Structuring courses around themes

Last semester, as I as teaching Roman archaeology, I realized part way into the semester that I was really teaching a course about ideology and the spread of Roman culture into the provinces (Perhaps uncoincidentally that’s a large part of my specialty). Once I had this realization, I regretted that I had not realized or planned all of this earlier.  Without this realization, the early third of the class was less organized and I was not providing a clear, conceptual framework for my students to locate their ideas in this course.  Therefore, this semester, I am making a change. As I teach in the history department at the University of Dayton, I am going to be focusing on the following in each course:

  • World History: The importance of a global perspective and how world events are not Eurocentric.
  • Introduction to the Ancient History of the Mediterranean, Near East, and Asia: State formation and Empire
  • Roman History: Rome as an Empire. We will start with discussion of sources about early Rome, then talk about how Rome acquired its empire (i.e. imperialism), and then the various facets of an empire (e.g. economy, government, religion, power and sex, ideology, etc.), and the reception of Rome as the empire par excellence.

After I chose these themes, it was easier for me to develop syllabi and I am trying something new: offering students a theoretical background to some of the discussion before we talk about it. For example, the introductory ancient history class will have a day dedicated to State Formation theory before we talk about Egypt, the Ancient Near East, early China, and early Greece, and a day will be dedicated to ideas of Empire before we talk about the Athenian Empire, Rome, the Qin and Han dynasties, Korea, and Japan. I am hoping this theoretical framework will help students find more coherence in a class that combines so many disparate cultures and states.

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