Saturday, September 18, 2004

Teaching about Conflict and Crisis in the Former Yugoslavia: The Case of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Teaching about Conflict and Crisis in the Former Yugoslavia: The Case of Bosnia-Hercegovina. This is an essayw hich gives ideas for teachers on how to instruct students about the Yugoslavian Civil War of the 1990s and how it impacted Bosnia-Hercegovina. It includes an overview of Yugoslavian history.

From the site:

Yugoslavia was a country of about 23 million people located in southeastern Europe, across the Adriatic Sea from Italy. More than 15 ethnic groups lived in the former Yugoslavia. The majority of the population, however, belonged to one of six related Slavic groups: Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnian Muslims, Macedonians, and Montenegrins. The Croats, Serbs, Muslims, and Montenegrins speak a common language, referred to as "Serbo-Croatian." But religious and other cultural differences, which have resulted from separate historical experiences, have divided these Slavic groups.

From the Middle Ages to 1918, most of these people lived in one of two empires, which dominated this part of Europe: the Hapsburg Empire, ruled from Vienna, and the Ottoman Empire, ruled by the Turks from Istanbul. The Slovenes and Croats lived under Hapsburg rule, while the Bosnians and most Serbs lived under Turkish authority. Serbia and Montenegro, though, had small independent kingdoms by the turn of this century. These served as a base for the construction of Yugoslavia (Land of the South Slavs) in 1918, following World War I, which was a monarchy headed by the Serbian ruling house.

During World War II, Yugoslavia was occupied by Germans and Italians. A Communist, Josip Broz (Tito), organized a large resistance force known as the Partisans. He wanted to throw out the enemy occupiers and transform Yugoslavia into a socialist state.

After World War II, Tito became the supreme ruler of the new, second Yugoslavia. The country was divided into six republics: Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Montenegro (Crna Gora), and Macedonia. Each republic corresponded to one of the six South Slav ethnic groups, but all had minorities.

Friday, September 17, 2004

History of Brazil

History of Brazil. This is a nice short overview of the history of Brazil. It is well written but basically concentrates on modern Brazilian history.

From the site:

Pedro Alvares Cabral claimed Brazil for Portugal in 1500. The colony was ruled from Lisbon until 1808, when Dom Joao VI and the rest of the Portuguese royal family fled from Napoleon's army, and established its seat of government in Rio de Janeiro. Dom Joao VI returned to Portugal in 1821. His son declared Brazil's independence on September 7, 1822, and became emperor with the title of Dom Pedro I. His son, Dom Pedro II, ruled from 1831 to 1889, when a federal republic was established in a coup led by Deodoro da Fonseca, Marshal of the Army. Slavery had been abolished a year earlier by the Regent Princess Isabel while Dom Pedro II was in Europe.

From 1889 to 1930, the government was a constitutional democracy, with the presidency alternating between the dominant states of Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais. This period ended with a military coup that placed Getulio Vargas, a civilian, in the presidency; Vargas remained as dictator until 1945. Between 1945 and 1961, Jose Linhares, Gaspar Dutra, Vargas himself, Café Filho, Carlos Luz, Nereu Ramos, Juscelino Kubitschek, and Janio Quadros were elected presidents. When Quadros resigned in 1961, Vice President Joao Goulart succeeded him.

Goulart's years in office were marked by high inflation, economic stagnation, and the increasing influence of radical political elements. The armed forces, alarmed by these developments, staged a coup on March 31, 1964. The coup leaders chose as president Humberto Castello Branco, followed by Arthur da Costa e Silva (1967-69), Emilio Garrastazu Medici (1968-74), and Ernesto Geisel (1974-79), all of whom were senior army officers. Geisel began a democratic opening that was continued by his successor, Gen. Joao Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo (1979-85). Figueiredo not only permitted the return of politicians exiled or banned from political activity during the 1960s and 1970s, but also allowed them to run for state and federal offices in 1982.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Teaching Needham’s Puzzle - Fostering Historical Thinking

Teaching Needham’s Puzzle - Fostering Historical Thinking. In this article, the author shares his teaching experience with regard to Needham's Puzzle and introduces online resources and teaching materials. He points out two difficulties he encounters in teaching the topic; the availability of model answers to the students and their lack of understanding of academic issues relating to the question. In conclusion, the author discusses how to foster students' historical thinking through learning Needham's Puzzle.

From the site:

The author, a teacher at the Chinese Civilization Center of City University of Hong Kong, gives courses in Chinese culture at the Center. Statistics from 1998 to 2000 show that, among many of the history subjects, the History of Chinese Science is one of the most popular among students. In the Chinese Civilization Course, one of the teaching modes is an online program. Since 2001, an online component has been required for teaching a Chinese Culture course, through which students must conduct research and study. In keeping with the requirement, the author has designed an online course that focuses on the History of Chinese Science. In this course, Needham’s Puzzle, one of the most important topics, is discussed.

Joseph Needham began his career as a biochemist working in embryology. He obtained his doctor’s degree from Cambridge University in 1924 and, in 1937, when he met Lu Gwei-Djen, who came to Cambridge University to study, Needham learned about the extraordinary contributions made by ancient Chinese science. He became fascinated by ancient Chinese science and, when he was 38, studied scientific information in ancient Chinese books. After World War II, Needham returned to Cambridge University and began researching the history of Chinese science and technology (Cowling). He developed a project on “Science and Civilization in China” and invited many experts from around the world to cooperate in the project. Today, “Science and Civilization in China” is still an ongoing publication. The historical question that puzzled Needham for many years was “Why did modern science not develop in China?” In the present article, the author intends to share his teaching experience concerning this question, which is referred to as Needham’s Puzzle.


The course aims to address the two major difficulties encountered by students. The first is that students have the same “model answer” for Needham’s Puzzle, even though they have a keen interest in discussing the subject. This is surprising since Chinese Language and Culture, including one topic on the History of Chinese Science, is a requirement for secondary school students in Hong Kong. It seems, however, that in order to help students to get a high score in the examination, a series of model answers has been worked out by high school teachers, and has been included in textbooks for students to learn from for the Advanced Level Examination. The second difficulty is that students do not fully understand the academic discussions of Needham’s Puzzle (see IrfanHabib and Raina, 1999; Lui and Wang, 2002) and they even distort Joseph Needham’s ideas. Many preconceived concepts are held by the students, which undoubtedly adds difficulty to teaching.

The objectives of the author in designing his course on Needham’s Puzzle are: (1) to rectify the misconceptions of students; (2) to train the students to think about history – historical thinking develops skills needed to formulate questions, collect evidence, critique historical interpretations, and construct a historical analysis among different viewpoints (Advance on Thinking Historically; Standards in Historical Thinking; Historical Thinking Concepts; Holt 1990); and (3) to use internet sites as teaching materials so students will realize that an abundance of historical teaching resources is available online, which may be helpful not only for their present but for their future studies of history.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson. This is a nicely done short biography of American President Andrew Johnson.

From the site:

Andrew Johnson ( December 29 , 1808 - July 31 , 1875 ) was the sixteenth Vice President ( 1865 ) and the seventeenth ( 1865 - 1869 ) President of the United States , succeeding to the presidency upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln .

Johnson presided over the Reconstruction of the United States following the American Civil War , and his conciliatory policies towards the defeated rebels and his vetoes of civil rights bills embroiled him in a bitter dispute with the radical faction of Congress, leading the House of Representatives to impeach him in 1868 , becoming the first President to be impeached; William Jefferson Clinton was the second President to be impeached. He was subsequently acquitted by a single vote in the Senate .

Early political career

Johnson was a Representative and a Senator from Tennessee and a Vice President and 17th President of the United States. He was born in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 29 , 1808 . He was self-educated. At the age of 13 he was apprenticed to a tailor. He moved to Tennessee in 1826 , where he continued his employment as a tailor. He served as an alderman in Greeneville, Tennessee from 1828 to 1830 , and mayor of Greeneville from 1834 to 1838 . He was a member of the State house of representatives from 1835 to 1837 and 1839 to 1841 . He was elected to the State senate in 1841 , and elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-eighth and to the four succeeding Congresses ( March 4 , 1843 to March 3 , 1853 . He was chairman of the Committee on Public Expenditures (Thirty-first and Thirty-second Congresses).

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Wikinfo - Primary source

Primary source. This is an encyclopedia article from Wikinfo which explains what a primary source is.

From the site:

A primary historical source is any piece of information that was created by someone who witnessed first hand or was part of the historical events that are being described. These are also usually authoritative and fundamental documents concerning the subject under consideration. This includes published original accounts, published original works, or published original research. Physical objects like coins can be primary sources.

The most common primary sources are journal entries or letters.

As a general rule, modern historians prefer to go back to primary sources, if available, as well as seeking new ones. A work on history is not likely to be taken seriously if it only cites secondary sources. This of course does not preclude secondary sources being used as a guide to find and interpret primary sources.

Monday, September 13, 2004

History of Kiribati

History of Kiribati. This is a short but well written essay which gives an overview to the history of Kiribati.

From the site:

The I-Kiribati people settled what would become known as the Gilbert Islands between 1000 and 1300 AD. Subsequent invasions by Fijians and Tongans introduced Micronesian and Polynesian elements to the Micronesian culture, but extensive intermarriage has produced a population reasonably homogeneous in appearance and traditions.

European contact began in the 16th century. Whalers, slave traders, and merchant vessels arrived in great numbers in the 1800s, fomenting local tribal conflicts and introducing often fatal European diseases. In an effort to restore a measure of order, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands (the Ellice Islands are now known as Tuvalu) consented to becoming British protectorates in 1892. Banaba (Ocean Island) was annexed in 1900 after the discovery of phosphate-rich guano deposits, and the entire collection was made a British colony in 1916. The Line and Phoenix Islands were incorporated piecemeal over the next 20 years.

Japan seized the islands during World War II. In November 1943, U.S. forces assaulted heavily fortified Japanese positions on Tarawa Atoll in the Gilberts, resulting in some of the bloodiest fighting of the Pacific campaign. The battle was a turning point in the Central Pacific.

Britain began expanding self-government in the islands during the 1960s. In 1975 the Ellice Islands separated from the colony and in 1978 became the independent country of Tuvalu. The Gilberts obtained internal self-government in 1977, and formally became an independent nation on July 12, 1979, under the name of Kiribati.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Great War in the Classroom (on-line simulation to teach the origins of World War I)

The Great War in the Classroom (on-line simulation to teach the origins of World War I). This is an article which has ideas for for helping students learn about the First World War.

From the site:

Many students are turned off by history because it seems to be nothing more than a litany of names, dates, facts, battles, and kings. They do not realize that above all else, history is about imagination. It is a particular kind of imagination—one that is grounded in the sources upon which it is based—but no less creative because of that. Even at the introductory level, history can be dynamic, interesting, and relevant. At least, it can do this in theory. Translating ideals into practical results is never as easy as one might hope. The Great War project was conceived to confront two problems that I was having with my Western Civilization II class. The first problem was how to teach military and diplomatic history without putting everyone to sleep. In Western Civilization II, the main focus is on World War I and II. Most of the instructors I had seen bypassed the wars themselves and focused on their impact and lasting influence. While this helps to increase relevance, it does skew the perspective on the wars towards hindsight, which can trivialize the reasons why the wars were fought in the first place. I wanted to correct this and to have students grapple with the strengths and weaknesses of international relations, a major theme of the course.

A second problem was assigning a research project. I tried several more conventional projects, such as writing essays on points of controversy or analyzing primary sources, and had dismal luck with these. Other instructors had reported success with interview and field trip projects, but these are not easily applicable to European history classes. Like most institutions, the school where I worked was pushing its instructors to make better use of its technological resources, but I was concerned about the ease the ease with which students can (and do) plagiarize material from Internet sources, whether intentionally or unintentionally. A good assignment would need to compel students to do original work.

The Great War project, an extended role-playing exercise, was the result. Many historians believe that the countries of Europe demonstrated a profound lack of imagination when it came to the diplomatic machinations that directly preceded World War I. In this simulation, students are divided into groups of 1-4 players, each representing one of the countries that participated in those machinations. They are encouraged to produce new outcomes that better reflect the interests of their respective nations, so the risk of plagiarism is minimized. By using role-play, I intended to capture the benefits of active learning and student cooperation. Though more research needs to be done, most preliminary studies have shown that active learning is more effective than traditional lectures (McCarthy, 2000). Additionally, I hoped to promote the development of civic responsibility, an awareness of international affairs, and sensitivity to cultural differences, all of which had been successfully done using role-playing techniques in other settings (Hofstede, 1999; Monahan, 2002; Menton, 1994).