Sunday, December 23, 2012

World History II Themes

For next semester I have yet again tweaked the themes for the second half of my world history survey, which is now called "Thinking Historically in a Global Age."  The new version:
In this course we will frequently revisit the following themes:
1.)    Identity construction – People have many different identities, which can include national, religious, and ethnic.  An understanding of how these are formed among groups and how people think about them is among the most important elements of core curricula around the United States, and is crucial to understanding many developments in history over the past few centuries, which have seen the rise of countries and political movements and the outbreak of wars based on such identities.
2.)    Science, Technology and Transformation – The past 500 years have seen rapid progress in science and technology, which has affected our everyday lives, the scale of our identities, government power, and our economic roles, all in ways which can be seen as both good and bad.  In this course, we will look not just at new inventions and discoveries, but more importantly their impact on society.
3.)    Economic and Political Ideas – The rise of new types of identity and changes related to science and technology have given rise to a number of theories on how to properly organize a society and ensure economic prosperity.  These ideas are still around today, and represent a core part of our contemporary political discourse.  In this course, we will come to understand all of these “isms” and the historical context in which they emerged.
4.)    The United States – The United States is often considered alone, but it is part of the larger world.  This course will explore the American experience and the idea of American exceptionalism by relating American history to broader global trends and developments.
The word "transformation" is doing a lot of work here, as it entails everything from global balances of power to social history to urbanization.  However, it sets up the awareness that a lot of what we do take for granted about the world today developed during the period under study, which is about 1500 until the present.  The fourth theme is there because given the quirks of my institution, hardly any non-majors take the U.S. history surveys, so the American component is part of world history that than something sidelined on the theory it is covered elsewhere.  A definite benefit to this is that students do come to see the U.S. in a global context.



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