Joseph Lindsley on the Weekly Standard’s website .
AS THE NEW ACADEMIC YEAR BEGINS, parents will give, as they always do, lectures about studying hard and attending class. But nonetheless many collegians will devote time to chugging pints, throwing darts, and doing just about anything that doesn’t involve cracking the books. This seems a gross waste of resources, but, considering the often ridiculous content of those neglected textbooks and ignored lectures, some of these prodigal students just might be better off.
…[various denunciations of various courses] …
Swarthmoreans have to wait until next year to feast on “The Whole Enchilada: Debates in World History,” but right now they can take “Engendering Culture” where they’re supposed to learn how “culture is constructed and reconstructed to replicate gender roles,” by studying “New York night life and John Wayne movies and the masculine West.”
Timothy Burke gives us the rather demanding syllabus (for it is he) for his course at Swarthmore, “The Whole Enchilada: Debates in World History” (copied below the break).
This displays in its primeval majesty the boneheaded stupidity of a common genre of opinion article (and occasional rigorously researched report) on the Evils of Left Wing Indocrination and Pandering to Lazy Students in the Modern University. Sloppy Google searches and sweeping assertions don’t provide evidence of anything other than the author’s laziness and desire to find backup for his prejudices with the least amount of exertion possible. The kind of guff that deserves an F, in other words.
The Whole Enchilada, Fall 2003
The Whole Enchilada
This course is an exploration of world history as a form of historical writing. It is not a survey of events in world history, though we will undoubtedly find ourselves learning quite a lot about certain common topics or issues in world history.
The central question of the class is, “What happens when a historian or writer tries to describe the history of the world, whether limited to a particular time period or theme or encompassing literally everything that has happened to humanity in historical time?” As a genre of writing about history, world history is quite distinctive not just in its scope but in its tone and its outlook. The form has a history all its own. We will focus on the debates between world historians (and between historians writing about global history and historians who are more specialized) that are highly distinctive and particular to the form, ranging from the question of why Western Europe achieved global hegemony after the 1500s to the issue of whether there is a meaningful distinction between “civilizations” and other human societies.
While I typically encourage students to skim readings, and will do so in this class, I nevertheless want to caution that in this course, the reading load is quite heavy and I will expect somewhat closer attention to the reading than I normally require. We are reading world histories as a literary form, and that means we need to understand not just the bare bones of their argument and the evidentiary material they assemble in defense of it, but the rhetorical approach they employ. Reading carefully and working from such readings in class discussion are both important requirements in this course, and I will base the final grade more heavily than I normally do on whether or not students are reading with the appropriate discipline and depth.
Do not take this class if you are unprepared to engage the material.
Attendance, as per History Department policy, is required. Unexcused absences will have a serious effect on your grade. Participation and evidence of careful reading are important to your grade. There will also be three papers: two of them short, one of them a longer assignment requiring a modest amount of independent research.
“Global history” and “world history” (scholarly standardization of a field; literary breadth of an idea)
The question of “Eurocentrism”
The global and the local; the big picture and the details
The materialist turn in 20th Century world histories
From the particular to the universal: origin narratives and historical thought
*The Old Testament, Genesis
*Pietro Vannicelli, “Herodotus’ Egypt and the Foundations of Universal History”, in Nino Luraghi, ed., The Historian’s Craft in the Age of Herodotus
Ibn Khaldun, The Muqadimmah, pp. Vii-48, pp. 58-68
Mini-lecture: St. Augustine, medieval historians and universal history
Khaldun, Muqadimmah, pp. 91-332
*Jean-Jacques Rousseau, “A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality”
*Georg Hegel, “Introduction to the Philosophy of History”
Mini-lecture: Vico, Kant, Rousseau, Hobbes, Hegel, Marx: The idea of a “universal history” and the European Enlightenment
*Leopold von Ranke, “On Universal History”
*M.C Lemon, “Marx on History”, from Philosophy of History: A Guide For Students
First paper due
The development of world history as a scholarly genre
Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, pp. 3-86
Mini-lecture: Toynbee and Spengler
Spengler, Decline of the West, pp. 226-418
William H. McNeill, Rise of the West, pp. Xv-63, pp. 167-248, pp. 295-360
Mini-lecture: The Cold War, geopolitics and world history
McNeill, Rise of the West, pp. 484-507, pp. 565-598, pp. 726-808
Ferdnand Braudel, The Structures of Everyday Life, pp. 23-103, 104-182, pp. 266-333
Mini-lecture: The Annales school and the “longue duree”
Braudel, The Structures of Everyday Life, pp. 385-564
The idea of world systems
*Immanuel Wallerstein, The Essential Wallerstein, selections
*Andre Gunder Frank and Barry K. Gills, “The World System: Five Hundred Years or Five Thousand?”
The critique of Eurocentrism in world history: materialist and philosophical
*JM Blaut, The Colonizer’s Model of the World
*Janet Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony
*Ashis Nandy, “History’s Forgotten Doubles”
Why didn’t China industrialize first? A case study of debate in world history
Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence , pp. 3-208
Mini-lecture: Other perennial debates in world history
Pomeranz, The Great Divergence
Thematic world histories
*Philip Curtin, Cross-Cultural Trade in World History
*Paul Lovejoy, Transformations in Slavery
*Barbara Freese, Coal: A Human History
*John Keegan, The Face of Battle
Hegel and Kant revisited
Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man
Mini-lecture: World history and the idea of progress
Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man
Second paper due.
Politics and power
*Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?”
*Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power, Volume 1, pp. 73-178
Sociobiological and materialist world histories
Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel
Mini-lecture: McNeill’s Plagues and Peoples and other non-Marxist materialist world histories
Narrative world history
Larry Gonick, The Cartoon Guide to the Universe, Volume 3
*Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, short selection
The Once and Future World History
Final paper (genre critique) due December 15th