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“Teaching Multiple Asias: Confessions of a Europeanist Teaching World History” Syllabus

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Editor’s Note: The syllabus that follows complements “Teaching Multiple Asias: Confessions of a Europeanist Teaching World History” by Alexander Maxwell from the EAA spring 2016 issue (vol. 21, no. 1, p. 58-60). If you have any questions about the readings and course materials listed in the syllabus, you may contact Alexander Maxwell at

Global History: Commodities & Ideologies

Course Content

This course addresses two themes in global history: commodities and ideologies. One half of the class will discuss the relationships between human beings and commodities, notably silver, sugar, rubber, cotton, and oil. The other half will examine changing ideas of political legitimacy, including divine kingship, nationalism, imperialist racism, socialism, and political Islamism. The course provides broad geographic coverage, introducing examples from Africa, North and South America, South, East, and South-East Asia, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, and Australasia.

Learning Objectives

Students passing this course should develop a broad understanding of key processes and patterns in global history, possess certain factual knowledge related to the lectures and readings, understand how to interpret historical sources, improve academic writing skills including paraphrasing and essay-writing, develop skills as researchers, learn to present and debate historical ideas both orally and in writing, and master accurate and appropriate reference styles (footnotes and bibliography).

Course Requirements

To pass this course, students must complete both essays, and attend at least six of the nine tutorials scheduled from weeks 2 to 11 (there are no tutorials during week 5). Students who fail to attend six tutorials will not have met the mandatory requirements and hence will fail the course. Prepare for tutorials by answering the tutorial questions in this course reader.

Students will be responsible for all lecture and tutorial readings in the final exam.

Complete the readings in plain type before Monday’s lecture.

Complete the readings in bold type before tutorial.

Week 1

M Intro to the class: what created the ‘modern’ world?

W Kingship and divine power

No tutorials this week (first week of the trimester).

Lecture Reading 

Edward Fox, ‘Invisible Kingdom – Swaziland’ from Obscure Kingdoms, London, Penguin, 1993, 150-62 [ISBN 0-14-014671-7].

Learn your geography! Try the webpage:


Week 2

M Silver in world history

W Case study: Spanish Silver in Mexico and Peru, 1519-1650

Tutorial: Research skills: review précis examples and complete writing exercises.

Lecture Reading Dennis O. Flynn and Arturo Giráldez, ‘Born with a ‘Silver Spoon’: The Origin of Reading World Trade in 1571,’ Journal of World History, 6 (1995), 201-21 [ISSN 1527-8050].

Week 3

M Monarchy and social hierarchy

W Case study: Habsburg Constitutionalism, 1519–1581

Tutorial Reading

The Ioyfull entrie of the Dukedome of Brabant, London, Robert Waldegraue, 1581, excerpts. Taken from Early English Books Online (EEBO), URL:

Lecture Reading A.S. Altekar, State and Government in Ancient India, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1958, 93-104 [ISBN 8120810082].

Fri 23 Mar 750-word précis due at 5:00 pm!!

Week 4

M Sugar in world history

Th Case study: Haiti from buccaneers to plantations, 1492-1791

Tutorial Readings

Richard Ligon, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes, London, Frank Cass, 1970 (first pub. 1657), 40-51 and map [ISBN 714619418].

Richard S. Dunn, ‘The Barbados Census of 1680: Profile of the Richest Colony in English America,’ William and Mary Quarterly, 26 (1969), 3-5, 17 [ISSN 0043-5597].

Lecture Reading J. H. Galloway, ‘The Mediterranean Sugar Industry,’ Geographical Review, 67 (1977), 177-94 [ISSN 0016-7428].

Week 5

M The Enlightenment, contract theory, and the Age of Revolutions

W Case study: The French Revolution in Haiti, 1789-1818

No tutorials this week (Good Friday holiday).

Lecture Readings Laurent DuBois, ‘Specters of Saint-Domingue,’ in: Avengers of the New World, Cambridge, Harvard University Reading Press, 2004, 8-35 and map [ISBN 978-0674013049].

J.J. Dessalines, ‘Haitian Declaration of Independence’ (1804)

Week 6

M Imperialism, racism, and anti-colonialism

W Case study: Revolutionary modernization in Meiji Japan, 1867-1937

Tutorial: Effective history research and writing

Lecture Readings Philip Curtin, ‘Meiji Japan: Revolutionary Modernization’ The World and the West, Cambridge University Press, 2000, 156-72 [ISBN: 0 521 77135 8].

Wilbur Fridell, ‘Government Ethics Textbooks in Late Meiji Japan,’ Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 29, no. 4 (August 1970), 823-33 [ISSN 0021-9118].


Week 7

M Rubber and industrial commodities in world history

W Case study: Japan’s quest for Malay Rubber, 1904-1945

Tutorial Reading

Donald Kennedy and Marjorie Lucks, ‘Rubber, Blight, and Mosquitoes: Biogeography Meets the Global Economy,’ Environmental History, 4 (1999), 369-83 [ISSN 1084-5453].

Lecture Readings Robert Harms, ‘The End of Red Rubber: A Reassessment,’ Journal of African History, 16 (1975), 73-88 [ISSN 1612-1651].

Nicholas Tarling, A Sudden Rampage: the Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia, 1941-1945, London, Hurst, 2001, 230-35. [ISBN 1850655847].

Keat Gin Ooi, ed., Japanese Empire in the Tropics: Selected Documents and Reports of the Japanese Period in Sarawak, Northwest Borneo, 1941-1945, Athens, Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1998, 26-31. [ISBN 0896801993].

Week 8

M Socialism and communism

W Case study: Turkestan from Khanates to Soviet Republics, 1873-1991

Tutorial Reading

Iosef Stalin, ‘The Immediate Task of the Party in the National Question,’ Pravda, No. 29 (10 Feb. 1921). Taken from the Marxists Internet Archive, URL:

Lecture Reading Terry Martin, The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2001, 125-39, 194-99. [ISBN 0801486777].

Fri 11 May 2,500-word research essay due at 5:00 PM!!

Week 9

M Cotton textiles in world history

W Case study: cotton and ecology in Uzbekistan, 1785-2012

Tutorial Reading

Sven Beckert, ‘Emancipation and Empire: Reconstructing the Worldwide Web of Cotton Production in the Age of the American Civil War,’ American Historical Review, 109 (2004), 1405-38 [ISSN 0002-8762].

Lecture Reading Stephen Ninzer, ‘Free of the Russians, but Imprisoned by Cotton,’ New York Times (20 Nov. 1997) [ISSN 0362-4331].

Week 10

M Oil in world history

W Case study: oil, multinationals and imperialism in Persia, 1908-1956

Tutorial Readings

Simon Sebag Montefiore, Young Stalin, London, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2007, [xiv-xvii], 160-76, 352-55 [ISBN 1400044650].

Ronald Grigor Suny, ‘A Journeyman for the Revolution: Stalin and the Labour Movement in Baku, June 1907-May 1908,’ Soviet Studies, 23 (1972), 373-94 [ISSN 0038-5859].

Lecture Reading Daniel Yergin, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, London, Simon and Schuster, 1993, 167-206 [ISBN 0-684-83569-X].

Week 11

M Post-colonialism and Islamism

W Case study: Iran from the Qajars to the Islamic Republic, 1906-2010

Tutorial Reading

Ruhollah Khomeini, speech of 18 February 1978, Najaf. Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (World Service). URL:

Lecture Reading Irshad Manji, The Trouble with Islam Today, New York: St Martin’s Press, 2003, 48-60 [ISBN 0-312-32699-8].

Week 12

M Commodities of the future

W Review session for the final exam

No tutorial this week (last week of the trimester).

Lecture Readings ‘Water, the Looming Source of World Conflict,’ Agence France Presse (20 Mar. 2001), 1. URL:

‘Water and Conflict in the Middle East,’ Middle East Institute Viewpoints, No. 7 (June 2008), 1-5. URL:

Tim Wu, ‘Bandwidth is the New Black Gold,’ Time (22 Mar. 2010), 44 [ISSN: 0040-781X].


Précis (summary essay) 15% of mark 750-word (+/– 10%)

Research essay 35% of mark 2,500-word (+/– 10%)

Examination 50% of mark (3 hours, in exam period)

Essay 1: Précis

Write a précis on Portuguese Goa, ca. (about) 1510-1961. A précis is a concise summary of the essential facts or statements of a book, article or other text. Divide your text into 5-7 paragraphs, each concentrating on a single topic. Include as much factual material as possible in 750 words +/- 10%, hence, in 675-825 words. One way to approach this essay is to imagine that you are writing an entry for the Encyclopaedia on the Portuguese Empire with a strict word limit. We suggest that you write a first draft of 900-1,000 words, and then streamline your text to 675-825 words. Your précis, like an encyclopaedia entry, will not contain footnotes. Do not write a formal introduction, thesis statement, or conclusion. Do not quote any material!

Note: Today Goa is a state in India, but under Portuguese rule Goa was a ‘fort,’ an ‘enclave,’ a ‘city,’ a ‘capital,’ a ‘district,’ and a ‘province’ that included the coastal districts of Bardez, Ilhas, and Salcete. In the 1700s, documents began to refer to the city of Goa as ‘Old Goa,’ and the capital of Goa province shifted to Pangim.

Include a bibliography listing the four sources in alphabetical order, as in the four bibliographic entries below. The Book of Readings has sample précis for the term asiento and the League of Nations. You must deposit an electronic copy of your research essay on Blackboard and submit a printed copy with the HIST120 cover sheet to the History Office, OK405. Work only from the following four articles (reproduced in this Book of Readings). Essays failing to incorporate material from all four readings will lose marks.

de Azevedo, Carlos. ‘The Churches of Goa’. Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 15, 3 (Oct. 1956), 3-6.

Pacheco de Figueiredo, João Manuel. ‘The Practice of Indian Medicine in Goa during the Portuguese Rule, 1510-1699’. Luso-Brazilian Review, 4, 1 (Spring 1967), 51-53.

Singhal, D. P. ‘Goa—End of an Epoch’. Australian Quarterly, 34, 1 (Mar. 1962), pp. 77-89.

Wherritt, Irene. ‘Portuguese Language Use in Goa’. Anthropological Linguistics, 27, 4 (Winter 1985), 437-441.

Essay #2: Research Essay

For essay #2, students must conduct independent research on one of four questions and write a 2,500 word essay. The essay should have a relevant title, an introduction with a thesis statement, several body paragraphs each with a clear topic sentence, and a conclusion summarizing the findings. The paper should contain at least twenty footnotes (not endnotes) and a properly formatted bibliography. Students should quote from at least two primary sources, including those suggested. Feel free to use additional primary sources, if relevant. Students should also refer to at least eight secondary sources. Electronic sources are acceptable only if they reproduce paper originals. Only use scholarly works as secondary sources: books, journal articles, and so forth. Students are responsible for locating relevant secondary sources. Essays failing to contain at least twenty footnotes from at least ten sources will lose marks.

Students choose one from the following four essay topics:

(1) Studying commodities offers insights into changing patterns and directions in globalisation. In the period 1800-2010, what were the key factors that drew Assam, in north-eastern India, into the global economy? Use the following two texts: Assam: Sketch of its History, Soil, and Productions (1839); Assam Co. Ltd, Crisil Company Report (2011), available on Blackboard.

(2) Several anti-colonialist modernizers found inspiration in socialist thought. What other models of social transformation did Chinese leader Mao Zedong and Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah consider? Why did they ultimately conclude that socialism had the most to offer? Use the following two texts: Mao Zedong, ‘On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship’ (1949); Kwame Nkrumah, ‘African Socialism Revisited’ (1967).


(3) Atlantic migration and trade transported diseases between the Old and New Worlds, 14921800. Compare how early modern people discussed the origins and spreading of one disease from the Old World (Europe, Africa, Asia) and one from New World (the Americas). Link your answer to trades in commodities or medicines. Refer to at least four primary sources written in the period 1492-1800. Select from documents available from VUW Library’s Online Resources (databases), such as: Early English Books Online; Eighteenth Century Collections Online; Eighteenth Century Journals; Empire Online; Making of the Modern World; Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online. There also are many pre-1800 primary sources available on Google Books. Search for words used at the time, such as ‘fever,’ ‘flux’ or ‘pox,’ rather than ‘malaria’ or ‘syphilis.’ The same applies for place names: search for Hispaniola rather than Haiti.

(4) The Egyptian revolution of 2011 opens a window on political thought in the modern Arab world. Discuss how various Egyptian thinkers, contemplating the post-revolutionary order, have sought to balance nationalism and Islam. Refer to at least four primary sources, selecting from the documents available in English translation on the ‘Tahrir documents’ webpage.


The Final Exam

The exam (50% of the course mark) three sections with 120 possible points, but will be marked as if only 100 points were possible. Previous classes have found the exam very challenging, so this year the exam includes a buffer of 20 extra points.

Section 1: Geographical literacy

Identify countries or regions on a map of the world, specifically the map shown on the following page. Students will be responsible for knowing the location of: Alabama, Angola, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Brazil, Egypt, Finland, Georgia (the Republic of Georgia, not the U.S. State), Greece, Haiti, India, Iran, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Spain, Uzbekistan, Virginia. The exam will ask you to fill in the blanks as follows:

(A) Mexico (B) Panama

Section 2: Historical literacy

Identify ‘key terms’ as given in course lectures. All terms describe some historical figure, place, or process. Students will not be asked a date: any dates will be given in the question itself.

The U.K. claimed sovereignty over New Zealand in 1840 after Māori chiefs signed

The Treaty of Waitangi

Section 3: Historiographic literacy

Students must summarize the content of course readings. Each question will identify the author of the course readings. The questions will ask you to summarize only. Sample question:

According to Edward Fox, how does the incwala dance uphold the Swazi monarchy?

It turns the king into a ‘supernatural hero’ who could ‘command the forces of nature to obey him,’ it links the king’s symbolic purification of his personal possessions to the advent of the rainy season, it gives Swazis a ritual with which they demonstrate their loyalty to the king, and gives the king a chance to make important policy speeches.

Grading scale for three sections of the exam:
Section 1 (geography)- total points: 18
Section 2 (history)- total points: 50
Section 3 (historiography)- total points: 52

Geography portion of the test where students are expected to match location names to specific areas.