World History: Cultures, States, and Societies to 1500
Eugene Berger, Georgia Gwinnett College
Pub Date: 2016
ISBN 13: 978-1-9407711-0-6
Publisher: University of North Georgia Press
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Global history is a very difficult topic to tackle in a textbook without becoming far too long to be useful to most students or too brief to provide read more
Global history is a very difficult topic to tackle in a textbook without becoming far too long to be useful to most students or too brief to provide any narrative at all. This book provides adequate coverage. Some chapters provide more depth than others. Some extremely significant events have little coverage in the text or are split oddly across chapters; the Crusades appear in very briefly in Chapter 8 and in some more depth in Chapter 12, for example. Reading the two sections side by side gives the reader a reasonable level of comprehension, but it may not be intuitive. Coverage on Asia is also somewhat lacking in comparison to events in Europe.
There were no obvious errors and, aside from a tendency to focus on European events, the text does not display any strong biases.
It is impossible to predict when we will uncover evidence that reveals new data on ancient events. It seems like our timeline for early villages changes every year as new archaeology comes in. That said, most of the content of this book is unlikely to change significantly and those updates should be easy to implement, thanks to the clear section divisions within each chapter.
I found the text more readable than most commercially available textbooks. I would have liked to see a glossary or short definitions included in the Key Terms section (or a section reference directing the reader to the location of that key term), though that's much less of an issue in a electronic text.
The framework throughout the text is consistent and very helpful in locating the information you want to find.
The text is broken down into small sections that can easily be referenced and assigned individually or in various combinations.
Overall, I found the organization very helpful. Personally, I dislike organizing long sequences of events by geography, rather than emphasizing the connectivity of events. To return to my example of the Crusades from earlier: Chapter 8 focuses on Islam and the role Saladin played in the Crusades, while Chapter 12 focuses on the European motivations for the Crusades. That organization seems less helpful to me than a single chapter about the Crusades that incorporates both perspectives. If I were using this text in my class, I would probably cut the text up into a more chronologically consistent narrative.
I encountered no noticeable issues with the interface.
The text was well-written; I noticed no errors in grammar.
I did not find any of the text culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. Diversity is at the core of this textbook, as it attempts to address the varied experiences of ancient cultures.
Overall, the book covers much of the expected content for a course focused on world history. In some areas, like chapter 1 I was looking for a read more
Overall, the book covers much of the expected content for a course focused on world history. In some areas, like chapter 1 I was looking for a decontextualization of the concept of "prehistory" versus "history", as this is considered a very loaded term in some contemporary communities and circles. Also, in Chapter 10, there were many culture areas that were not even introduced here. Even if briefly, I believe it was necessary to introduce students to the culture areas and give an overview of the diversity of Native groups within each. To cover all of North American in roughly 4 pages is problematic and expansion is necessary here.
While I would not say the book had inaccuracies per se, given the breadth of the book, some of the complexities were overlooked. For example, there was no discussion of "Pre-Clovis" when discussing the peopling of the New World. This section simplified what is a very real and ongoing debate within archaeology and beyond.
While most of the references cited were post 2000, I had hoped to see more references from research from 2010 to the present, as some very important discoveries have been made in this time.
The book was a very clear and concise read, which was as free of jargon as possible. The definitions also provided the necessary context for the reader.
The book was quite consistent throughout, as was evidenced through the same layout and structure between chapters and authors. I particularly liked the questions at the onset and the links to primary sources at the end. Some chapters were less robust then others, with some chapters ranging only 30 pages, while others were 50 pages in length. If not prefaced, this might impact students sense of the richness of some regions and time periods over others.
I believe this textbook could easily be modularized with little issue.
The organization of the book made logical sense in most instances. I was unsure of the placement of Chapter 11 on Central Asia right after the Americas however.
I experienced no interface issues and found t quite intuitive.
I found few grammatical errors throughout.
I did not find the textbook to be culturally insensitive.
The book provides an overview of key regional empires across the world. Such an approach, however, inevitably favors larger states and societies at read more
The book provides an overview of key regional empires across the world. Such an approach, however, inevitably favors larger states and societies at the expense of smaller ones — understandable, given the breadth of material, and something I find in most world history textbooks. The book’s weight on classical Greece and Rome (2 chapters out of 12) will serve most classes, but contributes to the fact that 4 out of 12 chapters focus on Europe — while sub-Saharan Africa, India and the Americas receive only a chapter each. More significant for many, I suspect, will be that the approach — focusing each chapter on a distinct region — means the textbook’s ability to draw connections across different regions is hampered. This criticisms noted, writing world history is difficult and the textbook will likely serve well for courses where specific content coverage is mandated by department or college policy. An index isn’t provided, but text searches are easy in a digital file and students will likely plan to use those in place of an index in any case. A collected glossary is not provided, but key terms are noted at the start of each chapter.
Material covered in the book is accurate and consistent; instructors should not be concerned at undue bias or error.
Content coverage is broad enough that new findings or approaches will not render the text obsolete — and occasional changes for nuance can easily be incorporated. The lists of further reading are the areas most likely to need revisions, and this can be done easily (and likely should be for the links to online primary sources, given how quickly web content can shift). The one area of concern in terms of relevance would be to note the ongoing debate about how to frame this kind of class — whether to cover multiple regions of the world, or to emphasize events that span across regions. I note this not in idle critique, but to note that your position on this (or your department’s position) will impact the relevancy of the book.
The text is clearly and carefully aimed at an undergraduate audience; terms are not just carefully defined, but defined in such a way to make them accessible to students.
The structure of the different chapters is broadly consistent: a chronology, introduction, guiding questions and key terms, followed by the text, then recommended secondary texts and primary documents. The length of these varies from chapter to chapter — Greece has a page of site and individual primary document links, while the last chapter links to two sites only. I found the history sections, however, were consistent in approach and wouldn't expect that students would be confused advancing through the text. Visual material was similarly consistent in terms of layout and quality.
The 12 chapters are largely self-contained, allowing an instructor to teach them in a different order — or to pick and choose which chapters to use — with the caveat that some are of course linear (e.g., the chapter on Rome logically builds on the chapter on Greece.) One could fairly easily use a single chapter, or several chapters, without using the remainder of the book.
For those teaching world history as a discrete series of introductions to regions of the world, the organization of the book will suit well. Each chapter is effectively a self-contained unit, with a specific story developed over the course of the chapter. This is perhaps stronger in chapters that treat shorter historical moments (e.g., the Ancient Greek world) rather than the wider survey chapters (e.g., Africa to 1500). This is a good text for asking students to learn about unfamiliar regions and histories; however, for those teaching world history/global history as in terms of comparisons, connections or (world) change, the organization and flow of the text is problematic.
I found the .pdf easy to use, and quick to respond, both when reading within a browser, in Adobe Reader, and using other applications to read through it. The textbook looked excellent both within the browser and when read within applications. The only caveat would be loading time, which I found to be uneven and slower on some browsers — those using the text might wish to consider local hosting to distribute it to their students. The use of maps and images (drawing extensively on Wikimedia, but also including a fair number of high-quality originals) is impressive.
The odd typographic error is present, but the proofing and writing is as good as what I see from most professional presses. The occasional awkward phrase is, in my eyes, made up for with simple unassuming prose for the most part — I believe students will find this to be more accessible than much of what I assign them.
The book is careful to avoid obvious pitfalls in terms of cultural insensitivity, and is careful to approach different cultures carefully. However, the nature of the project — encompassing world cultures to 1500 — means inevitably that it is incomplete, and some cultures are left out. The approach here, which emphasizes key regional powers/cultures, is a logical way to structure the book (and a course) but can’t be universally inclusive by its very nature
The textbook should be relevant for many teaching the first half of the introductory world history survey to 1500. The particular modular approach may be tricky for others — I’ve variously been asked (at different institutions) to teach it to/from 1650, to 1300, and to 1500. For instructors looking for OER resources, the text is lucid, provides a relevant introduction and has an excellent look-and-feel. It will not suit all instructors, given its pedagogical approach (different chapters for different regions), but if you share that approach it will do quite well. Expanded primary document links in some sections would be useful.
For a survey course, the text masterfully delves into early African history and brilliantly reviews the Classical World, Early Islam and Europe. read more
For a survey course, the text masterfully delves into early African history and brilliantly reviews the Classical World, Early Islam and Europe. However, instructors may want to supplement the text with additional readings for topics concerning South America and Southeast Asia.
The content is accurate and balanced, if unequally distributed.
The text is up to date and I have no doubt that the creators will continue to update as necessary. I would prefer, however, to have an “open” option – such as a WORD document, that can be edited by instructors who choose to adopt this text.
The sections are similarly organized with a good mix of graphs, maps and illustrations. More, it is easy to digest and presents History as a topic of interest, rather than a dry list of figures. My larger concern is the lack of an index. No worries as a .pdf, but this becomes an issue for the student who chooses to print the text.
It is clear that a chapter “skeleton” was used by each contributor. The result is a text that flows smoothly from one content area to the next. Students are clear in what they can expect from each chapter, in terms of questions, key terms and so on. Some chapters get better treatment with these extras than others.
Each region is presented in a manner and layout common to any instructor of World History. I do like that they’ve narrowed in on subsections to allow for targeted reading.
There are two schools of thought with survey texts: The People of X in Time Y or What’s Happening in Regards to A During Time B. There are merits to both methods. This text takes the former route, allowing the instructor/learner to skip from one area to the next, drawing connections on their own.
I would think a web versions and a .docx/.rtf version to be in order. As for the .pdf, I am amazingly grateful for high and low res options. Great layout, typesetting and design.
I have yet to read a book without error. Could this use another pass from an editor? Sure, but so can every other book - fiction or nonfiction – that I’ve ever purchased.
I am pleased with the range of places and peoples touched on. I would have liked more on South America and Southeast Asia, but those can be supplemented by teachers, per their interest.
This book is great for those wanting to adopt a free textbook. I am, however, reluctant to label this true OER, as the text is only available as a PDF. Sure, there are programs available to jailbreak a PDF, but since the license allows remixing, the file should also be available as a .rtf, .doc. or .docx.
The text adequately covers all the materials that would be required in a survey World History course. While each chapter had a different author and read more
The text adequately covers all the materials that would be required in a survey World History course. While each chapter had a different author and thus in some areas more attention is given, overall the book provides the basic content and supplements it adequately with images, maps, and links to additional primary and secondary readings. It is lacking both an index and glossary, but the digital nature of the text can compensate for that in part. Some chapters need to really rework the key terms. Establish a ceiling and a floor, and make sure that if it's on the list then it's essential for a survey course. The Prehistory chapter doesn't have "Agricultural Revolution" as a key term (which it really ought to), but has "homo erectus," "homo habilis," and "homo sapiens." Do freshmen need to know all the names of all the ancestors of modern humans, but not the event that began civilization?
The content is accurate and reflects a concerted effort to include recent scholarship. There are places where biases creep in, but such is the nature of such collaborative works that have to cover such vast amounts of detail, yet be written by scholars with their own research interests and specialties.
There is a nice mix of recent publications (some only a year or two old) with older publications. Often the "Further Reading" sections include web links that can be a potential source of problems over time with dead and broken links, however they are frequently from organizations and institutions that plan to be around for a while. Additionally, web sources are sufficiently balanced with print sources. Best of all, because the book is primarily a digital text, updates can be published and made available immediately without older editions floating around.
Each chapter includes a list of key terms at the outset (though the number of key terms varies dramatically from chapter to chapter), and while these key terms do not appear in a glossary or index they are in bold in the text, creating a nice mix of help to the student, but not too much. The words are easily found, but the student must still read to find the definition. Overall the prose of the text is on par with survey texts currently available from big publishers and other OERs.
In terms of framework each chapter follows a consistent model: chronology, introduction, questions for guiding students through the chapter, and key terms. There is a bit of inconsistency in length of these individual section for each chapter. The introduction to chapter 8 is about half page, while that of chapter . The timeline provided with chapter 12 (Renaissance) is almost three full pages, while chapter 11 (Central Asia) has only 5 entries. Chapter 2 has eighteen "Questions to Guide Your Reading" while chapter 7 has eight. There are a few places where the key term has issues. Some chapters have a word in the key terms list that doesn't appear in the text, or doesn't appear the same as it did in the list.
The text was very well organized in this way. Each chapter is broken in sections, sub-sections, and sometimes even further than that. This will be tremendously helpful for faculty who wish to use the text in pieces rather than assign the book in its entirety. There are portions where 4-5 pages passes by without any kind of sectional break, but often this is due to large maps and images having been inserted into the text and thus stretching the section out to several pages. Overall the structure of the book was one of the first things that caught my attention.
History benefits from the fact that the narrative is the subject and thus a nice structure and flow is built in. Each chapter does a nice job of taking the reader from point to point and having each new section or sub-section link with the one that came before. The one area that could be pointed to as a weakness is how the chapter topics are organized. One of the goals of World Civ is to study the earth and it's people as a whole, rather than looking at just one region as is done in Western Civ, African Civ, etc. Other textbooks in world history achieve this by organizing chapters by topic and trying to use the chapter to compare say, Rome and the Han dynasty, or look at developments in Africa at the same time as South America. Instead the text runs the risk of organizing world history as a collection of political and cultural entities that occasionally bump into each other. It would be the equivalent of having a Western Civ course that forgoes looking at all the revolutions of the mid 19th century as part of a larger movement in Europe and instead looking at individual countries as isolated bodies. This isn't saying the book doesn't cover the material, but it does reinforce the idea that world history courses are supposed to break down. Look at the some of the chapters: -Prehistory -Early Middle East and North African Civ -Ancient and Medieval India -China and East Asia -The Greek World from Bronze Age to Rome -The Roman World -Western Europe and Byzantium -Islam to the Mamluks -Africa to 1500 (really? one chapter will cover the entire continent for the entire period covered by the text? Some chapters cross cutlural boundaries, like Islam to the Mamluks, but looking at the others I don't see a "world history" text as much as "histories all over the world."
The text is clean and effective in this regard. There aren't lots of bells and whistles, but that's not always a problem.
There were a few errors that naturally will creep in with a text of this size. Page 5 is missing the 'n" in Neanderthal for example. The book is by no means ruined by errors. I find errors in books by big publishers, so given that they have more money to throw at editing and production, having the same number of errors is pretty good.
You aren't going to be able to talk about every culture and people on the planet for the last several millennia and not offend either by omission or commission. There are no clear, obvious, or overt attempts at poking one particular culture in the ribs, but history is controversial, and controversy by nature offends. Given that the book is world history I think you have "variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds" covered.
Our school is making a big push in the direction of OER resources and reducing student costs while maintaining academic integrity. I helped contribute to a similar project for American history, and for a while that was the only course for which we had a full OER textbook. With this volume, plus another for Western Civ that we recently found, we are getting close to being able to offer all of our core classes with OER options. It's not a perfect book, but none are. One area where the big publishers still have a distinct advantage is in digital supplements (Connect, Inquisitive, etc.). It there any plan for creating similar supplements for this book or others? Many of my online instructors use those heavily and would be hesitant to adopt an OER book, even though it's academically sound, if it means all their assignments, quizzes, etc. are washed away and they have to design the class all over.
The book is comprehensive and all-encompassing in the development of states and societies throughout the world. It tends to be a bit Eurocentric, read more
The book is comprehensive and all-encompassing in the development of states and societies throughout the world. It tends to be a bit Eurocentric, with chapters dedicated to Greek/Roman/ Byzantine/ Western Europe, while other regions of the world are assigned one chapter through various empires. Thus, one gets a more complete picture of some empires and a broad overview of others.
The content of the book aligns with my knowledge of the information.
Because this is a book that focuses on the development of states and societies through 1500, the content may never change. However, the interpretation of content through new information may be possible. The organization of the book (by geographical area) makes it easy to update if necessary.
This book is well written in language that anyone can understand. It is quite easy to understand, and relates history in an interesting manner.
The book is ideal for students of many disciplines because of its organization and content. The framework explores individual geographic regions and the influences upon and between social groups. Through research by different authors, each chapter is consistently supported by existing data, and uses the same thematic ideas in each chapter/region.
The text book is arranged chronologically and geographically as, so it is simple to start reading at any point. Instructors of history may use the entire book as a class text, while instructors of other classes may choose to assign reading for only a region or historical period without any disruption.
The organization of the book is good. It includes the chronology of each region/time frame, an introduction, questions to guide the reader, key terms, and the factors of importance to the formation of state societies/empires in each region, followed by a conclusion, references, and links to other sources.
The book had no significant interface issues that I could detect. The graphics that are used beautifully illustrate the ideas presented.
The book was well written. I found no grammatical errors.
The book was in no way offensive. On the contrary, it seeks to explain the daily life of different societies, which is a way of creating understanding between cultures.
The book presents very relevant information as a way of explaining the formation of state societies and the interactions between the societies/empires. But at the same time, it depicts the way of life and the subsistence patterns, which give a nice perspective of life in those places. I would recommend it for studies of students in many different academic disciplines.
The test provides relatively even, if brief, coverage of western and central Eurasia, and somewhat more brief coverage of east Asia and the read more
The test provides relatively even, if brief, coverage of western and central Eurasia, and somewhat more brief coverage of east Asia and the Americas. There is no glossary, nor any index. In a PDF, the glossary would seem extraneous, but the lack of an index is somewhat confounding.
I noticed no counterfactual information in my own areas of specialty; the text seems quite accurate throughout. In such cramped quarters, there's little room for bias to creep in, and the author seems quite dispassionate in any case.
The content is all accurate, but here I do not feel entirely certain that the approaches reflect trends in world systems theory. it would be easy to add some note about the movement of ideas, technology, etc. thorugh regional systems (perhaps in the brief 'world context' segments,), but to really incorporate this larger field of view into the text would require a deep reorganization.
The author is careful to define terms throughout, and to indicate them in bold face. The prose skews toward some awkward usages and clause structures, but not toward overlong sentences or needlessly ornate vocabulary.
The text is fully internally consistent in its organizational schema, foci, and incorporation of learning tools like maps, boldface terminology, etc.
The book is highly modular -- indeed, for my own part, a bit *too* modular, in that carryover between chapters and regions is limited. Subheadings are frequent and accurate, and while they could indeed be reorganized, to do so would not change the fundamental approaches or flavor of the text.
The book is well-organized, but I would not say the flow -- in the sense of connecting one segment to the next -- is as strong as it might be. The goal of world history, from the world systems perspective, is to examine connection and movement, rather than division and insular locality. This text is somewhat bare of that perspective, and one fo the benefits of that perspective is that it helps the reader to explain why they might jump from western Europe to China in a single page-turn.
The .pdf took quite a long time to open in a web browser even with an otherwise quick internet connection, and it took some time for me, an early tech adopter, to locate the pathways which would allow me to download it to my own machine. I do not know if in-browser reading would be a good interface to expect students to use, but if one were to download it and make it available through a platform like Blackboard, that would seem reasonable. No distortion of images or text was discernable; once downloaded, the document was quite attractive. It was hyperlinked from the table of contents to preclude the need to scroll though the entire document to find a given subsection.
There are no grammar errors here. However, the usage is occasionally clumsy. The authors frequently place modifier phrases in awkward locations in sentences, use needless passives, or structure sentences without a strong subject up-front. I get the impression that the text could use a good editorial pass with an eye for enhancing the elegance of the prose.
Given the topic, this is a text which is automatically culturally inclusive. Cultural content is handled here with reasonable sensitivity and with a kind of egalitarian eye for the complexities of human interaction.
While it does not do as much work as I would prefer, for a college-level text, in discussing world systems rather than discrete segments of the globe, the localized information here is well-presented and easy to find, making the text a very fine reference source for introductory level information.
Table of Contents
- Chapter One: Prehistory
- Chapter Two: Early Middle Eastern and Northeast African Civilizations
- Chapter Three: Ancient and Early Medieval India
- Chapter Four: China and East Asia to the Ming Dynasty
- Chapter Five: The Greek World from the Bronze Age to the Roman Conquest
- Chapter Six: The Roman World from 753 BCE to 500 CE
- Chapter Seven: Western Europe and Byzantium circa 5 0 0 - 10 0 0 CE
- Chapter Eight: Islam to the Mamluks
- Chapter Nine: African History to 1500
- Chapter Ten: The Americas
- Chapter Eleven: Central Asia
- Chapter Twelve: Western Europe and Byzantium circa1000 - 1500 CE
About the Book
World History: Cultures, States, and Societies to 1500 offers a comprehensive introduction to the history of humankind from prehistory to 1500. Authored by six USG faculty members with advance degrees in History, this textbook offers up-to-date original scholarship. It covers such cultures, states, and societies as Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Israel, Dynastic Egypt, India’s Classical Age, the Dynasties of China, Archaic Greece, the Roman Empire, Islam, Medieval Africa, the Americas, and the Khanates of Central Asia. It includes 350 high-quality images and maps, chronologies, and learning questions to help guide student learning. Its digital nature allows students to follow links to applicable sources and videos, expanding their educational experience beyond the textbook. It provides a new and free alternative to traditional textbooks, making World History an invaluable resource in our modern age of technology and advancement.
About the Contributors
Eugene Berger is a Professor in the History department at Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville, GA