World History


Then Again




Contemporary History Essay



I. Introduction

Many of the societies we study in this course have endured for millennia, others no longer exist.  For this essay you are to choose a geographic location and one of the early societies that existed in that place.  You are then to look at what is happening in that same place today.  You should then write an essay in which you compare what is happening in that society today with what happened in that society earlier.  This paper will be worth a maximum of 30 points. After you have submitted your essay, you will be expected to present a summary of your findings to the class.  This presentation will be worth 10 points.

II. Content

A. The Essay

a. What Has Happened There

Choose one of the places we have studied in this course so far.  You might choose a city in Mesopotamia, or an ancient empire or any other place we have discussed.  Write a brief description of what happened there in the ancient past.

b. What is Happening There Now

In the second part of the essay, describe what is happening in that place now.  The place you chose might now be an abandoned ruin or it might be the center of a thriving civilization or might be the center of a war.

c. Make a connection.

To the extent that it is possible, try to make a connection between what happen then and what is happening now.  How is what is happening there today shaped by what happened there in the past?  This connection might be that the same ethnic group that lived there is the past still lives there today. It might be that an ancient canal system is still in use.  It might be that a war going on in that place today has its roots in events from the past.  Or it might be that there is no connection between the events.  If this is the case, then you should explain why there is no connection.

 For example, if you choose a place like Jerusalem, you could describe how the current conflict is related to the fact that both Jews and Muslims regard Jerusalem as a holy city.  If, however, you choose to write about Mohenjo Daro, where there is little direct connection between the past and the present, you should explain the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization.

B. The Oral Presentation

    You will be asked to give a brief, 5 minute oral summary of your findings to the class. This presentation is to extemporaneous, that is, you may not read a prepared speech. You may bring notes on a 3x5 card if you wish. Your report should cover the same 5 items covered in your written report, but they should be summarized so that your report will fit the allotted time.

C. Distribution

    At the conclusion of your oral presentation, please distribute a copy of your written presentation to each member of the class.

III. Evaluation

The essay will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

A. Preliminaries: Does it meet the requirements of the assignment regarding format, length and due date?

B. Essay Organization: Is the essay well organized? Is there a discernible thesis? Do each of the paragraphs have a topic sentence?

C. Writing: Is the essay's prose clear and conform to the expectations of Standard Written English?

D. Historical Understanding: Does this essay demonstrate that the author understands both the events in the past and the events in the present which occurred at that place?

E. The Connection: Does the author attempt to make a connection between what happened at that place in the past and what is happening now?  If there is no direct connection, does that author explain why this is the case?

Each of these criteria will be given equal weight. The essay as a whole will be worth 30 points.

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