History 101

Western Civiliation I 

and Policies


1.  Kishlansky, Geary and O'Brien, Civilization in the West, 3rd ed., vol. 1.

This book serves as the basic textbook for the course. It will provide additional details on topics presented in lecture and discussions. It is a resource book that, like most textbooks, can be wearisome to read. It is among the best Civ textbooks available, however; and no amount of time spent reading it carefully will be wasted.

2.  Weber, The Western Tradition, 5th ed., vol. 1.

This is an indispensable collection of primary readings compiled by one of the finest European historians of our time. It assembles in one place some of the most important documents of the Western historical heritage, many of which are directly mentioned in the textbook. It is rightly, I think, regarded by many as the best book of its type presently available. It will be the main resource for discussions.

3. Sowards, Makers of the Western Tradition, 7th ed., vol. 1.

A useful collection of secondary writings on topics treated in lectures and presenting opposing positions on the significance and contributions of key historical personages.  An excellent companion to the primary sources in Weber.

(All three of these titles are available at the Westminster College bookstore.  Both are required readings.)

In addition to these three titles, a small number of supplemental readings will be assigned, some of which will be distributed as handouts while others will be available on reserve at the circulation desk at McGill or outside the professor’s office door.  See the course schedule below for details.

Assignments and Policies

1. Examinations.  There will be three examinations, one of which will be a take home exam. There is no comprehensive final exam in this course, but the take-home exam counts for a slightly higher percentage in calculating the final grade.  Be advised that turning in the take-home exam late will result in a one-third reduction in the grade of the exam for each day late.  (An “A” exam turned in one day late will receive an “A-,” two days late, a “B+,” three, a “B,” and so on.)

2. Quizzes.  No fewer than three short (20-point) quizzes, at least one of which will be on geography.  The quizzes will be announced in advance and, therefore, make-ups will be given in extreme cases only.  If it becomes clear that the assigned readings are not being done conscientiously, then the instructor reserves the right to administer more quizzes than the minimum three…unannounced.

3. Participation.  Students will be expected to attend class and to have prepared for lectures and for discussion sessions by having read and thought about the assigned readings.  Attendance and participation is especially expected during the scheduled discussion sections for the course.  This is your opportunity to delve into the material, to exchange ideas with the instructor and your colleagues, and to make connections.  Be forewarned:  unexcused or excessive absences will work against you in the final calculation of your grade.


1. The final grade will be determined according to the following breakdown:
        Midterm I:                            25%
        Midterm II (take home):       30%
        Midterm III:                         25%
        Quizzes:                               10%
        Participation:                        10%



2. Grades will be assigned according to the follow numerical equivalencies:

        93-100           A
        90-92             A-
        87-89             B+
        83-86             B
        80-82             B-, .....Etc.

Academic Honesty

The Undergraduate Catalog provides the following definition for “academic integrity”:
Academic dishonesty is a profound violation of the expected code of behavior.  It can take several forms, including, but not limited to, plagiarism, cheating, misrepresentation of facts or experimental results, unauthorized use of or intentional intrusion into another's computer files and/or programs, intentional damage to a computer system, and unauthorized use of library materials and privileges.
For a course like this one, the major concern is plagiarism, partly because it remains, alas, fairly commonplace on college campuses, partly because what constitutes plagiarism is often unclear in the minds of students.  For the sake of clarity, plagiarism can be defined as generally leading your reader (or in the case of oral presentations, listeners) to believe that what you have written or said is your own work when, in fact, it is not.  Plagiarism runs from the rather mild to the totally flagrant.  It can be the word-for-word reproduction of another person's text without quotation marks and appropriate citation.  It can be a paraphrase that is far too close to the source text to constitute “being in your own words.”  And it can be even the unattributed borrowing of apt phrases or terminology.  All of these degrees of plagiarism are equally unethical and may be penalized with failure for the assignment, or, in extreme cases, failure for the course.

The webpage for this course includes links to websites that discuss plagiarism and provide suggestions for identifying and rooting it out of your written work.  Students should visit this page, especially as they prepare to write their take-home exams.

If you are ever in doubt as to whether your written work is plagiaristic in form, do not hesitate to consult with the professor.

Course Schedule

Week I.
August 28:  What is Western Civilization?
August 30:  The Ancient Egyptians
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 2-24 (pagination is according to 4th edition);
                          Weber, xvii-xxiv, 1-11, 15-20.

Week II.
September 2:  Mesopotamia
September 4:  Israel and the Legacy of Legacies
September 6:  Discussion
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 24-35;
                          Sowards, x-xi, 5-18;
                          Weber, 20-52.

Week III.
September 9:  The Rise of Greek Civilization
September 11:  Greek Philosophy
September 13:  Alexander the Great and the Triumph of Hellenism
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 38-106;
                          Sowards, 28-35; 74-88;
                          Weber, 53-63, 109-142.

Week IV.
September 16:  Rise of Rome
September 18:  Pax Romana
September 20:  Discussion
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 109-64;
                          Sowards, 102-12;
                          Weber, 143-57, 162-67.

Week V.
September 23:  Early Christianity
September 25:  The Early Church
September 27:  Discussion
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 164-200;
                          Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 15 (reserve);
                          Sowards, 123-29;
                          Weber, 170-96.

Week VI.
September 30:  Decline and Fall of Rome
October 2:  exam 1
October 4:  Byzantium
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 200-220.
                          Weber,197-204, 210-219.

Week VII.
October 7:  Islam
October 9:  Dark Ages
October 11:  Charlemagne
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 220-59;
                          Excerpts from The Noble Qur’an;
                          Sowards, 136-51;
                          Weber, 220-27, 229-34.

Week VIII.
October 14:  The High Middle Ages
October 16:  Lordship and Vassalage
October 18:  Discussion  (exam 2 distributed)
        Readings:  Kishlansky, 259-303;
                         Weber, 235-39, 242-50, 255-64, 272-278.

Week IX.
October 21:  NO CLASS—Mid Break
October 23:  Reforms and Crusades
October 25:  Daily Life, Cities and Economy
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 303-50;
                          Sowards, 157-75;
                          Weber, 279-85, 295-302, 308-319.

Week X.
October 28:  The Later Middle Ages
October 30:  Casting our Gaze Elsewhere (exam 2 due)
November 1:  NO CLASS
        Readings:   Sowards, 179-96.

Week XI.
November 4:  Origins of the Nation State
November 6:  The Renaissance I
November 8:  Discussion
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 354-85;
                          Sowards, 201-19;
                          Weber, 333, 342-55.

Week XII.
November 11:  The Renaissance II
November 13:  The New World
November 15:  The Reformation I
        Readings:   Weber, 363-73, 379-82, 386-97;
                           Sowards, 225-44, 249-65.

Week XIII.
November 18:  The Reformation II
November 20:  NO CLASS
November 22:  NO CLASS
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 389-424;
                          Weber, 403-417.

Week XIV.
November 25:  The Rise of the Middle Class
November 27:  NO CLASS—Thanksgiving
November 29:  NO CLASS—Thanksgiving
        Readings:   Kishlansky, 428-72.
                          Sowards, 271-87;
                          Weber, 435-43.

Week XV.
December 2:  The Wars of Religion I
December 4:  The Wars of Religion II
December 6:  The Age of Absolutism
        Readings:  Kishlansky,  472-574 (continue into next week);
                         Sowards, 293-313;
                         Weber, 448-64, 510-38.

Week XVI.
December 9:  Looking Forwards, Looking Back

Examination Period:  Third Examination