History 112: Western Civilization I (to 1500)


Fall Semester 2013


Section A, 10:00-10:50 MWF





Dr. John Moser

119 Andrews (TTh)

100 Founders (MWF)

(419) 289-5231

E-mail: jmoser1@ashland.edu


Office Hours: 1:00 – 3:00 Tuesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment



Required Reading:


Brian A. Pavlack, A Concise Survey of Western Civilization: Supremacies and Diversities throughout History, vol. I: Prehistory to 1500 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011), ISBN 1442207825.


Coursepack (to be distributed electronically)



Course Description:


This course will introduce students to the most important events, individuals, and ideas in the history of Western Civilization, from its beginnings to roughly 1500.  At the same time, however, it seeks to go further.  Over the semester we will focus on a number of important issues, including: the origins of civilization; the development of Hebrew monotheism; the rise of citizenship and philosophy in ancient Greece; the rise and decline of the Roman Empire; the birth of evolution of Christianity; medieval politics, culture and society; and finally the Renaissance and the birth of the modern age.



Course Objectives:


1)    To provide the basic facts about the evolution of Western Civilization from its origins through the Renaissance, with an emphasis on showing how change occurs over time.

2)    To enable students to use facts as “raw material” in making coherent arguments about the past.

3)    To enhance students’ capacity to grapple with difficult texts through daily reading assignments.

4)    To develop students’ ability to communicate in both oral and written form, through class discussion and brief written assignments.



Course Policies:


The following factors will make up your final grade—


Two Hourly Examinations (30%)


These exams will be a combination of essay questions, identifications (short-answer), and map identifications (that is, I will ask you to point out cities, countries, rivers, etc., on a blank map of Europe).  The essays will require you to marshal facts to answer questions on broader historical themes.  An example might be, “Did moral decline bring about the end of the Roman Republic?” or “Why did feudalism last as long as it did?”  You will be asked to make an argument; you will not be graded so much on what stand you take, but rather on your ability back up your position with historical evidence.


The exams are scheduled for Monday, September 23 and Wednesday, October 30.  Alternate exam dates will only be set in case of medical emergency (with documentation required).  You will be required to bring bluebooks in which to write your answers.


Final Examination (20%)


The university has scheduled the final for this course for Monday, December 10, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., although this is subject to change.  An alternate exam date will be set in case of medical emergency (with documentation required).  As with the midterm, the final will be a combination of essay and identification, and bluebooks will be required.


Ten Quizzes (10%)


Over the course of the semester I will give a series of pop quizzes, made up of questions taken directly from the assigned readings for that day.  The purpose of these quizzes will be simply to make sure that you are keeping up with the reading; they will therefore be fairly straightforward, with multiple choice or true-false questions.  There will be twelve quizzes given, but only the best ten scores will be counted.


Two Writing Assignments (20%)


Each student is required to write two brief (1000-1500 word) essays dealing with a particular question concerning the history of Western Civilization.  The dates on which these papers will be due depends on which questions you choose to answer.  Each class session will be devoted to a specific “main question” which may be found on the Course Schedule below; for example, the question for August 26 is, “What were the main problems that came along with the rise of human civilization?”  If you choose to write an essay in response to this question, it will be due on that date.  You are free to choose any two questions you wish.  However, everyone will have to turn in one essay on or before Wednesday, October 18, and one after that date.  I will not accept late papers.


If you choose to submit a paper for one of the five days when we will be role-playing (September 16, October 14, or November 6, 13, or 25), your assignment will be slightly different.  You will be expected to write this essay in character, putting forward the sort of argument that a person in your situation would have likely made.  For example, if for the September 16 role-play (“Athens or Sparta?”) you are assigned the role of an advocate of democracy, you should write as if you really were a citizen of a Greek city-state, pointing out the strengths of an Athenian-style government and the shortcomings of Spartan oligarchy.  If you are playing the role of an undecided, your paper is due during the next class, but you will be expected to draw not only on the readings, but on the papers written by other students on the same subject.  In this case your paper should explain why you chose one side over the other.


These essays are designed to allow you to demonstrate that you understand the readings and their historical importance, and that you are able to communicate those ideas in writing.  They usually will not involve additional research on your part, so footnotes and bibliography are unnecessary.  However, they will require you to study and reflect carefully on the assigned readings.  Since this course fills a core requirement (Historical Reasoning), writing plays a critical role, so I expect you to put serious and sustained effort into your papers.  That means that not only will I be grading for content, but for things like organization, spelling, word choice, and grammar.  For more information about style and method, see the department’s “Guidelines for Writing Scholarly Papers,” available here.  


I use the following rough standard in grading written assignments:


A—MASTERFUL.  An “A” essay is clearly written and contains no grammatical or typographical errors.  It demonstrates mastery of the relevant material and offers significant new insight into the subject.


B—COMPETENT.  A “B” essay is clearly written but may contain a very small number of grammatical or typographical errors.  It clearly relates the facts, gives sound analysis, and provides some interesting insight.


C—ADEQUATE.  A “C” essay or test is clearly written but contains some grammatical or typographical mistakes.  It gives the basic facts and offers some analysis, but probably offers little insight.


D—POOR.  A “D” essay is intelligible but probably suffers from some serious problems in organization, and numerous grammatical or typographical errors.  It often omits important facts, or gets them wrong.  It offers little analysis, and provides no real insight.


F—UNACCEPTABLE.  An “F” essay is poorly written and makes no coherent argument.  It offers little detail, and contains serious errors, both factual and grammatical.  The reader will come away from it with more confusion than insight.


In addition to submitting a hard copy to me on or before the due date, you will be required to upload an electronic version to Turnitin.com.  To do this, follow the directions found here.  When asked for the class ID, enter 6692846; for password, enter “athens” (without quotes).


Attendance and Participation (20%)


This will be a discussion-based course; I will lecture rarely, if ever.  During each class you will be asked to offer your thoughts about the assigned readings for that day, as well as any larger implications.  If you find something confusing, these discussions will present an opportunity for you to seek a clearer understanding.  If you find something particularly interesting, that is the time to try to expand upon it, or to ask questions about it.


Your attendance in class is expected, and consistent participation in discussion will be rewarded.  I insist on at least occasional input from every member of the class, and I reserve the right to assign a failing grade to those who are habitually unprepared—or unwilling—to participate in discussion.


Your involvement will be especially important during the classes where we role-play.  You will be portraying actual characters at important points in history, debating issues that they would have regarded as matters of life or death.  Whether you are giving a speech, asking questions, or simply responding to positively or negatively to something that you hear, you will need to show that you are an active participant.



Academic Integrity:


I strongly advise you to examine the university’s academic integrity policy, which may be found here.  All students are responsible for maintaining the highest standards of honesty and integrity in every phase of their academic careers.  The penalties for academic dishonesty are severe, and ignorance is not an acceptable defense.





If you have a learning disability or some other disability that may affect your performance in this class, it is your responsibility to inform me of this fact as soon as possible.  If you have not already contacted Disability Services, you will need to do this before I alter any of my policies to suit your needs.  The phone number is 289-5953.



Course Schedule, with reading assignments:





Course Introduction



The Dawn of Humankind

How did our earliest ancestors manage to cope with a hostile world?

Pavlac, pp. 13-17



The Dawn of Civilization

What is civilization? What role did agriculture play in its birth?

Pavlac, pp. 17-22



Civilization: The Downside

What were the main problems that came along with the rise of human civilization?

Pavlac, pp. 22-28

Coursepack, pp. 1-14




What were Mesopotamia’s main contributions to Western Civilization?

Pavlac, pp. 28-30

Coursepack, pp. 15-22




What were Egypt’s main contributions to Western Civilization?

Pavlac, pp. 30-34

Coursepack, pp. 23-30



Labor Day (No Class)



The Assyrians and Persians

Compare and contrast the Assyrian and Persian Empires.  Which do you think was more successful, and why?

Pavlac, pp. 34-37

Coursepack, pp. 31-39


The Origins of the Hebrews

How do Hebrew conceptions of religion and government differ from those of the other peoples of the ancient Near East?

Pavlac, p. 39-42

Coursepack, pp. 40-51




The Hebrew Diaspora

How did the Jews maintain their cultural identity despite being scattered throughout the known world?

Pavlac, pp. 42-47

Coursepack, pp. 52-60



The Origins of Greek Civilization

How did the Greeks begin as a people, and expand through the Mediterranean?

Pavlac, pp. 49-52

Coursepack, pp. 61-71



The Greek Polis

How does the Greek understanding of government (its origins, its purpose, the role of the citizen, etc.) differ from that of the Hebrews?

Pavlac, pp. 52-55

Coursepack, pp. 72-76



Role-Play #1: Athens or Sparta?

Which offers a better model for governance of a city-state: Athenian democracy or Spartan oligarchy?

Pavlac, pp. 55-58

Coursepack, pp. 77-88



The Persian and Peloponnesian Wars

How did the Persian and Peloponnesian Wars affect Greek civilization?

Pavlac, pp. 58-63

Coursepack, pp. 89-101



The Triumph of Greek Culture

Thanks to Alexander, which aspects of Greek culture expanded through the ancient West?

Pavlac, pp. 64-69

Coursepack, pp. 102-109


First Examination



The Republic of Rome

What accounts for the Roman Republic's emergence as the dominant force in the Mediterranean region?

Pavlac, pp. 70-75

Coursepack, pp. 110-119



Roman Law

What did the Romans contribute to the tradition of Western law?

Pavlac, pp. 75-77

Coursepack, pp. 120-128



The Decline of the Roman Republic

Why did Rome lose its republican form of government?

Pavlac, pp. 77-79

Coursepack, pp. 129-140




From Republic to Principiate

How did Augustus attempt to restore political stability to Rome?  Did he succeed in the long run?  Why or why not?

Pavlac, pp. 80-84

Coursepack,  pp. 141-150



From Principiate to Dominate

How did Diocletian attempt to restore political stability to the Empire?  How successful was he?

Pavlac, pp. 84-87

Coursepack, pp. 151-156



Roman Thought and Culture

Why might Epicureanism and Stoicism have been seen as harmful to Rome's "traditional values"?

Pavlac, pp. 87-90

 Coursepack, pp. 157-163



The Origins of Christianity

Why did Christianity appear dangerous to Jews and Romans alike?

Pavlac, pp. 91-94

Coursepack, pp. 164-174



The Spread of Christianity

How did Christianity go from being a small persecuted sect of Judaism to a world religion?

Pavlac, pp. 95-99

Coursepack, pp. 175-187



Role-Play #2: Christians, Pagans, and the Altar of Victory

Should Rome’s traditional religion be suppressed?

Coursepack, pp. 188-194



The Fall of the Western Roman Empire

What role—if any—did Christianity play in the fall of the Roman Empire in the West?

Pavlac, pp. 100-104

Coursepack, pp. 195-200



The Origins of Islam

Why did Christian Europe regard Islam as a threat?

Pavlac, pp. 104-107

Coursepack, pp. 201-207



Fall Break (No Class)



Germanic Europe

How do the values and customs of the Germans compare to those of the Romans?

Pavlac, pp. 109-112

Coursepack, pp. 208-215



Christian Monasticism

How might people like St. Antony have posed a potential problem for the Church?  In what sense does St. Benedict's rule offer a solution?

Pavlac, pp. 112-113

Coursepack, pp. 216-225


The Origins of England and France

Why did the Catholic Church triumph in the post-Roman West?

Pavlac, pp. 113-116

Coursepack, pp. 226-233



Second Examination



The Age of Charlemagne

What does the life of Charlemagne tell us about the medieval ideal of kingship?

Pavlac, pp. 116-121

Coursepack, pp. 234-245




How did feudal politics and manorial economics help the West recover from the setbacks of the 9th and 10th centuries?

Pavlac, pp. 121-126

Coursepack, pp. 246-254



Role-Play #3: Kings, Nobles, and Clergy

What were the goals of kings (or nobles, or clergymen) in medieval Britain? What resources were available to them in pursuing those goals?

Pavlac, 127-134

Coursepack, pp. 255-266



The Rise of the Papacy

How did monastic reforms lead to reform of the wider Church, and the creation of the medieval Papacy?

Pavlac, 135-139

Coursepack, pp. 267-276



The Crusades

What does the First Crusade tell us about the Church's place in Europe, and Europe's place in the world, in the 11th and 12th centuries?

Pavlac, pp. 139-142

Coursepack, pp. 277-286



Role-Play #4: The Battle over Investiture

Who should have the power to choose bishops—the Pope or the Emperor?

Pavlac, pp. 142-144

Coursepack, pp. 287-299



Medieval Thought and Culture

How did medieval education attempt to promote the use of both faith and reason?

Pavlac, pp. 145-150

Coursepack, pp. 300-307



The Revival of Trade and the Towns

How would the values of a medieval merchant have differed from those of a clergyman or a nobleman?

Spielvogel, pp. 159-162

Coursepack, pp. 308-313




The Calamitous Fourteenth Century

How did the crises of the 14th century demonstrate the weakness of medieval social and political institutions?

Pavlac, pp. 157-159

Coursepack, pp. 314-320



The Crisis of the Church

Why did the Church fall into decline in the 14th and 15th centuries?

Pavlac, pp. 159-162

Coursepack, pp. 321-329



Role-Play #5: Charles VII, the French Estates, and the Hundred Years’ War

Should the king have the power to tax without consulting the estates?  If so, under what conditions?

Pavlac, pp. 163-171

Coursepack, 330-338



Thanksgiving Break—No Class



Thanksgiving Break—No Class



The Renaissance

In what ways did Renaissance humanism challenge traditional medieval ideas and values?

Pavlac, pp. 171-176

Coursepack, pp. 339-348



Voyages of Discovery

How did the voyages of discovery help to usher in the modern age?

Pavlac, pp. 189-198

Coursepack, pp. 349-358



Final Examination, 10:30 am – 12:30 pm