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This document contains Chapters 11 to 20

Chapter 11
Mediterranean Society: The Roman Phase
For a long period of time the Romans united the Mediterranean world to an extent unmatched in
history. By the first century C.E. the Romans had extended their control over the entire
Mediterranean basin, including parts of southwest Asia, north Africa, continental Europe, and
Britain. Through the combination of a centralized authority and a normally tolerant regime, the
Romans fostered close connections between the different ethnic and religious groups of this
cosmopolitan empire. Roman control also allowed for a rich cultural and religious interchange.
The rise of Christianity as a world religion is closely connected to the Roman empire.

The sea as cultural influence. Geographical circumstances encouraged the Greeks to establish
a maritime network that extended across the eastern Mediterranean basin. This economic and
cultural network, later expanded by the Romans, ultimately created an integrated yet
cosmopolitan and diverse world that stretched from western and northern Europe to
City-states as foundations of imperial success. Roman civilization began with the emergence
of complex urban environments based on cities. The Romans used their city as the foundation of
a vast land empire that would last for several centuries.
Patriarchy. The Romans, like their counterparts in India and Greece, established strict
patriarchal structures that limited women’s political and economic options. Roman civilization
also relied heavily on slaves for domestic, agricultural, and other forms of labor.
Religious diversity. Although Rome, who borrowed heavily from Greek examples, developed
a formal pantheon and series of religious rituals, as in India many people turned to salvation
religions during the classical period. One of these, Christianity, would grow to become the
dominant religion throughout the Mediterranean basin.
Social conflict and imperial authority. In Rome, struggles over access to and control of
wealth and power led to social conflict and political change. The struggles between elites and
commoners weakened the republic and led to the creation of the Roman empire. The Romans,
like their classical contemporaries in India, China, and Persia, integrated their empires by
building transportation and communications networks.

Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar
The careers of Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar provide a golden opportunity to get a
remarkably clear view of major historical figures. Historians are fortunate to have readily
available firsthand accounts of these two. Suetonius, even if he is a bit of a gossip, provides
wonderful anecdotal material in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Julius and Augustus not only
witnessed the death of the republic and the birth of the empire, but they also laid the foundations
for the political, economic, and cultural splendor of the pax romana. Rome is a subject that is
difficult to teach simply because of its enormity. It’s easy to fall back onto a brief discussion of
the achievements and limitations of the Roman republic and empire while missing out on some
fascinating and influential personalities.
The Punic Wars
One of the most interesting subjects for discussion is the Punic Wars. Not only does this
discussion offer fascinating characters such as Hannibal and Scipio Africanus, but the students
also get to see how precarious and unpredictable history can be. If you look at a lot of the Roman
writings, it’s easy to get the sense that Roman success was almost predetermined. When Virgil
has Aeneas learn that the Romans are meant to “rule over nations,” it’s almost impossible not to
view Rome in relation to destiny. The story of Hannibal shows how close the Romans came to
losing and the high price they paid for winning. The students can also see how the early Roman
generosity and tolerance inspired a loyalty to the state that saw Rome through its darkest days.
This is one of those times in history, like during the Persian Wars, when the world really does
seem to be up for grabs.
Rome and the Rise of Christianity
Students often struggle with the relationship between Rome and the rise of Christianity, so this is
an important section. The philosophical contributions of Jesus of Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus are
profound, but also only part of the story. It is easy to think of the persecution of early Christians
by some Roman emperors and lose sight of the fact that one of the biggest factors in the rise of
Christianity as a world religion is its origin during the pax romana. The travels of Paul of Tarsus
would have been almost impossible without Roman unification and roads. It could be argued that
one of the last classically trained individuals was St. Augustine. The preeminence of Rome as the
center of the Christian world speaks for itself. When Christianity became the official religion of
the Roman empire, its place in history was assured.
The Roman Concept of Citizenship
The story of Cincinnatus is a great lead-in to an examination of the Roman concept of
citizenship. Whether or not the story is true is almost inconsequential. The important point is that
the Romans used it as a means of expressing the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen.
When Cincinnatus turned down ultimate power because as a citizen he had simply done his duty,
he set an example for generations of Romans. Ask the students if the Greeks would have done
the same thing. Then use Cincinnatus as a vehicle to discuss why societies hold up certain
individuals for public display. The jump to an appreciation of how the Americans have always

used George Washington for the same purpose is a short one. You might also ask the students if
there is a danger to using historical figures in this fashion.

A Comparative Approach to the Roman Philosophy of Rule
An enlightening discussion strategy would be to ask the students to compare the Roman philosophy
of rule to that of other powerful states. Why did empires like the Roman, Chinese, and Persian last
so long while others did not? Why did Rome last for centuries while Assyria and the Qin dynasty
faded so quickly? This question becomes especially telling when you ask the students to compare
Rome to Greece. Examples from Plutarch’s Lives are helpful here because Plutarch linked similar
Greek and Roman characters and then added a commentary. Why did the Greeks never expand
beyond the polis when the Romans had aspirations for the cosmopolis? A comparison of Rome and
China would also be fruitful. The two empires were arguably the most powerful and influential
states in their respective parts of the world. Both states, in different ways, instilled tremendous
loyalty in their subjects. Neither state was inspired by a passionate religious fervor. Both empires
made use of philosophical foundations. What lessons could the modern state planner learn from the
Chinese and Romans? Ask the students to compare Rome to the United States. Was the pax romana
different from the pax Americana? Both the Romans and the early Americans placed tremendous
emphasis on the question of character. What were the foundations of these different definitions of
character? What did they have in common? During the empire, the Romans eventually began to fear
that they had strayed from their simple values (Ovid’s Amores is a excellent source to show the
more “cosmopolitan” nature of the Romans as they became masters of the world). Plutarch’s
examination of Marcus Cato, in his Lives, displays a romantic longing for a perceived simpler and
purer time. Did the Roman character change? Ask the students the same question about the United
States. Has the American character changed? Is character key to a successful state?
The Social World of Ancient Rome
The turbulent social world of the ancient Romans would make for an interesting discussion.
Students sometimes feel, and probably correctly, that history is too often only about the wealthy
and powerful. The great mass of the population goes unnoticed. With the Romans you have a
great opportunity to discuss societal pressures caused by a widening gulf between the rich and
poor. The students can see that this problem is not solely a modern one. The inability of small
Roman farmers to compete with the latifundia is similar to the struggles of small farmers today.
The assassinations of the Gracchi brothers and the political machinations of Marius and Sulla are
great places to start the discussion. The discussion can also cross boundaries if you ask the
students to compare the Roman situation with that of the Han dynasty in China and the
usurpation of Wang Mang.
Examining Roman Ideas
Sections drawn from Cicero or Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations would be wonderful starting
points for a discussion of Roman thought. Ask the students to figure out how the Greeks might
have influenced the Romans, and how Roman thought developed differently. This topic can also
lead into a discussion of the Roman concept of citizenship and the philosophical underpinnings

of loyalty and unification. When Marcus Aurelius wrote that “what is no good for the hive is no
good for the bee,” he was expressing both Stoicism and Roman political thought. Bring in
examples from Virgil’s Aeneid. When the gods remind Aeneas of his duty to Rome, they are also
instructing all Romans. The story of Cincinnatus or examples drawn from Livy’s Ab Urbe
Condita or Horace’s Actium would serve the same purpose.

Chapter 12
Cross-Cultural Exchanges on the Silk Roads:
During the Late Classical Era
Societies within a huge area, ranging from China through the Mediterranean basin, were linked
by long-distance trade along the Silk Roads. Trade introduced wealth and new products to
societies along the routes and encouraged economic specialization. The trade routes also fostered
the spread of Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian religious thought. Finally, the spread of disease
over the trade routes helped to bring closure to the classical societies.

Long-distance Eurasian trade begins. During the classical era several strong, expanding
civilizations rose in different areas of Eurasia. Institutional frameworks of communication and
exchange grew both within and between these cultures along the transportation networks known
as the Silk Roads, which linked the eastern Mediterranean basin with Han China by land and sea.
Complex exchanges result. Commercial and economic activity led to cultural and biological
exchanges, with significant negative results for both China and the Mediterranean, as epidemics
killed millions. Population losses generated another round of social and cultural change.
Religions expanded alongside empires, particularly Buddhism, Manichaeism, Hinduism, and
Christianity, which spread across Eurasia.
Imperial decline. A series of internal and external problems weakened central government in
both Han China and Rome. Succession struggles, corruption, and foreign invasions led to
collapse of imperial authority and creation of regional kingdoms with populations connected
more closely by salvationist faith than political identity.

The Collapse of the Han and Roman Empires
Comparing and contrasting the decline and eventual collapse of the Han and Roman empires

is an obvious but still useful topic. You could detail general problems that have helped to bring
down even the mightiest of states (e.g., internal dissension; foreign invasion, especially the
danger posed when a foreign invasion is tied to an internal uprising; disease; social tensions
caused by issues of land distribution or tremendous inequality between rich and poor; economic
or trade situations; etc.). Offer an opportunity for students to contribute. Once they have an
understanding of the problems that bring down states, they will have a better feel for the rise and
fall of later empires.
The Geography and Complexity of the Silk Roads
Since American students have so much trouble with geography, this chapter provides a great
opportunity to spend some time at the map. Allow the students to learn some geography while
understanding the complexities of trade issues and the ways in which societies interrelate. Start
at one end of the Silk Roads and trace the routes of trade, including the roads that branched off
into far corners of Eurasia. You could discuss the items that would be traded at every step along
the way and who would do the trading. You could also point out the dangers inherent at every
step along the way. Students often think of trade being carried out by one merchant who traveled
the entire length of the Silk Roads; they have no sense of the enormous number of people who
played a small role along the way. The trading centers along the Silk Roads, especially the oasis
towns or the ones that have disappeared, have a lonely and strangely romantic appeal.
The Spread of Religion along the Silk Roads
Concentrate on the spread of religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and
Manichaeism along the trade routes. Discuss the strange relationship between the spiritual world
and the very secular world of trade. Examine how a religion like Manichaeism could represent
the increasingly cosmopolitan world created by trade. Discuss the social, cultural, and
intellectual influences of religions as they come into an area for the first time. When a society
converts to a new religion, they do far more than simply take on a new view of God.
Case Study: Liu Bei
You might also want to mention, at least briefly, the collapse of the Han and introduce the
unsuccessful role that Liu Bei played in trying to restore order. His efforts would take on an
increasingly heroic form in the following years of chaos. Use an image of The Romance of the
Three Kingdoms to help establish the ideal of the Chinese hero. Compare Liu Bei to other heroes,
both historical and literary, who capture the imagination of an age.

Examining the Links between Exploration and Commerce
The development and nature of trade along the Silk Roads is at the core of this chapter, so it
makes sense to have the students discuss the implications of trade. A good way to start a
discussion would be to ask the students how many explorations have been carried out over the
years for the sake of exploration alone. The notion of exploration for exploration’s sake is a very
recent phenomenon, if it exists at all. The obvious point is that most exploration and travel was
carried out for economic reasons. This approach will help students understand the fundamental

role trade has played in the everyday life of human beings over the centuries. It may seem
obvious to students that business and trade issues touch almost every aspect of life today, but
sometimes they don’t understand how true that has always been. To the casual observer, history
often seems to be exclusively about kings and nobles for centuries on end without any sense of
how the rest of society made a living. One of the strengths of this chapter is that it gives the
students a feel for the busy and constant movement of merchants along the trade routes. You
could also ask the students to consider the advantages and disadvantages of trade. How does
trade bring societies together, and how does it create tensions?
Recreating the Silk Roads?
Recently there have been discussions among many of the nations along the old Silk Roads,
including Russia, China, and central Asian countries, about reconstructing the road network and
re-establishing overland central Asian trade and exchange, perhaps in a format not unlike the
American interstate highway network. With students, conduct a brief amount of research about
the project on the Internet, and then compare the planned route with the original road network.
Ask the students why they think route changes were made, and how important they think it might
be as an economic conduit if it is completed. Ask students if they can identify and argue which
nations might benefit most from its completion. Showing clear links between the past and
present should heighten students’ appreciation of the classical trade system.
The Spread of Disease
Disease is another good topic that students, maybe because of the number of diseases that
dominate the news today, find fascinating. The role that smallpox, influenza, and bubonic plague
played in the decline of the Han and Roman empires was devastating. It fits perfectly into the
chapter’s discussion of the role that trade along the Silk Roads played in forging connections
between societies. Since this topic will be revisited most notably in discussions about the
bubonic plague in Europe in the fourteenth century, it is useful to bring the subject up now. Ask
the students to think of ways that disease impacts the world today. Does the speed of today’s
travel make the spread of disease all the more dangerous?
Case Study: Buddhism along the Silk Roads
Of all the religions discussed in this chapter, Buddhism became the most popular along the Silk
Roads. Discuss why this would be so: Address the belief system, the people who converted to it,
and the people who did not (Hindus, Christians, Manichaeans).
Understanding the People Who Traveled the Silk Roads
Divide the students into appropriate groups. Have them imagine that the year is 150 C.E. and one
group member is a Chinese merchant, one a central Asian nomad, one a Parthian trader, one a
Malay mariner, and one a Roman subject who is a trader in the middle east. Have them describe
to each other (or to the class as a whole) what they do for a living, their religious beliefs, their
greatest concerns. On a map, have them locate which parts of the trade routes they would travel
or be involved in and why. Which one of them has the easiest life and why? Which is the most
difficult and why?
Christian Rome

When students think of Rome and Christianity, they think of gladiatorial games or mass
persecution. Ask students to list the benefits that Christians gained from living within the later
Roman empire. Students should be able to bring up unification and roads. Once they understand
the basic connection between Roman and Christian history, ask them to consider the implications
of this relationship (i.e., the position of Rome as the center of the Christian world, the papal
combination of religious and political authority that relates back to the dual role of the Roman
emperors, the hierarchy of the Catholic church, the influence of Hellenistic philosophy, etc.).
Selections from the Confessions of St. Augustine might be a good starting point to bring these
two worlds together.
Case Study: Hypatia and the Role of Women in the Ancient World
The life and death and controversial legacy of the philosopher and mathematician Hypatia of
Alexandria makes for a wonderful discussion topic. Not only was Hypatia a brilliant thinker in
an age dominated by men, but she has come to represent much more. At the very least you can
use Hypatia to spark a discussion of the role of women in the ancient world. Ever since she was
torn apart by a Christian mob in 415 C.E., Hypatia has served as a focal point for both
examination and argument about the closing of the classical age and the origins of the Christian
era. Does her death truly represent the end of classical free inquiry and the beginning of fanatical
Christianity? To an extent, matched by few historical characters, Hypatia’s life has become
political fodder for later groups. You can discuss the various interpretations of Hypatia’s life as
well as the difficulty of reaching a neutral, purely historical, view of controversial historical

Chapter 13
The Resurgence of Empire in East Asia
The collapse of the Han dynasty brought an end to centralized rule in China for three and a half
centuries. Order was restored in the sixth century with the rise of the Sui. Eventually, the Tang
and Song dynasties oversaw a booming economy based on improved agricultural production and
technological innovations. Increased trade led to growing interaction between China and the rest
of the world. Buddhism formed the most important import into China during these centuries. In
turn, the Chinese influenced the development of Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.

Centralized government returns. Huge public works projects like the Grand Canal built by the
Sui dynasty reflect a return to authoritarian government based on forced labor and high taxation.
Although the Sui dynasty was short-lived, it set a foundation for government throughout east

Asia for several centuries.
Policy effectiveness. Support for complex and multi-serviced road networks, maintenance of
land allocation, and a merit-based bureaucracy all worked to concentrate the Tang dynasty’s
growth and increasing sophistication.
Massive economic growth. China’s commercial economy and population expanded
significantly during the Tang and Song dynasties, leading to urbanization, the emergence of a
market economy, and many crucial technological developments such as gunpowder and printing.
Religious interaction. Buddhism made its way into China via the Silk Roads and soon became
popular throughout the empire. Buddhist ideas and teachings influenced other belief systems,
particularly Confucianism, which led to the emergence of neo-Confucianism. Neo-Confucian
precepts and ideals spread throughout east Asia to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, where local elites
soon absorbed selected Chinese methods and practices.
Japan’s unique trajectory. Although heavily influenced by China during the Nara and Heian
periods, Japan gradually developed a unique imperial structure that removed the emperor from
direct political authority. Local land-owning elites gained independence from central government
and employed professional warriors known as samurai for protection and military tasks.
Decentralized rule subsequently characterized postclassical Japan.

An Examination of Literature
It would be a shame to not discuss the literary accomplishments of this period. The poems of
Li Po and Du Fu are extraordinary. More importantly, you could use the nature of their poetry to
examine the political stability and economic prosperity of the age. There is a much more joyous
and self-assured feel to these poems (especially those of Li Po) than the melancholy poetry of the
early Book of Songs from the chaotic Zhou period. There are many good stories about the “Eight
Immortals of the Wine Cup.” Bring in examples from early Japanese poetry (like the Manyoshu
or Kokinshu collections) to demonstrate the Chinese influence. At the same time, an examination
of Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji shows how the Japanese followed their own path.
Japanese male scholars received a traditional Confucian education and thus wrote only in the
Chinese script. Some women, while not receiving the same educational opportunities, wrote in
the developing Japanese script and were able to display more flexibility and creativity. You
could also bring in examples from Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book. This work could then lead
to a discussion of the role of women in real life as compared to these rare literary opportunities.
The Tale of the Heike provides wonderful scenes and characters. The age was also rich in
philosophy. Zhu Xi’s Reflections on Things at Hand is a rich source of neo-Confucian thought.
In the same way, the Korean philosopher Kihwa’s Treatise on Manifesting Righteousness deals
with many of the same things—and can be used to show how concepts flowed from country to
The Political Stability and Sophistication of the Tang and Song Dynasties
The remarkable level of political stability and sophistication of the Tang and Song dynasties is a

natural topic. The Tang and Song developed a bureaucratic structure that was unmatched in the
world at that time. This chapter provides an opportunity to discuss the topic of the imperial civil
service examination system, along with how the Tang and Song went beyond earlier efforts to
expand opportunities beyond the wealthy classes. Bring in examples from other contemporary
societies to show how impressive the Chinese system was. This topic can lead into a discussion
of trade and how the stability of the Chinese state led to innovations such as paper money. No
place else in the world at that time was in the position to print and distribute paper money. At
this point you can show how the Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese societies copied the Chinese
model. It would probably also be good during this period to spend substantial time on the
technological achievements of the Tang and Song. Modern students tend to view China as
constantly attempting to catch up to the rest of the world technologically without any sense of
how many centuries the Chinese were the world’s leader in this area.
The Expansion of Buddhism into China
The expansion of Buddhism into China is obviously an important topic. Discuss the ways in
which economic exchange can also lead to cultural, intellectual, or religious exchange. The lapse
of centralized control during the chaotic years after the collapse of the Han allowed Buddhism to
flow in unopposed for several centuries. What is it about the nature of Confucianism that would
allow Buddhism to be absorbed so readily? How did Buddhism influence Confucian thought?
This topic allows you to discuss neo-Confucianism. The rise of a syncretic version of Buddhism
shows how China influenced Buddhism and how cultures can intermingle. Finally, the spread of
Buddhism into Korea, Vietnam, and Japan serves as an apparatus to discuss other areas of
cultural and political transference. Again, Zhu Xi’s Reflections on Things at Hand is a great

Urbanization and the Status of Women in the Tang and Song Dynasties
The practice of foot binding is a useful stepping stone to a discussion of both the growing
urbanization of China during the Tang and Song periods and the status of women. Discuss
Chang’an, with a population of as great as two million, being the largest city in the world at the
time. Ask the students what changes overtake a society as it becomes urban. Have they seen any
other examples from earlier in the class? Hopefully the students will understand the “logic” of
foot binding. What does this process say about the changing status of women in China at the
time? Bring up the veiling of women as a first step to broadening the topic to encompass other
societies. Finally, ask the students if there are any equivalent societal pressures in the world
today. Students inevitably bring up examples from the Islamic world without examining their
own country. Push them to bring in specific examples from their own age and society.
Exploring the Spread of Buddhism throughout the World
Go to the Internet and locate a map that shows the distribution of the Buddhist religion in the
modern world. Discuss which areas were first exposed to Buddhism through Chinese influence
in this period. Speculate about how Buddhism spread to other places after this period. What has

become of Buddhism in China?
China’s Influence on Korea, Vietnam, and Japan
The section in this chapter on China’s influence on Korea, Vietnam, and Japan opens up several
areas for discussion. Ask the students to consider the ways in which China influenced these
neighboring societies politically, religiously, intellectually, and socially. Discuss ways in which
these societies maintained their own unique traditions or created syncretic versions. Ask the
students to think of ways that other societies have influenced Chinese history. How easy was it
for concepts such as Buddhism to pass from India to China? In what ways did it have to be
transformed to become successful in China? Did the same thing happen to Chinese concepts
spreading to other countries? Finally, ask the students to think of other societies covered so far in
the course that have served the same purpose as the Chinese. This question should serve as a
refresher for the students and allow them to bring in examples from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia,
Greece, Rome, and Byzantium.

Chapter 14
The Expansive Realm of Islam
After the decline and collapse of the classical empires, new societies rose to take their place.
A series of these states were inspired by a new religion: Islam. From its origins in Arabia, Islam
quickly spread to the Sasanid empire in Persia and even into parts of Byzantium. Muslims, or
“ones who have submitted” to the will of Allah, spread their religious convictions but also drew
inspiration from the Persian, Greek, and Indian worlds. Eventually the dar al-Islam (“house of
Islam”) would cover a cosmopolitan world ranging from Spain in the west to India in the east.

The roots of Islam. The prophet Muhammad was born into the world of nomadic bedouin
herders and merchants in the Arabian peninsula, and the new religion was influenced by the
social and cultural conditions there.
The life of Muhammad and his spiritual transformation. Muhammad, after the revelations he
received from Allah, faced conflict as he tried to spread his message. His flight from Mecca to
Medina in 622 is crucial to understanding the development of the Islamic community, the umma,
as well as the establishment of Islam in Arabia.
The spread of Islam. After Muhammad’s death, there was serious risk of the community
unraveling, but the faithful rallied and embarked upon a successful round of military expansion,
which laid the foundation for the rapid growth of Islamic society and the spread of Islamic
political and cultural influence throughout southwest Asia and north Africa. Islam reached into

central Asia, India, the Mediterranean islands, and Iberia over the next two centuries. This
expansion encouraged trade and communications networks through which merchants, diplomats,
and travelers moved, greatly facilitating an exchange of ideas, goods, and crops. Islam’s
expansion also brought it into contact with older religious and cultural traditions. Muslim rulers,
however, made a place for them, and Islamic philosophers adapted older traditions. The result
was that the dar al-Islam became one of the most prosperous and cosmopolitan societies of the
postclassical world.

Understanding the Five Pillars of Islam
An understanding of the Five Pillars of Islam is essential. This understanding is a great starting
point for more detailed examinations of certain topics. What are the social implications of the
Five Pillars? This question can lead to a discussion of giving alms to the poor, alms not to be
confused with charity. Discuss different meanings of the term jihad and connect the discussion to
the current situation in the world. Show how the Five Pillars might have created a sense of unity
in the increasingly cosmopolitan dar al-Islam. As the Islamic world spread from India to Spain
it was necessary to create a sense of community—to bring Muslims from many lands into the
umma. From here you can bring in the importance of the sharia to reinforce the point. Show
how the hajj strengthens a sense of unity of all Muslims. Finally, bring in examples of factors
that brought tensions to the Islamic world. The debate over the line of succession of the caliphate
and the resulting split between Sunni and Shia is an important concept for the students to grasp.
The works of the historian al-Tabari might prove useful here as an early account of the Umayyad
and Abbasid periods.
The Life of Muhammad
The life of Muhammad is a natural topic for discussion. In this case historians are lucky because
Muhammad may be the most historical of the influential founders of world religions, in that we
know much more about him than about the founders of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, or
Christianity. Many stories, although some probably apocryphal, have survived about his life. The
picture that comes through is that of a very human individual. It is this human nature that the
students have to understand. Islamic thought, by definition, would not accept a divine nature for
Muhammad (which is why Muslims hated Europeans using the term Muhammadan to describe a
follower of Islam—the emphasis has to be on Allah and not on Muhammad). It is very common
for students, when grappling with a complex subject such as Islam, to try and equate historical
figures. (For example, Muhammad played the same role as Jesus, so Muhammad must be the
same as Jesus.) The students must be made to see the distinction. The complexity of Jesus’
human and divine natures have led to endless debate over the years, and understanding this will
allow the students to see how Muhammad could praise Jesus as a prophet but forcefully reject his
divine nature. It also allows you to discuss Muhammad’s role as the “seal of the prophets.”
Finally, the wealth of information about Muhammad and his world can allow for some insightful
discussion about how economic and societal conditions can influence intellectual and religious
thought. The detailed discussion in the Quran about the rights of orphans mirrors Muhammad’s
own life experiences. For that matter, the picture of Noah in the Quran as a frustrated prophet to

whom no one would listen is similar to Muhammad’s early preaching career. It is important for
the students to understand that the Quran is seen by Muslims as the word of God.
The Hajj
The excitement and piety of the hajj provides you with an excellent opportunity to bring in
films or slides or images from the Internet. It is impossible for students to see pictures of the
pilgrimage to Mecca without getting a sense of the rich multicultural heritage of Islam. You can
then discuss the hajj as a means of creating unity out of this extraordinary diversity. It paints the
picture of a teeming, complex series of diverse societies with only Islam in common. With this
opening, you can then backtrack to demonstrate how the expansive Islamic world was created.
In doing this, stress that when societies converted to Islam they gained far more than simply a
monotheistic view of Allah. They also became heirs to a sophisticated philosophical, legal, and
social system. Indirectly, they would later come into contact with traditions from Greece, Persia,
and India. This contact formed a link with the cultural world of Islam. Examples from Ibn Rushd
would work to draw an intellectual connection from the Greeks through the Islamic world and
eventually into Europe. Use examples from Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat and The Arabian Nights
to demonstrate connections to Sufi and Indian traditions, respectively.

Comparing Islam to Other Religions
By this point in the course the students have come into contact with a wide variety of religions:
Hinduism; Buddhism; Christianity; Zoroastrianism; Judaism; the polytheistic pantheons of the
Egyptians and Mesopotamians; and so on. Ask the students to compare and contrast Islam to the
religions they have studied so far. The students should be able to bring in examples from
Judaism and Christianity. Provide excerpts from the Quran and compare them to similar stories
and characters from the Old or New Testament.
This exercise can be enlightening because the students tend to recognize Judaism and
Christianity as coming from the same tradition but almost routinely view Islam as a separate
entity. A discussion of the perplexing divine nature of Jesus can show the students that, at least
in this case, Judaism and Islam have more in common. Now ask the students to compare Islam to
some of the other religions. Is there some common message in all religions? Is there an essential
human need to understand the divine?
Islam and Religious Toleration
Unfortunately, the media has created a very misleading and one-sided image of the Islamic world
today. Not surprisingly, most students adopt the simplistic view of the prevalence of Islamic
fundamentalism. This chapter provides a golden opportunity to discuss the toleration usually
associated with Islam. This tolerance can be demonstrated in Muhammad’s philosophy and in
the Quran. The notion of Jews and Christians as “peoples of the book” is a key concept. Even
Muhammad’s role as the “final prophet” pays homage to the role played by earlier prophets such
as Moses and Jesus. The decision by the early caliphs of the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties to
allow conquered peoples to practice their own religions is representative of a general tolerance

that runs throughout Islamic history. Even the institution of the jizya pales in comparison to the
treatment usually allotted to members of differing religious groups. Ask the students to consider
the question of toleration and to bring in examples to back their arguments from the chapter. This
discussion provides students with another chance to study the Quran.
The Spread of Food Crops
The text lists the new crops that were introduced to the Islamic world by travelers along the trade
routes: sugarcane, rice, sorghum and wheat, spinach, artichokes, eggplants, oranges, bananas,
coconuts, watermelons, and mangoes. Have students locate some Arabic, middle eastern, and
north African recipes. Ask them to identify common dishes that use those ingredients.
Muhammad as Reformer
The role that Muhammad played as a reformer would be a good topic to discuss. It is very easy
for students to view Muhammad in a present-minded fashion and thus incorrectly perceive many
of the basic tenets of Islam as repressive. While there is always a potential for students to be
anachronistic or xenophobic, it seems to be a real danger with American students in this subject
because of a simplistic view of the Islamic world. Bring up the fluctuating status of women in the
Islamic world. The authors of the text do a good job explaining the status of women in the
Arabic world before Islam and the role that Muhammad played in this changing process. They
also explain how Islamic law became more patriarchal as Muslims came into greater contact with
the Persian and Mesopotamian worlds. Ask the students to consider in what ways Muhammad
brought about societal change. Then follow this question up by centering on the role of women.
Finally, ask the students to consider what Muslims might think about the position of women in
Europe and the United States.
The Spread of Islam
Go to a website that has a map showing the areas of the world with a majority Islamic
population. Speculate about how Islam spread from its realm in the eighth century to those

Chapter 15
India and the Indian Ocean Basin
India, just as did Greece, Rome, Constantinople, and China, played an influential role in shaping
neighboring societies, in this case south and southeast Asia. The great difference between the
situation in India and that of the other states was that no Indian state developed to rival the
political authority of the Tang or Roman states. Nevertheless, India’s distinctive political,
cultural, and religious traditions continued to evolve and influence its neighbors. Indian
merchants carried Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam to southeast Asia.

India became the dominant cultural force in south and southeast Asia during the postclassical era
and generated a cultural zone similar to that of China in east Asia. Unlike China, however, no
centralized political authority rose in India. Instead, large regional kingdoms emerged. Despite
an absence of central authority, powerful social and cultural traditions ensured India remained
coherent and distinct. Transmitted by merchants and traders, Indian political models, Hinduism,
and Buddhism spread throughout southeast Asia. Economic integration across the Indian Ocean
basin defined the postclassical era, with trade and knowledge networks stretching from east
Africa to China. Technological innovations, increased agricultural yields, and new ports
accelerated the process. Hinduism and Islam displaced Jainism and Buddhism as the dominant
religions in India, partly as a result of their ability to attract converts through attention to
individual salvation. Both religions spread throughout southeast Asia.

The Relationship between Hinduism and Islam
It is essential at this point in the examination of India to establish the relationship between
Hinduism and Islam. The troublesome and often violent interaction between these two religions
forms the central theme of Indian history for the following centuries, especially when later
chapters introduce the Mughals. Islam’s arrival made an already complex religious, political, and
cultural world even more so. Examine how Islam arrived in the first place. It is a classic lesson
that merchants and missionaries were able to do what centuries of military conquest were unable
to accomplish. Make sure that the students understand why Islam caught on in India after all the
centuries of Hindu domination, especially among the lower castes, which were drawn to the
basic equality of Islam. What is it about these religions that makes it difficult for them to
coexist? This discussion provides a good opportunity to reintroduce the Sufis and the role that
they played as effective missionaries. What the students find interesting about the Sufis is that
they didn’t present Islam, arguably the most monotheistic of religions, as an exclusive faith.
Obviously this is another good opportunity to make use of bhakti thought. At the same time, the
story of Harihara and Bukka and the founding of the kingdom of Vijayanagar show that even in a
land of India’s spirituality, some issues are still primarily about political power. It would also be
interesting to examine why Buddhism eventually collapsed in India. Why was it not more
successful? The students can probably understand why Buddhism couldn’t “out-compete” the
firmly established Hinduism, but why did Buddhism eventually lose out to Islam?
The “Indianization” of the Early Kingdoms of Southeast Asia
The authors of the text do a great job introducing the early kingdoms of southeast Asia, a part of
the world too often ignored in some world civilization texts. Make clear to the students in what
ways these societies were Indianized and what the implications of this process were. This part of
the world was and is extremely complex, and you can help the students make sense of the
mixture of political, cultural, and religious concepts in this part of the world. In a way, the
complexity of southeast Asia perfectly mirrors the complexity of the land from which they
borrowed. This topic can also lead to a discussion of how societies influence other societies.

Compare the Indian influence on southeast Asia to the influential role played in different parts of
the world by Greece, Rome, China, Byzantium, and so on. It would also be helpful to explain in
what ways these societies maintained their own traditions or altered Indian thought to fit their
own worldview.
The Transformation of Hinduism
The transformation of Hinduism is an interesting topic. The arrival of Islam provided a challenge
that Hindu thinkers had to meet or else see their religion face the same precipitous decline as
Buddhism and Jainism. Explain to the students how devastating the sacking of the city of
Nalanda proved to be for the Buddhists. Students are intrigued by the caste system but also find
it rather confusing. The frustrations felt by members of the lower castes that allowed for the
earlier rise of Buddhism also came into play for the rise of Islam. Examine how the caste system
was transformed. A more detailed discussion of the philosophies of Shankara and Ramanuja
introduces the growing popularity of the devotional cults and proves that the reason-versus-faith
argument is not unique to the Mediterranean basin.

The Role of Trade and Climate in India’s Evolution
After reading the chapter, the students should be able to volunteer some interesting insights on
the role that trade and climate played in the continuing evolution of India during the postclassical
era. The growth of emporia speaks to India’s central role in trade throughout the Indian Ocean
basin. How did trade transform India? What products were traded back and forth? What new
concepts, both political and religious, passed in and out of India? How were merchants able to
spread religious concepts that military conquerors could not? What role did climate have on
trade? How would different climates work to provide natural trading partners? The students
should be able to latch onto the significance of the monsoons, in regard to the growth of emporia
as well as the huge irrigation projects necessary to grow food in southern India.
Case Study: The Bhakti Movement
Examples drawn from the bhakti poets should make for a lively discussion. The bhakti
movement plays an important role in this chapter. Not only did the bhakti thinkers’ attempts to
erase the distinction between Hinduism and Islam open a new area of thought, but the need to do
so speaks volumes about the growing tensions between Hindus and Muslims. It also speaks of
the ways in which these religions can coexist. There are so many wonderful short poems from
writers such as Basavanna, Mahadeviyakka, Vidyapati, Govindadasa, and Chandidas. Mirabai is
a great choice because she was the only woman among the bhakti poets. The erotic feel of the
poems harkens back to the earlier Indian emphasis on kama and the poems of Kalidasa and
Bharatrihari. More important, however, is the powerfully emotional and devotional nature of the
Case Study: Outsiders’ Views of India
Although written a little later, the Baburnama of Babur (Zahir al-din Muhammad), the first
Mughal conqueror, might prove useful here. As an outside observer, Babur’s views of India are

sometimes telling. Examples drawn from Buzurg ibn Shahriyar’s Book of the Wonders of India
might be a great way to jumpstart a discussion. Make use of both the accurate information and
the tall tales from Shahriyar’s book. Commentary from outside the target society can tell the
students a lot about the subject (as well as about the author). Even the tall tales can be useful, if
for no other reason than they are entertaining. The more important point, obviously, is that the
historian is faced with a constant battle to determine the validity of his or her sources. If
Shahriyar is guilty of recounting fanciful tales, do his falsehoods discount his entire collection of
observations? It might be useful to bring in similar tall tales from Herodotus, or even stories of
doubtful authenticity from John Smith’s early accounts of Virginia, to show what a universal and
eternal problem reliability is for historians. In what ways is Shahriyar’s account accurate? Does
the author show any prejudice? Is he amazed by the society he’s describing?
Comparing Religious Beliefs
Divide the students into groups of four. Have them imagine that one of them is a traditional
believer in Hinduism, one is a Buddhist, one is a traditional believer in Islam, and one is a Sufi.
Have them explain their fundamental beliefs. Ask them to consider how they could blend their
beliefs in ways that do not seem to compromise their fundamental tenets. How much does this
blending reflect what happened in India in this period?

Chapter 16
The Two Worlds of Christendom
A series of problems, including political and social turmoil as well as military threats from
outside forces, brought an end to the classical societies in the centuries after 200 C.E. In the early
middle ages (500–1000 C.E.), Europe recovered from centuries of invasion and the collapse of
Roman hegemony. During this time, the foundations of European Christendom were laid, and
two distinct halves of European Christendom emerged: the Byzantine empire in the east and the
Germanic states in the west.
In the east, the Byzantine empire developed into a dramatically different society than its Roman
predecessor. Far more than merely surviving, however, Byzantium dominated the eastern
Mediterranean world politically and economically for centuries. Even after its collapse, the
Byzantine empire’s influence could be seen in the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe and Russia.
While no European state was powerful enough to restore centralized imperial rule in the west,
the age witnessed a return to political order with the creation of decentralized political structures.
Increased agricultural production led to economic recovery and expanded trade; and the
Christian church inspired religious leadership and cultural unity.

The quest for political order and caesaropapism. Successive Byzantine emperors created an
imperial office with both political and ecclesiastical powers, which also controlled a large and
complex bureaucracy. Absolute authority allowed emperors like Justinian wide latitude in
determining state policy and direction. For over three centuries, political disunity accompanied
the Germanic invasions of western and central Europe after the collapse of the western Roman
empire. One group, the Franks, succeeded in temporarily imposing central authority on much of
the region, but managed to do so for only a century. Political authority then devolved to local and
regional jurisdictions, resulting in a decentralized political order. Europe fell victim to invasions
by three groups—Muslims from the south, Magyars from the east, and Norse seafarers from the
north. Of these groups, the Norse raiders proved most successful and enduring, repeatedly
raiding coastal and river areas of western Europe.
Economic and social development. Constantinople’s dominance of local and regional trade and
manufacturing generated large amounts of wealth, which flowed to the emperor or increasingly
into private hands through banking and partnership enterprises. Byzantium was an urban society.
Byzantion, a village that overlooked the land and narrow straits between Europe and Asia,
became the basis of Constantinople, the imperial capital of eastern Rome and later Byzantium.
Byzantium as an empire and culture used its strategic and geographic power to dominate cultural
and commercial activity throughout the eastern Mediterranean for one thousand years. Economic
activity throughout western Europe lagged behind other regions during the postclassical era, due
to recurring invasions and the predominance of rural lifestyles that discouraged regional trade.
One exception, however, was Mediterranean cross-cultural trade, which linked Christian and
Muslim communities across the Mediterranean basin. Decentralization of political power led to
the growth of complex reciprocal hierarchical relationships between lords and retainers, who
fulfilled a variety of political and military functions. In time, a hereditary noble class supported
by agricultural production dominated medieval society.
The evolution of Christianity. Conversion to Christianity by Germanic groups allowed Roman
Christianity to provide a bridge between classical Roman society and medieval Europe. The rise
of the papacy as an effective administrative and cultural influence, together with the growth of
monasteries and monasticism, allowed Roman Christianity to play a similar role to other world
religions during the postclassical era, providing a range of social and educational services to
surrounding communities.
Orthodox Christianity emerged within the Byzantine empire, challenging Roman Christianity
over doctrine, ritual, and church authority. Closely tied to the state, the Eastern Orthodox church
served as an extension of state authority. The church also became a key component of expansion
into Russia and eastern Europe, where its influence continues today.

Case Study: Charlemagne
Few characters in European history have cast a longer shadow than Charlemagne. His influence
on European political, religious, and intellectual history is immense. However, he’s often viewed

in the popular imagination as a great conqueror and nothing more. This chapter provides a great
opportunity for you to flesh out Charlemagne and expand on the complexity of his personality.
Most students would not associate Charlemagne with efforts to improve scholarship. Einhard’s
biography is a great source for primary material on Charlemagne (including Einhard’s assertion
that Charlemagne would not have attended mass on that fateful Christmas Day if he had known
of Leo’s intentions). A few sections from The Song of Roland might also be a good way to show
how Charlemagne has entered the popular imagination. Charlemagne’s relationship to the
question of the legacy of Rome might also be a good theme. Many of his administrative
decisions and educational reforms were dictated by a desire to re-create Rome.
Justinian’s Reign
Justinian’s reign is another logical place to start. The extraordinary importance of Justinian’s
codification of Roman law might seem obvious to a historian but might be lost on students.
One of the greatest achievements of Rome was the creation of a universal law code that, at least
theoretically, applied to everyone. In many ways Justinian is the key factor in the survival of this
concept. The students can also see how one historical age flows into another one. The Romans
built on Stoic philosophy and created a set of laws that extended to a huge empire. Justinian then
codified these laws and passed them on to future generations. A concept survives and evolves
from Greece to Rome to Byzantium to Europe. The attempt by Justinian and Belisarius to win
back the western half of the empire speaks once again to the legacy of Rome. There are so many
great stories about Justinian and Theodora that it would be a shame to pass up the opportunity to
flesh out history with some highly personal anecdotes.
Charles Martel’s Victory at the Battle of Tours
Charles Martel’s victory at the battle of Tours is another good topic. The battle brings together
two topics: the increasing power of the Carolingian dynasty and the expansion of Islam. The
Islamic states and the Europeans were two of the new societies that arose after the passing of the
classical world. This topic is good opportunity to bring the two worlds together. An Islamic
victory at the battle of Tours certainly may have changed the course of European history. You
can also carry on this theme with Charlemagne’s battles with the Moors. Once again, it would
help to bring in passages from Einhard or The Song of Roland.
The Vikings
Few topics capture the imagination of students more than the Vikings do. There are any number
of fascinating topics to discuss. Students love to hear stories about the ferocity of the Viking
berserkers and their heroic journeys in open boats over incredible distances. The alternately
somber and uproarious nature of Norse mythology tells a lot about their worldview. At the same
time, it is easy for students to center on their destructive raids without an appreciation of the
positive role they played in reinvigorating Europe. The eventual Christianization of the Vikings
is representative of the transformation of Europe.
Case Study: Constantinople
Constantinople, both its magnificence and what it represented, is a good topic. After the fall of
Rome, and really for a long time before, Constantinople simply was “the city.” This discussion
would be a good opportunity to bring in slides or to project images from the Internet. Discussing

the architectural magnificence of Hagia Sophia is much easier if you are able to incorporate
images. Students find the Hippodrome, especially the machinations of the Greens and Blues,
entertaining. You can also take this opportunity to discuss the significance (and rarity in the
ancient world) of building a structure for entertainment’s sake alone. Constantinople’s role as the
center of trade is significant. More important, it is essential for the students to understand what
Constantinople represented. Constantinople dominated the Mediterranean and European worlds
in a way that only Athens and Rome did before and only Paris and London did after. If the
students don’t understand this fact, then they won’t truly understand the earth-shattering
significance of the Ottoman Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Christianity and the Development of Early Medieval Europe
The central role played by Christianity in the development of early medieval Europe is a natural
discussion topic. The missionaries who brought Christianity to Europe also brought a perception
of Roman greatness that was important in the life of figures such as Charlemagne. The role
played by Gregory I in redefining the notion of papal supremacy is crucial. Monasticism is also
part of this equation. Students view monasteries as either places of quiet religious reflection or
just plain dull, without any sense of the vibrant economic and intellectual role they played. An
examination of the rule of St. Benedict and the contributions of St. Scholastica is equally
The Schism between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches
The schism between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches is a complex, and in
some ways subtle, issue that students might need help understanding. This is one of those areas
where the different subdisciplines of history flow together nicely. A witch’s brew of religious,
political, economic, and personal problems helps to explain the schism. You have the
opportunity to show that nothing in history, especially religious issues, is as simple as it first
appears. The students have to understand that events such as this split are not just games being
played by powerful personalities. The common people, especially those of sincere faith, are often
devastated by religious controversy. This topic will be revisited during the discussion of the
Babylonian Captivity, the Great Schism, and the Reformation.

An Examination of Feudalism
Bentley and Ziegler note that the concept of feudalism has been somewhat abandoned in recent
scholarship as an overly simple model, but it is still valuable to spend some time on what
feudalism used to mean and why the authors of the text have moved away from it. In fact, since
many students might have come into contact with the concepts of feudalism in high school, it
would probably be best to touch on this subject to clear up any confusion. Ask the students to
describe how the medieval system could have developed. What was the significance of the lordretainer relationship? How could this system be used to create a powerful state? The students
must also understand that this system was about far more than the elite military minority. Bring
in manorialism. It is important in this topic, as in all others, to create a sense of connection for
the students. People always have the romantic idea that their ancestors were monarchs or nobles.

Remind the students that most of their ancestors (and yours) probably were peasants at one time.
What was the life of the peasants like as they lived on the manors? What options did they have
for improving their condition? What societal or economic changes would have to occur to allow
the peasants to someday improve their lives? This discussion can also set up the later
examination Tokugawa Japan.
The Crowning of Charlemagne
Although history is often shaped by class issues and complex economic factors and
transformations so slow as to be millennial, there are also times when the world can change in a
second. One of those events was Charlemagne’s crowning on 25 December 800. Use the image
created by that event to bring the students into the world of Charlemagne. After painting the
picture of the events of that Christmas Day you can move on to questions such as whether
Charlemagne was actually expecting to be crowned. What had Charlemagne done to set up that
day? What was the significance of the imperial crown anyway? This topic can take the class back
to the subjects of the legacies of Rome and the role played by Byzantium. In what ways might
the crowning have been a surprise? Why would Charlemagne not have wanted the imperial
crown? All these factors can show the students how even fleeting events work hand in hand with
far larger issues to influence the flow of history. You can then move on and talk about the
church-versus-state controversy and other results of that Christmas Day.

A Time Travel Visit
Now that you have completed the section of the book on postclassical societies, divide the class
into smaller groups and assign each group a society: Byzantium, Abbasid, Song, Chola kingdom
in India, and France under Charlemagne. Have each group “pitch” a time travel visit back to that
society. What would a traveler see? Why would someone want to go there? What are the
highlights? After each group completes their pitch, decide as a class where you would want to go
first, second, and so on. Why?
Why was Europe so “Backward”?
As a class, come up with a list of ten explanations for why Europe seems so “backward” in the
postclassical era compared to the other regions you have studied. Do not just describe the aspects
of the society that seems less developed (for example, long-distance trade) but explain the
reasons for them.
Understanding Caesaropapism
To American students, brought up on the notion of the separation of church and state,
caesaropapism is foreign concept. Ask the students where this concept originated. This question
will allow you to bring up the Roman imperial influence and the role played by Constantine. You
could also ask the students if the mixture of religious and political authority was a strange
concept in the ancient world. This discussion should allow the students to compare the different
societies covered in the class. Ask the students to consider the future implications of the
caesaropapist view. This question will give them a head start in comprehending the power of the
Russian tsars—and also why sharing political power would be such a foreign concept to the
tsars. The church-versus-state controversy that plagued Europe for centuries will make more

sense to the students if they understand that, in many ways, the popes were a legitimate
contender for political power. Obviously not every part of the world, even today, neatly divided
the political and religious worlds. It’s a tricky topic, but asking the students to discuss the pros
and cons of political-religious separation always ignites an inspired conversation.
Case Study: Theodora
Theodora is a wonderful topic for discussion. History can seem completely male-dominated to
many students at first glance. Theodora is a great opportunity to reverse that trend. Not only is
she a fascinating character, but she proved to be an invaluable advisor to Justinian. In fact, she
really understood the Greek nature of Byzantium much better than Justinian. From here you can
lead the discussion into an examination of the role of women in Byzantine society as a whole and
compare it to the Roman and Greek worlds as well as that of eastern Europe and Russia. Bring in
examples from Procopius’s Secret History. Procopius’s highly personal and vitriolic attack on
Theodora can initiate a spirited discussion. At the same time, it can also lead to a discussion of
the reliability of historical sources. We rely on Procopius’s On the Buildings of Justinian for
crucial information about the early Byzantine years. What are we to make, then, of his Secret
History? Which one is the real Procopius? Students tend to take one side or the other without
considering that maybe both visions of Procopius are accurate.

Examining the Body of Civil Law
Divide students into small groups and have them go to a website that has a translation of the
Corpus iuris civilis. Have them identify five laws they think are still in use today. Ask them to
consider what this exercise tells us about the nature of Roman law, the Byzantine culture, and
our laws?
Did Byzantium Carry on the Legacy of Rome?
The issue of whether Byzantium actually carried on the legacy of Rome would be a natural for
this chapter. In earlier chapters the question of what Rome meant to history was of crucial
significance. Since the fall of Rome in 476 C.E. the Mediterranean world struggled with what
Rome meant in a larger context. Figures as diverse as Justinian, Charlemagne, the Ottoman
Turks, and the Italians during the Renaissance saw themselves as the heirs of this legacy. When
Justinian codified the Roman laws in the Corpus iuris civilis and dispatched Belisarius to
recapture the western half of the empire, he was trying to reinvent Rome. The obvious question,
which has been raised before, is what does Rome mean? Is the ideal of Rome that much greater
than the reality of Rome? In what fundamental ways was Byzantium a different place than Rome
politically, intellectually, culturally, and religiously? The question of Byzantium’s claim to
Roman legacy will be important when the text covers Charlemagne. Plus, the difference will be
important in understanding the foundations of both western and eastern Europe. You could use
The White Cowl to show how the dream of Roman greatness made its way to Russia.

Chapter 17

Nomadic Empires and Eurasian Integration
Nomadic tribes played a dominant role in Eurasia between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries.
Persia, Anatolia, and India were transformed after conquests by Turkish tribes. The Mongols
created the largest empire of all time, stretching from China to Russia, during the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries. Even after the collapse of the Mongol empire in the fifteenth century, a
resurgence of Turkish power continued the influence of these nomadic tribes. The Turkish and
Mongol conquests inspired closer connections between the Eurasian lands by facilitating crosscultural communication and exchange, with increased trade being the best example.

Clan-based tribes of Mongol and Turkish nomads directly and indirectly encouraged Eurasian
integration during the postclassical era. Desire for fertile pasturelands drove the expansion,
which ultimately led to the emergence of the largest land empire in world history. Military skill
and success characterized both Mongol and Turkish cultures, particularly mounted cavalry
forces, which were the physically toughest and best-trained troops ever seen in world history.
Religious curiosity and tolerance encouraged conversion of Mongol and Turkish rulers to a
variety of world religions, and peace and stability facilitated the spread of others across Eurasia,
although some rulers, such as Mahmud of Ghazni, sought to impose religious uniformity across
their domains, with lasting results for areas like northern India. The reign of Chinggis Khan and
his successors created a pax Mongolia across large areas of the Eurasian steppes, linking closely
together vast areas for the first time. Chinggis replaced traditional tribal political structures with
centralized authority directed from his glorious steppe capital Karakorum. Stability and security
revitalized Eurasian land trade. At no time since has the area enjoyed the same levels of
economic prosperity.

Chinggis Khan and Khubilai Khan
Chinggis Khan and Khubilai Khan are natural topics for a lecture. They are both fascinating and
often misunderstood characters. It is important for students to place an individual human face
and personality on the sometimes bewildering nomadic societies. Discuss the nature and talents
of Chinggis Khan, and how these gifts allowed him to rise to the top of nomadic society. This
topic allows for an examination of the complex and shifting nature of nomadic politics and
diplomacy. The social world of these tribes can also be explored at this point. Khubilai Khan is a
perfect follow-up. Examples from Marco Polo would be helpful. Discuss the consolidation of
empire under Khubilai Khan. Examine his complex personality, from his violent conquests to his
fascination with religion and culture. How did he influence China? How was he influenced by
China? Compare the differing natures of these two rulers to other rulers, such as Chandragupta

and Ashoka Maurya. Tamerlane is another fascinating character.
Case Study: Nomadic Lifestyles
Examine the nature of the nomadic lifestyle of the Turkish and Mongol tribes. How was it
different from the more settled lifestyle of the societies they traded with or raided? This type of
existence is foreign to students today. Examine the fluid social system. What were the main
religious concepts? How would these factors clash with the social and religious structures of the
more sedentary societies? In what ways did the Turkish and Mongol tribes facilitate trade and
cultural integration? How tolerant were these tribes? It’s easy to view them as merely
conquerors. How did they treat the peoples of their empires? Discuss Khubilai Khan’s promotion
of Buddhism and support of other religions. How was Persia transformed religiously by the
Mongol conquest and then by the later conversion of the Ilkhan Ghazan?
The “Other” Turkish and Mongol Leaders
Examine the “other” Turkish and Mongol leaders. Even if you discuss the Mongols as more than
a brief interruption of Chinese history, it is easy to slide over the other Mongol tribes and to
ignore the Turkish tribes. Discuss the significance and contributions of Chaghatai in central Asia,
the Golden Horde in Russia, and the Ilkhanate in Persia. Not only are these leaders and tribes
influential, but such discussions give a more complete sense of how huge the Mongol empire
was. It is important to discuss Osman—especially in relation to the notion of being on the border
between the Islamic and Christian worlds—to set up the later rise of the Ottomans. Tamerlane
was a great conqueror and has entered the popular imagination in a way that few others have.
Case Study: Sorghaghtani Beki, the “Mother of Great Khans”
As a military culture, much emphasis is placed on the role of men in Mongol society. However,
women played a vital role in ensuring the success of Mongol growth and expansion. Give a
lecture that focuses on Sorghaghtani Beki, the “Mother of Great Khans.” Information on her can
be found at, among other sites. Use
Sorghaghatani Beki as an example of the critical role played by women in the success of
nomadic societies. Ask students to examine and consider women’s current status in Eurasian
societies. Has their status changed significantly? If so, for better or worse?

Marco Polo
An obvious primary source for discussion would be Marco Polo. Not only have most of the
students at least heard of Marco Polo, but the descriptions are very vivid. The accounts give the
students a glimpse of how different societies viewed each other. These stories clearly show the
students how China (even under Mongol rule) was so far ahead of the Europeans in so many
areas. After all, Marco Polo was coming from the part of Europe that would provide the
inspiration for the Renaissance. Nevertheless, his accounts of China display a sense of wonder
that makes the whole place seem unreal. What is his view of China? What is his interpretation of
Khubilai Khan? How was Polo treated by the Mongols? Would this treatment have been typical
of the Mongols? What does the question of Marco Polo and trade reveal to the students about the

contributions of the Mongols in bringing about greater integration in Eurasia? Ibn Battuta’s
journeys, in The Travels of Ibn Battuta, don’t relate to this chapter as directly as does Marco
Polo’s adventures, but they do provide great examples of an increasingly inter-related world.
Savage or Sophisticated?
An examination of the popular perception of these nomadic tribes compared to the reality of their
existence and contributions would be a great topic for discussion. The common view, and one
that has been held too long, is that these tribes were nothing more than ignorant, extraordinarily
violent savages. Obviously, the focus has been on the damage they caused to the more sedentary
states they came into contact with. One of the nice things about this text is that it is arranged to
give an entire chapter to these tribes; most texts just toss in brief descriptions of the Turkish and
Mongol tribes on the periphery of other societies. Such historical treatment only worked to
reinforce the notion that these tribes were barbarians whose sole role in history was a destructive
one. Ask the students to consider what ways these tribes influenced Eurasia. How did they
influence Eurasian trade and integration? Why have they been misunderstood?
Turkish and Mongol Tribes’ Relation to Nature
Ask the students to consider what a study of the Turkish and Mongol tribes can tell us about the
relationship between human beings and nature—or between human beings and animals. Modern
students, and especially Americans, live rather compartmentalized lives in which they have little
direct contact with nature. These tribes, on the other hand, had an extraordinarily direct
connection to their environment and their animals. Their lives were dependent on their
understanding of nature in ways that most people today, and even the more sedentary urban
societies of their own time, could scarcely understand. Ask the students to discuss this
relationship. The passage from Marco Polo about the Mongols bleeding their horses would be
a great place to start. What do students living a pre-packaged, suburban lifestyle make of that
Comparing Central Asian Nomads’ Impact on Other Societies
Divide the class into groups. Assign each group one of these societies discussed earlier:
Byzantium, Islam, China, India, and western Europe. Each group should present an overview of
how the central Asian nomads had an impact on their culture after 1000. When you are finished,
discuss and try to form consensus on which culture was most severely affected by nomadic
incursions and why.

Chapter 19
The Increasing Influence of Europe
By 1100, the surviving dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean region, the Byzantine

empire, began to decline from the combination of domestic social and economic difficulties and
foreign pressure from both the east and west. The empire eventually fell to Turkish invaders in
1453. Europe, on the other hand, made great advances in the centuries after 1000 C.E. From the
chaotic and largely isolated land of the early middle ages, Europe became a powerful economic
and cultural force during the high middle ages. While recreating Roman unification may have
been the ideal, European political leaders never passed beyond the establishment of regional
states. The population rose rapidly as a result of agricultural advancements. Vibrant economic
growth went hand in hand with the establishment of long-distance trade and urbanization.
Philosophy and theology reflected the excitement of the age. Maybe the best proof of an
expanding and powerful Europe was the crusades, as the Europeans began to play a much more
aggressive role in the world.

Lack of order and centralization in western Europe during the early middle ages gave way to a
series of regional states and kingdoms during the high middle ages, many of which laid the
foundations for subsequent political organization throughout the region. The power of the
church, particularly the papacy during the postclassical period, effectively precluded any
attempts to establish lasting imperial entities. Instead, Roman Catholicism succeeded in
establishing itself as the arbiter of political authority throughout western Europe, siding both
with and against powerful temporal entities such as the Holy Roman Empire in defense of its
political position within the network of competing regional states. By the high middle ages,
church educational systems had broadened to include universities, while ordinary people turned
to popular religion for cultural inspiration. Northern and western France provided the origins of
both the French and English monarchies by the eleventh century. Both these monarchies
succeeded in organizing regional kingdoms that maintained order and provided reasonable
government. Economic development proceeded along lines similar in other areas of Eurasia.
A series of agricultural improvements, both technological and crop-related, sparked rapid
population growth and urbanization. Society in western Europe was based on the three estate
system: “those who pray, those who fight, and those who work.” The three estate system
accurately reflected an unequal society which bestowed rights and privileges on the elite orders
but denied them to the majority of agricultural and urban laborers. Chivalry grew and spread as
an elite cultural ideal, encouraging ethical and moral leadership from the nobility. By the high
middle ages, western European civilization’s growing power encouraged a series of expansive
colonization projects in the Atlantic, Baltic, Iberian peninsula, and Mediterranean basin. One of
these ventures, the crusades, led to a large-scale exchange of knowledge and ideas between
western Europe and the eastern hemisphere, and encouraged further integration of Europe into
Eurasian trade and knowledge networks.

Case Study in Church-State Relations: The Confrontation at Canossa
The confrontation at Canossa between Gregory VII and Henry IV provides an excellent entrée to

the topic of church-state relations. It would be hard to stage a more dramatic or symbolic
moment. Ask the students to try and understand that moment in its larger context. What is the
church-versus-state controversy? Do we have distant echoes of this confrontation in our world
today? What did this struggle mean for the Holy Roman Empire, as well the church itself? This
leads rather naturally into the attempts to integrate the increasing material prosperity of Europe
in the high middle ages with the strong spirituality of earlier times. Though it is not always the
easiest thing to provide modern students, a good explanation of the thought of St. Thomas
Aquinas goes a long way toward demonstrating this desire to reconcile faith and reason. In many
ways the rediscovery of Aristotle is a precursor to the fascination with the thought of the ancient
world that formed the foundation of the Renaissance. This would also be a good place to remind
the students of the role that the Islamic world played in this rediscovery of the ancients. A similar
point could be made about debates between the Dominicans and the Franciscans, or about the
Waldensian and Albigensian heresies. Students often do not understand these debates and
heresies at all or they miss the point by centering on a difference of doctrine without
understanding the deeper and more long-lasting implications. The rise of these heresies exposes
the existence of dissatisfaction and contrary opinions inside Catholicism, which only become
more pronounced with time.
The Benefits of a Centralized Kingship
The advantages of developing a strong, centralized kingship may be obvious to historians, but
they aren’t necessarily as obvious to students. Most modern students consider any type of
kingship to be inherently bad. For American students growing up with at least a passing
understanding of the American Revolution, this assumption is quite common. It is important to
help them understand that there are worse options than a strong monarchy. Ask the students to
consider in what ways a strong, centralized kingship might be both harmful and beneficial. The
legend of Robin Hood, still familiar to most students, can be quite helpful where the political
aspects of this question are concerned. Under King Richard, the country prospered, but King
John abused the centralized power structure to oppress the population. The decentralized feudal
structure of the early middle ages served an important function, but certainly its potential for
economic growth was probably limited. Ask the students to consider whether the passage from a
decentralized, feudal system to a more centralized system might be part of an evolutionary
political and economic process. What would be the next step? Finally, why does centralization
occur in some states and not in others?
The Social, Technological, and Economic Transformations of the High Middle Ages
The social, technological, and economic transformations of the high middle ages are undeniably
important but often overlooked. This chapter provides a good opportunity to show how these
innovations, while sometimes subtle, can influence the lives of millions. The invention of items
as seemingly mundane as the horseshoe or the horse collar brought about a dramatic increase in
agricultural production. Simply explaining the logic and math of these inventions can be a
powerful tool. The increase in agricultural production was essential to the revitalization of
Europe. The reinvigoration of long-distance trade also helped lead to the rise of urbanization
which, in turn, provided an alternative to the constraints of feudalism. The old medieval saying
that “city air makes you free” had a much more profound meaning than simply a cessation of
peasant obligations. The rise of the guilds provided opportunities for both men and women. With

a little work, you can take these social and economic issues and make them very human.
Explaining precisely how charters and guilds functioned is only one approach. You could apply
the same strategy to the changing status of women during this period. So many interesting works
have been written in the last few years on women during the middle ages that it would be a
shame not to bring this scholarship into the classroom. Eileen Power’s Medieval Women would
be a good choice.

Case Study: The Crowning of Otto of Saxony
This chapter includes some wonderful moments around which you can construct a discussion.
The crowning of Otto of Saxony is a great example. Ask the students what this event might mean
in a larger context. How does this event relate to the ideal of what Rome is supposed to represent
to history? What would the Byzantine emperors say to this event? How might this event (along
with Charlemagne’s crowning a century and a half earlier) represent a transition or even a birth
for Europe? Although the quote was used in the chapter, it might still be a good idea to use
Voltaire’s appraisal that the Holy Roman Empire was “neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire”
to launch a discussion of the value of the empire and its raison d’être. Why would Otto, or for
that matter Charlemagne, want to re-create the Roman empire anyway? What kept the Holy
Roman Empire from reaching these lofty goals? What was the papal interest in the Holy Roman
Empire? Did it really matter whether or not it was holy, or Roman, or an empire? This topic can
lead to an examination of the contest between the emperors and the popes as well as a discussion
of the contemporary political situations in England, France, Italy, and Spain.
The Battle of Hastings
The battle of Hastings and William’s conquest is another natural topic for discussion. David
Howarth’s 1066 is a short and entertaining work that makes a perfect supplement. The natural
topics for discussion are the role of the church, political centralization, England’s position as an
island, and for that matter, the role of sheer dumb luck in history. Until 1066, and even for some
time thereafter, England was a minor player even within Europe. How did the Normans manage
to build this small kingdom into a power? Was England’s relative isolation a positive or negative
factor in this process? How had King Alfred’s earlier unification of England prepared the way
for the Normans, even if unwittingly?
A Discussion of the Three Estates
Divide students into small groups. Assign each group member to represent one of the three
estates and one more member to represent a merchant guild member. Discuss how you each
make your living, what your realistic aspirations would be, what life was like for women in your
order, and which group wields the most power.
The Crusades
The crusades, especially the first, the fourth, and the Children’s Crusade, are another subject that
seems to inspire class discussion. Most students know something of the crusades, but tend to
either romanticize them or see them entirely through modern eyes as part of the “natural” battle

against the threat of Islamic fundamentalism. In many ways the crusades served as a coming-out
party for Europe, even if it was not always pretty. The reclaiming of Jerusalem during the first
crusade, even if for only a short amount of time, is a great moment to build up. Contemporary
accounts of the bloody final battle, from both Christian and Muslim contemporaries, are a great
source and lead naturally to questions about the true nature of the crusades. How Christian was a
mission that included the ruthless slaughter of women and children? What were the pope’s aims
in calling forth the crusades? Did they always coincide with those of the crusaders? The fourth
crusade, for instance, represents the folly and misdirected energy of the crusades and sets the
stage for the final split between the eastern and western halves of the old Roman empire. The
tragic story of the Children’s Crusade brings an entirely different perspective to the enterprise.
Yet, even if most of the crusades misfired badly, they still represented the power of the popes as
well as the growing strength of Europe.
Exploring Relationships
Divide the class into small groups. Ask each group to explain, in fifty words or less, the
relationship between each of the following pairs. They should explore how one leads to or fosters
the other, and be specific in their responses.
• Investiture conflict and Cathars
• Guilds and universities
• Scholasticism and crusades
• Vinland and Sicily
• Troubadours and cathedrals

Chapter 20
Worlds Apart: The Americas and Oceania
Unlike the growing interaction that marked the African, Asian, and European worlds, the
Americas and Oceania remained largely isolated. Any contact before 1492 was more accidental
and momentary than planned or continuous. Nevertheless, the peoples of North and South
America created large empires with cultural and religious concepts that, because of the isolation
of these societies, were unique. The societies of Oceania existed in even greater isolation.
Despite this isolated existence, the peoples of Oceania eventually developed structured
agricultural societies and chiefly political structures.


Although isolated from the eastern hemisphere, and without complex metallurgy or
transportation technology, peoples in the Americas and Oceania developed complex, hierarchical
societies and elaborate trade networks stretching over thousands of miles. By the late
postclassical period, two lake-based cultures, the Aztecs—or Mexica—in Mesoamerica and the
Incas in South America succeeded in establishing large, heavily-populated imperial states led by
warrior aristocracies and priestly elites. In Oceania, self-sufficient chiefly states predominated,
particularly in Hawai`i and Tonga. The peoples of both the Americas and Oceania developed
complex religious belief systems closely tied to the surrounding natural environment. Americans
and Pacific island peoples developed complex agricultural societies that generated impressive
agricultural productivity, leading to social stratification and rapid population growth by the late
postclassical period.

Exploring Aztec (Mexica) Ritual Bloodletting and Human Sacrifice
Students always find the topic of Aztec ritual bloodletting and human sacrifice fascinating. Start
with the expansion of the great temple in 1487 and the eighty thousand victims who were
supposedly sacrificed. Once again, some passages from Bernal Díaz del Castillo are worth using.
While you may draw the students in through the spectacle (or sheer grisly brutality) of the
ceremony, you can then move on to more profound subjects. Anthropologists speculate that
human sacrifice has been a common practice at various times around the world. Discuss the
reasons for and implications of human sacrifice and its deeper significance. From here you can
move on to examine why the Aztecs carried out this practice on a scale unmatched anyplace else
in the world. What does this say about the Aztec political and social worlds? How might this
practice explain the Aztec successes but also foreshadow their failures? Draw in examples from
other societies covered earlier in the class. Use this topic to also lead to a more general
discussion of the religious beliefs of these societies, including the Inca. The distinct moral
aspects of Inca religion make an interesting and useful comparison that can spark discussion.
Was one really more moral than the other?
The Indian Tribes of North America
The Indian tribes of North America make for a great lecture, and one that is much needed in a
world civilization course. Most world civilization textbooks and instructors assume that these
societies are being covered in American history courses. Unfortunately, too often these tribes
receive little or no coverage in American history classes and textbooks. In fact, most students
find these tribes fascinating and want to know more about them. A world civilization course is
a great place to tackle the subject because it gives the students a chance to understand these
peoples divorced from their relationship to early colonial or United States history. Plus, the
complexity and diversity of these tribes makes it difficult for the students to understand them on

their own, and rightly so. Tying all the societies of North America into one lecture is a
demanding task, but one well worth undertaking. Even a focus on one area can be worthwhile,
and it will lead you to some useful comparisons.
The Societies of Oceania
Certainly the same argument could be made about the societies of Oceania. Only recently have
some world civilization textbooks begun to tackle the subject. Bentley and Ziegler do more with
the subject than any other world civilization textbook. The history of Oceania is a complex
subject that deserves some class time. It can be a natural tie-in to the discussion of the Americas
because of the same issue of isolation, both in regard to the resulting uniqueness of the societies
and the concomitant danger of infectious disease. It would be profitable for the students to have
at least a passing understanding of these societies before you introduce the European age of
Comparing the Political Development of the Aztecs and Incas
Compare and contrast the political development of the Aztecs and Incas. These were the two
most powerful states of the pre-Columbian American world and it would certainly benefit the
students to understand how these empires worked. Was one of them more stable than the other?
Are there certain essential weaknesses that will help to explain their later collapse? How do they
relate to other societies covered so far in the class? This topic can then be used to launch into a
discussion of why the North American Indian tribes never came together in states as powerful as
those of the Aztecs and Incas. What are the prerequisites for a powerful state?

Case Study: Bernal Díaz del Castillo and Tenochtitlan
A great place to begin a discussion would be to draw examples from Bernal Díaz del Castillo,
starting with the introductory section in the chapter. Ask the students to consider Bernal Díaz del
Castillo’s statement, “And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were
not a dream,” which may help the students to understand the grandeur of Tenochtitlan. Most
students come into a world civilization course with a Eurocentric view of history and have no
idea that Tenochtitlan was much larger and more impressive than anything the Europeans had
experienced. You might also compare Bernal Díaz del Castillo’s account to some passages from
Marco Polo’s description of China. Allow the students to discover through their own discussion
and inquiry that even by these late dates the Europeans were still struggling to catch up to many
of the other societies of the world. It also opens up the question for later discussion of why the
Europeans were the ones making these journeys of exploration and not the other way around.
Understanding Aztec Society

Divide students into small groups. Each group will represent a cross-section of Aztec society.
Have them decide who will be: a priest to Huitzilopochtli, an Aztec warrior, a chinampa farmer,
a warrior’s mother, a goldsmith, a merchant/trader, and a slave assigned to public works. They
then determine what each one contributes to the prosperity and preservation of the empire and
come to the next class prepared to convince the rest of their group that they are the most valuable
member of Mexica society.
Complex Societies without Written Languages
Both North American and Inca cultures have left behind no recognizable writing system, yet as
the archaeological discoveries at places like Cahokia and Cuzco show, both managed to create
highly complex and stratified societies, economies, and religious belief systems within highly
urbanized environments. Historians naturally emphasize the importance of written script as a
foundation of civilization, yet these and other examples suggest that perhaps this emphasis is
overblown. Encourage the students to consider why these non-literate cultures were so successful
despite the absence of literacy, and suggest alternative sources of cultural unity and strength that
took the place of written language.
Comparing the Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Aztecs and Incas
Ask the students to compare and contrast the religious beliefs and practices of the Aztecs and
Incas. In what ways did these beliefs provide a sense of divine protection? In what ways were the
Aztecs influenced by earlier Mesoamerican societies? Remind the students of concepts discussed
in earlier chapters about Central and South America. Ask the students to compare and contrast
these concepts to other religions studied in the class. What would the preservation of the Inca
mummies, for example, tell us about the Inca view of life and death in light of the Egyptian
experience? Have the students seen other examples of human sacrifice? If they have, why wasn’t
it carried out on the scale of the Aztecs? Are there other examples of societies that, like the Inca,
believed in the divinity of the emperor? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this view?
The Implications of the Isolation of the Societies of the Americas and Oceania
Ask the students to consider the implications of the isolation of the societies of the Americas and
Oceania. The students should be able to understand how isolation made these societies unique.
At the same time, they must understand the danger that infectious diseases would later present
for an isolated society. This knowledge will help set up the eventual discussion of the arrival of
the Europeans. One of the questions that students always ask is why the Incas weren’t better
prepared to face the Spanish after the Aztecs had already fallen. They are always amazed to
discover that not only did the Incas not know the Aztecs had fallen, but they didn’t even know
that the Aztecs existed. Inside this discussion of isolation you can also examine the ways in
which some societies were able to influence each other in limited ways. The influence of the

Olmecs, Teotihuacan, Maya, and Toltecs on the Aztecs is an obvious example. Ask the students
why we have fewer examples of this type of interchange among the societies of Oceania.

Document Details

  • Subject: Nursing
  • Exam Authority: ATI
  • Semester/Year: 2022

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