Welcome to World History – Part I
This course will present an overview of world history from the time when civilizations first produced written records until the beginning of the modern period, roughly the year 1500. At its core is a narrative presentation constructed along broad lines aimed at giving students basic competence in the wide sweep of pre-modern human history. Two guiding themes will be highlighted over the course of the semester: The nature of the relations between humans in the evolution of societies; and the dynamics of ritual behaviors. In other words, the course will be primarily concerned with the topics of law and religion.
These broad concepts will be seen in various configurations in both video presentations and coursebook readings. The videos consist of short lectures organized into seven units, while the readings come from a textbook of primary sources. Geographically, this course will examine Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and India, classical-era Persia, ancient Greece and Rome, Central Asia, Precoloumbian America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe, both Eastern and Western. In sum, our discussions will touch on nearly every continent–as should be expected for a course in World History. This course will therefore demand much attention to geography, as well as to key moments and actors over a long span. Students will emerge from this immersion in world history will a solid grounding in the major concepts that guide historical understanding of different civilizations, as well as the capacity to identify and reflect on the different iterations that peoples have given to society, politics, and ritual.
The purpose of this course, beyond the communication of factual material about the period between 2500 BC to 1500 CE, is to encourage students to acquire a set of analytical skills that will help them over the course of their education. These skills include the capacity to read texts closely, to consider them in light of historical contexts, and to write clearly, succinctly, and coherently about them. A further goal is to train student memory, a goal valuable in itself but also one that is also integral to the mastery of historical names, places, dates, and concepts.