Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ancient Empires: Comparative Approaches in World History

This website on world empires is designed to help guide Clatsop CC students to sources in history for the Western Civilization (HST101) and World History (HST 104). These are the Fall quarter courses of year long surveys that continue through the Winter and Spring quarters.

History is the study of conflict.  In these courses students may challenge and engage questions of power and conflict in their own historical context.  In ancient history, warfare, empires and slavery are major threats to citizens and residents.  A predominant model of history, called the Rise of the West,  relies on the theories of the 19th century German historian and philosopher Georg Hegel.  It emphasizes dynasties and periods of history as stages of development that favored the rise of the West.   In such a view, the Rise of Western Civilization assumes the decline of the East due to Oriental despotism.  The Rise of the West also privileges a narrative of history as the success of the rich and elite.  In this course we'll challenge that assumption by resorting to social history to unveil the agency of the poor and non-elites as well as states and societies on the peripheries of empires.  The ideology of class, race and a gender based division of labor also emerge as means for exploitation of the poor and of women.  We'll use primary sources, including excerpts of literature, art and culture to supplement our reading and discussion of our main texts. Through the study of comparative empire our aim is to critique the dangerous power and risk of violence and exploitation that empires pose for those both within and on the periphery of empires.

For the Western Civilization course, our main texts  on world empires are:  Charles Gates, Ancient Cities, 2nd edition. (Routledge, 2011).  The publisher has a useful website that is organized with a chronological periodization.   In addition we'll also use Martin, Ancient Greece  (Yale University Press, 1996) and N. Faulkner:  Rome:  Empire of the Eagles (Longman).

For the World History course, our main text is Robert Tignor et al., Worlds Together, Worlds Apart.  3rd edition (Norton, 2011).  The publisher has a link to online readings and resources at

Most of our primary sources on comparative world empires are available online for free from public domain library archives.  For class we'll read texts in class to discuss problems of power and choices that were made. We shall also make use of reference and digital resources including the UNESCO World Heritage, Global Heritage Fund and Archnet Islamic Architecture databases.