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Book Review


Alfred J. Andrea and James H. Overfield, The Human Record: Sources of Global History. Volume I: To 1500, Seventh Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012, 2009. Pp. iii + 414. $71.77 (paper); Volume II: Since 1500, Seventh Edition. Boston: Wadsworth, 2012, 2009. Pp. v + 531. $89.95 (paper).


     I should say from the outset that although I do not currently use The Human Record, I did use an earlier edition in my World Civilizations survey course. To be clear, I only use source readers in my courses, never narrative texts. So, I have had some experience in reviewing readers. I have taught a world civilizations survey course at a community college for the past decade. The course is designed for education majors—K through twelve. These students bring a clear focus and commitment to the class that is not always the norm in a required history course, making the use of readers easier.

     I found The Human Record to be an excellent reader but not all of my students agreed. Many of them found it to be challenging and in the case of Volume One, too focused on religion. I find that religion can be a difficult subject to present to young people who have not struggled with issues of faith and truth. However, Andrea and Overfield help pave the way by providing excellent introductions and discussion questions to each section, chapter, and individual source. These introductions and questions place the discussions in the context of scholarly reflection rather than religious debate.

     Andrea and Overfield's reader is a standard in this genre. Each chapter is dense and full, and there are many more sources to select from than one can effectively work with. There are both advantages and challenges to using a source reader. Generally one needs to set the stage which necessitates using a reader with a good chapter introduction and incorporating historical essays, video clips, and short lectures. I do not assume the readings are too difficult but I do use a reading log and classroom group work to aid students in getting into the documents. The Human Record is an ideal text for this approach.

     Each chapter, for example, Volume One, Chapter Six, "Universal Religions of Salvation in an Uncertain World," has an introduction, followed by a specific topic—"Bhakti"—which also has an introduction. The specific source, Shiva, follows, again with an introduction and questions for analyses. This pattern is repeated for each source or group of similar sources. Written documents are reinforced with images and maps.

     An addition to this new seventh edition is a section called "Multiple Voices." There are fourteen of these sections in the two volumes. Their value is in aiding students in evaluating evidence that provides different points of view, an important element in critical thinking. "Multiple Voices" has a background section, a discussion of the sources, questions for analyses and the sources. "Multiple Voices IV" that comes at the end of chapter six in volume one contains five sources that focus on the topic of "One Christianity or Many Christianities?"

     Volume Two, Since 1500, is divided into four parts: Increased Global Interaction, World in Transition, World in an Age of Western Dominance, and Global Community and its Challenges. If the major themes of Volume One are emergence and growth of early civilizations and religions, then the major themes of Volume Two are global connections brought on by expansion, modernism (science and technology), political change, and nationalism. Again in this volume the geographic coverage is done well—of course Europe gets its due at the start of the text with chapters on European expansion and growth, but Islam, Africa and Asia are not short-changed. In fact, there is a fair balance, yet Andrea and Overfield do not omit important events. For example, a good deal of space is given to "The Era of Revolution" and "Science and Enlightenment" in the West.

     The pattern established in Volume One is followed in Volume Two. Moreover, part four examines challenges in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Chapter 12 explores issues of anticolonialim, nationalism, and revolution in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. One of the sections in this chapter addresses leadership and conflict in the Middle East. Following the introduction, there are two sources for students to work with. One is taken from a speech by Mustafa Kemal to the Turkish congress and the other is from the "Report of the Palestine Royal Commission" 1937. Both are good and interesting choices. I am not suggesting either of these sources is obscure, yet neither generally makes it into print in most readers. Both add to the historical database and open the classroom discussion by focusing on current political "hot spots."

In sum, these texts provide broad as well as dense coverage of the major topics in world history. The Human Record has good analytical questions to stimulate lively discussions as well as useful introductions that set the stage to each major part, chapter and individual source. This is a scholarly work in text book form. Although I am not attempting to re-write The Human Record for Andrea and Overfield, I do have a few suggestions or wishes for future editions. One aspect of the texts I would change is the sheer magnitude of the material. There is much for students to chew on and digest here, even more for them to regurgitate in some analytical form. Possibly reducing the overall number of sources might make the texts more manageable? Introductory essays by historians in particular fields would be a useful addition for those wanting to do more with critical thinking assessment. Essays of this sort can also serve to place the primary sources in context making them more accessible to students. Still used judicially, Andrea and Overfield have produced an excellent reader for college world history courses, both lower and upper level. Not having taught high school I am not sure if the text is appropriate. It demands a high level of reading and analytical skills. All this said The Human Record remains the standard in its field as evidenced by this seventh edition.

Terry D. Goddard is an Associate Professor of History at Northwest Vista College, where he teaches American and world history as well as a course in world cultures.


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