January, 2015

It was nice, charting new territories with you all

Esha Swaroop, an undergraduate student gives a humorous description of a typical history class through a cartography metaphor

TiH (Trends in History), a foundation course in the undergraduate curriculum takes you into a journey through space and time, as you, your group and Professor, examine major trends in human history. Trends ranging from ancient civilisations to industrialisation, religious histories vs history of religion, colonialism, and revolutions that shook (supposedly? perhaps?) not only foundations of buildings, but also of thinking in the past.

World-History-Map

 

TiH is about patterns and breaking them; we could’ve been explorers charting new territory (both in time and space). This drawing shows the jumps we took and some of the ideas we learned and debated on, in a cartography metaphor.

We learned that the tiny island nation of Haiti had a significant role to play as the first independent black republic. The drawing has a signpost for Haiti, and a little ship making its way across the Atlantic Ocean, just like hundreds of others that made the same passage and contributed to Atlantic slave trade from the 16th through the 19th centuries.

A World War II fighter plane swoops by, belonging to a different era. A sea route to India crosses past these sights, with a ship carrying the first to discover the sea route, Vasco Da Gama, who set sail in 1498.

Don’t be misguided about the dates though, this course is more about ideas and their progression. A tiny figure on horseback in special headgear drawn in Central Asia represents – you got it – the Mongols. The Mongols were known for their rapid and expansive conquests, because of their use of horses, catapults and siege warfare. On Spain stand the famous ruins of Madinat al-Zahra (City of the FlowerS), remnants of Moorish Spain.

We talked about Europe and were forewarned about historical bias and eurocentricism. The drawing of the continent shows thought bubbles describing ancient Greece and Classical Antiquity, the middle ages and the renaissance. Taking a detour from the beaten path, we looked into the lives of women poets during the renaissance. Then came the Scientific and Industrial revolutions, and clash of idealogies.

There’s a speech bubble with a chant of “Left! Right! Left!”. That conveys a dual meaning: of marching soldiers in the world wars, as well as clash of the left-wing and the right-wing: socialism vs capitalism.

In every class we have some relevant (or just fun) background music. Some of the better known songs can be seen on the left corner of the drawing. They range from

“Another Brick In the Wall” (Pink Floyd) to the Banana Boat Song (Harry Belefonte), or Billy Joel’s memorable “We Didn’t Start the Fire” that encapsulates the 20th century. Dotted on the map are several other cities and quips any history student would get (“Scramble for Africa” “I prefer omelette”), but we’ll leave that to you to look for!

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