What could it possibly mean to tell a history of the whole world? What is global culture? Is there such a thing? If so how would global culture shape the telling of world history? If not, how can world history have meaning? This discussion will focus on ancient world history before 1500 CE which is the date where most of the resources I consulted leave off. These issues are discussed in four resources which will be the basis for my questions and facts to guide the discussion:
W3902 World History to 1500 CE with Richard Bulliet of Columbia University (25 videos totaling 31 hours): This video course presents and at the same time critiques a narrative world history from prehistoric times to 1500. The purpose of the course is to convey an understanding of how this rapidly growing field of history is being approached at three different levels: the narrative textbook level, the theoretical-conceptual level, and the research level.
CJ's Review: Bulliet tears apart and then rebuilds the history given in his successful textbook on World History "The Earth and its Peoples". The approach is brilliant in helping us re-think the telling of history. He has a deep understanding of the history of technology and the history of human-animal relationships which make the course even more special. But he doesn't broadly cover the details of world history (for those you might read his textbook which I didn't).
HIST 3379: World Civilization to 1500 with Sally Vaughn of the University of Houston (28 videos totaling 36 hours): comparative survey of six major geographical and cultural areas (West Asia, South Asia, East Asia, Africa, Europe, and Meso-America) from 4000 B.C. to c. 1500.
CJ's Review: Vaughn has included hundreds of wonderful freely re-useable images to illustrate her history (but I wasn't too inspired by her lectures; she is an expert in Medieval history and those lectures, the one on Southeast Asia, and her final two wrap-up lectures were particularly good). Her slides provide names and places for further research. I valued it for its survey qualities especially since Bulliet skipped many of those details. As such it complemented Bulliet's course nicely.
Crash Course in World History with John Green (I'm only watching the first 22 videos in this series for this discussion. The series has a total of 42 videos totaling 8 hours): John Green teaches you the history of the world in 42 episodes.
CJ's Review: John Green gives an awesome, fast-paced history of the world. Each episode is about 10 minutes. Watch one or two and you'll get hooked: they are awesome! Details and big picture all bundled into short, succinct, and enjoyable episodes.
"What is Global History" (2008) by Pamela Kyle Crossley
CJ's Review: This is a short, but dry textbook. It provides a survey of histiography that I found useful for putting Bulliet's course in perspective. I think of it as a second opinion and because it's a book, it has more detail. Crossley is one of Bulliet's co-authors and he lauded her work.
In addition to all the directions in which participants may choose to guide this discussion, I want to go in depth on these five topics:
- What is world history? What is history? What is Historiography?
- What is global culture? What are the problems in talking about and discussing global culture?
- What is the importance of energy profiles in the development of civilizations?
- What is "path dependence"?
- Are there "common denominators" or "universals" that all humans everywhere are subject to?
Note: in order to cover the breadth of the subject, I have scheduled an additional meetup to cover Bulliet's lectures on human-animal relationship on Saturday, March 23rd. You can read more about that meetup by following this link: Human-Animal Relationships (Book Discussion).