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Letter to the Editors

Editorial Note: We received this letter from Ekaterina Marchenko, a student in Alice Catherine Carl's world history class at the University of Tennessee at Martin, after she read William McNeil's essay in Volume 1:1 of WHC.

After reading the article by William H. McNeil, "An Emerging Consensus about World History, Volume 1", I concluded that World History does not stand in one place unchanged. On the contrary, it moves on without stopping since its independent variable is time, and time is unstoppable. Therefore, from this statement, I can derive a general definition of history as the study of the past events of human societies, and to be more exact, of the rise and fall of different civilizations through time. McNeill calls this notion an ecological principle, which is a new idea grounded in an examination of the world as a global entity. And from this raw material given by nature, we, human beings, as the most intelligent beings on the planet Earth, grow.
    In other words, as I understood McNeil's theory, we start small and branch out by means of communication. That way, greater interaction and merging are possible. Through cooperation and conflict, and the rise and fall of our civilizations, we gain new experience, expand, and globalize.
    History drives our lives, and the more we know about our past the better off we are in improving our future. To design effective text books and teaching tactics on World History is challenging. It is impossible to lecture on this subject by mentioning every single detail—it would take a lifetime to do that. We must therefore study the most important and significant factors, but first we must prioritize and organize them.
    After probing several new World History textbooks, I have found that they generally seem to concentrate not just on individual societies and civilizations separately like they used to, but to emphasize the intricate web of interactions between them. Therefore, the new generation of history books follows many points that McNeill describes in his article. History is something you can not get a hold on for long. It is changing and so do the methods of teaching it. Historians are looking for better and more effective ways to organize this ever-increasing and expanding story of humankind. Authors of new textbooks are trying to present history in a more global perspective in the form of webs. And that's one of the major points McNeil makes in his article, "The Emerging Consensus about World History." Other similarities include: communications, transportation, exchange, cooperation, and even a newly emerging ecological principle. Authors of these publications mentioned one of their major themes, environment, being a foundation from which we start to develop. 4
    We can see from several samples of the newest World History textbooks that different authors are coming up with common themes. Although there are still some discrepancies about the minor areas of emphasis, the overall structure of their projects seems to converge into a common idea. That idea is explicitly presented by McNeill in his article as the web of communications which in turn enables the globalization of the world. This, in turn, justifies a truly global approach to world history.

Ekaterina Marchenko

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