This course surveys the social, economic, and political evolution of societies and cultures from about the year 1400 to the present. The course’s primary theme is the increasing interaction between communities as the barrier of distance succumbed to both curiosity and new transport technologies. It will also explore the unexpected rise to world dominance of Western Europe and the United States over the past 500 years, the “great divergence” in material, political, and technological development that occurred between Western Europe and East Asia after 1750, and the resulting impact on the rest of the world. It attempts to present this history in an integrative fashion. It will examine processes, trends, and environmental factors at the trans-regional or global level, rather than presenting a series of histories of different regions in sequence. It seeks to accomplish this by emphasizing human encounters as well as material, cultural, and biological exchanges between different regions, cultures, and civilizations. In the process, we will examine a series of evolving relationships, those between human beings and their physical environment, between different religious and political systems, between different ethnic groups, and between men and women. The comparative study of these relationships will play a crucial role in illustrating the major patterns in history. In addition to improving critical reading and writing skills, this course will also serve as an introduction to historical and other interpretive methodologies: in each class, students will be expected to analyze and interpret both primary and secondary source materials.
Pang Yang Huei