This unit explores the development and emergence of empires during the era from 1000 B.C.E. to 500 C.E. A focus is placed on the concept of empire and factors influencing the rise and fall of empires. One of the big challenges of this – and most units in history – is for the students to see connections within and among the content. The great danger is that this becomes a cultural or civilizational/empire cavalcade: one week we’re in classical China and the next week we’re in Ancient Rome. So, the teachers’ challenge is to keep the focus on the world historical problem: (1) What new forms of human community developed during this time and what were their characteristics? (2) What was the impact of new social organizations – particularly empires and world religions? (3) What factors led to the development of empires and how did they change human organization and interaction?
One of the tendencies for teachers is to emphasize the differences. They focus on some of the most interesting empires and delve deeply into topics highly interesting to students, such as the role of gladiators in Rome, styles of weapons and warfare, interesting cultural practices or differences between empires in different regions. To what end are these interesting tidbits taught? A focus on distinctive practices or famous leaders can, in many cases, lead to a lack of attention to the larger common patterns across empires. Again, we are looking at differences, but world history focuses on the larger human story – the story we all share.
In this unit we look at the common problems that people living at this time faced and the related factors that lead to the development of large-scale empires and the emergence of portable and more generalized belief systems. In this context, we focus on empires and the key characteristics that make a civilization into an empire. Further, we want students to understand how empires develop and how patterns of leadership, social hierarchy, technology development, and societal interactions changed in the process. Thus, the unit begins with connections back to the previous era and a brief review of the growth of civilization in Mesopotamia. Using this region as an example, students grapple with the characteristics of an empire.
As students proceed through the lessons, they use both timelines and maps to “see” changes in civilizations, and to investigate scale and the impact of geography on people and the formation of empires. They also engage with a range of primary documents to get a sense of social hierarchy, belief systems, and government during this era. Overall then, students develop an understanding of the historical concept of empire as it existed in this era and use specific case studies of empires, emperors, and other historical events/patterns to form a broad understanding of the global pattern in Afroeurasia during Era 3. At the end of the unit, students spend some time learning about societies in the Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, and Oceania and compare their development to the growth of the Afroeurasian empires.
Work for individual lessons: