Rationales for Teaching Western Civ and World History

Kevin Fernlund's picture

Dear H- World -- I have just finished grading one batch of papers and, before I tackle another batch, I thought I would write a quick note in response to the recent discussion on the Western Civ course or narrative. However, I would like to take this discussion in a new direction. 

I have participated in the debate over Western Civ versus World History for many years now.  The West Civ course, as we all know, evolved in response to America’s entry into the First World War, the Great War, almost one century ago. German imperialism threatened Western democracy and values as well as the freedom of the seas.  The U.S. and the Allied Powers rightly concluded that they could not abide in a world in which the Kaiser called the shots. As a result, the U.S. ended a century of isolationism and became a full-fledged Atlantic power. 

With the subsequent events of the Second World War and the Cold War, America’s role as an Atlantic power was dramatically expanded. Indeed, between the signing of the Atlantic Charter in 1941 and NATO in 1949, the very center of Western power shifted across the Atlantic Ocean from London and Paris to New York and Washington, D.C.  These developments had to be explained to students and the West Civ course or survey did just that—and did so admirably.

The U.S., of course, remains an Atlantic power and the many complex transatlantic relationships—economic, military, cultural—that exist between North America (the U.S. and Canada) and Europe continue to be central, even vital, to our world today.  As such, the West Civ course continues to serve the needs of our students.

But the U.S. is more than an Atlantic power. It is also a Pacific power. The North American continent is Janus-faced.  It looks out toward Asia just as it does toward Europe. And just as the rise of Germany a century ago threatened the international order and ultimately involved the U.S. deeply in European affairs, the current rise of China threatens America’s Pacific relationships, which were forged during and after the Second World War.

I think it should go without saying that our students need a course to explain these many challenges, which are likely to shape the twenty-first century. And to my mind, this need is the primary rationale for teaching World History.  But World History should not be offered in lieu of Western Civ. Rather it should complement Western Civ.  The U.S. is a superpower. It has major interests in Europe and Asia. Our students need more than one course to explain how this country reached this critical point and where we go from here. There is a lot at stake.

Ok. That’s my two cents. Now it is time to get back to grading papers!

Kevin Fernlund

Dear Kevin and H-World,

I understand that this is the way in which, historically speaking, views of history have developed.

But what would happen if we considered ourselves not first of all citizens of a particular country, and history as its role in the world, but instead all of us, including all living beings, as inhabitants of planet Earth, and history as the history of all of us on that particular planet as part of a larger cosmic history? Would that perhaps lead to a writing a history that could help us to situate ourselves better in space and time?

Fred Spier

I hope you are well, Fred. This is a great question! And you have laid out very well the rationale for a third history survey course, viz., the “Big History” course.

In retrospect, so did the Beatle John Lennon:

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

In spirit, I’m with both of you. And, in practice, every fall I teach “Big History: from the Big Bang to the Present.”

But in addition to World history, we still need the West Civ course to explain to students the importance of the contemporary Atlantic or transatlantic world, which emerged in response to the traumas, mostly self-inflicted, of the twentieth century.

Contrary to what some would have us believe elsewhere, the West Civ course was not a racist plot to promote global white supremacy. This baseless assertion (correlation does not mean causation) is not as bad as the unfounded and vicious rumor that Donald Duck and Speedy Gonzales were implicated in an international child sex trafficking ring. But it comes pretty close.

Some history. In the 1890s, Frederick Jackson Turner—a keen nationalist who was not a racist—basically invented American history by arguing that the settlement of the western frontier was a process that morphed Europeans into Americans and, as a bonus, turned them into an exceptional people as well. And as a sui generis people, Americans were free to turn their backs on the Old World, i.e., Europe and its endless wars, imperial rivalries, royal intrigues, class conflicts, and a certain fondness for monocles and stuffed-elephant-foot umbrella stands.

To this day, American history is a subject that exists largely in a global vacuum and retains elements of exceptionalism. But it was conceived not as a white racist project but as a subject that was viewed as culturally distinct from, if not, perhaps, superior to, European history. Yep. One can be a cultural chauvinist without being a racist.

It is important to note that Turner’s frontier thesis was diametrically opposed to the then fashionable “germ theory,” which held that American history grew genetically and directly out of European history.

But with the First World War, U.S. scholars realized that North Americans and West Europeans were fighting to defend a common civilization—one in which not the few but the many decide things. So they went on to invent a course or survey, one which evolved over time, to explain the significance of Western civilization to American students.

American students should still care what happens to it. Since World War II, the West has provided its citizens with peace, prosperity, and models of democracy and tolerance, e.g., this very discussion group. And it has been also a highly successful example of regional cooperation. It is a civilization, after all—not a hateful racist conspiracy—one that has produced Albert Einstein, John Lennon and the Beatles, and Steve Jobs.

It seems to me that Western Civ has earned a well-deserved place in the college curriculum—right next to World history. World History can thrive, and Big History, too, without having to malign West Civ.

Kevin Fernlund

I suppose it's fair to want a course devoted to the Atlantic histories and entanglements of the U.S. Although, I do question the relegation of the eastern majority of Eurasia and the Pacific to "world" (i.e. not our) history, especially considering U.S. interests and relationships in the Pacific are far older than the original post implied. (And one of the most important of those relationships is with China, which probably warrants being studied not just as a "threat" to American interests.)

What I really want to ask, though, is what we (or Prof. Fernlund, at least) mean by conflating "Atlantic" and "Western civ." The advantage of 'Atlantic' as a unit of analysis should be that it includes circuits of exchange the encompass not only North America and Western Europe, but Africa and Latin America as well. Could someone perhaps offer some examples of how that is done effectively in courses that are taught as Western Civ?

I thoroughly enjoyed this post by Kevin Fernlund. Agreed with almost all of it. Even though I dislike Lennon's "Imagine," which I suspect would lead in short order to a totalitarian nightmare, not an era of peace and love.

I also wonder if the claim about Frederick Jackson Turner is meant seriously and not somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It seems to me the notion of American exceptionalism predates Turner pretty thoroughly. I mean take Abe Lincoln - that old racist white guy - prattling on about "the last best hope of mankind." He who, by the way, did more than anyone to ensure it would be the last best hope in the 20th century. Nor do I think global history - or big history - will be able to uproot this sense of exceptionalism much, if at all. In fact, it might only reinforce it even more effectively than purely national or Western history. A sense of American exceptionalism seems to me to be baked in the cake.

Dear Kevin,

Thanks a lot for your detailed reply. I hope you are doing well, too.

To be sure, I am certainly not maligning Western Civ. But like all forms of history, while engaging in it, it is important to know what kind of history it is.

However, I do not share John Lennon’s beautiful words (which were first of all his reaction to the Vietnam war, I think) as the rationale for, or spirit of, big history, however much I sympathize with them personally. Like all forms of academic history writing, big history is about trying to present the best possible rendering of what has happened, this time on the grandest possible scale. In doing so, we must try our utmost best not to project our personal ideals and motivations onto that story, or so it seems to me, to avoid any possible distortions.

Surely, from a personal point of view, I agree that the US and Europe have brought the good things that you describe. However, from other peoples’ point of view, such as Vietnam, Chile, Angola, Congo, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and many other examples, the experience has been less than good. In my opinion, the narrative of history should be about all these things (and much more, of course), all described in an interconnected way.

It is interesting to see that more or less at the same time when Turner redefined American history by turning (no pun intended) into a ‘special’ history, most, of not all European and (other) American nations were also trying to shape their special national histories. All of this can be understood, I think, as the result of state- and nation-forming processes occurring at that time, which enhanced the production and acceptance of such narratives.

Before that time, also in the USA there was a widespread tendency to write what I have called incipient big histories, everything from the moment of creation until the present day. By the 1850s, such narratives were no longer deemed credible by serious academics, because according to geologists the earth must have existed much longer than the biblical stories allowed.

As a result, the Mosaic account of creation was cut off and the story turned into an early version of Western Civ, starting with ancient Egypt. The best example of this trend may be Joseph Worcester’s textbook Elements of History, Ancient and Modern (1850), which was required in the examination of candidates for admission into the freshman class at Harvard College (mentioned as such in that book).

I owe a copy of this book and also some earlier US incipient big histories that I bought in a second-hand store in the township of Keswick north of Philadelphia. You can find more about this theme in chapter one of my book Big History and the Future of Humanity, 2nd edition (2015) ( http://www.bighistory.info ), which can be downloaded for free at: http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/29/11188817/1118881729-14.pdf

Interestingly, already at the end of the 1960s and in the early 1970s in popular culture the contours were already visible of a bigger history (for instance: John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Joni Mitchell’s “we are stardust, we are golden” – there are many more examples). All of that was a reaction to new developments in science as well as space flights to especially the moon, or so it seems to me, which left a deep impression on all of us then as humans living on one single planet, so why fight but be all brothers instead? (I do not remember the word ‘sister’ being used within that context at that time). This can be seen in magazine issues from early 1969 s such as Time and Newsweek. Why has it taken historians so long to join the crowd, one may wonder?

Fred Spier

Fred Spier hit the nail on the head: "Surely, from a personal point of view, I agree that the US and Europe have [done many good things]. However, from other peoples’ point of view, such as Vietnam, Chile, Angola, Congo, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and many other examples, the experience has been less than good. In my opinion, the narrative of history should be about all these things (and much more, of course), all described in an interconnected way." I would add that it is not only external peoples whose experience has been "less than good." This was precisely the message of both Martin and Malcolm in the 1940s-60s, not to mention the Cherokee warrior chief Dragging Canoe (d. 1792) and many other Native Americans, interned Japanese from the 1940s Pacific West, along with Italians and Germans, and many others. The idea that "since World War II" America has lived up to its great ideals, or that even since Jan 1, 2016 it somehow has, is an overly positivistic revisionist spin on history. 'Cultural chauvinism' is never justified. Was Abraham Lincoln a white racist? Certainly not in my view. He was, indeed, a great man and great president. But does that mean we should never raise critical questions about him and his actions? No. Along those lines, critical engagement with history requires that we acknowledge, for example, that the Emancipation Proclamation is shrouded in military strategy. It was issued, just like the British proclamations of emancipation during the War of Independence, at a key juncture in the Civil War as a strategy for defeating the South. And blacks wound up with only 3/5 a vote with their new found 'citizenship',under the post-Civil War Reconstructionist U.S. government. Much the same can be said for many abolitionists. Were there those whose motives were pure and true. Certainly. Were there many who saw abolition as merely a business/profit strategy necessary to keep up with the industrializing times? Absolutely. In fact, history is all this and more, i.e. complex, whether it be 'Western', 'world', or any other.

The problem, I suggest, is in approaching history from the perspective that we must somehow 'safeguard', 'protect', or 'defend' this or that *particular* heritage, including 'Western'. The only heritage that is worth 'protecting, defending, and safeguarding' is that of humanity, interconnected as it is with the ecology/environment within which it is situated. All particular 'civilizations' have both good and bad within them and need to be properly represented as such within the world historical record, as does humanity overall itself, if we are ever to come to honest terms with ourselves and this world we do and must continue to share together.

But three interrelated questions I would like to hear Jonathan and Kevin each respond to are: (1) How, in summary, would you go about *clearly* and *historically* distinguishing 'Western civilization' from 'white Euro-American civilization'? (2) IF 'Western civilization' has received significant influence from 'non-Western' sources then how can it remain 'Western'? (3) Why is it that (not all, but) a fair number of 'Western civilization' narratives/advocates do not emphasize the dependent nature of Western civilization on non-Western civilizations to the same degree and with the same enthusiasm that they emphasize the dependence (borrowing) of non-Western civilizations upon Western (i.e. the 'impact' of and contributions of one over the others)? (J.M. Roberts would be a classic example here.)

Dear Fred, Jonathan, Daniel, Charles, et al,

I’m with you, Fred, on popular culture. Please don’t forget Walt Disney’s ride, “It’s a Small World!” This experience made quite an impression on me as a boy in the late 1960s. And I’m intrigued by the roads not traveled because of the advent of national history. Before Turner and the professionals, the nineteenth-century gentleman scholars such as Francis Parkman and William H. Prescott thought continentally rather than nationally. Their work is packed with ideas about how American history might be told. West Civ was, in a sense, a reaction to, or a correction of, the nationalist trend in historiography.

And, Jonathan, yes, the idea of American exceptionalism clearly predates Turner. Your Lincoln example is a very good one. What I was referring to with Turner was the period in the late nineteenth century when history was professionalized, the first Ph.D.s in history were produced (Turner was one of the very first ones out of the gate), and many U.S. universities and colleges were founded. The American Historical Association (AHA) was founded in 1884.

Turner’s frontier thesis was published in 1893 on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the Americas –this was well before the PC industry had succeeded in turning the ambitious Genoese explorer into a goose-stepping genocidal monster (Columbus was a great navigator and dreamer but a terrible governor).

Anyway, in the words of Turner’s biographer, Ray Allen Billington, Turner’s thesis was American history’s “Declaration of independence” from European history. And it served as a major rationale for teaching a bona fide American history.

As I mentioned, Turner rejected the germ theory of Herbert Baxter Adams and the Hegelianism of Hermann Eduard von Holst. However, he built on the work of the social or cultural evolutionists, but sans the Anglo Saxon racism of the day. And Turner built specifically on the economic determinism of the Italian Achille Loria. Thus, the intellectual genealogy of Turner’s declaration of historiographical independence, like that of the original Declaration of Independence of 1776, was an interesting amalgam of European and American ideas.

That is not end of the story, however. Eventually, Turner came to see more continuity between European and American history than change, a development that led to his less well known “sectional thesis,” which was a modified version of the old germ theory.

Good, relatively modern examples of Turner’s second line of thinking may be found in David Hackett Fisher’s masterful and scholarly _Albion’ Seed: Four British Folkways in America_ (1989) and Colin Woodward’s popular and journalistic _American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America_ (2011).

But if Turner revised his own thinking about American exceptionalism, his many students did not. In their lectures and writings, the frontier thesis took on a life of its own. By 1945, an exasperated Carlton J.H. Hayes, the president of AHA, gave an address to that august body entitled: “The American Frontier: the Frontier of What?” Hayes answer, by the way, was Europe. In other words, with the end of the Second World War and America’s newly emerging role in the world, Hayes was calling for an historical approach that emphasized Atlantic unity over American exceptionalism. In short, he was calling for more Western Civ.

On Daniel Knorr’s point, I agree—America’s role in the Pacific long predated World War II. But it is useful to recall the experience of the American philosopher Irwin Edman who had been a sophomore at Columbia in 1914. Edman remembered that, “Up to the autumn of 1914 Europe seemed to most American college students a solar system away.” But with the war, “European history ceased to be anthropology and archaeology of distant peoples who spoke remote languages. It became as alive as yesterday’s events; it was what explained today’s news” (see Lawrence W. Levine, “Looking Eastward: The Career of West Civ,” in _The Opening of the American Mind: Canons, Culture, and History_ (Boston: 1996), 54-55.

Similarly, up to December 1941, Asia would have also seemed to most American college students “a solar system away.” World War II expanded Americans geographical awareness and their interest in other histories and cultures. That is because Asia and the Pacific were no longer abstractions but realities that mattered to their lives. Later, the Vietnam War, of course, mattered for the same reasons. And, now, with the dramatic rise of China, Chinese history is “alive” and explains “today’s events.” But perhaps “threat” is the wrong word.

In a September 24, 2015 article in _The Atlantic Monthly_, Graham T. Allison of the Harvard Kennedy School has described the current geopolitical situation this way: “the defining question about the global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape the ‘Thucydides’s Trap.’ The Greek historian’s metaphor reminds us of the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power—as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago.”

I realize that the rationale for teaching any course is going to differ from country to country. I am speaking here only of the U.S. context. But in this particular context, West Civ and World History are courses that speak directly to the needs and responsibilities of contemporary America.

Our professional forebears wisely understood that it was good academic politics to tie history courses directly to America’s military and economic roles in the world. How well we do that may make the difference between whether a course is listed as a requirement or merely as an elective.

On Charles’s questions, I will try to answer each one in turn.

Question 1: “How, in summary, would you go about *clearly* and *historically* distinguishing 'Western civilization' from 'white Euro-American civilization.”

Well, I wouldn’t make such a distinction. Western civilization, which includes the United States and Canada, is made up of many peoples—of European, Asian, African, and American descent. I live in downtown St. Louis (with a nice view of the Mississippi River). The city is about 50% Euro-American, 50% African-American.

North America has long been diverse. And Europe is becoming increasingly so. So for anyone to characterize the West as “white” is being simply empirically inaccurate.

I would include Latin America as part of West Civ, by the way. But that is a topic for a different discussion.

Question 2) “IF 'Western civilization' has received significant influence from 'non-Western' sources then how can it remain 'Western'?”

I don’t see why a civilization that is able to absorb new ideas or influences is thereby diminished in some way. On the contrary, I would say that a civilization which has embraced new ideas is one that has shown itself to be vital and self-confident. We should remember that the West was “globalized” by the world before the world was “Westernized” by the West. Moreover, the drive “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before,” to quote the as yet unborn Capt. James T. Kirk, is, I would say, one of the West’s great strengths and sources of pride.

Question 3) “Why is it that (not all, but) a fair number of 'Western civilization' narratives/advocates do not emphasize the dependent nature of Western civilization on non-Western civilizations to the same degree and with the same enthusiasm that they emphasize the dependence (borrowing) of non-Western civilizations upon Western (i.e. the 'impact' of and contributions of one over the others)? (J.M. Roberts would be a classic example here.)”

It is the job of history to sort out all of these things—who influenced whom—and to give credit where credit is due. Histories of West Civ, or otherwise, that fail to be fair are, well, to be blunt, not very good histories.

Kevin Fernlund

I have followed this thread with interest, since I have taught both western civilization and world history courses. I am familiar and sympathetic with big history, but I have had difficulty getting my arms around all of it in any practical sense. (It is beyond my power to construct a good narrative that tells the story well, and I have yet to find a good synthesis.)

After I read this sentence in Charles Weller’s latest post (“The only heritage that is worth 'protecting, defending, and safeguarding' is that of humanity, interconnected as it is with the ecology/environment within which it is situated”), my interest in one small part of this discussion was captured, and my mind wondered back to the good old days when I chased practical outcomes based on the grand ideas of others. I'd like to go down that road a bit here.

As someone previously involved in the planning and execution of several large and complex projects, I’m always aware of the necessary mechanisms needed to bring any project to a successful conclusion. As some military historians and military professionals say with regard to this sort of nuts-and-bolts work, “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics.”

As a practical matter, lofty statements of goals are even more nebulous than tactics. John Kennedy might have announced a goal—laid down a marker, drawn a line in the sand—to land a man on the moon literally until the end of time. Without the practical efforts of the scientists, designers, engineers, manufacturers, and wrench-turners, it would have been completely without effect. (A thrilling example of this can be seen in the movie, Apollo 13.) This event appears in the human heritage because of their actions, not because of Kennedy’s words.

Let’s imagine the sentence that caught my attention actually contains a meaningful goal. Taken at face value, that goal is to protect, defend, and safeguard human heritage. But what is that? What are we to defend? In simple terms heritage is something that is handed down from the past. That’s hardly sufficient. As a squad of soldiers charged with defense of humanities’ heritage, we will need better direction unless we are meant to protect literally everything produced by humanity over its long existence.

Also, while that treasure trove includes many wonderful things, it contains many not-so-wonderful things as well. Murder is clearly part of the human heritage—shall we safeguard it? (This can get complicated: should we distinguish “murder” from “killing?”) Or shall we admit that humanity has dark corners best left alone and even suppressed in its Cabinet of Heritage? Is humanity to be allowed at some point to review, evaluate, and judge its own past and present? If not, why not?

I think this is an important distinction, and when we get to the sentence (“All particular 'civilizations' have both good and bad within them and need to be properly represented as such within the world historical record, as does humanity overall itself, if we are ever to come to honest terms with ourselves and this world we do and must continue to share together.”), we see that even Charles recognizes that parts of the human legacy are objectionable.

While this sentence is objectively true, and I believe it is the duty of the historian to ‘properly’ (I would say objectively) represent them, Charles does not say what should follow from that awareness or what it means to ‘come to honest terms with....” Is representation of the record enough? What would it mean for humans to arrive a coldly honest assessment of itself and what should follow, if anything? Can a practical goal and metric be established that reflects humanities’ success in coming to terms?

If humanity judges its own past, and “comes to honest terms” with it, it will presumably arrive eventually at a point where it will have to choose to act or reject acting on that knowledge. If this information is available, how and should it be used to achieve practical ends? Who will take an active role in ejecting the noxious parts from human heritage and whose ox will be gored? Or will this, like Thanksgiving dinner, be a time to avoid politics and religion? I’m practical; I want to know how to execute this plan or why not.

My bottom line question for you: are we—as reasoning and rationale beings—allowed to choose which parts of the heritage of civilizations we preserve and which we hold up as object lessons never to be repeated? How do we arrive at a better future if we do not choose to preserve the best and discard the worst? The answer seems obvious, but evidence exists that suggests it is not.

First, Kevin, I appreciate your responses to my questions, but I'd have to say that you did not adequately address the issue I raised in Question 1: “How, in summary, would you go about *clearly* and *historically* distinguishing 'Western civilization' from 'white Euro-American civilization?” Simply highlighting the ethnic/racial/cultural diversity which is present in a society is insufficient here. Multiple Asian, African, Native American and other such groups have long been present in 'the West', including the U.S. Indeed, their presence has historically been the very reason for the racist oppression they've experienced from the white Euro-American majority. Not obviously 100% of the time, but often enough to make the point that mere demographic presence does not represent the measure of contribution which each group has made to 'western' civilization. To clarify my question, therefore, what we are talking about here are those who have historically served as the *sources* and *pillars* of 'western civilization', e.g. Dante, Mirandola, Erasmus, Luther, Rafael, Da Vinci, Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Shakespeare, Descartes, Kant, Rousseau, Locke, Smith, 'the founding fathers' of the U.S., etc. I am, therefore, asking you to cite *specifically* and *historically,* with clear, explicit reference to 'Western Civilization' texts, non-white, non-Western individuals or groups who are represented within those narratives as serving in such key, central roles of contribution as, again, sources and pillars of the values, ideals, beliefs, customs, etc, that make up 'western civilization'. And after you have explicitly cited all the major examples you can come up with, I would still ask, what is the ratio of non-white to white contributors as represented within those 'western civilization' texts? I myself have admittedly not gone so far as to research this and produce a table or chart, but I make an educated suggestion that the vast majority of those represented as the main sources and pillars of western civilization within western civilization narratives are white Europeans, so that, just as reflected in J.M. Roberts 'History of the World', 'western civilization' and 'white European civilization' are in fact virtually synonymous. And if there are western civilization narratives which have successfully moved away from this intimate association between the two, whether implicitly or explicitly stated, then such a move has only been made within the past few decades. I will, again, be citing J.M. Roberts in my forthcoming edited volume on 21st-Century Narratives of World History (Palgrave Macmillan 2017) to illustrate this point, as it demonstrates how this historic equivalency remains covert within Eurocentric narratives, in this case of world history, but also 'western civilization', since J.M. Roberts, in my opinion, represents a 'western civ plus' model of world history.

As for Larry's observation regarding the challenge of discerning and fairly representing both 'good' and 'bad' in honest terms, this is the ongoing and ultimately unresolvable conundrum. It points to underlying epistemological assumptions which every historian brings to their analyses of the historical record. It further involves the complex relation of supposed 'universal absolutes' to 'historical particulars', i.e. the question of 'historical relativism'. There is, likewise, the problem of ‘history as a foreign country’, i.e. the need to understand and analyze historical contexts according to their own settings, being careful not to filter through and/or impose our own present values, views, etc. on the past. My only point for now on this issue is that 'racism' is a clearly identifiable evil, at least in my eyes, making the question of race in relation to historical narrative valid and vital. That is the subject I have raised, which originally started out as 'White Nationalism/Racism and Western Civilization Narratives' until attention was diverted away from that important topic by launching this alternative thread, which I suggested and continue to suggest is of course a good, important subject, but nonetheless a diversion and distraction from the uncomfortable and difficult questions about race and racism in relation to western (and even Eurocentric world) civilization narratives which I continue seeking to address. I appeal to Kevin and Jonathan to take this particular issue more seriously and offer help, beyond just dismissing, diminishing and/or countering the problem, to address and resolve a vital contemporary issue with deep and still potent historical roots.

I've been following Professor Weller's and respondents' thread, and want to thank Weller for bringing this topic to light, as well as the respondents' insights. We should welcome these kinds of discussions

I'm saddened that Professor Weller mostly does not address the respondents' legitimate queries or concerns that arise from his appeal for help. I do think that Weller has accused instructors of Western Civilization courses of promoting a "white nationalism" that is inherently racist.

I have been a collegiate instructor of Western Civilization courses (as well as World History and other History courses) for more than three decades. Never have I thought that I was promoting a "white nationalism" or racism of any kind (abhorrent to me personally), or denigrating any "non-white civilization". Indeed, my training and inclination has been that the construct of "Western Civilization" was problematic, though no less so than any other civilization or history. I've always thought that any collegiate Western Civ course was an introduction to the glories of any professional history: local, regional, state, national, international, global or eonic. I have never denigrated any other version of professional history (or even amateur in some cases), even if I disagree with some authors' methodology or conclusions. Are we not all attempting to do the very best to find and explicate the significance of some past as relevant to the present (though we many not always understand that relevance as clearly).

There is nevertheless an assumption in the world's lexicon that there is such a thing as "West". Often used in oppositional phrasing ("The West doesn't understand Chinese concerns over Tibet."), "the West" is never clearly defined nor specified. Nevertheless, "the West" continues to be part of the popular and journalistic usage, in defiance of any definition. As far as I can tell, this contemporary usage of "the West" only gained wide usage with the Cold War bipolarity of language. If Soviet Russia and other Cold War East Europeans were not part of "the West", how does "the West" mean "white Euro-American" (what about Australians?). Did Russians and Magyars think of themselves as "non-white" or "non-European"? Even after the so-called end of the Cold War, with much heady talk (and some action) about European integration, the long reach of something called "the West" did not end.

But Western Civilization textbooks (which might or might not be a good representation of Western Civilization courses, whether J.M. Roberts or others) clearly expanded to include not only a Cold War non-West, but many other significant non-European and non-American (non-white?) contributors. The list would be too long to give, and this post is already too long.

Indeed, Weller's conflation of "white" and "West" is very problematic, even moreso than any so-called civilization. Do people who use the term "West" mean "white"? Does it occur to any of these users that any definition of race is a cultural construct subject to continuous negotiation and redefinition? Perhaps "white nationalists" have a very different definition of "white" than nearly anyone else? Please explain, if so, the continuing historical struggle, in for example the US Census Bureau's definitions, to define "race" in either biological or cultural or identity terms? Disregarding the political content of such terminology of race (which is quite significant), simply defining the terms used is very contested and unclear to those of us who actually think about such things. Indeed, I have determined that "white" and "West" are often used to cover-up muddled thinking and highly complicated/contested ideas.

Would Professor Weller wish to define his usage of "white", which I understand he believes is coterminus with the West and Western Civilization, and the basis of "white nationalism"? And given the importance of history, would Weller claim that "white" has some kind of nonhistorical or noncultural definition?

I can't even get into the usage of "nationalism", but even a cursory review of nationalism scholarship (try H-Nationalism), would convince most people that any non-historically limited definition of nationalism is highly questionable.

I certainly believe that Professor Weller can use any terminology he chooses, and define such terms as he chooses. I look forward to seeing the results of his scholarship.

Jim Rogers
Louisiana State University Alexandria

Thanks, Jim, for offering your thoughts on this topic. Just a few brief things for now, and more perhaps later: First, it is, however unintended, a simplistic and false polarization of the issue to assert that I have "accused instructors of Western Civilization courses of promoting a "white nationalism" that is inherently racist." What I have rather done is -- based on clear historical cases of equivocation of 'Western/European civilization' with 'white civilization', along with cited instances of present cases of conflation -- raised the legitimate question of whether there are any instances in which it *may* be the case that "instructors of Western Civilization courses [are] promoting a "white nationalism" that is inherently racist", but I have nowhere made such an outright, unqualified "accusation." My inquiry also recognizes that such equivocation may, in many cases, be unconscious an unintentional. I am looking for, first, recognition/acknowledgement that are clearly both historical and present cases of such and, based on that, second, honest, open willingness to inquire further into other possible instances. I can only request that my inquiry not be misrepresented/mis-accused in such an absolute, 'either/or' manner, as if to raise the question is to automatically level the wholesale accusation. This is essentially the same false dichotomy which Jonathan attempted to pose. I have continuously responded, as I do again here, that the issue is complex and deserves attention. I would ask that, if you do wish to accuse me of making such accusations, you cite, as I have done with your post here, clear statements from my posts as opposed to making such a simplistic, sweeping and, frankly, rather damning false accusation about my attempt to *inquire* and dialogue about this uncomfortable, unpleasant matter.

I suggest that you, or anyone taking interest, simply type in 'western civilization white racism' as well as 'western civilization white nationalism' into Google (or any other) search engine and spend some time sorting through the multiple 'hits' that will come up to demonstrate that this is a current 'live' topic of debate, one which I again will continue -- not to make any presumptuous accusations about -- but responsibly *inquire* into in a scholarly manner. Feel free, again, to offer whatever help you wish, including whatever clear *evidence* you might wish to provide which reflects a successful break between these two historically and presently confused constructs, i.e. 'western' and 'white' civilization. I am open to whatever results the evidence demonstrates, but until that evidence has been openly, honestly and properly researched, we as of yet do not know the results. It remains a valid and viable research question, not an accusation.

Charles, you continue to claim that others - me and Jim at least - are imposing a false dichotomy on your questions and assumptions. I think you mistake the nature of our criticisms. I fully understand you are not accusing all Western history and Western historians of "white nationalism." Nor would I be surprised to find that there are white nationalists who embrace Western history as white nationalist history. Where the dichotomy comes in is in the implication embedded in your quest for instances of such white nationalist spinning of Western history. The implication is that there is something uniquely suspect about Western history that requires this special sort of vigilance while nothing comparable about world or global or any other sort of history requires such special vigilance. I realize this is just an implication in what you are asking, but I think you definitely do imply it. You say you are just looking for instances of white nationalist influence on Western history. But why not just offer those up if you have any so we can dissect those on a case by case basis? Instead, you appear to many of us to be inviting us into a witch hunt against an entire field. I see no reason to single out Western history for such an investigation while leaving out global, world or any other sort of history, as you seem to want to do. The dichotomy those of us see, and I do not think we see it falsely, is the idea that some special suspicion needs to be directed at Western as opposed to all other kinds of history. Instead of doing what I think is perfectly legitimate, even required - being vigilant about EVERY historian's possible biases and hidden agendas and discussing them on that individual basis as they arise.

Jonathan Burack, thank you for restating the issue with such clarity.

Jonathan, thanks for the thoughtful reply. It demonstrates that dialogue can clearly move forward. To that end, a few further thoughts. First, you ask: "But why not just offer those...instances of white nationalist influence on Western history...up if you have any so we can dissect those on a case by case basis?" In order to find all such cases, a legitimate scholarly inquiry, not "a witch hunt," needs to be made, and that is all I am trying to do. Indeed, because of my inquiry, I have now collected a number of "instances of white nationalist influence on Western history" which I will be sharing in either my forthcoming edited volume on 21st-Century Narratives of World History and/or a journal article. Or, I am at this point considering another edited volume on this specific topic, addressing the issue from both pro and con perspectives. If you and anyone else is interested in contributing to such a volume, let me know privately off list (rc.weller@wsu.edu).

As for seeing "no reason to single out Western history for such an investigation while leaving out global, world or any other sort of history," I simply agree, in general. I have already made reference to J.M. Robert's "A History of the World," stating clearly that world histories are included. I also noted in a previous post that I was, in fact, formulating a critique of what you have called 'liberal Enlightenment' world histories, which I would extend in description to 'global multicultural', peace-oriented, and/or 'global citizenship' takes on world/global history. But I have simply not felt the need to reach out to the H-World list for that topic because I have sufficient material so far, though do feel free to suggest any now that you've brought the subject up. I will only say that your presumption about me is just not true, and that, as Felix Unger on The Odd Couple made clear to Oscar long ago, is the entire problem with the idea of 'ass-u-me'. And yes, the inquiry should, likewise, be extended to all 'Western' national histories, but it is entirely legitimate and even necessary to limit the scope of a scholarly inquiry since, in this case, such an inquiry into all the various national histories of Western nations would be far too vast an undertaking for one person, at least in the short run, apart from any such instances which 'happen' to surface in the course of the original inquiry.

All in all, I continue to find 'defensive' reactions which hold any and all such inquires in automatic 'suspicion' to be themselves verging on 'witch hunts', ultimately distracting and unproductive to the important questions at hand. I am concerned for the clear increase in racial tensions in recent years, and am simply attempting to address an issue which relates, as evidenced by the initial, specific cases I did, in fact, cite in my opening post. Perhaps I should ask of you why you did not make any attempt to "dissect" those cases in order to help constructively address the issue, as you now suggest, and I agree, would be the best approach. I now have gathered more. Hopefully we can proceed along those lines, while also still *inquiring* further, without devolving into any 'witch hunts', whether they be against Western Civ narratives or those who make legitimate scholarly inquiries about the relation between them and ‘white civilization’, especially in its nationalist/racist forms. I certainly do, therefore, appreciate your concern about witch hunts, and again share it with you. I hope that no one following this thread will stoop to such levels, but maintain academic integrity, honesty, fairness and balance, considering both the pros and the cons of the questions I have raised.

I have continued to reflect very circumspectly on the rather serious accusations which have been leveled against me publically on this academic list serve by three of my colleagues, Jim and Jonathan/Judith, namely the portrayal of me as having already presumed and condemned any and every form of ‘Western Civilization’ narrative as being inherently racist (Jim) and that I am on a “witch hunt” (Jonathan/Judith) in my attempt to conduct an academic inquiry into the question of the relation between ‘Western Civilization’ narratives and ‘white’ racial identity, with a special concern for the clear historical and present cases of white nationalism/racism which have already been identified and, based on these, the inquiry into whether there are any other potential cases. I have several further points which I consider important in the face of such far-reaching accusations.

First, I myself have taught ‘Western Civilization’ and would happily do so again. I have no desire to see it stricken from among various college and university course offerings or exiled from the publishing industry. Indeed, there are, in my opinion, a number of good ‘Western Civilization’ textbooks, particularly those which place the study in broader world historical context, offering both recognition of accomplishments/contributions and critique of failures/inconsistencies while also highlighting the significant contributions of non-white, ‘non-Western’ peoples and cultures (cf. civilizations) to ‘Western Civilization’. Other texts remain open to serious question, much more Eurocentric in focus and, whether intentional or not, leave an implicit, unresolved correlation between ‘Western Civilization’ and ‘white Euro-American civilization’. This is an issue which deserves to be addressed fairly, openly and honestly. But my main point here is that I have no presumed, ‘a priori’ judgment against ‘Western Civilization’ narratives as a generally legitimate subject of historical study.

Second, it deserves to be noted that the accusation of ‘witch hunt’ has been used as a rhetorical strategy in other contexts involving questions of racism that have been raised. The intent in both has been to obstruct and discredit the entire inquiry. Whatever legitimate concerns there might be in such cases, significant (cf. ‘extremist’) over-reaction is evident in my opinion. It is not an ‘either/or’ matter, but rather a question of how best to proceed in addressing what remains a clear, ongoing socio-cultural problem. While no presumptuous implications are intended here, the racial-cultural source and socio-political affiliations of both rhetorical responses are worth noting (see Bill O’Reilly, “Racism and Witch Hunts,” Fox News Talking Points, May 13, 2014; URL: http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2014/05/14/bill-oreilly-racism-and-wit..., and Robbie Lieberman, “Racism & Conflict at Southern Illinois,” Against the Current, Vol 118, Sep-Oct 2005; URL: https://www.solidarity-us.org/node/243; both last accessed: Jan 14, 2017). There are other cases as well, but these two suffice for now, *without* suggesting that they are perfectly analogous in every respect with the case here on H-World.

Third, in spite of such attempts to obstruct and undermine the effort, I continue to defend the right to engage in a historical and sociological inquiry into the correlation between ‘Western Civilization’ narratives (whether in course, text, lecture or other form) and ‘white Euro-American racial identity’. The fact that ‘race’ is clearly a contested construct does not invalidate the inquiry. Simply denying ‘race’ as a legitimate category of inquiry, as a ‘thing of the past’, has not and will not make the problem go away. Rather, it can easily serve to perpetuate systemic racism by covering it over and denying any means of identifying it. Whether or not ‘race’ still exists can be debated; ‘racism’ meanwhile remains alive and well (see esp. Alana Lentin and Gavan Titley, The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a Neoliberal Age, Zed Books, 2011).

Finally, in revisiting my original post, I continue to find nothing that provides any grounds for such serious accusations to be leveled against me publically in the presumptuous manner that they have. I continue on this point to request that specific statements be cited in clear, direct connection to any such accusations. None have yet been offered. More productively, in my opening post, I ended my summary of the matter by asking my H-World colleagues to help identify any other questions which might need to be posed/issues which might need to be raised in the course of such an inquiry. I have no problem with colleagues offering their suggestions for how best to inquire academically into what is clearly a delicate historical and still present problem, including suggestions for avoiding any potential pitfalls. I have in fact now gathered numerous scholarly and popular sources and notes in an approx. 65 pp/25,000 word file. I thank those who have contributed constructively to the dialogue on the list serve as well as those who have contacted me off list to help compile that data. May we continue to work together as a community of scholars in fair, open, academic inquiry and debate, disagreeing and engaging one another when necessary, without devolving into ‘witch hunts’ or presumptuous, damaging public accusations against our colleagues as a strategy for discrediting and undermining their work.

From: R.J. Barendse

Maybe i am being overly simplistic here but as far as i see Western civilization courses are simply courses on European history - in much the same way introduction to South Asian culture courses are courses on Indian history and so on - a topic which is of obvious interest to Americans for the again obvious reason that most of the US population came from Europe in a not very remote past - most of them just a century ago! - The words Western civilization indicate little more than that most Americans retain most of the culture of the European countries they originally came from; the course teaches students about their ancestral countries and is therefore for them interesting for the same reasons that a course on Africa would be interesting for African Americans - and more so since most white Americans have been in the US for a much shorter time than African Americans have been. - For the same reason too Western civilization courses are also taught in other immigrant countries, such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand - as Western civilization courses - and with slightly different names in South Africa and Brazil. The topic would be somewhat problematic if Western civilization courses included US history 'but that is seldom the case. It is undoubtedly true that the Western civilization course was partly a product of America's engagement from Europe in World War i but it was also a product of America's far more important disengagement from Europe in the twenties as it severely limited immigration; as migrants came-in in such numbers that the US government feared they could not be absorbed in American culture anymore. The courses were intended to teach a kind of general package of European culture to people who came from narrow provincial and national backgrounds - what migrant from southern Italy had ever heard` of the glorious revolution, say, or even of the reformation? The courses taught Information about the general cultural background of the USA that most immigrants lacked and that was necessary to make them into US-citizens next to the obvious courses in American civilization and culture. For example it is hard to understand Washington, Jefferson and so on without some knowledge of the enlightenment but the enlightenment would be totally alien to migrants from, say, Montenegro, where it never existed.

Best wishes
Rene Barendse ' , ' .' ''


I gladly withdraw, with apologies, any statement I made that could be an accusation. I can't imagine anything further from my mind than making a ". . . damaging public accusation. . . as a strategy for discrediting and undermining their work." If such a thought was taken, I totally reject such an intention.

I'm somewhat saddened that Professor Weller took one sentence of mine, and ignored my further attempts to clarify what the focus of his research. I stated clearly that I looked-forward to publication, as that would clarify my understanding of his position, as I obviously did not understand it very well. Sadly, I am coming to think that much of this discussion is based on misunderstandings of the topic.

Perhaps I was confused by Professor Weller's apparent emphasis on what his research is not focused-on, and his assumption of defensive position regarding his research in opposition to attacks assumed to obstruct and undermine. I can state emphatically that I do not wish to limit or constrain his research in any way, nor pre-judge the results based on discussion list postings which are necessarily more limited. I assume that my colleagues would echo the same.

While I am willing to wait on Professor Weller's publication, I would like to invite him to clearly state the thesis of his argument in order to banish further misunderstandings or presumptions of obstruction and discrediting. It would also be useful if Professor Weller would define the significant terms being used, while understanding that such terms are likely to be socio-cultural-historical constructs, (which does not invalidate them, as he correctly points out). It seems to me that given the constructed terms in the topic, clear and specific definition of terms is pretty important.

To facilitate this, I offer the following as an poor response (not an accusation, and which may be totally incorrect) intended to be corrected:

Do some (not all) Western (or World) Civilization textbooks promote an (intentionally-?)biased Euro-American perspective that helps to create a white civilization perspective (among some?), and results in a racist white nationalism (for some?)?

In the interests of expanding consideration of many points, and disagreeing only after a more clear understanding, I remain. . .

Jim Rogers

Jim, I appreciate your response, no real apologies needed, nor asked for, just appreciate the clarification. You offer very good points for engagement. For now, I'll simply say that you're attempt to *roughly* summarize things at the end is much closer to how I've come to understand things at this point, though it is again 'rough'. I might suggest five emerging points as a thesis of sorts:

1- 'Western Civilization' narratives took shape within a historic context when white racist thinking was accepted and predominant (late 1800s, early 1900s);

2- Whether 'racist' or not, there has been a long-standing, historic tie between 'white civilization' and 'Western civilization' in original/earlier 'Western Civilization' and world history narratives (late 1700s to mid-1900s);

3- White racist interpretations of Western Civilization and world history have historically existed during the heyday of white racist ideology (mid-1800s to mid-1900s);

4- There has been a resurgence of white nationalist and racist interpretations over the past 2-3 decades as a response to (neo-)liberal 'pluralist' and 'multiculturalist' ideologies and policies in especially the post-Cold War era as evidenced in the work of American Renaissance, Preserving Western Civilization, Youth for Western Civilization, Students for Western Civilization, The Occidental Observer, Ricardo Duchesne and the Council of European Canadians, and others;

5- There remains an implicit connection between 'white civilization' and 'Western civilization' in *some* (though not all) recent 'Western Civilization' texts (and presumably courses), especially those emphasizing 'internal' over 'external' factors of influence and development, which are both perceived by non-whites as being inherently racist (i.e. histories of 'dead white men') and raise the legitimate question of whether 'racist' connotations/implications can legitimately be discerned within them, however naïve/innocent/unintentional such connotations/implications may be.

Feel free to raise questions and/or suggest revision/refinement.

Apologies, I meant to revise to say "five emerging points as a thesis" and renumber them accordingly...

Mea culpa. I caught the shorter post with the edits before posting the longer post and made the changes to Charles' earlier and longer post. Rather than sending the second post back to Charles..... I accidentally posted it. Sincere apologies.


In sorting out the various arguments in this intriguing debate, I've found Lynn Hunt, "Reports of its Death were Premature: Why 'Western Civ' Endures"; Daniel Gordon, "Teaching Western History at Stanford"; and Richard Roberts, "Teaching Non-Western History at Stanford," in Lloyd Kramer, Donald Reid, and William L. Barney, eds., Learning History in America: Schools, Cultures, and Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1994) to be very helpful.  It's available as an eBook in ProQuest's eBrary collections accessible through many libraries' online portals.

The World History/Western Civ debate was a perennial on H-Net's H-W-Civ and H-Teach lists.  See, for example, the discussion about it during the first few weeks of the former's existence, in September 1994 and on H-Teach in the summer of that year. I wonder if the terms of discussion 20 years ago are similar to those in action now.


Peter Knupfer, Michigan State University

I've followed this thread with interest.

I taught a section of Western Civ II this morning, and it occurred to me during class to ask my students a question I think it might be worth repeating in this forum.

Is Japan a western civilization?

I'm not sure that question makes sense given some of what I have read here, and my class was divided.

What say you?

I am not sure whether Western Civ should be called “white racist.” I think it is just one of the great many self-centered forms of history writing, all the result of world views in which the ‘own’ society is considered more important (and often better) than the rest. How many world views have existed, including those in existence today, in which this has not been the case? How many types of longer-term history writing do exist today in which this is not implicit?

As I see it, it is very difficult to avoid such self-centered biases, first of all because most people are primarily interested in themselves and in what they consider their own histories. They may sometimes be interested in the histories of ‘other people,’ especially when ‘their’ societies have come into contact with such ‘other peoples.’ In the second place, all historians are part of ‘their’ societies, and ‘their’ cultures and, in consequence, may not be able to take sufficient distance; and in the third place, if they can do a little better than most, the resulting more detached histories may not be deemed acceptable by considerable portions of such societies, because they may not put them in the prominent place that they feel they deserve. That is the situation today, as I understand it, and it is often contested by others who feel they deserve a more prominent place in such histories as well.

World history and big history are making an effort to do better, but how good a job are we actually doing, and how could we do better? I am immediately willing to point out some deficiencies as I see them, including in my own rendering of human history. But there may be many more issues that I do not yet see.

Larry – I prefer concrete examples to abstract discussions, so please bear with me here. I would suggest that the answer to whether Japan is a part of the West may be answered by looking at the recent history of different regional and global organizations, in particular that of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD. The OECD was formed in 1961 but it evolved out of an earlier organization, the Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (the OEEC). See: http://www.oecd.org/general/organisationforeuropeaneconomicco-operation.htm

As its name indicates, the OEEC was a strictly European concern (although because of the geopolitics of the Cold War, Turkey was, significantly, included among its participants). The OEEC was established in 1948 to manage the U.S.-financed Marshall Plan. The organization was one of postwar Europe’s great success stories. Among other things, it helped to create for Europe a more interdependent economy, a development which prepared the way for the European Union. In fact, this regional experiment was so successful that the U.S. and Canada later decided to join the OEEC, at which point the European organization became a much larger transatlantic affair. To reflect this change, the OEEC was redubbed the OECD. Its headquarters, incidentally, is in Paris, France.

OECD membership, however, was not exclusive to European nations, zones, and territories and to Europe’s former settler colonies (Australia joined in 1971; New Zealand in 1973). Indeed, any nation could join the OECD if 1) it were a democracy and showed respect for human rights; 2) it possessed a free market; and 3) it had achieved a relatively high level of social development or material prosperity.

Since postwar, post-occupation Japan satisfied all three of these conditions, it was admitted to this elite club in 1964 (South Korea joined later in 1996).

Mexico, by the way, was admitted in 1994 (the first Latin American country to do so), following the signing of NAFTA. Mexico was democratic and capitalistic. It also had a “GDP per capita (PPP) at least as high as the poorest OECD member,” which was, in 1994, Turkey. Thus, Mexico was able to pass the OECD’s admission’s test. See http://geo-mexico.com/?p=8410 and http://www.oecd.org/about/membersandpartners/list-oecd-member-countries.htm.

If we can agree that that the OECD is a Western organization (the West certainly created it and the West made its rules), then, yes, Japan, as an OECD member and participant, is arguably a part of the West.

Whatever a handful of white nationalists out there might believe, the history of globalization demonstrates that the West is not a race or a place but is rather a portmanteau of ideas, beliefs, and values, which can travel anywhere and be carried by anyone. In short, the West is about memes, not genes, as David Deutsch succinctly put it in _The Beginnings of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World_ (Viking, 2011).

Kevin Fernlund
University of Missouri - St. Louis

First, I'm extremely happy to see active exchange and discussion on an H-Net service. Beyond that, because of my particular specialty I can see where Charles is coming from (or at least I imagine I can). As a Latin Americanist, we have to wrestle with the idea that during the Cold War immense resources were invested in our line of work to help US foreign relations, inform and train US intelligence and military analysts that would undermine sovereignty in the region, and as a degree granting mechanism so officers in military dictatorships could return home and move up in their respective junta with an MA from an American institution. It isn't that the study of Latin America is inherently neo-colonial, but the fact that it was used as such is an idea worth studying.

I find the idea of abusing Western Civ to stoke racist power narratives intriguing. I'd go a step more and say that how people choose to frame Western Civ in a college curriculum can feed the racist narrative for those looking to abuse Western Civ in that way. For example, framing the class in a situation where you say "we have Western Civ so we can just have World History as the 'non-western' course" feeds the beast. Or, when departments are structured so that your course categories are "US" "Europe" and "Non-Western" - just creates the perception that the histories of non-North Atlantic regions are fungible objects instead of humans worthy of study.

Charles, in your research on the topic, have you run into the use of the term "non-western" in conjunction with that abuse of Western Civ to feed racist narratives? Again, as a Latin Americanist it always surprises me to be told I teach non-Western history, as if the Mediterranean cultural, social, and political structures of Latin America exist outside of Western Civ. That seems to me to be a racist construction of Western Civ instead of historical analysis.