Modern Western Civ

Every semester at USU I teach a 120-person section of HIST 1110: Foundations of Western Civilization: Modern.  The course serves as a general education (Breadth Humanities) requirement for the University.  As such, students are introduced to the major political, social, economic, and cultural movements of the modern West.  We carefully consider what Western is as a category, questioning whether it is a useful term or a term that essentializes and creates “otherness” across the globe historically.   Although a large survey course, I am committed to creating a student-centered classroom with active learning as much as possible.  Lecture is interspersed with small group work and discussion in order to reach every student in the classroom.  Paying attention to my students’ various learning styles as well as the rich variety of source materials available, primary sources include traditional written documents, material culture, songs, oral testimonies, political cartoons, graphic novels, art, and photographs.  Through the different historical ephemera, students can engage with history in ways they often have not at the K-12 level.  Additionally, in this survey course, I always assign a digital project – either in groups or individually.  In Fall 2016 and Spring 2017, in groups students created digital timelines of “Food in the West.”  In Fall 2017, students will individually create a class wikipedia with information to help them study, succeed, and learn about peer review.

OER: Starting in Fall 2017, I will be experimenting with Open Education Resources (OERs) to provide a learning experience that is low-cost, accessible, and contributes to the advancement of open-access platforms in academia.  The funding and support for this project is provided through the Merrill-Cazier Library. We will discuss what OERs mean, how their digital presentation can have an effect on learning, and whether or not websites primary sources are hosted on have an impact on bias or credibility.  With the exception of the graphic novel, Maus, all assigned readings will be OER.


COURSE DESCRIPTION:  The countries and cultures that make up “the West” share a common heritage, tradition, and certain values.  This idea of a shared history and identity is why Western society has been much more willing to proclaim “#JeSuisParis”  or “#PrayforManchester” than “#IamInstanbul” or “#PrayersforSyria” in recent instances of attack.  But, what exactly does it mean to be “Western”? What does it mean to be “modern”? What are the common elements that supposedly hold Western Civilization together? These questions will guide this survey course as we examine the development of modernity in “the West,” primarily EUROPE. We will examine the major political, social, economic, religious, and cultural movements that help to define the “modern” era in Western history. To better understand these movements, we will read a variety of primary sources.  In addition to traditional primary sources like letters, treatises, or declarations, we will also examine images, material objects, maps, digital diaries, oral histories, and music. Topics covered include: The Enlightenment; The Age of Revolutions; The Industrial Revolution; Nationalism; Liberalism; The Rise of Mass Politics; Imperialism; World War I; World War II; The Cold War; Globalization; and the Clash of Cultures.


Historical Knowledge

  • Identify key events in the history of modern Europe from 1750 to 2001
  • Describe the political, economic, social, and cultural elements of modernity in Europe
  • Explain how race, gender, class, ethnicity, and religion influence historical structures and narratives

Historical Thinking

  • Recognize both historical change as well as historical continuity
  • Analyze competing, complex interpretations of historical events
  • Extrapolate causation and understand multiple causation

Historical Skills

  • Articulate well-written responses to historical prompts using appropriate evidence
  • Assess the credibility and usefulness of primary and secondary sources
  • Analyze primary sources to reflect larger trends in politics, economics, society, and culture
  • Build digital literacy through a collaborative class Wiki
  • Complete independent research

MWC Fall 2017 SAMPLE Syllabus  Reading schedules and assignments change depending upon MWF or TTh schedules.  MWF begins in 1500 and ends in 1992; TTh courses begin in 1750 and end in 2001.