Monday, October 1, 2012

A History of the World since 1300 @ FIX University

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Welcome to Spring Semester 2013

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 Dear FIX,

Many of you ask in the forums, “Can I trust history?” “Is there such a thing as a scientific approach to the study of the past?” Or, “Can we really know the truth?” The answers to these questions are complex. One can get an appreciation of the challenge by the activity in the forums. Indeed, one of the many pleasures of being a historian is learning from one’s mistakes. Some are the result of ignorance, some the result of haste. I am grateful to the students who have taken the time to follow up on the lectures and textbook, pointing out inconsistencies or errors in the course forums. In many cases, this has led to some fascinating threads. See, for instance, the discussion of the population of Cahokia sparked by the Executive Director of the Cahokia Mounds Support Group, Lori Belknap, where we discuss the complexities of archaeological evidence and contrast this trading hub with others, like Samarkand.

Or, consider a correction by “Glenn” of a claim in the textbook that Rousseau “coined” the term Noble Savage. Here, I pull back the veil to show you a little bit how the authors of the textbook work behind the scenes – in this case sharing an exchange with my friend and co-author Suzanne Marchand of Louisiana State University about what sort of “native” Rousseau had in mind when he wrote the Discourses and the Social Contract – monumentally important works in global history.

There are more – and I encourage you to travel through the forums to get a sense not just of the fascinating by-ways of history, but also of what goes into the craft of thinking historically, which includes learning by erring. Do we get a little closer to the truth? I am not sure – but we do get better understanding.


I also appreciate everyone’s contributions to the content of the many conversations, as well as the advice on how to channel it. Let me say that we are working on ways to improve the format given the constraints of the Coursera platform designed in Stanford. Much of what you see is not, in fact, constructed by us – and certainly not be me, a mere historian. Here are a few adaptations I do have control over and which I have changed:

1. There is now a set of threads under the sub-forum “Professor’s Forum” where Melissa Teixeira (a Princeton graduate student working under my supervision) and I engage in focused debates on the content from the lectures. This is a place where Melissa and I can be more visible as instructors. A day after each lecture, we will post one question for each lecture for you to consider and discuss.

2. I have begun to thin out redundant threads. Many of you have commented that there are too many threads and you find it hard and time-consuming to navigate. Believe me, you have my sympathies! Too many students initiate threads on topics that have rich discussions in other threads; too many pose questions about technicalities that are solved elsewhere. I am so grateful to wonderful “Community TA’s” who are helping direct some of this traffic. When necessary, I warn the poster that I will eventually delete their thread if there is duplication and I or one of the TA’s direct your eyes to the other threads. I hope this will clean up some of the clutter.

3. We have asked Coursera to allow students to invert the sequence of threads; to read the last post at the top of the thread instead of having to scroll so much. We have also asked that we be able to file threads into subforum categories and clean up the stockpile. They are working on these.

4. I strongly urge those of you who are interested in availing yourselves of the forums to read this helpful guide by one of the Community TA’s, Susan Spaulding:

To give you a sense of the scale of the discussions you are having, there are now over 600 separate threads (not including those I have started to remove), with over 10,000 posts and over 200,000 views. It must be the most staggering global conversation about history in the world.


We wrapped this week up by looking at the Europeans stumbling upon and conquest of the Americas and the subsequent incorporation of this “world apart” into an incipient Atlantic Ocean world that drew Europe, Africa, and the Americas into a triangular system. The question we now face is: how did this affect the relations between the western flank of Afro-Eurasia and the eastern flank? It is to this question that we turn in lectures 5 and 6.


In the meantime, our first Global Dialogue is available for viewing. Because Coursera does not allow us to post videos under any menu item other than “Video Lectures,” we have posted the conversation with my friend and colleague, Robert L Tignor there at the top. The conversation is divided into two segments. I should clarify that this dialogue was not recorded before a “live” student audience; our first take with Princeton students malfunctioned (someone forgot to turn on one of the microphones in the recording studio! See….everyone makes mistakes), and besides, there was such a backlog of material and questions from you that Bob and I decided to set aside a special dialogue to address your concerns. The conversation ranges widely, from ruminations about the history of global history at Princeton to the state of modern Egypt. Here it is:

Remember: next Wednesday Molly Greene (an Ottoman and Mediterranean historian) and Anthony Grafton (a Renaissance and intellectual historian) will be guests. I will open a thread that invites your questions as I did for Tignor.


The assignments will be posted on Sunday evening at 6:00 pm. We have not issued a special tab in the course menu for technical reasons: because the way Coursera has set up assignments the actual topics have to appear with the instructions – and I have not wanted you to start the assignments until at least a week has passed for all the students to be able to watch the fortnight’s lectures (1-4). When the assignments are posted, you will see a tab called “Writing Assignments”. It will include very precise instructions. Follow them, take your time; it should not take more than 30 seconds or so to figure it out, but fortunately you have an entire week! Choose which essay question you want to address, start composing, and when you are done, paste your essay into the appropriate space, or you can even compose on the site and save your drafts there. It is a wonderful system that will allow you to work on any computer in the world that gives you an internet connection.

Remember that you will be assessed by each other according to criteria I have laid out. For a guideline to expectations, I strongly urge you to read this section before you start writing your essays.

Thank you all for you energy and participation. Enjoy the next round of lectures, the global dialogue, and the essays.

Jeremy Adelman & A History of the World since 1300 Course Staff


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Welcome to Spring Semester 2013

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Derecho a Ver - Muestra itinerante de cine documental y derechos humanos


Mientras los documentales de la primera edición de Derecho a Ver siguen su itinerancia por el territorio colombiano y parte del extranjero (DF en México, Málaga en España).

Próximamente se podrá consultar la programación para las diferentes ciudades en esta página.

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JGB Hall Libray Building: Calle 5 No 24A – 91 / Barrio 3 de julio


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'Mi amigo Diego' Dirigido por Rob Brouwer and Pablo Eppelin Duración: 44 minutos País: Países Bajos Luis Alberto Alarcón, ex miembro de la seguridad del presidente Allende (GAP) decide contar su experiencia en las cárceles y centros de tortura durante los meses siguientes al golpe de estado militar en Chile. Un juez le solicita viajar a Chile para enfrentar en un careo al hombre que le torturó y le ha perseguido en sus pesadillas durante todos estos años.


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