WORLD CIVILIZATIONS TO 1500
THIRD ESSAY ASSIGNMENT
INSTRUCTIONS: The third essay required for History 1140 must be a response to one of these questions. In writing your
essay, you are free to use your class notes, your textbook, books from the library, or other appropriate sources. Use of
sources must be documented. Check for clarity of language, organization, grammar, and spelling before submitting your
essay. The essay should be about five or more typed pages in length. Essay 3 is due on 17 April 2017. If you wish for
me to comment on a preliminary draft of your essay, please submit it at least one week before the due date.
1. Identify and rank in order of importance five key characteristics of civilization; explain the rationale for your choice
and ranking of each characteristic. Then indicate, using specific evidence, how each of these five characteristics is
present or not present in Mesopotamian cities and the city of Mohenjo-Daro on the Indus River. Based upon a
comparison and contrast of the characteristics of these two urban civilizations, draw conclusions about how and why
2. Identify the elements common to these religions and philosophies (Judaism, Greek philosophy, Hinduism,
Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) that explain why they appealed to large numbers of people in the past and
why they continue to appeal today.
3. The migration of the Aryans into the Indian sub-continent brought major changes. Identify, rank in order of
importance, and describe the five most important. Which of them still influences the culture of this sub-continent
4. The history of Chinese civilization has been remarkable for its resistance to change. Identify, rank in order of
importance, and discuss the major features that have provided such stability for Chinese civilization.
5. Identify the core elements of the tradition of Classical Civilization that developed in fifth-century Athens. Illustrate
each of these elements with examples and illustrations drawn from your reading and the lectures.
6. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle brought about a revolution in thought when they responded to the relativism of the
Sophists. Identify (using your text as well as the lecture material) the core elements of this revolution, the method of
thinking advocated by each of these thinkers, and the unique features of each man’s thought.
7. Imagine that you are the curator of an art museum which has an important collection of Hellenic (classical Greek)
and Hellenistic sculpture. You have just learned that two famous works of sculpture are for sale: the Kritios Boy
and the Laocoön (find pictures of them on-line or in an art text). Unfortunately, you only have enough money to
purchase one work. Explain in your essay which statue you would buy and provide a complete rationale for your
decision. Explain also why you would not buy the other statue.
8. Trapped in a Time Machine, you find yourself hurtling back through time at the rate of centuries a second.
Terrified, you look around. In an instant you discover a button on the control panel in front of you. Quickly you
scan the instructions. They inform you that you may stop the machine only once and then only at one of the places
studied so far in HST 1140: World Civilizations I. At which place would you stop the machine? In your essay, you
are to explain exactly why you chose to visit this past civilization. What would you see as you walked around? Be as
specific as possible, using the pictures and descriptions from your text or other sources. What problems might
you—as a modern American Time Tourist—encounter in the course of your visit. Compare what you would see
with modern American civilization. Which do you prefer? Why? [If you write in response to this question, you
should go the library or the Internet and find pictures of the civilization at the time you wish to visit; they will help
you write your description of your visit.]
9. After three centuries of more-or-less severe persecution by the Emperors of Rome, the Christian religion was
granted toleration by Constantine the Great in AD 313. At the time when this toleration was granted, the number of
Christian believers had grown substantially, largely the result of Christianity’s appeal during the Roman Age of Crisis.
In your essay, you are to identify the reasons for Christianity’s appeal during the late third century. Indicate which
three you think are the most important, using specific historical examples. Explain also how Christianity was
transformed following its legalization and how it was able to both survive the collapse of the Roman Empire and
convert the Germanic barbarian kingdoms that succeeded Rome.
10. The Islamic religion arose in the Arabian Desert during the first half of the seventh century. Discuss in your essay
the essential characteristics of Islam as a religion, describe the nature of the Islamic Empire created in the seventh
and eighth centuries, explain why it collapsed, and summarize the contributions made by Islam to world civilization.
12. Feudalism and manorialism—two key medieval political and socio-economic institutions—appeared toward the end
of the Early Middle Ages. Explain why these institutions were necessary and summarize the key features of each.
Explain why feudalism and manorialism eventually disappeared.
13. An important theme during the European High Middle Ages is the attempt of kings to build national monarchies in
England, France, Germany, and Italy. Some were successful, others failed, with consequences influencing European
history into the twentieth century. In your essay, explain how medieval kings in England built a national monarchy
which contained the seeds of today’s modern parliamentary monarchy, while their German counterparts failed.
14. Identify the major challenges (social, economic, military, religious, and intellectual) facing Europeans during the Late
Middle Ages in Europe. Then explain why Europe did not sink into a “dark age” similar to that which followed the
ll of Rome and why instead there was a Renaissance first in Italy and then in Europe north of the Alps.
15. A theme of early Japanese History “Cultural Borrowing and Cultural Isolation.” Explain what this phrase means and
then apply it to the early history of Japan. What did the Japanese borrow from the Chinese? How did the Japanese
adapt and modify what they borrowed? When and why did they cease borrowing? And, finally, why did the
Japanese “close their doors” to European influences in the 17th century? What were the consequences of this
16. A problem facing modern students of the history of sub-Saharan Africa before 1500 is the absence of indigenous
written sources, the type of sources historians are accustomed to using in the writing of books like our world
civilization text. What sort of evidence, then, is available to the student wishing to learn more about the rich
civilizations that once flourished there? Based upon this study, identity and discuss at least FOUR of the types of
sources available to historians and indicate the key problems facing modern scholars who attempt to understand
these sources for the writing of a history of Africa before 1500.
17. Compare and contrast at least two of the civilizations (Olmec, Mayan, Aztec, and Inca) that developed in the
Americas before 1500, examining in your essay the origins, achievements, and decline of each. What general
conclusions can you make about the contributions of these early American civilizations.
18. The trumpets have sounded! The world has finally come to an end! All of mankind stands before the Eternal Judge
of History. With but two choices — salvation or damnation — the Judge must decide the fate of each human being.
Before justice is rendered, however, each individual has one last chance to explain and justify his/her actions, one
brief moment to explain what he/she did while on earth and why. Imagine yourself in the place of three of the
individuals listed below and give the speech that each would make.
The Buddha, Charlemagne, Henry II (of England),
Prince Shotoku (of Japan), Mansa Kankan Musa (of the Kingdom of Mali)
WORLD CIVILIZATIONS TO 1500