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Teacher Review

Editors' note: This feature is meant to provide practical, although not unbiased, reviews of textbooks based on experience in the classroom. Readers will note that the teachers who wrote these reviews differ widely in terms of what they seek in a textbook. Moreover, these reviews are not meant to advocate or discourage the adoption of any one text. Rather, they seek to begin a dialogue about textbook use that we hope will continue long past the posting of this issue. Indeed, we would like to encourage other teachers—both at the secondary and at the university-level— to send us comparable reviews of texts for inclusion in later issues of World History Connected.  

Richard Bulliet et al., The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History, 3rd edition (Houghton Mifflin, 2004).  
     The Bulliet textbook, Earth and Its Peoples, is currently used in our open-enrollment AP World History program. Class enrollments range from 10th to 12th grades and students are mixed, ranging from those with Individualized Education Plans to National Merit Scholar Finalists. 1
     There are many advantages to using the Bulliet text. It gives students a wonderful sense of chronology. This appears to be the best organizer for students in a course that offers such a broad, rich curriculum in scope. Each chapter gives a timeline utilizing information covered in a particular time period. For example, a chapter covering the Ottoman Empire, Safavid Empire, Mughal Empire and Europeans in the Indian Ocean States (yes, all in one chapter) includes a chronology from 1502 to 1747. While this may appear to be an enormous length of time to one used to teaching narrower survey courses, the chapter still may be covered in one day. In addition to the excellent timelines, students are given "objective" questions at the beginning of each chapter. For teachers who like to concentrate on Advanced Placement preparation, there are some very good Document-Based Questions at the end of each chapter. The book does an excellent job in offering specific details to support some of the broader themes necessary for students to grasp in world history. If you believe that students are capable of making a better analysis of a time period if they have plenty of evidence to be used as support, then this book works very well. 2
     On the flip side, the book does offer so many details that some students get bogged down in small pieces of data. Indeed, this can be confusing in a course that is supposed to allow students to make big connections. In other words, students may not see the forest for the trees. Some students complain about the amount of reading assigned in a block schedule. While typical chapters are a little over 22 pages of reading, these chapters may be divided in any way a teacher deems fit for his or her course. However, the biggest complaint among students is the occasional repetitive nature of the book. This is a relatively innocuous complaint and from a teacher perspective, can almost be seen as a positive. Another complaint about the book is that there is not necessarily an explicit connection among various chapters. Bulliet does frame a few chapters such as "The Spread of Ideas" (the spread of Buddhism and Christianity) and "Global Maritime Expansion Before 1450" (in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans) to make these connections. Otherwise, the students will have to get these connections in class from the teacher. The support for the text is somewhat minimal. There are good study guides (for students) available, but the manual for instructors does not include enough sources for further investigation.. 3
     The most common comment I have heard from students is that the Bulliet text is a lot of work, but when finished, they are glad they went through it. 4
Eric Hahn, PhD
Ladue Horton Watkins High School
St. Louis, Missouri

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