World History Connected Home    
Home List journal issues Table of contents
Printer-friendly format          

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.  

Howard Spodek, The World's History, 2nd edition, combined volume (Prentice-Hall, 2001).  
    One of the lesser-known AP World texts is Howard Spodek's The World's History.  I have used The World's History since I began teaching AP World History in 2000.  Spodek is the text's sole author, lending this text a welcome clarity of voice and perspective.
    At every step, Spodek focuses students on the way historians work, highlighting historical methods and scholarly disagreements. The introduction to The World's History is particularly valuable, clearly laying out the the book's structure and intent while introducing students to concepts such as periodization, historical comparison, and point of view.  The introduction prepares students exceptionally well for the year ahead. 2
    To press his historiographic themes further, Spodek organizes each chapter to answer four questions: "What do we know?"; "How do they compare?"; "How do we know?"; and "What difference does it make?" Providing this type of focus for students is really beneficial in helping them develop the necessary skills to read a college-level text.
    While Spodek arranges the book chronologically, he develops distinct themes for each section. Part Three, for instance (chaps. 5-8), takes the story from 2000 B.C.E. to 1100 C.E.   Throughout these chapters, Spodek focuses on the ways that "imperial power is generated, increased, consolidated, and resisted."  In the 2nd edition, these thematic discussions are integrated into  the text, which sometimes makes reading the text more difficult.  The third edition has addressed this problem, moving the themes to sidebars.  Spodek's themes mesh well with those of the AP program. 4
    Another asset is Spodek's liberal use of charts, graphs, timelines and maps to organize and clarify the text. Photographs and art reproductions are also excellent, and come with detailed explanations that engage the student on more than a perfunctory level. 5
    One weakness is the amount of detail in the book's first half.  Given the breadth of content required for the AP World History course, some teachers may find this detail (on world religions, for example) excessive. Instructors can easily remedy this through judicious assignment of the reading. 6
    The ancillaries for the second edition include map transparencies, which duplicate maps in the book. I do not recommend the web site to my students as I did not find it beneficial. The study guide is of limited use also. I have not seen the materials for the third edition. 7
    The book alone is an excellent text for an AP World History course. The level of reading is accessible to all students and the tone is one that holds student interest. I recommend it highly to anyone considering text adoption for their course. 8

Laurie Mannino
Col Zadok Magruder High School
Rockville, MD


Home | List Journal Issues | Table of Contents
© 2008 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Content in World History Connected is intended for personal, noncommercial use only. You may not reproduce, publish, distribute, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, modify, create derivative works from, display, or in any way exploit the World History Connected database in whole or in part without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Terms and Conditions of Use