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Berkeley Political Economy 100: Reference Document DRAFT

Berkeley International Studies 45: Reference Document DRAFT


World History




Ideally students intending to major in Political Economy should complete IAS 45 by the middle of their sophomore year.


Instructors must use a hybrid chronological-thematic organization. Within this model with, however, a great deal of leeway--there are many cases that can be used to illustrate colonization, of which only a very few can be taught colonization. Concepts are more important than the details; details are useful only as illustrations of larger processes. Thus world or global history differs from a series of regional histories in which students face a different country each week. The course should take a global rather than a civilizational approach.

Without reliable and detailed information about the past historical thinking is not possible. Yet historical analysis involves much more than the compilation and memorization of data. It requires the cultivation of seven distinct albeit interrelated and overlapping intellectual skills: analysis; argumentation; chronological reasoning; interpretation; contextualization; comparison; and synthesis. Students must learn these modes of historical thinking.

Topics: Periods and Themes:

No more than 20% (3 weeks) of the course should be spent before 1450. The focus of the course not be on the twentieth century. Otherwise, istructors are free to weight each period as they choose.


  • Period 1: pre-1450: (1) The peopling of the earth and the Neolithic Revolution; (2) state development and interaction; (3) the development and expansion of networks of communication and exchange; (4) the rise of cultural systems including religion.
  • Period 2: c. 1450-c. 1750: (1) Globalizing networks of communication and exchange; (2) new forms of social organization and modes of production; (3) types and varieties of colonialism and empires.
  • Period 3: c. 1750-c.1900: (1) imperialism and territorial expansion; (2) ideologies, revolutions and reforms; (3) industrialization and global capitalism; (4) global migration.

  • Period 4: c.1900-present: (1) dissolution of global empires and the rise of nationalism; (2) global war and conflict; (3) new global institutions.


  • Theme 1: humans and their environment: during prehistory as hunters, fishers, and foragers whose migrations led to the peopling of the earth; since the agricultural revolution as farmers or pastoralists constrained by environmental factors such as rainfall patterns, climate, and available flora and fauna; intensified exploitation of nature as populations grew, migrated, and increased exponentially during the industrial revolution; the balance of sophisticated technology and limited natural resources; cities, trade networks, and diseases; the rise of global environmentalism.

  • Theme 2: cultural evelopment and interaction: the origins, uses, dissemination, and syncretic adaptations of ideas, beliefs, and knowledge within particular societies and in circulation across societies; study of belief system(s) or religions, philosophical interests, and technical and artistic approaches as a key to understanding how the society views itself and others and how it responds to challenge; transmission and adaptation of culturel components at boundaries; the uniqueness and commonalities of human expressions and abilities; cultural trends and trace their influence across human societies.

  • Theme 3: state building, expansion, and conflict: hierarchical modes of domination and their conflicts; state forms (e.g. kingdoms, empires, nation-states) across time and space; organizational and cultural foundations of long-term stability; internal and external causes of conflict on the other; contextualizing state development and expansion in relation to different modes of production (e.g. agrarian, pastoral, mercantile), cultural and ideological foundations (e.g. religions, philosophies, ideas of nationalism), and social and gender structures; interstate relations--war, diplomacy, and international organizations.

  • Theme 4: creation, expansion, and interaction of economic systems: patterns and systems to produce, distribute, and consume desired goods and services across time and space; major transitions between modes of production; labor systems; ideologies, values, and institutions (such as capitalism and socialism) that support and sustain modes of production and forms of labor organization; trade and commerce; regional and global networks of communication and exchange and their relation to economic growth; cultural and technological diffusion, migration, state formation, social classes, and human interaction with the environment.

  • Theme 5: the development and transformation of social structures: human societies group their members and pattern interaction across social groups; stratification based on gender roles, kinship systems, racial and ethnic associations, and hierarchies of wealth and class; processes through which such categories and practices were created, maintained, and transformed; connections between changes in social structures and other historical shifts, especially trends in political economy, cultural expression, and human ecology.

Assessments and Assignments:

Instructors must assign students a research paper that requires them to use primary source documents of some kind (either the student’s or the instructor’s choice). The paper must be submitted in stagesto give students a chance to master historical thinking skills and obtain feedback from the instructor and/or GSI. The paper should be no more than a dozen pages. Instructors must provide a final eam. All exams including midterms (if any) should require students to demonstrate critical and historical thinking skills--not simply the regurgitation of factual content.