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From Ancient Hindu Philosophy to the Human Genome Project: Professional Reading for the Busy World History Teacher

Tom Mounkhall


     After some thirty-three years in the high school World History classroom and the past nine years of developing new educators in the field, I have come to understand how busy world history educators are at all levels of instruction. College and university faculty responsible for four to five course a semester and secondary school Social Studies teachers face requisite daily tasks that severely constrain time for professional development and research. However, I believe that scholar educators do have the responsibility to develop their knowledge base as time limitations allow. This is the second article in a series entitled "Professional Reading for the Busy World History Teacher" that is designed to address this important and difficult situation by identifying easily assimilated readings rich in data and/or teaching ideas/materials that can be quickly obtained and used in a timely manner. Most of the following sources are now available on search engines such as JSTOR or on free on-line archives noted in the reference section.

     An instructor seeking to develop the notion of continuity in World History might wish to employ the article " Non-Becoming and Non-Unbecoming in Greek and Hindu Thought: A Single Idea with Multiple Consequences," by Michael and Karen Fontenot in World History Bulletin 25, no. 2 Fall (2009), 40-44. The authors trace essential Western European thinking from the ancient Greeks through Marx.

     The theme of cultural diffusion during a unit on Post Classic World History is illuminated by some very interesting examples in Gail Marlow Taylor's "The Book of Secrets and the Laboratory Manual from Al-Razi to Libavius 920-1597 C. E.," in the World History Bulletin 25, no. 2 (Fall, 2009), 11-18, which details the movement of laboratory techniques from the Islamic Caliphates to Western European laboratories. When addressing the teaching the Post Classic unit, you may also want to address the notion of symbolism as expressed in architecture, which can inform the entire course. All of the necessary details to accomplish this goal can be found in Helen Ibbitson Jessup's Art and Architecture of Cambodia (New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 2004), 148-150. The author's focuses is the symbolism imbedded in the early 12th Century C. E. Angkor Wat, which remains the largest religious structure ever constructed.

     Early Modern long distance trade in the Atlantic littoral can be well developed by using the data on the tobacco trade between Tidewater Virginia and Glasgow, Scotland in the 18th Century C. E. This helpful information can be found in Arthur Herman's How the Scots Invented the Modern World (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001), 111 (found in If you would like to use a first hand account of the 17th Century C. E. Manila Galleon trade, it can be found in H. de la Costa's Readings in Philippine History (Manila: Bookmark, 1965), which provides an eyewitness's list all of the items from Southern Chinese junks being unloaded on the Manila docks, much of which was on its way to New Spain and Sevilla on page 38.

     If you want to develop a lesson on the macro-changes connected to the Industrial Revolution, you would do well to focus on the relationship of Glasgow, Scotland to that phenomenon. You will find this data in the above-mentioned Arthur Herman's How the Scots Invented the Modern World (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001), 412. Those seeking a lesson comparing and contrasting twentieth century global Democratic Socialist experiments may complement your Modern World History unit will find ample supporting information in an article entitled "Socialist Paths in a Capitalist Conundrum: Reconsidering the German Catastrophe of 1933," by William Smaldone in The Journal of World History 18, no. 3 (September, 2007), 297-323.

     An interdisciplinary lesson combining World History and Science could be easily created by consulting Steve Olson's Mapping Human History (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002), 224. Olson's work relates the human genome project to the World History topics of genetic synthesis and migration.

     For an excellent example of the complementary nature of planning, teaching and assessing in the World History classroom, I recommend the article "Teaching the Axial Age Through a Biographical Comic Book of Buddha's Life," by Daniel Greenstone in World History Bulletin 25, no. 2 (Fall, 2009), 22-26. If you are looking for efficient, active learning activities, take a look at the article, by Suzanne Litrel, "A Low-Tech Approach to Teaching World History," in Teaching World History in the Twenty-first Century, Heidi Roupp, ed. (Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, (2010), 16-19.

Reference Information:

World History Connected Articles-

World History Bulletin-

Journal of World History- JSTOR or Project MUSE-

Tom Mounkhall is an Adjunct Professor of Secondary Education at SUNY New Paltz, who possesses thirty-three years experience of teaching World History in the secondary public schools of suburban New York City. Upon retiring from high school teaching, he earned his Doctor of Arts degree in Modern World History at St. John's University in New York City and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in World History at SUNY New Paltz for the past nine years. In addition, he has directed or co-directed sixteen teacher training institutes for World History teachers in New York City, Suburban Atlanta, Eau Claire Wisconsin, New Paltz, New York, Honolulu, Hawaii and Battambang, Cambodia. He can be reached at


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