East Asian Languages and Cultures | The World and East Asia
E101 | 26163 | Struve


The central question of this course is: Why have peoples in some
parts of the world prospered and advanced more than others in
successive periods of human history? We will look at factors such as
geography, access to resources, population densities, means of
transport, and susceptibility to epidemic disease in pursuit of this
question, at each step taking East Asia as an example in comparison
with other parts of the world. Along the way, students will be
introduced to the most important phases in the history of humankind,
from the “creative explosion” of the Neolithic era to the democracy
movement of the twentieth century. Topics will include the evolution
of different human “races,” the development of two basically
different kinds of writing systems in the world, the “axial age” of
great religions and philosophies, the effects of inventions such as
the mariner’s compass and firearms, the consequences of integrating
the “New” and “Old” Worlds for the fortunes of Eastern and Western
civilizations, and the different responses of China and Japan to the
challenge of the West.

Students will particularly develop skills in thinking very broadly
across space and time, in drawing comparisons on a global scale, and
in writing intelligently about large issues of humankind that have
continuing relevance today. Specific tasks will include writing a
series of mini-essays on course themes and developing a short
research paper on a topic that places East Asia within a world
context at some point in history.

The main thematic text for the course is Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer
Prize-winning work Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human
Societies (Norton, 1997). For world-historical background reading we
will have online access to Albert Craig et al., Heritage of World
Civilizations (Prentice-Hall, 2005). Additional readings will be
available through Oncourse.

Class open to Freshman, Sophomores and Juniors only.
Class meets with HIST-G 101.