The creation of the modern world is a paradox. The modern emergence of human rights and nations committed to equality and democracy has advanced in tandem with new systems of subjugation, hierarchy and warfare. Resistance to oppression has, at times, devolved into dictatorship and totalitarianism. The modern era has also produced global movements for human rights intervention and post-conflict justice regimes to address attempts at annihilation of ethnic and religious minorities. From the advent of human rights during the Enlightenment, across waves of revolution, the present era is marked by immense suffering and the threat of climate collapse, as well as unparalleled prosperity and globalized activism in favor of freedom. Has the modern era shaped led to a world of diminished suffering where people live healthier, more equitable and longer lives? Is this true only for some?
We’ll work as historians and ask questions about warfare, freedom, resistance, rights and identity. We’ll analyze evidence--art, economic data, political philosophy—and conduct research, then staking claims about what we discover. Along the way, we’ll give special attention to the role the that women play in making change and resisting the constraints of gender.
Our examination of the past and present will rely on a diversity of voices from across the world by reviewing important events of the modern era (mid-1700’s to the present day) repeatedly from different perspectives: Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Despite the modern ascendancy of Europe, and the dominant legacy it leaves across the globe, we’ll consider the seismic role that Africans, Asians and Latin Americans play in writing the global narrative, especially the creation of a human rights and models of resistance.
This course will not prioritize dates and facts; rather the focus here is on historical thinking and understanding the power of historical representation. Towards that end, we’ll begin each quarter with a case study of the contest over historical representation (ie Confederate Monuments, the role of the media, the absence of commemoration of a genocide). Beyond that, we’ll look at a limited number of events (ie. The Lancashire Cotton Famine) to develop ideas about larger truths, rather than cram as many events and details as possible into the syllabus. These units will provide students with opportunities to assert values and develop skills to express them. Specifically we'll focus on: writing, research, validating sources, analyzing evidence such as primary sources, argument, and citation. In the process, students will frequently work in groups and collaborate to solve problems.
Lastly this course will raise difficult questions about power and identity that demand that students be prepared to trust and be open-minded. We’ll begin the year with community building exercises and embark on a quarterly series of “Restorative Practices,” inspired by a Restorative Justice model to insulate us from insult and intolerance. This will build a classroom foundation to better exchange fact-based ideas about race/racism, the peril of climate change and threats to democracy. Welcome to BigHistory!
I aim to create a classroom environment where you: