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UNIT 22: Global War and Peace

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READINGS

Reading 1

Candice Goucher, Charles LeGuin, and Linda Walton, In the Balance: Themes in Global History (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998). Selections from chapter 18, "Culture, Power, and Perspective: War and Peace in the Twentieth Century," pp. 817–26, 829–37.

Abstract: This essay examines World War II and the political, cultural, and social changes that resulted from this struggle. It explores both the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific, and details its costs in human lives and resources. It then discusses the fundamentally different world order that emerged in the war's aftermath, where European dominance no longer reigned supreme.

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Reading 2

Mark Levene, "Why Is the Twentieth Century the Century of Genocide?" Journal of World History 11, no. 2 (2000): 305–36.

Abstract: This article seeks to relate the specific phenomenon of genocide to broader processes that have helped create and shape modern international society. In particular it argues that the emergence of a Western-led international system of nation states has led many new or latecomer states to attempt shortcuts to development or empowerment in order to make good a perceived discrepancy between themselves and the dominant players. Genocide has been a regular by-product of these agendas, not least because their accelerated or alternative programs of state building assume the rapid creation of "nationally" homogeneous and unified populations out of usually diverse ethnographic and social compositions. Though genocide is an extreme outcome demanding attention to the particular cultural, political, and socio-economic conditions in each perpetrator state, its repeat performance—since 1945 increasingly on a world scale—also suggests less a series of isolated aberrations and more a dysfunction of the system itself.

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Reading 3

Michael Adas, "Contested Hegemony: The Great War and the Afro-Asian Assault on the Civilizing Mission Ideology," Journal of World History 15, no. 1 (March 2004): 31–63.

Abstract: Perhaps the most fundamental and enduring effects of the worldwide crisis of the European colonial order brought on by the Great War of 1914–1918 resulted from the challenges it provoked on the part of Asian and African novelists, poets, philosophers, and emerging political leaders. Four years of indecisive, mechanized slaughter on the Western Front gave rise to spirited and widely publicized critiques of the civilizing mission ideology that had long been invoked to justify European dominance. Since at least the early nineteenth century, the credibility of the civilizing mission credo for European colonizers as well as subject peoples depended increasingly on its emphasis on the unprecedented superiority that Europeans had attained in science and technology over all other peoples and cultures. Some Indian and African, and indeed also European, intellectuals had challenged these gauges of European racial and historical preeminence in the decades before 1914. But the appalling uses to which European discoveries and inventions were put in the First World War raised profound doubts among intellectuals across four continents about the progressive nature of industrial civilization and its potential as the model for all of humanity to emulate. The highly contentious exchanges that these questions gave rise to in the postwar decades soon coalesced into arguably the first genuinely worldwide discourse and proved a critical prelude to the struggles for decolonization that followed.

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