Foundations of Western Civilization
Welcome to the Honors section of Foundations of Western Civilization. In less than four months, we will cover the development of Western Civilization from its origins in the Fertile Crescent, subsequent transformations in ancient Greece and Rome, changes wrought during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and finally, the collapse of Christendom following the Reformation. In essence, we are going to dash across five or six millennia in the comparative blink of an eye. Speaking as one historian to another, we can admit this is an outrage. Much valuable material will receive only slight attention, and an even more atrocious amount of information will be ignored completely. (How can we live with the shame?)
We are going to compensate for this situation by wringing all we can out of basic secondary sources (the interweb-thingy, or your prof) for our basic narrative. Alongside that, we will be reading provocative essays that explore the grey areas in historical argument. The plan is that, while getting to know some of the key moments in the early history of Western Civilization, we shall focus no less on how it is that historians ply their craft. We are going to ask how the narrative(s) of the West came about, how set in stone it (they?) may be, and why we can prefer some interpretations over others. In other words, what's the argument underneath all the story? Thus, our class will operate more as a seminar, less as a lecture, which means we will all be presenting observations, questions, and conclusions. Obviously, then, your participation in class matters and will depend in no small way on preparing adequately for our conversations. While developing your understanding of the material, feel free—be eager even—to question/challenge/verify the interpretations presented by the instructor. (Hint: this last quality—when practiced well—is most highly prized by your professors.)
Along the way, we are going to produce something more than just hot air during classtime. As we explore the context behind our sources and deepen our understanding of the processes behind historical production, we will inevitably each be creating our own understanding of Western Civilization. We will have several projects underway throughout the semester to highlight our own assumptions and biases about history both past and present.
The goals (or should I say fruits?) of a history course are as numerous as the books which historians produce. At the broadest level, though, historical study encourages and hones critical analysis of the questions which most concern us. And these issues are themselves countless, but in the most generic terms, they mostly center on the relations of people with one another, with themselves, and possibly with the supernatural. We will be asking “why?” rather a lot: Why did they think that? Why did they assume such a thing? Why does the past appear simultaneously alien and similar? Even as we ask these questions, others lie implicitly underneath: why do I think what I think? What are my prejudices and assumptions? How does my heritage sway my conclusions?
We will be asking the above questions all under the aegis of the course goals outlined by Longwood University's catalog:
1. An understanding and appreciation of history and historical inquiry through the use of research, critical thinking, and problem solving.
2. A sense of how historical knowledge has been affected by new findings and approaches.
3. An appreciation for how history poses ethical dilemmas and challenges, both for men and women who lived in the past, and for those pondering its significance now.
4. An appreciation for how knowledge of history helps clarify the consequences of collective action, both in the past and in the present.
5. A sense of history as combining a variety of disciplines, approaches, and perspectives.
6. An awareness of the diverse modes of gathering, analyzing and interpreting information.
7. An ability to express oneself clearly and concisely on paper, by means of a substantive written assignment or series of written assignments.
8. An understanding of how history relates to other disciplines and modes of inquiry.
9. An awareness of how historical inquiry can contribute to understanding the issues and dilemmas that face the contemporary citizen.
10. An understanding of the historical development of Western civilization in its formative stages.
11. A sense of how to relate the development of Western civilization to other regions of the world.
12. An understanding of how historical cultural developments influence the present day.
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Two things in particular will be assessed in this class: mastery of the objective material and skill in analyzing that same material.
Essay Exams: There will be three essay exams, whose form will be discussed in detail as they approach. The exams are weighted so as to give students the benefit of experience. Thus, the first is worth 11%, the next one 12%, and the final essay 13% of the course grade. For the technical side, think of these papers as research papers, with all the attendant need to cite, be precise, and present evidence. For the conceptual side, well ...think of them as, well ... concept pieces.
Response Page: At four points in the semester, students will submit a one-page Response to that day’s reading assignment, in which attention will especially focus on the selection’s thesis, evidence, and possible weaknesses. Further specifics and guidance on this part of the course will be available in Canvas. (20%)
Quizzes: At five dates in the semester, there will be a small quiz (of the multiple choice and true/false variety) so as to ensure that everyone is staying on pace with the readings. (3% each)
Papers: This course has one primary written assignment (if one doesn’t count the exams...). Students will conclude the course with a six-page paper on a topic of their choice after consulting with the professor. The topic must be one that will permit the use of primary sources (even if only in translation), and will permit an examination of the topic within the framework of the issues our course will be exploring about how history gets written.(20%)
Note: there will be a low threshold of tolerance for grammatical errors and all other transgressions which a simple proofreading should catch. Remove these yourself so I won’t have to remove hard-earned points. Remember, the spell-checker is not your friend! For further guidance, consult the menu options under Leges Stephani and the writing guides. Also, beware the Homonym Death List.
Participation: Dive in, read voraciously, be intensely curious, ask tough questions that tackle big issues, proofread your freakin' papers...you know...show the professor that the grey stuff in your head isn't dead weight just keeping you anchored to terra firma.(9%)
And the Rest...Be certain to read my “General Policies” page as well for further information on how your performance in the course will be assessed.
|21 Aug||Meet the professor, his policies, and pet peeves||Familiarize yourself with the Syllabus and related policies|
|23 Aug||Collegiate-Level History: What's going on here?|
|25 Aug||Discussion: “What is history?” & “What is the West?”
Response Page (A & B)
|Wineburg: “Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts”|
|28 Aug||The Ancient Near East
|30 Aug|| Myth & History...Is there a contest?
|1 Sept||Israelite History||Kalimi, “Placing the Chronicler in His Own Historical Context”|
|6 Sept||Archaic Greece
|8 Sept||Paradigms: Athens and Sparta
||Herodotus, pp. 4-27|
|11 Sept||The Persian Impact
|13 Sept||The Golden Age
Response Page (A)
|15 Sept||Rivalries of the Greek World
Response Page (B)
|18 Sept||Rise of Rome
||Fantham, “Liberty and the People in Republican Rome”|
|20 Sept||Roman Values|
|22 Sept||Rome Ascendant||Derow, “Polybius, Rome, and the East”|
|25 Sept||Crisis of the Republic I
|27 Sept||Crisis of the
First Exam Due
|29 Sept||Culture/Economy during the Pax Romana||
|2 Oct||Rome & Christianity I
|4 Oct||Rome & Christianity II
|6 Oct||The Roman Empire: Transformations / End ?
|9 Oct||Byzantium in the East
Response Page (A)
|Hakim, “Muhammad's Authority and Leadership Reestablished”|
|13 Oct||The Franks||de Nie, “A broken lamp or the effluence of holy power?”|
Response Page (B)
|Bachrach, “Charlemagne and the Carolingian General Staff”|
|20 Oct||Europe Besieged||Frank, “Viking Atrocity and Skaldic Verse”|
|25 Oct||Development of Feudal Society
||“A Feudal Agreement”|
|27 Oct||Feudalism & the Church|
|30 Oct||The First Crusade||Tyerman, “Were There any Crusades in the Twelfth Century?”|
|1 Nov||Plantagenets vs. Capetians I||Pernoud, 5–29|
|3 Nov||Second Exam Due (by 5pm)
(Haskins Society Conference)
|Hard Copy in Dept. Mailbox|
|6 Nov||Plantagenets vs. Capetians II||Pernoud, 30–69|
|8 Nov||Innocent III||Pernoud, 70–107|
|10 Nov||Women in the M/A||Pernoud, 108–127|
|13 Nov||Mdv to Ren: Spiritual||Pernoud, 128–164|
|15 Nov||Mdv to Ren: Political / 100 Yrs War||Pernoud, 165–227|
|17 Nov||Renaissance as Medieval Harvest||Pernoud, 228-254|
|20 Nov||Renaissance: Image as “Text”
Response Page (A & B)
|27 Nov||The Protestant Reformation: Magisterial
|29 Nov||The Protestant Reformation: Radical
|1 Dec||The Catholic Reformation and the Age of Religious Wars
|4 Dec||Semester Project/Paper Due||Due by 5:00pm|
|8 Dec||Final Exam Due||Due by 5:00pm|
It is unfortunate, but every year some students attempt to submit work which is not their own. This act is, of course, the crime of plagiarism. Do not test your luck in this arena. The eventual odds are against you, and the penalties are unpleasant. Any student who submits plagiarized work will automatically fail the entire course. Previous students have found that I do not negotiate this point. If you're not sure what constitutes academic dishonesty, consult the student handbook, ask your instructors, or see my links to the problem.
We have five textbooks for this course. They are all required, and yes, I actually expect students to read them.
No list of websites can ever be exhaustive, but here at least are some worth a visit:
Office Hours: MTWRF 1:00–1:50
Feel free to drop in at anytime; if I can’t see you then, I will gladly set up an appointment at your convenience.