When starting a World History course, you might be wondering, “How can I cover the history of the entire world in one school year?” Well, that’s a very good question! Learning the history of everything would take quite a while—certainly more than one school year. Luckily, that’s not your task, because world history is not the history of everything that has ever happened in the world. Phew!
So what is the objective of a world history class? Well, it does include history from all over the world. It also spans across vast expanses of time--from the origins of homo sapiens roughly 250,000 years ago, to the rise of civilizations, all the way to more recent events like the rise of the Ottoman Empire, World War II, and social justice movements.
Whatever type of historical study we are doing, it is important to remember that people who lived in the past faced different circumstances and had different values than you do.
Historical questions are not about determining whether we today are better or worse than people who lived in the past. However, differences in values or behaviors between the past and present can spark historical inquiries. For example, you might look at an event that seems surprising or controversial from our contemporary perspective. With the tools of world history, we look at those events and consider questions like, "What factors motivated different people to participate in these events?"
As the famous historian David Lowenthal once wrote, "The past is a foreign country." Studying world history is like taking a trip across the world and through time. You can't go everywhere, but if you visit enough places, you can start to see the global connections that have shaped the world we live in today!
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