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International Politics and Archeology: Disparate Critical Teaching Topics

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A protest outside the Presidential Secretariat (Office of the President) of Sri Lanka in April 2022. By July 13th, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa exiled himself from the country following continuing mass protests over his handling of Sri Lanka’s economic crisis and a civilian takeover of the Presidential Secretariat. Source: Wikipedia at

Although these two topics will probably attract different readers, they both are important components of a liberal arts education.

Virtually all high schools and colleges in North America and elsewhere offer modern world history; in the US, AP Comparative Government and Politics; and in Europe, the US and elsewhere, International Baccalaureate Programs courses in the “individual and societies” curriculum focus upon international politics and issues. Increasingly, college and universities offer similar courses for beginning undergraduates.

Archeology also can be an important subject to enhance understanding of Asia. Although teachers and students at every level can learn more about Asia from exploring archeology’s lessons, the most common unifying thread between US states at the middle school level is an emphasis upon ancient and early world history, hence the importance of archeology.

International Politics

On August 15th, the Republic of India will be celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary. Recently, an AP reporter based in India interviewed EAA editorial board member Nimish Adhia after reading his article, “The History of Economic Development in India since Independence. ” (volume 20, number 3, winter 2015)Nimish’s article consistently ranks in EAA’s top ten “most viewed” articles in the archives and has most recently risen to the number one most-viewed EAA article. Readers interested in the most significant policy changes in the Republic of India’s economy since the creation of the world’s largest democracy should begin with Nimish’s article. We hope to provide the AP link to the story in a future Digest.

Spoiler alert: see an extensive teaching resource about the Republic of India in “Other Teaching Resources.”

Sri Lanka: By now many Digest readers will be familiar with the events that resulted in the overthrow of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his July 13th sudden escape by air to the Maldives.

What a substantial number of Digest readers might need, and virtually all the students they teach need, is an introductory backgrounder to this nation of over twenty-three million people, making it the fifty-eighth most-populated nation in the world. For a general overview of Sri Lanka, visit “Sri Lanka in the Classroom.” (volume 26, number 2, fall 2021). Interested readers are then encouraged to read Udan Fernando’s “Why I Made a Virgin Vote” from the same issue. (The link to view the documentary for no charge on YouTube is here and also at the top of the author’s essay.) This short, but powerful documentary features the filmmaker and a former classmate who is quarantined by COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. The subject in the documentary had worked outside his country for years but retained his citizenship. The documentary, released on YouTube in September 2020, provides both context for what occurred in July of this year but also raised profound questions for me regarding broader political issues than simply Sri Lanka. These are also discussed in the fall 2021 issue in my interview with the filmmaker, “A Brief Interview with Udan Fernando.”


Todd Munson in “Beyond the Sinosphere in Early Japan: Nara and the Silk Roads” (volume 26, number 1, fall 2022) does a superb job of using archeology to both link Nara-era Japan to the Silk Roads and document the vicarious and live early interactions of people who lived far from China’s cultural orbit with Japanese.

When I interact with middle school teachers in my state, regionally, and sometimes at a national level, probably the most often mentioned curriculum standard involves China’s First Emperor or his Terracotta Warriors. Long-time Smithsonian Museum educator Elizabeth Eder in “Unearthing New Lessons from Ancient China” (volume 25, number 2, fall 2020) provides practical lessons that are applicable to middle schools and can be modified for high school use.

Other Teaching Resources

International Politics

Rachel Heilman (Issaquah High School), undoubtedly an enterprising and creative teacher working with the University of Washington’s South Asia Center, published an online semester-length India and South Asia Social Studies course. Although the feasibility of most North American high schools implementing a semester-length social studies course on India and South Asia is not particularly high, we are delighted that Ms. Heilman incorporated extensive digital content from our Winter 2020 issue into the course.

More specifically, we are particularly grateful she focused most of the Introduction to the Course Content on excerpts from our Winter 2020 “Top Ten Things to Know about India” special feature where we asked several different contributors to write and provide rationalizations for their own “Top Ten” lists. We are equally grateful that Ms. Heilman added to the EAA essays’ value through creatively excerpting portions of different contributors’ essays and including a variety of  teaching suggestions for using the excerpts. The result is that instructors and students gain an excellent overview of contrasting viewpoints and positions that are illustrative of what occurs in the world’s largest democratic republic. Ms. Heilman also includes other teaching activities that don’t involve EAA resources. For those instructors and students who are not able to consider India and South Asia for a semester or even for five one-hour class periods, a modified version of the Introduction should be useful.

An image of an elephant-shaped wine server from the Shang dynasty, ca. 1100–ca. 1050 BCE. From the Smithsonian Institution’s “Teaching China with the Smithsonian” at


“Teaching China with the Smithsonian” is an extensive teaching resource for K-12 teachers on China. Funded by the Freeman Foundation, this multimedia site should be bookmarked given its multitude of resources. For example, middle school teachers teaching early China and having students work with archeological artifacts. Students and Instructors who go to this link can examine artifacts in separate Chinese dynasties.