Lessons in this module provide geographic background on the Mediterranean, including its geological origins, its climate and ecology. A lesson on conditions for navigation, wind and currents leads to plotting routes and comparing trade routes in the Mediterranean over time. A lesson on the Braudelian view of the Mediterranean introduces students to the concept of historical scales and brings it up to date with David Christian’s Big History concept. Two lessons for use across all of the modules involve creating an annotated map of the Mediterranean in its regional, hemispheric, and global setting in order to emphasize the changing relationships to surrounding and distant regions in various eras. The second cross-module lesson involves the use of multiple timelines (environment, political, demographics, migration, and technology) that invite students to see relationships among events at different time-scales and refer to them (and add to the timelines) throughout the course. A concluding lesson on types of historical sources highlighted in each module invite students to think about how we know what we know about the past.
Lessons in this module highlight numerous important developments that diffused into or from regions adjacent to the Mediterranean: horse riding and the wheel, food crops and spices, and three important language groups and writing systems, for example. Other lessons trace the expansion of trade networks and the cultural exchange they made possible in the arts of living, religion, war and statecraft. A lesson on Carthage and a bridge lesson on empires explore the phenomenon of empire building and how it affected power relations and ordinary people as boundaries shifted through warfare and diplomacy. The central theme of all the lessons is the scope of the Mediterranean during this period. The broad questions they pose are, “What lands and people are in contact within and beyond the shores of the Mediterranean?” and “What impact did these contacts have in creating new possibilities and challenges?”
The lessons in this module introduce students to the writings of several key historical figures from the time period and provide alternatives to stereotypical characterizations about the role and importance of women, interfaith relations, the state of learning in medieval times, and the surprising modernity of business practices and cross-cultural trade. The lessons feature study of religion, cities, business, and literacy. Selections from medieval and modern historians—in addition to images, a power point, and film clips—provide context for exploring Mediterranean cities and how they developed, how books were produced, literacy among women and children, how business was conducted along the varied trade routes, and commonalities and levels of interaction among followers of the three major faiths in the region: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.
This period in history sees the expansion of European states into the Indian Ocean and across the Atlantic to the New World, and these enormous changes have tended to make many assume that the Mediterranean became, quite literally, a backwater. The Mediterranean has also been seen as the dividing line between East and West, across which Muslim and Christian civilizations struggled for dominance. The topics in Module 4, which covers the early modern period from 1450-1800, reveal a more complex reality. While Europeans were sailing around Africa and discovering the New World, the Mediterranean actually remained an important locus of trade, politics, and culture. And while there was certainly conflict between Muslims and Christians, there were also alliances across religious lines and a whole lot of division and fighting within each of those broad faith groups. In this module, students will trace a variety of connections and tensions across the societies of the Mediterranean. Students will create their own attack ads as they debate the ideas of golden age and decline with reference to Hapsburg Spain and the Ottoman Empire, and map a number of Mediterranean movers and shakers as they criss-cross the region for trade, pilgrimage, war, and exploration. They will look at Mediterranean economies as they create, trade and consume commodities like sugar, coffee and silk—as well as enslaved human beings. They will also look at a cosmopolitan Mediterranean city through time, and examine the various peoples that made the city of Salonica tick.
During the Long Nineteenth Century, new technologies brought Mediterranean peoples closer together across time and space, while the entire region became more accessible to world commerce via the Suez Canal (1869). The industrialization of northern Europe and the political forces unleashed by the French Revolution posed a challenge throughout the Mediterranean. Failure to catch up left Mediterranean societies in all-too-close proximity to the modernized armies of the French and British empires. On the other hand, access to new ideas and technologies was just as close at hand. How Mediterranean leaders implemented far-reaching economic, political, and social reform movements is the subject of the lessons in Module 5. Students analyze a series of maps to assess the geopolitical challenges facing the Ottoman Empire; based on their findings, they write a letter to the Sublime Porte recommending and prioritizing specific reforms. Students analyze the influence of the French Revolution on the Tanzimat (or restructuring) period of Ottoman history (1839-1876), as they compare the Gulhane Proclamation (1839) to the French Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789). Portrait paintings hold the potential to connect students to the human side of history, helping them to imagine what the key players looked like, as well as how they were seen by others. For this reason, students “zoom in” to closely analyze portraits of the reformist leaders Kharyr al-Din of Tunisia, Mehmet Ali (Muhammad Ali) of Egypt and Sultan Abdulmecid I of the Ottoman Empire, presented in three PowerPoints. Afterwards students “zoom out” as they reinterpret these same images in the wider context of additional images and primary and secondary source documents. A lesson on the literary and political salons held by women (and attended by men and women) in Aleppo, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, and Milan helps students to reflect on the multiple sources of societal change. By staging their own salon at the end of the module, students can express and assess the conflicts, progress and challenges of living through and responding to this era in the Mediterranean.
This set of lessons on the modern Mediterranean addresses the complex history of the region in the 20th century through a variety of lenses, from the Second World War up to the Arab uprisings of 2011. The module contains resources and lesson plans addressing themes of environmental, social, cultural and political history. Using a variety of perspectives, students construct their understanding of the past and relate it to the present. First, the module aims to provide alternative views on established historical topics found in high school history courses. Focusing on the Mediterranean, students engage with World War II and the postwar European recovery, globalisation and urbanisation, the Cold War and the growing role of the United States in this region. Second, through carefully selected case studies, it highlights large scale processes and broad concepts impacting this period. Environmental change, anti-immigration movements, xenophobia, modernity, and the growth of communication and transportation technologies are major themes throughout the lessons and resources. Finally, the module’s design de-emphasizes an authoritative narrative in order to allow more active learning to happen. This is done primarily through the organising role of key questions, individualized objectives, and document based inquiries. Overall, module 6’s lessons utilizes the Mediterranean world as an entry point into global education, empowers teachers to bring complex topics into the classroom, and encourages active student engagement and curiosity.