Monday, August 23, 2010

World History I Syllabus

HIS 105-031: World History I
102 Dauphin Humanities Center, MWF 9:00 a.m.
Dr. Brian J. Ulrich

Office: 201 Dauphin Humanities Center, ex. 1736
Office Hours: 10:00-10:50, Noon-12:50 MWF, also by appointment

“For any branch of knowledge to exist, it must be derived from history. From it all wisdom is deduced, all jurisprudence is elicited, all eloquence is learnt. Those who reason by analogy build upon it. Those who have opinions to expound use it for argument. Popular knowledge is derived from it and the precepts of the wise are found in it. Noble and lofty morality is acquired from it and the rules of royal government and war are sought in it. All manner of strange events are found in it; in it, too, all kinds of entertaining stories may be enjoyed. It is a science which can be appreciated by both the educated and the ignorant, savoured by both fool and sage, and much desired comfort to elites and commoners. The superiority of history over all other branches of learning is obvious. The loftiness of its status is recognized by any person of intelligence.”

-al-Masudi, 10th century

Required Texts

Voyages in World History, Vol. I, Valerie Hansen and Kenneth R. Curtis
Pre-Industrial Societies, Patricia Crone
In an Antique Land: History in the Guise of a Traveler’s Tale, Amitav Ghosh

Electronic reserves found on Blackboard

World History I is required under the “Required Skills and Competencies” category of the Shippensburg University general education program. This is not based solely on the value of understanding what people did in the past. As we will see, historians reconstruct the past on the basis of many types of evidence, evidence that must be considered carefully. This root skill of considering evidence has applications in many professional fields and in forming considered opinions as a member of society. Historians write our conclusions in the form of reasoned arguments about what we think happened. Studying these will help you to evaluate arguments in many fields, and ultimately to make your own. When historians make these arguments, they refer to their evidence with particular forms which we will study. You may never use these specific forms after this class, but the habit of following a specified professional form is something you will need to have for many fields.

As noted in the “General Education” section of the undergraduate catalog, this course is also designed to ensure that students have a global perspective as they proceed with their college education, and for that matter the rest of their lives. Perhaps the most important aspect to this course here at Shippensburg, this “global competence” will help you not only make informed decisions about the world, but may come in handy in your careers and personal lives when you least expect it. To take just one example, a friend who works in a hospital in Minnesota found herself wishing she knew a lot more about the culture of Somalia when a number of Somali refugees were settled in her area and started coming in for treatment. World history is an excellent field in which to begin developing a global disposition, as not only do we learn about different cultures, but we’ll see how they came to be the way they are, which in my experience, makes people more respectful and understanding of the differences.

Finally, I recently conducted an informal survey of lots of friends and former students to find out what they valued about college history courses now that they are in the working world. In addition to reading and writing skills and, in the case of world history, the global perspective, several mentioned that history classes are where they learned to organize knowledge. This is in part a reference to the fact that history is often the first place students regularly practice reading for main ideas, but also the fact that history often comes across as a mass of random information that starts to make sense only if you learn to start filtering it by themes, questions and patterns.

During the semester, we will develop several major themes:

1.) Empire – Before modern times, the most common ideal for political organization was the empire. This involved more than just conquering territory, which is what we often think of. Empires also unified large areas with a common culture, and claimed to represent a universal ideal, such as a set of religious beliefs. In addition to being a key aspect of understanding the past, understanding the various forms of empires can lead to interesting discussions about the world today. After all, the United States claims to represent ideals of democracy and capitalism, in the name of which it frequently intervenes in other countries, and people throughout the world adopt aspects of American culture. Does this mean the United States is something like a new empire?

2.) Religion – Religion is, always has been, and probably always will be crucial to individuals and an important part of the societies in which they live. Almost all world religions began before 1500, and even though they continue to change and develop, we will learn a lot of basics in this course, not only about the core beliefs of different religions, but how they are often intimately related to each other in their origins and influences.

3.) Contact across Cultures – Your main textbook has this as one of its major themes, and we will also explore it, as hinted at above. This will involve discussions about the ways cultures have influenced each other, such as the spread of ideas along trade routes and the frequent role of gender relations in mixed cultural settings. Also, given all the cultural mixing that has occurred across history, what do we really mean today when we think of the world in terms of an “us” and a bunch of different “thems?”

4.) The Historian’s Craft – History shapes out perceptions of who we are and how we fit into the world and, as al-Masudi notes in the above quote, is the source of many models we refer to in different areas of life. However, how do we know what we know about the past? During this course, we will consider popular perceptions of history, as well as how historians work. We will also examine primary sources for ourselves, either on-line or in Voyages, which open an often exciting window into different worlds. A key objective is to get you to see knowledge as something produced rather than simply handed down.

With these themes as our focus, assignments will ensure you develop a foundational understanding of world history to 1500, an ability to write clearly and think critically about world history to 1500, and an ability to analyze historical events and trends effectively. There will be three exams during the course of the semester, each divided into an ID and an essay portion. The final exam will have a cumulative component related to the major themes explained above. There will also be an essay due November 22 focused on the theme “World History in Today’s World.” Attendance and participation are mandatory. Students are allowed to miss three classes. After that, your total participation grade will be lowered by 5% for each additional absence. Late papers will be accepted, but with a penalty usually amounting to one full letter grade per class period late. Late take-home exams are acceptable only under extraordinary circumstances. Laptops are permitted in class, but if I notice you doing something not related to the course, that will hurt your participation grade, as well.

In addition, I will occasionally give short paragraph writing assignments on reading, which will occasionally be collected. The purpose of this is both to make sure that everyone is doing the reading, and that people are understanding what they read and how it relates to the major concepts of the course. I will also give the occasional reading quiz. In the past, students have found my reading quizzes comically easy.

Syllabus Changes:

Occasionally, I find I want to make changes to the syllabus. These are usually substitutions of different readings, and will not result in increased work or changes in the dates of exams and major assignments. It is your responsibility as a student to be familiar with any such changes to the syllabus, issued for whatever reason, as announced both in class and over e-mail.


Plagiarism, simply put, is intellectual theft. If you use words or ideas from someone else in an academic or professional setting, and do not give them proper credit, you have stolen from them. This is true even if the work has been posted in a public forum, such as a web site. It includes:

1.) Outright plagiarism – direct copying of a source, passing off the author’s words and ideas as one’s own without crediting the source
2.) Mosaic plagiarism – lifting words or phrases from the original source, again without crediting that source
3.) Echo plagiarism – no words are stolen, but ideas are lifted, again without crediting the source

Because of all this, plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty (cheating) will not be tolerated and handled according to Shippensburg procedures. Specific guidelines for expected citation policies will be announced with each assignment. The easiest way to avoid plagiarizing is always to cite as much as possible. Citing too much is almost impossible to do. Citing too little could lead to failing an assignment, the course as a whole, or even expulsion from the university. In order to prevent plagiarism, I ask that all assignments be submitted via

Frankly, you should want to cite things even if it weren’t for the consequences of plagiarism. The flip side of plagiarism is generosity, acknowledging the debt you have to the work of others. Even when professional historians have an idea of their own, they will often include a footnote mentioning that they got the idea after talking to a colleague, or even from discussion in a class they were teaching. Sometimes when they cite a book or article, they will mention that it was recommended to them by a friend, whom they name. You may not know the people who created the sources you will cite here at Shippensburg, but acknowledging things others have done to help you is a good habit to get into for life, and proper citation is a good start.

(Note: I am indebted to Professor Betty Dessants for her description of the types of plagiarism.)


Part I Exam: 15%
Part II Exam: 20%
Final Exam: 25%
November 22 Essay: 15%
Quizzes and Short Assignments: 15%
Participation: 10%

Disability Accomodation:

If you feel you may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability, you should contact me privately to discuss your specific needs at least 72 hours prior to the activity which requires the accommodation. If you have not already done so, you must contact the Office of Disability Services. This office is responsible for determining reasonable and appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities on a case-by-case basis, and more generally, for ensuring that members of the community with disabilities have access to Shippensburg’s programs and services. They also assist students in identifying and managing the factors that may interfere with learning and in developing strategies to enhance learning. I cannot approve an accommodation without you registering.

Schedule of Readings and Major Assignments

(Readings with a full citation are found on Desire2Learn)

August 30 – Course Intro
Part I – Ancient Origins
September 1 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 21-5; Crone, pp. 1-10; James E. McClellan III and Harold Dorn, Science and Technology in World History, 2nd Ed., (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006), pp. 17-23. [Agricultural Revolution]
September 3 – Crone, pp. 13-34 [complex society]

September 6 – LABOR DAY
September 8 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 28-38; Crone, pp. 35-46 [basis of states, Mesopotamia]
September 10 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 38-51, 63-5; Crone, pp. 46-57 [state functions, Egypt and Indus Valley]

September 13 – Crone, pp. 58-80 [politics]
September 15 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 66-71; Mary Boyce, “Zoroaster and his teaching,” Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, (London: Routledge, 1986), pp. 17-29. [Indo-Europeans, religion]
September 17 - Hansen and Curtis, pp. 51-7, 150-1; Marc van de Mieroop, “The Persian Empire,” A History of the Ancient Near East, (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), pp. 267-80 [Judaism, religious interactions, Achaemenid Empire]

September 20 – Crone, pp. 81-98; Hansen and Curtis, pp. 154-5 [culture]
September 22 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 71-86; “Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Law;” Selection from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad [South Asian religious developments, Mauryan Empire]
September 24 –Hansen and Curtis, pp. 88-112 [ideas from first unit in relation to China]

September 27 – Selections from the Analects of Confucius and the Tao-Te Ching [Chinese spiritual thought]
September 29 – Crone, 99-122 [social organization]
October 1 – Exam ID Section

October 4 – Essay Exam – Ancient Origins

Part II – Eurasian Powers and Universalist Religions
October 6 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 157-69 [Greek basics]
October 8 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 169-71, 174-92 [Rome and Persia]

October 11 – FALL BREAK
October 13 – Joseph H. Lynch, “The Jewish Context of the Jesus Movement,” Early Christianity: A Brief History, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 13-23; N.T. Wright, “The Praxis of a Prophet,” Jesus and the Victory of God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), pp. 150-55, 160-8 [Jesus, historiographical movements]
October 15 - Hansen and Curtis, pp. 199-204; 271-6; Reader, 228-31; Jas Elsner, “Christian Triumph: A New Religion as State Cult: Sanctity, relics, and Christianization,” Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 230-5; Procopius on Ethiopia (Link) [Late Antiquity]

October 18 – Ghosh, 13-19, 32-39, 54-60, 80-95, 95-105 [Historical projects]
October 20 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 241-50; Qur’an, Surahs 1, 2 [Islam]
October 22 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 238-40, 250-65; Forty Hadith [Islamic empire, medieval monotheistic traditionalism, Islamic learning]

October 25 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 208-22 [South Asian kingdoms, Hinduism, Mahayana Buddhism]
October 27 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 222-35 [Sui/Tang imperial system, Chinese Buddhism]
October 29 – Ghosh, pp. 153-162, 174-179, 226-230, Selections from Chinese poetry [issues in social history]

November 1 – Ghosh, pp. 241-250, 255-263, 266-269 [medieval trade, economics, and culture]
November 3 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 319-25; Ghosh, 275-288, 299-305, 313-317, 324-328 [al-Hind]
November 5 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 300-15 [Africa]

November 8 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 328-55 [Song China and East Asia]
November 10 – Exam ID Section
November 12 – Essay Exam – Eurasian Powers and Universalist Religions

Part III – New Powers, New Connections
November 15 - Hansen and Curtis, pp. 276-98 [Europe from 400-1000]
November 17 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 356-74 [High Medieval European Civilization]
November 19 - Hansen and Curtis, pp. 386-417 [Mongols and their successor states]

November 22 – Ghosh, pp. 196-210, 329-342 [history in today’s world] [Essay due]

November 29 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 114-31, 420-4 [Pre-Columbian Meso-America]
December 1 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 131- 5, 424-431 [Pre-Columbian Andes]
December 3 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 374-83, 418-421; Daniel J. Boorstin, “The Enterprise of the Indies,” The Discoverers, (New York: Vintage Books, 1983), pp. 224-31. [Expansion of Europe]

December 6 – Hansen and Curtis, pp. 431-49 [Conquest of Americas]
December 8 – Kathleen Deagan, “Dynamics of Imperial Adjustment in Spanish America: Ideology and Social Integration,” Empires: Perspectives from Archaeology and History, eds. Susan Alcock, Terence D’Altroy, Kathleen Morrison, Carla Sinopoli,(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 179-194 [Spanish imperialism in Americas]
December 10 – Exam Review

Final exam scheduled by university later in the semester

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