Teaching the Medieval and Early Modern History of China and Iran

Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:30 AM
Congressional Room B (Omni Shoreham)
Sholeh Quinn, University of California, Merced
Ruth Mostern, University of Pittsburgh
The purpose of our presentation is to explain the experience of team teaching a course on the medieval and early modern history of China and Iran. Our experience of teaching this course was one of discovery, as we learned the extent of the direct and indirect connections between these two great Asian civilizations and the similarities and differences between the ways they grappled with common questions. Both societies confronted foreign conquest, pondered the meaning of the past, explored the nature of beauty, and launched religious revolutions.

We will discuss how we used a world historical perspective to study China and Iran from 600 to 1600 CE through comparison and interconnection. We began with introductory and theoretical readings on comparative history as practice and method, and students were required to refer to those readings in writing assignments. We divided the rest of the course into two main chronological periods: the history of China and Iran up to the Mongol invasions, then the Mongol invasions and their aftermath. Each unit began with a week of textbook reading about each civilization. Subsequent weeks focused on themes we thought would be fun (food, poetry, and science) and also would give students a framework for comparison. Throughout the semester, the class asked why (until very recently) historians had studied each civilization nearly completely independently from each other, despite their physical proximity and the interactions between them over time.

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