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Course: History of Civilizations to 1500

Class Hours and Room: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9-9:50 A.M. Rm. H-507


Course Number: HIS 1-002

Semester: Spring 2010


Credits/Hours: 3 credits, 3 hours

Instructor: Nicolás Agrait



Contact Information:

History Department

Rm. H-838

Office Hours: Monday/Wednesday 3-4:30 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 Judge, Edward H. and John W. Langdon. Connections; A World History. Volume 1to 1650. 1st. Ed. New York: VangoBooks, 2008. (ISBN-13: 978-0321107961; ISBN-10: 0321107969)  I have asked the L.I.U. Bookstore to stock copies.  You may get it there or on your own.


2)        Students need to bring a notebook, paper or other material with which 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 His. 1, His. 2 Web Site (

This is the instructor’s personal and academic web site. You can find information regarding his schedule, specialty 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)        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



Midterm Examination




Final Examination


Class Participation



2)       Tests/Quizzes

a)        Quizzes: there will be nine quizzes throughout the semester starting on Friday, February 5, 2010. These shall be administered on the first ten minutes of class on Fridays.  If you are not in class within the first five minutes, you will not be given the quiz.  These will be based strictly on the textbook (Judge and Langdon).  The quizzes are already scheduled so look in the Course Calendar for which chapter you are responsible.

b)        Midterm Examination: this will be a 50-minute test that will take place on March 1, 2010. It will have two sections: an I.D. section with items taken from the quizzes and a discussion question.  The professor will let the class know which material the students are responsible.

c)        Final Examination: this will be in class test scheduled for the end of the semester 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 under no circumstances get make ups for quizzes (never, no way, no how, do not even bother asking).  Any quizzes missed will simply not count toward the student’s overall grade. However, missing too many quizzes will result in the student’s decreased grade.  Students may request a make up examination for the midterm or final examination, granted at the discretion of the professor, with a legitimate excuse.


3)       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 are required to write at least two 2-3-page typewritten, double-spaced essays (handwritten papers will be ignored) on topics provided by the instructor.  There will be two opportunities to write papers: Friday, February 19, 2010 and Friday, April 9, 2010.


Students have to hand in at least two papers to pass the course, but may write as many new papers (no rewrites) as they want until they get the grades they want.  The instructor will only count the highest grades.  Students who do not hand in two papers will automatically receive an “F” for the paper segment of their grade.  These deadlines are final and essays will be downgraded one half-grade per day the paper is late.  It is the student’s responsibility to make the instructor aware of any potential problems at any stage with the papers. Students are also required to hand in a printed copy of the essay AND an electronic copy (floppy disk, 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. Remember, that for your second paper you may not write on any of the papers topics slated for the first due date, even if it is an extra paper.


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

4)        Paper Topics:

Other than language dictionaries absolutely NO outside sources are required or permitted for the completion of these papers.

a.         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).

b.        Buddhism: read Buddha: First Sermon - The Middle Path (c. 6th Century BCE) (, The Buddha: Sermons and Teachings (6th century B.C.E.) (, and The Buddha: Basic Teachings (from Bussagli, 5,000 Years of the Art of India [New York, 1971]) (

What are the four Noble Truths?  What is the “Middle Path”? What is the ultimate goal for humans and how do they achieve it?

c.         Read the excerpt from Aristotle, Politics, c. 340 ( What are the three forms of government delineated by Aristotle? What are their potential problems?

d.        Read Ann Macy Roth’s, “Building Bridges to Afrocentrism: A Letter to my Egyptological Colleagues” (  According to the author, what is Afrocentrism? How can it come into conflict with Egyptology?

e.         Read Ann Macy Roth’s, “Building Bridges to Afrocentrism: A Letter to my Egyptological Colleagues” (  How does the author feel that Afrocentrism and Egyptology can best help each other?


Pick one of the topics listed above (a, b, c, d or e) and write a 2-3 page papers due in class or in my office on or before Friday, February 19, 2010.


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

g.        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?

h.        Read Giovanni Boccaccio’s Introduction to The Decameron (ERES, any complete version in print or on the web, or get .pdf file from professor).  According to the author, what was the pestilence that afflicted Florence? What were its effects? How did the citizens cope? Use specific examples from the text to back up your arguments.

i.          China: Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism
Read the following Powerpoint ( and the following web sites:
History World: History of China (Zhou and Qin) (

Imagine that you walk out of LIU and find a large political protest going on in the
intersection between DeKalb and Flatbush Avenues.  The gathering is getting raucous
and perhaps out of hand.  Write three one-page essays delineating how a Confucian,
Daoist and Legalist would respond (one page for each philosophy) and why you think
this would be so.


Pick one of the topics listed above (f, ) and write a 2-3 page papers due in class or in my office on or before Friday, April 9, 2010.


V.                    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.




Wed. 20

First day of Classes


Fri. 22


Human Civilization: What is required?

Readings Due: Edward H. Judge and John W. Langdon, Connections; A World History, chap. 1 (Hereafter, Connections).


Mon. 25

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


Weds. 27

Asia/Middle East: Sumerians

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 2.


Fri. 29

Asia/Middle East: Sumerians (cont.)

Readings Due: “The Creation of the Pickax by Enlil or Babylonian Holy Spirit” (, Sumerian Beer: Banquet Image (, and “Hymn to Ninkasi-Making Beer” (




Mon. 1

Africa: Egyptians

Readings Due: Check out these images on the web: Nile Delta from Space (, Hymn to the Nile, c. 2100 BCE (, King Tut Exhibit (, The Court of Amonhotep III at the temple of Luxor (, The Sphynx (, Pyramid of Cheops (


Weds. 3

Africa: Egyptians (cont.)

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 3.


Fri. 5

Asia: India/Harappan (Quiz #1, chaps. 2-3)


Mon. 8

Asia: Vedic India


Weds. 10

Asia: China

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 4; ( : click and read the “Xia Dynasty,” “Shang Dynasty,” and “Zhou Dynasty.”


Fri. 12

Asia: China (cont.) (Quiz #2, chap. 4)


Mon. 15

Presidents’ Day (NO CLASSES)


Tues. 16

(Monday Schedule) Americas: Olmecs

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 5; Olmec Culture Images (, Civilizations in America: The Olmecs (, Seated Figurine (, Olmed Colossal Head (


Weds. 17

Americas: Andean Societies

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 13, pp. 299-305; Thomas H. Maugh II, “Celestial Find at Ancient Andes Site,” Los Angeles Times (; Find “Terraces” scroll down and read “South America”  (


Fri. 19

Africa: African Societies 1,000-500 B.C.E. (Quiz #3, chap. 5)

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


Mon. 22

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


Weds. 24

Asia/Middle East: Persian Empire

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 6.


Fri. 26

Asia/Middle East: Persian Empire (cont.) (Quiz #4, chap. 6)




Mon. 1

Midterm Examination


Weds. 3

Europe: The Greeks: Polis

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 7


Fri. 5

Europe: The Greeks: Sparta (No Quiz)


Mon. 8

Europe: The Greeks: Sparta (cont.)


Weds. 10

Europe: The Greeks: Athens

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


Fri. 12

Europe: The Greeks: Athens (cont.) (Quiz #5, chap. 7)



Spring Break, March 13-21, 2009


Mon. 22

Europe: Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Period

Readings Due: Alexander at Issus: (


Weds. 24

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

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 8.


Fri. 26

Europe: Roman Republic (Quiz #6, chap. 8)


Mon. 29

Europe: Roman Republic (cont.)


Weds. 31

Europe: Augustus and the Roman Empire

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 9.



Fri. 2

Europe: Augustus and the Roman Empire (cont.) (Quiz #7, chap. 9)


Mon. 5

Asia: China Qin Shi Huangdi

Readings Due: Portrait of Qin Shuangdi (, Qin Shuangdi’s Terra Cota Warriors (, Great Wall of China, (; Map


Weds. 7

Asia: China Qin Shi Huangdi (cont.)


Fri. 9

Asia/Middle East/Europe: Rise of Christianity (No quiz)


Mon. 12

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


Weds. 14

Europe/Middle East: Decline of the Roman Empire

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 10.


Fri. 16

Europe/Middle East: Decline of the Roman Empire (Quiz #8, chap. 10)


Mon. 19

Asia/Middle East: Rise of Islam

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 11.


Weds. 21

Asia/Middle East: Rise of Islam

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


Fri. 23

Asia: Mongol Empire (Quiz #9, chap. 11)


Mon. 26

Asia: Mongol Empire (cont.)

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 15.


Weds. 28

Asia/Europe: Black Death

Readings Due: Connections, chap. 16.


Fri. 30

Asia/Europe: Black Death (cont.) (No Quiz)

Readings Due: Boccaccio, The Decameron: Introduction ( or ERES.



Mon. 3

Last Day of Class

The World in the Year 1500

Readings Due: Maps: Africa(1500) (,  Asia (1500) (, Europe(1500) (, North America(1500) (, Central and South America (1500) (, Pacific(1500) (



Final Examination Period May 6-12, 2010.  Time and place to be announced.