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Understanding World Societies, Volume 1: A Brief History / Edition 1

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Based on the highly successful A History of World Societies, Understanding World Societies: A Brief History combines innovative pedagogy with a manageable regional and comparative approach to capture students' interest in the everyday life of the past. Abridged by 25%, the narrative is paired with distinctive pedagogy, designed to help students focus on significant developments as they read and review. An innovative end-of-chapter study guide helps students master key facts and move towards synthesis.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781457618734
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's
  • Publication date: 8/3/2012
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 289,480
  • Product dimensions: 8.47 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

John P. McKay (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley) is professor emeritus at the University of Illinois. He has written or edited numerous works, including the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize-winning book Pioneers for Profit: Foreign Entrepreneurship and Russian Industrialization, 1885-1913.
Patricia B. Ebrey (Ph.D., Columbia University), Professor of History at the University of Washington in Seattle, specializes in China. She has published numerous journal articles and The Cambridge Illustrated History of China, as well as numerous monographs.  In 2010 she won the Shimada Prize for outstanding work of East Asian Art History for Accumulating Culture: The Collections of Emperor Huizong.
Roger B. Beck (Ph.D., Indiana University) is Distinguished Professor of African and twentieth-century world history at Eastern Illinois University. His publications include The History of South Africa, a translation of P. J. van der Merwe's The Migrant Farmer in the History of the Cape Colony, 1657-1842, and more than a hundred articles, book chapters, and reviews. He is a former treasurer and Executive Council member of the World History Association.
Clare Haru Crowston (Ph.D., Cornell University) teaches at the University of Illinois, where she is currently associate professor of history. She is the author of Fabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France, 1675-1791, which won the Berkshire and Hagley Prizes. She edited two special issues of the Journal of Women's History, has published numerous journal articles and reviews, and is a past president of the Society for French Historical Studies.
Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) taught first at Augustana College in Illinois, and since 1985 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she is currently UWM Distinguished Professor in the department of history. She is the coeditor of the Sixteenth Century Journal and the author or editor of more than twenty books, most recently The Marvelous Hairy Girls: The Gonzales Sisters and Their Worlds and Gender in History. She is the former Chief Reader for Advanced Placement World History.

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Table of Contents

Maps, Figures and Tables

Special Features


Version and Supplements

Chapter 1

The Earliest Human Societies, to 2500 b.c.e.

How did humans evolve, and where did they migrate?

  Understanding the Early Human Past

  Hominid Evolution

  Homo Sapiens, "Thinking Humans"

  Migration and Differentiation

What were the key features of Paleolithic society?

  Foraging for Food

  Family and Kinship Relationships

  Cultural Creations and Spirituality

How did plant and animal domestication transform human society?

  The Development of Horticulture

  Animal Domestication and the Rise of Pastoralism

  Plow Agriculture

How did Neolithic societies change over time?

  Social Hierarchies and Slavery

  Gender Hierarchies and Inheritance

  Trade and Cross-Cultural Connections


Chapter Study Guide

Listening to the Past: Paleolithic Venus Figures

Individuals in Society: The Iceman

Chapter 2

The Rise of the State in Southwest Asia and the Nile Valley, 3200-500 b.c.e.

How is the invention of writing connected to the rise of cities and states?

  Written Sources and the Human Past

  Cites and the Idea of Civilization

  The Rise of States, Laws, and Social Hierarchies

What kinds of states and societies emerged in ancient Mesopotamia?

  Environmental Challenges, Irrigation, and Religion

  Sumerian Politics and Society

  The Invention of Writing and Other Intellectual Advances

  The Triumph of Babylon and the Spread of Mesopotamian Civilization

  Hammurabi's Code and Its Social Consequences

What were the characteristics of Egyptian civilization?

  The Nile and the God-King

  Social Divisions and Work in Ancient Egypt

  Migrations and Political Revivals

  New Political and Economic Powers

What was unique about Hebrew civilization?

  The Hebrew State

  The Jewish Religion

  The Family and Jewish Life

How did the Assyrians and Persians build and maintain their empires?

  Assyria, the Military Monarchy

  The Rise and Expansion of the Persian Empire

  The Religion of Zoroaster


Chapter Study Guide

Listening to the Past: Gilgamesh's Quest for Immortality

Individuals in Society: Hatshepsut and Nefertiti

Global Trade: Iron

Chapter 3

The Foundation of Indian Society, to 300 c.e.

What were the key characteristics of India's first civilization?

What kind of society and culture did the Indo-European Aryans create?

  Aryan Dominance in North India

  Life in Early India


What new religious beliefs emerged to challenge Brahmanism?


  Siddhartha Gautama and Buddhism


How was the Mauryan Empire created and what were its achievements?

  Encounters with the West

  Chandragupta and the Founding of the Mauryan Empire

  The Reign of Ashoka, ca. 269-232 b.c.e.

How did political disunity shape Indian life after 185 b.c.e.?


Chapter Study Guide

Listening to the Past: Conversations Between Rama and Sita from the Ramayana

Individuals in Society: Gosala

Chapter 4

China's Classical Age, to 221 b.c.e.

How did geography shape the development of Chinese societies?

  The Impact of Geography

  Early Agricultural Societies of the Neolithic Age

What were the most important developments in Shang China?

  Shang Society

  Bronze Metalworking

  The Development of Writing

What was China like during the Zhou Dynasty?

  Zhou Politics

  Life During the Zhou Dynasty

How did new technologies contribute to the rise of independent states?

  New Technologies for War

  The Victorious States

What ideas did Confucius teach, and how were they spread after his death?


  The Spread of Confucian Ideas

How did Daoism, Legalism, and other philosophies differ from Confucianism?



  Yin and Yang


Chapter Study Guide

Individuals in Society: Lord Mengchang

Listening to the Past: The Book of Mencius

Chapter 5

The Greek Experience, 3500-100 b.c.e.

How did geography shape the early history of the Greeks?

  The Minoans and Mycenaeans

  The Development of the Polis

How did Greek society and government develop during the Archaic age?

  Greece's Overseas Expansion

  The Growth of Sparta

  The Evolution of Athens

What were the lasting achievements of the classical period?

  The Deadly Conflicts, 499-404 b.c.e.

  Athenian Arts in the Age of Pericles

  Daily Life and Social Conditions in Athens

  Greek Religion in the Classical Period

  The Flowering of Philosophy

What were the social and political consequences of Alexander's conquests?

  From Polis to Monarchy, 404-200 b.c.e.

  Building a Shared Society

  The Growth of Trade and Commerce

How did the mixing of cultures shape Hellenistic thought?

  Religion in the Hellenistic World

  Philosophy and Its Guidance for Life

  Hellenistic Science and Medicine


Chapter Study Guide

Listening to the Past: Aristotle, On the Family and On Slavery, from The Politics

Individuals in Society: Archimedes, Scientist and Inventor

Chapter 6

The World of Rome, 750 b.c.e.-400 c.e.

What kind of society and government did the Romans develop in Italy?

  The Etruscans and Rome

  The Roman Conquest of Italy

  The Distribution of Power in the Roman Republic

Social Conflict in Rome

What were the causes and consequences of Roman expansion beyond Italy?

  Overseas Conquests and the Punic Wars, 264-133 b.c.e.

  New Influences and Old Values in Roman Culture

  The Late Republic and the Rise of Augustus, 133-27 b.c.e.

  The Successes of Augustus

How did Roman rule lead to a period of prosperity and relative peace?

  Political and Military Changes in the Empire

  Life in Rome

  Prosperity in the Roman Provinces

  Eastward Expansion and Contacts Between Rome and China

What was Christianity, and how did it affect life in the Roman Empire?

  Factors Behind the Rise of Christianity

  The Life and Teachings of Jesus

  The Spread of Christianity

  The Growing Acceptance and Evolution of Christianity

How did rulers respond to the chaos of the third and fourth centuries?

  Diocletian's Reforms

  Economic Hardship and Its Consequences

  Constantine, Christianity, and the Rise of Constantinople


Chapter Study Guide

Individuals in Society: Queen Cleopatra

Listening to the Past: Cicero and the Plot to Kill Caesar

Global Trade: Pottery

Chapter 7

East Asia and the Spread of Buddhism, 221 b.c.e.-800 c.e.

How did political unification under the Qin and Han shape China?

  The Qin Unification, 221-206 b.c.e.

  The Han Dynasty, 206 b.c.e.-220 c.e.

  Han Intellectual and Cultural Life

  Inner Asia and the Silk Road

  Life in Han China

  China and Rome

  The Fall of the Han and the Age of Division

How and why did Buddhism spread throughout East Asia?

  Buddhism's Path Through Central Asia

  The Appeal and Impact of Buddhism in China

What were the lasting accomplishments of the Sui and Tang Dynasties?

  The Sui Dynasty, 581-618

  The Tang Dynasty, 618-907

  Tang Culture

How were elements of Chinese culture adapted throughout East Asia?





Chapter Study Guide

Global Trade: Silk

Individuals in Society: The Ban Family

Listening to the Past: Sixth-Century Biographies of Buddhist Nuns

Chapter 8

Continuity and Change in Europe and Western Asia, 200-850

How did the Byzantine Empire preserve the Greco-Roman legacy?

  Sources of Byzantine Strength

  The Sassanid Empire and Conflicts with Byzantium

  The Law Code of Justinian

  Byzantine Intellectual Life

  Life in Constantinople

How and why did Christian institutions change in late antiquity?

  The Evolution of Church Leadership and Orthodoxy

  The Western Church and the Eastern Church

  The Iconoclastic Controversy

  Christian Monasticism

How did Christianity spread and develop in late antiquity?

  Christian Beliefs and the Greco-Roman Tradition

  Saint Augustine

  Missionary Activity

  Conversion and Assimilation

How did the barbarians affect change in Europe and western Asia?

  Social and Economic Structures

  Chiefs, Warriors, and Laws

  Migrations and Political Change

  The Frankish Kingdom



Chapter Study Guide

Individuals in Society: Theodora of Constantinople

Listening to the Past: Gregory of Tours, The Conversion of Clovis

Chapter 9

The Islamic World, 600-1400

Who was Muhammad and what did he teach?

  Arabian Social and Economic Structure

  Muhammad's Rise as a Religious Leader

  The Tenets of Islam

What explains the speed and scope of Islamic expansion?

  Islam's Spread Beyond Arabia

  Reasons for the Spread of Islam

  The Caliphate and the Split Between Shi'a and Sunni Alliances

  The Abbasid Caliphate

  Administration of the Islamic Territories

How and why did Islamic states change between 900 and 1400?

  Breakaway Territories and Shi'a Gains

  The Ascendancy of the Turks

  The Mongol Invasions

What social distinctions were important in Muslim society?

  The Social Hierarchy


  Women in Classical Islamic Society

Why did trade thrive in Muslim lands?

What new cultural developments emerged in this period?

  The Cultural Centers of Baghdad and C—rdoba

  Education and Intellectual Life

  The Mystical Tradition of Sufism

What characterized Muslim-Christian interactions?


Chapter Study Guide

Listening to the Past: Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, The Etiquette of Marriage

Individuals in Society: Ibn Battuta

Chapter 10

African Societies and Kingdoms, 1000 b.c.e.-1500 c.e.

How did geography shape the history of Africa's diverse peoples?

  Africa's Geographical and Human Diversity

  Egypt, Race, and Being African

How did the advent of settled agriculture affect early societies?

  Settled Agriculture and Its Impact

  Bantu Migrations

  Life in the Kingdoms of the Western Sudan, ca. 1000 b.c.e.-800 c.e.

What role did the trans-Saharan trade play in West African history?

  The Berbers of North Africa

  Effects of Trade on West African Society

  The Spread of Islam in Africa

What kingdoms and empires emerged in Africa between 800 and 1500?

  The Kingdom of Ghana, ca. 900-1100

  The Kingdom of Mali, ca. 1200-1450

  Ethiopia: The Christian Kingdom of Aksum

  The East African City-States

  Southern Africa and Great Zimbabwe


Chapter Study Guide

Individuals in Society: Amda Siyon

Listening to the Past: A Tenth-Century Muslim Traveler Describes Parts of the East African Coast

Chapter 11

The Americas, 2500 b.c.e.-1500 c.e.

How did early peoples of the Americas adapt to its diverse environments?

  Settling the Americas

  The Development of Agriculture

What characterized early societies in the Americas?

  Mounds, Towns, and Trade in North and South America

  Olmec Agriculture, Technology, and Religion

What kinds of societies emerged in the classical era?

  Maya Agriculture and Trade

  Maya Science and Religion

  Growth and Assimilation of the Teotihuacan and Toltec Cultures

  Hohokam, Hopewell, and Mississippian Societies

Who were the Aztecs and how did they build an empire?

  Religion and War in Aztec Society

  Social Distinctions Among the Aztecs

  The City of Tenochtitlan

What were the strengths and weaknesses of the Inca empire?

  Earlier Peruvian Cultures

  Inca Imperialism and Its Religious Basis

  The Clan-Based Structure of Inca Society


Chapter Study Guide

Individuals in Society: Tlacaelel

Listening to the Past: Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, The First New Chronicle and Good Government

Chapter 12

Cultural Exchange in Central and Southern Asia, to 1400

How did Central Asian nomads conquer nearby settled civilizations?

  Nomadic Society

  The Turks

  The Mongols

  Mongol Daily Life

How did the Mongols build and govern a Eurasian empire?

  Chinggis Kahn

  Chinggis's Successors

  The Mongols as Rulers

How did the Mongol conquests facilitate cultural exchange?

  The Movement of Peoples

  The Spread of Disease, Goods, and Ideas

What was the result of India's encounters with Turks and Mongols?

  The Gupta Empire, ca. 320-480

  India's Medieval Age and the First Encounter with Islam

  The Delhi Sultanate

  Life in Medieval India

How did states develop along the trade routes of Southeast Asia and beyond?

  State Formation and Indian Influences

  The Srivijaya Maritime Trade Empire

  The Spread of Indian Culture in Comparative Perspective

  The Settlement of the Pacific Islands


Chapter Study Guide

Listening to the Past: The Abduction of Women in The Secret History of the Mongols

Individuals in Society: Bhaskara the Teacher

Global Trade: Spices

Chapter 13

States and Cultures in East Asia, 800-1400

What were the causes and consequences of the medieval Chinese economic revolution and what was its impact?

How did government and society change in the Song and Yuan Dynasties?

  The Song Dynasty

  The Scholar-Officials and Neo-Confucianism

  Women's Lives in Song Times

  China Under Mongol Rule

How did Korean society and culture develop under the Koryŏ Dynasty?

What characterized Japan's Heian Period?

  Fujiwara Rule

  Aristocratic Culture

What were the causes and consequences of military rule in Japan?

  Military Rule

  Cultural Trends


Chapter Study Guide

Global Trade: Tea

Individuals in Society: Shen Gua

Listening to the Past: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Chapter 14

Europe in the Middle Ages, 800-1450

How did medieval rulers try to create larger and more stable territories?

  Invasions and Migrations

  Feudalism and Manorialism

  The Restoration of Order

  Law and Justice

How did the Christian church enhance its power and create new practices?

  Papal Reforms

  Monastic Life

  Popular Religion

  The Expansion of Christianity

What were the motives, course, and consequences of the Crusades?

  Background and Motives

  The Course of the Crusades

  Consequences of the Crusades

What characterized European society in the Middle Ages?

  The Life and Work of Peasants

  The Life and Work of Nobles

  Towns, Cities, and the Growth of Commercial Interests

  The Expansion of Trade and the Commercial Revolution

What were the key educational and cultural developments?

  Universities and Scholasticism

  Cathedrals and a New Architectural Style

  Troubadour Poetry

Why have the later Middle Ages been seen as a time of calamity and crisis?

  The Great Famine and the Black Death

  The Hundred Years' War

  Challenges to the Church

  Peasant and Urban Revolts


Chapter Study Guide

Individuals in Society: Hildegard of Bingen

Listening to the Past: An Arab View of the Crusades

Chapter 15

Europe in the Renaissance and Reformation, 1350-1600

What were the major cultural developments of the Renaissance?

  Wealth and Power in Renaissance Italy

  The Rise of Humanism

  Christian Humanism

  Printing and Its Social Impact

  Art and the Artist

What were the key social hierarchies in Renaissance Europe?

  Race and Slavery

  Wealth and the Nobility

  Gender Roles

How did the nation-states of western Europe evolve in this period?




  The Habsburgs

What were the central beliefs of Protestant reformers?

  Criticism of the Church

  Martin Luther

  Protestant Thought and Its Appeal

  The Radical Reformation and the German Peasants' War

  Marriage and Women's Roles

  The Reformation and German Politics

  England's Shift Toward Protestantism

  Calvinism and Its Moral Standards

How did the Catholic Church respond to the advent of Protestantism?

  Papal Reforms and the Council of Trent

  New Religious Orders

Why did religious violence escalate in this period?

  French Religious Wars

  Civil Wars in the Netherlands

  The Great European Witch-Hunt


Chapter Study Guide

Individuals in Society: Leonardo da Vinci

Listening to the Past: Martin Luther, On Christian Liberty

Chapter 16

The Acceleration of Global Contact, 1450-1600

How did trade link the peoples of Africa, Asia, and Europe prior to 1492?

  The Trade World of the Indian Ocean

  Peoples and Cultures of the Indian Ocean

  Trade with Africa and the Middle East

  Genoese and Venetian Middlemen

How and why did Europeans undertake voyages of expansion?

  Causes of European Expansion

  Technology and the Rise of Exploration

  The Expanding Portuguese Empire

  Christopher Columbus's Voyages to the Americas

  Later Explorers

  Spanish Conquest in the New World

What was the impact of conquest?

  Colonial Administration

  The Impact of European Settlement on the Lives of Indigenous Peoples

  The Columbian Exchange

  Sugar and Early Transatlantic Slavery

  The Birth of the Global Economy

How did expansion shape cultural values and beliefs in Europe and the Americas?

  New Ideas About Race

  Michel de Montaigne and Cultural Curiosity

  William Shakespeare and His Influence

  Religious Conversion in the New World


Chapter Study Guide

Individuals in Society: Zheng He

Listening to the Past: Columbus Describes His First Voyage

Global Trade: Silver

Chapter Endnotes



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