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Course: History of Civilizations to 1500; Human Culture and the Formation of Empires

Class Hours and Room: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9-9:50 A.M. Rm. H-511


Course Number: HIS 1-002

Semester: Fall 2011


Credits/Hours: 3 credits, 3 hours

Instructor: Nicolás Agrait



Contact Information:

History Department

Rm. H-838

Office Hours: Monday/Wednesday 2-3:30 and by appointment.

Tel. 718-488-1357


I.               Course Description: This class covers the evolution of civilization in Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and Europe until the voyages of discovery. Emphasis is placed on the growth of independent cultural traditions and diffusion of ideas, institutions and peoples.   Students shall tackle the subject matter through lectures, assigned readings and discussion. (from L.I.U. Brooklyn Bulletin 2007-2009)


II.             Course Goals and Objectives:

1)     Diligent students will be able to articulate a definition of History as a professional field through lectures, readings and discussions, and continue to understand how the past is relevant to the present and future.

2)     Diligent students will develop analytical skills by reading both secondary and primary sources.

3)     Diligent students will further develop writing and critical-thinking skills through the completion of at least two term papers.

4)     Diligent students will be prepared to move on to more advanced History courses.


III.           Resources:

1)     Textbook:

The required textbook is Craig, Albert et al. The Heritage of World Civilizations, vol. 1 To 1700. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009. (ISBN 10: 0205803482; ISBN-13: 9780205803484).  Get at the campus bookstore, on your own elsewhere, or online.  Students are also permitted to use the 8th Edition of this textbook (ISBN 10: 0-13-600277-3; ISBN 13: 978-0-13-600277-2), but they are responsible for reconciling any differences in organization and pagination.


2)     Students need to bring a notebook, paper or other material with which to take notes. I-Pads are permitted in class strictly to take notes.


3)     Students absolutely need to have access to a computer with Internet access to complete reading assignments and papers.


4)     Extra Source Readings: see below under Course Calendar.


5)     Web Links:

a)      L.I.U. Prof. Agrait’s History Web Site (

This is the instructor’s personal and academic web site. You can find information regarding his schedule, research and office hours. Most importantly, you can get copies of the course syllabus if you need it.

b)     Internet Ancient History Sourcebook:

c)      Internet Medieval Sourcebook:

d)      Internet Modern Sourcebook:

e)      L.I.U. Brooklyn Electronic Reserves:


6)     How to access ERES:

a)      Whenever a reading has the letters (ERES) right behind it, it means that it is in the Electronic Reserves section of the library and not on the public Internet.



b)     Go to L.I.U. Brooklyn Electronic Reserves: and then click on “Electronic Reserves and Materials”



c)      Look for the course in the main index or using my name.



d)    Enter the course password: 002AGR.



e)      Click on the text you need and you will be able to view and/or print a .pdf version of the readings.  You may not be able to save it to your computer because it may copyright protected.






7)     L.I.U. Attendance and Tardiness Policies: (from L.I.U.-Brooklyn Bulletin)

a)      Attendance: All students are expected to attend classes and to participate in classroom activities. Instructors have the right to weigh attendance and class participation in determining grades. Consequently, excessive absences may negatively affect the evaluation of a student’s performance. Freshmen and probationary students are allowed no more than two class-hour absences per credit hour. All students enrolled in science laboratory courses may not be absent for more than 20 percent of laboratory time. Instructors are urged to record attendance in all classes for counseling purposes.

b)     Tardiness: Students are expected to be present from the beginning of a class until the instructor dismisses it. If students arrive late, they may be denied admission or marked absent.


8)     Additional Course Policies:

a)      Cell Phone, Text-Messagers, Wireless E-mail: these are strictly prohibited during class.  Turn cell phones and pagers off (off, not vibrate, not silent). Any student caught surfing the web or checking e-mail in class will be expelled. Furthermore, any use of electronic devices during quizzes or tests will result in the student failing the test and possibly being referred to the proper L.I.U. authorities for further disciplinary action.

b)     I-Pads: these devices are permitted strictly to taken notes.  They are prohibited for anything else unless authorized by the instructor.

c)      Academic Dishonesty: All dishonest behavior (cheating, plagiarism, disruption) will be subject to severe punishment including grade reduction, expulsion from the class, or other disciplinary action.


IV.           Course Requirements/Assignments

1)     Grading Breakdown



In Class Examinations




Final Examination


Class Participation



If student chooses to write an optional paper:

In Class Examinations




Final Examination


Class Participation





2)     Tests/Quizzes

a)      Examinations: this will be two 50-minute tests that will take place on Fridays, October 14 and November 4. Each will have two sections: an identifications section with items taken from the textbook and discussion questions.  The professor will let the class know which material the students are responsible.

b)     Quizzes: these short identifications tests will take place on the first 10 minutes of the class period for which they are scheduled (Friday September 30, October  21, 28, November 11, 18, December 2).  If you are not in the classroom after the first five minutes, you will not be able to take the quiz (no excuses!).  Students are not allowed to make-up quizzes.  The professor will simply not count the quiz.

c)      Final Examination: this will be in class test scheduled for the exam period and will consist of long discussion questions.  As soon as the final examination schedule is set, the instructor will let the students know when it will take place.


Students may request a make up examination for the examinations or final examination, granted at the discretion of the professor, with a legitimate excuse. Students are not permitted to make up quizzes.




3)     Optional Papers: all papers are to be handed into my mailbox in the History Department or to me personally in my office or in class.



Students may choose to write papers if they are not satisfied with their grades on the quizzes or tests.  These are to be 3-page typewritten, double-spaced essays (handwritten papers will be ignored) on topics provided by the instructor.  Students can write paper throughout the semester but none will be accepted after Friday, November 18, 2011.  The paper will be worth 10% of the grade and will be factored in as shown above.  Students can write as many papers as they want as long as they are all handed in prior to the final deadline.  It is the student’s responsibility to make the instructor aware of any potential problems at any stage of the paper-writing process. Students are also required to hand in a printed copy of the essay AND an electronic copy (e-mail attachment, e-mail message text, CD-Rom, USB flash drive, etc.). The electronic copy will be used to check against plagiarism.  Any papers handed in without an electronic copy will not be graded until the electronic version is received.  If the semester ends without the student handing in either the printed or the electronic version of the paper, the professor will simply not count the essay.  If at all possible, students are encouraged to use MS Word or PDF format.


Anyone caught cheating (misrepresenting information copying papers, buying papers off the web, using cliff-notes, Wikipedia, etc.) will receive an “F” for the paper and and “F” for the class participation portion of the course.  Should the student cheats again, he or she will automatically fail the course and will also be referred to the proper L.I.U. authorities.




Paper Topics:

1)     Read the different creation myths for the Hebrews (, the Chinese ( and the Maya (  In what ways are these stories similar?  In what ways are they different? (You can download a Word version of the Chinese and Maya creation stories if the presentation is too tedious). Hint: concentrate your attention on differences and similarities and summarize each myth as little as possible.



2)     China: Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism
Download and read the following Powerpoint ( and reread Heritage, 43-49, 212-15; 8th ed., pp. 49-56 and 222-26.


After making sure you know the general principles of each of these philosophies, imagine that you step out of L.I.U. unto Flatbush avenue and you see three men run out of Applebees Restaurant.  Shortly after, a bomb goes off inside the restaurant causing great damage, injuring many, and starting a large fire.  Please write three one page essays describing what a Confucianist, Daoist and Legalist would do in response to this situation (one page for each philosophy) and why. Hint: concentrate on describing what each of these persons would do, not on summarizing the PowerPoint slides.



3)     Read the following texts and acquaint yourself with the basic points of Cynic, Epicurean and Stoic philosophies (Heritage, pp. 65-66, 109-110; 8th ed. 73-74, 123-24 and the web site:



Imagine that you are walking on Flatbush Avenue and you see a man crying while he sits in front of his shop, which just went bankrupt.  When you asked him what is wrong he said that he poured all of his life savings and his effort into his business and now that it failed, he and his family are broke. Please write three one page essays describing what a Cynic, Epicurean and Stoic philosopher would say to this man (one page for each viewpoint) and why.  Hint: concentrate on describing what each of these persons would do, not on summarizing the PowerPoint slides.



4)     Read Pericles’ “Funeral Oration” in Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War (Book 2: 34-46) (  What does Pericles think of his homeland of Athens?  What are the most important qualities exhibited by Athenians? What sacrifices does he think must be made to preserve it?



5)     Read Petronius Arbiter, “The Feast of Trimalchio” in the Satyricon, chaps. 5-10 in (  To which Roman social class does Trimalchio belong?  Please choose specific examples from the text to support your answer.



6)     Read the excerpts from the Song of Roland (ERES). Exclusively using this text, what kind of attributes were valued by this culture?  What were some of the most reviled? For some background information you should read chap. 11, pages 327-42 of the textbook.



7)     Read the excerpt from Boccaccio, The Decameron, Introduction ( or (ERES).  Using only this source (and the textbook only for background information), what is the Black Death?  How did the people at the time react to it?

Optional papers are all due on November 18, 2011. NO EXCEPTIONS!!


V.             Modified Course Calendar (Classes, Topics, Reading Assignments): remember that computers are supremely stupid things. Therefore, it is best to go to find your syllabus and then click on the reading assignments web sites.  If you do not type them perfectly your computer (dumb thing) will not know where to send you. The dates of the midterm examinations and quizzes have changed!! Make a note of it. 

Modified Course Calendar: Class and Reading Schedule 




Weds. 14

 First Day of Class (Information, Organization, Etc.)


Fri. 16

Human Civilization: What is required?

Readings Due: Craig, Heritage of World Civilizations, 9th ed. chap. 1. (Hereafter, Heritage).  All chapters and page numbers are listed first from the 9th edition and then from the 8th edition.


Mon. 19

Human Civilization: What is required? (cont.).



Asia/Middle East: Sumerians (cont.)

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 1, pp. 1-14  (8th ed. chap. 1, pp. 4-18.); “The Creation of the Pickax by Enlil or Babylonian Holy Spirit” (, Sumerian Beer: Banquet (, and “Hymn to Ninkasi-Making Beer” (


Fri. 23

Africa: Egyptians

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 1, pp. 14-20 (8th ed. chap. 1, pp. 18-25); Images: Nile Delta from Space (, Hymn to the Nile, c. 2100 BCE (, Museo Egipcio de El Cairo ( , The Court of Amonhotep III at the temple of Luxor (, The Sphynx (, Pyramid of Cheops (


Mon. 26

Africa: Egyptians (cont.).


Weds. 28

Asia: India/Harappan

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 1, pp. 23-30 (8th ed. chap. 1, pp. 28-35.)


Fri. 30

Asia: Harappan/Vedic India (Quiz #1: Chap. 1)

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 2, pp. 49-55; (8th ed. chap. 2, pp. 56-64.)




Mon. 3

Asia: China

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 1, pp. 30-35 (8th. ed. chap. 1 (pp. 35-41.)


Weds. 5

Asia: China (cont.)

Readings Due: Ancient China

Read the brief articles on: Xia Dynasty ( , Shang Dynasty ( , and Western Zhou Dynasty ( , and Eastern Zhou Dynasty (


Fri. 7

Americas: Olmecs

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 35-37; chap. 13, pp. 369-90 (8th ed. chap. 1, pp. 41-43 and 14, pp. 402-422); The Ancient Olmec Civilization (; Olmec Culture Images (, Seated Figurine (, Olmec Colossal Head (


Mon. 10

 Americas: Andean Societies

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 13, pp. 390-98 (8th ed. chap. 14, pp. 422-430); Thomas H. Maugh II, “Celestial Find at Ancient Andes Site,” Los Angeles Times (; Find “Terraces” scroll down and read “South America”  (


Weds. 12

 Africa: African Societies 1,000 B.C.E.-500 C.E.

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 5 (Whole Chapter); (8th ed. chap. 5).


Fri. 14

Examination #1


Mon. 17

Africa: African Societies 1,000 B.C.E.-500 C.E.

Readings Due: Herodotus, The Histories, Book III (c. 430 B.C.E. (excpt.) in “Ancient Accounts of Arabia” (


Weds. 19

Asia/Middle East: Persian Empire

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 1, pp. 20-23, chap. 4, pp. 115-24 (8th ed. chap. 1, pp. 25-28, chap. 4, pp. 132-39).


Fri. 21

Asia/Middle East: Persian Empire (cont.) (Quiz #2: chap. 5)


Mon. 24

Europe: The Greeks: Polis

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 3, pp. 74-87 (8th ed. chap. 3 pp. 86-101).


Weds. 26

Europe: The Greeks: Sparta

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 3, pp. 87-104 (8th ed. chap. 3, pp. 101-18).


Fri. 28

Europe: The Greeks: Sparta (cont.) (Quiz #3: chap. 3, pp. 74-104)


Mon. 31

Europe: The Greeks: Athens

Readings Due: Aristotle from Politics, books III and VII only. (




Weds. 2

Europe: The Greeks: Athens (cont.)


Fri. 4

Examination #2


Mon. 7

Europe: Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Period

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 3, pp. 104-13 (8th ed. chap. 3, pp. 118-27); Alexander at Issus: (


Weds. 9

Europe: Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Period (cont.)

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 2, pp. 61-70 (8th ed. chap. 2, pp. 68-79).


Fri. 11

Europe: Roman Republic (Quiz# 4: chap. 6)

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 6, pp. 175-85 (8th ed. chap. 6, pp. 182-93).


Mon. 14

Europe: Roman Republic (cont.)

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 6, pp. 185-98 (8th ed. chap. 6, pp. 193-207).


Weds. 16

Europe: Augustus and the Roman Empire

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 6, pp. 198-208 (8th ed. chap. 6, pp. 207-19).


Fri. 18

Asia: China Qin Shi Huangdi (Quiz #5: chap. 7)

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 2, pp. 40-49; chap. 7 (8th ed. chap. 2, pp. 49-56; chap. 7).

 All Optional Papers Due!!


Mon. 21

Asia: China Qin Shi Huangdi (cont.)

Readings Due: Portrait of Qin Shuangdi (, Qin Shuangdi’s Terra Cota Warriors ( Click through the different pictures, Great Wall of China, (; Map


Weds. 23


  Asia/Middle East/Europe: Rise of Christianity (Friday Schedule)

Thanksgiving Break Nov. 24-27, 2011.



Mon. 28

 Asia/Middle East/Europe: Rise of Christianity (cont.).

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 2, pp. 56-61, 72-73; chap. 6, pp. 198-202, chap. 16, pp. 494-95 (8th ed. chap. 2, pp. 64-68, 82-83; chap. 6, pp. 207-11; chap. 17, pp. 526-27).


Weds. 30

Europe/Middle East: Decline of the Roman Empire

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 6, pp. 202-08 (8th ed. chap. 6, pp. 211-19).




Fri. 2

 Europe/Middle East: Decline of the Roman Empire (Quiz #6: chap. 10)


Mon. 5

Asia/Middle East: Rise of Islam

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 10 (Whole Chapter) (8th ed. chap. 11 [Whole Chapter]).


Weds. 7

Asia/Middle East: Rise of Islam

Readings Due: The Qu’ran, Surahs 1 and 47 (excerpts) (


Fri. 9

Asia/Europe: Black Death

Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 15, pp. 436-40, 444-47 (8th ed. chap. 16, pp. 456-77).


Mon. 12

Asia/Europe: Black Death (cont.)

Readings Due: Readings Due: Heritage, chap. 15, pp. 447-57 (8th ed. chap. 16, pp. 477-87); Boccaccio, The Decameron: Introduction ( or ERES.


Weds. 14     Last Day of Class!!



Final Examination Period December 16-22, 2011.