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Published Date

January 1, 2004

This resource was developed as part of Linking Family History and World History by Linda Pomerantz.

The story of the Sarfaty family may be connected with several aspects of world history. These aspects may be divided into two categories: specific events and topics and thematic elements in the world history survey.

Specific events and topics in history

  1. The principal events in world history that directly pertain to the story of the Sarfaty family and its members are:
  2. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain after 1492
  3. The Balkan Jews under the Ottoman Turkish Empire
  4. The modern Balkan nations from 1900-1914
  5. The origins of World War I
  6. U.S. immigration patterns
  7. Social and cultural life in New York City, 1920-1940

Thematic elements in the world history survey

The Sarfaty story lends itself to a variety of unifying themes or topical approaches that are often used to link material in a world history survey course. Topics that can be used successfully to link the Sarfaty family story are:

  1. Migration or population movements (diasporic flow from Spain, emigration from Balkans, internal migration within the U.S.)
  2. Economic life (pre-industrial sources of livelihood in Monastir, struggle for economic survival in the U.S. under industrial conditions)
  3. Gender and history (differential experiences of male and female family members)
  4. Development of technology (military technology in Europe prior to WW I, twentieth century transportation technology to facilitate trans-oceanic migration, industrial technology as the setting for work in the US)
  5. Adaptation to the physical environment  (Importance of serious diseases in a family’s history, such as tuberculosis, diphtheria and small pox.)

“Doing World History”

Using David Smith’s typology from “Doing World History,” the Sarfaty family material can be linked to the five methods as follows:

1. Big Picture:  Construct a timeline of the Sarfaty family history from the 1880’s-1930’s and link the family timeline to the broader timeline of world history during the same period.

2. and 3. Diffusion or spread of artifacts, ideas or other cultural creations from one civilization to others; and, Syncretism or mixing of elements from two of more cultures that resulted in a new civilization:  Investigate the culture of the Sephardim under the Ottoman Turks in the nineteenth century both as a product of diffusion from the Spanish homeland to new lands and as a syncretic blend of Turkish and Spanish elements. Another topic is the transformation of Sephardic culture and society in the United States in the early 20th century.

4. Comparison of similarities and differences among civilizations:  Compare and contrast Muslim Spain with Christian Spain,  the Balkans under Ottoman rule with the modern Balkans and the early twentieth century US from the perspective of the Jewish populations.

5. Common phenomena shared by two or more societies, such as environmental features, technology and/or human development:  Compare features of Macedonia and the US in the early twentieth century in terms of physical environment, technological level and social patterns..

Reflective Questions

  1. What specific events and topics in world history are germane to the history of the family you are studying?
  2. How does the timeline of the family you are studying relate to the timeline of world history?
  3. How does the family history connect to the thematic elements described above and/or to at least one of the approaches in “Doing World History”?
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