Explain cultural development and big geographical factors
Answer the following FOUR:
1. Choose one of the regions covered in the last 3 lectures of the course (Mediaeval Europe, Byzantium, Mongol/Turkic Eurasian Silk Road) and write an essay on changing political systems. Identify 4 ways in which the populations in these areas would have been most affected by the changes in regimes. How would they have been affected in each case? Identify two social or geographical or economic areas where the change would have been felt the least. Be sure to point to specific places in the course materials where you can see most directly the impact and non-impact of the new regimes.
2. In discussing Islamic religious beliefs, scholars frequently speak of the power of Islam “to unify.” Looking at the early history of Islam and at its later manifestations in the worlds of the Mongol Khanates, write an essay in which you define at least 4 different ways in which Muhammad as a prophet and Islam as a faith were able to work as a unifying force. Compare at least 3 of your 4 points about Islam to what you have learned about one of the other 2 “Abrahamic” faiths (Christianity and Judaism). Of course you need to back your observations up with clear and precise references to textbook, texts, and lectures.
3. We have been grappling with things related to the Roman Empire ever since the 3rd week of our course. Drawing from Chinese and Indian and American (Maya or Inca or Aztec) materials, write an essay in which you identify 4 precise and important ways in which these civilizations reveal behaviors and developments parallel to, but different from, what we see in Rome AND where the differences teach us about the uniqueness of these other histories. You must include 1 argument from each of the three different regions. You can point to political issues, or philosophical issues, or economic issues or artistic/architectural issues, or geographical issues, or social issues, or military issues (etc), but you should say something concrete about what you think are the essential differences and how they teach you something positive about these different cultures from Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
4. In his work, Jared Diamond draws very careful links between cultural development and big geographical factors (specifically the key geographical differences between the Americas and Eurasia). Identify 4 places in the material of the past 3 weeks, excluding material from the Americas, where von Sivers and/or McGuire build precise arguments about development and civilizations out of geographical considerations. How exactly do we understand these factors to affect the civilization involved? Do you see any instances in which the emphasis on geography obscures other important factors?
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