Western Civ Home



Raphael: The School at Athens
Please note: this list of lecture objectives are subject to change. Revisions or additions may occur before or after a given lecture. Please double-check this list prior to exams.

What is Western Civilization? and Intro to Guns, Germs, and Steel

  • Define "Western" and "civilization"
  • Describe the history of Western civilization
  • State Yali's question and Diamond's restatement of this as a research question
  • Explain 2 (of 3) objections to Diamond's research question
  • State Diamond's thesis in Guns, Germs, and Steel
  • Describe the Great Leap Forward

Collision of Cultures

  • Describe the concept of a natural experiment of history and relate Diamond’s example experiment
  • Identify the date of the first encounter between Atahuallapa and Pizarro
  • Define “proximate” and “ultimate”
  • List the proximate factors relevant to the collision at Cajamarca

Guns, Germs, and Steel - National Geographic/PBS Documentary, Episode 2 - Conquest

  • Describe three significant differences in the portrayal of the "collision at Cajamarca" in the PBS documentary film versus the chapter in Diamond's GGS

Food Production

  • Define “food production” and “founder crops”
  • Identify the five areas in which food production arose independently and the dates of onset in southwest Asia (the Fertile Crescent) and the eastern U.S.
  • Distinguish between independent and imported origins of food production
  • Describe and explain the ultimate and proximate factors underlying the broadest patterns of history (figure 4.1)
  • Distinguish among the ways in which plants are domesticated by conscious human choice and by factors not visible to humans
  • Explain why food production thrived in the Fertile Crescent and not on other continents

Animals, Axes, and Germs

  • Identify the 2 key roles humans play in domestication
  • Identify the Major 5 animal domesticates
  • Identify the six reasons that make undomesticated animals undomesticable
  • Explain why axis orientation and topography influenced human history
  • Explain how germs influnced human history and identify contemporary “lethal gifts”

Guns, Germs, and Steel - National Geographic/PBS Documentary, Episodde 1 - Out of Eden

Writing and Technology

  • Identify the early purposes of writing and printing
  • Describe the evolution of writing and explain the ways in which it spread
  • Explain the phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” and its converse
  • Describe the 4 factors affecting the use and adoption of technology
  • Identify the ultimate factor affecting the spread of writing and technology

Government and Religion

  • Describe the way in which Diamond classifies societies.
  • Define egalitarian, differentiating between social structure and social stratification.
  • Describe a kleptocracy and list the strategies for its maintenance.
  • Discuss the origin and rise of the state.

Guns, Germs, and Steel - National Geographic/PBS Documentary, Episode 3 - Into the Tropics

  • Explain the influence of geography on the colonization of Africa
  • List the environmental or geographic advantages the Zulus had over the Voertrekkers
  • Describe the role of 'guns germs and steel' in Africa today

Historiography and Critique of Determinism and Diffusionism

  • Define historiography and describe the historiography of diffusionism
  • Describe the colonizer’s model (diffusionist world model)
  • Explain the concept of implicit association

The Myth of the European Miracle

  • Explain the concept of "the European Miracle"
  • Outline the 6 basic categories of arguments supporting the “European miracle”
    • also distinguish between cultural and non-cultural arguments
  • Artciluate and support your view on whether Diamond's arguments regarding any of his proximate or ultimate factors fit into any of these categories
  • Explain the concept of implicit association

Blaut's Theory of the Rise of the West

  • State Blaut’s thesis in The Colonizer’s Model of the World
  • Describe the 4 grounds of comparison Blaut employs in his argument


...........midterm exam........


Ancient Civilizations and Natural Resources

  • Describe the natural resource use and environmental impacts in the civilizations of Easter Island, Mesopotamia, and Rome
  • Identify the “ecological consciousness” of Mesopotamian civilization
  • List the types of conservation attempts of the Roman empire
  • Identify the date of the fall of Rome

Knowledge, Philosophy, Science: The Greek Legacy

  • Define “epistemology” and distinguish empirical knowledge from theoretical knowledge
  • Identify the dates (centuries) of the era of Classical Greece & distinguish this era from other eras of Ancient Greece
  • Describe the basic ideas of the following Greek philosophers
  • Thales, Pythagoras, Democritus, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastus
  • Explain the legacy of Greek thought on environmental attitudes in the Western tradition

Christianity & the Western World View

  • Identify the date that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire
  • Relate White’s thesis in “Historical Roots” and explain the importance of this essay
  • Describe 3 fundamental components of the legacy of the Christian tradition
  • Explain 3 interpretations of human-nature relationship within the Christian tradition

Environmental Ethics

  • Draw and label the environmental ethics continuum
    • State and defend your position (attitudes and values)
  • Identify the historic legacy inherent in each label of the continuum

Medieval Times: Feudalism, Magna Carta, and the Black Death

  • Identify the dates of the Middle Ages
  • Describe the features of feudalism
  • Identify the date of Magna Carta, the King who signed it; and explain its significance
  • Identify the dates of the Black Death
  • Describe the bubonic plague and Cohn’s thesis about the Black Death

The Legacy of Feudalism and "Rousseau's Revenge"

  • Describe the legacy of feudalism
  • State Bromley's thesis in "Rousseau's Revenge" and summarize his essay
  • Describe Bromely’s concept of “social ownership”

The Renaissance

  • Define and describe the Renaissance
  • Place the Renaissance on a time line
  • Identify three prominent Renaissance figures and their major works
  • Explain two meanings of “Machiavellian”
  • Describe the timelessness of Shakespeare’s plays
  • Compare and contrast music conventions in the Medieval and Renaissance eras.
    Describe Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s influence on sacred music.
    Name 3 musical instruments from the Renaissance era.

The Reformation

  • Identify the event that triggered the Reformation as well as the date of that event
  • Explain the ultimate and proximate problems driving the Reformation
  • Explain the paradox of the Reformation
  • Describe the saga of the English Reformation
  • Describe the “Protestant Ethic” (Weber) and its implications

Scientific Revolutions: The Cosmos and the Natural World

  • Describe the concept of a scientific revolution according to Kuhn (1962)
  • Place the Scientific Revolution on a timeline using Copernicus’ work
  • Identify the prominent figures of the scientific revolution and describe their contributions to Western science
    • Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton
  • Compare and contrast the “old” (medieval) and “new” (post-Renaissance) categories and catalogues of the natural world
  • Identify those who created the “new catalogue” of nature and describe their contributions to Western understanding of the natural world
    • Ray, Linnaeus
  • Identify the decade of Gutenberg’s printing press (1450s)

The Enlightenment

  • Describe the characteristics of the Enlightenment
  • Place the Enlightenment on a timeline (using Locke’s Two Treatises)
  • Identify these figures of the Enlightenment and their contributions to philosophy
    • Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Kant
  • Explain the concept of a social contract