Does the world have a history? This course is based on an affirmative answer to the question. A history of the world must be more than a mere compendium of facts about disparate societies and traditions. In this course students study the interactions among far-flung civilizations in ancient and medieval times. However, for most of the period considered in this course, those interactions were quite limited. Therefore, a coherent account of human history as a whole before the modern era emerges in large measure from comparisons among independently developing societies, and from a search for common patterns of development. Both similarities and important differences receive due attention. Topics include: the change from hunter-gatherer societies to sedentary agriculture; the rise of cities, social stratification, and the beginnings of written culture and organized religion; the complex civilizations and empires of West Asia, East Asia, Africa, Mesoamerica, and Europe; gender relations across civilizations in the ancient world; and the beginnings of technological and cultural divergence in the medieval world.
- To acquire and improve writing and communication skills by submitting essays that require the organization, analysis, synthesis, and explanation of historical facts and original argumentation.
- To acquire familiarity with the main themes and events of world history, from its beginnings to 1500 C.E., as outlined in the course description.
- To practice critical and analytical skills on historical theories, controversies, and debates as well as on primary sources.
- To understand and be able to explain the historical significance of both primary and secondary sources.
- Employ the methods and data that historians and social and behavioral scientists use to investigate the human condition.
- Examine social institutions and processes across a range of historical periods and cultures.
- Use and critique alternative explanatory systems or theories.
- Develop and communicate alternative explanations or solutions for contemporary social issues.