World History and Literature as multiple lenses for interpreting events

  Studying world history is a way of thinking like using a wide range of lenses to see different time-frames and dimensions of reality. New dimensions for viewing space and time can then improve your insight into difficult questions and events in the prestent and past. Let's try the most significant event in your life -- your birth, for example, and the related questions like "Who are you?" and "Where are you from?" Using the narrow angle lens of, say, fifty to a hundred years, you could say definitively that you are an American, because your parents and grandparents may have been born and raised there. Using a wider lens of, say, three hundred years, however, most of family would probably not be from America originally, and you would see that you identify with another part of the world altogether. But try using an lens a hundred times that strenght, say, 500,000 years, and we can discover that any answer to questions related to your identity have to include Africa. There are even wider ranging lenses, from 10 million to 3 billion years, that bring into focus our identity as part of the web of life from primates and the rest of life on earth. The largest lens we have discovered so far, 13.7 billion years, show our identiy to be part of the whole of the universe itself. What lense one chooses to use to answer the questions like "who you are" or "where are you from" certainly depends on who is asking the question (your audience), and of what dimension you wish see yourself a part. In this course, we'll be using lenses to understand the signficance, and continued relevance, of events like the birth of farming and cities, the rise and fall of empires, world wars, and the global economy.

Texts:  For guidance into the most rectent research into a variety of fields of study, from science to economics, we will be utilizing the 2007 text by by Philipe Fernandez-Armesto, The World, A History, . It can be obtained used for about $40.00 from Amazon from this link. Another set of books from which we will draw some readings is a collection by Kevin Reilly called Worlds of History.

First Class notes and activity: a "warm-up" exercise to get accustomed to different frames of reference and benchmarks in time

Weekly Themes Linked below to Essential Questions, Terms, Assignments, and Class Notes Pages. Using this guide regularly is the most comprehensive way to review the material for the test. But you'll need to develop your outlines for potential responses to the questions before class and add notes during our class discussions (in fact, the class notes page will evolve over the course of the week based on your class inputs). The tests consist of multiple choice and matching as well as written short and extended response questions taken from these themes, terms, and class notes pages:

  1. Time and History: scientific (astronomy, paleontology, anthropology, paleopathology), regional, cultural, and history as revision
  2. Long Distance Trade in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas: trading communities in the common era, arabic, pax mongolian, and chinese systems
  3. Renaissance Europe and the New World: comparing cosmologies and solving the "mystery" of the "Rise of the West"
  4. European and Eurasian Powers: how Holland, England, and France surpassed Spain and Portuagal, and how the rest of Asia (including Russia) responded (or did not respond) to increasing European power
  5. Demographics and Migrations: comparing and contrasting populations flows, birth and death rates to see a bigger picture
  6. Intro to Political Revolutions First Test Explanations of Answers and Possible Responses
  7. Political Revolutions in Europe and the Americas 1649—1830: including political theory in western Europe versus East Asia
  8. The Industrial Revolution 1700--1914 : origins, effects, and responses
  9. Nationalism, Imperialism, and Resistance: 1650—1914: conditions before and after the industrial revolution
    Second Test Explanations of Answers and Possible Responses
  10. Methods of Mass Production and Destruction: 1914--37: the origins and effects of "Total War"
  11. World War II and the Cold War: from war-time allies to post-war adversaries
  12. Cold War and New Nations: 1945—1989
  13. China and India
    Third test explanations
  14. New Public Identities
  15. Regional Identities and the Twenty-First Century
  16. FINAL EXAM (over reading assignments and film, Paradise Now, one page notes front and back ok on exam)
    Read and consider an interview with the director of Paradise Now and my own notes on interpreting major scenes and dialog in Paradise Now (I will be incorporating your comments and questions from class discussions throughout the week, come prepared with the readings assignments up-to-date and questions in mind -- this is our last week of class before the exam, and don't let the fact that you can bring a page of notes lead you to think it will be easy!)

Week 1: January 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14
Homework: Read the text introduction of the text pp.1-10  through 1-15 by the end of the week

A. How does changing the perspective of space and time alter the significance of an historical event or issue? (be able to use examples from different fields and contexts, including astronomy, paleontology, biology, archeology, paleopathology and the written record considering such issues as the ozone layer, human history, gender status/rights, the benchmarks "Common Era" and 1500 C.E.)

B. The Common Era: How does the historical benchmark, 1500CE reflect a regional perspective of world history?

C. “Truthiness”: Why is historical research is essentially revision? (be able to cite examples of history as revision from Shi Huang Di, the Roman Empire in Britain, British Empire in India, European colonial accounts of Africa, Winston Churchill on History, Phillip Curtin's “proper historiography of Africa,” Vladimir Lenin; thereby understanding the basis of the subject of historiography)

***Possible Research Projects related to this section: 1) The Ozone Layer; 2) Global Warming; 3) Bonobos (type “bonobos” in the “search” menu box and listen to the most recent articles that come up, e-mail me your impressions). Here's a series of articles on the comet dust recently retrieved by the Stardust project:

Book review possibilities: David Christian's Maps of Time.


>>>Getting Started on the Required Research Project: Set up an appointment during my office hours (Monday and Wednesday 12-3PM Edu Bld Rm 331 to discuss these and/or other topics to get started. See also the project guide and grading rubrics at and

Other possible topics follow each week's agenda below. You are also encouraged to propose your own topics. E-mail me as soon as possible to make an appointment. Topics should be decided upon by the end of the third week, January 28.


Week 2: January 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21

Homework: Religion to Trade lead reading and chapter 12: Establishing World Trade Routes Homework Assignment: pp.385-400 by First Class day of week; 400-422


A. How have trade Diasporas of particular religious groups led to religious accommodations within the trade system and further creativity within their religions over the centuries? (be able to cite and illustrate on a map of Afro-Eurasia, examples in the context of the Greco-Roman and Han Chinese Empires, their collapse and resulting new diasporas centered on Islam from the 7th through the 16th century C.E. Significant terms: Alexander the Great/Akbar the Great, Lanteen Sail, Trade Winds, Pax Mongolia, Chinese Qin/Han/Tang/Song/Yuan/Ming/Ch'ing, Islamic Ottoman/Safavid/Mughal.)


B. What distinguishes American and African political-economic systems from their counterparts in Eurasia?


C. Why did superior Chinese naval technology in the 15th century NOT lead to Chinese “discovery” and control of a global trade system? (Significant terms: Ming dynasty, Cheng He, “tribute system,” Yuan dynasty).


***Possible Research Projects: 1) Trade Diasporas; 2) Pax Mongolia (book review of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World); Chinese Exploration (book review of 1421: The Year China Discovered the World); or 1491 America before Columbus


Week 3:  January 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28

Homework: European Visions -- Economic Growth, Religion, and Renaissance, Global Connections pp.425-435 by first class; pp.436-448 by the last class day of the week.


A. How did Fernand Braudel contribute to our analytic approaches to European history, and thereby other regional histories in the world? (understand Braudel's approach to Europe using his Long Duree, Long Term, and Current modes of analysis; and be able to compare and contrast geographic and ecological factors that potentially affected the political and agricultural development of Eurasia, Africa, and the Americas over the Long Duree. Related terms: (European peninsula, swamp draining as a factor, Black Plague, Africa's tsetse fly factor, horses, Steppe)


B. Compare and contrast the European Renaissance, American Cherokee Indian, and Japanese Buddhist Cosmologies of the 16th century using the sources we reviewed in class. Other significant terms: Thomas Aquinas, Origin of Disease and Medicine story, and the Tea Ceremony according to our class discussion of the first scene in the Japanese film, Rikyu)


C. How does the Jamaican song, “You Can't Blame the Youth, You Can't Fool the Youth,” reflect the recent historiography of the age of exploration? (Dias, Columbus, DeGama, Balboa, Vespucci, Magellan, Cook, De Las Casas, silver, small pox)


Possible Research Projects: 1) Bartolome de Las Casas review of book, The Devastation of the Indies : A Brief Account; 2) Bob Marley (Biography by Rita Marley or Catch a Fire), 3) Fernand Braudel (review of any of his books, but especially, The Mediterranean in the Age of Phillip II, 1491.


Week 4: January 30 | 31 and February 1 | 2 | 3

Homework: The Unification of World Trade -- 1500—1776 pp.451-465 by first class; and pp.466-481 by the end of the week.


A. Explain the shift in Atlantic trade control from the Spanish and Portuguese to the French, Dutch, and British. Significant terms: mercantilism, capitalism, Adam Smith, Cober, joint stock market, Creoles, mestizos, Cajuns, wool, cotton, guilds, unions, Louis XIV, Jesuits, bourse, national quality standards)


B. What was the relative power structure throughout Eurasia that would give Europe an advantage in the growing Atlantic-based economy? (Ming, Qing, Ottomans, Safavid, Mughal)


Week 5: February 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Homework: Migration -- 1300—1750 pp.485-516 read by the first class of the week.


A. What do demographic studies tell us that traditional historical studies do not? (use examples from statistics regarding the Columbian Exchange, Slavery, Spanish Inquisition, Asian migrations and the population in urban areas)


B. How did the Columbian Exchange affect the Slave Trade and later migrations from other parts of the world?


C. What was so "great" about Akbar the Great? (Mughal India, Tamerlane, Sufis, syncretism, jinzya, Hindi, Urdu)


D. What does Ibn Kaldun's analysis of history of Eurasia say about the state of the Mongol-Islamic empires during the rise of Europe? (Safavids, Mughals, and Ottomans, janissaries)


E. Black Robe question: To what extent was there mutual understanding and misunderstanding between the Jesuits and the Algonquin, and what difference did it make according to the film? (be able to comment on different concepts of time, heaven, the soul, dreams, sex, love, compassion, "water sorcery", written language)


Other significant terms: Battle of Kosovo, Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), madrasas, asiento


Week 6: February 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

FIRST TEST (explanations) at the start of the week and intro to Political Revolutions through the end of the week.


Week 7: February 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24

Homework: Political Revolutions in Europe and the Americas : 1649—1830 pp.521-546 by first of week; 547-556 by the end of the week.
To what extent are political revolutions revolutionary, or bringing about significant political change? Who received more political representation, or rights? Who did not?; How is European political theory comparable to Chinese political theory?; Compare and contrast the French and American revolutions. (significant terms: Confucius, jen/li, Legalism, Locke, blank slate, Hobbs, Rousseau, Emile, divine monarchy, Plato's Republic, Confucius, yin/yang, Mandate of Heaven, Royal Scientific Societies)


B. How did Enlightenment ideals undermine European power in Latin America?; What common political-economic issues in Latin America remained after the revolutions? terms: Haiti, Carib, Toussaint L'Overture, Simone Bolivar, Ben Franklin, Paraguay, caudillo, voudoun, Liberation Theology, H.D. Thoreau, neo-colonialism, hacienda, Hidalgo)


Possible Research Projects: Analysis of the film, "The Madness of King George," Review of my M.A. thesis in History completed at the University of Hawaii (, Jean Jaques Rousseau's treatise (really a novel!) on Education, Emile. Topics: "Democracy and Islam," "Voudoun," and "Liberation Theology," Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, neo-colonialism.


Week 8: February 27 | 28 and March 1 | 2 | 3
Homework: The Industrial Revolution 1700--1914 pp.561-593 by first part of week and an introduction to Nationalism, Imperialism, and Resistance by the end of the week.

A. What are some of the environmental, social, and technological origins of the Industrial Revolution in England? ("deforestation to coal mining, to water pumps to the steam engine", Jethro Tull, Spinning Jenny, enclosure acts, corn laws, import tariffs . . .)

B. What were some of the benefits and problems of the Industrial Revolution in England? What "radical" ideas did the Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, other socialist groups make in response to their moral outrage? (Luddites, alienation, "iron law of wages," Malthusian Economics, Utilitarianism, "domesticity," corsets, foot binding, "women's work," "family wage," Mary Wollstonecraft, Emmeline Pankhurst, suffragettes, "Public schools," comprehensive schools, proletariat, bourgeois, Chartists, railroads, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, the "cash nexus."

C. What did Germany do to avoid some of the problems England experienced? (Otto von Bismarck, workers disability and accident insurance, social security)

D. How did the global industrial economy slow social and political progress in the Americas and other parts of the world? Use examples from the American South, Peru, and Cuba. (Plantation complex, cartels, the maxim gun, finance capital, indentured servants,

Possible Research Projects: Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus or Past and Present, film documentary: "Darwin's Nightmare;" film, Motorcycle Diaries, . . .

Week 9: March 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 (test at the end of the week)

Nationalism, Imperialism, and Resistance: 1650—1914

A. What is the good and bad of nationalism? How can nationalism focus people's identity and avoid larger issues of real political representation? (Joseph-Ernest Renan, Benedict Anderson, H.D. Thoreau, Theodore Herzl, Herbert Spencer, Rudyard Kipling)

B. How were rivalries between European powers played on the stages of the Ottoman Empire, Southeast Asia, India, Africa, and China? (Greece, Serbia, Wallachia, Moldavia, France, Britain, Russia, Algeria, Malacca, Singapore, Burma, Malaya, Vietnam, New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Java, "cultivation system," Opium Wars, Egypt, extraterritoriality. . .)

C. Compare and contrast Japanese and Islamic responses to the European challenge

Third Test

Week 10: March 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24

Methods of Mass Production and Destruction: 1914--37

1) Introduction: Analytic contexts for the First World War and the twentieth century
2) What were the imperialistic dynamics (social and economic) underlying the assassination of Austria-Hungarian crown prince, Franz Ferdinand, and the related moves by the major powers?

Outline for potential response::
I." Imperial Dynamics" refers to at least a few components interacting (social and economic).
A. Continuation of the imperial social Darwinian "game" in the 19th century leading into the 20th century. Nationalism has a racial dimension and a hierarchy on which every industrialized nation had to prove their ranking, or else be considered inferior and fair prey to the "superior" industrial nations. Not coincidentally, the hierarchy is supportive of the economic needs in the industrial world economy.
B. Raw materials, shipping routes, ports and markets require colonies (Africa and Asia) and neo-colonial (Latin American) connections. Russia needs a warm water port and since losing against Japan in 1905, looks at the Balkans (in the Ottoman Empire) as their only route to a port on the Mediterranean. They will, therefore, defend Serbia, to which they are connected through Slavic language and Orthodox Christianity. Ger
C. Growing nationalism and a growing urban working class who are increasingly affected by the ups-and-downs in the world economy and they are beginning to stand up for their rights threatening the property owners and managers of industry.
D. Urban unrest is turned into nationalistic/racist sentiment, fanned by leaders, especially Kaiser Wilhelm. Their enemies are the other less "fit" nation-races (Germanic peoples versus the Anglo-Saxons).
E. Technology and Mass Media/Propaganda -- growing semi-literate population (thanks to new primary school education). The sinking of the "passenger ship" Lusitania by German subs was used by American leadership like the sinking of the Maine in the justification for entering the war. Posters on both sides portrayed the other side as the evil empire. (search "First World War Propaganda Posters")
II. The "moves" by the major powers after the assassination reflect these larger dynamics: Austria-Hungary takes Bosia-Hertzgovina, an ethnically Serbian territory, prompting a Bosnian-Serbian response in the Black Hand assassination. Austria Hungary declares war on Serbia; Russia Declares war on Austria-Hungary, Germany comes to Austria-Hungary's aid, France and Britain come to Russia's aid creating two fronts, the West (Russia/Germany) and (East France/Germany)

From the perspective of the European colonies and the non-European world, what were the apparent
contradictions of the First World War and its Peace Settlement?

I. The "white man's burden" to bring a morally superior civilization to the world appeared increasingly suspect to the colonies who had bought into their argument for most of the nineteenth century. Colonists were promised more rights and independence if they helped their colonial masters in the war effort.
II. Germany appealed to Mexico in the "Zimmerman Note" promising Mexico they would make sure they got Texas and California back if they started another front against America in 1917.
III. After the war, a "racial equality clause," proposed by the Japanese was rejected.
IV. Japan receives Germany's colonial holdings in the island of Shandong peninsula, provoking Chinese students to lead the mass rally, still celebrated in the May 4th (1919) movement.
V. America fails to join the League of Nations, an "essential" according to the increasingly ailing American President Woodrow Wilson.

What are the unresolved issues that would potentially provide reasons for future wars?
I. No representatives from the defeated nations, nor Russia, were included in the Paris Peace Settlement.
II. Germany is forced to pay all of the victors for all of the cost of the war. This becomes an unbearable, humiliating burden which fascists would sieze upon in their rise to power.
III. Without Ameircan participation in the League of Nations, and a global Depression in 1929, the economies of industrial nations suffer extremes that make the American depression look like a summer camp. Japan and Germany turn to expansion to secure resources and markets for a military based economy.
VI. Rather than grant independence to the colonies that assisted Europe in the war, European powers preserved their colonial relations and create more through the Mandate System in the Mideast, in which the former Ottoman Empire was divided nicely between Britain and France. Iraq fights for and gets nominal independence from Britain in 1936. Palestine and Jordan remain under British Mandate while France controls Syria and Lebanon. Britain's Balfour Declaration would become a major benchmark for understanding Arab-Israeli conflict for the the next century.

Why was the Russian Revolution and its aftermath perceived as such a threat to the rest of the industrialized world -- to the point that they would turn a blind eye to the rising tide of Fascism and Ku Klux Klan activities in the U.S.?

How did Stalin justify the extreme methods he chose to lead the Soviet Union's industrialization (pp676)? Using similar legal logic of eminent domain found in English and American law and applied by local, state, and federal jurisdiction when private property is acquired for the sake of the local infrastructure and economy (power lines, highways, and development projects), Stalin made the claim that ALL private property should be turned over to the state

Week 11: March 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31

World War II and the Cold War

1) What issues at the start of the Second World War had their origins in the First World War and even before?
I. Imperialism remained an issue before and after the First World War and into the Second World War.
A. British and French colonial possessions in Africa and especially Asia, alienated parts of the world from the West in their quest for independence that was not granted after the First World War.
B. Cultural/Social/Racial Imperialism derived from 19th century Social Darwinism doomed the League of Nations (failure to accept the Japanese "racial equality clause"), American refusal to even join the League of Nations. Western indifference to the rise of Fascism in Italy, Germany, America (the KKK), and Japan proved that racism and fear of communism was mainstream thinking at the time. (black shirts, brown shirts, Mussulini, Hitler, Aryan, Yamato, . . . The U.S. shuts off immigration for Japanese in the 1930s.
C. Germany/Austria were still at a disadvantage, probably even more at the start of the Second World War than at the start of the First World War (Balkans revisited, Poland, Czechoslovakia (1939)
D. Russia was still seeking a warm water port and struggling to catch up with the West.
E. Japan still seeking sources for raw materials and markets for its economy; destination for surplus population (Manchuria 1938)
F. Italy wants to get in on the Imperial game; invades Ethiopia (1935) Albania (1939)

2) To what extent did the global depression in the capitalist world force leaders to adopt some Soviet methods for economic development? Hitler's State planning, Roosevelt's New Deal, zaibatsu

3) Explain Hitler's statement regarding propaganda, "in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility." (Cober Rapport and "truthiness" revisited)

4) How did the psychological research of Sigmund Freud reflect the disillusion and realities of the first half of the twentieth century? (id, ego, superego, Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, "comfort women", the Milligram Experiment)

5) Why did Japan bomb Pearl Harbor?

6) How did Japan justify to Asians its seizing of territory across Asia and what were the post-war effect of their policies there? (Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Liberators from the "A,B,C,D powers")

7) How was the success of D-Day dependent on Russia? (Stalingrad)

8) Why is there still controversy surrounding the decision to drop the Atomic bomb twice on Japan in three days? (Anthropomorphize, defeat of the Japanese navy in 1944, Russia on the way, Okinawa)

8) To what extent did the peace settlement at the end of the war resolve longstanding issues? (German and general economic welfare of Europe addressed through the Marshall Plan, Japan occupied and rebuilt through the Korean War)

9) What did Gandhi and Picasso have to say about Western Civilization in the first half of the twentieth century? (pp.710-711)

10) What roles do the United Nations play in peacekeeping around the world? (UNESCO, World Bank, WHO, Security Council, World Court)

11) How has the Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. undermined the peacekeeping ability of the U.N.?

12) What are the origins of the Cold War? (Yalta, NATO, "Pax-Americana", Warsaw Pact (1955), Walter Rostow's "take-off theory")

Possible Research Projects: 1) War Without Mercy by John Dower; The Good War by Studs Terkel ; 2) Japan At War: An Oral History

Week 12: 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Cold War and New Nations: 1945—1989

See notes for this section here

Possible Research Projects: 1) Inside the Third World : The Anatomy of Poverty; 2) Don't Be Afraid Gringo

Week 13: 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

1) Compare and contrast Ghandi's and Mao's methods of leading their respective independence movments (include consideration of the salt march, long march, satyagraha, hundred flowers campaign)

2) What lessons does Indian success with political reform have to offer China; and what lessons does Chinese success with economic reform have to offer India? (refer to the text)

Possible Research Projects: 1) Wild Swans book review

Week 14: 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21

Reading Assignment: 1) pp.873-878; 2) pp.813-816; 3) pp. 848-856 and answer the corresponding questions: 1a) Draw timeline in correct proportions to show events and passages of time relevant to understanding the continuing Israeli/Palestinian conflict (i.e. Jewish exile, Arab influence in the region, Balfour Declaration, creation of Israel, 1967 war, Intifada, etc.) 1b) Why do Arabs have a problem with using the Holocaust as an excuse for creating the nation of Israel after the Second World War? 1c) What does OPEC have to do with the Israeli/Palestinian problem and tension in the Mid-East?
1d) What is the problem with the Israeli construction of a barrier between Israel and prospective Palestinian territory? 2a) What U.S. actions have worked against its War on Terror according our potential allies? 2b) What is Bin Laden's historical justification for use of terrorist attacks on the U.S.? 3) What lessons for the world does the case of South Africa, since overcoming their century long policy of apartheid (especially the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission)?

Class notes: timeframes for considering the Palestinian/Israeli issue

Week 15: 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28

Reading Assignment: Discuss responses to the reading assignment and view the remainder of the film Paradise Now.
Reading assignment for Wednesday: 1) pp.816-827; 2)802-810: 3) pp.856-861; 832-839and answering the following corresponding questions (you will be allowed to use one page of notes on your final exam, so be sure to work diligently on these final assignments!):
1) How have the world's major religions been responding the changes in recent history and how have they been evolving overall (Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, Judaism, and Christianity? 2a) How are non-governmental global identities addressing challenges in the world? 2b) What is Gorbechev's vision for the new world?; 3) Why all the opposition to globalization in Latin America and the world in general?

Class notes: background on changing identities