Description & Learning Goals


What do you need to know to understand our world? At our historical conjuncture – a multi-polar world riven by ethnic, religious and national divisions, a global world of instantaneous communications and slow-burning environmental challenges, a world transformed by new technologies and bound by deep-seated traditions – we need history more than ever before.

The Making of the Contemporary World (MCW) offers an introduction to the history of the present, with emphasis on the major events and powerful forces of the last one hundred years that shape the world today. The course is wide-ranging, taking in perspectives from across the globe, without worrying about complete chronological or geographical coverage. Students will take away an awareness of the cultural traditions that define regions and peoples; knowledge of the historical legacies that shape the present and the future; and a broad understanding of the forces that shape the contemporary world.

This course is designed as an entry to the study of history at the college level. In addition to the content of the course, students will learn to apply important historical concepts, conduct historical research, engage with scholarly arguments, and interpret sources.

The course combines lecture, discussion, and small-group activities. Frequent guest lectures will include visitors from the History Department who will speak from their own expertise. In most weeks, the course will be taught on a three-day-a week schedule, with two days of mostly lecture (Mondays and Wednesdays), and one day of mostly discussion (Friday). We will break up into small groups for discussions on Friday.


At the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Identify and apply historical concepts (such as, change & continuity, context, contingency, etc.)
  • Identify and apply tools of global history and area studies
  • Identify and describe the historical inheritance of major regions and cultures of the world
  • Identify and describe the most significant forces that shape the world today
  • Conduct historical research and present historical arguments