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Book Review


Duiker, William J. and Jackson J. Spielvogel. World History, 4e. Instructor's Edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2004). 886 pp, $70.00, but free with orders of student editions. Student Edition with InfoTrac College Edition, $79.50. Student Edition without InfoTrac College Edition, $76.50. Ancillaries: Instructor's Manual with Test Bank. ExamView CD. Multimedia Manager, available for PC or Macintosh, plus online supplements for both instructor and students. Map transparencies are available for purchase.

I read the fourth edition of World History with great pleasure. Whenever textbooks for world history courses are discussed, this book is among the four or five most often mentioned; in spite of this, I still believe this is a work worthy of even more exposure than it has had. The authors are professors emeriti of Pennsylvania State University. William Duiker is an Asianist with a background in diplomacy in SE Asia; Jackson Spielvogel is a Europeanist with a published history in Western civilization. 1
     The Preface to this edition is a superb description of the purposes, design, tools, and changes of and within the new edition. It has been deliberately made more global, and it has included far more information on women in history. In a truly astounding and radical move, it has been deliberately shortened. 2
     World history textbooks are generally gargantuan. In my years of teaching, I became less and less enthusiastic about textbooks. Their lust for coverage was exceeded solely by their contribution to student scoliosis. Additionally, simply their size can be an intimidating implication to a new teacher for the necessity of total coverage. 3
     I should say at the beginning that I know some teachers feel that their students have difficulty with a double column format; I think this may be a valid observation and a risk, but not one which would persuade me it was a more important consideration than the minor obstacles or inconveniences of other texts. My own students seemed not to care one way or the other. 4
     Other important advantages are the length and quality of the commentary given to illustrations and maps. In many history textbooks, maps and graphics are given a two or three line caption, which does little more than to provide a title or an obvious generalization. There are books which do try to incorporate data on the maps or illustrations in the text itself, but this necessitates shifting the eyes back and forth or, in the worst cases, flipping pages. 5
      World History is a text which treats the graphics as worthy of extensive commentary directly beneath. (The new edition of Spodek is quite good about this, too.) It is a major and significant difference. Increasingly, according to comments on teaching listservs, we are dealing with a sharp decline in student literacy and a generation far more likely to be reached - or at least engaged - by imagery. 6
     This same attention to preparation of the student and orientation of the reader is true of the introductory paragraphs for the documentary excerpts. The book is rich with these and they are well chosen. Chronologies are used as sidebars, positioned well to correlate with the text itself. 7
     Preparation of the student for reading profitably seemed to me a major priority of the authors. More than is common, Duiker and Spielvogel understand that students cannot simply be urged to learn - they must be given some instruction concerning how to go about that. 8
     Before this text even begins, a full page directed to the student begins by explaining the difference between the Wade-Giles and pinyi systems for transcribing Chinese sounds, and the reason the authors have chosen pinyin. This may seem simple, but students are often confused by the variations as they do their own research or collateral readings. It is good to confront these things right at the beginning. The same page discusses the problems of calendars and dating systems. It not only explains the differences between BC/AD and BCE/CE, it goes on to explain the nature of the Jewish and the Islamic dating system. In short, it uses preparation as an opportunity to explain and illustrate cultural relativity on a very basic level. 9
     The next page is another helpful explanation entitled, Themes for Understanding World History. Ten themes - political systems, the role of ideas, economics and history, social life and gender issues, culture, religion, the role of individuals, science and technology, environment, migration - are described, preparing the student for a view of history which is far more complex than most students assume. 10
     Altogether, this world history text is designed with more of a deliberate sense of the multiplicity of learning corridors than is true of any text I have read so far. Increasingly, all texts have illustrations and maps and documentary excerpts and chronologies; but, all too often, these seem to be appendages added in order to be competitive with other texts, but do not give the impression of being part of an integrated vision of how students learn. In Duiker and Spielvogel's World History I did not feel this was true. The entire package holds together, and its parts are interwoven. 11
     Having said that, I must say that a major weakness of the book is that it still tends to treat regions of the world sequentially and in relative isolation. No one has yet solved this problem adequately, but some of the major textbook contenders have done significantly more to create chapters which deal globally with periods or themes. Duiker and Spielvogel have improved in this edition, but more work can still be done. 12
     Finally, as an old dinosaur, I still feel that the current proliferation of adjunct materials on disc or web must confuse rather than enlighten teachers new to the task. One could literally make world history into a four-year course meeting every day and evening. I believe teachers learn to teach by teaching - designing courses and teaching courses rather than turning them over to electronic presentations, movies, and supplemental web sites. 13
     This book, alone, provides plenty on its own. If you use it, you can teach a superb course. Add some novels, plenty of discussion and lots of writing, and you will be fine; however, for those who do desire electronic links and discs and resources, as well as testing tools, there are far more than enough - and of notably high quality. 14
     I strongly recommend consideration of this text for both high school and college world history courses. It reflects the most coherent overall vision of design and purpose that I have seen. 15
Jack Betterly
Emma Willard School, emeritus

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