HIST 104 (3 cr): Topics in World History: Cultures in Contact

HIST 104

Course Outline

Student Profile

Cheryl Kinkaid

Cheryl Kinkaid

“As well as the actual history, I’m learning critical thinking skills…[such as how] to question what the author or teacher was trying to say.”

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This course is an introduction to world history emphasizing contact and exchange among cultures – through, for example, trade, conquest, or conversion – as a key factor in historical change. We will be focusing on a number of case studies from travellers’ tales in medieval Afro-Eurasia to the encounters between natives and newcomers in the Americas, and from the history of the slave trade to our own globalized and multi-cultural world. The course emphasizes not just “what happened” but how historians approach the past itself. We will be exploring a range of approaches to cultural exchange and to change over time. The course also emphasizes the use of both primary and secondary sources and the development of critical reading and writing skills.

Course Structure and Outline

Module 1: Introduction (1 week to complete)


  • What is “culture”?
  • Definitions and historical context
  • What is “contact”?
  • Introduction of theoretical models (syncretism, hybridity, transculturation, etc.)
  • Overview of the course

Module 2: Medieval Travelers’ Tales and Imaginary Geographies (2 weeks to complete)


Part 1: Mapping the Medieval World

  • Travel and travelers (Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta)
  • Images of the world
  • Mappae mundi
  • The Hereford Mappa Mundi (1300 CE)

Part 2: Mandeville’s Travels:

  • “Mandeville” and his text
  • Dealing with primary sources
  • Writing a mappa mundi

Module 3: The Columbian Encounter (Columbus and the “Discovery” of New Worlds) (1 week to complete)


  • Columbus and his text (reading primary sources)
  • Re-drawing the maps (using maps as historical sources)
  • Motivations (scientific, economic, military, religious)
  • Narratives of “discovery” vs narratives of conquest / genocide
  • Indigenous perspectives

Module 4: In the Contact Zone (Guaman Poma and his New Chronicle) (1 week to complete)


  • Problems of definition
  • The Aztec Empire
  • The Inca Empire
  • Introducing new concepts (“transculturation” and “the contact zone”)
  • Guaman Poma’s New Chronicle
  • An indigenous mappa mundi (using images as historical sources)
  • Writing history from the perspective of the colonized

Module 5: The Slave Trade (1 week to complete)


  • European images of Africa
  • Encounters in Africa
  • The Middle Passage
  • Africans in the Americas
  • How “Negro” and “slave” came to be synonymous
  • The African perspective
  • Historical arguments and historical evidence

Module 6: Contact in the Pacific Northwest (2 weeks to complete)


  • Science and technology in Europe
  • The power of print
  • Captain James Cook and his voyages
  • Re-mapping the world (using maps as historical sources)
  • European accounts of contact
  • Indigenous accounts of contact
  • Indigenous attitudes to space / mapping
  • Written vs oral sources (using oral histories as historical sources)

Module 7: The British Empire (2 weeks to complete)

Part 1: The British in India


  • Introducing new concepts: “orientalism”
  • The “civilizing mission”
  • Evolutionary biology and “scientific” racism
  • Admiration and appropriation
  • Images of “west” and “east” in Rudyard Kipling’s stories and poems (reading primary sources)
  • Images of “west” and “east” in the work of Mahatma Gandhi (reading primary sources)

Part 2: Decolonization and the End(s) of Empire


  • The end of empire in India
  • Partition and the creation of India and Pakistan
  • Economies and ethnicities
  • Patterns of conflict and marginalization
  • Using films as historical sources
  • Introducing the case study (“My Son the Fanatic”)
  • Hanif Kureishi and his screen-play

Module 8: Multiculturalism in Canada Today (2 weeks to complete)


  • Raffi,”Like Me and You”
  • Emergence of Canada’s official multiculturalism policy
  • History of immigration and immigration policy in Canada
  • The Multiculturalism Act of 1988
  • Multiculturalism in crisis? 9/11 and contemporary debates

Module 9: Review (1 week to complete)


  • Review of different kinds of historical sources
  • Review of new concepts
  • Review of themes of the course

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