Rethinking the rise of the West: The Great Divergence Debate

 
 

Konstantin Georgidis, Canterbury School, Ft. Myers, Florida

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Introduction
Class Activities: Comparing and Contrasting Points of View
Web Sources
Bibliography
DOWNLOAD
Lesson Plan(PDF)

China and Europe, 1500-2000 and Beyond: What is "Modern"?

Teachers’ Guide with Study Questions: China and Europe, 1500-2000

Lessons:

Rethinking the rise of the West: The Great Divergence Debate

Rethinking the rise of the West: Global Commodities

Standards of Modernity – China and Europe

Parallels in England and the Yangzi Basin of China in the 1800s

CLASS ACTIVITIES: Comparing and Contrasting Points of View

B. Rethinking the Rise of the West

  1. Direct students to the web module: China and Europe, 1500-2000 and Beyond: What is "Modern"?
  2. Have the students peruse the sections:
    • "Introduction"
    • "What Do We Mean by 'Modern'?"
    • "Rethinking the Industrial Revolution"
  3. Students discuss the following questions:
    1. How does a Eurocentric interpretation of history distort our understanding of world affairs?
    2. How does a non-European based notion of modernity influence our understanding of global history?
    3. When did the rise of the West occur? If the transition from pre-industrial to an industrial society occurred only 200 years ago, what does it suggest about the future of the global economy?
  4. Have students watch the second segment of the video Rethinking the Rise of The West which is part of the Bridging World History course; click here to view.

    World Systems Critique

    Until recently, historians viewed the story of growing European dominance, industrialization, and imperialism as an inevitable part of world history. This segment begins by demonstrating many scholars' long-held belief that the course European history took was "normal," and that all nations, in order to progress, should follow the European model.

    This "modernization theory," was increasingly questioned by scholars who lived through the period of European decolonization, when they saw former European colonies reject the European way of life in favor of alternate paths. In the 1960s and 70s, some scholars developed a "world systems theory" that viewed European domination of the world as the result of European capitalism and its capacity to exploit cheap labor and underdeveloped markets in weaker areas of the world.

    The ties linking European capitalist areas (the core) with non-European weaker areas (the periphery) were seen as a "world system." Unlike traditional historical views of European global domination, world systems theory is critical of both capitalism and Western expansion.

    The above is an excerpt from Unit # 18, of the Bridging World History course; see web site.


  5. Students consider and discuss the following questions:
    1. What is "world system theory?"
    2. How does world system theory purport to explain the rise of the west?
    3. How does it differ from the traditional interpretation of the rise of European hegemony?
    4. To what extent is this theory indebted to the Marxist interpretation of history?