare and the development of the modern state.


Unit Thirteen

Program 25. The Renaissance and the Age of Discovery
Program 26. The Renaissance and the New World

Great European explorers share the Renaissance spirit that appears in the works of artists, scholars, and writers of the period.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Technical and scientific developments of the Middle Ages that contributed to discoveries of the Renaissance.
  • The relationship between the secular and the divine as it appears in Renaissance art.
  • The contribution of the printing press to the development of intellectual life.
  • The impact of the great explorers on intellectual life.
  • The most important aspects of European humanism.
  • Ways in which European intellectuals developed comparative habits of thought.
  • European reaction to the inhabitants of newly discovered areas of the world.


Unit Fourteen

Program 27. The Reformation
Program 28. The Rise of the Middle Class

The Protestant Reformation arises as many Europeans, particularly in cities, look for new forms of piety and worship.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • The means by which rulers centralized power in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
  • Financial and economic bases of the new states.
  • The changing economy of the sixteenth century.
  • Ways in which Protestant reformers reacted to the Catholic church's popular, institutional piety.
  • Ways in which Protestantism was suited to the urban bourgeoisie.
  • Ways in which painters portrayed the relationship between everyday life and the sacred.
  • Countermeasures taken by the Catholic church during the Counter-reformation.


Unit Fifteen

Program 29. The Wars of Religion
Program 30. The Rise of Trading Cities

While much of Europe is devastated by wars between Protestants and Catholics, trading begins to transform European politics and economics.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Causes and results of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century religious civil wars.
  • Ways in which international politics complicated the religious civil wars.
  • Varying patterns of religious tolerance that appeared by the mid-seventeenth century.
  • The importance of politiques as statesmen.
  • The most important cities and trade routes to the European economy.
  • The special qualities of art produced in trading cities.
  • The development of the Dutch Republic into a new state.
  • The major scientific discoveries of the period.


Unit Sixteen

Program 31. The Age of Absolutism
Program 32. Absolutism and the Social Contract

Some rulers, particularly in France, claim they are answerable to no earthly authority, while in England some political theorists argue that authority depends on the consent of the governed.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • The major characteristics of political absolutism in the seventeenth century.
  • Causes of political weakness in France during the first sixty years of the seventeenth century.
  • Attempts by French statesmen to end political disorder.
  • The changing status of French nobility during the seventeenth century.
  • Ways in which art and architecture reflected political authority.
  • Moral and political aspects of seventeenth-century French tragedy.
  • The outcome of the conflicts between Parliament and the English crown.
  • Ways in which Hobbes and Locke reflect the political events of their times.


Unit Seventeen

Program 33. The Enlightened Despots
Program 34. The Enlightenment

In Western Europe philosophers argue that the dignity of man can best be raised through practical knowledge and reforms.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • The relationship between warfare and economic growth.
  • The rise and decline of major European powers.
  • The relationship between the enlightened despots and the French philosophers.
  • The relationship between the enlightened despots and their subjects.
  • The ways in which the rococo style was a reaction against the more ponderous style of Louis XIV.


Unit Eighteen

Program 35. The Enlightenment and Society
Program 36. The Modern Philosophers

Many writers think of themselves as social reformers and work to change society.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • The relationship between economic growth on one hand, political and social ideas on the other.
  • Causes of economic growth in the eighteenth century.
  • The influence of science on religious ideas.
  • The development of utilitarianism and the growth of laissez-faire economics.
  • The growth of intellectual relativism.


Unit Nineteen

Program 37. The American Revolution
Program 38. The American Republic

The American Revolution is examined as a test case of Enlightenment ideals.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • European myths about America and what they revel about European society.
  • Patterns of European settlement throughout North and South America.
  • Ways in which the American colonies became important factors in eighteenth century international politics.
  • Ways in which England's imperialism created tensions with its North American colonies.
  • Social and political divisions in the new republic.
  • Tensions between political ideals and practice.
  • The social and economic conditions that gave rise to the political ideals in the United States.


Unit Twenty

Program 39. The Death of the Old Regime
Program 40. The French Revolution

As the kingdom of France collapses, the new revolutionary state becomes an ideal for some Europeans, a terror for others.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Stabilizing factors in the United States following the revolution.
  • The fiscal weakness of the French crown.
  • The factors working for and against French reform.
  • The reforms of 1789.
  • The transition from reform to revolution.
  • New styles of warfare.
  • Creation of the French Empire.
  • The enduring legacy of the revolution.


Unit Twenty-One

Program 41. The Industrial Revolution Program 42. The Industrial World

New sources of power and improved production techniques begin the age of industrial expansion.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • The relationship between revolutions in industry, commerce, communications, and agriculture.
  • The network of markets and sources of raw materials created by the industrial revolution.
  • Political and military effects of economic interdependence.
  • The most significant improvements in the European standard of living.
  • Effects of the popular press on social and political life.
  • Ways in which nineteenth-century economic developments created a new kind of city.


Unit Twenty-Two

Program 43. Revolution and the Romantics
Program 44. The Age of the Nation-States

By the early nineteenth-century many central and eastern Europeans aspire to establish independent countries.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Revolutionary aspirations that arose in many countries following the American and French revolutions.
  • The outlines of romanticism in art, literature, and social thought.
  • The relationship between romanticism and social reform.
  • Similarities and differences among European movements and reforms.
  • The development of a system of great powers during the nineteenth century.
  • Patterns of European colonialism.
  • Areas of greatest political instability.


Unit Twenty-Three

Program 45. A New Public
Program 46. Fin de Siècle

By the late nineteenth century the productivity of the Industrial Revolution is raising the standard of living throughout Europe and North America. Development of mass communication becomes an increasingly important force in modern society.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Ways in which the needs of the modern state affected social and economic legislation.
  • Ways in which the working class and the peasantry began to participate in the mainstream of social and economic life.
  • Changing social and economic relations between the cities and countryside.
  • Social and political consequences of widespread literacy.
  • The development of large-scale organized sports.
  • The rise of social Darwinism and its influence in Germany.
  • The relationship between mass culture and the avant-garde.


Unit Twenty-Four

Program 47. The First World War and the Rise of Fascism
Program 48. The Second World War

Wars and revolution arise from the unresolved conflicts of the previous century: class struggle, commercial and colonial rivalries, and struggles for national sovereignty.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • Events that led to war in 1914 and factors preventing the establishment of a lasting peace in 1919.
  • Reasons why Russia, Italy, and Germany developed radically new kinds of states in the years between the wars.
  • Reasons why England and France were unable to mount a more successful opposition to Germany and Italy.
  • Ways in which the United States alternately intervened and stayed aloof from European affairs between 1914 and 1939.
  • Ways in which Hitler's allies helped and hindered his ability to wage war.
  • The United States' contribution to the Allied War effort.
  • The motives and basic methods of Hitler's genocide policy.


Unit Twenty-Five

Program 49. The Cold War
Program 50. Europe and the Third World

The United States and Soviet Union, the two great victors of World War II, dominate Europe while poor countries of the Third World try to develop in the midst of superpower rivalries and competition from industrialized nations.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • The division of Europe into Soviet and Western spheres of influence.
  • Ways in which Europe was affected by the changing relationship between Europe and the Soviet Union.
  • Relationships among military, political, and economic powers in Europe and the Third World.
  • Distribution of wealth between the Third World and industrialized nations.
  • The legacy of colonial imperialism in the Third World.
  • Successes and failures of economic development in the Third World.


Unit Twenty-Six

Program 51. The Technological Revolution
Program 52. Toward the Future

The concluding unit demonstrates the speed with which modern life has changed and considers the future of Western civilization.

Students should understand the following issues:


  • The most important medical developments during this period.
  • The development of atomic weapons.
  • The interplay of inventions in transportation and communications.
  • Improvements in the quality of daily life.
  • Progress and setbacks in the emancipation of women.


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