CORE 131 Western Civilization to 1914

MASTER Syllabus

Faculty Contact Information


I. Description:

Where did our culture come from? This course on Western Civilization can help answer that question. We will survey the main stages of Western Civilization, with an emphasis on concepts, forces, ideas, events and people that have shaped our society up through the 19th century. In other words, we will examine, through lectures and discussion of readings, how our ancestors and the creators of our culture handled nature, ordered government, structured society, produced wealth, expressed ideas in word and form, and conceived the ultimate meaning of life, the universe and everything.  

II. Purpose:

A. Mission Statement for Western Civilization:

This Core Curriculum requirement is a course in the Civilization category.

This class is an important part of your education!  Civilization courses are designed to explore in some depth the complex dimensions of our world and the cumulative experience of the past, to provide an understanding of how yesterday influences today and the outlook for tomorrow. We study the major developments of Western peoples until the 20th century because most of the problems and institutions of contemporary society have distinguishable roots in the historical past. Moreover, because of the physical and material expansion of the West in the modern period, many of these forms  (capitalist industrial manufacturing, the nation-state system, etc.) have become global in nature.

We offer this course as part of your general education requirements because it is important for educated citizens to be familiar with the main stages of Western Civilization and recognize it as an expanding force which produced important forms of political, social, and economic organization. You should understand that most of the structures within which we order our lives are products of this evolution. Historians believe that past human behavior can be studied scientifically and that social scientists can improve our understanding of people in the present.

Further, whatever your major or career goals may be, throughout your lives you will be deluged with information, opinion, and interpretations about events which you should be able to evaluate critically. Answering questions and solving problems by critical analysis -- not just memorization of data -- is a basic goal of education. Information is just the raw material in this process and, though rational analysis must be based on factual data, memorizing tidbits of information is not an end in itself. Our real goal is to develop concepts which give order and meaning to the raw material of our recorded past. Doing this requires comprehension beyond minimal factual details of past events. Major emphasis will be on patterns, themes, and concepts against which the factual data must be understood.

We hope that upon successful completion of this course you will have improved your understanding of world civilizations and become a more perceptive judge of the data, opinions, interpretations and explanations continuously offered to you. This process, indeed, should last your whole life, since (paraphrasing the observation of the distinguished professional historian Carl L. Becker from 1931) "Ultimately, every person is their own historian."

B. CART Goal

The Civilizations category of the Core develops critical thinking skills in an historical context, helps students reflect on their own heritage, and constructs the cultural knowledge that unites many other areas of the Core.

The CART has determined the following outcomes in support of this CART's goal:

C. Student Learning Outcomes


III. General Requirements

A. Academic Honesty

Students should be aware of the academic integrity policy, as outlined in the King's College Student Policy Handbook.  They should understand the distincitions concerning cheating and plagiarism, and their moral, ethical and legal obligation only to submit work completed by themselves. 

More information is available at <> and <Help stop Plagiarism!>.  

B. Reading:

A common survey text provides students with important factual and background information to read and work on before class and to use for review and reference afterwards.  Instructors may assign other texts at their discretion.

The current text for Western Civ is

Pavlac, Brian A., A Concise Survey of Western Civilization: Supremacies and Diversities throughout  History. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.; ISBN-13: 978-1442205543.
Website for the textbook:

Students should do the following with their text (s):

The instructor may give quizzes to test reading and comprehension and for review. 

C. Class Participation & Attendance:

Each instructor should set an attendance policy.  An example follows: 

Participation and attendance are necessary because lecture and discussion provide the essentials for achieving class goals and objectives. Thus a portion of your grade (about 10%) will depend on your in-class performance and presence, aside from graded quizzes, exams and papers.  You are required to attend each class, arrive on time, remain attentive, maintain proper classroom decorum, respond to questions, and participate in discussion and small-group activities. You are encouraged to take notes and ask questions.

Several minor written assignments (a paragraph to one page in length) will also be required as reflections and reactions to class discussion and projects (10 points each).   

Any student who has a learning disability, physical handicap, and/or any other possible impediment to class participation and requirements should meet with the instructor within the first two weeks of classes to establish available accommodations.  Only with the instructor's permission may class be recorded, only to be used for your own study, and the recordings must be erased after the final exam.

If at some point during the semester you must discontinue the course, whether due to poor performance, illness, or some other cause, be sure to follow proper procedures for withdrawal. 

If you miss an exam, contact the instructor as soon as possible. You may take a missed exam only at the discretion of the instructor.  If you miss any quizzes and/or class projects, you may only make them up if you have a legitimate excuse and with the explicit permission of the instructor, who may require any equivalent assignment. 

If you arrive at class late, after attendance is taken, you must personally request that the absence be turned into a tardy mark; otherwise an Absentee Assignment may be required.  Students who need to leave a class early, except for medical emergency, should notify the instructor before class begins.

If you do miss a class, you must complete an Absentee Assignment.  You are to write a one-to-one-and-a-half page essay (in proper presentation format) answering the Big Question for that day's textbook reading AND showing how that day's WebSOURCE applies to the reading.   Deadlines: The assignment(s) should be turned in to the instructor at the beginning of the next class after you return.

Excused absences due to college activities or extended illness must be authorized by the appropriate college official. You should consult with the professor about making up/turning in missed work in advance or as soon as possible after your return.  After any absence, you are responsible for requesting from the professor hand-outs and already-returned assignments, or borrowing notes from other students.  Whether absences are excused or not, you may not get a higher grade than the percentage of classes attended.

Other absences are unexcused and will lower the class participation portions of your grade.  Remember, though, your health is your first priority.  If you are sick, stay home and recover.  A few unexcused absences will not significantly affect your grade.

D. Exams:

Students should take take a minimum of three exams.  The exams should be comprehensive: each exam may cover material since the beginning of the course.   The final exam is taken during finals week, scheduled at the same time as with other sections of CORE Civilization courses (not according to the normal weekly time of meeting).  Please consult the final exam schedule when it is released by the registrar. 

The majority of exam material should be in the form of essay questions, whether brief or extensive.

E. Written Assignments:

Students should produce at least two-to-three formal written assignments with a total amount written for the course reaching 12-to-15 pages.   Instructors should provide information about the goals, procedures, and topics for each of these assignments. 

Students must to conform to the instructor's required style of citation.  Preferred in this CART is the Turabian/Chicago Manual of Style format (see Corgan Library Study Guide #11 or for bibliography and citations.  

F. Deadlines:

Completing assignments on time is an important aspect of student course work.  Students should hand in each assignment on time.

Instructors will explain their individual policies on their syllabi.

IV. Grading Policy:

Students earn a grade through work done for this course.  A variety of assessments (written assignments, exams, quizzes, class participation, etc.) determine the final grade.  Different assignments will be worth certain point values, as described by the instructor.  

Students are responsible for knowing why they have achieved a certain grade, and what steps they can take to maintain or improve their grade.  They are encouraged to consult with the instructor during office hours or by appointment both before and after exams and written assignments.  
For their protection, in case of errors of recording, students should keep copies of all exams and assignments until they have received official notice of their final grade. 

Any and all materials done for this course may become the property of the instructor, who may use them for assessment, evaluative, scholarly, or research purposes. 

Although syllabi present the basic content of courses, the instructors reserve the right to change anything (e.g. requirement, topics, assignments, due dates, grading policy, etc.) at their discretion.

Examples of primary and Secondary online Sources for Western Civilization

Possible topics and themes include the following: 

  What do historians really do?
What are the origins of Western civilization as we know it?
What are the challenges of civilization?
What were the key political legacies of the Greek city-states?
How did Rome develop into a powerful empire?
What was the impact of emerging Christianity in the Roman world?
What were the origins and consequences of the split in the Roman Empire?
What were the unifying characteristics of the new states developing in the
former western empire? What is happening in the East?
What made Charlemagne a powerful leader?
What institutions contributed to growth and development in medieval
How did political centralization impact medieval Europe?
How did the reforms of monks lead to a reform of the wider Church and the creation of the medieval papacy?
How did the popes fight with kings and other religious movements?
What were sources of comfort versus what were sources of fear for people in
the medieval era?
What was the political impact of plague in the later Middle Ages?
What were the key cultural features of the Renaissance?
How did the Reformation lead to political polarization in Europe?
How did increased emphasis on religion contribute to Western expansion
How did the Scientific Revolution alter how people viewed their world?
How did the Enlightenment philosophes seek to alter the human experience?
How did models of leadership change after the Enlightenment?
How did the revolutionaries in France execute political changes?
How did subsequent phases of the French Revolution impact Western
What were key characteristics of the Industrial Revolution?
How did competing ideologies offer alternatives in the nineteenth century?
How did socialists address problems �manufactured� by the Industrial
How did naturalistic science generate new and unsettling knowledge in the
nineteenth century?
What were motivations and benefits for European expansion into Asia and
What led the United States to emerge as an important cultural and political
power in the Western world?
What role did nationalism play at the close of the nineteenth century in the
How did nationalism contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire?

Civilization: Historical Perspectives Category Homepage

King's College Catalog

Faculty who teach in the Core Category


CORE mainpage Curriculum & Teaching Committee CART Coordinator:
Brian A. Pavlac, Professor of History, Department Chair

Last updated 2014 September 17