's Early Globalizations: East Meets West (1200s-1600s)

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This course will introduce you to the history of the world’s major civilizations from medieval times to the early modern era. You will learn about the pivotal political, economic, and social changes that took place in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe during this period. The course will be structured chronologically, with each unit focusing on the expansion or decline of a particular civilization or the interactions and exchanges between civilizations. The units will include representative secondary and primary source documents that illustrate important overarching political, economic, and social themes, such as the transformation of western Europe during the Renaissance, the emergence of a more inclusive world economy, and the impact of early European exploration and colonization. By the end of the course, you will understand how many different civilizations evolved from isolated societies into expansive, interconnected empires capable of exerting global influence.

Global Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Think critically and analytically about world history in the medieval and early modern eras.
  • Identify and describe the emergence, decline, and main features of the Byzantine Empire.
  • Identify the origins and characteristics of the European medieval period and describe the rapidly changing forces at work in society, the economy, and religion during this time.
  • Identify the origins of the Aztec and Inca civilizations and assess how these empires affected socio-economic development in the Americas.
  • Identify the origins of the Tang and Song dynasties in China and assess the impact of these empires on Chinese government, society, religion, and economy during what scholars refer to as the “golden age.”
  • Identify the origins of the Mongol Empire, which dominated much of Asia in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Students will analyze the nature of this empire created by nomads.
  • Identify the reasons for a changing balance in the world economy in the 1400s and analyze why Europe superseded Asia as the most dominant civilization on the globe.
  • Assess how and why the European Age of Discovery had such a large impact on the New World, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
  • Identify the origins and characteristics of the Renaissance and describe its impact on European civilization as a whole.
  • Identify the origins of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in Europe and assess how this movement altered the social, political, and religious fabric of Europe.
  • Identify the origins of colonial Brazil and New Spain. Students will also be able to assess the impact of Spanish and Portuguese colonization on the New World, Africa, and Europe.
  • Identify the origins of the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires and assess the unique characteristics of these dynasties and their impact upon Asia and the world.
  • Identify the origins of the Atlantic slave trade, assessing how this forced migration of peoples affected Africa, Africans, Europe, and the New World.
  • Analyze and describe the Asian trading world, the Ming dynasty in China, the “warring states,” and early modern eras in Japan.
  • Analyze and interpret primary source documents from the medieval period to the early modern era using historical research methods.


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Globalization and History Edit

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Identify some of the ideas commonly associated with the concept of globalization.
  • Recognize and more thoroughly assess the manner in which these ideas are used by historians to account for changes in the various states, societies, and cultures examined in the resources below.

1.1 Globalization: Meanings and Historical Contexts

Europe: East and West Edit

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Identify the major events and milestones in the history of the Byzantine Empire and its interactions with the larger world.
  • Discuss key ecclesiastical, social, and political features of European life and history during the ‘Middle Ages.

2.1 The Byzantine Empire
2.1.1 The Division of the Roman Empire and Collapse in the West
2.1.2 Byzantine Society and Civilization
2.1.3 Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe
2.2 Western Europe: The Middle Ages
2.2.1 Charlemagne I and the Carolingians
2.2.2 Charlemagne, Chivalry and the Medieval Imagination
2.2.3 The Medieval Catholic Church
2.2.4 Feudalism and Manorialism
2.2.5 The Black Death

The Americas: Aztecs and Incas Edit

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Identify some of the major events and milestones in the history of the Aztec and Inca Empires.
  • Compare the sources of each empire’s strength as well as their political, social, and cultural traditions.

3.1 Rise of the Aztecs
3.1.1 Aztec Society and Culture
3.1.2 Tenochtitlan
3.2 World of the Incas
3.2.1 Inca Society, Religion, and Expansion
3.2.2 The Incas and European Explorers

China's Golden Age Edit

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Identify the dynasties associated with China’s decline and revival over the period under review.
  • Identify some of the causes of the turmoil that destabilized the empire and precipitated the crises of the Sui period.
  • Identify the policies and innovations undertaken by Tang rulers restore the empire’s internal cohesion and power.

4.1 Downfall of the Sui and Emergence of the Tang
4.1.1 The Tang: Religion, Bureaucracy, and the Scholar-Gentry
4.2 The Song (Sung) Dynasty
4.2.1 Imperial Power and Confucian Revival
4.2.2 Technological Advances
4.2.3 Urban Life and Architecture
4.2.4 Scholar-Officials and the Neo-Confucian Revival
4.2.5 Relations with the Outside World
4.3 Changes and Innovations
4.3.1 Rise of the Scholar-Gentry
4.3.2 Changes in Government
4.3.3 Demographic Changes
4.3.4 Art and Scholarship

The Mongol Empire Edit

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Define key milestones in the rise of the Mongol Empire and the sources of its power.
  • Describe some of the results of the cultural interactions that the spread of Mongol rule helped to promote.
  • Identify some of the key factors that are used to explain the decline of Mongol power in Asia and Europe.

5.1 The Mongols
5.1.1 Reasons for Conquest
5.1.2 Chinggis Khan
5.1.3 Conquering a Vast Territory
5.1.4 The Pax Mongolica
5.1.5 Empire’s Collapse
5.2 The Mongols in China
5.2.1 The Mongols’ Influence on China
5.2.2 Kubilai Khan in China
5.2.3 Life in China under Mongol Rule
5.2.4 Beginnings of Mongol Collapse
5.3 The Pastoral-Nomadic Life of the Mongols
5.3.1 Nomads
5.4 Perceptions of the Mongols
5.4.1 Persian Views
5.4.2 The Mongols and Christian Europe

A Changing World Balance Edit

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Identify some of the general factors and arguments used to explain the changing patterns of world trade over the early modern era.
  • Compare and contrast the rise of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires.
  • Assess the causes and consequences of Dutch and English advances into Asia and the Western Hemisphere along with the types of products that were included in the exchange of goods between Europe and the Americas.

6.1 The Changing World Balance
6.1.1 The Asian-Based World Economy
6.1.2 Rise of the European Economy
6.2 The Age of Discovery
6.2.1 Reasons and Motivations
6.2.2 Portuguese Traders and Explorers
6.2.3 The Spanish
6.2.4 The English in the New World
6.2.5 The Dutch in the New World
6.2.6 Native Americans and Europeans
6.3 Trade and Exchange

Transformation of the West Edit

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to

  • Identify the ecclesiastical, political, and cultural developments commonly associated with Medieval and Renaissance Europe.
  • Discuss specific issues and doctrinal disputes surrounding the rise of Protestantism.
  • Identify some of the principles of leading thinkers of the age and their influence upon those who followed.

7.1 The Idea of the Renaissance
7.1.1 Origins of the Renaissance
7.1.2 From Medieval to Renaissance
7.1.3 Portraits of the Renaissance
7.2 Renaissance Thought and Thinkers
7.2.1 Humanism
7.2.2 Renaissance Neo-Platonism
7.2.3 Pico della Mirandola
7.2.4 Niccoló Machiavelli
7.2.5 Leonardo da Vinci
7.3 The Church
7.3.1 The Protestant Reformation
7.3.2 Impact of Luther and the Radical Reformation
7.3.3 Catholic Counter-Reformation
7.4 New Ideas in Art and Science
7.4.1 The Early Scientific Revolution
7.4.2 Architecture

Early Latin and South America Edit

Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the factors that help explain the Spanish and Portuguese conquests in the Americas.
  • Identify the ways in which both empires sought to economically exploit their gains in the New World.
  • Discuss the manner in which these events involved the Catholic Church and its relations with the dynastic powers.

8.1 New Spain
8.1.1 The Spanish Conquest
8.1.2 The Founding of New Spain
8.1.3 Conversion of Indigenous Peoples
8.1.4 Colonial Economy
8.1.5 Encomienda
8.2 The Portuguese in Brazil
8.2.1 The Indigenous Population
8.2.2 Frontier Expansion
8.2.3 Early Colonization
8.2.4 French and Dutch Incursions
8.2.5 Gold Mining and Cane Farming

The Muslim Empires Edit

Upon completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Identify key milestones in the rise of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Describe some of the important religious and political features and practices within the Ottoman state.
  • Describe some of the various forms of interaction between the Ottoman Empire, Europe, and the Middle East during the period under review.
  • Identify some key milestones in the rise of the Mughal Empire, its internal features, and its myriad cultural and commercial interactions with the outside world.

9.1 The Ottoman Empire: Origins and Conquests
9.1.1 The Fall of Constantinople
9.1.2 Religion and Society: Muslim and Non-Muslim Relations
9.2 The Safavids
9.2.1 Rise and Fall of the Safavids
9.2.2 Shi’a Islam
9.3 The Mughals
9.3.1 The Mughal Empire
9.3.2 Connection and Exchange
9.3.3 Mughal Art and Culture
9.3.4 Mughal Religion
9.3.5 Challenges: the Marathas and the Sikhs
9.3.6 The Coming of the Europeans
9.3.7 Decline of the Mughals

Africa, Africans, and the Atlantic Slave Trade Edit

Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Describe some of the main features of the Atlantic slave trade – its origins, development, protagonists, and victims.
  • Identify key milestones in the growth of the Atlantic slave trade, its economic consequences, and human costs.
  • Discuss the effects of the slave trade on the development and geographical extension of the African diaspora.
  • Describe some common forms of opposition and resistance to the slave trade as well as the various factors and events over time that contributed to its demise.

10.1 The Slave Trade
10.1.1 Development of the Trade
10.1.2 Traders and Trade
10.1.3 The Middle Passage
10.1.4 Resistance and Abolition
10.1.5 Impact
10.2 Africa and Africans in the Age of the Slave Trade
10.2.1 African Slavery and Politics
10.2.2 Capture and Enslavement
10.3 The African Diaspora
10.3.1 The Nature of the Diaspora
10.3.2 Africans in the Atlantic World and Beyond

East Asia and Its Trading World Edit

Upon completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the efforts of European powers to establish commercial contacts with Asian states and societies as well as the types of goods involved in the subsequent trade.
  • Identify some of the main cultural and political developments in Ming China.
  • Describe some of the key features of Japanese culture and politics as well as the efforts of rulers to meet the challenges of social change and evolving threats from abroad.

11.1 The Asian Trading World and the Arrival of the Europeans
11.1.1 The Rise of the Portuguese Trading Empire
11.1.2 The English and the Dutch in the East
11.2 Ming China
11.2.1 The Ming State
11.2.2 Commercial Revolution
11.2.3 Ming Culture: Kunqu Opera
11.2.4 Isolation and Decline
11.3 Japan
11.3.1 Medieval and “Warring States” Era
11.3.2 Buddhism in Japan Zen Buddhism
11.3.3 Tokugawa Japan