Course Description

Course Name

World History II

Session: VPGS1324

Hours & Credits

6 ECTS Credits

Prerequisites & Language Level

Taught In English

  • There is no language prerequisite for courses at this language level.


Course Description

This course is primarily an overview of World History from approximately 1500 to 2000. The first few weeks focus on the pre-industrial world, including the Age of Exploration, the Islamic Empires, Early Modern China and Japan, and the development of the early American colonies and the Atlantic Slave Trade. A key turning point in the class is the Industrial Revolution (week 5), which drew a sharp line between industrial and pre-industrial regions, which often (but not always) corresponded to “western” and “non-western.” The reminder of the course looks at how individuals in pre-industrial societies quickly adapted to the new, often brutal, but sometimes liberating situation. This will include topics such as the two world wars, the international appeal of the “communist” model, and the vexing problems of decolonization. Modern World History is a vast subject, so instead of discussing every detail, the course emphasizes selected themes of universal significance. One of the aims of this course is to restore balance to educational systems that have traditionally emphasized the history of “western civilization” and largely ignored other regions. However, “the west” is also part of the world, and in the modern era it has been especially influential (through imperialism, for example). At the time of Christopher Columbus, it is possible to argue that the great world civilizations were roughly “equal” in economic, intellectual, and political sophistication. So where did notions of “western superiority” (often expressed in terms of “race”) come from? What made the rapid subjugation of pre-industrial peoples possible in the nineteenth-century? How did people around the world respond to this rapid political, economic, and cultural subjugation? Although there was plenty of antagonism in modern World History, this course emphasizes cultural negotiation, continual change and adaptation, syncretism, and advantageous borrowing. Rather than presuming a simple “oppression” and “victimization” scheme (although there were a lot of victims!), this course looks at how rapidly and skilfully people around the world learned the technologies, languages, and ideologies of a new age, despite horrific and unfair conditions. “Race” proved no barrier to the creation of a modern, global, industrial culture. Instead of “exotic” differences (which there sometimes were), this course emphasizes unifying similarities and shared global cultures. It emphasizes, for example, shared beliefs about religion and magic, the global culture of the Industrial Revolution, the nearly universal appeal of nationalism, the various versions of “communism” and its world-wide appeal, and finally, the global appeal of racial ideology.


Course Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  • Develop at least a basic reserve of specific data about World History in order to have an informed and educated conversation about it, and to have a better sense of how to find and use such information when needed;
  • Be capable of recognizing, understanding, and critically analysing areas of disagreement and uncertainty in World History, and knowing what some of the major controversies are, not only recognize key areas of dispute about World History, but also understand, at least on a basic level, how historical arguments are made and how historical evidence is evaluated and used;
  • Recognize and appreciate the significance of constant change in World History (in religious beliefs, philosophical beliefs, political organisation, political geography, economic surroundings, demographics, and group identity);
  • Critically analyse traditional notions of cultural superiority and inferiority, understand their connection to modern ideas such as “race” and industrial development, and develop a broader and global understanding of culture and civilization

*Course content subject to change