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Michael Adas: Rutgers Institute for High School Teachers

Friday, May 01, 2020, 09:00am - 02:30pm

Why Europe? Why Not China? The Ottomans or India? Teaching the Early Modern Origins of the "Great Divergence"

May 1, 2020, 9am-2:30pm

Michael Adas, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, Rutgers University

Among the many challenges of teaching world history in the post-1500 era, tracing the factors that led to Western European dominance in the half-millennium that followed poses far-ranging and complex challenges, among them distortions due to an overwhelming focus on Europe. The debate over the “Great Divergence,” the processes that fundamentally transformed human history, and ultimately led to the dire state of planet earth more generally, also poses problems due to the recent, often-strident disagreements over the timing of these watershed developments. The workshop will focus on an approach that that that traces the beginnings of these global transformations to the 15th and 16th centuries. To counter the potential Western-centrism of this time frame, we will discuss ways to meaningfully cover Middle Eastern and Asian rivals. The rise of the European’s global dominance cannot be understood apart from their extensive borrowing from overseas civilizations (including those in the Americas) whose superiority in many fields was a major impetus for Western global expansionism.

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