World History/Prologue

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For the Historians[edit]

So you want to learn about World History, huh? Well, we plan to help you do just that, but before we begin there are a few things we should discuss. First of which is the standard on which this project was and is being developed. The AP World History Standard provides an outline of history as well as stipulations concerning the structure of any such project. As such, the text should be sufficient, if one knew most of it, to provide the reader with a strong possibility of getting at least a 3 on his or her AP World History Exam. However, the addition of parts relating to the writing of historical essays, especially based on the AP World History Standard, is far off. However, multiple-choice type tests are planned for each section dealing with the kinds of analytical and "big-picture" questions likely to appear on an AP World History Exam. Well, you might say, that's all well and great but I just wanna do some history. Perfect, but first, please read this page, as it will cover a great number of frequently asked questions and provide a good basis for the study of history. So without further ado, let the quest for knowledge begin!

Structurally speaking[edit]

The structure of this project is meant to divide the scope of world history into manageable chunks. However, the number of chapters will probably expand in the future. In addition to the chapters, we have some special sections which are present to make it interesting. Let's see what they are, shall we?

  • Bulbgraph.png This image denotes a section of especial interest which we thought would be nice to delve deeper into. It's probably something you're already familiar with, like the pyramids in Egypt.
  • Lautsprecher3.png This image shows off a first-person narrative or commentary that we have. It puts issues in some context, and helps you understand how the people actually felt.
  • Open book 01.svg This image shows a link to a non-fiction text on an event or period by an author who says it particularly well, such as Spielvogel might. Might also contain essays written by contributors on possible points of interest.

The Big Picture[edit]

Did you know that there is a word for the study of history? Well there is. It's called Historiography. You may not know it, but you and I are historiographers. Adolf Hitler was a historiographer. Karl Marx was a historiographer. Anyone who tries to delve into the big picture of history, develop patterns, and analyze cross-cultural historical trends is a historiographer. And that's what's important about reading this text. Keep the big picture in mind. Don't let one thing get you too far off the ball, and for heaven sakes, try not to become overly euro-centric. This will hurt your viewpoint and contaminate any hope for you understanding history correctly for a long time. Because one of our primary concerns was structure, the layout of this text does not exactly help the matter. So, what can you do to keep the big-picture in mind? Start with these tips:

  • Look at and note the dates, don't just read them. They can help you tell what cultures existed at the same time. Then you can know better what to compare and when.
  • Review events outside of the Western Hemisphere more than once, to make sure they sink in. Try to become interested in at least one or two civilizations/events/movements which occurred entirely or primarily outside of Europe and the United States. Then you'll at least know something that doesn't have Western culture stamped all over it.
  • Things change throughout time (well, duh). Note the changes in a time period not only in a culture or civilization, but across the world as a whole. How did things change and how did they stay the same (continuities)?

Terms you should know[edit]

There will be a few important terms that keep cropping up so you'll want to be sure and take note. Better yet, learn them now, while they're listed right here on your screen. Instead of going alphabetically, they are listed together in sets of like terms.

  • Writing systems
    • Pictogram- The simplest form of writing, consists of pictures representing what they mean, such as a tree for a tree and such.
    • Ideogram- The next evolutionary stage of a system of writing is ideograms, which, if confronted with their origin look like what they represent, but on the surface just look like symbols with some idea attached to them. Chinese uses ideograms.
    • Phonetic alphabet- Your own English alphabet is phonetic. Such a system consists of a finite set of letters (usually less than 40 or so) and each represents a sound in the language. For instance the letter "I" does not mean just yourself, it can be used in the word "illumination".
  • Languages
    • Indo-European- Comprises the languages of Europe, and much of Iran, Pakistan and the Indian sub-continent.
      • Romance- Languages almost entirely based on Latin, most speakers can understand one or more of the same group, the three most pure Latinically speaking are Romanian, Italian, and Spanish
      • Germanic- Like the word suggests, those languages based on German and the languages which developed in that area, examples include German, English, and Dutch
      • Balto-Slavic- Those languages of Eastern Europe and Russia which share common Slavic sounds. Like the Romance group, most speakers can understand at least one other language of the Balto-Slavic group. Some examples are Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish.
      • Albanian- This language is widespread and different enough to warrant its own mention, and is spoken in Albania as well as Kosovo and far northwestern Greece.
      • Greek- Spoken in Greece and still very similar to its ancient form
      • Uralic- These odd languages are distantly related. They include Hungarian ("Magyarian"), Finnish and Estonian.
    • Altaic- A controversial language grouping that is not accepted by all historical linguists
      • Turkish, Tatar, Azerbaijani, borrows from both Western and Eastern (primarily Arabic) sources
  • Culture words
    • Occidental- Another name for Western culture
    • Oriental- Another name for Eastern culture
  • Region words
    • Turkey (the nation today)
      • Asia Minor- What the Romans called this peninsula, used commonly in Roman times and the Middle Ages
      • Anatolia- What the Greeks called it, used predominantly in ancient times
    • Mesoamerica- Literally middle-America, consisting of the Panama isthmus north to the area of Mexico just south of the Yucatan peninsula
    • Latin America- Central and South American nations, so-called because Spanish and Portuguese languages are heavily based on Latin
    • West Indies- It's the 400 year-old mistake (Columbus didn't know any better. We do). These are islands which are found in the Caribbean Sea and are only called the West Indies because Columbus thought he had landed in the East Indies (hence the name Indians for Native Americans).
    • East Indies- The groups of islands located in the Pacific Ocean including Indonesia, Micronesia, Malaysia, and others. Sometimes referred to as the "Spice Islands", these were what Columbus was looking for. He obviously didn't ever find them.


The AP World History Standard has adopted the date system of using the terms C.E. for Common Era and B.C.E. for Before Common Era, which are identical to the the terms A.D. (anno domini, Latin for "In the year of our Lord") and B.C. (before Christ). However, their use is not widespread and therefore the use of A.D. and B.C. is retained in this text. Also, it seems a little silly to invent such names because of religious concerns when they are identical to the religious periods. In addition, if dates are given as "800 A.D" or "1950 B.C." then they are often a guess or approximation. These dates are almost universally preceded by the words "about" or "around", or the more intellectual "circa".

Also, a note about calendars. The Julian calendar was in use throughout the Western world for much of history, until it was discovered that it had become over a week inaccurate. So, we switched to Gregorian calendar to correct the problem. Actually, in Russia it wasn't even introduced until Lenin took power; the October Revolution actually happened in November on the Gregorian calendar. So dates in the chapter The Russian Revolution might be a bit hazy before 1918.

For the "Historians"[edit]

Some people might question our setup, layout, or the choice of included facts or they might find something wrong or in dispute. Great, we welcome suggestions and comments. And there's a place for it, on the World History discussion page. As for factual inaccuracies, etc., put them on the offending page's talk page, and we'll get to it as soon as we can (or see it). However, don't just criticize us, it's not constructive, and we don't care how you'd do it all that much, and this is the way we did it. So please don't just say the whole thing's stupid and we don't know what we're talking about. We'll probably have a few choice words to say back to you. Or maybe we'll just openly laugh and make fun of you. Either way you lose, and we win. So follow our Golden Rule, assume good faith and play nice. And now, on to World History...

The AP World History Exam[edit]

Advanced Placement World History is a course offered by many high schools within the United States of America. The curriculum and course structure are determined by the College Board, a non-profit organization which develops all Advanced Placement (AP) curricula and exams. The course structure is in the area marked AP World History Standard. Below is an overview of the exam.

The AP World History Exam is divided into two sections, a multiple-choice test and an essay section. Both count for 50% of the total exam grade. Like all AP exams, the exam is scored on a scale of 1 - 5, with 3 being the accepted rate of passing. Many colleges give credit for scores of 3 or above, although private colleges may require a 4 or even a 5. Also, because of this scale, most people will receive a 3 or a 4. In 2004, 48,558 students took the exam. The exact averages for each score in that year were: 22% of test-takers received a 1, 23.2% a 2, 27.8% a 3, 16.1% a 4, and 10.9% a 5. The mean test grade was a 2.72 (not a score, just an average). As you can see, only a small fraction of the test-takers achieve the highest score, and this should not necessarily be your goal.

The test is designed to cover four specific periods of history: c. 8000 B.C.E. to 600 C.E. (also called "Foundations"), 600 – 1450 C.E., 1450 – 1750 C.E., 1750 – 1914 C.E., and 1914 C.E. – Present. C.E. stands for Common Era and B.C.E. stands for Before Common Era, and each corresponds precisely to A.D. and B.C., respectively, in this text. (This may be a lapse in the College Board's judgment-they are not in wide use, and are an attempt to be as politically correct as possible).

The Multiple-choice Section[edit]

The multiple-choice section of the exam is made up of 70 questions. The section counts for 50% of the total exam grade. The main purpose of this portion of the test is not to test knowledge, but to test knowledge of connections, also known as the "big-picture". Comparison questions (for instance, there will always be a question asking what was similar about Ancient Rome and Han China) are notable. There are also a small number (3-5) of questions which provide a picture or graph/chart and ask a question that sometimes requires outside information.

The section is graded similarly to the SAT (also by the College Board) in that credit is deducted for wrong answers. For each correct answer, a student is awarded 1 point and for each wrong answer a student loses 1/4 of a point. For answers left blank, no points are awarded or deducted. While this might lead one to believe that it is a poor choice to guess (in layman's terms, you are actually losing 1 1/4 points for each wrong answer), this is incorrect. Mathematically, if you can narrow a question down by eliminating two wrong answers, there is a statistical advantage to guessing the answers on those questions that will give you a positive net change in score.

    • note: As of the 2011 exam, no points are deducted for incorrect answers.

Strategies for this section:

  • You won't know the answer to every question, or even something about every question, so don't be afraid to leave these questions blank: remember, you will not lose any points for doing this.
  • Be definite- if you feel that an answer is wrong, assume it is and move on with the other answers: remember, your first, gut instinct is often correct.
  • Don't change answers often. Unless you come across information elsewhere in the test that indicates you were wrong in choosing your original answer, your first reaction is more likely to be correct than that given at second thought (such as in the previous strategy's situation).
  • If you can eliminate two or more answers, make an educated guess and move on: remember, you have a statistical advantage of raising your score in this situation.
  • Many answers are logical, and can be deduced even without prior knowledge the question's topic. Remember that the College Board exam writers want to write as logical a test as possible, it's in their natures to craft questions that may be guessed by attentive students.
  • Be mindful of your time. You are unlikely to finish every question. Hopefully your proctor will provide you with time updates, or better yet, a stop clock which lists remaining time. Don't spend too much time on a single question (a trite strategy, but still true).

The Essay Section[edit]