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Migration and Movement

Course Description:

In this semester long course, students will examine the effect that migration and movement have had on the development of culture and civilization throughout the past and contemporary history of the world. Utilizing a variety of primary and secondary sources including historical travel narratives, the class will identify the push factors that prompt people to move as well as the pull factors that encourage settlement in place, will explore the components of cultural identity and the effects of cultural assimilation and diffusion, and the economic considerations associated with migration and settlement.


Course Outline:


  • Why do people move to a new place or choose to stay where they are?
  • What defines a civilization?

Cultural Interactions in India’s History

  • How is a cultural identify formed? What cultural elements are blended to form what we know as “Indian?”
  • What happens when peoples meet?
  • What are the effects of a long history of various cultural interactions? Segregation? Diffusion?Assimilation?
  • What are the differences between interactions born of conflict and as a result of peace?
  • How did India re-emerge as an independent country in 1947 as a result of nearly 50 years of struggle while also partitioning and creating massive migration shifts?
  • Was Gandhi’s multicultural worldview tied to India’s diverse vast, and did it contribute to his own assassination?

Dar al-Islam

  • How can religion influence the development of an empire?
  • How might religious beliefs affect society, culture, and politics?
  • How did Islam provide a unifying influence that opened the door to trans-continental travel and trade?

Mongol China

  • What qualities define power struggles and stable periods of rule?
  • How did the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties bring order to China between periods of chaos and instability?
  • How can invasion change the lives of people in conquered lands?
  • How did the Mongols create the world’s largest land empire?
  • What effect did the Mongol invasion of the Arab Empire have on Islamic civilization?

Travel Narratives: Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo

  • How do early travel stories contribute to the “shrinking” of the world?
  • Why are travel tales so popular throughout history?
  • What can we learn about perception of “the other” by reading about others’ journeys?

The Colombian Exchange

  • What are the effects of political and economic expansion?
  • What are the unintended effects of cultural interaction?
  • What was the scope of global change as a result of Eastern hemisphere becoming aware of the western?


  • Where and why are people moving in the world today?

Course assessments:

  • Occasional quick writes / journal entries to prime thinking on topics requiring judgement or opinion followed by peer to peer discussion of topics.
  • Checking notes / use of graphic organizers.
  • Group presentation project on Indian cultural diversity
  • Analytic essays and opinion pieces that address the enduring questions of the course
  • Individual Historical Person Project
  • Final individual digital presentation
  • and a final exam


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