Why an Integrative World History Curriculum?
A world history education should include the whole world
and not just part of it. This does not mean that world history
students should investigate “everything,” and
certainly not everything all at once! To make sense of the
past, we have to organize the investigation into manageable
pieces. We must define concrete historical topics, questions,
problems, time periods, and themes, then explore them in systematic
ways. In principle, however, world history should embrace
peoples around the globe from paleolithic to modern times.
In World History for Us All the main subject is humankind
and how humans have thought, behaved, and interacted across
World History for Us All is an integrative model curriculum
in two general respects:
An integrative organizational structure
The curriculum has an overarching structure of concepts and
ideas that includes objectives, rationales, principles of
selection, periodization, thematic threads, and guidance for
development of students' historical thinking skills. This
structure is then integrated with a logically organized body
of teaching units, lesson plans, activities, assessments,
An integrative approach to the human past.
World History for Us All builds on the rapidly growing
research on world history produced in recent decades. This
scholarship has employed innovative methods of analysis and
interpretation to enrich our understanding of comparative,
cross-cultural, and global patterns in the human past.
Here is a summary of premises that guide this integrative
approach to the past:
Many different time scales. Humankind as a whole
has a history that can be described and in some measure understood.
Studying the human past in a holistic way means asking historical
questions about events and developments that are relatively
broad in time and space. Investigating the past on any scale
is valid. Where one scholar might research 30 years in the
modern history of a Mexican village, another might take on
300 years in the development of Latin American economies.
A third might explore 3,000 years of global climatic change
and its effects on economic change around the world. A fourth
might consider why human beings took up agriculture in the
context of 300,000 years of human biological and cultural
Students of world history may study very specific times and
events, but they also try to understand them by situating
them in larger comparative, regional, and global contexts.
To this end, World History for Us All offers a globally
integrated chronological framework of nine Big Eras. This
periodization is designed to help students link studies of
specific subject matter to larger hemispheric or global patterns.
The Teaching Units in
World History for Us All are organized to guide teachers and
students in exploring the human past at different scales of
time and space.
A global stage. The primary geographical context
for studying human history is the globe. The earth is a "place"
whose inhabitants have a shared history. Events and developments
may take place within the confines of continents, regions,
civilizations, or nation-states, but those "spaces"
remain parts of the globe in all its roundness. World History
for Us All presents some innovative ways of thinking
about geographical space. For example, it introduces the idea
of Africa, Asia, and Europe together as a supercontinent that
in this curriculum we call Afroeurasia.
Also, humans are members of a species that inhabits the earthly
biosphere along with millions of other species. Therefore,
the big stage on which history is played out is the natural
and physical environment. That history cannot be understood
apart from the biosphere's ever-changing conditions.
In fact, this curriculum devotes Big Eras One and Two to
history from the Big Bang to the emergence of agriculture
about 10,000 years ago. This approach is distinctive, since
most world history textbooks give only brief attention to
history before the rise of river valley civilizations about
5,000 years ago. But consider: the paleolithic
era (what scholars used to call the “stone age”)
takes up about 95 per cent of the history of our species.
In exploring World History for Us All teachers may find that
having students give more scrutiny to our long, long history
as stone-using hunter-gatherers will lay a groundwork for
some big and intriguing questions:
- What are the main differences between humans and other
- Why do humans seem to be the only species with a “history”?
- Why did humans start to plant crops, domesticate animals,
and build cities when they got along without these things
for hundreds of thousands of years?
- In the context of the whole span of history, why did an
industrial revolution occur merely 300 years ago, and why
about the same time did world population start to rocket
Interactions between communities. Nations and civilizations
are worthy of study, but their histories, peoples, and traditions
are always embedded in global space. We can never assume that
developments which appear to occur in a particular country
or society are necessarily disconnected from or uninfluenced
by developments occurring in neighboring regions or even in
the world as a whole. World history takes seriously the context
of "world time." This means that investigation of
any event, however confined in time and space, benefits from
relating it to the situations, conditions, and circumstances
that then prevailed in the world and that may have involved
complex interactions among peoples and societies. Striving
to understand how and why an event occurred means looking
anywhere and everywhere for factors that might have shaped
or influenced that event. We know, for example, that the main
events of the American Revolution were closely connected to
shifts in European power relations, developments in the Atlantic
economy, and changes in the population levels of North American
A History of all humanity. The study of world history
should embrace all categories of people, including both women
and men, both rich and poor, both privileged and unprivileged,
both slave and free, and both educated and illiterate. World
History for Us All aims to embrace all sorts of people by
emphasizing not only interactions between societies but also
interrelations among different social and economic classes,
recognizing at the same time that both social groups and the
relations between them have historically been fluid and changing.
Comparison. World History for Us All encourages comparison
of historical developments in different parts of the world,
thereby helping students improve skills of analytical comparison.
To compare is to look for and analyze both similarities and
differences in historical patterns and events. Comparative
study tests the soundness of generalizations, highlights the
variety and complexity of human experience, fits events into
larger patterns, uncovers connections between seemingly unconnected
developments, and challenges the idea that any single group
or country has had a history that is exceptional to all others.