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Getting StartedProfs. Michael (Mike) Driedger and Daniel (Danny) Samson welcome you to HIST2F90! We're glad you have chosen to join us in our adventure in online learning. Please be aware that this course is designed for you to do all of your learning online on your own time. There are no scheduled classes.
This course was first offered in 2015. In the video below you'll learn not just about us but also about our reasons for planning an online course long before the COVID pandemic.
Once you've read the course syllabus, take some time to look over the materials on this page. It's best to use a laptop or desktop computer to view course resources such as this online e-textbook as well as the Brock University Sakai learning management system. You can also view Sakai or this e-textbook on a smartphone or tablet. If that helps you keep up with the course, great! Keeping up is important. Just be aware that a larger screen and keyboard will help you to be able to make the best use of your time and the resources we provide.
When you go into Sakai you will notice a series of tool icons on the left-hand side of the screen. The YouTube video below is Prof. Samson's guide to getting started in Sakai. You can also find a link to this video in the Overview page in Sakai. The guide will help you navigate between the various components of the course that are not part of this online textbook. The Sakai learning management site gives you access to quizzes, assignments, a messaging system, a calendar, etc. We will make more of these options and tools available as the course progresses. Please familiarize yourself with Sakai in the first week of the course (the Week starting on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020), but be aware that more and more Sakai resources will become available as the weeks of the course progress.
For you to succeed in this course - and indeed for the course to succeed for all of you - we will all have to progress through the course on the same weekly schedule. A common schedule allows all of you to respond to one another in the weekly Forums. Therefore, while you can work mostly at your own pace within each course week (Wednesday through the following Tuesday), you will have to make sure that you complete each week's learning activities within the scheduled time. This is especially important for the Forums. Please plan your time well! The syllabus has all the details. The Calendar in Sakai is there to help remind you of activities and deadlines (note that the Calendar in Sakai will only be available starting in the second or third week of the course, and it will be updated from time to time -- so check back on the Calendar as well as other resources on a regular basis).
Note: Unless we tell you otherwise, each course "week" will start on Wednesday and finish on the following Tuesday!!!
We strive to keep the structure of each Lesson the same, so that you know what to expect from week to week. With very few exceptions (such as this "Getting started" entry) each Lesson will include these headings:
- This week's big question
- Video introductions
- Learning outcomes
- Questions to consider, and learning activity
- Primary sources
- Secondary sources
- Supplemental material
This week's big questionEach lesson has a "big question" focused on that week's theme. You should use this question to help you organize your learning for the week, and also help you think in a step-by-step way about the overall course question. Recall that we have a big over-arching question for the course:
For the period between 1500 and 1850, what were the most significant factors in the rise of the liberal-capitalistic West?Each week's Big Question is what you will be discussing with other members of your Forum Group. You will use the primary and secondary sources in the Lesson to provide you with evidence as you think about and discuss the question. Good answers are based on evidence from the assigned sources!
So, the course has a Big Question, each week has its own Big Question, and each week also has a series of smaller questions. They're all connected. The smaller questions help focus our attention on facets of the weekly big questions; the weekly big questions help us to think about the the Big Question for the entire course.
For this week (Wednesday, Sept. 9, to Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020) the "big question" is meant to help you introduce yourself to your Forum colleagues to each other, while also getting you to start thinking historically. The question or task for the week is:
Introduce yourself to your Forum group. Tell everyone something about your perspective on the world (i.e., where you're from, what your first "historical" memory is, and what have been the most important experiences, ideas, technologies, or social conflicts that have shaped your life).
Video introductionsThe videos are meant to help you get started with the Lesson. Watch them before you begin each Lesson.
Each week under this heading we will outline a series of benchmarks to help guide your learning. These "outcomes" are meant to help you and us evaluate whether you are learning something substantial.
The syllabus also includes a list of learning outcomes for the course as a whole. In summary, the course outcomes fall under three categories (knowledge, professional practice, and skills). At the end of this course you should have the ability to:
- Describe and explain the significance of the major developments in the early modern Atlantic world;
- Communicate ideas/arguments effectively and honestly in all course work;
- Ask good historical questions and form strong arguments that answer these questions using the best evidence you can find.
For each week of the course the learning outcomes will be much more specific. For example, by the end of this Introduction (the first course week) you should have:
- Read the syllabus and be able to answer questions about the main aspects of the course (themes, organization, and policies); and
- Read about and be able to name the 6 dimensions of historical thinking, as outlined on the Historical Thinking website.
Although you might not notice a direct connection between this week's learning outcomes and the outcomes for the course as a whole, you should keep the general outcomes from the syllabus in mind as we move through the course. In a month or two you should recognize yourself building more and more overall abilities in knowledge, professional practice and skills.
Questions to consider, and learning activities
Under this heading we will usually give you more detailed questions. These further questions are meant as elaborations on the big question for the week. Therefore, you should always keep the big question in front of you.
The questions are meant to guide not only your personal learning but also your discussions with other students in the course Forum. You should contribute to the Forum AFTER you have read and thought about all the assigned sources for the week, but you should also follow the schedule as outlined in the course syllabus and in on the Calendar. This will require that you PLAN CAREFULLY.
Every week, a "background" section will provide you with some general context for the Lesson's subject.
In addition to introducing you to the history of the early modern Atlantic world, this course is also designed to teach you more generally about the practice of history. In everyday speech we often use the word "history" to mean "the past." To learn about history at the university level, however, you need to be aware of another more advanced meaning of "history": inquiry about the past. One of the most basic questions about the past is: How do we know anything? Where does our knowledge about the past come from? You might think the answer to this basic question is that knowledge about the past comes from textbooks. But where does the knowledge in textbooks come from? The answer to this question has many parts. The short answer is that we learn about the past most fundamentally not from sources about the past but rather from sources from the past. Historians call these primary sources. Learning how to work effectively with sources from (as well as about) the past takes lots of practice.
As the course progresses, we will reveal more and more aspects to the study of history to you. The skills we will be teaching you are meant to be cumulative. This means that they build on each other. In other words, you should not think about each week's Lesson as an isolated unit but rather as one part of a larger whole. Our intention in teaching you about the practice of historical inquiry is that you will be able to apply the overall skills of inquiry to questions outside of the course.
Under this heading you learn the basic skills of historical interpretation.
This course teaches you not only about the history of certain times and places, but also about the practice of history -- about doing and making history. To practice a trade, you need tools. Under this heading we will provide you with tools or exercises that will help you improve your reading, writing, inquiring and thinking in this course -- and we hope also in your life beyond the course.
This week we will get you to acquire an overview of the principles of thinking historically. Historical thinking is a variation on critical thinking. To start learning about it, you should read the following introductions from The Historical Thinking Project (click on the links):
- The general introduction to the 6 components of historical thinking;
- The introductions to the concepts of perspective and evidence in historical thinking.
One of the purposes of the Forum exercise this week is to get you to think about your perspective as an interpreter of evidence about and from the past.
Sources are the building materials of historical studies. You might already have a good idea about the differences between primary and secondary sources. Here's a quick refresher.Primary sources are created in the past worlds that we want to study. They take lots of forms: personal journals, travel accounts, letters, posters, and books and newspapers from the time. In this course, most our primary sources are written/textual sources, but they can include paintings, prints, music scores, oral accounts,and archaeological remains (even bones or DNA samples).
In most Lessons in the e-textbook, under the "Primary Sources" heading you will normally find information about and links to the required primary readings for each week. For this introductory week, however, we will not provide you with any primary materials.
Secondary sources are interpretations that try to make sense of past worlds. Most secondary sources you will use in history courses are modern, published texts. Usually these take the form of essays in academic journals and books about historical subjects. Although the formats that secondary sources take is less varied than is the case for primary sources, not all secondary sources take the form of printed materials. Lectures are an example, as are documentaries.
The thing that all secondary sources have in common is that they provide interpretations of evidence from the past. Think about this when you write your answers to each week's big question. You are writing your own interpretation of evidence -- your own secondary source.
Learning tip: Whenever you read a source (whether primary or secondary), always make sure you associate the main themes of the source with the author. Knowing who wrote the text is usually a very important step for effective critical and historical thinking.
Under this heading we'll provide you with some extra notes that are significant but are not required for the course.
For this first supplemental section we'll provide you some tips on how to succeed in this course.
How to Succeed in the Course
Plan your time: To succeed at a high level in most university courses, you need devote between 6 and 9 hours of time to each course, each week. We have structured the expectations in HIST 2F90 to be more modest in the first few weeks, so that you have a chance to get used to learning in the online environment. However, the workload will increase as the course progresses, so you need to plan your time effectively and be disciplined every week. You will need to stay disciplined, of course, in all of your university courses, if you wish to succeed, but disciplined and regular work is especially crucial for success in an online course such as this one. Based on the experiences of students in other online courses, those who keep up with course work tend to do better than they might in face-to-face courses, while those who do not keep up tend to do more poorly. We would like you all to succeed.
Take responsibility for your own learning: One of the great advantages of an online course is that it offers you great flexibility in your time; one of the great disadvantages of an online course is that it’s easy to ignore. Success in this course demands that you schedule your time wisely and take responsibility for your own learning.
To be an effective and active learner we expect that you will:
- Check Sakai regularly (including Messages and the Calendar);
- Make sure that you read all available resources thoughtfully and carefully;
- Review readings and materials thoughtfully and reflectively before you make contributions to each week's Forum;
- Be self-motivated and self-directed rather than passive;
- Manage your time effectively;
- Troubleshoot problems rather than simply waiting to be told what to do;
- Keep records of your research and learning (this includes all essay notes and drafts and copies for assignments).
Reminder: Starting on Wednesday the 9th (2020) at noon it'll be time for you to introduce yourself in the Sakai Forum. See the instructions above (in the section "This week's big question") for more details.
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Module 2. Week 07.
Early Modern Africa
At the end of this week you should:
have a basic understanding of the West African economy and society in the early modern era;
know how slavery’s place in the West African economy expanded in this period;
be able to explain the basis for the integration of West Africa into the emerging Atlantic economy;
be able to discuss the difficulties of interpretation posed by the major primary sources for early modern African history.
Questions to consider, and learning activity
This week read the secondary text by John Thornton before you read the documents or look at the images. Thornton is one of the world's leading historians of early modern Africa and this text situates the subject perfectly for us: in the Atlantic world!
We were very pleased with the forum this week. Lots of good discussions, lots of engaging with one another.
We'd like to see that continue. Keep your posts relatively short and try to get at least 4 posts in over the next week.
Remember in all your posting:
(1) to add new analysis to the discussion,
(2) to use direct evidence to support your points,
(3) to engage constructively with other students in your Forum.
We have two sets of images this week: one a set of Western European paintings of Africans in Europe and the other a set of more documentary images from the University of Virginia. Base your image comments on ONE of these sets.
What can the documentary images tell us about early modern West African life? Do these images (and the documents) highlight limits we face in our understanding of Early Modern African life?
What do the paintings from the Walters Museum tell us about Africans in Europe in the early modern era? What can they tell us about how Europeans saw Africans? What can they tell us about Africa itself?
We have three different versions, made 200 years apart, of Don Alvaro, King of Kongo receiving the Dutch Ambassador. Can we see significant differences/similarities in these representations? How can we account for these? What does it mean that when reading a book on the subject one of them might be presented as an image of this meeting?
The written primary sources point more to a world of economy and government. What can those tell us about the nature of civil society in early modern West Africa? How do those compare with the images?
Like last week, few of our primary sources, including images, were produced by Africans. What does that tell us about the sources we use in writing African history in this era? Do you see differences in the perspective of the descriptions this week versus last?
How was West Africa drawn into the Atlantic world? Were Africans victimised in this story? If so, how?
What are the most significant similarities and differences between pre-modern West Africa and pre-modern Western Europe?
There are several reasons why African history is complex. One is its interrelationship with Europeans. In fact, a great deal of the surviving written and artistic primary sources about the early modern African world were created by Europeans. Maps are a good example. To get a quick sense of the changing knowledge and understanding of Africa that Europeans had from about 1500 to 1900, see the gallery of maps that The Guardian has compiled, and examine the map below.
HISTORICAL THINKING CHALLENGE: If you would like an extra challenge in close reading and comparison of visual images, compare the map below from the early seventeenth century with the map from the late seventeenth century that you can find in a zoomable window at the bottom of this module.
A map of Africa from 1635, published by Willem Blaeu in Amsterdam (Source = Wikimedia Commons) (click image to expand)
Another reason for the complexity of its history is that Africa, like Europe, is highly regional. What’s true in Scotland, may not be true in Italy, or in Poland; what's true in West Africa may not be true on the Mediterranean north, or on the Indian Ocean coast. Thus, in this course on the Atlantic World, we’ll only look at central West Africa. This is where most complete integration into the Atlantic World took place; it's where most of the slave shipments occurred, and it's where the impacts of the trade were most powerfully felt. Slavery wasn't invented when European traders began to appear in the 15th century. It has an ancient history in Africa, as it does in much of the world. But the arrival of European slave ships in ever increasing numbers in the years after 1500 marked a sharp rise in the trade. Our examination this week looks at West Africa in that early period of expansion.
What we’ll see is a much messier story of expansion than one might have imagined. While no doubt smaller and less organized than European states, West African states were well developed and could be quite powerful. Several small empires rose and fell in this period, some building their strength very much on indigenous African resources and conflicts, others emerging from the opportunities afforded by increased trade with Europeans. West Africa’s history in this period was still very much driven by African issues. That would change over the next centuries, as some states were increasingly drawn to depend on the slave trade. But even then one cannot simply understand the history of Africa as an adjunct to European expansion. The primary sources available to us, however, may help explain why Westerners often view Africa as supplementary to its own history. West Africa was a pre-literate society and thus most of the sources available to us are of European provenance. As you’ll see, there are some exceptions, but not many, and thus most of our views are by outsiders – travelers, merchants, adventurers, many of whom were acute observers, but still not of the society under observation.
Early modern West Africa had a rich and sophisticated economy, and much of that was based on trade. Slaves were, in some places and some times, part of that trade, but it was not until the arrival of Portuguese and then other European traders that slaves came to form such a major component. Our readings this week are directed at understanding something of the nature of society and trade in early modern West Africa, and in particular at understanding the importance of slavery. Indeed, some of the documents point us to understandings of West African "civil society" – that is, society that is neither of the public world of the state and trade, nor of the private world of the family, but of the worlds of associational life, social relations, and local politics of family, kin, and tribe. It is here that we best understand West Africa on the eve of its integration into the Atlantic World.
Documents from William H. Worger, Nancy L. Clark, and Edward A. Alpers, eds., Africa and the West: A Documentary History, volume 1 (New York, Oxford University Press, 2010). 12pp.
No. 4, Pereira’s description of the west coast of Africa (1508);
No. 5, Spain regulates importation of slaves (1518);
No. 6, Alfonso of São Tomé attempts to regulate trade (1526);
No. 7, British attempts to break Portuguese monopoly (1564);
No. 8, A Jesuit justifies the slave trade (1610);
No. 9, Dutch efforts to break Portuguese monopoly (1654).
John Barbot, "A Description of the Sea-Coasts of North and South Guinea" [ca.1680], reprinted in Awnsham Churchill, comp., A Collection of voyages and travels: some now first printed from original manuscripts, others now first published in English, volume V (London, 1732), 27-37, 43-48 (15 pp.).
By the 16th century, as trade developed between the Africa and Europe, we do begin to see more representations of Africans in European art. For example, look closely at the 12 works of art from The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.
Also look closely at the following 8 images from a website (www.slaveryimages.org) at the University of Virginia entitled "The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record." You can see a larger version of each image, together with a description, by clicking on the image thumbnail below.
An early 18th-century image of an African coastal town, together with representations of manioc production
An early eighteenth-century image of an African coastal town, together with representations of manioc preparation
Late seventeenth-century images of instruments from the Gold Coast of Africa
Late seventeenth-century images of instruments from the Gold Coast of Africa
City of Loango in the late seventeenth century
The city of Loango in the late seventeenth century
Don Alvaro, king of Kongo, receiving Dutch delegation, 1642
Don Alvaro, king of Kongo, receiving Dutch delegation, 1642, from an eighteenth-century print
Images of house types from Cape Mesurado in the 1720s
Images of house types from Cape Mesurado in the 1720s
Coronation of King of Whydah (Ouidah) in Dahomey, April 1725
Coronation, King of Whydah (Ouidah), Dahomey, April 1725
King of Kongo receiving Dutch ambassadors, 1642, from a late seventeenth-century print
King of Kongo receiving Dutch ambassadors, 1642, from a seventeenth-century print
Dutch ambassadors greeting the king of Kongo, from a nineteenth-century print
Dutch ambassadors greeting the king of Kongo in late seventeenth century, from an early nineteenth-century print
The authors and compilers of the University of Virginia website are Jerome S. Handler and Michael L. Tuite Jr., and the site is sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.
John K. Thornton, A Cultural History of the Atlantic World, 1250-1820 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, of 2012), 74-99.
Reminder about assignments
You have until Nov. 8 to finish your work on Parts A and B of the Transcription Assignment.