Published Date

January 1, 2004

From Teaching Difficult Legal or Political Concepts: Using Online Primary Sources in Writing Assignments (2004)

Required Textbooks

  • John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, and John Buckler, A History of Western Society, 4th ed., volume A.
  • Marvin Perry, Joseph R. Peden, and Theodore H. Von Laue, Sources of the Western Tradition, 2d ed., volume 1.

Course Objectives

  • To gain an overview of the history of the Western world from ancient times through the Renaissance.
  • To understand how early Western cultures, political developments, and economic structures still contribute to current life, identifying major themes and trends.
  • To become familiar with the differences and similarities in the histories of various regions of the Near East, Mediterranean, and Europe.
  • To recognize major actors and groups along with their roles in Western civilization prior to 1500.
  • To understand how economic, social, and political developments interacted to create or discourage change.
  • To explain why Western civilization developed as it did prior to 1500.
  • To identify significant features on appropriate maps and to comprehend the importance of chronology.
  • To sharpen academic proficiencies, including the ability to read and listen with comprehension and critical perception; to develop a larger and more varied vocabulary, while gathering information from printed sources (involving a variety of written communication forms and styles), electronic sources, and observation; to respond orally to questions and challenges; to recognize fallacies and inconsistencies; to distinguish knowledge, values, beliefs, and opinions; and to learn independently. In addition, the course will help students learn to write clearly, precisely, and in a well-organized manner, which involves the ability to construct and support hypotheses and arguments; to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and interpret information and ideas; and to integrate knowledge and experience.
  • To develop historical perspective through learning that history is the art of interpreting an oral, written, and material record. Different historians may interpret the evidence differently.

Course Requirements

  • Class participation, based on the reading assignments, is required and will count for 8% of each student’s final grade. Thus, students must complete all reading assignments as scheduled. The professor encourages students, before coming to class, to take notes from the readings assigned for that class period and to jot down any questions about them. Participation grades will be constructed from three elements: (a) attendance, (b) small-group discussions, and (c) large-group contributions.
  • Regular class attendance is essential. The only “excused” absences are those connected to school-sponsored activities. Any illness or problem that may cause a student to miss a number of classes should be discussed with the professor when the problem first arises. Note: According to the policy on accommodating students’ religious beliefs, students with a conflict between an academic requirement and a religious observance must notify the professor in the first three weeks of class of the specific date(s) on which they will request relief from an academic requirement.
  • Small-group discussions in the classroom must focus on the topic at hand (or related issues). Also, small-group work must involve everyone in the group. It is up to group members to involve a reluctant student by asking for opinions.
  • Large-group contributions consist of those things spoken to the whole class.
  • Using e-mail will be a regular part of this class. Every student must have an e-mail account, either at UW-BC or at home. In addition, during the semester, students will participate in a listserv (sort of like a chat group but with an editor). The listserv will put students into contact with others across the UW System who are taking U.S. history survey courses. The professor is also a member of the listserv, and her students must contribute at least twice during the semester (once before midterm). The e-mail component of the course will equal 4% of a student’s final grade.
  • Students must complete one Internet exercise that draws on the information in the textbooks and a selected Internet site. The exercise will equal 8% of the final grade. The topic is listed below. The due date is on the Class Schedule. The professor will deduct late points (3 points per week day) for assignments turned in after the due date. The professor will distribute a criteria sheet to help students understand her expectations for the exercise.

Exercise Topic

Read carefully the Salic Law and Anglo-Saxon Law (they may be found at the Avalon Project of the Yale Law School In an essay (400-700 words in length), compare and contrast these two sets of laws with the information about them in McKay and others (213-216).

Students must complete two Internet site reviews (400-700 words in length). Each review will equal 8% of a student’s final grade (for a total of 16%). The site addresses are listed below. Due dates are on the Class Schedule. The professor will deduct late points (3 points per week day) for assignments turned in after the due date. The professor will distribute a criteria sheet to help students understand her expectations for the reviews.

Students will periodically be asked to work in class on assignments. These will not always be quizzes but will assume knowledge of required readings. Such assignments will not be announced in advance and cannot be made up if missed. However, the instructor will not deduct for those missed if the student is not in violation of the attendance policy stated above (in section 1a). These assignments will equal 5% of a student’s final grade.

The professor has scheduled three examinations during the semester. Each will contain map questions and essay questions. The professor will provide the list of questions one week before the exam. Students are expected to learn each question thoroughly for an exam. The professor will drop a student’s lowest grade on the three exams before figuring the final grade. The remaining two exams will each equal 19% of the final grade (for a total of 38%). Since the professor will drop one exam grade, she will not give make-up examinations unless the student makes arrangements before the scheduled exam period.

Students must take a comprehensive final exam at the end of the semester. The final exam grade cannot be dropped, but the questions will be provided at least one week in advance. The final exam will equal 21% of a student’s final grade.

Students have continuous opportunities for extra credit. Anytime a student desires, he/she may do additional reading in Perry and others. To prove that the reading was done, the student must submit a document analysis sheet to the professor. Each student will receive a copy of this sheet on the first day of class. If additional sheets are needed, speak to the professor.

Next section: Western Civilization since the Renaissance Syllabus