World History: Cultures, States, and Societies to 1500
Eugene Berger, Georgia Gwinnett College
Pub Date: 2016
ISBN 13: 9781940771106
Publisher: University of North Georgia Press
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As a world history textbook, this book is ludicrously Eurocentric and frankly unacceptable. Chapter 2, 5, 6, 7 and 12 are devoted to Mediterranean/European civilization while China, India and the Islamic world get one chapter apiece. (The... read more
As a world history textbook, this book is ludicrously Eurocentric and frankly unacceptable. Chapter 2, 5, 6, 7 and 12 are devoted to Mediterranean/European civilization while China, India and the Islamic world get one chapter apiece. (The western chapters are also longer on the average.) The Persian Empire, Achmaenid, Parthian and Sassanian seems to have completely fallen into the cracks as the Achmaenid Empire appears only as an adversary for the Greeks, which means Zoroastrianism doesn't get attention either. (Phoenecians not around much either.) This is simply not in line with how world history is taught these days, although it may suit the "West and the World" model of western civilization teaching.
I saw no major errors. There are some exaggerations—"all Greeks" did not cooperate against the Persian empire. (p. 172), but you correct that later.
The work's pronounced Eurocentrism makes it instantly irrelevant, and it will only grow more so with the passage of time.
The book is well-written, not pitched as a level above that of college students. I like the way that it acknowledges scholarly controversy and the weaknesses of evidence for some periods, such as early Israel. (Unfortunately, this is not the case for the discussion of the origins of Islam, the subject of much recent scholarly controversy.)
Western civilization is covered in much more detail with much sharper periodization and a much greater emphasis on events than other civilizations.
The book is modular, but this is not always an advantage. A good world history textbook needs to make comparisons between cultures and discuss links between them. Poor awareness of the importance of cultural encounters is a weakness of the text—the Greek encounter with Judaism in the Hellenistic period, absolutely central to the development of Christianity and the Western tradition, occupies only a short paragraph on the Maccabean wars.
The book flows nicely, with strong organization. One problem that it deals with multiple civilizations encounter with Islam before introducing Islam itself.
Did not see any grammatical errors.
The book's consistent philosophy that western developments are more important may be considered culturally offensive by some. In terms of specifically offensive statements I didn’t see any, but as a middle-aged white guy I'm not the most qualified to judge. (Kind of odd that on page 334 the text tells students not to use the terms "bushmen" and "pygmies" but doesn't tell them what terms to use instead.) Sometimes the text goes over the top in correcting for the students (assumed) prejudices, as in the statement on page 370 that "our task is to admire" Pre-Columbian history. It isn't—our task is to understand.
I would never consider this book for a world history course due to its extreme, old-fashioned Eurocentrism. Liked the use of Wikimedia Commons, though.
The book covers a very wide canvas in terms of time and space (World History upto 1500) , yet, it is fairly comprehensive and incorporates all the major regions, events and socio-cultural developments. The book does not have an Index or Glossary.... read more
The book covers a very wide canvas in terms of time and space (World History upto 1500) , yet, it is fairly comprehensive and incorporates all the major regions, events and socio-cultural developments. The book does not have an Index or Glossary. But this is somewhat compensated by a List of Key Terms for every Chapter provided in the first few pages of each Chapter and a summary of the contents of each Chapter towards the end of the Chapter.
The book provides an accurate account of World History. I did not find any factual error. Of course, for certain periods/aspects of World History, there are controversies regarding the dates of events and identification/location of places. In most instances, the authors have discussed such controversies in simple terms and in the process, provided the various theories/divergent opinions pertaining to a particular event/topic. For example, the controversies regarding the administration, system of writing and the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization are discussed in pages 72-73.
The year of publication of the book is not stated. The book incorporates the recent researches and developments in the subject. Even works published in 2013 and later have been cited. Each Chapter also lists the Website Links to the Primary sources pertaining to the contents of that Chapter. A book of this nature, dealing with World History--a subject taught in several Universities and colleges--will not easily become obsolete or outdated. The book is written/formatted in such a way that any new researches/studies/discoveries can be easily incorporated within any of the Chapters and in the Bibliographies provided for each Chapter.
Despite being a multi-author work dealing with different regions and cultural periods, the book ranks high in terms of clarity. The editors of the volume have ensured that all the chapters are of the same style of writing and also share the same format and sequence in which the various facts are presented. Non-English/technical terms, often unavoidable especially in the Chapters dealing with Asia, are kept to the minimum and whenever such a term is used, its meaning is clearly explained in the text. Major historical terms, personal names, dynastic names and place names have been presented in bold font that further enhances the easy readability and the clarity of the text.
As indicated earlier, despite being a fairly large multi-author work, the book is remarkable for the uniformity in style and presentation format followed in all the chapters. Each chapter leads to the other and there is consistency in terms of terminology and overall presentation.
Each chapter is divided into several sections, the number of such sections range from 9 to 31 per chapter. Most of the sections are further divided into smaller sub-sections with side-headings. Each section/sub-section reads like a self-contained independent unit and thus can, without any major modifications, be assigned for student exercises/other classroom requirements and can also, if need be, mixed/realigned with other sub-sections for classroom requirements. The entire book has been carefully structured for classroom purposes.
Despite the challenge of having to present World History from the prehistoric times down to the 15th century within the confines of a classroom textbook, the authors have succeeded in presenting the text in a logical, clear and classroom-friendly fashion. The first chapter is, not surprisingly, devoted to Prehistory in various parts of the world. Each of the subsequent chapters deal with a particular region during a specific historical time-period. Due to the complex nature of the subject and the profusion of source materials for certain regions/historical periods, certain regions and historical time-periods have been given greater coverage than others. This is unavoidable in a history textbook of this nature.
As indicated earlier, the book is well-structured and well-organized and hence, not difficult to read, comprehend, consult and use in the classroom. Many pictures/maps have been sourced from the Internet or directly from the authors/other publications, with due permission. None of the images/maps are blurred or unintelligible.
I have not traced a single grammatical/other types of language-related errors in the book. It is well-edited and well-presented.
Due to the very nature of the subject-matter (World History), the book deals with multiple cultures, races and ethnic groups. But no part of the book displays cultural insensitivity or contains any offensive/objectionable references about/against any group.
Being a book on World History from the Prehistoric times down to around the 15th century, this book will be of immense use for the students and teachers in the disciplines of History, World History, Ancient/Pre-Modern/Pre-Colonial History and Medieval History. Simultaneously, the book will also be useful and helpful to students and faculty in other interrelated disciplines including Archaeology, Prehistory, Art History, Classics, African Studies, Chinese Studies and Asian/South Asian Studies. The book presents a fairly comprehensive, cogent and integrated account of World History, methodically and neatly sub-dividing the subject region-wise and period-wise. The book consists of 12 chapters. The first Chapter deals with Prehistory, clearly outlining the theories regarding the origin of the earliest human habitations in different parts of the world. In course of time, human beings began to live in larger, permanent settlements (community living or settled life) and began to rely on agriculture instead of hunting for their food requirements. The next Chapter focusses on the Early Middle Eastern and North East African Civilizations. These include the historically famous Mesopotamian and Egyptian Civilizations that flourished on the banks of major rivers. Urbanization, social stratification, labor specialization, trade and a well-developed system of writing (language and script) are among the salient features of these civilizations. Chapter-3 focusses on Ancient and Early Medieval South Asia/India. The Chapter commences with a detailed overview of the Harappan or Indus-Valley Civilization that was almost cotemporary to the Mesopotamian and Egyptian Civilizations. The later part of this Chapter deals with the major dynasties of ancient South Asia. These include the Mauryans, the Kushans and the Guptas. Chapter-4 deals with China and East Asia (including Korea and Japan) from the Neolithic times down to the period of the Ming Dynasty that flourished from around 1368 to 1644 C.E. Chapter-5 traces the history of the Greek World from the Bronze Age to the time of the conquest of Greece by the Romans in the first century B.C.E. The next Chapter (Chapter-6) presents the history of the Roman Civilization from 753 B.C.E to 500 C.E. while Chapter-7 narrates the history of Western Europe and Byzantium (500 -1000 C.E.). These three chapters (5, 6, 7) will be most useful to students and teachers of Classical Studies. Chapter-8 narrates the rise of the religion of Islam and the history of the Middle East in the Middle Ages. The next Chapter traces the complex history of many regions of Africa during the ancient and medieval periods. Chapter-10 deals with the history of North and South America from the earliest times to around the 14th century. Chapter-11 focusses on the history of Central Asia upto the medieval times. The final Chapter, which is also the longest, deals with Western Europe and Byzantium (1000-1500 C.E.) Each of the chapters do not merely confine themselves to political/dynastic and administrative histories but include trade and economy, socio-cultural conditions, religion and philosophy, architecture, visual and performing arts, literature and learning. But the space devoted to the non-political and non-administrative aspects vary from chapter to chapter. Each chapter commences with the Dates or Chronology of the major political/dynastic periods, rulers and events described in the chapter. This is followed by a brief Introduction to the contents of the chapter, a set of questions to guide further reading and a list of key terms used in the chapter. Each chapter concludes with a good Summary or Concluding Section followed by a Bibliography including web-links to primary sources. All the chapters are supported by excellent color photographs and maps. The book is an ideal textbook as well as a reference tool.
The book does a nice job of covering the broad meta-themes of World History--for example the Agricultural Revolution, the Origins and spread of world religions such as Christianity and Islam. As with any textbook you can have quibbles about... read more
The book does a nice job of covering the broad meta-themes of World History--for example the Agricultural Revolution, the Origins and spread of world religions such as Christianity and Islam. As with any textbook you can have quibbles about whether some topics, such as Oceania, should receive more coverage. I would personally like a bit more detail on the impact of climate change and environmental history on world civilizations.
I did not find much to quibble about in the text, and most comments would be rather minor. For example in the section on the rise of Islam, (pp. 299-304) the authors make a comment about Muhammad reciting the Quran to convert followers. Since some scholars argue the Quran was redacted a generation after Muhammad I would clarify such material with more detail.
The only area in which I was not sure of the text being based on the most recent research was in the sections on Judaism and Christianity. In the Christianity section they point to the pioneering world of Peter Brown on Late Antiquity and St. Augustine. A great deal of work has been done on early Christianity, by Paula Frederickson, From Jesus to the Christ, which does not appear to have been consulted. Martin Goodman's Work, Rome and Jerusalem would also round out the picture. Having said that, however, the links to primary sources at the end of each chapter enable the instructor to adapt the material to changing interpretations.
The text is well written and thankfully eschews the use of jargon. No complaints here.
The structure of the book--specifically the glossary and study questions at the beginning of each chapter--are one of the books strength and are well constructed. No chapter seems to have been given predominance over another.
My university operates on a 14 week semester, and World History I covers material to circa 1500, so the structure of the text fits well with our Learning Outcomes. I personally like the use of sub-headings as it helps students think about issues, such as the transition from Roman Republic to early Empire, the Era of Good Emperors, and the Origins and Spread of Christianity. The organization is especially useful in chapters, 2, 9, and 10, where in order to cover such diverse geographic regions (and the various civilizations that developed) it is necessary to jump quickly from region to region. As with any subject it can sometimes appear as "one damn thing after another," however, this is a minor criticism.
The only major issue I would point to is that the first 8 chapters focus on Eurasia to the cusp of the age of exploration. The reader.student is not introduced to developments in Africa or the Americas until chapter 9 and 10. While these subjects can be treated in isolation from the broader chronology of the rest of the world, living as they did in actual isolation for thousands of years, it could make the student's head spin as they are then introduced to a thousand years of African history in one chapter.
I had no difficulty in utilizing the text, or the links. My only suggestion is to make the links to primary sources open automatically into a separate tab to make ease of movement between the sources and the text easier. (My grandson had to point out to me I could open links in a separate tab.
No grammatical annoyances that I could find. Copy editing was well done.
It is often difficult to deal with sensitive subjects, such as religion, without either offending people or watering the material down to blandness. The authors did a nice job of being balanced and sensitive to various belief systems.
Overall, this text provides a brief but solid account that can be a useful foundation for a world history course. Its strengths and weaknesses are similar to any text in world history, in which choices as to structure, coverage, and emphasis are... read more
Overall, this text provides a brief but solid account that can be a useful foundation for a world history course. Its strengths and weaknesses are similar to any text in world history, in which choices as to structure, coverage, and emphasis are inevitable and inevitably debatable. The one area this text is most lacking in comparison to other texts is that it lacks a good deal of the supplementary materials for faculty, such as text banks, slides, and lecture notes. The pdf version of the text does provide very useful live links to bibliographies and copies of links to primary source, which does help. Comparing this text to others suggests that it is a more basic, simplified approach that tends to focus on the largest and most enduring states and cultures. Given that World History is complex and can be confusing, this approach can be a significant advantage for providing students with a clear and easily followed structure. Moreover, the brevity of the text allows teachers to add materials, readings, primary sources, and activities without danger of over-burdening students. Of course, this approach also means that some regions, states, or cultures are either wholly neglected or only mentioned in passing, and probably every teacher will find at least a few such instances that they will want to rectify by adding material---but this is generally the case with any world history. Previous reviews of this text have mentioned uneven coverage by both time and region. The table below listing chapters and page numbers supports this conclusion as regards a “western civilization” bias. Four of the twelve chapters cover Greece, Rome, and European history, accounting for about a third of the pages of the book. This is a serious imbalance, but instructors can of course compensate by adding readings, videos, and activities.
I found no inaccuracies.
This text has a date of 2016; the great majority of the citations to readings are from the last 15 years, so I would rate this as highly up-to-date and relevant. The longevity is also high, given its classic approach to most issues and topics---highly individual approaches can be ephemeral.
Clearly written and organized. For more, see point 1 above. chapter Pages Author 1 Prehistory 20 Berger 2 Early Civs 40 Miller 3 India 50 Israel 4 East Asia 60 Israel 5 Greece 45 Williams 6 Rome 45 Williams 7 Europe to 1500 30 Reeves 8 Islam to 1400 40 Parkinson 9 Africa 32 Miller 10 Americas 30 Berger 11 central Asia 28 Parkinson 12 Europe to 1500 50 Reeves Total pages 480
One strength is the structural consistency and predictability across chapters. Each chapter includes in same order: ---Chronology: Mostly 8 to 15 key dates relating to the topic of the chapter. The Central Asia chronology has only 5 terms, while the Europe to 1500 chronology is over 2 pages long. This is a sign of inadequate coordination and of the uneven coverage / treatment noted by several reviewers. ---Introduction to the major developments in the chapter ---Questions: Usually 4 to 12 questions that tend to focus on the particular approach of the text. For example, “how did the Inca use local resources to build their empire?” has a clear answer in the text. Other questions are more general, for example, “explain the main ideas of Confucianism,” which can be answered from this or any other good source. These questions could be used as reading checks or as the basis for discussions or class essays. ---Key terms: lists of 20 to 40 names, terms, events, or places that are ---6 to 12 sections presenting historical content, chronologically within chapters ---Summary/conclusion ---Links to further reading ---Links to primary sources
With 12 chapters and numerous divisions within chapters, this text is highly modular. The uniformity of organization within chapters also is a plus in this regard, see "consistency," above.
The organization of chapters by major regions presents an image of world history as somewhat fragmented or disconnected. Within chapters there are sections dealing with trade and exchange, but overall there is little discussion of relationships among the major regional states and cultures, nor are cross-cultural patterns much in evidence. Similarly, we gain a strong sense of evolutions over time within cultures, but on a world / global scale these transformations are relatively unconnected. Instructors can fill the need for pointing out patterns and larger developments, of course, and might want to make that a focus of lectures and activities in order to balance the episodic vision of particular regional changes. Instructors will probably also want to provide a good deal of “big picture” guidance, because the text lacks a general introduction. Teachers may want to especially emphasize connections and bridges between chapters. The conclusion of one chapter and the introduction to the next generally display no continuities. Essentially, these chapters are distinct and stand alone. Nor is there an overall vision presented of themes, patterns, organizing principles, or connections across regions and time periods. While some texts provide orientation to using sources, reading critically, understanding maps, etc, there is none here. There is no printed index. While the PDF version is searchable, a good index can alert students to connections in a way that word searches cannot.
Finally, it would be helpful for the authors or for instructors to divide the large pdf download into more manageable units or chapters. At present, the entire book, about 75 megs, needs to be downloaded, and this might be troublesome for the less digitally privileged. I plan to adopt this text for my courses and thank authors and organizers of this initiative for their service to students and education more generally.
No major issues noted.
A somewhat "western-centric" approach (see point 1, above), but no obviously offensive content.
Illustrations are helpful but tend to be more decorative than essential. They generally come from standard and accessible websites such as wikipedia. In the printed version, maps and illustrations sometimes do not reproduce clearly due to size / resolution, but the pdf versions are clear and bright. I plan to adopt this text for my World to 1500 course.
This text covers an impressive amount of ground in relatively short chapters, something which is always a struggle in any survey text of global history. Some events and geographies garner more coverage and attention than others, which is... read more
This text covers an impressive amount of ground in relatively short chapters, something which is always a struggle in any survey text of global history. Some events and geographies garner more coverage and attention than others, which is understandable, but the criteria by which the authors determined the amount of coverage is a bit unclear. For instance, the Crisis of the Third Century is covered extensively, but the end of the Roman Empire—an equally important topic—gets only a brief mention in the context of Augustine’s City of God. An introduction to the text which introduced some overarching themes could have provided some rationale for these decisions and helped pull everything together.
No errors in accuracy or strong biases were noted
The straightforward approach to the material means that it is unlikely to become obsolete in the near future. It is also structured in such a way that updates would be relatively easy to make, if necessary. However, the reluctance of the authors to make any contact with major historiographical debates and updates is a noticeable gap, and makes the text feel less relevant than it otherwise might.
The writing in this text is clear, if not exactly inviting or entertaining. At no time did the authors employ historical jargon or terminology without context and a clear definition.
This text is remarkably consistent in structure given the breadth of subjects it covers and the number of authors involved. As noted above, some cultures, states, and societies seem to receive more in-depth coverage than others, but that is all but unavoidable in a text of this scope and could be easily remedied in the classroom by a capable instructor.
The small subunits for each topic—each of which is helpfully listed in the table of contents-- should make it fairly easy for instructors to assign specific modules to suit their course structure. An inability to easily navigate between these subunits or between the text and the table of contents might hinder this quite a bit, however.
While the writing of this text is clear and to the point, the organization of topics and events could be quite difficult to follow at times. For instance, in the chapter “Western Europe and Byzantium, 500-1000 CE”, the flow of the discussion of Byzantium is broken up by a somewhat distracting detour to the British Isles, which makes sense in terms of chronological coverage but tampers with the narrative quite a bit. This would be easily remedied by assigning modules rather than chapters, but even between paragraphs the content can vary quite a bit without clear transitions between topics. For instance when a two paragraph discussion of the Byzantine military reorganization abruptly halts and turns to a discussion of religious crises in the Empire, without any transition between the two.
No significant navigation problems were noted, other than the inability to easily return to the table of contents other than by scrolling, which could prove frustrating for students assigned to read modules rather than chapters.
Few grammatical errors were noted.
No cultural insensitivity or offensive content was noted.
This is reasonably comprehensive in covering ideas of the subject. However, as it stands, the book provides an uneven coverage of the materials associated with World History. Europe and the Middle East is given centrality in this book with... read more
This is reasonably comprehensive in covering ideas of the subject. However, as it stands, the book provides an uneven coverage of the materials associated with World History. Europe and the Middle East is given centrality in this book with extensive coverage of the Nations of Israel, the Roman Empire, the Byzantines and later Western Europe. Almost half the text is related to these areas and they frequently show up in other sections. As a result, the discussion of those areas is very comprehensive. However, the history of East Asia and the Americas is squished into a much smaller sections – While we learn about the goods traded in French markets, North America as a whole has five pages! The result is that those areas will require significant additional coverage from instructors. The text does an excellent job in terms of balancing cultural, social and political history! I found that aspect particularly enjoyable. The authors also put a considerably emphasis on exploring the experiences of both men and women. Although, the message that women’s roles in society were restricted seems to repeated without clear terms of the differences between different societies. Moreover, when important individuals highlighted in the text are almost exclusively men. The text also does a great job of introducing students to the skills associated with history. The authors repeated point out the texts that historians use to garner information about the past. They also point out when historians are still working with hypothesis or when there is considerable debate regarding a topic. The book has a detailed table of content, but lacks an index or glossary. The lack of glossary might be particularly frustrating for students as some of the chapters are particularly long and include a laundry list of key terms that may be new to students.
For the most part the text has no explicit bias and is relatively error free. (Although there are some pointed confusions in the conflation of the Mexica and the“Aztecs” I hope someone soon fixes this as there is no little information provided here, it seems it should not be too hard to include a more up to date understanding. Yet, the uneven coverage does present something of a bias. In putting the large emphasis on European, Mediterranean and Israeli the book shows a bias in who is important in World History. Cutting those sections to give more attention to the Americas Africa and East Asia would be important in ridding the text and our students’ visions of who- or where - is important in our history and our contemporary world.
In those areas where the text provides extensive coverage, it is up to date. Necessary updates – as long as they stay within this geographic framework – will be easy to incorporate.
Overall, the writing is clear and engaging. There are two areas where this falls short. First, at times the text jumps around in terms of referencing later chapters in early chapters. – For example the prophet Muhammad is referenced in chapter three but not fully explained until chapters later. This becomes particularly challenging since there is not a glossary or an index where students could quickly look this up. Also, the authors sometimes drop in “big names” that make sense to professional historians, but mean very little to our students. Faculty would know “Hobbes and Marx,” for example, but throwing them into the middle of a paragraph without explanation would frustrate and confuse students. That said, I really appreciated the ways that the authors take the time to clarify and discuss the multiple meanings of particularly problematic or confusing terms ie discussion of the term “civilization.” Moreover, by providing framing questions at the beginning of each chapter as well as a brief summary at the end of each chapter, the authors highlight the important take away for each chapter.
The positives and negatives in terms of consistency mirror those through the rest of the categories. On one hand, through most chapters, the authors do a wonderful job of creating parallel structures that discuss geography, political development, social developments, cultural practices, gender norms and those sources that provided a good deal of information about the materials. I really enjoyed this structure in the majority of chapters. Yet, in other areas where the authors give less attention – most notably The Americas, this consistency falls apart. There is no discussion of geography, and the section on how people arrived in the Americas seems particularly jumbled.
Text is divided into reasonable chapters with subheadings. It is not overly referential. Each chapter could be presented at different times during the course as they each stand alone without too much overlapping. Within the chapters, however the modularity breaks down. In terms of revisions, I think breaking down the list of key terms, central questions and primary sources to match up with the subheadings – rather than the chapter introduction- would greatly improve the modularity of this text. By the time students have gotten through 60 pages of text, do they remember the “guiding questions” at the beginning?
Within each chapter, I found the structure and flow excellent. My only recommendation for improvement in terms of structure mirrors my comments in terms of modularity. Breaking up key terms and guiding questions would help organization and structure. In terms of the auxiliary materials included in each chapter, the flow might be improved by including primary sources before additional readings. It stands to reason that instructors would be using and assigning the primary sources for discussion far more frequently than they would talk through the additional materials.
I found no problems with the interface. My only concern is about the primary sources being links rather than in the text themselves. It seems that some students will use their textbooks while they are “off line.” It would be nice to have these embedded in the text itself.
The text is free from grammatical errors.
Within each chapter, the text is not culturally insensitive. Yet, the structure of the book and attention given to different geographic regions can be culturally insensitive. In our increasingly global world, we cannot keep teaching “world history” as a “Europe and the rest” framework. I would have really liked to see a textbook that gives less attention to the history of Europe and Israel and provides far more attention to East Asia and the Americas.
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... 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 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... 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.
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... 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.
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... 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.
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... 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.
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... 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 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... 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.
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