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Course Description & Objectives

“World Civilizations 1: From the Beginning of History to the Voyages of Exploration” is a broad survey course in global history. The course explores the culture, politics, economics, technology, and philosophy of societies in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas from these societies’ beginnings to the earliest Voyages of Exploration by European nations (c. 1490s). 

The course’s has two main objectives:

1. To raise and grapple with diverse civilizations' answers to big questions about society, human nature, and ethics. 

  • We'll explore multiple answers to the questions, "Where do we come from?" and "How then shall we live?" 
  • Students are encouraged to grow their understanding of the mindsets of the past peoples we'll study - and encouraged to query their own answers to questions of lasting relevance.

2. To introduce students to the major concerns and processes of the discipline of history. These include:

  • Concern for context.
    • That is, the ideas and actions of people that contributed to the development of a theory, event, or artistic endeavor.
  • Ability to read and understand primary sources.
  • Ability to recognize both the similarities and differences between past and present.
    • Including differences in actions, motivations, and beliefs.
  • Ability to construct a historical narrative that includes both secondary (present-day) materials and primary (made-in-the-past) materials

Internet-Ready Device

We use loads of internet resources in this class - Twitter, the class blog, websites, maps, Google Docs… It is therefore required that you have access to a smartphone, tablet, or laptop for the course.

Please Note: Students who do not currently possess an internet-ready device do not need to purchase one.

  • We will work out another accommodation, such as borrowing a spare device from student or professor for the class or only using Google Forms/device for group activities.
  • Please come see me or message me after the first class if this is the case for you.

Materials On the Web

Class Website

All course materials will be distributed on the course website, which can be found at the link

We’ll talk about how to use these digital platforms during the first class. Throughout the semester, please check the website often for:

  • New announcements
  • Updates to the schedule or assignments
  • Your peers’ blog posts


We'll be using Twitter for a number of activities this semester - for class prep, research, discussion, and writing practice.

To use Twitter you will need a Twitter handle (a username). Your Twitter handle for this class should be used only for this course.

Be as creative as you like with the name, but please remember it is a public representation of the UB-SIM program.

You may choose: 

  • To tweet publicly (everyone, everywhere can view) 
  • Or to protect your tweets (only people you let follow you can view what you write).
  • Your grade won’t be impacted either way. 
  • There are pros and cons to each mode of tweeting, so do feel free to choose the option that is the best fit for you.

You should plan to sign up for your Twitter account and complete the Participation Plan Activity by the start of Class 3.

PLEASE NOTE: It is possible to opt out of using Twitter this semester and there are some good reasons to do so. If you think you would prefer to opt out, come talk to me or email me about why. We'll figure things out from there.




Things to Watch/Read Before Class

Crash Course

"Confession! For the first half of the semester, I didn't really think much about the videos till like the last few lectures where I actually took down some notes. I realized it was quite crucial to watch it as it was pretty much related to what was covered in the lecture, so yeah, the videos really serve as a good place to start to learn new knowledge!"

Former student, Fall 2015

For each class you will be assigned a "Crash Course: World History" video to watch and/or web articles to read.

  • Each video is an introduction to the material for the upcoming lecture and discussion.
  • Links to relevant videos and articles can be found on the individual class pages.
  • You are expected to complete the context material before arriving in class each day.
  • Taking notes is highly encouraged - and immensely helpful.

Primary Source Readings

A primary source is a text written or artifact created during the time period and in the place we are studying. Some examples of primary sources from World War II, for instance, could be:

  • newspaper articles, personal diaries, a collection of published poems, or a soldier’s uniform.

For each class, you will be asked to read one or two primary sources in addition to viewing the assigned videos for the day.

  • These readings can all be found on the individual class pages on the class website,

Our discussions in each class depend on your familiarity with the primary sources, so do keep up with the reading!

It's also helpful (to you, your peers, and your prof) to arrive in class with some notes or questions about the readings.

Occasional Articles

For some classes, there is no relevant Crash Course video.

When that is the case, please read the articles listed in the “Before Class” section of the class page on the class website,

OPTIONAL: Textbook

Textbook readings may be used to supplement or reinforce your knowledge of the course material, but these are not required readings and you do not need to purchase the textbook.

If you would find it helpful to have a textbook, this is the recommended text:

  • The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History Volume I : To 1550 by Richard W. Bulliet, Pamela Kyle Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson and David Northrup. 6th Edition. ISBN: 9781285445526
  • Print or e-book are fine.

Relevant page numbers/sections on class pages are  the 6th edition. You are welcome to use an earlier edition, but will need to figure out page numbers for yourself.

 Available from  Amazon  and  Cengage  in e-book or print. Earlier editions are fine.

Available from Amazon and Cengage in e-book or print. Earlier editions are fine.

Learning Outcomes

Four Historical Concepts

1. History is an interpretive act based on careful consideration of evidence.

People write history from a wide variety of perspectives. It is rare for there to be only one story about a particular event or person.

For instance, there are histories of the Second World War that focus on the political history, intellectual history, environmental history, and gender history of that time period.

This doesn’t mean historians are just making things up though! People who write history carefully read the documents from a particular time period and base their conclusions on what they find .

2. The past is both strange and unfamiliar AND it is relevant to our present lives.

Some people in the past think, act, and believe very differently from some people today.

We must acknowledge those differences and attempt to understand people different from ourselves.

However, this does not mean that past peoples hold no meaning or insight for our own lives. Ideas, events, and lives from the past continue to resonate today.

3. History is based on what we learn from primary and secondary sources.

People who study history use the texts and artifacts created by people in the time period they want to study. These are primary sources.

Writers of history also use the work of scholars living in their time period. These are secondary sources. Each kind of source has different strengths and weaknesses.

4. History is the study of significant things.

Significance doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone who studies history, as we’ll explore in this course. Still, it’s always worth asking - What is worth remembering about the past? What is worth learning? What is worth teaching?

Three Historical Skills

1. Interpreting primary sources.

By reading and participating in discussions during each class, students will gain experience in parsing the meaning, context, significance, and reliability of primary sources in a variety of genres.

2. Evaluating the credibility of historical accounts.

Students will practice evaluating the credibility of sources through their discussions of primary sources in class.

Students will be frequently prompted, by the professor and peers, to consider the questions, "What is the author's background and experience? How might this impact his/her perspective on the subject?"

3. Constructing historical arguments based on secondary and/or primary sources.

Students will complete two exam essays this semester.

These assignments do not require research, but will give students an introduction to the basic elements of historical writing, including the construction of thesis statements, the ability to accurately describe an example, and awareness of their own perspectives/biases.


Respect is the defining characteristic of our conversations.

Any and all viewpoints that are expressed respectfully and address the topics of this course will receive attention and a fair grade in this class. If comments are expressed disrespectfully or move too far afield, I reserve the right to end a conversation and/or request a conversation with you following the class.

Respect includes using appropriate language to describe people or groups of people. 

Please use gender neutral language and respectful designations for ethnic, racial, and national groups when appropriate. If you are unsure of what the most respectful terminology is, please feel free to ask.

Respect for present and past peoples also means approaching diverse cultures with an open mind.

You will find some ideas weird, dismaying, and disagreeable. That's okay. I encourage you to acknowledge that reaction and then move past judgment by taking the time to ask, "Why did they think that? Why was it like that? Why do I think differently?"

Discussions should be had with the entire class.

Please try not to engage in side conversations (verbal, electronic, or written) once class has begun.

Perfection will not (usually) be a defining characteristic of our conversations. 

With that in mind, please share freely! All thoughts, questions, and ideas – no matter how tentative, incomplete, or half-formed these might be – are welcome.

Please take responsibility for your actions.

If you are not in class, don't say that you were. If you made a mistake on an assignment or miss a deadline, work to correct it. If you said something unkind to someone, apologize and do better next time.

These expectations are for you - and for me. If I have done something disrespectful or hurtful, you can expect me to apologize, take responsibility, and work toward changing my action or attitude.



There are two kinds of distraction provided by technology - the escapist kind and the exploring new knowledge kind.

I would ask that you aim for the latter in this class. Please avoid using technology to check out of the class. Please do use technology to learn, share, and dig deeper in the course.



Proper use of grammar, spelling, and punctuation is expected in all writing completed outside of class.

In-class writing and informal writing activities do not require proper use of grammar and spelling. There will not be time for proofreading.

Please note, however, that grammar, spelling, and punctuation will always be weighted less heavily than other elements of rubrics.

If you are unsure of whether or not something is grammatically correct, I encourage you to use the spelling and grammar check tools in your favorite document-creation software, helpful websites like OWL Perdue or GrammarGirl, or a browser extension like Grammarly.




You are expected, at all times and on all assignments, to be honest and to present work that is entirely your own.

This does not mean you can't use other people's ideas. It just means you have to give credit to the people who came up with them in the first place. This means:

  • If you use a summary you find online to help you with a discussion response, provide the link, paraphrase, and put all direct quotes in quotes.
  • If a peer had a really great insight and you share it in class, mention their name.
  • On the exams, use your own notes, tell me if you received an idea from a friend, and don't include anything from only sources.

Examples of Plagiarism

All of the following are examples of plagiarism (quoted from <–This is a citation ;)

  • “turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not” [<–Direct quote = quotation marks]

How I deal with plagiarism in this course

I recognize that it takes time to gain skills like paraphrasing, citing, and crediting other authors. So here’s how I usually deal with plagiarism in this course:

  1. Preventative: I try to give you as many tips and tools as possible ahead of time to help you prevent plagiarism from occurring.

  2. First Time:  With the exception of the Blogging Project's Final Publication, you will usually be given the opportunity to revise an assignment if is the first time plagiarism has shown up in an assignment.

  3. Second Time: You will either lose points or fail the assignment, depending on how much of the assignment is plagiarized and what the nature of the plagiarism is.

  4. Recurring: If plagiarism is a recurring issue in your assignments, or if a particularly egregious form of plagiarism occurs (such as submitting a purchased or ghost-written essay or blog post) this may be grounds for failure of the course.


Accessibility Resources for Students with Disabilities

Reasonable Accommodation refers broadly to reasonable modifications of policies, practices, and procedures as necessary to ensure that persons with disabilities have the same opportunities as others in all programs, services, and benefits of the University at Buffalo. Anyone with a disability (including a chronic illness) who needs reasonable accommodations in the SIM-UB Program should refer to the Student Handbook (available online via SIMConnect) for further information, or consult the Resident Director, Kevin McKelvey.


General Policies

Attendance and active participation is expected by all students in every class. Students are expected to be present for the entire duration of each class. Tardiness to or absenting oneself during class will result in a deduction from the attendance and participation portion of the final grade.

Late assignments, if accepted, will be penalized.

Students who are absent from a midterm exam must request a make up exam from the course instructor; a make up will be given only if there is an appropriate, documented reason for absence from the exam (such as an MC); any disputes regarding the validity of the reason or the documentation may be referred to the student advisor.

Students who are absent from a final exam must formally request a make up exam in writing to the Assistant Resident Director, Katie Fassbinder, within 24 hours of the original exam. The make up exam request form can be found in SIMConnect.

In all cases, supporting documents must be provided and a make-up exam will only be scheduled if there is a valid and appropriate reason for the absence. For example, prior commitments to external activities or events outside of SIM are not considered a valid reason for absence.

For medical cases, students must submit a detailed letter from the doctor, highlighting the date of the medical consultation, the nature and the severity of the illness, and how the illness prevented them from taking the scheduled exam, in addition to a Medical Certificate (MC). A Medical Certificate alone will not be accepted for make-up final exams.  Disputes may be referred to the Resident Director.

There will be no make ups for other course assessments, and students who are absent from such assessments will receive a zero.


**Please Note**

This class does not have a midterm or final exam.


UB Statement Of Principle On Academic Honesty

The University at Buffalo has a responsibility to promote academic honesty and integrity and to develop procedures to deal effectively with instances of academic dishonesty. Students are responsible for the honest completion and representation of their work, for appropriate citation of sources, and for respect for others’ academic endeavors.

By placing their name on academic work, students certify the originality of all work not otherwise identified by appropriate acknowledgements.

Additionally, students are expected to understand and abide completely by the following guidelines for academic integrity in all UB courses:

Plagiarism, cheating, and other incidents of academic dishonesty will result in an automatic failing grade for the course. Depending on the severity of the violation, your case may also be reported to UB for further investigation and may result in expulsion from the university.

Plagiarism consists of copying work from another source without giving proper citations. You must not copy information from printed materials, internet sources, or from the work of other students. If you are uncertain about how to submit your work correctly, consult the instructor immediately.  

Any claim of ignorance of the rules of academic integrity by any student is unacceptable.

Letters, Percentages, and Points

Please note that there are two tabs in the embedded document. The first tab indicates the letter grades and scores for this class. The second tab breaks down how much each assignment is worth and the total points possible for the semester.


Individual Grades

Individual student grades will be posted via a web app for this course. Each student will have access only to her/his grades.

The link to the web app is in the header menu of the website. (Though you won't have access to it just yet... I still need to collect emails and set up your class's spreadsheet for the semester.) 

To use the web app once it is set up, sign in to your email account (UB or Gmail) on Return to Hello World Civ in the same browser window and click on the "Grades" link in the top navigation bar to access your grades.

The first time you click the link, the web app will ask for authorization to run. To authorize:

  1. Click "Review Permissions."
  2. The window will tell you "This App Isn't Verified".
  3. Choose the "Advanced" link (gray link, bottom of window).
  4. Choose "Go to Google Gradebook1 (unsafe)" [It is actually safe - promise...] 


Try opening a new incognito (Chrome) or private (Safari) window. Navigate to Google. Sign in ONLY with the email address you provided me at the beginning of the semester (UB or Gmail).

Navigate back to Hello World Civ "Student Grades." Click on your gradebook.

If it still won't work, please message Prof. Bennett for assistance.

After the first use, simply clicking the link in the navigation bar should take you to the gradebook. The app is a little on the slow side. Please be patient (especially on the school wifi).