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HISTORY 1CC3 RiseOfEmpires

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. John Weaver

Email: jweaver@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 630

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24135


Office Hours: Mon. & Wed. 2:30 - 4:00 p.m.

Course Objectives:


            This course emphasizes the importance of diligence, serious reading practices, and good writing.  These foundation skills, essential for rewarding experiences at university and beyond, are stressed in course assignments.  ‘Time management’ is also vital.  Reading the books for the assignments well in advance of deadlines is recommended.  

Through the lectures and readings, I aim to promote curiosity about many civilizations and to guide you in that pursuit by examining the history of empires.  Empires have been commonplace and widespread.  Lectures and readings explain the forces that assembled empires and brought them into violent or uneasy contact with one another, and into contact with many indigenous peoples. At first, the lectures will concentrate on Eurasia, but mid-way they follow European sea powers as they sailed to Africa, America, Asia, and the Pacific Islands.  The many lectures on European empires could be regarded as a Eurocentric bias; that concern is mentioned in the lectures and tutorial readings (see the reading by John Darwin).

To manage a course that covers more than a millennium, particular empires and organizing themes have been selected.  I will call attention to patterns and differences among empires as they dealt with borderlands, control of trade, diverse subject peoples, and leadership succession.  The subject material should encourage thinking about connections between past and present.  For example, the lectures and required readings explain how the world became more or less integrated by 1900 partly through the actions of individuals and groups backed by empires. Empires thus left their imprints on distant parts of the world through Diasporas, the movement of religious beliefs and secular ideas, resource extraction, trade linkages, the control of chokepoints in trade, and the movement of plants, animals, and diseases.  The legacies of exploitation and oppression, plus the eruption of recent global tensions related to the legacies of empires, will be mentioned.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


            There will be two lectures a week and seven tutorials across the term.  Please read the agenda and lecture topics section near the end of this syllabus for details.  Each student will be assigned to a tutorial group and will be expected to remain in that group.  Students will not be marked on participation in tutorials; however, students must select one of two tutorial readings for a short assignment to be submitted at the beginning of the tutorial.  As well, the content of the readings will be examined on the final exam. The final examination will test all course material; therefore, attendance at tutorials will be helpful. 

Method of Assessment:


Major reports: 60% (27 January; 13 March)

One short assignment: 5%

Library test: 5%

Final Exam: 30%.  To pass the course, a minimum of 40% on the final exam is required.



1. Two major reports – 30% each (total 60%)

Each should be approximately 1500 words and have 20 to 30 footnotes or endnotes. 

1. For this assignment due on 27 January read Crosby, Ecological Imperialism and Brook, Vermeer’s Hat. The topic is described below:

Some historians who are interested in doing more than outlining world history in detail have attempted to organize it around the concept of ‘movement.’  People moved; armies moved; trade goods were moved; ideas were moved.  With these remarks in mind, write an account of how, in quite different ways, Crosby and Brook explain the importance of movements for world history.

Instructions and clues:

Read the books carefully and mark sections that seem important.

Note the following:  What is being moved.  Why it is being moved?  What are the consequences?  What roles do the movements have in forming the current world?

 Record the page numbers of the ideas and that you use in the paper, and cite these pages in footnotes or endnote in the way that is described in Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History.  See the chapter on quoting and documenting sources.  

2. For this assignment due on 13 March read Weaver, The Great Land Rush.

Historical inquiries often involve investigating a category of event found in different locations and at different times.  Such inquiries identify similarities and differences.  With these remarks in mind, write an account of the similarities and differences of “settler” seizure, control, and economic development of the frontier lands in the settlement colonies of the British Empire and in territories of the United States.

Instructions and suggestions:

Read the book carefully and mark sections that seem important.  What are property rights? How do various colonial governments treat the interests of indigenous peoples?  How do settlers treat these peoples and treat one another?

Provide footnotes or endnote in form described by Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History.

2. Short Report - 5%

Select one of the following and submit at the beginning of the tutorial for these readings (see the agenda for lectures and tutorials):


Jared Diamond, “Collision at Cajamarca” and “Hemispheres Colliding” (book chapters from Guns, Germs, and Steel and reproduced in the courseware).  Please answer the following question in 250 to 300 words.  To answer this question property you must read the two chapters completely and carefully!

In the clash between the Inca Empire and the Spanish warrior-adventurers, what enabled the latter to conquer with few losses? Consider “proximate” and “ultimate” causes.


Peter Perdue, “Writing Histories” and part of “State Building in Europe and Asia” (book chapters from China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia and reproduced in the courseware). Please answer the following question in 250 to 300 words.

Certain Chinese dynasties pursued territorial expansion and established empires.  In the eighteenth century, the Qing Empire sent armies westward into Central Asia and, along with the Russian Empire, crushed the independent remnants ‘states’ of the nomadic Mongols.  According to Peter Perdue, how has nationalism biased the way historians from Russia and China written about this episode of imperialism?

3. Library Test - 5%.

Earning this 5% is easy.  It is an all or nothing requirement.  If you achieve a minimum of 80% on the test you will receive the full 5%.  You may take the test as many times as you wish during the time that the test is available on-line through Avenue to Learn.  However, after the test period is over, you lose the opportunity.  The test will be closed.  The test period opens Monday 16 January and ends Monday 30 January.

Marking Standard

            All written work, except the final examination, will be graded on the basis of 50% for ideas and analysis and 50% for style and organization.  Only printed copies of the reports and assignments will be accepted; no e-mail attachments will be read.  Along with name and student number students must state the tutorial number on the cover of each written assignment.  Thank you.

            If one of the major assignments is submitted late (3:00 pm on the due it is date, 5 marks will be deducted for each day).   MSAFs are not valid for these assignments. 


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

If one of the major assignments is submitted late (3:00 pm on the due it is date, 5 marks will be deducted for each day).   MSAFs are not valid for these assignments. 

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


            For final exam purposes, you will be responsible for the articles and chapters of books collected in the custom courseware package, and for the contents of the following books:

Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing History. This book is required for the first tutorial and will serve you well as a guide for writing in this course and others in History.

Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism.

Timothy Brook, Vermeer’s Hat.

John Weaver, The Great Land Rush.

Courseware readings for 1CC3 (2013 edition).


David R. Ringrose, Expansion and Global Interaction, 1200-1700. No required.  It is a good short account of many events covered in the lectures.        



* Indicates a week with a tutorial meeting.  Please check your timetable for the exact time and place.

1. Lecture on 4 January.  Vital tips for success at university.  Review of the course requirements. Preview of material supporting the course objective which is to understand the contemporary world through history.

2. Lectures on 9 and 11 January.  “Eurocentric Perspectives and Organizing Concepts.” These lectures will cover three major questions that resurface throughout this course: 1) how can we explain the appearance that European countries as paramount imperial powers between roughly 1500 and 1900?  2) What is an empire; what is a colony?  3) What are the fundamental challenges that empires in most ages and regions have confronted and how did rulers attempt to solve them? 

*3. Lecture on 16 January. “Control, Trade, and Plunder:” The Foundations of a Post-Roman-Empire Europe: 500-1000 CE:  Lectures this week introduce Eurasia as a heartland of empires, propose the importance of “a continental axis,” and illustrates these concepts with references to the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, and Vikings.  

Library test accessibility starts Monday 16 January and ends Monday 30 January.

The tutorials during the week of 16-20 January will offer tips on how to write history assignments.  Read chapters 3, 4, and 6 of A Pocket Guide to Writing in History.  Know the following terms and come prepared to discuss them: primary sources, secondary sources, global statements, active voice, passive voice, biased language, active reading, and plagiarism. 

*4. Lecture on 18 January.   The Arab-Islamic Expansion, the Mediterranean, and Eurasian Connections, 700-1200 CE.  This lecture focuses on explanations for the expansion and the cultural and economic influences of this diffusion that extended from ‘China’ in the East to ‘Spain’ in the West. 

See previous note on tutorials for this week.

*5.  Lectures on 23 and 27 January: “In the Wake of the Hordes:” The Mongols, Eurasian Encounters, and the Recovery of Europe, 1200-1450 CE. The topics this week include the Mongol Empire, the Black Death, Europe’s frontiers and reviving cities. 

Tutorial discussions on week of 23-27 January will focus on Crosby’s use of the history of Iceland, the Holy Lands, the Canary Islands, and winds and currents to explain unsuccessful and successful European colonization.  Read Crosby chapters 3, 4, 5 for this tutorial

First Book Essay will be collected at beginning of lecture on 27 January; there will be instructions for an orderly collection.

6. Lecture on January 30 and 1 February: “The Clashes of Titans:” A Summary of a Complicated Age of Trade, Diplomacy, and Warfare, 1300-1550 CE.  These lectures examine briefly the clash of empires in and around the Mediterranean. We will look at trade, alliances, and betrayal with respect to Venice and Genoa; the Islamic World and Ottoman Empire; the formation of the Hapsburg Empire.  

*7. Lectures on 6 and 8 February. “The Re-conquest [Reconquista]:” Footloose Warriors Seize Empires in the So-called New World, 1500-1600 CE.  This week we return to a question that opened this course.  Why Europe?  We consider early modern warfare, the Portuguese Empire, the Spanish Empire in the Americas and in “the Spanish Lake” – the Pacific Ocean.  A guest lecturer will introduce us to the Atlantic Slave Trade.

In this week’s tutorial, there will be a discussion of chapters 3 and 18 of Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel that are copied in the courseware.  Submit the short assignment in your tutorial if you have selected the Diamond assignment.     

* 8.  Lecture 13-15 February. “The Industrious Revolution:” the Dutch, the Roots of Capitalism, and a Company Empire, 1600-1700 CE.  The lectures will consider the rise of Amsterdam, the reach and force of the Dutch East India Company, the rise of capitalism, and London’s adoption of Dutch practices.  

In this week’s tutorial, there will be a discussion of Brook’s book, taking notice of the movements he covers.

7. 20-26 February: Reading Week. (Time for reading ahead.)

*9.  Lectures 27 and 1 March. “The Centre of the World:” China and the Needham Question, 1000-1750 CE. Joseph Needham (1900-1992) was an English scientist who wrote Science and Civilization in China: a multi-volume history. Some of it was based on The Complete Collection of Illustrations and Writings of Ancient and Modern Times, a work of nearly 6000 volumes in modern edition.  It was commissioned by an early Qing emperor in 1700 and intended to be the sum of all Chinese knowledge.  Needham’s work leaves us with the question, why didn’t China establish an overseas empire?

For this week’s tutorial come prepared to discuss Perdue’s ideas the steps that historians can take to minimize bias of the type that he criticizes. Perdue explains that the Qing (1644-1912) did have an empire that was much like those established by several European powers, but it was land based.

Submit short assignment if you have selected the Purdue assignment.      

*10.  Lectures 6 and 8 March.  “The Intrusive Empire:” From Trade to an Experiment in Imposing Alien Values, 1600-1947.  Our consideration of Asia continues with an examination of the British Empire by looking at the East India Company, the emergent modern state, bureaucracy, the birth of the discipline of Economics, and India as a Crown colony.   

The tutorial this week involves no written assignment.  Come prepared to discuss a Eurocentric bias in history and whether this can be dealt with in a reasonable way; these are topics mentioned by John Darwin in chapter 1 (“Orientations”) in After Tamerlane (section of chapter entitled “Orientations” copied in courseware)Darwin’s chapter is important for understanding the place of Europe in world history.

11. Lectures 13-15 March.  “Eastward to Empire:” From Muscovy to Vladivostok, 1614-1914.  In this lecture, we consider the formation of Romanov Tsarist Russia and its expansion into the Steppes, Central Asia, and Siberia. 

Second Essay will be collected at beginning of lecture on 13 March; once again, there will be instructions for an orderly collection.

*12. Lectures 20-22 March   “Green Gold and the Closing Acts of Imperialism:” Botanic Wealth and the European Empires’ Last Grasps, 1840-1940.   This week we look at the quest for botanic commodities through discovery, transplantation, and experimental plantations.  We also look at France and Germany in the Pacific Ocean, and the European powers’ “Scramble for Africa.”

The tutorial discussion will focus on chapter five (“British Kenya: The Short Life of the New Imperialism”) in Timothy Parson’s The Rule of Empires. It is provided in the courseware. There is no written assignment for this tutorial, but be prepared to discuss what he meant by the new imperialism.  What is his point of view? Is the new imperialism new? How? Why did it have a short life?

*13. Lecture 27-29 March.    “The Never-ending Frontier:” Land Seizures and the Colonization of the Temperate Zones, 1800-1900.  These lectures consider settler colonies, property rights, and first peoples.  The areas covered include the Louisiana Territory, Rupert’s Land, Australia, Southern Africa, and New Zealand.

This week’s tutorial discussion will review Weaver chapters 6, 7, 8 and Epilogue.

14. 3 April.  “The Successor Empire:” The United States   In this last lecture on empires, a guest lecturer will look at United States abroad in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

15. 5 April. Course review in class.  Second assignment returned.

Other Course Information:

Tutorial times and rooms are specified on your timetables; the weeks during which there are tutorials are stated on the detailed agenda toward the end of this syllabus.

Office Hours: Mondays and Wednesdays, 2:30-4:00.  Please note.  Rather than coming to the front of the class at the beginning of a lecture or after a lecture (setup time and allowance for the next class are considerations), please use these times to ask questions or make requests.   

Instructor: John Weaver (jweaver@mcmaster.ca)

Office: 630 Chester New Hall.  Essay drop box outside the History office door at CNH 619.



What are the terms and conditions of the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) for this course? 

The MSAF does not apply to the major assignments since they are worth 30% each.  The penalty for overdue assignments is 5 marks deducted per day.  The MSAF may apply to the short assignment of 5%.

2. Is there a textbook for this course?  

No. Most textbooks are packed with information, but quite expensive.  Moreover, this course’s themes are conveyed best in lectures, assigned books, and courseware.  This course is custom designed.  However, you may find Ringrose, Expansion and Global Interaction useful.  This optional book is concise and covers some of the events mentioned in lectures.  

3. Does this course use Avenue to Learn?

Very rarely, although there will be occasional postings of information.  This course accents formal writing exercises and reading books.  Time and effort are best spent focusing on reading, note taking, and polishing prose.  Well-reasoned and well-documented writings are assigned in this course, and well-reasoned and well-documented submissions are expected.  The library test, Power Point slides, podcasts, and a copy of this syllabus will be made available on Avenue.   

4. Will the Power Point slides be available for review?

Yes.  It will be possible to access the slides through Avenue.  The contents and order of the slides may change slightly as the term develops.  There will also be podcasts of the lectures.  You will be given a link to the podcast site after several weeks.

5. Is there a participation mark for the tutorials?

No. In this course, good writing is the vital measure of performance; attendance at tutorials is strongly advised because the final exam will have questions that pertain to the readings as they have been discussed in the tutorials.  To pass the course you must achieve a minimum of 40% on the final exam.

6. Can assignments be submitted electronically?

No.  Submit the major ones in class and the other one in the tutorial.

7. Is there a penalty for overdue assignments?  

Yes.  The penalty is 5 marks per day.  For penalty purposes, the day “ends” at 3:00 pm and the paper must be delivered by then to the History Department drop box for essays located outside the office at 619 CNH.

8. Are there opportunities to ask for a clarification of the course material?

Yes. Questions on the content of the lectures during the lectures are welcomed. 

9. Can students write on a question or topic different from the ones assigned?

No.  The questions assigned must be answered and general statements resembling a thin book review will not suffice and could lead to a low mark for that assignment.

10. Is there a mid-term?  

No.  A final exam will cover themes and factual information presented in the lectures and readings from throughout this course. 

11.  What is a Letter of Academic Accommodation? 

A few students have particular perceptual circumstances that adversely affect reading or writing, but they have ability and the will to learn.  When diagnosed, they may have special assistance or consideration.  Proposed arrangements are first suggested by Student Accessibility Services but they must promptly be negotiated with the instructor.  I consider them during my office hours or by appointment only.  Even if the agreement has been seen by the instructor on-line it is mandatory of the student to meet with the instructor and review the proposed accommodation.  If you feel you would qualify for an assessment and letter, please contact Student Accessibility Services.  In helping everyone secure the most from this course, we are interested in working with the SAS counsellors and students; however, this means meeting with the instructor (J. Weaver).        

12. Is there a preferred method for citing sources in the assignments? 

Yes.  You may use either endnotes or footnotes, but please note that in History we do not use the Social Sciences practices of citation.  If in doubt about style check Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History.  For a short general guide note the following:

            When you cite a book for the first time in a set of footnotes or endnotes, you must provide complete information: author’s name, full title of the book, publication information, and pages [eg. Alfred M. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 295-8.].  In subsequent citations, you may use a shortened form [eg. Crosby, Ecological Imperialism, 305.]   

            For articles, cite the author, the title of the article, the title of the journal, the volume number, the date, and the pages [Paul A. Kramer, “Power and Connection: Imperial Histories of the United States in the World,” The American Historical Review, vol.116, number 5 (December 2011), 1361-3].  In subsequent citations, you may use a shortened form.  [eg. Kramer, “Power and Connection,” 1375].

Exam Date

If for a medical reason or another compelling personal reason, you miss a final examination, you must petition for a deferred exam.  The authority to grant a deferral rests with the Faculty of Humanities office and is not automatic.  Please consult the undergraduate calendar for details.  Vacation plans are insufficient reason to ask for a deferred exam.