Episode 31 – Scientific Racism

How do you teach the evolution of race and racism in world history?  From the post-classical era to the Enlightenment and industrial era, Matt and Dave explore the historical construction of race.  How did ideas of race evolve in a world-historical context and how was this social construct then used to justify hierarchies?   Tune in to find out.

St. Maurice’s statue at the Magdeburg Cathedral


Dave – Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography by Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully

Matt – The Mismeasure of Man (Revised & Expanded) by Stephen Jay Gould


Episode 30 – Conference Hype!

In today’s episode, I talk Great Lakes History Conference as we reach the one-week-to-go mark! With me is Andrew Peterson, a visiting assistant professor at GVSU, and we talk about his panel on “Rethinking the World History Survey.” We chat about his career arc, how to orient a world history survey around the environment, exchange networks, and energy regimes, how to solve problems related to periodization, and why the X-Files monster episodes are redeemable (they are!). The full presentation is planned for October 21 at 3:15pm, and he will be joined by Craig Benjamin (GVSU), Whitney Dirks-Schuster (GVSU), Leah Gregory (SDSU), and Alex Holowicki (Maui College). For more information on other panels and presentations please visit the conference website. Recommendations are:

Andrew – Collingham, A Taste of War

Dave – Pauketat, Cahokia (and Homefront + Paradise Lost from Deep Space Nine)

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Episode 29 – Herero Heroes

In this episode Matt and I look at controversies over historical statues around the world, with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. I describe my visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, how I stumbled upon a Place de la Force Publique in Kinshasa, and then go in depth (over a couple beers!) discussing how the Herero Genocide was remembered in public spaces. Monuments to the Herero dead, the Schutztruppe rider, Eugen Fischer‘s skull experiments, and Namibia’s Heroes Acre are all discussed, as is the vicious counterinsurgency war that led to the genocide. A great BBC documentary and an article by Reinhart Kössler are key sources on the subject. The extermination order and an image of Herero survivors after crossing the Kalahari can be found here and here. Recommendations are:

Matt – Dickinson, The Traitor Baru Cormorant; Frederickson, Racism: A Short History; Andrews, Afro-Latin America; Manning, The African Diaspora

Dave – Gewald, Herero Heroes (HT for the episode title!)

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Episode 28 – Remembering Virginia Boyd

Today, Matt and I talk about the ongoing controversy over the removal of Confederate monuments in the United States and the importance of public history to our discipline. Matt recently made the case for the removal of the statue in Houston named “The Spirit of the Confederacy.” We argue that we make choices in terms of how we remember the past, and that celebrating those who resisted slavery, like Virginia Boyd, is a more appropriate use of public space. Matt’s speech, the letter from Virginia Boyd to her slave master in 1853, the Washington Post call to action for medievalists, Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told, an article on the German military myth that they were not involved in the Holocaust, and even links to the book written by Judge Norman G. Kittrell (who gave a speech at the unveiling of the statue) are all available online. Those who wish to contribute to the Gofundme’s for a Houston student injured in Charlottesville, those arrested in Durham, or the family of Heather Heyer can follow the links here. Our next episode will look in more depth at other examples from world history that can help contextualize the current situation in the US. Recommendations are:

Matt – Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves

Dave – Atieno-Odhiambo and Lonsdale (eds), Mau Mau and Nationhood

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Episode 27 – Absolute 90s

In this episode, Matt and I sit down over some fine 90s music (and a PC Pils from Founders for the Big Pitcher!) to discuss an important article published after the end of the Cold War; Benjamin Barber’s “Jihad vs McWorld.” In it, Barber describes two futures – one marked by the violent forms of ethno-nationalism he terms jihad, and the other by the globalist consumerism of McWorld. The twist is that he argues neither of these futures is good for democracy. We debate the coherence of capitalism, war profiteering, the value of local democracy, and the merits of Terminator 2, Hackers, Jurassic Park, and Independence Day (the celebrations Matt mentions are here). Recommendations are:

Dave – Mitchell, Carbon Democracy

Matt – Wright, The World and a Very Small Place in Africa

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Special Mini Episode – Great Lakes History Conference!

For the first time ever, this podcast is part of a conference! And in this special mini episode, my conference co-coordinator (Mike Huner) and I discuss this years Great Lakes History Conference in Grand Rapids, MI. Hosted by the Grand Valley State University History Department, this conference has been going for 40 years, and the theme this year is research in action – specifically, how historical research makes its way into the public sphere, either through teaching, the media, or political engagement. The plan is to include panels of interest to both high school and university instructors, and there will also be a number of workshops focused on pedagogy (including a day-long session on Reacting to the Past!). We are also proud to welcome our keynote speaker, Michelle Moyd from Indiana University – Bloomington. She published Violent Intermediaries: African Soldiers, Conquest, and Everyday Colonialism in German East Africa in 2014, and more recently featured in The Guardian writing about languages of resistance.  Her lecture is entitled “Radical Potentials: World War I as Global South War,” and she will also be leading a discussion on the work of filmmaker Raoul Peck. All podcast listeners are welcome to attend, and registration is FREE! The call for papers has detailed info on how to submit a paper/panel (due July 15), and detailed conference info can be found on the podcast website.

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Episode 26 – Germ Warfare

Matt and I have been together in Utah for the AP World History reading, and today we managed to find some time in the evening to talk about environmental history and its place in the study of the Age of Revolutions. Key sources are Mosquito Empires and Pox Americana as we look at how differential immunity played a crucial role in the fate of the Haitian and American Revolutions respectively. We also discuss ways to give disease an important place in events without giving in to environmental determinism, a discussion that was well lubricated by whiskey from High West Distillery. A source for Kwame Nkrumah’s suggested mosquito statue in Accra can be found here. Recommendations are:

Matt – Miller, An Environmental History of Latin America

Dave – Dubois, Avengers of the New World


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Episode 25b – Global Goulash

In our second interview with a professor teaching food history, Matt and Andrew discuss how to teach a World History course through food.  Come for the pedagogical insights, stay for the singing canned corn.


Andrew Behrendt’s Syllabus and pörkölt recipe:


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Episode 25a – Food and World History with Lauren Janes

In this episode, I sit down with Lauren Janes, an assistant professor at Hope College in Holland, MI. We discuss her recently published book, her new project on using food case studies to illuminate key themes in world history (potatoes = Columbian Exchange, sugar = Trans-Atlantic slave trade, curry = imperialism, maize = US food aid and Green Revolution), the use of food in world history surveys, and her upper level seminar entitled “A Modern History of Global Food.” We discuss maize and GMOs in Zambia,  Mann’s writing on potatoes, the history of curry, tete de négre (a French dessert created in the late 19th century that you can read about here), the awesomeness of Sidney Mintz, the Algerian wine industry, refrigeration (using Freidburg’s book) and how to make our classes less depressing as we reach the 19th and 20th century. Recommendations are:

Lauren – Collingham, Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors

Dave – Hamilton, Trucking Country


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Episode 24 – Just Tacos

In today’s episode, Matt and I discuss two books that connect food and world history – Planet Taco by Jeffrey Pilcher and Just Food by James McWilliams. Along the way we mention John Wick, Seafalltaco kits, a hilarious new Old El Paso commercial (and check out this older gem!), Primanti sandwiches, life cycle assessments, Bt crops, and lots of restaurants (Tako in Pittsburgh and Donkey Taqueria and Taqueria San Jose in Grand Rapids). Recommendations are:

Matt – Rick Bayless, Mexico: One Plate at a Time

Dave – Pho Anh Trang in Grand Rapids


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Episode 23 – The Food Part 1

In this episode, Matt and I start a three-part arc on food and world history. We discuss how to teach sugar (using Sidney Mintz and Eric Williams) and milk (using this article on the Leche Project), before moving on to kumis and nomadic peoples as well as the role of salt and tobacco smuggling in the French Revolution. We conclude by recommending two books on food and world history that we will be discussing in our next episode:

Matt – Pilcher, Planet Taco

Dave – McWilliams, Just Food


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Episode 22 – The Politics of World History

This mini-episode was originally recorded in May 2016 with Tammy Shreiner and was intended to be part of a series of “short cuts” discussing world history resources online. My contribution was an article by Michael Lind about the future of American politics, and how some of the divisions he described seemed quite similar to those I have encountered in the field of world history (and history more broadly). One caveat: this is not intended as a polished piece of scholarly work, but as a reflection on some of the “big pitcher” ideas that shape us as world historians!


Dave – Bender, A Nation among Nations

Tammy – Guarneri, America in the World


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Episode 21 – Comfy Genes

In this episode, Dave and his favorite certified genetic counselor, Katey Mayberry, take a look at the genetic evidence for the settlement of the Americas. The first article, by Rasmussen et al in Nature, deals with the controversial origins of Kennewick Man/the Ancient One, a skeleton found in Washington State and dating back at least 8400 years. The second article, written by Llamas et al in Science Advances, deals more generally with the early migrations into the Americas. Over a couple Canadian beers, we talk about Y-DNA, mtDNA, haplotypes, TMRCA, single-nucleotide polymorphism, and high posterior density with varying levels of success! Follow along at home as I try to make sense of the charts on p.4 of Llamas et al!  This is a highly specialized field, but as Katey makes clear, if used carefully it can be extremely useful to world historians of all types. Recommendations are:

Katey – Genetics Home Reference

Dave – Dillehay, The Settlement of the Americas


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Episode 20 – #FreeBillStrickland

For our 20th episode we bring in Bill Strickland from East Grand Rapids High School to discuss the upcoming changes to the AP world history exam. The acronyms come fast and furious as we go through the SAQs, DBQs, and LEQs and discuss a variety of teaching strategies. We also discuss the infamous “Western penetration” DBQ, Dungeons and Dragons, mapping the Roman Empire, and AP training videos. Recommendations are:

Dave – AHA Digital History Reviews by John Rosinbum

Bill – HistoryHaven.com by John Henderson

Matt – The Economic Role of Women in World History, 600-1914 by Linda Black


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Episode 19 – Bloodlands: Beyond Thunderdome

In Episode 4, I mentioned I used the book Bloodlands by Timothy (not Zack) Snyder when teaching WWII in my world history survey. Our guest Andrew Behrendt was underwhelmed with that choice. Today, Andrew and I enter the Thunderdome and strap into our bungee harnesses as we debate whether this book is useful for world historians. Needless to say, there is some bad blood as he grabs a chainsaw (claiming Snyder poorly defines his geographical space!), I swing a hammer (suggesting that Snyder’s top-down approach may be a necessary corrective to the historiographical turn towards local understandings of violence!), and Matt frantically tries to blow his bosun’s whistle (Snyder’s synthesis does not contain an explicit argument!). Yeah, this one gets nerdy, so nerdy Stathis Kalyvas gets name checked. There are even two Simpson’s references in here! Recommendations are:

Andrew – Prusin, The Lands Between; Collingham, The Taste of War

Dave – Gross, Neighbors; Gross, Fear

Matt – Von Ryan’s Express (1965); Lazare, “Timothy Snyder’s Lies”


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Episode 18 – The WHAppening

No, it’s not an M. Night Shyamalan film, it’s our recap of the World History Association Annual Meeting in Gent, Belgium. We talk Bancroft Prizes (the very nsfw Onion article is here!), podcast stats, a great paper on mapping by Alex Zukas, the Ottoman History Podcast, and why everyone should be a WHA member. After this we do a “Big Pitcher” – Matt is on point with a Belgian Piraat while I lazily grab a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. We discuss my forthcoming course on the history of globalization, and Matt gets theoretical with his suggestions for the syllabus, including Osterhammel, Chase-Dunn and Lerro, and Bayly. My personal favorite book on globalization in the ancient world is by Jennings. Recommendations are:

Matt – Cline, 1177 BC

Dave – Ferguson, Expectations of Modernity


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Episode 17 – The New DB-Cool

After a week in Salt Lake City grading the AP World History exams, Matt and I take a quick look at the changes coming to the document-based question (DBQ). Based on the powerpoint released at the PD event there, we discuss the most significant departures from the old DBQ, which include eliminating points for grouping, point-of-view, and expanded core. As the title suggests, we are big fans of the new DBQ! It reduces the number of documents, requires outside knowledge from the AP curriculum, and asks students to contextualize their arguments in a more meaningful way. We also manage to include references to hockey riots (police were on top of this!), running outside Salt Lake City (Dave recommends this trail), and an article by @smoothkobra (found here). Recommendations are:

Matt – Revised DBQs (2004 Revised DBQ 2003 Revised DBQ as pdfs, 2004 Revised DBQ 2003 Revised DBQ as word documents)

Dave – Frankopan, The Silk Roads


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Episode 16 – An Interview with Niklas Frykman

In this episode, Matt and I chat with Niklas Frykman about the Age of Revolutions! We start by discussing life on an 18th century ship (including a mention of the Diligent by Robert Harms), impressment, cosmopolitan sailors, and why Master and Commander might not qualify as a documentary. We then shift our focus to the Age of Revolutions as a unit in world history, and why it should begin with slave revolts in the Caribbean (like Tacky’s Revolt in Jamaica in 1760) and Pontiac’s War in the American colonies rather than the Enlightenment. Finally, Niklas’ research, including the mutiny on the Hermione and the 1797 Spithead mutinies, takes center stage as we debate what motivates mutineers (for a different perspective, see the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast on the Batavia), and whether life at sea creates a novel sense of community among sailors. Recommendations are:

Dave – McNeill, Mosquito Empires

Niklas – Serna, “Every Revolution is a War for Independence” from The French Revolution in Global Perspective  and Zappia, “Revolutions in the Grass” from Environmental History.

Matt – Rediker, The Amistad Rebellion


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Episode 15 – The Vikings

In this episode Matt and I discuss the Vikings with Jack Bouchard, a returning guest and graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. As we drink three delicious beers, we discuss the question I asked the students in my survey class – were the Vikings unusually violent? We look at how their image changes dramatically after WWII, with less focus on their military talent and more on their meticulous grooming. We also discuss their impact on the English language, their presence in pop culture (Valhalla Rising and The Thirteenth Warrior and Vikings), our favorite Vikings (including GVSU’s Charles Johnson!), the sport of knattleikr, the Reykjavik Police Department Instagram account, and ways to teach Ibn Fadlan. Key sources addressing the Vikings’ violence relative to their contemporaries are Winroth, The Age of the Vikings and Bisson, Tormented Voices. Recommendations are:

Matt – Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony

Dave – Somerville and McDonald, The Vikings and Their Age

Jack – Fitzhugh and Ward, Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga and Wickham, The Inheritance of Rome


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Google Play Coming Soon!

Episode 14 – An Interview with Molly Warsh

In this episode, Matt and I talk to Molly Warsh, an assistant professor in the history department at Pitt and associate director at the World History Center there. We talk about her research on the pearl industry, the future of world history research, pirates (including my personal favorite) and her global piracy class (the syllabus is here), the differences between introductory and upper-level world history courses, and the gendered dynamics of class discussions. Recommendations are:

Dave – Robins, Mercury, Mining, and Empire

Matt – Mintz, Sweetness and Power (NOT Richard S. Dunn, Sugar and Slaves)

Molly – James, A Brief History of Seven Killings

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Episode 13 – “Texting in Class” Review of Strayer

In this episode, Matt and I debut a new segment in this podcast called “Texting in Class.” During this segment we review a popular world history textbook and provide some insights into its strengths and weaknesses. We start with one of Matt’s favorites, Robert Strayer’s Ways of the World. After a brief discussion of the format and its suitability to the new AP world history curriculum, we give glowing praise to its use of visual sources (some dealing with representations of Buddha can be found here) as well as its chapters on nomadic peoples and European imperialism. In the second half of the episode we debate the merits and challenges with narrative-heavy textbooks, before examining his analysis of the origins of the global economy and the Bantu migrations. Recommendations are:

Matt – Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire

Dave – Vansina, Paths in the Rainforest


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Episode 12 – A Review of Civilization: The West and the Rest

In this episode, Matt and I discuss Niall Ferguson’s controversial bestseller Civilization: The West and the Rest with his grad school colleague Jack Bouchard. It is safe to say that none of us are huge fans of the “six killer apps” that Ferguson believes account for the supremacy of the “West,” particularly due to his heavy reliance on 19th century scholarship like this. Citing more recent work like R. Bin Wong’s China Transformed and Davis’ Late Victorian Holocausts, we suggest ways to challenge Ferguson’s popular narrative and teach a more complex explanation for the “rise of the West.” Recommendations are:

Matt – Rosenthal and Bin Wong, Before and Beyond Divergence

Jack – Pomeranz, The Great Divergence

Dave – Fallows, China Airborne

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Episode 11 – An Interview with Tamara Shreiner

In this episode I interview Tammy Shreiner, an assistant professor of social studies education at Grand Valley State University. She describes her work on the “World History For Us All” project, a collaborative endeavor between K-12 teachers and university professors – the unit on the history of living rooms can be found here. We also discuss her doctoral research on how high school students think about history, the impact of state standards on secondary-level world history, and the importance of data literacy for historians. For those interested my ugly Christmas sweatshirt looked exactly like this. Book recommendations are:

Dave – Jerven, Poor Numbers

Tammy – Maier and Imazeki, The Data Game

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Episode 10 – The Transition from High School to University

In this episode Matt and I discuss how teachers can prepare students for the transition from high school to university. We are joined by three of our close friends from the AP World History reading to help us with this subject; Eric Jones (associate professor of Southeast Asian studies at Northern Illinois University), Jennifer Sweatman (assistant professor of history at Washington and Jefferson College), and Jennifer Beck (AP World History teacher at Loyalsock Township High School). Together we discuss the AP reading, university-level expectations, possible reading and writing assignments, and our most inspiring history teachers. We also choose one book or album if stranded on a desert island, with Dave and Jenn S opting for classic literature, Jenn B fending off the hunger pains, and Matt and Eric bringing rather divergent musical options. Recommendations are:

Eric – Toer, This Earth of Mankind

Jenn S – Feraoun, Journal: 1955-62

Dave – Lee, The Ugly Renaissance

Matt – Ferrar, Freedom’s Mirror

Jenn B – Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me

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Episode 9 – An Interview with Eric Jones

In this episode, Matt and I discuss the place of Southeast Asia in world history with Eric Jones, an associate professor of history as well as assistant director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University. During our interview, he talks about how he fell in love with the region and key aspects of its history, including the role of women like Sitie in pre-colonial trading organizations, the birth of the Dutch East India Company, colonial forms of exploitation in Java, the spread of Islam into the region, and the local significance of WWII and the Vietnam War. His recently published book Wives, Slaves, and Concubines: A History of the Female Underclass in Dutch Asia is available on Amazon and speaks to several of the examples listed above. He also mentions other teaching resources including Bradley’s Imagining Vietnam and America. Finally, special thanks go out to him for creating the music you hear on this podcast and the special live version of the theme used at the beginning of this podcast – his band is called Buffalo Jump and if you live in the Chicagoland area, you should totally check them out! Book recommendations are as follows:

Dave – Keys, Catastrophe

Matt – Wang, White Lotus Rebels

Eric – Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed


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Episode 8b – An Interview with Craig Benjamin

This episode is the second part (first part is here) of an interview with leading “big-historian” Craig Benjamin. Over a couple of Fosters we discuss big-history critics, first-year courses, world history textbooks (including his own), the AP reading, and the World History Association (WHA). My book recommendation is an edited volume on teaching big history at the Dominican University of California:

Dave – Teaching Big History

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Episode 8a – An Interview with Craig Benjamin

In this episode I speak with Craig Benjamin on his career as a world historian. He describes his graduate work at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and his fateful meeting with David Christian that led him to become an important proponent of big history. We then discuss how university students respond to the big history “creation-myth” and how to manage the classroom while debating controversial subjects. Episode 8b will be posted shortly, and it includes the second half of this interview. I forgot to ask Craig for a book recommendation during the interview, but I will make amends below;

Dave – Christian, Brown, and Benjamin, Big History: Between Nothing and Everything


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Episode 7 – A Presentation on African Topics in World History

Due to a busy holiday travel schedule, Matt and I were unable to record a new podcast for early December. Instead, we are offering bonus content! In October I presented at the Great Lakes History Conference in Allendale, MI on five African topics for world history instructors. These topics were designed to link with the Michigan social studies curriculum which divides world history into several main time periods. Elementary social studies instructors deal with the pre-1500 period, and I suggest the Indian Ocean coast as an ideal topic. At the high school level, I use the trans-Atlantic slave trade to explore the First Global Age, the life of Sara Baartman to examine the dark side of Global Revolutions (1700-1914), and the Cold War in the Congo as well as soccer in Africa to explore 20th Century and Contemporary Global Issues. This presentation is also available in its entirety on Youtube courtesy of the Michigan Council for History Education, where you can watch the other presenters on my panel (Dr. Michael Huner and Dr. David Zwart, both from Grand Valley State University) as well as the questions from the audience. While there is no specific recommendation section to this episode, each of the following books explores one of my topics in depth – Mugane, The Story of SwahiliWalvin, The Zong; Crais and Scully, Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus; Nzongola-Ntalaja, Patrice Lumumba; Alegi, African Soccerscapes

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Episode 6 – Assessment

In this episode, Matt and I discuss how we evaluate our performance in the classroom over a round of Shiner Bock beer. We reminisce about our favorite lectures during our undergrad days, me at a small liberal arts college in central Ontario with sports teams called the Excalibur, and Matt at a small liberal arts college in Houston with an endowment roughly equal to the GDP of Bhutan or Bermuda. We then debate how we can make lectures interesting, use student feedback, and assess our own performance as an instructor. Recommended books are:

Dave – Simon, Behmand, and Burke, Teaching Big History

Matt – Tovani, Do I Really Have To Teach Reading?

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Episode 5 – Easter Island

This episode expands on our Easter Island subject guide, and critiques how most textbooks deal with its history. This remote locale is famous for its mysterious moai, the massive stone heads which have become iconic for the hubris of its inhabitants. Flenley and Bahn, along with Jared Diamond, suggest the island was deforested in order to build these statues, leading to starvation and cannibalism. However, Hunt and Lipo argue that the island was deforested by a far less intimidating creature, and present a much more hopeful narrative from Easter Island’s past. Recommended books are:

Dave – Kirch, On the Road of the Winds

Matt – Matsuda, Pacific Worlds

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Episode 4 – An Interview with Andrew Behrendt

In this episode Matt and I do our first-ever interview with Andrew Behrendt, a University of Pittsburgh grad student and soon-to-be-minted PhD in Eastern European history. We discuss the transition from area studies to world history, the Fordham University History Sourcebooks including the response of Pope Nicholas I to the Bulgar Khan, possible world history topics drawn from Eastern Europe, the refugee crisis in Hungary (including a summary video and the Hungarian Spectrum blog) and how the edge of the steppes is a little like New Jersey. Our recommendations include two (well, maybe just one!) classics of Eastern European cinema.

Andrew – Wajda, Ashes and Diamonds (1958)

Dave – Appelbaum, Iron Curtain

Matt – Annaud, Enemy at the Gates (2001) – link goes to scene discussed in podcast

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Episode 3 – Content vs Skills in World History

In this episode Matt and I debate whether to prioritize content or skills in the world history classroom. We also reference Lendol Calder’s famous “Uncoverage” article from 2006 while discussing a possible ‘signature pedagogy’ for world historians. Book recommendations are:

Dave – Levesque, Thinking Historically

Matt – MacGregor, A History of the World in 100 Objects

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Episode 2 – A Review of Guns, Germs, and Steel

In this episode Matt and I discuss Jared Diamond’s extremely popular book Guns, Germs, and Steel. We examine criticisms of Diamond’s research, and offer suggestions as to how it can be used in the classroom. Recommended books are:

Dave – Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest

Matt – Mann, 1491; Rushforth, Bonds of Alliance

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Episode 1 – Designing a World History Survey

In this episode Matt and I discuss our first experiences teaching world history, focusing on the mistakes we made and what we do differently now. Recommended books are:

Dave – Burton, A Primer for Teaching World History

Matt – McNeill and McNeill, The Human Web

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