Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My World History Book

A few weeks ago I posted a question on my Facebook page asking others what would be the best way to approach writing the history textbook I am creating for my classroom (World History AD 300-1760).  I was surprised with the amount of responses and appreciated everyone of them.

A typical world history textbook takes a culture or empire, for example the Romans, and gives their history in a period of time.  I was curious.  Do people best connect historical events that way or is it done that way because it is ALWAYS done that way?

For example, one problem with the traditional method is that Roman history spans over 1000 years.  Do  students miss the interconnections the Romans had with their surrounding world?  Is it so condensed that students think the Punic Wars and birth of Christianity happened pretty much around the same time period (when in fact they were about 200 years apart)?  Since most Roman history ends with the fall of the city of Rome and the ascension of the "barbarian" Odoacer to the throne in AD 476 do students miss the fact that the real power of the Roman empire had shifted east a century before and the Caesars ruled for another 1000 years?

Based on discussions I have had, the Facebook responses, and reflection, here is the approach I am going to take:

In our school, the 6th graders learn Ancient History through the Middle Ages.  The 8th graders learn U.S. History.  My course is going to connect the two (This is a new course.  I used to teach Geography which stood alone).

Since the course is to link the two histories, the primary link will be the issue of trade.  Trade is the reason Rome became wealthy and desired to control the Mediterranean.

The book will look at the empires that looked to dominate world trade in a chronological sequence.  Starting with the Byzantium Empire (300-1452), the book will then look at in order the Rise of the Arab Muslim Empires (500-1200), the Mongols (1100-1350), and the Ottoman Empire (1300-1760).

The book will then return to Europe to address their desire to establish new trade routes with the East that will eventually lead to Columbus' sailing.  The three empires we will look at will be the Hapsburg, the Ancien Regime of France, and the upstart Brits.  The book will conclude with the French and British battles for supremacy, and end with the French and Indian War, the front door step for the 8th grade U.S. history teacher.

By focusing on large groups, I will have some time to bring other events and people into the conversation.  Since it is an online textbook, I do not necessarily have to include them in the book itself (although I could) but link to an online article or a worksheet or supplement that I created.  In this way students do not miss the great trading empires of Africa, but will see how they connect with the Arab traders.  The Japanese, Chinese, and Korean empires will not be missed, nor will the Amerindians.  Events that shaped Europe, and thus the United States, are easily added such as the Renaissance and Reformation.

I hope this makes sense.  If anyone has any comments or wrenches to throw at it ("If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball"), let me know.  Its always appreciated.

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