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Based on the highly successful A History of Western Society, Understanding Western Society: A Brief History captures students’ interest in the everyday life of the past and ties social history to the broad sweep of politics and culture. Abridged by 30%, the narrative is paired with innovative pedagogy, designed to help students focus on significant developments as they read and review. An innovative, three-step end-of-Chapter study guide helps students master key facts and move toward synthesis. Read the preface.
Origins, ca. 400,000–1100 B.C.E.
What do we mean by "the West" and "Western Civilization"?
What was the significance of the advent of agriculture?
What kind of civilization developed in Mesopotamia?
How did Mesopotamian culture spread in the Near East?
What were the characteristics of Egyptian civilization?
How did foreign invasions alter the Near East?
Small Kingdoms and Mighty Empires in the Near East, ca. 1100–513 B.C.E.
What new kingdoms arose in the Near East after 1100 B.C.E.?
What was unique about Hebrew civilization?
What explains the rise and fall of the Assyrians?
How did the Persian Empire differ from its predecessors?
The Development of Classical Greece, ca. 2000–338 B.C.E.
How did geography shape the early history of the Greeks?
What was the polis and what was its role in Greek society?
What were the major developments of the Greek Archaic Age?
How did war affect Greek civilization?
How did Macedonia come to dominate Greece?
The Hellenistic World, 336–30 B.C.E.
How and why did Alexander the Great create an empire?)
How did Alexander's conquests change the world?
How did Greek culture shape the Hellenistic kingdoms?
What new economic connections were created in this period?
What was the lasting impact of Hellenism?
The Rise of Rome, ca. 750–31 B.C.E.
How did the Romans become the dominant power in Italy?
What were the key institutions of the Roman republic?
How did the Romans build a Mediterranean empire?
How did expansion affect Roman society and culture?
What led to the fall of the Roman republic?
The Pax Romana, 31 B.C.E.–284 C.E.
How did Augustus create a foundation for the Roman Empire?
How did the Roman state develop after Augustus?
What was life like in Rome during the Golden Age?
How did Christianity grow into a major religious movement?
What explains the chaos of the third century?
Late Antiquity, 250–600
How did Diocletian and Constantine try to reform the empire?
How did the Church become a major force in Europe?
What were the key characteristics of barbarian society?
What were the consequences of the barbarian migrations?
How did the church Christianize barbarian societies?
How did the Byzantine Empire preserve the legacy of Rome?
Europe in the Early Middle Ages, 600–1000
What were the origins of Islam and how did it spread?
How did the Franks build and govern a European empire?
What were the accomplishments of the Carolingian Renaissance?
What were the consequences of the ninth-century invasions?
How did conflict shape European development in this period?
State and Church in the High Middle Ages, 1000–1300
How did monarchs try to centralize political power?
How did the administration of law evolve in this period?
What led to conflict between the papacy and secular leaders?
What were the causes and consequences of the Crusades?
How did Christianity spread during the High Middle Ages?
The Life of the People in the High Middle Ages, 1000–1300
What was village life like in medieval Europe?
How did religion shape everyday life in medieval Europe?
What roles did nobles play in medieval society?
What role did monks and nuns play in medieval life?
The Creativity and Challenges of Medieval Cities, 1100–1300
What led to Europe's economic growth and reurbanization?
What was life like in a medieval city?
How did universities serve the needs of medieval society?
How did literature and architecture express medieval values?
How did urban growth shape European religious life?
The Crisis of the Later Middle Ages, 1300–1450
How did climate change shape the Late Middle Ages?
How did the Black Death reshape European society?
What were the consequences of the Hundred Years' War?
Why did the church come under increasing attack?
What explains the social unrest of the Late Middle Ages?
European Society in the Age of the Renaissance, 1350–1550
How did politics and economics shape the Renaissance?
What new ideas were associated with the Renaissance?
How did changes in art reflect new Renaissance ideals?
What were the key social hierarchies in Renaissance Europe?
How did nation-states evolve in this period?
Reformations and Religious Wars, 1500–1600
What were the central beliefs of Protestant reformers?
How did politics shape the course of the Reformation?
How did Protestantism spread beyond German-speaking lands?
How did the Catholic Church respond to the Reformation?
Why did religious violence increase in this period?
European Exploration and Conquest, 1450–1650
What were the limits of world contacts before Columbus?
How and why did Europeans undertake voyages of expansion?
What was the impact of conquest?
How did Europe and the world change after Columbus?
How did expansion change European attitudes and beliefs?
Absolutism and Constitutionalism in Europe, ca. 1589–1725
What made the seventeenth century an "Age of Crisis"?
Why did France rise and Spain fall in this period?
What explains the rise of absolutism in Austria and Prussia?
What was distinctive about Russia and the Ottoman Empire?
Where and why did constitutionalism triumph?
What developments did baroque art and music reflect?
Toward a New Worldview, 1540–1789
How did European views of nature change in this period?
What were the core principles of the Enlightenment?
What did enlightened absolutism mean?
The Expansion of Europe, 1650–1800
How did agriculture change between 1650 and 1800?
Why did population rise in the eighteenth century?
What led to the growth of rural industry?
What were guilds and why were they controversial?
What role did colonial markets play in Europe's development?
The Changing Life of the People, 1700–1800
How did family life change in the eighteenth century?
How did attitudes toward child rearing change in this period?
How and why did popular culture change during this period?
What role did religion play in eighteenth-century society?
How did medicine evolve in the eighteenth century?
The Revolution in Politics, 1775–1815
What were the origins of the French Revolution?
What forces shaped the Revolution between 1789 and 1791?
Why did the Revolution take a radical turn after 1791?
What led to the rise and fall of Napoleon?
The Revolution in Energy and Industry, ca. 1780–1850
How did the Industrial Revolution develop in Britain?
How did continental Europe industrialize after 1815?
What were the social consequences of industrialization?
Ideologies and Upheavals, 1815–1850
How was peace restored and maintained after 1815?
What new ideologies emerged to challenge conservatism?
What were the characteristics of the romantic movement?
How and where was conservatism challenged after 1815?
Why did the revolutions of 1848 fail almost completely?
Life in the Emerging Urban Society, 1840–1900
How did urban life change in the nineteenth century?
What were the characteristics of urban industrial society?
How did urban industrialization affect family life?
How and why did intellectual life change in this period?
The Age of Nationalism, 1850–1914
What kind of state did Napoleon III build in France?
How were Italy and Germany able to unify?
How did the American Civil War change the United States?
Why did Russia and the Ottoman Empire try to modernize?
What general domestic political trends emerged after 1871?
What explains the rise of socialism?
The West and the World, 1815–1914
How did Western industrialization change the world economy?
What explains global migration patterns in this period?
What characterized Western imperialism after 1880?
How did non-Westerners respond to Western imperialism?
War and Revolution, 1914–1919
What caused the outbreak of the First World War?
How did the First World War differ from previous wars?
In what ways did the war transform life on the home front?
Why did world war lead to revolution in Russia?
In what ways was the Allied peace settlement flawed?
The Age of Anxiety, ca. 1900–1940
How did intellectual developments reflect postwar anxieties?
How did modernism revolutionize European culture?
How did consumer culture change the lives of Europeans?
What obstacles to lasting peace did European leaders face?
What were the causes and consequences of the depression?
Dictatorships and the Second World War, 1919–1945
What characteristics did totalitarian dictatorships share?
How did Stalin and his followers build a totalitarian state?
What kind of government did Mussolini establish in Italy?
How and why did Nazi policies lead to World War II?
What explains the Allied victory in World War II?
Cold War Conflict and Consensus, 1945–1965
Why was World War II followed so quickly by the Cold War?
What explains postwar economic growth in Western Europe?
How did the Soviet Union dominate Eastern Europe?
What led to decolonization in the years after World War II?)
What kinds of societies emerged in Europe after 1945?
Challenging the Postwar Order, 1960–1991
Why did the postwar consensus of the 1950s break down?
What were the consequences of economic decline in the 1970s?
What led to the decline of Soviet power in Eastern Europe?
Why did revolution sweep through Eastern Europe in 1989?
Europe in an Age of Globalization, 1990 to the Present
How did life change in Russia and Eastern Europe after 1989?
How did globalization change European life?
What explains Europe's increasing ethnic diversity?
What challenges will Europe face in the coming decades?