The Post-Classical World

Course Description

Examines expansion and collapse of Byzantium; nomadic invasions of Europe and development of feudalism; rise of militant Christianity; diffusion of militant Islam; spread of Indian classical culture; Chinese reunification, commercial revolution, and cultural revival; Japanese feudalism; development of African states; civilizations of Mesoamerica; settlement of Polynesians throughout Pacific.

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify the main peoples that inhabited the different regions of the world from the post-classical through the medieval period.
  • Outline the integration of Byzantium under the Emperor Justinian, highlighting the role of the military and the church.
  • Explain the social, cultural, military, political, and economic system known as feudalism in Western Europe.
  • Explain the rise of Islam from its roots in the Judeo-Christian world to its spread through merchant cities to become an international civilization centering on the Mediterranean and linking Europe, Asia, and North Africa.
  • Describe the unification of China under the Sui and Tang dynasties, the commercial revolution of the Sung dynasty, and the cultural revival of the Ming dynasty.
  • Understand the main characteristics of Japanese feudalism, comparing it with that of Western Europe.
  • Explain the variety of polities of sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the Muslim caravans, the migration of the Bantu peoples, the city-states of the western coast, and the continuing existence of hunting/gathering peoples in isolated localities.
  • Identify the main civilizations of the Americas, including the Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas, the formation of those empires and the variety of agricultural and cultural practices that sustained them.
  • Describe the settlement of the Polynesian peoples across the Pacific islands.
  • Assess the value of primary sources in constructing historical understanding.


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