Bridging World History is a set of multimedia materials designed to help learners discover world history and:
- Develop a dynamic conceptual framework for the study of world history, its theoretical constructs, and its historiographical practices.
- Establish a spatial and temporal grasp of the peoples and cultures that comprise world history, spanning thousands of years and the entire globe.
- Discover insights into thematic relationships that shape our understanding of world history.
- Span the gaps between what learners comfortably know and what they need to comprehend in order to explore a truly global and relevant past.
Bridging World History is inquiry-based, integrated, and recursive, and uses video, Web, and text materials to provide a comprehensive and interactive learning experience. The video and Web materials may be used non-sequentially and on their own as supplements to the study of world history; however, in their entirety, the materials provide a complete world history course.
Each unit consists of a 30-minute video and an online text chapter. These chapters include journal articles and other readings, an overview of the unit content (see Assumption of User Knowledge), as well as a course guide chapter that provides a structure for course sessions, learning activities, and homework assignments. You can access all of the materials (including broadband, on-demand streaming of the video programs) through the Web site.
The organization of this course acknowledges both thematic and chronological approaches to the study of world history by following a loosely chronological order, while developing a series of themes that are woven throughout the course's 26 units. After introducing the key tools for exploring world history, the units move chronologically across key world historical contexts - from earliest human history to the global experience of the past century.
Using Primary Source Materials To Enhance the Understanding
of World History
In this course, the term "artifact" or "primary source material" is used to mean some item (such as an image, map, or document) that was created during the particular historical era. Bridging World History offers primary source materials as a way to enhance critical thinking skills while providing a source for historical and cultural contexts of world history. When thinking about incorporating primary source materials into teaching, it is useful to think of how we teach; our students can then not only understand what an image or reading "says" but also appreciate the importance of how a reading or map depicts what happened.
The analysis of primary source materials involves a process of close reading, with attention to the details of how things are represented. The way a figure is posed in a portrait (wearing a particular style of clothing, pictured with specific household objects, and so on) may reveal cultural values shared by the painter and the subject. The use of rhythm and repetition in a song may indicate what information or beliefs are being emphasized, particularly if the original singers and audience for the song came from a culture that privileged the oral transmission of information.
Bringing primary source materials into the classroom serves several valuable purposes:
- A carefully chosen primary source can provide information about the historical period or cultural context in which a reading or artifact was produced or set. As students explore a primary source map, for example, they may discover information about past politics, economies or migration patterns.
- It allows students to explore this background for themselves and then apply it to the study of history, rather than relying on a teacher's lecture for information.
- It is also a particularly effective approach for engaging students, who find that history - especially world history - comes alive when they can connect it to what actual people did, made, or thought.
- Finally, it can also serve as a foundation for teaching more diverse perspectives, helping obtain a better understanding of cultures that differ from their own.
Analyzing history is similar to analyzing primary source materials: Both require students to ask thoughtful questions, explore their own explanatory hypotheses, and draw insightful conclusions. This approach is especially relevant in schools where world history courses are paired with other disciplines, such as social studies.
Back to Top
Goals and Intended Audience
Bridging World History is intended for a broad audience. The course includes introductory material suitable for AP study or beginning college students, but also includes a depth and breadth of content that even experienced teachers of world history will find compelling and applicable.
Use this course as:
- a self-contained college-level world history course for on-campus students or distance learners
- a supplement to college or high-school world history courses
- a resource, course, or workshop for world history pre-service or in-service instructors
- a video reference for public, university, or school libraries
How Topics were Chosen
All history is selective - particularly world history, which covers a time span of more than four million years. The selected topics reflect the majority of significant directions taken by world historians in this emerging field. The topics were chosen by a panel of advisors who teach, write about, and conduct research in world history. The course topics reflect thematic approaches to world history; they also cover the major eras of world history in accordance with advanced placement course guidelines.
Assumption of User Knowledge
The historical material covered in the course assumes some basic knowledge of history and historical methodology. The materials are written and produced at a level accessible to any adult learner, but it is assumed that the learner also has access to a world history textbook, any number of which would provide the background for a topic or event.
Using Bridging World History for Formal Study
The units can be used sequentially — beginning with unit 1 and on through unit 26 — to achieve a chronological approach to world history. When built into a world history course, the components can be used over one or two semesters. Most world history courses use an arbitrary break at 1500 CE to divide the history of the world. The suggested two-semester approach would break between units 13 and 14, which span the period before and after 1500. In a course that focuses exclusively on the period after 1500 CE, you would want to also include units 1, 2, 3, and possibly 4; units that frame our understanding of the past against the varied sources available to world historians.
Back to Top
The Bridging World History video course addresses major themes in world history and covers the widest possible sweep of the human past spatially and chronologically. Produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting, each program includes an opening statement of the theme's main ideas and then goes on to further develop the key ideas integral to each theme.
Most of the video programs are divided into three segments chosen to amplify the more familiar events of world history. For example, episode 11, Early Empires, assumes some knowledge of the familiar empires of the ancient world (e.g., Greece and Rome) and instead focuses on the Mongol, Inkan and Mali empires, thereby complementing knowledge that learners are likely to bring from textbooks or other experiences. Following the three segments, each episode presents a "complicating question" that challenges learners to engage in active, inquiry-based learning. Videos can be ordered by calling 1-800-LEARNER, or by visiting www.learner.org
The Course Guide
The course guide provides a structure for course sessions, showing instructors how to use the course components together for a comprehensive learning experience. It can also be used as a learner workbook for the course. The guide contains learning activities and homework assignments. PDFs of the course guide can be downloaded and printed from the course Web site.
The Online Text
The online text builds on the content of each episode, summarizing the content and framing it in the larger picture of world history. Each of the 26 chapters offers extended readings, including articles from the Journal of World History, other scholarly articles, and In The Balance: Themes in Global History. Together these resources suggest the historiographical changes in the field and convey a sense that world history is a dynamic venture, enriched by its multiple perspectives. Each unit is available in PDF for ease of download and printing.
The site's learning activities include small group, large group, and individual activities for classroom or workshop use. Activities are provided at different skill levels, from comprehension through analysis.
The Web Site
The Bridging World History Web site has several features that support and extend the learning experience in this course. In addition to the videos and the PDFs of the online text and course guide, it has an archive of over 1500 items, including documents, artifacts, maps, and other materials available for classroom use. An audio glossary speaks and defines the names of key persons, places and events. And the section, "What is World History?" contains a collection of essays and papers addressing teaching practice and scholarship in world history today.
The Web site also contains a large interactive learning component, the "World History Traveler," which helps users explore a selection of key topics in world history thematically. Online activities accompany the interactive, asking learners to investigate and collect historical evidence within the interactive, to support their ideas or positions.
Back to Top
The following are descriptions for each of the 26 units, including who was interviewed for each video episode. We are grateful to the people who so generously gave of their time and expertise to appear in the series.
Full program transcripts are available on this site. Transcripts can be found in the Unit Resources and are organized unit by unit. You can also listen to and/or read transcripts from the experts who offered Perspectives on the Past for each of the episodes. These, too, are available unit by unit.
Unit 1. Maps, Time, and World History
What tools do world historians use in the study of history? This unit begins the study of world history by examining its use of geographical and chronological frameworks: how they have shaped the understanding of world history and been used to chart the past.
Experts Interviewed: Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; Ross Dunn, PhD; and Deborah Smith Johnston, PhD.
Unit 2. History and Memory
How are history and memory different? Topics in this unit range from the celebration of Columbus Day to the demolition of a Korean museum to the historical re-interpretation of Mayan civilization. It explores the ways historians, nations, families, and individuals capture, exploit, and know the past, and the dynamic nature of historical practice and knowledge.
Experts Interviewed: Candice Goucher, PhD; Gary Nash, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 3. Human Migrations
How did the many paths of human migration people the planet? From their origins on the African continent, humans have spread across the globe. This unit explores how and why early humans moved across Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas, based on recent studies in archaeology and linguistics.
Experts Interviewed: E. Kofi Agorsah, PhD; Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; and Patrick Manning, PhD.
Unit 4. Agricultural and Urban Revolutions
What do historians know about the earliest farmers and herders and the evolution of cities? Newly emerging evidence about the "cradles of civilization" is examined in light of the social, technological, and cultural complexity of recently discovered settlements and cities.
Experts Interviewed: Candice Goucher, PhD; Linda Walton, PhD; Steve Weber, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 5. Early Belief Systems
How did people begin to understand themselves in relation to the natural world and to the unseen realms beyond, and how was religion a community experience? In this unit, animism and shamanism in Shinto are contrasted with philosophical and ethical systems in early Greece and China, and the beginnings of Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, and Judaism.
Experts Interviewed: Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; Richard Bulliet, PhD; Candice Goucher, PhD; and Linda Walton, PhD.
Unit 6. Order and Early Societies
How do diverse political structures and relationships distribute power and material resources? Through the rise of the Chinese empire, Mayan regional kingdoms, and the complex society of Igbo-Ukwu, this unit considers the origins of centralized states and alternative political and social orders.
Experts Interviewed: Candice Goucher, PhD; Linda Walton, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 7. The Spread of Religions
How do religions interact, adopt new ideas, and adapt to diverse cultures? As the missionaries, pilgrims, and converts of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam moved around the world, the religions created change and were themselves changed.
Experts Interviewed: Eko Nobel Acarya, Buddhist Transmission Master; Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; Richard Bulliet, PhD; and Linda Walton, PhD.
Unit 8. Early Economies
How do societies assign value to land, labor, and material goods? A comparison of manorial economies in Japan and medieval Europe is contrasted with the tribute economy of the Inka, and the experience of dramatic economic change is illustrated by the commercial revolution in China.
Experts Interviewed: Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; Linda Walton, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 9. Connections Across Land
How were land-based trade routes conduits of both commerce and culture? The Eurasian Silk Roads, the trans-Saharan Gold Roads, and the Meso-American Turquoise Road trace the transmission of commodities, religions, and diseases, as well as the movements of people.
Experts Interviewed: Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; Patrick Manning, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 10. Connections Across Water
How were water routes used as conduits of expansion and trade? The traders of the Indian Ocean, the early Mississippians, and the Norsemen carried death and disease, skills and technologies, philosophies and religion down rivers and across oceans.
Experts Interviewed: Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; Candice Goucher, PhD; and Gary Nash, PhD.
Unit 11. Early Empires
What makes an "empire"? Through the Mongol Empire, the Mali Empire, and the Inka Empire, this unit examines the construction of empires, their administrative structures, legitimating ideologies, and the environmental and technological conditions that shaped them.
Experts Interviewed: Candice Goucher, PhD; Linda Walton, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 12. Transmission of Traditions
What are traditions and how are they transmitted? Islamic Spain, Korea, and West Africa provide examples of many different modes of transmission, including oral, written, artistic, and architectural.
Experts Interviewed: Richard Bulliet, PhD; Candice Goucher, PhD; and Ma-Ji Rhee, PhD.
Unit 13. Family and Household
What does the study of families and households tell us about our global past? In this episode examining West Asia, Europe, and China, families and households become the focus of historians, providing a window into the private experiences in world societies, and how they sometimes become a model for ordering the outside world.
Experts Interviewed: Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; Richard Bulliet, PhD; and Linda Walton, PhD.
Unit 14. Land and Labor Relationships
What factors shape the ways in which the basic resources are exploited by a society? From Southeast Asia to Russia to Africa and the Americas, the ratios between land availability and the usable labor force were the primary basis of pre-industrial economies, but politics, environment, and culture played a part as well.
Experts Interviewed: E. Kofi Agorsah, PhD; Patrick Manning, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 15. Early Global Commodities
What is globalization and when did it begin? Before the sixteenth century, the world's four main monetary substances were silver, gold, copper, and shells. But it was China's demand for silver and Spain's newly discovered mines in the Americas that finally created an all-encompassing network of global trade.
Experts Interviewed: Candice Goucher, PhD; and Linda Walton, PhD.
Unit 16. Food, Demographics and Culture
What role has food played in human societies? Studying the production and consumption of food allows historians to uncover hidden levels of meaning in social relationships, understand demographic shifts, and trace cultural exchange. This unit examines the earliest impact of globalization including changing cuisine, environmental impact, and the rise of forced labor as a global economic force.
Experts Interviewed: Candice Goucher, PhD; and Linda Walton, PhD.
Unit 17. Ideas Shape the World
How do ideas change the world? This unit traces the impact of European Enlightenment ideals in the American and Haitian revolutions and in South America. It also examines the revitalization of Islam expressed in the Wahhabi movement as it spread from the Arabian peninsula to Africa and Asia.
Experts Interviewed: Richard Bulliet, PhD; Sue Peabody, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 18. Rethinking The Rise of the West
How does historical scholarship change over time, and why do the perspectives of historians shift? This unit not only recaps the economic and political events that led to the rise of the West, but examines and re-examines those events through differing opinions of its causes, reflecting changes in historical interpretation.
Experts Interviewed: Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; Patrick Manning, PhD; William McNeill, PhD; and Anand Yang, PhD.
Unit 19. Global Industrialization
How was the story of the industrial revolution a global process? Industrialization was and is a global process, not just a European or American story. This unit links Cuba, Uruguay, Europe, and Japan, examining the impact of industry on trade, environment, culture, technology, and lives around the world.
Experts Interviewed: Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; Ken Ruoff, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 20. Imperial Designs
What lasting impacts did modern imperialism have on the world? The profound consequences of imperialism are examined in the South African frontier and Brazil, where politics, culture, industrial capitalism, and the environment were shaped and re-shaped.
Experts Interviewed: Candice Goucher, PhD; Patrick Manning, PhD; Linda Walton, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 21. Colonial Identities
How did colonialism and eventual de-colonization mutually affect the colonizer and the colonized? From Zanzibar to India, colonial and post-colonial identities are examined through clothing.
Experts Interviewed: Laura Fair, PhD; and Anand Yang, PhD.
Unit 22. Global War and Peace
How "global" were the World Wars? This unit examines Japanese imperialism, the Belgian Congo, and twentieth-century peace institutions to study how local, national, ethnic, and religious conflicts shaped these wars and their aftermaths.
Experts Interviewed: Deborah Smith Johnston, PhD; Patrick Manning, PhD; and Ken Ruoff, PhD.
Unit 23. People Shape the World
What is the impact of the individual in world history? This unit examines the role of individual and collective action in shaping the world through the lives of such diverse figures as Mao Zedong, the Ayatollah Khomeini, and Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.
Experts Interviewed: Richard Bulliet, PhD; Susan Glosser, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 24. Globalization and Economics
How have the forces of globalization shaped the modern world? This unit travels from the Soviet Union to Sri Lanka and Chile to study the role of technology and the impact of economic and political changes wrought by globalization.
Experts Interviewed: Richard Bulliet, PhD; Michele Kendrick, PhD; Peter Winn, PhD; and Anand Yang, PhD.
Unit 25. Global Popular Culture
What are the sounds and sights of an emerging global culture? From World Cup soccer to Coca-Cola, modern icons reflect the intertwined cultural, political, and commercial dimensions of globalization. This unit listens to and looks at the music and images of global production and consumption-from reggae to the Olympics.
Experts Interviewed: Obo Addy, Ghanaian master drummer; Jerry H. Bentley, PhD; A.E. Gordon Buffonge, PhD; and Peter Winn, PhD.
Unit 26. World History and Identity
How have global forces redefined both individual and group identity in the modern world? This unit examines the transnational identity that emerged from the Chinese diaspora, and compares it to a newly redefined national Chechen identity forged through war with Russia.
Experts Interviewed: Richard Bulliet, PhD; Douglas Lee, PhD; Mary N. Leong, Chinese American; Ramzan Magomedov, Chechen emigrant; Patrick Manning, PhD; J.R. McNeill, PhD; William McNeill, PhD; and Heidi Roupp, PhD.
Back to Top