Syllabus (PDF)

Course Description

This course explores the last 500 years of world history. Rather than trying to cover all regions for all periods of time, we will focus on four related themes: the struggles between Europeans and colonized peoples; the global formation of capitalist economies and industrialization; the emergence of modern states; and the development of the tastes and disciplines of bourgeois society.

Course Organization


The general format of this course will be lectures on Mondays and Wednesdays, and discussion on Fridays. Since we will not be using a textbook, lectures and handouts will serve as your primary source of information about what happened when and where since 1492. Thus, regular class attendance and, for most students, energetic note-taking are required. I am a firm believer that listening and note-taking are important and overlooked skills in the educational experience. For each lecture, I will identify a number of key terms, which should help to highlight the most significant points of the lecture. These terms, taken cumulatively, are the building blocks of important analytical skills. You should be able to give concise and cogent explanations for all of key terms, and you will be tested on them. During lecture, you are encouraged to ask questions. Remember, my expertise does not cover the entire world, and the class as a whole may work together to reach some answers. If you miss a lecture, then you need to copy the notes from one of your classmates and arrange a time to go over the material. Students who miss more than four class meetings should probably drop the course.


Rather than a textbook, we will be using an online course reader, managed through e-reserves at Hayden Library, which contains a series of primary sources. In a nutshell, a primary source is a document, letter, story, etc. that comes from the time period under study. Historians use primary sources to compose historical accounts that appear in journals, monographs, and surveys. For each week's assignment, there is an introduction to the author/readings and a set of reading questions. You are required to answer these questions (typed), and turn them in weekly on Wednesday. I will return them to you on Friday for our discussion. These responses will receive no letter grade, but rather a check (+ or -). I will not accept late responses.

There are two books available:

John Locke. The Second Treatise of Government. New York: Dover, 2002.

William Blake. Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. New York: Dover, 1992.


Given the format of the course and lack of a textbook, you might find that you need to contact me outside of class. In addition to my regular office hours, I am available by appointment most days of the week. You can also reach me by email, which will allow you to get answers more quickly. If your question is such that the entire class might benefit from the response, then I will CC it to the entire class. Feel free to mark your question as private, and I will not do a mass mailing response. Obviously, questions relating to absences, grades, etc. are private matters.

Course Requirements


This component of your grade includes regular class attendance, weekly responses, and Friday discussion. Failure to attend class, turn in responses, and/or participate in discussion will result in a deduction from your final grade. Students must also facilitate discussion at least once during the semester--students will sign up for a week after the first week of class. Facilitating discussion is not summarizing the readings. Presumably your classmates will have completed all assigned readings and will not want to hear a rehash. You should use the weekly questions and supplementary handouts as guides for discussion. Facilitators may also want to spend some time discussing current events if pertinent to the week's discussion. Students should bring their reading notes and/or readings to class for Friday discussion. With respect to weekly responses, these are due every Wednesday, except when a longer written assignment is due, during the last week of classes, and one additional week of the student's choice. Thus, you must turn in 8 sets of responses by the end of the semester. Participation is the single biggest component of your final grade, representing 35%; and it requires vigilant attention.

Written Assignments

According to the criteria for HASS-D subjects, there should be "frequent and substantial writing exercises." In addition to our weekly responses, you will have two take home essays and one project related to the film series. Each of these assignments will be 6-8 pages (you must have a total of 20 pages).


The essays will be based on both readings and lecture, and the questions will be distributed the week before they are due. While I encourage students to discuss these issues before writing, these essays must be wholly your own work. Students are encouraged to rewrite/revise papers. Revisions must be returned, along with the marked original and comments, within two weeks of receiving the corrected draft. The two essays represent 30% of your final grade.

Film Project

Students will be required to write a 6-8 page paper in which they compare three films [see film series] and evaluate to what extent they tell about the period in which they were made and to what extent they tell about the time period covered by the film. Most of the films listed in the film series will be eligible for review. You will receive a separate sheet describing this assignment in detail. This project represents 15% of your final grade.

Final Examination

During finals week, you will have an examination that encompasses the entire semester's work. The final will include a map, key terms (see above), some short essay questions, and a long essay question. During the last two weeks of class you will receive a study guide to help you prepare for the final. All of the sections will have some element of choice. The examination will represent 20% of your final grade. 

Semi-Optional Film Series

Students are required to view at least three of the films listed on the calendar. With the exception of Week 2, all of these films will be on reserve in the film office during the week that they are suggested. Students in need of extra credit may write a one page reaction paper for each film that they view.

Academic Honesty

While I always encourage collaboration and discussion among my students, the work that you submit for this class must be your own. In recent years, the history department has been troubled by a range of behaviors that range from the careless and ignorant to "first degree" plagiarists. All cases involving such issues will be directed to the Committee on Discipline. Please do not put me in this position. Any questions regarding plagiarism should be answered by the following link: If you have any further questions about issues related to academic honesty, please see the instructor before the assignment in question is due.

MIT's academic honesty policy can be found at the following link: