Crash Course World History

I am currently sick, which is awful mostly because it has impeded my full enjoyment of my precious weekend. But it has given me lots of time to watch Crash Course World History, which I am absolutely addicted to at this point. I love learning!

I’m particularly intrigued by the huge gaps in my knowledge versus the complete story. I always knew that my history education was heavily biased towards the West, but I had no idea how much awesome there was outside the same tired (slash wrong) shit that I studied in school repeatedly. Here are some examples of the awesome that I missed in my history classes:

Theodora: She was a Byzantium empress and definitely more powerful than her husband, the emperor. She started as a prostitute/actress and everyone she met worshiped her. She in turn tried to convert everyone to her sect of Christianity, which was not the same as her husband’s sect. They had many conflicting political/religious desires and would entertainingly try to undermine each other to get their own way. She always won. After her death, her husband upheld many of her promises, even though he disagreed with them, because such was his love and respect for her. It’s so beautiful! (I do vaguely remember learning about them in my education, actually, but only briefly.)

Mansa Musa: He was the king of the kingdom of Mali, which was extremely prosperous once upon a time. (And they possibly discovered the Americas in the 1300s.) While he was doing his hajj to Mecca, he distributed an insane amount of gold as he went. So much gold that he disrupted the economies of all the major cities he passed through by causing inflation, etc., most notably in Egypt. One man, multiple cities, entire economies! Amazing! (I had also never realized that Islam was entrenched so well and far that the elite from Mali were completing hajj back in those days.)

Ibn Battuta: He was a Muslim Morrocan who traveled the world three times more than Marco Polo. He’s basically the epitome of a world traveller, in a time way before travel was easy. My newest goal in life is to start using him as my go-to reference whenever someone travels a lot. “You’re going to Sri Lanka and Thailand and Tibet? You’re a modern day Ibn Battuta!”

Battle of Talas: A battle between the Arabs and the Chinese to stop the Chinese’s Westward expansion. Although the two cultures were mostly tolerant of each other and enjoyed each others’ trade, China was stepping a little too far out, so the Arabs slapped them back and brought Islam to the land that is now Khazakstan. They also forced Chinese prisoners of war to make them paper, which spread the paper-making further West than previously. And I had never even heard of this battle…

There are of course a million other interesting tidbits in history. It’s frustrating to remember that my historical education ran roughly along the lines of “Romans and Greeks and Nobody Else.” Which tells a pretty sparse story. It’s also worth noting that my boyfriend did learn about the Battle of Talas here at school in the UAE. What other inequalities of information did our educations produce? What other histories do countries teach that America doesn’t? Did you know about the Battle of Talas?

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4 Responses to Crash Course World History

  1. Chantelle says:

    Interesting. As a (world) history teacher, I cover all of those things. I think it depends on when you went to school and what classes you took, but now those are standard (especially Justinian/Theodora, Battle of Talas, and Ibn Battuta) in American high school world history curric. One of the really popular texts, mentions how Theodora’s father was a bear trainer, etc. Some of Ibn Battuta’s (translated) writings are often used as sample primary sources, so luckily those are definitely not things that students are missing these days. When I was a student, though, I never took world history because it didn’t fit my schedule, but it was available… =/

  2. Stephanie says:

    I had a typical world history education in high school and it was probably quite similar to yours. I didn’t learn a significant amount of Asian history until I took a Chinese art history class in college. And I don’t believe that that touched on the Battle of Talas either.

    But, now that I know of it, I must go watch some of those videos! I do wish that I knew more non-western history. Oh, there are too many things I want to learn!

  3. Amanda says:

    Oh dude, I wish I hadn’t found this because I’m totally going to procrastinate with it, with the excuse that “I’m learning!” Will try to put it off until semester is over… but this playlist sounds amazing!

  4. Manda says:

    I didn’t know ANY of this! Bye bye Sunday, I’m going to be spending all day watching Crash Course World History…

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