Warp & Weft History is back for the 2022-2023 school year. We've got a new cohort of students. We are excited about the return of students from the previous year. One student has returned for the third year in a row. That lets me know that we are doing what we set out to do: to make students fall in love with studying history.
Here is a wrap-up of what our historians were learning this week. Due to the Labor Day weekend, our Monday classes: High School US History, Middle-School US History, and World History II have only had the opportunity to meet once and most of that class period was taken up with class introductions. It's important to know who our colleagues are that we will be working with this year. All of our classes meet once weekly in a 90-minute synchronous virtual class.
HIGH SCHOOL US HISTORY
We began our study of U.S. History with learning about Indigenous America. Identifying different bands of indigenous culture by geographic region, we discussed similarities and differences in diet, social structure, mobility, and shelters. We discussed first encounters between the Native Americans and Europeans (some positive, some negative). We framed those encounters with Gregory Stanton's Ten Stages of Genocide:
With that framework in mind, we learned the necessary steps for analyzing primary sources and examined early European drawings of Indians and read from the writings of Bartolome' de las Casas. Finally, we examined the differing points of view about land use and the work of women within European and Native American societies.
This coming week, we will be discussing the British presence in North America.
MIDDLE-SCHOOL US HISTORY
In this class, we also discussed Native American society before European contact; however, we spent much more time discussing the variance of regional cultures than in the High School class. In Google Docs, we created a chart to help us organize what we had learned about what they ate, how they built their homes, and their forms of government. We spent some time virtually exploring the remains of the Cliff Palace, rock dwellings from Mesa Verde.
WORLD HISTORY II
World History II begins in the 4th century AD with the Roman emperor Constantine's conversion to Christianity and attempts to unite the empire by declaring it the state religion. Our lesson began with a drone flight's view over a 3D reconstruction of Ancient Rome. I acted as tour guide, pointing out landmarks such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Circus Maximus.
Our guiding question for this study was whether any multicultural society, such as Rome was at that time, could effectively be united under one religion. We learned the circumstances surrounding the drama during and after the First Council of Nicea and discussed whether this meeting moved Rome toward or further from Constantine's desire for unity. We ended with a brief virtual tour of the Hagia Irene, the church dedicated by Constantine upon moving his seat of power from Rome to Byzantium, later to be named for him as Constantinople.
AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY
This class meets on Tuesdays and was unaffected by the holiday weekend. We never begin our study of African American History with enslavement. During our first week of class, we discussed Mansa Musa, the medieval king of Mali and his large company's exploits through Egypt while making the hajj to Mecca. We familiarized ourselves with African civilization, resources, and a few West African rulers. We analyzed the primary source writings of Al-Umari, a visitor to Cairo not long after the king's visit. He describes the conflict between Mansa Musa and the Sultan of Cairo over the protocol of who should bow before whom. We also read a description of Mali by one of my favorite medieval sources Ibn Battuta. We finished with an eye-witness account of the kingdom of Ghana from Al-Bakri from 1057.
The following week's lesson is the most emotionally difficult to teach, the Middle Passage. We spent a lot of time at SlaveVoyages.org examining the maps that showed the direction of the flow of African people out of the continent, not only to North America, but the large numbers that went to South America. We briefly discussed the smaller trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trade and looked at photos of the descendants, Afro-Pakistanis, Afro-Iranians, and Afro-Indians. One student commented on the revelation of the wide distribution of the African diaspora. We watched a brief video of the documentary Black in Latin America as a part of our discussion of the heinous cruelty suffered by the enslaved Africans sent to Brazil. We talked about the use of extreme violence used to evoke fear to stave off rebellions and uprisings.
After watching a video of a 3D model of a slave vessel, we studied the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, an interactive map that historians meticulously entered in the data of every single ship that left the African shores with human cargo. The different colored dots represent each country involved in the slave trade for 250 years, beginning in the 1600s. I saw a similar interactive map at The Legacy Museum in Selma, Alabama over the summer.
Finally, we ended class with a discussion of resistance, a recurring theme that we are going to revisit in every class this year. As a primary source, we read some of the accounts of Olaudah Equiano.
WORLD HISTORY IV
The time period this class is currently focused on is from 1200 to 1450. We are using the Advanced Placement World History: Modern textbook for this class. The textbook gives a very general overview of the social, political, and economic aspects of a particular region. Being a cultural historian, I like to zoom in on specific people who lived in that society during that time period. During the first week, we learned about the Song Dynasty and how the Silk Road transmitted more than goods, but ideas, customs, religion, and knowledge. Our primary source came from Sima Guang's Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance, and learned about the practice of social mobility through the bound feet of women. I asked about painful practices that modern society uses for beautification and social advancement. One student skillfully related the practice of bound feet with modern-day plastic surgery obsessions. I thought her answer was brilliant.
We reviewed the basics of Confucianism, Islam, and the most well-known branches of Buddhism. In the first week, we honed in on the life of Saladin. The following week we examined the cultural clash between Hindu and Islamic society in medieval India. As a unit review in a couple of weeks, I have assigned a movie that was assigned to me when I took a college Indian history course a couple of years ago. The movie's lighting and use of color does a good job of illustrating the division between the two. The setting of the movie fits perfectly into this time period. This is on YouTube, but the full version with English subtitles is on Amazon Prime.
WORLD HISTORY I
The first week of this class centered on the ruins of Catal Huyuk, a 9000 year old village discovered in modern Turkey. We had a great discussion about some of the things we could learn from that society based on the structure and sizes of their homes. A small dwelling with one firepit would indicate a society that centered on the nuclear family, as opposed to say a large kinship network. We analyzed the Standard of Ur, looking at each figure in the piece, trying to hypothesize about the different occupations and division of labor in their society.
The next week, we more closely examined the Sumerian Kings List and the rise of the aristocracy and the priesthood in the major Sumerian cities of Eridu, Ur, Uruk, Nippur, Adab, Lagash, and Kish. We discussed what may have prompted these early cities to surround themselves with walls. We also compared ancient flood myths from at least seven different societies, including the Mayans and the Babylonians, as well as from the book of Genesis. Some of my students are Bible-believing and some are not. We do not focus on matters of faith, but matters of history.
Sumerian Kings List from Wikipedia.
Next week, we will be visiting ancient Egypt.