Explorations in World History I (HIST 501)

2022 Fall
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Mehmet Kuru mkuru@sabanciuniv.edu,
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Doctoral, Master
Interactive,Discussion based learning
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This is the first of a sequence of two term-courses that are required of all MA students in History. It is a general survey course that explores specific themes and periods from the first human communities to c. 1500, and problematizes them in comparative, theory-intensive ways. It runs parallel to the SPS 101 (Humanity and Society I) freshman course, which serves as the teaching practicum of HIST 501 for SU graduate students in History who also serve as SPS 101 section instructors. Both SPS 101 and HIST 501 embody a discrete, step-function view of historical development, examining sets of institutional-cultural "solutions" situated along each major material-technical threshold, without however proceeding in a continuous narrative from one such locus to another. Topics dealt with in the first semester include : Modernity's subsumptions and transformations of pre-modernities; comparing contemporary with prehistoric hunters and gatherers; nomadic pastoralism, mounted archers, steppe empires; the economics of peasant production; the role of movement and conquest in history; "dark ages" and state formation; precocious maritime civilizations in Antiquity; tributary states and societies; the function and varieties of fief distribution; types of urban space and culture; the world on the eve of the "European miracle"; the Italian Renaissance as the dawn of early modernity.


To acquire (i) a comprehensive vision of pre-modern history with a special emphasis on the unequal development of agrarian societies in Europe and elsewhere; (ii) an initial familiarity with historiographical debates and developments surrounding various phases or aspects of pre-modernity; (iii) critical insights into Eurocentrism and its reactive derivatives.


  • (a) A basic grasp of historical thinking as applied to pre-modern societies; (b) a capacity to assume responsibility for the corresponding discussion sections of a first-year undergraduate survey course in world history; (c) a capacity to take higher, more sophisticated courses in historiography. Upon completion of this course, students should also be able to describe the origins of World History as a historiographical genre and its marginal, yet creative and challenging position in relation to the more dominant monographical approach of the historicist tradition.


  Percentage (%)
Midterm 60
Written Report 20
Presentation 20



Over 2000 pages per semester, including certain chapters from various books such as Clive Ponting (World History : A New Perspective), Patricia Crone (Pre-Industrial Societies), Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel), Michael Cook (A Brief History of the Human Race), and Peter Stearns (Western Civilization in World History), as well as other, more specific article, paper, or selected chapter assignments.