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Advanced Placement World History


Teacher:  Jeremy Smith      

Email:  jeremy.smith@simpson.kyschools.us


Main text

Stearns, Peter N., et al.  World Civilizations:  The Global Experience. AP ed.  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson Longman, 2010.


Supplemental texts:  A variety of primary and secondary source material will be utilized throughout the duration of the course.  The student will make use of documentary material, maps, statistical tables, works of art, pictorial materials, graphic materials, etc. in order to formulate a deep and global understanding of the various historical processes.


Textual, Visual, and Quantitative Primary Sources:

Stearns, Peter N.  World History in Documents:  A Comparative Reader.  New York, NY:  New York University Press, 2008.

Strayer, Robert W.  Ways of the World:  A Global History with Sources.  Boston, MA:  Bedford / St. Martin’s, 2011.

Sherman, Dennis, et al.  World Civilizations:  Sources, Images, and Interpretations.  4th ed.  2 vols.  Boston, MA:  McGraw-Hill 2006.

Wiesner, Merry, et al.  Discovering the Global Past:  A Look at the Evidence.  Boston, MA:  Houghton Mifflin, 2007.


Other required materialsBesides bringing your two texts daily, the student should bring a writing utensil and a notebook organized specifically for AP World History to class daily.  Articles, maps, and various other handouts will need to be retained for the remainder of the course.  Pencils may be required on testing days.  All other materials will be provided in the classroom, or the student will be given advance notice in regards to what they need. 


Course OverviewThe AP World History course is based upon a global perspective of the world and human interactions from approximately 8000 B.C.E. to the present day.  The course adopts a “periodization” approach to world history and is structured around the five AP World History themes and the four Historical Thinking Skills.  They are as follows:


World History Themes

  1. Impact of interaction among and within major societies.
  2. Impact of technology, economics, and demography on people and the environment.
  3.  Systems of social structure and gender structure.
  4. Cultural, religious, and intellectual developments.
  5. Changes in functions and structures of states and in attitudes toward states and political identities, including the emergence of the nation-state.


Historical Thinking Skills

  1. Crafting Historical Arguments from Historical Evidence
  2. Chronological Reasoning (historical causation, patterns of continuity and change over time, periodization)
  3. Comparison and Contextualization
  4. Historical Interpretation and Synthesis


Students will be required to develop and cultivate both critical thinking and analytical skills in order to understand historical and geographical context, make comparisons between times and cultures, distinguish changes across time and cultures, identify continuities across time and cultures, use documents and other primary sources, and recognize and discuss different interpretations and historical frameworks.  Issues like change and continuity are broad themes that are stressed throughout the entire course.  Likewise, the course is designed to challenge students to formulate independent ideas within the context of a truly global perspective.  To do so, the course requires an enormously heavy reading load, along with extensive writing as well.  Because the Advanced Placement test requires three written responses, the student will continuously practice these forms of historical writing.  Students will be required to read approximately one to two chapters in their text per week along with supplementary readings as well.  Debate, discussion, and the free exchange of ideas are vital.  The course workload is commensurate with that of a full-year introductory college course in World History.


Course Requirements

  • Textbook Reading Assignments:  The information included on the AP Exam is tremendous.  For this reason, we will be unable to discuss all the details the student will be required to know.  Therefore, it will be ESSENTIAL that the student read each chapter in the text.  Class lectures and discussions will center around broad themes and essential questions.  Consequently, much of the requisite “factual” information will be obtained by the student independently through reading assignments.  The readings, as well as the lectures, will be included in quizzes and examinations.
  • History Journal:  The students will be required to keep an ongoing history journal that consists of responses to a variety of prompts.  These prompts will range from short videos to charts to quotes, etc.  These short responses, usually a paragraph or two in length, will be collected 2-4 times a month for grading purposes.
  • Main Idea Questions and Thematic Charts:  As students complete their assigned reading tasks, they will also be required to answer 3-5 comprehensive questions over the assigned reading material.  This will help the students with summarizing and identifying the main ideas of the reading assignments.  They will also be required to complete a Thematic Chart.  Again, this will help the students identify major changes and events in history.
  • Primary Source Analysis Assignments:  Besides reading the text, students will be expected to read the assigned texts from the supplemental primary source readers along with a variety of other source material, articles, book excerpts, etc.  For each assigned reading, a response will be required.  Responses will require students to analyze sources for historical context, purpose and/or intended audience, the author’s point-of-view, type of source, and tone.  For example, in Unit Five, students will be required to analyze and compare the French “Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen,” Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” and Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”  Students will contrast- in writing- the historical context, POV, purpose/argument, and intended audience of the three readings. The Primary source readings will help the student develop the analytical skills necessary to construct arguments, identify point-of-view (POV), recognize bias, and interpret context.  These activities will also help prepare the student for the Document-Based Question. 
  • Groupwork:  The nature of this class will facilitate much discussion, debate, and teamwork.  For example, during each unit the students will be required to participate in group debates that center on issues of diverse historical interpretation and evaluation.  For this reason, students will be expected to work effectively and efficiently with others in the class, despite ideological differences.  Effective groupwork will help students with the burden of work some projects and assignments may require.
  • Quizzes:  Quizzes will be given over each chapter.  Although not weighted as heavily as tests, quizzes will play a large factor in the computation of the student’s overall grade.  Quizzes will be based upon assigned reading materials.
  • Unit Exams:  Exams will be given at the end of each unit and will follow the composition and time allotment of the national AP Exam.  Unit Exams will receive the highest weighting in the course.  Questions on the Unit Exams will consist of both multiple choice and essay questions.  Thus, students will be writing Document-Based Questions, Change and Continuity Over Time essays, and Comparative essays as part of the course assessment.
  • Vocabulary:  It will be essential for the students to stay current on all of the vocabulary found in the primary text.  Consequently, each chapter will be accompanied by a vocabulary assignment and / or a vocabulary quiz. 
  • Unit Activities:  Similar activities will be utilized in each of the six units in order to develop the analytical and historical skills necessary to obtain a deep and global understanding of the past.  These activities will require students to complete the following tasks:
    • Writing Assignments:
      • DBQ:  Students analyze evidence from a variety of sources in order to develop a coherent written argument that has a thesis supported by relevant historical evidence.  Students will apply multiple historical thinking skills as they examine a particular historical problem or question.
      • CCOT:  Students identify and analyze patterns of change and continuity over time and across geographic regions.  They will also connect these historical developments to specific circumstances of time and place, and to broader regional, national, or global processes.
      • Comparative Essay:  Students compare historical developments across or within societies in various chronological and/or geographic contexts.  Students will also synthesize information by connecting insights from one historical context to another, including the present.
    • Change Analysis:  Using primary and secondary sources, students will gather pertinent historical data to analyze the causes and effects of major changes, both within and between societies.
    • Societal Comparisons:  Using primary and secondary sources, students will gather pertinent historical data (religious texts, political texts, images of art, etc.) to construct written and visual arguments about the similarities and differences that developed in the same time period but in different parts of the world or in the same part of the world over different time periods.
    • Thematic Posters:  Students will create thematic posters illuminating major developments for each theme during the time period.  This will require students to show through images, rather than text, the historical events and people that made significant changes to the environment, politics, social and gender systems, economics, and culture of that specific period.
    • Contextualizations:”  Students will be required to write a reflective commentary discussing how a specified region or time period fits into the larger story of world history.  These commentaries will be approximately one page and will help students in acquiring a global and thematic understanding of world history.
    • Periodization” Investigations:  At the beginning / end of each of the AP prescribed periods of World History, the students will debate in groups and present a written justification as to why they believe the time periods have been delineated in the manner presented.  In addition, they will provide a rationale as why they do or do not agree with the prescribed method of periodization.
  • Projects / Papers:  Throughout the semester, the student will be required to complete two to four significant assignments, depending on time allotment.  The exact instructions, details, and due dates for these assignments will be given at a later date.  Examples of potential projects / papers include:
    • World Religions Presentation Project
    • Between the Wars PowerPoint Project
    • Museum Exhibition Project
    • Historical Marketing Project
    • Historical Research Paper Assignment
  • The AP Exam:  Students completing the AP World History course will be expected to take the national Advanced Placement exam at the end of the year.  The exam consists of 70 multiple-choice questions, one Document-based question (DBQ), one Change-over-time essay, and one Comparative essay.  Students will have 55 minutes to respond to the multiple-choice questions and 130 minutes to respond in writing to the three essay questions. 


Additional Course Resources:


Mitchell, Joseph, and Mitchell, Helen.  Taking Sides:  Clashing Views in World History. 4th ed.  New York, NY:  McGraw-Hill, 2011.

Andrea, Alfred J. and James H. Overfield.  The Human Record:  Sources of Global History.  6th ed.  2 vols.  Boston, MA:  Houghton Mifflin, 2009.

Lewis, Martin, and Wigen, Karen.  The Myth of Continents:  A Critique of Metageography.  Berkeley, CA:  University of California Press, 1997.

Adams, Paul V., et al.  Experiencing World History.  New York, NY:  New York University Press, 2000.

Diamond, Jared.  Guns, Germs, and Steel:  The Fates of Human Societies.  New York, NY:  W.W. Norton, 1997.

       AP Central Homepage (www.apcentral.collegeboard.com)

       Art History:  Resources for the Study of Art History (http://witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHLinks.html)

       Internet History Sourcebooks (www.fordham.edu/halsall)

       World History for Us All (www.worldhistoryforusall.sdsu.edu)

       World History Matters (www.worldhistorymatters.org)

       CNN’s Millennium Series.  VHS.  Turner Home Entertainment, 1999.


Attendance:  Attendance is very important, especially in a class at this level.  The school policy in accordance to attendance will be followed in this classroom.  The student should consult the student handbook to clarify these policies.  Make-up work will not be given for unexcused absences.  Tests and homework can be made-up after all excused absences.  The student will have 3 days to make up the work.  Please consult the teacher when making up exams.  Missing class means missing substantial amounts of information necessary for success.  Poor attendance will ensure poor performance in the class and on the national exam.


Cheating and plagiarismCheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated and a zero will automatically be given on the assignment, along with notification of the office.  After one occurrence, the student’s parents will be informed in addition to the zero.


Behavior:  This is an upper-level class of very intelligent young adults.  I expect your behavior to be commensurate to your ability.  I intend to hold you to very high standards.  I must stress all opinions and ideas will be tolerated and no individual or group of individuals will be dishonored based upon their views.  I expect no problems, but any that do occur will be dealt with swiftly and harshly.



Course Outline of Topics / Readings / Unit Weight


Period 1: Technological and Environmental Transformations, to c. 600 B.C.E:  2 weeks, (5%)  (Origins / Early Civilizations)


Key Concept 1.1. Big Geography and the Peopling of the Earth

I. Archeological evidence indicates that during the Paleolithic era, hunting-foraging bands of humans gradually migrated from their origin in East Africa to Eurasia, Oceania, Australia and the Americas, adapting their technology and cultures to new climate regions.


Key Concept 1.2. The Neolithic Revolution and Early Agricultural Societies

I. Beginning about 10,000 years ago, the Neolithic Revolution led to the development of new and more complex economic and social systems.

II. Agriculture and pastoralism began to transform human societies.


Key Concept 1.3. The Development and Interactions of Early Agricultural, Pastoral and Urban Societies

I. Core and foundational civilizations developed in a variety of geographical and environmental settings where agriculture flourished.

II. The first states emerged within core civilizations.

III. Culture played a significant role in unifying states through laws, language, literature, religion, myths and monumental art.



  • Textbook:  Stearn Chapter 1
  • Primary Sources:  The source analysis will include identifying POV, intended purpose, audience, and historical context of each source.  Sources include (but are not limited to):  Epic of Gilgamesh; Creation Stories from Babylon, Egypt, and North America; Hammurabi’s Code; the Book of the Dead, Table of Major Agricultural Breakthroughs, Table illustrating Examples of Major Early Writing Styles, Chart of Population Change Post-Neolithic Revolution; Images of Egyptian Tomb Artwork; Images of Egyptian Funerary Statues
  • Video:  Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel
  • Excerpt:  Karen Wigen’s The Myth of Continents
  • Article:  Peter Stearns’s Why Study History



Period 2: Organization and Reorganization of Human Societies, c. 600 B.C.E. to c. 600 C.E:  5 weeks, (15%)

(The Classical Period)


Key Concept 2.1. The Development and Codification of Religious and Cultural Traditions

I. Codifications and further developments of existing religious traditions provided a bond among the people and an ethical code to live by.

II. New belief systems and cultural traditions emerged and spread, often asserting universal truths.

III. Belief systems affected gender roles.  Buddhism and Christianity encouraged monastic life and Confucianism emphasized filial piety.

IV. Other religious and cultural traditions continued parallel to the codified, written belief systems in core civilizations.

V. Artistic expressions, including literature and drama, architecture, and sculpture, show distinctive cultural developments.


Key Concept  2.2. The Development of States and Empires

I. The number and size of imperial societies grew dramatically by imposing political unity on areas where previously there had been competing states.

II. Empires and states developed new techniques of imperial administration based, in part, on the success of earlier political forms.

III. Imperial societies displayed unique social and economic dimensions in Afro-Eurasia and the Americas.

IV. The Roman, Han, Maurya and Gupta empires created political, cultural and administrative difficulties that they could not manage, which eventually led to their decline, collapse and transformation into successor empires or states.


Key Concept 2.3. Emergence of Transregional Networks of Communication and Exchange

I. Land and water routes created transregional trade, communication and exchange networks in the Eastern Hemisphere, while separate networks connected the peoples and societies of the Americas somewhat later.

II. New technologies facilitated long-distance communication and exchange.

III. Alongside the trade in goods, the exchange of people, technology, religious and cultural beliefs, food crops, domesticated animals, and disease pathogens developed across far-flung networks of communication and exchange.



  • Textbook:  Stearn Chapters 2-5
  • Primary Sources:  The source analysis will include identifying POV, intended purpose, audience, and historical context of each source.  Sources include (but are not limited to):  Confucian v. Athenian Political ideas, the Republic, Sun-Tzu’s Art of War; Leviticus, the Quran, the Four Noble Truths; Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chart of Population Figures in the Classical Era; Images of Greek Art; Images of Roman Roads, Aqueducts, Architecture (Pantheon, Forum, etc.)
  • Article:  Lynda Shaffer, Southernization



Period 3: Regional and Transregional Interactions, c. 600 C.E. to c. 1450 C.E:  7 weeks, (20%)  (The Postclassical Period)


Key Concept 3.1. Expansion and Intensification of Communication and Exchange Networks

I. Improved transportation technologies and commercial practices led to an increased volume of trade, and expanded the geographical range of existing and newly active trade networks.

II. The movement of peoples caused environmental and linguistic effects.

III. Cross-cultural exchanges were fostered by the intensification of existing, or the creation of new, networks of trade and communication.

IV. There was continued diffusion of crops and pathogens throughout the Eastern Hemisphere along the trade routes.


Key Concept 3.2. Continuity and Innovation of State Forms and Their Interactions

I. Empires collapsed and were reconstituted; in some regions new state forms emerged.

II. Interregional contacts and conflicts between states and empires encouraged significant technological and cultural transfers.


Key Concept 3.3. Increased Economic Productive Capacity and Its Consequences           

I. Innovations stimulated agricultural and industrial production in many regions.

II. The fate of cities varied greatly, with periods of significant decline, and with periods of increased urbanization buoyed by rising productivity and expanding trade networks.

III. Despite significant continuities in social structures and in methods of production, there were also some important changes in labor management and in the effect of religious conversion on gender relations and family life.



  • Textbook:  Stearns Chapters 6-15
  • Primary Sources:  The source analysis will include identifying POV, intended purpose, audience,and historical context of each source.  Sources include (but are not limited to):  The Secret History of the Mongols; excerpts from Marco Polo; the Magna Carta; Christian vs. Muslim accounts of the Crusades; Japanese vs. European feudal documents; excerpts from Ibn Battuta, Chart of Economic Exchanges on the Silk Roads, Graph of Economic Exchanges in the Indian Ocean Basin



Period 4: Global Interactions, c. 1450 to c. 1750:  7 weeks, (20%)  (The Early Modern Period)


Key Concept 4.1. Globalizing Networks of Communication and Exchange

I. In the context of the new global circulation of goods, there was an intensification of all existing regional trade networks that brought prosperity and economic disruption to the merchants and governments in the trading regions of the Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Sahara and overland Eurasia.

II. European technological developments in cartography and navigation built on

previous knowledge developed in the classical, Islamic and Asian worlds, and

included the production of new tools (such as the astrolabe or revised maps),

innovations in ship designs (such as caravels), and an improved understanding of global wind and currents patterns — all of which made transoceanic travel and trade possible.

III. Remarkable new transoceanic maritime reconnaissance occurred in this period.

IV. The new global circulation of goods was facilitated by royal chartered European monopoly companies that took silver from Spanish colonies in the Americas to purchase Asian goods for the Atlantic markets, but regional markets continued to flourish in Afro-Eurasia by using established commercial practices and new transoceanic shipping services developed by European merchants.

V. The new connections between the Eastern and Western hemispheres resulted in the Columbian Exchange.

VI. The increase in interactions between newly connected hemispheres and intensification of connections within hemispheres expanded the spread and reform of existing religions and created syncretic belief systems and practices.

VII. As merchants’ profits increased and governments collected more taxes, funding for the visual and performing arts, even for popular audiences, increased.


Key Concept 4.2. New Forms of Social Organization and Modes of Production

I. Traditional peasant agriculture increased and changed, plantations expanded, and demand for labor increased. These changes both fed and responded to growing global demand for raw materials and finished products.

II. As new social and political elites changed, they also restructured new ethnic, racial and gender hierarchies.


Key Concept 4.3. State Consolidation and Imperial Expansion

I. Rulers used a variety of methods to legitimize and consolidate their power.

II. Imperial expansion relied on the increased use of gunpowder, cannons and armed

trade to establish large empires in both hemispheres.

III. Competition over trade routes, state rivalries, and local resistance all provided significant challenges to state consolidation and expansion.



  • Textbook:  Stearns Chapters 16-22
  • Primary Sources:  The source analysis will include identifying POV, intended purpose, audience, and historical context of each source.  Sources include (but are not limited to):  Chinese vs. Portuguese voyages;  letters from the voyages of Da Gama and Columbus; Aztec reactions to exploration in The Broken Spears; excerpts from Olaudah Equiano; Gallileo’s letters; readings from the Gunpowder Empires, Chart of World Population Growth 1000-2000, Numerical Data on the Slave Trade; Images of Renaissance Art (Sistine Chapel, Mona Lisa, etc.); Images of Native American Art
  • Excerpt:  Alfred Crosby, The Fortunate Isles
  • Article:  Nora Buckley, The Extraordinary Voyages of Admiral Cheng Ho
  • Supplemental Text:  Merry Wiesner, Discovering the Global Past, Vol. II, Chapter 1



Period 5: Industrialization and Global Integration, c. 1750 to c. 1900:  7 weeks, (20%)  (The Long 19th Century)


Key Concept 5.1. Industrialization and Global Capitalism

I. Industrialization fundamentally changed how goods were produced.

II. New patterns of global trade and production developed that further integrated the global economy as industrialists sought raw materials and new markets for the increasing amount of goods produced in their factories.

III. To facilitate investments at all levels of industrial production, financiers developed and expanded various financial institutions.

IV. There were major developments in transportation and communication, including

railroads, steamships, telegraphs and canals.

V. The development and spread of global capitalism led to a variety of responses.

VI. The ways in which people organized themselves into societies also underwent significant transformations in industrialized states due to the fundamental restructuring of the global economy.


Key Concept 5.2. Imperialism and Nation-State Formation

I. Industrializing powers established transoceanic empires.  Areas of Afro-Eurasia, Oceania, and Australia were heavily colonized.

II. Imperialism influenced state formation and contraction around the world.

III. New racial ideologies, especially Social Darwinism, facilitated and justified imperialism.


Key Concept 5.3. Nationalism, Revolution and Reform

I. The rise and diffusion of Enlightenment thought that questioned established traditions in all areas of life often preceded the revolutions and rebellions against existing governments.

II. Beginning in the 18th century, peoples around the world developed a new sense of commonality based on language, religion, social customs and territory. These newly imagined national communities linked this identity with the borders of the state, while governments used this idea to unite diverse populations. 

III. The spread of Enlightenment ideas and increasing discontent with imperial rule propelled reformist and revolutionary movements.

IV. The global spread of Enlightenment thought and the increasing number of rebellions stimulated new transnational ideologies and solidarities.


Key Concept 5.4. Global Migration

I. Migration in many cases was influenced by changes in demography in both industrialized and unindustrialized societies that presented challenges to existing patterns of living.

II. Migrants relocated for a variety of reasons.

III. The large-scale nature of migration, especially in the 19th century, produced a variety of consequences and reactions to the increasingly diverse societies on the part of migrants and the existing populations.



  • Textbook:  Stearns Chapters 23-27
  • Primary Sources:  The source analysis will include identifying POV, intended purpose, audience, and historical context of each source.  Sources include (but are not limited to):  Declaration and Resolves of the 1st Continental Congress; Declaration of the Rights of Man; the Haitian Revolution; Bismarck; Simon Bolivar; Chinese and English views on the Opium Wars; the Emancipation Manifesto; the Emancipation Proclamation; Russian vs. Japanese Conservatism; Western Europe vs. Japanese business values in industrialization; Marx’s Communist Manifesto; Mill’s on Liberty; Adam Smith; French vs. Indian vs. American women in the 19th Century, Economic Data (via chart) contrasting Preindustiral with Industrial Societies, Graphs of Industrial Output by Country
  • Excerpt:  Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities
  • Supplemental Text:  Merry Wiesner, Discovering the Global Past, Vol. II, Chapter 9



Period 6: Accelerating Global Change and Realignments,        c. 1900 to the Present:  6 weeks, (20%)

(The Contemporary Period)


Key Concept 6.1 Science and the Environment

I. Researchers made rapid advances in science that spread throughout the world, assisted by the development of new technology.

II. As the global population expanded at an unprecedented rate, humans fundamentally changed their relationship with the environment.

III. Disease, scientific innovations and conflict led to demographic shifts.


Key Concept 6.2 Global Conflicts and Their Consequences

I. Europe dominated the global political order at the beginning of the 20th century, but both land-based and transoceanic empires gave way to new forms of transregional political organization by the century’s end.

II. Emerging ideologies of anti-imperialism contributed to the dissolution of empires and the restructuring of states.

III. Political changes were accompanied by major demographic and social consequences.

IV. Military conflicts occurred on an unprecedented global scale.

V. Although conflict dominated much of the 20th century, many individuals and groups — including states — opposed this trend. Some individuals and groups, however, intensified the conflicts.


Key Concept 6.3 New Conceptualizations of Global Economy, Society and Culture

I. States responded in a variety of ways to the economic challenges of the twentieth century.

II. States, communities and individuals became increasingly interdependent, a process facilitated by the growth of institutions of global governance.

III. People conceptualized society and culture in new ways; some challenged old assumptions about race, class, gender and religion, often using new technologies to spread reconfigured traditions.

IV. Popular and consumer culture became global.



  • Textbook:  Stearns Chapters 28-36
  • Primary Sources:  The source analysis will include identifying POV, intended purpose, audience, and historical context of each source.  Sources include (but are not limited to):  Treaty of Versailles; Mexico vs. China vs. Russian revolutions; German vs. Italian vs. Spanish fascism; Hitler’s Mein Kampf; memoirs from WWII; Truman’s decision to drop the bomb; views from Ghandi; Nelson Mandela’s address; excerpts from Things Fall Apart; Fourth World Conference on Women; Protests on Consumerism; Osama bin Laden’s decree; Blair’s speech; Bush’s speech; Economic Data for China under Mao, World Population Growth Figures for 1950-2005
  • Supplemental Text:  Merry Wiesner, Discovering the Global Past, Vol. II, Chapter 11
  • Supplemental Text:  Merry Wiesner, Discovering the Global Past, Vol. II, Chapter 13
  • Supplemental Text:  Merry Wiesner, Discovering the Global Past, Vol. II, Chapter 15



* The key to success in this class will be hardwork, dedication, and participation.  This class will be challenging and time-consuming.  It will require you to communicate with your teacher and your peers to ensure you fully understand the content.  You cannot be shy.  I would also recommend you have a strong background in World Geography and a preference for the content presented in this class.  If you feel you are lacking in some of these areas, see me as soon possible.