About the Funders and Our Shared Past

Our Shared Past is a collaborative grants program to encourage new approaches to world history curriculum and curricular content design in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. Our Shared Past is premised on the notion that many of the categories used to frame and teach world history—civilizations, nations, religions, and regions—occlude as much as they reveal. Although there have been successful attempts at incorporating recent historical scholarship in world history writing, the core of world history instruction continues to be shaped by civilizational, national, and regional narratives that emphasize discrete civilizations and traditions frequently set at odds with one another at the expense of historical and material connections.

Our Shared Past seeks to promote the development of international scholarly communities committed to analyzing history curriculum and reframing the teaching of world history through the identification of new scholarship and the development of new curricular content that illustrate shared cultural, economic, military, religious, social, and scientific networks and practices as well as shared global norms and values that inform world history and society. The project encourages both the synthesis of existing scholarship on these topics and the exploration of concrete ways that this reframing can be successfully introduced into teaching curriculum in European, Middle Eastern, North African, or North American contexts.

The British Council is the United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. The British Council works in over 100 countries, creating international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and building trust between them worldwide. It was founded in 1934 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1940 as a public corporation, charity, to promote cultural relationships and understanding of different cultures, to encourage cultural, scientific, technological and other educational cooperation between the UK and other countries, and otherwise promote the advancement of education.

The Social Science Research Council (SSRC) is an independent, international, nonprofit organization founded in 1923. It fosters innovative research, nurtures new generations of social scientists, deepens how inquiry is practiced within and across disciplines, and mobilizes necessary knowledge on important public issues. The SSRC pursues its mission by working with practitioners, policymakers, and academic researchers in the social sciences, related professions, and the humanities and natural sciences. With partners around the world, SSRC builds interdisciplinary and international networks, links research to practice and policy, strengthens individual and institutional capacities for learning, and enhances public access to information. 

Consulting Scholars

Mehmet Açıkalın is Associate Professor in the Department of Social Studies Education at Istanbul University, Turkey.

Edmund Burke III is Research Professor of Modern Middle Easter and World History at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Director of the Center for World History at UCSC.

Julia Clancy-Smith is Professor of History at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Sumaiya Hamdani is Associate Professor of History at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Driss Maghraoui is Professor of History and International Relations at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco.

Peter Mandaville is Associate Professor of Government and Director of the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, and Nonresident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Huseyin Yilmaz is Assistant Professor of History and Co-Director of the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Curriculum Developers

Susan L. Douglass is Deputy Project Director for Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean, and a doctoral candidate in world history at George Mason University, with an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She also serves as Education Consultant for the Al-Waleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, presenting workshop sessions for schools, university outreach programs, governmental agencies, and professional conferences across the US. She is a published author of print and online teaching resources and curriculum research on Islam and Muslim history, world history and geography, and academic standards. She served as Affiliated Scholar with the Institute for Religion and Civic Values (formerly the Council on Islamic Education) for a decade, and in 2006, she was Senior Research Officer for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations initiative. Publications include World Eras: Rise and Spread of Islam, 622-1500 (Thompson/Gale, 2002), and the study Teaching About Religion in National and State Social Studies Standards (Freedom Forum First Amendment Center and Council on Islamic Education, 2000, online teaching resources such as the IslamProject.org, World History for Us All, islamicspain.tv, and she designed The Indian Ocean in World History (indianoceanhistory.org). She contributed to the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf/Muslim Journeys project of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association through the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University.

Jonathan Even-Zohar has a degree in History from Leiden University in World Historical Perspectives in History Textbooks and Curricula, with an honorary Crayenborgh-degree in Islam and Europe. He is Director at EUROCLIO – European Association of History Educators, an organisation with a mission to promote History Education so that it contributes to peace, stability and democracy. He has managed History Education Innovation Projects in Bulgaria, Cyprus and the former Yugoslavia including many visits to these countries. He also organises international conferences, seminars, workshops, exchanges, and study visits. Within these projects, many aspects of publishing, curriculum development, political influence and general attitudes towards History Education are developed. Currently he is manager of the EUROCLIO Programmes: History that Connects, How to teach sensitive and controversial history in the countries of former Yugoslavia and the EUROCLIO International Training Programme.

Craig Perrier is the High School Social Studies Specialist for Fairfax County Public Schools. Previously, he worked as PK-12 Social Studies Coordinator for the Department of Defense Dependent Schools and was a secondary social studies teacher for 12 years at schools in Brazil and Massachusetts. Perrier is an online adjunct professor in history for Northeastern University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Northern Virginia Community College. He has been an instructional designer and curriculum writer for various organizations including IREX, the Institute of International Education, and the State Department’s Office of the Historian. He maintains a blog “The Global, History Educator” discussing content, technology, instruction, and professional development.

Barbara Petzen is director of Middle East Connections, a not-for-profit initiative specializing in professional development and curriculum on the Middle East and Islam, global education, and study tours to the Middle East. She is also executive director of OneBlue, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conflict resolution and education, and president of the Middle East Outreach Council, a national consortium of educators furthering understanding about the Middle East. She was education director at the Middle East Policy Council, where she created a comprehensive resource for educators seeking balanced and innovative materials for teaching about the Middle East at TeachMideast.org. She served as outreach coordinator at the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, starting just before September 11, 2001. She taught courses on Middle Eastern history, Islam and women’s studies at Dalhousie University and St. Mary’s University in Nova Scotia, Canada, and served as tutor and teaching assistant at Harvard University, where she may at some point complete her doctoral dissertation in Middle Eastern history on European governesses in the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. She earned her B.A. in International Politics and Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia College and a second Honours B.A. as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in Oriental Studies. Her academic interests include Ottoman and Middle Eastern history, the history and present concerns of women in the Middle East and Muslim communities, the role of Islam in Middle Eastern and other societies, relations and perceptions between Muslim societies and the West, and the necessity for globalizing K-12 education in the United States.

Joan Brodsky Schur is a curriculum developer, author, workshop presenter and teacher, with over thirty years of experience in the classroom. She has presented workshops for teachers for the National Council for the Social Studies, Asia Society, the National Archives, Yale University (Programs in International Educational Resources), Georgetown University, the Scarsdale Teachers Institute, and the Bank Street College of Education division of Continuing Professional Studies, for which she leads Cultural Explorations in Morocco: Implications for Educators in Multicultural Settings. Her lesson plans appear on the Websites of PBS, the National Archives, The Islam Project, and The Indian Ocean in World History. She has served as a member of the Advisory Group for PBS TeacherSource, the advisory committee for WNET’s Access Islam Website, and as a board member of the Middle East Outreach Council. Her books include In a New Land: An Anthology of Immigrant Literature (McGraw-Hill, 1994), Immigrants in America: The Arab Americans (Lucent, 2004), Coming to America: The Arabs (Greenhaven, 2005), Eyewitness to the Past: Strategies for Teaching American History in Grades 5-12 (Stenhouse, 2007), Advocating for Abolition (Interact Publishers, 2011) and 20th Century World Activators (Interact Publishers, 2013). She currently serves as Social Studies Consultant to the City and Country School in New York City. She received her B.A. and M.A.T. degrees from New York University.

Tom Verde is an award-winning journalist and book author who specializes in Islam, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean studies, early Christian history, comparative religion, food history, and travel. Formerly on the faculty of Ethics, Philosophy and Religion at King’s Academy in Jordan, he has lived and traveled widely in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe and written extensively on religion, culture, the environment for major national and international publications, such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Biblical Archeology, and is a regular contributor to Saudi Aramco World magazine. Verde has also been a frequent contributor to broadcast networks, including NPR, Public Radio International and the BBC.

Companion Projects in the Our Shared Past BC/SSRC Initiative

The Alliance for Learning in World History is a collaboration of educators and history scholars organized to advance the teaching and learning of world history in classrooms—in the U.S. and in every part of the world. The Alliance is anchored at the University of Pittsburgh, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), at http://www.alliance.pitt.edu/

Rethinking the Region: New Approaches to 9-12 U.S. Curriculum on the Middle East and North Africa is a curriculum project and textbook analysis, with correlation to current standards at http://www.teach-mena.org/