Historians tend to gravitate toward a particular area of history – some prefer political history (governments, major events that occur throughout a country’s existence), others specialize in social history (status of women, children, and differences in social classes) and still others are interested in economic history (trade, business, industry, agriculture). Most history courses, especially introductory ones, tend to teach political history, with a smattering of cultural, social and economic history thrown into the mix.
One of the great challenges of APWH is that it covers approximately 10,000 years of history. In fairness, the first 8,000 years do go rather quickly. However, in an effort to help you, the student of world history, put this vast amount of time and space (we do learn about the WHOLE world), we use a thematic approach.
There are five major themes:
- Interaction between humans and the environment
- Development and interaction of culture
- State building, expansion and conflict
- Creation, expansion and interaction of economic systems
- Development and transformation of social structures.
You may be familiar with these by the acronym SPRITE (social, political, religious, intellectual, technological and economic) or PERSIA (political, economic, religious, social, intellectual, and arts/architecture).
You may also have noticed that each of the themes deals with interaction of some kind – history generally does not occur in a vacuum. What happens in one society will have repercussions on those societies nearby, thus we will be examining the impact that one society has on others as we progress through the course as well.
Over the course of the next five weeks, each Thursday I will discuss one of the above themes. I’ll explain what they are in a little more detail, give examples of how they may show up in class, and I’ll even pose some questions about the themes for you to respond to (don’t forget that summer assignment!).
*And yes, I know that today is not Thursday.