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Contending Voices: Problems in World History

A blog devoted to the research and teaching of the history of humanity, aimed at enlivening the teaching of history, linking it to current social problems and debates.


Photo by Joshua Olsen/Unsplash

The Teaching of World History Around the Globe

Two recent books—when reviewed together—tell a century-long story of world history education on a global scale, accounting for almost half of the world’s high school students.

Light shines into the water just below the ocean's surface, photo by Cristian Palmer/Unsplash

Reading Oceanic History

Oceans are no longer as blank and watery separators of continents; they are dynamic containers of historical change. New studies and recently published works show both slow and rapid change in oceans—and how much of our past has been enacted on the waters.

Photo of a lime quarry by Ivan Bandura

The Lithosphere

The extraction of minerals from the Earth today—the most dangerous change in our environmental crisis—is also essential to life as we know it. In a 2017 interview, ecological historian Gregory Cushman explains his work on humanity’s relationship with the lithosphere and provides valuable insights into this issue.

Photo by Iñaki del Olmo/Unsplash

The Case for ‘Bottom-Up’ History

The “bottom-up” approach to world history focuses on the most basic elements of human existence. It identifies problems and explores them through individual and group behavior, relying on multiple disciplines, especially anthropology. The objective is to link basic levels of society to the higher scales of activity. The work of E.P. Thompson provides valuable context.

Sketch of a Cottage Yard, Winslow Homer (c. 1876)

Diasporas—Amidst Empires and Nations

Peoples of the world are divided today into nations, which replaced the empires that dominated in earlier centuries. But that is not all. Diasporas took shape as millions of people migrated from their homelands, linking common cultures across geographical and political boundaries.

Azadi Square in Tehran, 2017. Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh

Interactions in History

The events of history do not happen in a vacuum. Societies are deeply connected through their cultures and the exchange of ideas and values; they constantly interact and influence one another. This academic exercise helps students explore such interactions more deeply.

Introducing the United Nations

The United Nations is the world's principal international organization, comprising 193 national governments. This blog post provides more information about the UN's organizational structure and activities and includes an academic exercise to encourage deeper understanding.

Settling the Americas

Recent research has shown that the human occupation of the Americas took place much earlier than previously thought. As documentation about the first Americans builds and new evidence about their experiences is uncovered, we gain a better understanding of the variety and innovation of early settlers throughout the hemisphere.