Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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WHAT IS WORLD HISTORY?

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ESSAYS AND PAPERS

Teaching the World History Survey Course in the 21st Century

Lintvedt, Ane Teaching the World History Survey Course in the 21st Century: Rationales, Research, and Themes Presented at the American Historical Association Annual Meeting January 2004, Washington D.C.

Abstract: At the 117th annual meeting of the American Historical Association in January 2003, there was a presidential panel entitled "Writing the History of Western 'Civ' in the Global Age: A Roundtable." Five professors, all authors of European History textbooks, gave presentations about the appropriateness of teaching Western Civ as the foundational survey in college and university history departments. A related theme of several of the presentations was why it was inappropriate, or even impossible, to teach World History as the foundational survey course. The fear (in academia and in Congress) that World History will replace "traditional" western civilization and even US History courses seems based on the notion that by studying global trends, processes, and interactions, students will never learn the specifics of their own national histories or the European cultural and intellectual roots of western traditions. They will therefore be unable to appreciate or understand American cultural and political traditions, and in the long run will be unappreciative, uninformed citizens, voters, and members of American society as a whole.

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Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History

Bentley, Jerry H. "Cross-Cultural interaction and Periodization in World History" The American Historical Review, Vol. 101, Issue 3 (June 1996), p. 749-770

Abstract: Periodization ranks among the more elusive tasks of historical Scholarship. As practicing historians well know, the identification of coherent periods of history involves much more than the simple discovery of self-evident turning points in the past: it depends on prior decisions about the issues and processes that are most important for the shaping of human societies, and it requires the establishment of criteria or principles that enable historians to sort through masses of information and recognize patterns of continuity and change. Even within the framework of a single society, changes in perspective can call the coherence of conventionally recognized periods into question, as witness Joan Kelly's famous essay "Did Women Have a Renaissance?" or Dietrich Gerhard's concept of "old Europe."

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The Problem of Interactions in World History

Manning, Patrick "The Problem of Interactions in World History"The American Historical Review, Vol. 101, Issue 3 (June 1996), p. 771-782

Abstract: Jerry Bentley, in proposing a periodization of world history, offers us more than a set of periods. He defends a specific criterion for evaluating world-historical change, develops his set of periods out of that criterion, and utilizes the periods to suggest long-term interpretations of history. His criterion focuses on cross-cultural interaction. More precisely, he identifies three main kinds of processes (mass migration, empire building, and long-distance trade) as having had "significant repercussions across the boundary lines of societies and cultural regions." In applying his criterion to develop a periodization, Bentley relies on documented changes in the scale and character of these three -"kinds of processes" to identify six major periods in the history of the Afro-Eurasian land mass. Then, within the framework of this periodization, he offers a narrative of periodic expansion in scale and transformation in character of cross-cultural interactions. The latter point is worthy of underscoring: if Bentley's interpretation focused mainly on expansions in the scale of cross-cultural contacts, we would have yet another narrative of progress. Instead, he sidesteps a linear interpretation of world history by emphasizing successive changes in the character of cross-cultural interactions along with their growing magnitude.

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The Fates of Human Societies: A Review of Recent Macrohistories

Stokes, Gale "The Fates of Human Societies: A Review of Recent Macrohistories" Review Essay, The American Historical Review, Volume 106, No. 2 (April, 2001), 508-525.

Abstract: Not many historians would subtitle their book "The Fates of Human Societies." History on that scale is far removed from the "brick-by-brick, life-by-life, day-by-day foundations" of which Margaret Atwood spoke recently in these pages. And indeed, Jared Diamond, the author of the book with that subtitle, is neither a historian nor a novelist. He is an evolutionary biologist. Nevertheless, in the past few years, a number of scholars like Diamond have published historical studies that confront the broadest kind of macrohistorical issues. Many of these works focus on variants of the question that inspired Diamond to write his book. While he was doing fieldwork in New Guinea, a native informant asked him, "Why is it that white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?" Diamond knows that from a genetic point view humans have been essentially equivalent for tens of thousands of years, and fieldwork in New Guinea convinced him that the peoples he worked with there were on the average more intelligent than Westerners; thus the question seemed to him both puzzling and worth pursuing. And so it has seemed to many others.

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World History in a Global Age

Geyer, Michael, Charles Bright, "World History in a Global Age" The American Historical Review, Volume 100, Issue. 4 (Oct., 1995), 1034-1060.

Abstract: While world history never quite vanished from the curriculum of universities and colleges, it was an illegitimate, unprofessional, and therefore foolish enterprise. It was for dilettantes. World history was abandoned as a scholarly project long before its evident Eurocentric biases became the subject of academic critique. It fell victim to the relentless professionalizadon that this journal helped to foster. To be sure, there were a few scholars in every generation who were not easily contained by specialization and the objectivity it promised. They remained attracted to traditions of universalist thought and spun them out to considerable public acclaim. More important, a universalist horizon gave even the most circumscribed scholarship some depth and contemporary public relevance without which scholarship could not have flourished. But even in the heyday of progressivist universalism, the main current of social science scholarship and of historiography was anti-universalist. "Miss Hampton," the world historian, as portrayed by Penelope Lively, is in all respects a figure of condescension for academic professionals; she is the proverbial outsider-an unattached female, a writer, and a traveler of mixed fortunes.

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World History Mind Map

Created by Deborah Smith-Johnston. Used by permission for Bridging World History Annenberg Media copyright 2004

World history has a long history but there is not a consensus about what it is, how to research it, organize it, teach it or even understand it. This mind map outlines a variety of approaches and strategies about which there is much on-going debate.

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