All Good Things Flow…
Then the greatness of our city brings it about that all the good things from all over the world flow in to us-Pericles of Athens
The above quotation, sometimes translated as “All good things flow to the city“, reveals a crucial element of human civilization. No matter how diverse a democracy becomes or how much an empire expands, cities are at its cultural, political, and social centre. This semester, you will study major events, key eras, social change, and radical innovation in the West over a 500 year period; as you do so, you will consider how a city of your choice survived these tumultuous centuries.
While I am willing to consider other options, the cities below are most relevant to the course. I’d like to have no more than 5 students focusing on a particular city:
I really wanted to add Bioshock’s Rapture to the list, especially since the quotation from Pericles appears in the game. Unfortunately, since Rapture is not a real place…
Other Course Considerations
Will there be theory?
Yes. If you want to play with the big kids next year, you better have some big ideas. It would be even more beneficial if these ideas had a theoretical foundation.
Will there be blood?
Yes, there will; thankfully, it will be neither yours nor mine. James Joyce may have been right when he said that history is a nightmare from which we cannot awake. Hobbes may also have been correct when he said that life is short, nasty, and brutish. Either way, the study of history often involves delving into the unpleasant side of human existence. Key components of this course include several revolutions and full-scale wars, so be prepared for the occasional discussion of bloody details.
Will there be Catholicity?
Sure. Besides discussing several Religious Orders, we will also closely examine the role religion played in European conflict. Even when we are not discussing faith explicitly, social justice and the value of human life will always be relevant.
Projected Assignments for This Year
Assignments in blue will focus on your city.
- Historical Dialogue (Pair work: discussing historical events through the lens of historical schools)
- 7 Minute Walkabout Presentations: a 20th Century event that defined your city
- 20th Century Test
- Annotated Bibliography: Your city in the 18th century
- Test: French Revolution
- Podcasting the Industrial Revolution
- Tutorial Leading: A short reading about your city (spread throughout the semester, in sync with events in course)
- Culminating Activity (essay): Key events that shaped (insert your city here)
Our First Focus: Working Backwards
History is usually taught chronologically, and for obvious reasons. Tracing important events, trends, and changes in the order in which they occurred helps students develop an understanding of cause and effect relationships. Society, however, finds this difficult because our collective understanding of the past is limited. We forget events from ten years ago with startling ease; thus, when current events challenge, shock, or even harm us, we have difficulty seeing the historical factors that made such alarming events possible. We are left with trite and simplistic explanations that do more harm than good.
Our First Goal: To Reach Accurate Conclusions Based on Research Instead of Assumptions
Over the next two days, your group will attempt to trace the factors that shape a current world issue or crisis. Instead of providing a detailed description of the issue, you will provide a list of events that may have contributed–and even caused–this crisis. Remember, our goal is to move beyond the immediacy of the last 10 years.
First, however, I need you to read a few pages about traffic. Yes, traffic. These pages will help you understand how everyone, including “experts”, can make costly assumptions. Please go to this link, and read pages 71-74. Begin reading at the paragraph starting with Engineering.