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Experiencing World History

Experiencing World History

Paul V. Adams
Erick D. Langer
Lily Hwa
Peter N. Stearns
Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 498
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  • Book Info
    Experiencing World History
    Book Description:

    Covering early societies, the classical, postclassical, and modern periods, and the 20th century, and blending the great advances in historical research over the past quarter century, Experiencing World History represents an important addition to the teaching of world history. Focusing on major issues in social history in the context of world history and divided into five chronological sections that highlight the mixture of change and continuity, the volume traces key aspects of society over time, among them gender; work and leisure; state and society; culture contact and population patterns. Truly global in scope, Experiencing World History includes deep coverage of all the major areas including Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. A brief introduction ties the social history themes to more conventional world history coverage, and an epilogue after each of the five sections suggests overarching themes and connections.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2450-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. 1-20)

    How did the major passages in world history affect the experiences by which most people—the privileged and the ordinary alike—measure their lives? What did European contact with the Americas or the rise of Islam mean for men and women in distant areas, many of whom would never see an ocean or hear a muezzin’s call to prayer but would nevertheless be touched by these new forces? This book presents the framework of world history in terms of its impact on key facets of social behavior—the patterns of birth and death, the basic value systems by which people...

  5. PART I Human History from Origins through the Early Civilizations

    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 21-25)

      From the origins of the human species to the rise of early civilizations, people went through a variety of phases of biological evolution. They also spread over most of the inhabitable parts of the world. Toward the end of the long early period, they introduced agriculture, a decisive change of basic economic framework. Most agricultural societies then added other innovations, including the forms associated with civilization as a system of social organization. During these key phases, basic patterns of culture were introduced and, a bit later, political structures as well. Agriculture and civilization massively reshaped patterns of gender and work....

      (pp. 26-27)
      (pp. 28-48)

      The first great changes in humanity were mainly biological. They were adaptations driven by sharp changes in the global climate during what geologists term the Pleistocene, or last great Ice Age, which began about 2 million years ago. It had long cold intervals of about 100,000 years; between them were warming intervals of 10,000 to 30,000 years, of which the last, known as the Holocene, began about 13,000 years ago and continues to the present. These climatic shifts stressed plant and animal species, causing extinction in some, evolutionary changes in others. Humanity adapted by becoming larger, walking erect (bipedalism), and...

      (pp. 49-65)

      Innovations in early human history were vital in creating basic beliefs about how the world works, as well as artistic styles to represent these beliefs. Innovation was also crucial in generating organized governments. The development of cultural systems clearly preceded formal statecraft in human history, though both would produce important structures by the end of the river-valley period around 1000 b.c.e. Human beings needed culture early, as part of communication and to explain the world around them. Absent elaborate instincts, as the species evolved learning was vital for adaptation, and learning involved generating as well as transmitting the beliefs and...

    • CHAPTER 4 GENDER STRUCTURES: Introduction through Early Civilizations
      (pp. 66-76)

      Early human history, and particularly the emergence of agriculture and then civilization, fundamentally redefined the meanings of male and female and many of the roles of men and women in human society. Key changes related to the upheavals in population patterns, which increased women’s childbearing and child-rearing responsibilities. But gender also related closely to broader formulations of culture, including religion. Developments in these crucial early periods added greatly to the “natural” features of gender, creating the complex relationships between the natural and the humanly constructed that have persisted ever since.

      For most of human history, the only records that remain...

      (pp. 77-85)

      Many major changes occurred in work and leisure during the long early stages of human development, particularly after the advent of agriculture brought about a radical shift in how men and women labored—though information is often scarce. Even after agricultural work patterns were established, the rise of civilizations heightened and complicated the efforts needed to keep new agricultural societies going. For the first time, a small number of members of human societies were able to remain aloof from the daily needs of just getting food. As the Bronze Age opened (around 3500 b.c.e.), people began living in towns, and...

      (pp. 86-88)

      The early civilizations that developed before 1000 b.c.e. have long inspired great awe. Greeks and Romans looked at some of the monuments of Egypt and the Middle East and called them “wonders of the world.” Fascination with Egyptian pyramids persists. How could a society with very limited technology amass such majestic structures? What combination of devotion and compulsion would even organize the labor for such efforts? Recent discoveries have extended this sense of wonder to the workings of Harappan civilization along the Indus River. Though now in ruins, the complex walls and urban water systems required a level of engineering...

      (pp. 89-90)
  6. PART II The Classical Period, 1000 b.c.e.–450 c.e.

    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 91-95)

      After the disruption of several of the river-valley civilizations, another set of civilizations arose that expanded into much larger territories and developed a variety of new devices to integrate these territories. These processes of durable civilization building dominated the classical period, as China, India, and the Mediterranean created cultural, political, and commercial systems of lasting importance. Other societies developed on the borders of these major systems, and several new international linkages arose as well. The classical period drew to a close after about 200 c.e., as the great empires began to falter.

      The expansion of major civilizations after about 1000...

      (pp. 96-98)
      (pp. 99-116)

      Over two millennia, agrarian civilization gradually expanded within and beyond the alluvial valleys. Early in the first millennium b.c.e., however, agrarian civilization became a more dynamic, growing type of human biological and social form that advanced slowly over the world, and in the face of which non-urban-dominated societies, whether foraging or agricultural, shrank back or were overwhelmed. Agrarian civilization became the fourth great population wave. Its demands for food, water, and manufactured goods (tools, housing, clothing) strained environments to their limits and beyond. Some environments demonstrated resistance; others deteriorated beyond nature’s capacity to recover, causing populations to decline or relocate....

      (pp. 117-140)

      Civilization patterns were vitally conditioned by environment and disease, but political and cultural initiatives had important impacts of their own. This was true even in the final classical centuries, when disease and invasion claimed the upper hand. The development of the classical civilizations involved major innovations in belief systems and the organization of states—though politics probably changed more, if only because formal states were more recent creations. Each of the classical civilizations built on previous cultures; they used the machinery of government, such as writing systems (Greece, for example, modified the Phoenician alphabet to create a sleeker model), and...

      (pp. 141-154)

      The classical period introduced vital new developments in gender relations. Each civilization generated some characteristic family arrangements, including how spouses were selected. More important still was the establishment of clear ideas about gender associated with each of the major cultural systems. Confucianism, Hinduism, and Mediterranean philosophy formulated specific notions about men’s and women’s qualities and roles. These cultural formulations helped stiffen gender relations, because they could be passed down from generation to generation and become part of basic socialization patterns, creating unexamined perceptions among men and women alike.

      The gender structures that developed in the world’s classical civilizations built on...

      (pp. 155-169)

      In many important ways, the classical period defined patterns of labor systems and leisure that continued to exist well after the civilizations that spawned them changed or collapsed. Most obviously, the caste system in South Asia emerged during this period, melding religion with an organization of society based in large part on what type of labor each segment performed. Perhaps less dramatic but just as important, the classical civilizations in China and the Mediterranean organized work in structures that would remain characteristic in their successors. In the case of China, free peasants formed the backbone of the labor force, whereas...

      (pp. 170-173)

      The classical period lasted for about 1,500 years, which is not necessarily a long time in terms of basic human processes. Predictably, a number of features carried over from the earlier days of the river-valley civilizations and agricultural societies. Most people in the classical civilizations were peasants, working in many of the same ways their river-valley ancestors had done. Many governments continued to use religion to help cement popular loyalties to existing political and social systems. The religions were often new, and the systems extended over wider geographical areas, but key functions persisted. Societies remained patriarchal; key changes occurred, but...

      (pp. 174-176)
  7. PART III The Postclassical Period, 450–1450 c.e.

    • [PART III Introduction]
      (pp. 177-181)

      The dominant themes of this new period of world history, different from those of the classical centuries, emphasize changes in migration patterns, culture, and trade. Technology shifts that supported trade and agriculture and the geographical extension of political capacities in state building form secondary themes.

      The period was launched by the devastating epidemics that had helped bring down the classical empires and that now led to new migration patterns in the Middle East, China, and Europe. In culture, the spread of world religions emphasizing otherworldly goals across previous civilization boundaries was the key development. The new Islamic religion was the...

      (pp. 182-184)
    • CHAPTER 10 POPULATING THE EARTH, 500–1500 c.e.
      (pp. 185-202)

      At the levels of high politics and culture, as well as at the biological foundations, the 5th and 6th centuries saw the end of classical civilization. Convergence of Afro-Eurasian disease pools and massive population declines provoked economic and political disorder, which in turn contributed to further decline, a cycle that created a population trough lasting roughly six centuries, from about 180 to 750 c.e. Population collapse led to large-scale migrations, mostly of peoples who formerly dwelt on the periphery of civilization. Over the next few centuries civilization, as a form of human organization, became vastly larger and geographically redistributed by,...

      (pp. 203-215)

      The postclassical period was not, on the whole, a period of major political change, except in the sense that formal states spread to new areas such as northwestern Europe, Russia, and additional parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. The capacity to form large empires—a recurrent characteristic of the classical period—largely declined, though China retained its strong state tradition; Islam developed some political unity around much of the Mediterranean; and important empires arose in the Americas. Loose political organization, however, symptomatic of state development in new regions but also the decline of political focus in places like India, was...

      (pp. 216-231)

      The gender structures that developed, rigidified, and expanded in the classical period were both strengthened and challenged during the postclassical period. Increasing contact between civilizations often introduced new notions about the proper relations between men and women. This led in some cases to radical changes, such as the adoption of Muslim norms across a broad geographic area. In other cases it led to a strengthening of older ideas, such as the sharpening of Confucian doctrines about female subordination during the Song dynasty, a response to the challenge of more egalitarian Buddhist ideas.

      In many parts of the world, such as...

      (pp. 232-247)

      Few large-scale changes in work patterns occurred in the postclassical world. The main story is one of continuity from the classical period. Slavery continued to play a large role in parts of the Mediterranean, with some modifications. While large-scale agricultural slavery diminished from Roman levels, in the new Islamic world domestic slavery persisted, with the addition of a largely new category, military slavery. The poverty of western Europe largely eliminated slavery there, which was replaced by the institution of serfdom. Chinese and Indian civilizations maintained patterns set in the classical period, with intensive agriculture and the caste system, respectively, characterizing...

      (pp. 248-250)

      The postclassical period is one of the most significant and interesting periods in world history. Four developments had lasting influence. First, the spread of world religions and the creation of a new religious map set a cultural framework that still affects the operations of most societies today. Second, the creation of new links among societies—the world network—also created a durable framework. Even though international contacts operate differently today, they build on the exchanges, including the appetite for products, ideas, and technologies from other areas, that were set up by the year 1000. Third, the redefinition of key civilization...

      (pp. 251-252)
  8. PART IV Early Modern World History, 1450–1750

    • [PART IV Introduction]
      (pp. 253-255)

      World history after 1450 was gradually reshaped by new power alignments among major civilizations, most notably the rise of the West but also the emergence of land-based empires in Asia and eastern Europe. A new kind of world economy developed, supported by new military and shipping technology, while the inclusion of the Americas affected virtually all major societies. Disease patterns changed decisively, while population growth in Europe and parts of Asia surged beyond any previous precedent. The period 1450–1750 is called “early modern” to note the formation of many durable developments, such as a literally global economy, but also...

      (pp. 256-258)
    • CHAPTER 14 POPULATION OF THE EARTH: Growth, Decimation, and Relocation
      (pp. 259-283)

      The years 1450–1750 bracket two earth-transforming demographic and biological phenomena. They were interrelated and mutually reinforcing.

      The first was a substantial increase in Eurasian populations, the first phase of the modern population explosion. Globally, considerable regional variation prevailed, some areas growing rapidly, others not. Growth was particularly great, though uneven, from around 1475 to 1620; it then slowed until the early 18th century.

      The second phenomenon was geographic expansion across the world’s oceans, bridged in the 15th and 16th centuries by European maritime technology, which resulted in world-straddling migrations of African and European peoples (roughly in that chronological order),...

      (pp. 284-293)

      Key changes in political institutions altered the relationship between states and ordinary people at several points during the early modern period, adding to the forces of change within major civilizations and in the world at large. The development of new state-society relations was a consistent theme in world history during this period. Cultural change was crucial as well, but it operated selectively at first, intensifying clearly, and with greater international scope, during the 18th century.

      The early modern period opened with a flurry of political developments: a relatively new dynasty consolidating in China and major new empires covering much of...

      (pp. 294-308)

      Gender structures in the early modern centuries were powerfully shaped by new international population movements and commercial contacts. The contact between cultures in the postclassical period that had worked to change gender structures had often been carried out through the transmission of ideas and construction of institutions by individuals or small groups of people; the spread of Neo-Confucianism and Islam are both examples of this. Beginning in the late 15th century, international contacts often involved the movement of large numbers of people over vast distances, such as Europeans traveling to the Americas, and later to Asia and Australia, to conquer...

      (pp. 309-320)

      The years from 1450 to 1750 were a period of rapid and fundamental change in labor patterns throughout the world. For the first time in world history, labor patterns shifted substantially in one civilization as a result of pressures from another. A new pattern in world history had emerged, linking the economies of different civilizations together, which, in turn, affected labor systems as well. The surge of western Europe onto the world stage was crucial. As western Europe became the most powerful civilization in economic and military terms (just as Islamic and Chinese civilizations had been in the postclassical period),...

      (pp. 321-323)

      Beneath the surface of world history—the rise of certain societies and the doldrums of others—basic economic and population forces reshaped the contours of daily life from 1450 through 1750. Growing commercial activity encouraged or required more production for the market, in manufacturing, agriculture, and mining. Almost every major society was drawn in, though at different times and on different terms. Exchange of foods and new agricultural methods promoted a steady increase in world population, even in societies otherwise fairly isolated. This, along with disease-induced population disasters in key regions, promoted new, transoceanic patterns of migration, some voluntary, some...

      (pp. 324-326)
  9. PART V The Long 19th Century, 1750–1914

    • [PART V Introduction]
      (pp. 327-329)

      This relatively short world history period combined trends from the previous, early modern period, such as the intensification of the world economy, with decisive new factors. Heading the list of innovations was the Industrial Revolution in western Europe and the United States, which produced a dramatic new society and economy and greatly extended the power of the West in the wider world.

      The Industrial Revolution created factories as the key production units, organizing labor on an unprecedented scale. Governments expanded still further, taking on tasks such as mass education.

      After the Industrial Revolution took hold, furthermore, Europe was able to...

      (pp. 330-332)
    • CHAPTER 18 POPULATING THE EARTH: Explosion, Migration, and New Controls
      (pp. 333-345)

      The period 1750–1914 witnessed a nearly vertical rise in population, encompassing most areas of the world, though to different degrees. Asian populations almost doubled. European populations nearly tripled. (Those in Russia quadrupled.) African population growth was more modest, at 30 percent, but still extremely rapid by any prior standard. American populations increased ninefold. The global rate, finally, was over 110 percent. Only Pacific Oceania fell back, due to the final major impact of contact on virgin soil populations; but even here, vigorous growth resumed after 1850.

      There were several causes of this unprecedented increase. Prior population growth, particularly in...

      (pp. 346-356)

      Trends of strengthening and rationalizing the state, already prominent in the early modern period, continued in 19th-century western Europe. The result became something of a model for other societies, for the results, in sheer power terms, were obvious. Reformers in many regions tried to copy European bureaucratic and military organization and even prosaic developments such as modern tax collection. There was also wide interest in the expansion of functions of the European state, particularly its growing responsibilities for mass and elite education and for public health. Limited forays into state-sponsored welfare won less international attention at this point.

      Use of...

      (pp. 357-369)

      Many historians view what is often termed the “long” 19th century as the low point for women around the world, with new opportunities for men—gaining an education, earning vast amounts of money through trade or industry, traveling to new areas, choosing their own political leaders—remaining inaccessible to women because of legal restrictions or traditional norms. They note that during this period women were both held back by old and new institutions and left back as the gap between their experiences and those of the men from their area and social class widened. Women in many parts of the...

      (pp. 370-385)

      The greatest theme of the long 19th century was industrialization and the subsequent changes in work patterns. During this period, however, only a minority of civilizations underwent the process of industrialization. The first was western Europe, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, with North America (the United States and Canada) following a few decades later. Only in the last decades of the 19th century did Japan and Russia join in the small group of countries that had substantial industry. In these countries, the introduction of factory work transformed how people lived and spent their leisure time. Initially, industrialization...

      (pp. 386-387)

      Most world historians argue that the Industrial Revolution should be compared with the advent of agriculture, in shifting the basic framework of human existence. Even in its first century and a half, industrialization created unprecedented military weapons. It spurred the growth of European cities to embrace, in some cases, over half the total population–another historical first. It redefined key problems of government but also gave states new means to contact and compel (or solicit) ordinary people.

      Yet the long 19th century was just a beginning, and it is not surprising that tremendous diversity persisted. Industrialization enhanced international economic gaps,...

      (pp. 388-390)
  10. PART VI The Contemporary Period, 1914–

    • [PART VI Introduction]
      (pp. 391-395)

      Several fundamental developments differentiated the 20th century from the modern period that had preceded it. First, rapid population increase and massive urban growth through most of the world altered the structure of human existence and placed new demands on the environment. Second, the pace and intensity of international contacts accelerated, due in part to revolutionary developments in transportation and communication. Third, the world economy was partially redefined. Because of rapid industrialization in East Asia and considerable manufacturing growth in other parts of the world, the old disparity between an industrial West and raw-materials-producing regions was modified, though economic inequalities remained...

      (pp. 396-399)
      (pp. 400-422)

      The huge world population growth of the 19th century proved a pale foreshadowing of the massive surge of the 20th century. Correspondingly, the seemingly unending proliferation of the human species was one of the key developments—many would argue,thekey development—in 20th-century world history.

      Between 1900 and approximately 2000, world population surged from 1.6 billion people to 6.2 billion—it quadrupled. Every region participated, but as always in human history, there were important differentials. The Asian populations rose at only slightly more than the overall world rate, while the Americas and particularly Africa strongly surpassed the rate; the...

      (pp. 423-444)

      The 20th century witnessed immense political and cultural changes, in virtually every society. Almost all the colonial regimes, monarchies, and empires dominant in 1900 were gone by 2000. Several societies experienced numerous changes in basic regime during the century. Few societies, also, maintained the same basic cultural patterns that existed in 1900: Key traditional religions were challenged, and even successful religious counterthrusts involved major innovations. Artistic expressions shifted widely with the spread of international styles and “modern art.”

      Relationships between the world’s population explosion and the pattern of cultural and political change are not obscure. Population pressure helps explain recurrent...

      (pp. 445-458)

      The tremendous political, demographic, and economic changes of the 20th century shaped all areas of gender structures for many people of the world. Family relationships, the gender division of labor, and women’s access to political rights and education were often quite different at the end of the century than they had been at the beginning, but change was not uniform or unidirectional. For members of political and economic elites throughout the world, international connections became increasingly common and swift, so that their ideas of the proper roles and possibilities for men and women generally grew more similar and more egalitarian....

      (pp. 459-474)

      The 20th century, especially the second half, represents a new era in the development of labor. Fundamental new trends included an explosive growth in service jobs and the transfer of manufacturing jobs from the oldest industrialized regions to what had remained, up to 1900, essentially agricultural civilizations. The pursuit of leisure changed ever more radically, with new forms of entertainment emerging and with the ever-growing commercialization of sports on a global scale. The changes were similar to those involving gender, and often interrelated.

      For many work patterns, the first half of the 20th century can be seen as an extension...

      (pp. 475-477)

      Trends in 20th-century world history inevitably raise questions about where the world is heading. The future, obviously, will be shaped by the past, and particularly the recent past. Questions about ongoing trends are important, but answers that point toward the future must inevitably be tentative.

      For example, the 20th century saw massive political upheavals; innovation was a fundamental theme. But decisions about what political system to adopt varied, shaped by each society’s prior institutions and values and by the precise circumstances of the 20th century itself. Former colonies, for example, without recent political experience save in resistance, had different options...

      (pp. 478-480)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 481-496)
    (pp. 497-498)