Writing a comprehensive global history of the post-1945 world is a daunting task. Unit 5 “Toward a Global Civilization” of Jackson Spielvogel’s textbook World History: Modern Times grapples with this difficult assignment through five chapters, yet without much success.
From the start, [this unit] evokes a ‘west and the rest’ mentality and approach to world history. It also places significant emphasis on the history of the United States, which although is never truly categorized as an empire, tends to receive more attention in the textbook than other colonized areas.
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.
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.