Schwartz, Stuart B., Linda R. Wimmer, and Robert S. Wolff. The
Global Experience: Readings in World History, 2 vols. (New
York: Longman, 1997). 264 pp (vol 1), $59.20; 288 pp (vol 2), $59.20.
When it comes to document sets, two
questions immediately come to mind: "Can the world history teacher ever have
too many document collections?" And, conversely, "Another document set? What
makes this one different from the four I already have?" The answer to the
first question is, obviously, "No." The second invites closer examination.
Schwartz et al. originally created
this document set to accompany the Stearns, Adas, and Schwartz textbook called World Civilizations: The Global Experience. However, The Global Experience:
Readings in World History (hereafter Readings) is much more
than merely a companion to a popular textbook.
So, what does Readings offer? For
the AP World History teacher and student, these books closely follow the periodization
recommended in the AP Course Description. The documents are also chosen to
reflect world history themes and habits of mind, and reflect an unusually
varied variety of sources. The authors state that their focus is on three
main themes: identity, livelihood, and community. Indeed, there are excellent
selections on "Livelihood," including "Labor in the World" (500-1450), trading
networks and "The World of Work" (1450-1750), and "Industrialization," which includes coercive labor in Africa and the Dutch
Culture System in Java (1750-1900).
Furthermore, unlike some document sets, Readings makes an effort to go beyond the history of "great" civilizations
and to bring to the student at least a few well-chosen examples of documents
representing the other inhabitants of the world who did not have the foresight
to be born in one of the core civilizations. For example, "The Spread of Peoples
and Cultures" (volume I, chapter 7) deals with the theme of movement of peoples
in the period from 1000 BCE to 500 CE. Not only are the Indo-European migrations
explored, but so too are the Bantu, Polynesian, and Taino.
A special treat in the first unit (covering
human origins and the river valley cultures) is "The First Boat People" by
Josephine Flood, which includes a traditional oral account of the "Dreamtime"
origins of one group of Australian aborigines. Further, Flood's discussion
of the first human settlements in Australia treats the oral tradition with
respect: "Some aborigines have always believed that their ancestors came from
across the sea in Dreamtime, and now scientists have come to the same conclusion
from archeological and other evidence. In the same way that archeology has
revealed the material traces of oral traditions enshrined in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey or the Old Testament stories of the
bible, it has uncovered evidence for some of the historic events remembered
in the rich body of Aboriginal myths" (20).
Readings also gives
ample opportunities for students to interpret a variety of visual documents
by including at least one in each section (such as an Aztec pictorial manuscript,
a painting of Chinese peasants planting rice, an Afro-Portuguese salt cellar
showing the syncretization of artistic traditions, and a news photo of a police
dog threatening a civil rights demonstrator).
| The introduction to each volume contains
a useful reminder about how historians examine documents. First there is a
discussion of different types of historical sources, and then the difference
between primary and secondary sources is explained. The authors help the student
establish the context of primary sources by asking key questions: "What is
the actual source?" Who created the source?" and "Why was the source produced?"
The authors also suggest critical questions that help students assess reliability
and validity: "Is the source believable?" and "Of what significance is the
source?" For secondary sources, the questions include: "What is the author's
thesis?" and "How would you evaluate this thesis?" The authors even tell the student how to recognize a thesis in an essay. (If
only they could teach the students how to write one!)
| The discussion questions at the end
of each unit guide students beyond mere literal understanding of the documents,
maps, and illustrations to reinforce many of the world history habits of mind.
For example, in the unit "The Rise of the West in World Context: 1750 to 1900,"
one of the questions asks: "If you were to write a history of this period
from a non-Western point of view, what events would be the most important?"
Not only does this question deal directly with the ability to understand the
world from multiple perspectives, it also forces the student to the highest
levels of Bloom's taxonomy of higher-level thinking skills. This same unit
also includes several different perspectives on imperialism—European of course,
but also Islamic, Cuban, Javanese, plus an interesting cartoon representing
an English view of German imperialism.
| Readings, like most
document sets, provides the teacher and student with a variety of documents
while simultaneously reinforcing AP World History themes and habits of mind
and providing perspectives and sources which are not often represented as
clearly or in as great detail in other document sets.
Ryba L. Epstein
Rich East High School