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Syllabus for World Civilizations course

Note: This syllabus is presented here as a historical document only. Paul Brians is retired and this course is no longer offered by WSU.

World Civilizations
General Education 110, Section 5
Spring 2004
Instructor: Paul Brians

Teaching assistant: Meghan Soptich

Paul Brians, et al. Reading About the World, Volume 1 (3rd edition) (core text)
William J. Duiker & Jackson J. Spielvogel. World History to 1800 (4th edition) (supplementary text)

About this course

World Civilizations is designed to achieve several goals: 1) familiarize students with basic facts of geography, history, and culture that every educated person needs to know to be an informed citizen of the world, 2) provide a foundation for later courses in many fields which assume such general knowledge, 3) illustrate the rich variety of ways that human beings have found of living in civilizations and 4) stimulate your curiosity to learn more.

It is a two-semester course of which 110 is the first semester. Although students are allowed to take 111 without having taken 110 first, it is greatly to your benefit to follow the logical sequence.

Please note that this is not a traditional history course. WSU has specified that this course should be granted credit half as a social science course and half as a humanities and arts course. This means that the literature, architecture, art, and music portions are not merely supplementary, but an essential part of the core of the course. We will be emphasizing cultural themes and patterns rather than events and chronologies. You will be asked to memorize very few dates; but you will be expected to trace and compare concepts across various civilizations.

Some students are surprised to find that the course deals very heavily with religion. Whereas in modern secular society religion tends to be compartmentalized as a largely private sphere set apart from normal concerns, in ancient times religion was often the organizing principle which gave shape to social patterns, the arts, government, law, the economy, and practically every other aspect of life. We study the great world religions not to convert anyone to or from any of them but to provide the basic information that is necessary to understand both our human past and present. No one religion is privileged: all are studied as valuable ways to understand the human experience.


Because this course covers far too much varied material to make it reasonable to base grades entirely on the large exams, there will be daily quizzes which will also test your memory of the reading material. Together they count as much as one of the large exams (each is worth a little more than half a point). These will be simple, short-answer questions for the most part, normally selected from the questions listed with that day’s reading assignment. There may seem to be a lot to learn, but these questions are in fact intended to help you narrow your focus down to the issues and facts which your professor feels are most important. They should make studying the text much easier. For purposes of the daily quizzes, you should have memorized answers to the five questions for that day’s assignment which are marked with an asterisk [*] before coming to class. The answers to the remaining questions you are expected to be able to use in writing answers on the three large examinations. Students who are exceptionally curious and ambitious for high grades will also want to read the optional readings and prepare answers to the questions linked to them. Some of these topics will be covered in more detail in lecture; others you are expected to learn from your reading alone. The traditional standard of a minimum of two hours of homework outside of class for each hour in class should be adequate for most students, but a quick skimming will definitely not be adequate for this class.

Because the quizzes are the most accurate gauge of your participation in the class, you must pass a minimum number of them. Anyone failing or not taking more than 20 of the quizzes will receive in “F” in the course.

The quizzes are also a method of measuring class participation, including attendance. For that reason–and because such behavior is disruptive and rude–students are not allowed to come to class just to take the quiz and leave. If you have a valid excuse for not coming to class, talk to me or the TA so that you can make up the quiz later. (Valid excuses include illnesses, family emergencies, etc., but not just being busy.) You are responsible for contacting the teaching assistant immediately upon your return to make up the quiz when you have an excused absence; make-ups for absences which occurred for a longer time in the past will not be allowed. If you will have to leave class early for an unavoidable reason, always inform the teacher or the TA ahead of time, or your quiz will not be counted. Quizzes may occur at the beginning or ending of any class, or both.

Map Quizzes

There will be five map quizzes in which you will be asked to identify countries, cities, rivers, etc. on blank maps. A list of places to memorize for each quiz is available here. The study maps are in Duiker (except for the one of India, which is here on line), and even more useful ones are available here.

Online maps to study for map quizzes


Library Assignment

Cultural Event Assignment

List of cultural events for this semester

World Wide Web Assignment

Readings and Lecture


Extra Credit

List of Acceptable Films for Extra Credit available for viewing at Media Materials Services Floor G (downstairs in the rotunda), Holland Library.


Helpful Hints for Improving Performance in this Class

Answers to student questions

Exam study tips from 110 students

Lisa Simpson studies for her World Civ exam

Places you’ve traveled to or lived in

Feedback on Exam 1a

Feedback on Exam 1b

Feedback on Exam 2

Note: The numbers in parentheses after lecture titles are the numbers of the pages of the textbooks to be read before coming to class on the assigned date. You will be held responsible for the material on those pages, including maps, illustrations with their captions, and the historical and literary readings in boxes. Note that an asterisk [*] indicates a day when there is a test or when you must turn in an assignment. The asterisk is next to or below the date on which the assignment is due. An asterisk before a question indicates that it may be used as a quiz question for that day’s class. There are a few asterisked questions for each class, never more than five. Answers to the other questions should be prepared as well so that you can follow the lecture and prepare answers for the larger examinations.

Disability Policy

Reasonable accommodations are available for students who have a documented disability. Please notify the instructor during the first week of class of any accommodations needed for the course. Late notification may cause the requested accommodations to be unavailable. All accommodations must be approved through the Disability Resource Center (DRC) in Administration Annex 206, 335-3417.

Part I: Beginnings: The Background to Civilization

A. Before Civilization

B. Early Civilizations

Part II: Ancient Civilizations

A. Greece & Rome

B. India

C. China

Part III: Expanding

A. The Rise and Spread of Islam

B. Japan

C. Europe

D. The Americas

Thursday, May 6. Final examination will cover material taught in Part III only. The exam will be given at 7:00-9:00 PM in this room. Students must be present at this time to take the exam; no examinations will be given early or late for any reason.