World History & Essential Skills



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Let's define the word civilization. Philip Bagby was a professor out in Berkeley back in the late 1950s and the Sixties, he wrote a book that was used in many colleges for decades called Culture and History, here's how he defined civilization:

“Civilization, let us agree then, is the culture of cities and cities we shall define as agglomerations of dwellings many (or to be more precise, a majority) of whose inhabitants are not engaged in producing food. A civilization will be a culture in which cities are found.”

Steve Blaha wrote a book called, The Rhythms of History . It is one of the latest contributions in the field of MacroHistory. The Big History idea is the flavor of the day for historians wanting to make money and dumb down the public. Drawing uncritically on Toynbee’s A Study of History,  Stop here for just a moment: For the record, Toynbee is a god to most people that study world history. Just sayin'. Continuing... Blaha attempts to develop a quantitative theory of civilizations. Over the course of eighteen chapters and two appendices, he reviews Toynbee’s theory of civilizations, develops a series of mathematical equations to model Toynbee’s theory, and subsequently applies the equations to several civilizations. Not to be limited to this planet alone, Blaha even provides a chapter on extraterrestrial civilizations.

This is how Blaha defines civilization: “Effective working definition (especially by archaeologists) of civilization: a grouping of at least several thousand people with a common culture, usually a common language, usually a geographic locale, some significant (usually monumental) buildings and architecture, and a political structure that is not necessarily unified” (Blaha 2002 and provided for this review).

Andrew Bosworth is another historian. Here's his version of what a civilization is: “Civilization is fundamentally a cultural infrastructure of information and knowledge that serves survival and continuity. What distinguishes a civilization from a culture is that this infrastructure, having reached a critical level of complexity, becomes autonomous from constituent cities, nations, and empires. In ordinary cultures, the passing of information and knowledge may depend upon imitation or oral communication; in civilizations, this cultural memory, etched into clay or drawn into papyrus, takes on a life of its own (“The Genetics of Civilization: An Empirical Classification of Civilizations Based on Writing Systems, Comparative Civilizations Review, 2003, 49:9).

Johann P. Arnason observes that “the concepts of culture and civilizations have developed in close connection with each other. There is no doubt, however, that the concept of culture plays a more dominant role in this shared development. . . . interpretations of culture can focus on forms of social life as well as on the constitutive patterns of meaning which make such forms durable and distinctive; the need to clarify the relationship between the two levels of analysis leads to various definitions of civilization . . . The simplest solution is to construct a concept of civilization on the basis—and within the limits—of a more comprehensive concept of culture.” Arnason then cites as a particular example of this kind of definition, that of Philip Bagby (1963), who, he says, thinks, “civilizations can be set apart from primitive cultures inasmuch as they are ‘cultures of cities’ and therefore marked by more complex social structures which accompany urbanization. . .(2003:1-2).”

And that takes us back to where we started. History is funny like that sometimes. Here is a chart, taken from the New York World History Regents' Exam, that sums up the elements of civilization nicely:

Let me leave you with the most thoughtful graphic I've run across:

River Valley Civilizations Information Links
Indus Valley Civilization Crash Course
Ancient Mesopotamia taught using LEGOs!
Giza 3D
Hieroglyphics Translator
Indus Valley Trader Game
Sarcophagus Design
Animated Mesopotamian City State Layout
Deconstructing the Great Pyramid
Upside of Isolated Civilizations animiation
What killed King Tut?
The Egyptian Secret to Moving Huge Pyramid Stones


WORLD HISTORY QUIZ #2 (Prehistory & Paleolithic Age)     

1. What were tools made out of during the Old Stone Age?


2. If there was no writing during the prehistory era how do we get our information about this time period?


3. What do archaeologists study?


4. What do anthropologists study?


5. What is another term for the Old Stone Age?


6. What is a nomad?


7. What do nomads spend most of their life searching for?


8. How long did the Ice Age last?


9. What is the scientific name for humans?


10. On what continent did the earliest humans emerge?


BONUS: What element is found in our bodies that can be measured by scientists to tell how long we've been on Earth?


Phoenicians & Hebrews & Assyrians & Egyptians & Harrapans & Chinese...

1.       Where were the Phoenicians located?

2.       What present day country is that?

3.       How did they make a living?

4.       What did they trade?

5.       What kind of ships did they build?

6.       How did they navigate?

7.       What was their most famous colony?

8.       What kind of writing did they have?

9.       What is the difference between their writing and the writing of others we have studied?



1.       What is the sacred text of Judaism?

2.       Who was the founder of the Hebrews?

3.       Who led the Hebrews out of slavery?

4.       What was the trip out of Egypt called?

5.       What are the 10 Commandments?

6.       What did the Hebrews call their God?

7.       What is a covenant?

8.       Who was King Solomon?

9.       What happened after his death?

10.   What was the diaspora?



1.       What kind of weapons did the Assyrians have?

2.       What did King Assurbanipal found?

3.       What did some people do rather than fight the Assyrians?



1.       What Persian ruler conquered the largest empire so far?

2.       What unique policy did he follow?

3.       Which ruler divided the government up into provinces called satrapies?

4.       What was the Persian road system called?

5.       Who were the Immortals?

6.       Who eventually conquers the Persians?

7.       What was the main religion of the Persians?

8.       Who started it?

9.       What is the basic principle of it?

10.   What is the sacred text of it?


















Great "Basic Research" Site:
Four Civilizations



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