Crowd Sourcing for Case Study Ideas

Zachary Virgin's picture

Dear Colleagues,

I am re-constructing how my institution approaches our freshman section of world history. I have crafted five overaching "big picture" categories that will allow me a good deal of flexibilty as to what  specific topics I selct for case studies. The categories are: 1) war and warfare; 2) science and technology; 3) art and literature; 4) transport and travel; 5) culture and society. 

My goal with this post is to crowd source for specific topical ideas (e.g. impact of a single item such as paper) outside of the broader, traditional options such as the Renaissance, Silk Road, etc. For what it is worth, I am not using a traditional textbook - I am using primary sources and articles from the Journal of World History (and other academic journals) exclusivley. 





Certain commodities as you suggest (paper) should be covered. I recommend pairs:
sugar and the enslaved, coal and cotton (enslaved again - wage and forced), tea and opium, ivory and rubber (quinine too), oil and autos, Coca-Cola and advertising, etc.
Good Luck!

Dear Zachary,

I read the following several years ago and enjoyed it, perhaps it would provide a good reading for one week in your course:

The Essence of Commodification: Caffeine Dependencies in the Early Modern World

Ross W. Jamieson

Journal of Social History, Volume 35, Issue 2, 1 December 2001, Pages 269–294,

Published: 01 December 2001

Best of luck with your course! 

Kind Regards, 

David Prior
Assistant Professor of History
University of New Mexico