Conditions of Use
Modern World History by Dan Allosso and Tom Williford (Minnesota Libraries Publishing Project, 2021) is comprehensive if we take our cue from the title. The book is thematic with the concept of "modernity" as a driving force. Therefore it is... read more
Modern World History by Dan Allosso and Tom Williford (Minnesota Libraries Publishing Project, 2021) is comprehensive if we take our cue from the title. The book is thematic with the concept of "modernity" as a driving force. Therefore it is less a comprehensive chronological textbook and more a work showing what has contributed to modern world history. The authors trace back modernity to China where we see a number of advances contributing to modernity well before they were introduced to the west. Some geographical areas may be left out at various points, not that they are not important, but that they show more continuity than innovation. It also has helps like wonderful bibliographies, links to videos, maps, and engaging pictures.
This work is very accurate even when it has to be concise. Being accurate and concise is not always easy since conciseness, by definition, leaves out a lot of detail, but the authors are experts at this.
This is up to date in the sense that it was just written in 2021 and also up to date with its fast pace and refreshingly coherent and relevant style.
The book is written in a clear and fresh style. Terms are defined, and pictures, maps, and helpful graphs are given to illustrate important points in the text.
Modern World History uses a consistent narrative style to bring out important points of modernity. Helps to the reader are logically placed so as not to keep the reader guessing on contexts or definitions.
This text is written so that parts may be taken out and used separately. For example, I am using a hyperlink to the author's chapter on "The Great War" for my Modern European History class. The text's emphasis on the "World" rather than just "Europe" is even more helpful to me as I show cross-cultural connections and tensions in my class.
The topics are presented in a logical, chronological, and clear manner. Introductory material is given in the first chapter as well as in the introduction of each chapter so that the reader can easily understand the context at hand.
I saw no interface issues. All images and charts were clear and defined and the hyperlinks worked well. The formatting gave the work a very contemporary and relevant feel.
This text is very well-written with no obvious grammatical errors.
This work brought in new sources and cultures for its exploration of modernity. This was very culturally sensitive.
Modern World History is a welcome find. I found it relevant, up-to-date, easy to read, and helpful with wonderful bibliographies, pictures, hyperlinks, and maps. I am already hyperlinking parts of this fine work to my current course in Modern European History.
The vast landscape of the World history curriculum poses a tremendous challenge for authors and instructors in terms of thematic coverage and in-depth treatment. Modern World History by Dan Allosso and Tom Williford attempted to address this... read more
The vast landscape of the World history curriculum poses a tremendous challenge for authors and instructors in terms of thematic coverage and in-depth treatment. Modern World History by Dan Allosso and Tom Williford attempted to address this problem with mixed results. Despite their commendable efforts, one-third of the book evidently grappled with geographical delineations, neat timelines, and a choice of vital topics. One might be rushed to conclude that it lacks adequate treatment or synchronized transitions. Pitifully, the authors wrote Africa out of chapter 5. None of this chapter's long lists of primary sources came from Africa. But then, in terms of coverage, you come across the most successful parts, which in my view, include chapters 6, 10, and 12. Invariably, these constitute the most studied eras in modern world history. It is only fair to add that the authors unintentionally betrayed their regional bias with the density of the treatment of Atlantic history- that is, the European and American synergies. Although Africa constitutes part of the historical Atlantic complex, they ignored the African agency in making the Atlantic World, especially in the trans-Atlantic exchanges, which transformed the entire Americas.
Regarding content accuracy, I am quick to interpose that no book is perfect or error-free and noting a few errors here is not a criticism per se. The authors did a commendable job in terms of accuracy. But a closer revision of the Persian intellectuals ascribed to Arab ancestry here appears to me as a minor error considering how most Americans see the entire Middle East as Arab land. But it is tasty witnessing the inclusion of the Mughals and Safavids in Chapter 2 with the heading “Europe and Africa” (pp. 52-59). Little mistakes of this nature could be fixed in the second edition.
This is a year-old (2021) book and, therefore, absolutely relevant. In the past year, a lot has changed in our Modern World, not just regarding the COVID-19 pandemic shocks but also the profusion of academic knowledge and global cultural ideas. The authors’ injection of humanism into the historiographical exploration is a win-win for teachers and students. The book offers interpretative insights into emotions and behaviors common to humans across time and space. I recommend this material for the World History II (Since 1500) survey. The “context” part is relevant compared to established texts such as Peter N. Stearns's World History in Brief.
The book is accessible, with good use of prose and clarity. It was thoughtful of the authors to fall back to the “Agricultural Revolution” through the “Isolated Americas” (7-18) to provide a context for our young readers to understand the modern world. It implicates the old saying that ideas flow when two or three work together. However, sometimes the cross-fertilization of historical events could be difficult to pin down in terms of chronology. Historical events travel far and wide but at different speeds and timelines. I see how this played out in the effort to merge the events of the late nineteenth century in Africa with the history of nationalism among late European power bloomers like Germany and Italy.
The book is absolutely consistent in terms of style, illustrations, and use of critical concepts. I particularly liked the discussion questions that marked each chapter.
I do not see much problem with how the separate parts form a complete whole.
I do not see much problem with how the separate parts form a complete whole.
A lot to be appreciated.
I did not see any grammatical errors. I give the authors and the editorial team kudos.
It was a demonstration of creativity on the part of the authors that this Modern World History started with China and India instead of Europe/Western world, the usual suspect. However, Eurocentrism remains an attractive issue in most world history texts, including most of this book’s contents. Although the authors spoke to Eurocentrism (p.105) and made conscious efforts to avoid the pitfalls, they could not wholly sidestep the attractions. For example, on pp. 96-99, the authors aimed to deconstruct the Columbus voyages but did not explore the African expeditions to the Americas, which preceded Columbus and other European adventures to the American continent. This trend may likely persist until Africans and Asians take up writing the enormous and tricky task of writing a world history text.
It takes a lot of heart and wisdom to embark on a venture of this nature and magnitude. Allosso and Williford deserve our gratitude. This book is relevant for teaching modern world history. It has many features, including the corpus of primary sources that will help students understand the contemporary world by appreciating the radical changes brought about by the so-called European voyages of discovery. However, like most of its peers, the world history instructor of our times still needs to pick and choose the most relevant chapters for what topics. I usually put together my own "Other Sources" to augment the shortcoming of all world history textbooks.
Given the enormous difficulty of addressing "all areas and ideas" of world history, Modern World History does a good job of covering most of the major world-historical developments since the mid-eighteenth century in adequate depth. The early... read more
Given the enormous difficulty of addressing "all areas and ideas" of world history, Modern World History does a good job of covering most of the major world-historical developments since the mid-eighteenth century in adequate depth. The early chapters are less effective, often jumping between different chronological periods, geographical foci, and topics without transitions or adequate explanations. The book starts to hit its stride with chapter 5, The Troubled Nineteenth Century, and its best coverage is that covering the Twentieth Century in the following chapters. The most significant issue with the book's comprehensiveness is the very limited coverage of Asia and Africa between the early overview of Imperial China and the chapter on neo-imperialism (much later in the book). Instead, most of the coverage that falls between the ancient period and modern neo-imperialism is squarely focused on the Atlantic "world," which in turn includes plenty of excellent coverage of Latin America, but which does not include much on Africa except, rightly, noting the role of the African side of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. More on Asia and Africa, unrelated to the Americas and/or Europe, would help make the book more truly "world" in its coverage of the modern period.
There are very few factual issues, and those that do appear do not undermine the book's arguments. For example, many of the most important scientists and other intellectuals during the late-medieval golden age of Islamic scholarship were not Arabs, they were Persians or Central Asians (e.g. Al-Khwarizmi was Persian, from the region of Khwarazm). Likewise, the Mongols did not introduce the Black Death to Eurasia; recent scholarship has traced its source to Kyrgyzstan only a few years before the plague hit China and Europe, over a century after the Mongol invasions. That being said, the book does a remarkable job of presenting accurate factual information to support its points overall.
The book is highly relevant in terms of being up-to-date with the relevant historiography, and it is also written from a humanistic perspective - moral opposition to cruelty and oppression, celebration of freedom and of extraordinary human accomplishments - that most students will respond to. One quibble with its relevance has to do with how it would be used in a world history course, however. Given that the book is much stronger in its coverage of the modern period than the ancient or early modern, it would be best used in a modern world history course (appropriately, given the title). The first several chapters, however, attempt to cover world history through the sixteenth century in a somewhat breathless manner and would not work well in courses dedicated to the ancient and early modern periods. From this reviewer's perspective, the book would be all the more "relevant" if it simply started the narrative in the eighteenth century, thereby playing to its strengths.
The prose itself is admirably clear and there is almost no jargon that would confuse students. The narrative, however, could use considerable editing. It is not quite clear if the book is meant to be a series of case studies within either topical or chronological categories, or instead if the intention is to achieve "coverage" of all the major themes of a given period of world history. The most successful chapters more-or-less explicitly use the case study model - chapter 10, on decolonization - is a great example of a series of important case studies that illustrate the major aspects of the chapter's theme. Elsewhere, however, case studies are included that are only related to a chapter chronologically (e.g. including the details of Italian and German unification in the chapter on neo-imperialism, the details of both Zionism and racial violence in the US in the chapter on World War I, etc.), making it more difficult to stick to a central narrative.
The book is internally consistent, using the same terminology and explaining key terms.
While there are various points of self-reference throughout the narrative, they would not seriously impede an instructor from using only the relevant parts of the book for their respective courses. The PDF version of the book has several strange formatting issues, with large blocks of text in an inflated typeface, but converting those blocks to plain text and then pasting them into a separate document would clear that up.
As noted above, organization is probably the book's weakest area, especially in the introduction and first four chapters. The narrative tends to move back and forth between topics and time periods without adequate transitions, and it also tends to jump back to earlier events thanks to the somewhat "loose" case study approach. For example, the chapter on World War II notes the impact of Kristallnacht (i.e. the Night of Broken Glass in November 1938) after having already described the end of the war itself. In earlier chapters, there are references to events and topics that are simply inserted with explanations - such as multiple references to the Mongol invasions and subsequent Khanates - which in turn undermine the clarity of the discussion. As an instructor, I would feel obliged to be highly selective of which parts of the book to use and to do some reorganization of my own to ensure that students are able to follow the narrative without undue effort.
There are some formatting issues (blocks of large typeface) with the PDF version of the book, but the fully online text does not appear to have those issues.
There are no noteworthy grammatical issues, but there are moments of overly casual phrasing, e.g., "When your parents were in school..." "...and they started dying BEFORE the white invaders arrived in 1532..." "As I've mentioned earlier...", etc. The book gives the impression of having been written by excellent writers who did not bring in outside editors, meaning the prose is effective overall but could be more polished if it underwent some formal editing.
As noted above, the book tends to focus on the Americas and Europe a great deal at the expense of Africa and Asia. That tendency is mitigated in the latter chapters, and there is a great deal of coverage of important topics like the interactions between Indigenous American peoples and European colonists, the nature of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, and the racist ideologies behind European imperialism. Still, a revised version of the book might include much more consideration of what was happening in Asia (Central, South, Southeast, and East), Africa (North and Subsaharan), and the Pacific without bringing up Europe and/or the Americas at all, except where the latter had a direct impact on the former. It is striking, for instance, that the entire period of the Qing Dynasty is only considered starting with the Opium Wars and the dynasty's subsequent decline. Despite the fact that the authors make a clear and direct effort to reject a Eurocentric perspective, the reader can be left with the feeling that most world-historical dynamism was generated in the North Atlantic alone.
This book is a good option for a modern world history course, so long as the instructor is prepared to select the sections of the book that are most relevant to their own approach. The authors do an excellent job in covering many areas that can be overlooked - it is striking to see a detailed discussion of the importance of fertilizer in the context of the Industrial Revolution, for example, and the coverage of Latin American history is excellent throughout the book. The book would probably not be a good choice for an ancient or early modern world history course, although there are certainly sections that could be useful, especially those having to do with the colonial periods of both Latin and North American history.
The textbook is very comprehensive. The authors do a great job of covering a wide range of topics and discuss how different events and movements in one region affect other regions. Every area of the world is covered in this textbook and students... read more
The textbook is very comprehensive. The authors do a great job of covering a wide range of topics and discuss how different events and movements in one region affect other regions. Every area of the world is covered in this textbook and students will have a solid understanding of the modern world by reading this textbook. In a few sections the authors refer to previous or later discussions that might be somewhat confusing for the students, and they will have to refer to other parts of the chapter to fully comprehend how these ideas are related. But in compiling such a comprehensive text, transitioning between regions and significant events is inevitable and the authors do a good job of directing the reader where to find the relevant information.
The content is very accurate. There are no noticeable inaccurate statements made about the past and the content is presented in an unbiased manner. All the graphs, images, and primary sources are very useful and informative.
All the chapters in this textbook are relevant and up-to-date. Obviously, the final two chapters on the contemporary world might need updating, but the textbook does not focus on politics as much as issues like technology and current global challenges like climate change. As new technologies emerge, the history of Linux will remain relevant and I plan to incorporate this discussion in my world history course.
The writing style in the textbook is very accessible. Readers will gain a solid understanding of major world events in a clear and concise way. For more historically challenging topics, such as decolonization, the authors do a good job of explaining this concept and showing how different regions transitioned to nations. There were no instances where the historical discussions were presented in a complicated manner.
The chapters are presented consistently and terms are well defined. The inclusion of Questions for Discussion help to organize the main points and the media attributions at the conclusion of each chapter are a useful reference.
The modularity of this textbook might be challenging. There are not a lot of headings within each chapter and some headings divide major topics while others refer to different regions or more specific ideas. If chapters had main headings and subheadings this textbook could be more modular. There are also some intra-textual references that if divided into different modules could lead to confusion for the reader. Also, in some instances the Questions for Discussion function as section breaks while other times these are embedded in a section. The Questions for Discussion do assist in breaking up the text within a chapter, but could pose problems when reorganizing a chapter.
The textbook is organized chronologically, from around 1500 CE to the present. This approach to organization is logical and clear. Some chapters on a particular topic, such as  Early Globalization and Revolutions and  Imperialism, transitions between regions and can be a little confusing organizationally. But trying to compile a comprehensive world history textbook is challenging, and the authors meet this challenge.
The images, graphs, and primary source materials are a strength of this textbook. This textbook includes many informative maps and graphs as well as pictures of important figures. The primary sources are relevant and can be utilized for class discussions. The only interface issue is that the fonts get bigger in some sections and there are a couple of instances where a paragraph is repeated. But these inconsistencies appear to be an e-publishing issue and not the fault of the authors.
The text contains no grammatical errors. There are a couple of instances where paragraphs repeat when the font is enlarged.
This textbook does a good job of covering the entirety of world history, there is not a region in the world that is not discussed in this book. The authors do a very good job of critiquing issues like imperialism and colonization and showing how issues like cultural superiority were formulated and that current scholarship has challenged these assumptions.
This textbook is the best available OER resource for a Modern World History course.
The Introduction concisely reviews key points on ancient world history around the development of civilizations, societies, religions, migration, and other themes that are necessary to understand modern history. There is no glossary, index, or... read more
The Introduction concisely reviews key points on ancient world history around the development of civilizations, societies, religions, migration, and other themes that are necessary to understand modern history. There is no glossary, index, or bibliography for further reading, though the text contains appendices on government and finance issues. The Media Attributions at the end of each chapter are clear and useful.
Overall, the content is accurate compared to other texts. However, in places, students are clearly led–through the writing, choices of images, and discussion questions–rather than given the opportunity to form their own ideas, though this is true of other textbooks, as well. An example is the section on Israel and Palestine. To help students learn how to analyze, interpret, and think for themselves, authors should limit bias to the extent possible, include the greatest variety of perspectives and sources possible, and convey controversies and debates. Though it could be more consistent, this text does a decent job in general. To give a couple of examples, I appreciate the way Columbus and Malintzin are framed as figures who continue to be controversial. However, the discussion of Malintzin and the question about whether she was a heroine or a villain in her collaboration with Cortés needs some work (and maybe a brief mention of how Octavio Paz and others shifted 20th- and 21st-century views of her). The text appears to assume that there was already a notion of indigenous identity in this early phase of encounter.
Some of the discussion questions are framed in a leading way and might promote connections between the present and events in the past that are too easy; some questions could be more open-ended or use more nuance. For example, in Chapter 3: “Why are native agricultural systems so impressive?” which could be read as a bit condescending, and the question could be framed so that students can come to their own conclusions–unless questions are meant to be only review questions (since the text addresses the impressiveness of native systems), rather than for discussion as they appear now. In some chapters, questions ask whether something was right or wrong, and this framing may cause anachronistic readings and diminish historical empathy.
This is a recent book that takes up new scholarship and findings and demonstrates how the field is evolving. The Introduction begins in this vein by discussing earlier and more recent notions based on historical and archeological findings on the development of farming around the world. The main chapters have sections that show other relevant developments. Historiographical debates are used in the book. Though some are present here, more controversies and more of a sense of the different ways of understanding the past would add to the book. Some textbooks include big debates in separate sections, and something similar would be useful here.
I appreciate the lack of jargon. There are transitions between sections and chapters. Generally chapters have helpful framing without relying heavily on theory.
There are helpful thematic and event-driven connections across chapters and ties across regions of the world throughout the book.
After the first few, I came to expect primary sources at the end of each main chapter, but this was not the case in the latter chapters. The primary sources sections are titled and laid out differently at times, a minor issue. Another minor point: I also began to expect the introductory boxes after the first two, but they disappeared until the final chapters.
This is a strength. Overall this is a concise text, which is helpful for educators who want to include additional texts or materials. There are several shorter sections within each chapter. As the authors note, although this text is used in an undergraduate survey course in the Minnesota state system, it can easily be adapted for other courses.
This is another strength. Chapters are organized in a way that is easy to follow, and they build on each other clearly as well. The book begins in Asia. The authors make a clear argument for this in an introductory box below the opening image of the Terracotta Warriors, and subsequent chapters return to China and India and other parts of Asia. As noted, there are connections across regions of the world throughout the book.
Navigation generally works well, with the arrows at the bottom to move to the beginning of the chapter and the bottom corners to move to the next or previous chapters.
Multicolored maps, images, and photographs are generally vivid and well situated, with no distortions. There are a couple of nice time-lapse maps. The book also includes graphs and other charts. A few videos are included in the final chapter.
The green discussion question boxes and the limited number of questions (generally 1-4) in each section are helpful.
The primary sources at the end of some main chapters add depth and texture and are interesting and varied. They are cited well and often situated in larger sets of resources that students can access for research papers and other projects.
Proofreading is evident. No major issues. In my experience almost every book regardless of the publisher has copyediting issues, but I saw few here.
The text generally includes a range of perspectives and draws on diverse examples and sources.
Generally comprehensive with good depth in some key areas but brief in some important developments as well. For example, I was pleased with the industrial revolution and the needed agricultural revolution background (including the importance of... read more
Generally comprehensive with good depth in some key areas but brief in some important developments as well. For example, I was pleased with the industrial revolution and the needed agricultural revolution background (including the importance of enhanced fertilizers). The advances and significance in the use of steam power and of interchangeable parts are very well written. On the other hand, 19th Century China is not well served in a "world history" book and Japan even more left out. Also far too brief are the Napoleonic Wars and even less in depth are the Wars of Liberation in Latin America.
Reasonably accurate though more statistical data using charts and other imagery would strengthen.
Content is up to date and should apply well in the immediate years to come. The rapidly increasing emphasis of late in being less shaped by the perspective of western civilization and more inclusive of the contributions of races, gender, ethnicities, and civilizations across the world will no doubt apply here too as to eventual revisions.
The text is written in a lucid and accessible prose. More clarity would be gained by more imagery, including maps.
The text is internally consistent as to terminology and framework.
The text is reasonably divisible into smaller reading sections. More subheadings could be applied. If anything, key developments are too briefly discussed, such as the reasons behind Karl Marx's writing and their impact.
The topics are presented in a logical fashion, with the exception that some topics are not given the attention they deserve, such as East Asia.
The text is reasonably free of interface issues. More maps and other images would strengthen the text.
There are no grammatical errors of significance.
I find that Latin American in their revolutions and modern Far Eastern in particular, as stated before, are not adequately covered.
This textbook has strengths and weaknesses. Overall I give it a three out of five mainly because of such omissions as depth concerning the rise of socialism and the aforementioned other too briefly covered.
The table of contents includes important information from Ancient times which reveals how Europe was developed and how empires were formed. A graduate level history course could be developed from each chapter. read more
The table of contents includes important information from Ancient times which reveals how Europe was developed and how empires were formed.
A graduate level history course could be developed from each chapter.
I have taught and studied world history for over 40 years and the author has developed this text from outstanding resources.
The author uses past history to show present day trends. The Versailles Treaty and Yalta Conference are good examples.
Paragraphs are concise and to the point. Designed to prevent the student from getting lost on the major points.
the book is a great survey bringing out outstanding work from notable historians.
The text has the ammunition to challenge students with different aptitude levels.
the book is easy to study and numerous maps and color codes help.
Graphs and charts eliminates confusion. Some hard things are made simple.
The book has had excellent proof reading.
All races are portrayed in a fair manner without distorting the true meaning of history.
It has been my experience that books with good maps and charts with color codes puts the student on the right track. Such is the
case here. I highly recommend this text.
A survey of world history from 1500 to the present is by its very nature selective. That said, the major events and themes one would expect to find in a survey of world history are presented here. There are a few, nationalism for instance, where I... read more
A survey of world history from 1500 to the present is by its very nature selective. That said, the major events and themes one would expect to find in a survey of world history are presented here. There are a few, nationalism for instance, where I would have liked to have seen a bit more coverage (especially on the theory side), but this could be supplemented. The textbook does not include a bibliography or glossary. Downloading a PDF and using the search function could mitigate this problem. The text does include primary sources for each chapter, which is a great addition.
Overall, I found the content accurate, but some areas lie beyond my expertise to evaluate. I noticed small errors related to my own specialties (e.g. Mexican Emperor Maximillian was not the brother of Emperor Napoleon III but Emperor Franz Josef, Tsar Alexander III was not assassinated, German unification was in 1871 not 1870, etc.).
I found it interesting that that they started with China. This is not bad, just different from many other textbooks. With China’s resurgence as a world power, this makes sense.
Some historiographical disagreements (e.g. virgin soil epidemics) are mentioned, but could be done more explicitly. In the case of the American Civil War, the debate on the origins is explicitly discussed.
I found the text to be clear and accessible.
The text was internally consistent, as far as I could tell.
This seemed to be fine. There are chapters and within those chapters there are section headings. There are questions throughout the chapters that provide good places for students to stop and reflect on the material or could serve as breaks for reading assignments.
Overall, this was fine, though I wish the authors had more explicitly connected the introduction (on ancient history) with the rest of the themes of the book. It felt a bit tacked on.
Some similar ideas (e.g. colonization in the Americas) are spread over more than one chapter. This was fine (other textbooks do this as well), but themes also could have been more condensed. This is more a question of style than of “right or wrong.”
Finally, I also found the inclusion of the Safavids/Mughals in the section on Europe and Africa odd.
The interface seemed to work fine. I did not notice any glaring problems navigating the text once I got used to the navigation style. I appreciated the ability to move from chapter to chapter via a button at the bottom of the page.
There were a few grammar and punctuation errors, but none were overly distracting.
I thought this was a strong point for the text. There was good coverage of non-Eurocentric events and ideas, for instance slave revolts and sources from non-Europeans. The coverage of United Fruit in Latin America and the race riots in the USA after World War I was also good.
As a faculty member who has experienced teaching Modern World History in four separate states, I can confidently state that Modern World History easily meets and fits the topical outline or framework required by any topical outline, GT... read more
As a faculty member who has experienced teaching Modern World History in four separate states, I can confidently state that Modern World History easily meets and fits the topical outline or framework required by any topical outline, GT requirement, or state requirement that I’ve come across. Beyond satisfying institutional mandates, this text is also broad in scope, and effectively covers key historical events (Imperialism, WWI, WWII, Cold War) and themes (decolonization, modern crises, neo-liberalism) expected from such a work.
In addition, while the text provides helpful appendices there is no index or glossary to be found. Similarly, the table of contents would also benefit by listing sub-sections of the text instead of just the pagination and title of its chapters.
Altogether, the content accuracy of the text is remarkably impressive. OER History textbooks can suffer from what I would call an “off-rack stigma,” where it’s unfairly assumed that the content accuracy or historiographical insights offered in often free to use digital materials are not as competitive with that of a major publisher’s textbook offerings. But Allosso’s and Williford’s content accuracy is spot-on, and more importantly, their presentation of recent historical insights and historiographical debates are spot-on as well.
I only have one quibble – which is in its discussion of the “tribute slave” of Malintzin, her relations with Cortes were portrayed in a duality as “willingly or under pressure.” I know common practice (at least in classrooms) is to portray relations between free and enslaved as always forced, due to these relationships stemming from a power imbalance where the enslaved is always under threat of violence and duress.
When assigning this text, an instructor can feel confident that they have assigned a textbook that is reflective of current historiographical insights and approaches and which includes modern historical insights that is at a level commensurate with that of texts offered by major publishers. An easy litmus test for any modern world history text involves analyzing the textbooks exploration of decolonization. And Modern World History adopts a perspective which analyses decolonization largely outside the umbrella of the Cold War (and Cold War policy) and rather emphasizes the background of revolutionary figures, the pernicious and extant impact of colonization during processes of decolonization (for example, by addressing administrative decisions and political boundaries that created conflict in Nigeria), as well as the policies of colonial powers which compounded the ability for peoples to become truly independent in a modern world. Furthermore, Allosso’s and Williford’s brilliant decision to bookend their chapter analysis of de-colonization by immediately addressing neo-liberalism creates a much-needed historical linkage between these two historical developments, as opposed to textbooks which commonly explore these developments in separation.
Modern World History mostly accomplishes the herculean tasks of navigating the complexity of modern global events in an accessible and engaging way. At times, in chapters such as “Modern Crisis,” “Cold War,” and “Neoliberal Globalization” I could see areas where more contextual information is necessary. For example, the textbooks discussion of World War II does adopt a more conventional Western approach which emphasizes the contributions of the US and Western European allies moreso than the Soviet Union. The text’s chapter on the Cold War is impressive in it’s breadth yet may need additional supplementary material for the historian who wishes to emphasizes specific fronts of the Cold War.
As a result, I could see areas where the text occasionally speaks over its intended audience, which is less of a problem of the text, and is more reflective of the fact that Modern World History courses are often offered through the 100-300 level and aren’t as reliably offered at the same entry-freshman 100 level as other history surveys. The text helpfully addresses this by including an introduction that provides a foundational exploration of World History to help catch readers up to speed. Although helpful, an instructor seeking to ensure the work’s accessibility may benefit from taking up the author’s suggestion to adapt the text to meet their needs. Indeed, assigning additional primary sources and engaging secondary sources that help flesh out existing material while enlivening classroom discussion should already be a best practice – especially given the diversity of sources, approaches, and perspectives that come with such an important course as Modern World History. Therefore, Allosso’s and Williford’s work provides a much needed addition to Modern World History courses, and the utility of the text is further enhanced by the authors situating their work as ready-made material to be adapted, reused, and built upon.
The text is remarkably consistent in its presentation. Each chapter begins with a summary-driven introduction aided by a key visual that reflects the central themes threading throughout the chapter. Key sections of the work end with discussion questions and all chapters end with helpful excerpts from primary sources.
The only critique here is that the text occasionally highlights and emphasizes important text content by enlarging the font – an editorial choice that creates odd formatting while also being textually jarring.
In addition, while the text provides helpful appendices there is no index or glossary to be found. Similarly, the table of contents would also benefit by listing sub-sections of the text instead of just the pagination and title of its chapters.
This text manages to accomplish the seemingly impossible by creating accessible, digestible historical chapters that still provide a comprehensive, global, and comparative view of World History. This results in students not only being more likely to read the chapters but also more likely to immerse themselves in these chapters make active comparisons and contrasts between worldwide developments and histories along the way – while also not feeling overwhelming by information that may not be essential in a history survey.
The organization, structure and flow of the text and its writing is remarkably consistent. As previously addressed, chapter structure and format remains largely the same while historical events and concepts are addressed in a manner which either chronologically or conceptually flow and make perfect sense in their structure and organization.
Occasionally, at times, there will be comments which address historical fallacies, falsehoods, or distortions. While welcome, these asides are not fully fleshed out and are written with brevity in mind which means these asides (which often require more context in disassembling these falsehoods) conclude almost as soon as they begin. As an example, the textbook addresses the historiography surrounding the use of the atomic bomb in World War II, however, it merely mentions that historians debate this topic while not addressing the prevailing contours of their argument. Similarly, pg. 247 addresses Neo-Confederate falsehoods and the Lost Cause ideology in a much- appreciated historiographical discussion, however, the brief nature of this analysis mitigates its impact, especially given the fact that marshalling more specificity and evidence would more helpfully fend off these pernicious historical claims and myths.
Nevertheless, the fact that the text does this is much appreciated. When have you ever heard a textbook state this, “Became some U.S. publishers are interested in selling their textbooks to school boards in former Confederate states, they often soft-pedal the Civil War in a way that creates confusion.”
A key strength of the text is its interface. Key issues with regards to the interface have already been addressed (some minor formatting issues with regards to enlarged text size and image wrapping, and the need for a more robust index/glossary and table of contents) but this textbook nails the most important part of its interface and organization – ensuring that students can easily navigate the text, its images, and its primary sources with relative ease and uniformity throughout each chapter.
Throughout my reading, I found only one grammatical error on pg. 297 of the text “In eastern Africa, disrupted crop cultivate and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths by starvation and disease.”
In fact, the relatively error-free nature of the text makes me feel petty for even bringing this up.
Even in 2021, a key emphasis when evaluating any World History text should be in analyzing if the content is addressing “World History” or what is often referred to as the “West and the Rest” approach. It is not uncommon to see elements of Western Civilization history courses recycled for World History. Obviously, this presents issues of cultural relevance as many Western Civ approaches still emanate from the Eurocentric approach of touting the primary and merit of Western Civilization – which means in a World History course, societies and cultures and civilizations in Latin America, Asia, and Africa are viewed as “the rest.” Almost as if the authors are aware of this – they begin their text by emphasizing the historical foundation of global events within Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Even in these early chapters the textbook authors go to great lengths to challenge the “Great Men” myth of the conquistadors, an approach which urges students to adopt a far more nuanced and complicated view of Spanish Conquest. Furthermore, whereas Latin America often only appears in 20th Century World History texts during the Cold War, Latin America appears in this text at various and numerous junctures. Similarly, modern imperialism is not only explored in the context of European imperialism of Africa, but rather the text adopts a global approach which truly illustrates the spanning empires and impact of Western colonial empires. A development which enables the text to more forcefully address the globe-spanning impact of decolonization later on.
Review of Modern World History, Dan Allosso and Tom Williford
Modern World History courses, or what’s called 20th Century World History at other colleges and universities, are relatively new in terms of instruction and pedagogy. The prevailing historical surveys– World to 1500/1500 to the Present and the US Survey to Reconstruction/Since Reconstruction – predominantly fill up the freshman and sophomore course offerings throughout most of America’s colleges and universities. As such, resources for Modern World History courses are scarce compared to their history survey counterparts: the textbooks offered are few in number (and expensive) and document readers are also not so abundant (and also expensive). As a result, it is not uncommon to see course materials which merely approach Modern World History as a zoomed-in version of a World Since 1500 class – a perspective which does a serious disservice to the purpose of this course and what it can offer.
Thankfully, Allosso’s and Williford’s Modern World History text provides a welcome edition to Modern/20th Century World History, both in terms of the historical knowledge and accessibility it provides and in the fact that this OER text can compete at a comparable level with 20th Century History Textbooks offered by textbook publishers, which often cost $125-175 after the requisite book-store markup.
I’ve taught 20th Century World History for seven years and have used Stephanie Hallock’s wonderfully accessible The World in the 20th Century: A Thematic Approach. While Hallock’s work obviously benefits from the visual aids and resources from Pearson, Modern World History provides an engaging, compelling, and unique contribution to the world of 20th Century History OER textbooks. While World History texts can be fairly homogeneous in approach and structure, Allosso and Williford are at their strongest in this text when they situate chapters to provide a comparative/transnational examination of prevailing themes in World History. The merit of this approach is displayed front and center in their chapter of Imperialism, which explores the impulses and impact of Western imperialism in terms of Latin America, Africa, Asia, and US expansionism in the American West. Each chapter is filled with visuals and primary sources that aid in conceptualizing key themes and concepts addressed in the text. And the textbook itself provides a comprehensive scope that aligns with the conventional framework and topical outlines of any Modern World History or 20th Century World History course I’ve come across.
I could see areas where the text occasionally speaks over its intended audience, which is less of a problem of the text, and is more reflective of the fact that Modern World History courses are often offered through the 100-300 level and aren’t as reliably offered at the same entry-freshman 100 level as other history surveys. The text helpfully addresses this by including an introduction that provides a foundational exploration of World History to help catch readers up to speed. Although helpful, an instructor seeking to ensure the work’s accessibility may benefit from taking up the author’s suggestion to adapt the text to meet their needs. Indeed, assigning additional primary sources and engaging secondary sources that help flesh out existing material while enlivening classroom discussion should already be a best practice – especially given the diversity of sources, approaches, and perspectives that come with such an important course as Modern World History. Therefore, Allosso’s and Williford’s work provides a much needed addition to Modern World History courses, and the utility of the text is further enhanced by the authors situating their work as ready-made material to be adapted, reused, and built upon.
Table of Contents
1. Modern World History Begins in Asia2. Europe and Africa3. The Americas and Columbus4. Early Globalization and Revolutions5. Troubled Nineteenth Century6. Imperialism7. The Great War8. Modern Crisis9. World War II10. Decolonization11. Cold War12. Neoliberal Globalization13. Limits to Growth?14. Appendix A: Choosing a Chief Executive and Voting15. Appendix B: Finance and Taxes
About the Book
Welcome to Modern World History! This is the textbook for an undergraduate survey course taught at all the universities and most of the colleges in the Minnesota State system. Similar courses are taught at institutions around the United States and the world, so the authors have made the text available as an open educational resource that teachers and learners can read, adapt, and reuse to meet their needs. We’d like to hear from people who have found the text useful, and we’re always open to questions and suggestions.
About the Contributors
Dan Allosso, Bemidji State University
Tom Williford, Southwest Minnesota State University