Teaching World History through Objects

At Cleveland State we strive to take pre-service Social Studies teachers in our upper-level World History course beyond the memorization of names, places and dates.  We focus on the discipline of history and the many historical lenses scholars use to teach and analyze world history.  To this end, my students read Vermeer’s Hat: the Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World by Timothy Brook (1) and explore the excellent BBC/British Museum website: “A History of the World in 100 Objects.” (2)  As an exercise in global analysis and historical thinking the students then choose an object and use Brook’s method to situate that object in world history.  Over the past two years, students have written about objects ranging from Djembe drums to the American diner, and even a great-grandmother’s rosary beads.  In each case, these objects reveal an array of global connections.  One of the standout examples from this year’s class is an essay by recent graduate Marie Cook.  Marie picked an object that was both unusual and close to home- a moose head on display in the Lorain County Historical Society-owned mansion “The Hickories.”  You can read her full essay here.
Please contact Prof. Shelley Rose for more information on the historical object assignment.  Have you used historical objects in your class?  Post your comments below or contact Prof. Rose about posting to the blog!
*Special thanks to Marie Cook for permission to share her work on the blog.
1. Brook, Timothy. Vermeer’s Hat : the Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008.

2. “BBC – A History of the World – Home.” Accessed June 4, 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/.