Rhodes University History Course 1

Rhodes University History Course 1

History 1

History First-Level Courses

These courses deal with selected themes in world history, including African and South African history, as well as an introduction to basic issues in historiography.

Considerable emphasis is also placed on the development of skills: investigative skills – learning how to seek out and find relevant information and ideas in libraries and elsewhere; analytical and critical skills – learning how to probe beneath the surface of history; essay-writing – constructing well-focused, clearly organised essays; and oral skills – developing the ability to participate in class discussion.

History 101: The Origins of the Modern World Crisis

This course examines the history of the world up to 1945. It is not a conventional introductory survey (from Adam to the atom) but rather a course that examines key themes in such a way as to help us make sense of the world that we live in today. Among the themes to be covered historically are: human evolution; the impact of farming; religion; patterns of food consumption; imperialism; militarism and warfare; nationalism; racism; capitalism; socialism.

History 102: The Modern World Crisis

Resuming from History 101, History 102 will tackle the total crisis affecting and threatening humans today. It is a crisis both ‘out there’ and one affecting each of us at Rhodes. On the one hand it is our crisis as a species, but on the other it is a crisis imposed on the planetary life-system itself by the human impact. We will bear both in mind, though the solutions are different. We begin with the (illusory?) “glorious thirty years” that followed the second world war, and proceed with the development of an era of fear and crisis between the early 1970s and today. Aspects focussed on include: the impact of technologies; the growing power of corporations; the emergence of an unofficial and unelected global government of the rich; moral degeneracy in politics, financial institutions and every day life; alienation and narcissism; HIV-AIDS (why the 1970s?); global economic inequalities; and our pathological onslaught on our own, and other species: environment. Environmental themes include: human population growth; the destruction of the planet’s forests; global heating; water crisis; the mass extinction of animals; and our irreparable pollution of the land and the oceans. The absurdities of the concept of permanent economic growth will be stressed. Combatting this is made very difficult because of our educational ideologies, not to mention the disasters that would accompany a slow-down in growth. The end to the ‘oil party’, on which our standard of life is based, will be examined, along with the resulting imperial rivalries among the great powers, particularly in the Middle East. All this against a backcloth of a world bristling with nuclear weapons, and a historical track record of wars over resources. We finish with an overview of possible futures. Throughout, the question is asked: when and how did humans “go off the rails”? How can we survive physically and live tolerable lives amidst this knowledge? This is history flying high in which the critical issues of the contemporary human experience are brought into sharper focus