Filling four hundred years of East and Southeast Asian history in a 25-page long chapter is like fitting Alice in the rabbit hole. A taste of Asia can be grasped by following Spielvogel’s description of how China’s last two dynasties flourished and languished, how Japan was unified and ruled under a feudal system, what economic changes took place in East and Southeast Asia through encountering Europeans, as well as the most famous artistic and cultural achievements to be enjoyed should the reader live in Ming-Qing China or Tokugawa Japan.
The unit maintains the standard politico-centric narrative traditional to the Civil War era. Published in 2010, this narrative arc ignores or underemphasizes intriguing historiographic contributions exploring such issues as social changes on the home front, the divided nature of Southern society, and the significance of guerrilla warfare, especially along the border between North and South.
Unit 1 of Jackson Spielvogel’s high school history textbook World History: Modern Times is by far the most expansive, covering the period from the Neolithic Age to the Renaissance and a geographical area that encompasses Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. By far its biggest issue is its privileging of European knowledge systems.