World History I

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. and Christe A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2019-20: Tuedays and Thursdays, 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time



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Power: general discussion

4: Thu, Sep 12, 2019

Please read the discussion of power. We will go over it in class.

The discussion of power will be the basis of a recurring assignment throughout the year; this week’s discussion will enable us to get the terms of the problem out on the table. Think about what is said there. We'll use these power terms to categorize the different ways power manifests itself in each of the societies we encounter along the way.

The way we approach prehistory is obviously very different from the way we approach history for which we have actual surviving written sources. We have no story to work from: we have to work from bits and pieces of the material culture toward a narrative. We need to weigh the evidence as critically and objectively as possible, and interpret it to build a rational picture of what might have been going on, always being mindful of the limits of our knowledge. Usually even at its best, the resulting narrative is full of holes and questionable assumptions. Still, we can draw valuable conclusions and make comparisons with other societies and cultures.

These skills, once learned, are also applicable to more conventional historical sources. This kind of questioning, moreover, should awaken a healthy skepticism. We may believe that a given narrative source is telling a true story, but a different one will usually tell a different tale -- perhaps contradictory in facts, or perhaps just referring to a different range of actions. Certainly it will at the very least diverge in emphasis. How do we resolve the differences?

We will also take a look at timelines as a special kind of data representation, particularly conducive to the study of history. As maps are pictorial representations (and analogical ones, as a rule) of our physical surroundings, timelines attempt to represent the flow of time, which is somewhat more abstract. As far as we know, time does not actually have the shape of a line, but it is linear in a number of ways we can consider. We’ll try to do that in class today.