The West Civ Project Wiki

a place for ideas: this is the class wiki for JC Honors West Civ

Table of Contents


Starting tomorrow, April 7th, we will stop doing dailies. Instead, we will be concentrating on the weekly essays. This week's rough draft we are finishing in class. From then on... see "assignments".


Every Wednesday you will have a rough draft due for Peer review (you'll receive participation credit: P/F for having the draft ready). On your rough draft, please underline the thesis statement and in a different color prove it is an opinion by writing the opposite side; underline one quote or piece of sourced evidence properly cited with in-text citations for each body paragraph; make bold your four-sentence analysis of each quote; analysis should explain how the quote serves to support your thesis. After peer review, a final draft will be due on Fri by Midnight.


Always start writing by organizing a simple outline. Your outline should include your thesis statement followed by three to six pieces of specific sourced evidence and a concluding statement. Outlines help us organize our argument before we start writing it.

Eleven-Point Critique (for peer reviews and grading of final drafts -- this is what we're looking for in your writing! If you hit the mark on items 1 to 10, you'll be turning in great work and guaranteeing yourself at least a 'B'. If you go above and beyond and really put in the hard work required in number 11, you'll know you've done 'A'-quality work!)

1. 5 paragraphs -- 5 to 7 sentences per paragraph.
2 Clear, coherent thesis statement expressing an opinion to be argued in the paper.
3. One quote or piece of sourcable evidence properly cited in APA format per body paragraph / proper in-text citation format
(author, date). APA format bibliography at end of paper. Use top-notch sources (BBC, Met Museum, Nat Geo, Internet History
Sourcebook, school-library based databases, etc.)
4. Four sentences per body paragraph analysis. This is your own analysis demonstrating how the evidence supports your thesis.
5. Solid conclusion demonstrating the validity of the argument.
6. Emphasis: Put strongest evidence in the fourth paragraph.
7. No 1st or 2nd person personal pronouns (I, we, us, me, my, myself, you, etc.)
8. Academic Tone: No slang, no contractions, make it coherent and readable.
9. Avoid generalizations -- give specific information; I'm not looking for you to write an "encyclopedia" article. I'm looking for
your ability to construct an academic argument.
10. Avoid unnecessary information: "more" quotes doesn't mean a "better" paper.
11. Original and honest writing voice and a creative and remarkable take on the subject.

Here is a link to an excellent explanation of academic writing from Boston College. I strongly suggest you read over it and bring any specific questions you may have to class.

Great Resources

BBC History, Internet History Sourcebook, Met Museum Timeline, PBS History, National Geographic, The British Museum, Louvre, History Channel, Discovery,

Thinks to Think About and Weekly Writing Topics

Remember to read the weekly writing questions carefully and think about how to use the new knowledge and understanding you develop each week in class both to demonstrate your understanding of the topic and to demonstrate your ability to create a strong evidence-based academic argument.

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1. Theories of History: Linear, Cyclic, Hegelian, Vortex

Question: What is the best way to understand history?

1. Does history progress? Is an elephant really "better" than a mammoth?
2. Is modern life "always" better than it was in the past?
3. Do our traditional forms of information communication, notably "the book" and especially "the textbook" contribute to our belief in linear history?
4. Will a "hypertext" world make us more accepting of cyclic history?
- Ira Socol, Michigan State University

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2. Origins: Art / Agricultural Revolution / Monumental Architecture + Urban Planning in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley

Resources: and

Question: Is 'Change' a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? (Relate to the origins of art, the agricultural revolution, architecture and urban planning in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley.)

Dailies (250 to 600 words each; due each day Mon - Thurs; 100 points)1. Identify the 'Venus of Willendorf'. What does it suggest that the beginnings of art and the domestication of animals happen during the same period in human history? -- or -- The domestic cat and domestic dog both date to the same moment in human history, Syria about 17,000 years ago. How essential were these animals to the development of agriculture and cities? Why? How did humans sleep in the days before domesticated dogs? - Ira Socol, Michigan State University

2. You accidentally discover an invention that can immediately help millions of people; but only if you act immediately. On the other hand, if you just wait three months, you can secure a patent and get rich. Which do you choose and why?

3. Which do you think is a better roadmap of history artifacts of the humanities (art, music, dance, theatre, literature, philosophy, architecture, etc) or political/military conflicts? Why? (from Twitter)

4. Describe the importance of water in the ancient world. (from Twitter)

5. Create your own language. -- required.

Caves of Lascaux

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3. Big Stuff: Megaliths in Europe and Pyramids in Egypt


Question: What is 'Important'? For this week's weekly, you will be designing your own megalithic structure. Use photographs of the JC campus and draw your designs onto them using your stylus and tablet programs. You may use any type of megalithic structure you like, but you must write a five-paragraph explanation along with your visual images discussing the importance of the structure and what it represents.

--> Dailies

1. What is the oldest human-created artifact that has mattered to you? Why/how does it matter? (from @butwait on Twitter)
2. Give several examples of monuments in Maryland / DC / PA that might be familiar to folks who live here but which would not be understood by outsiders without an explanation. Please include your own or public domain photos.
3. Why do you think so many conspiracy theories surround the pyramids and the megaliths? Give examples of a few and explain where you think they come from.
4. "War is a form of technology". Agree or Disagree.
5. "Structures, both social and physical are continually improving." agree or disagree (from @thecorcoran)

The School of Athens, by Raphael
The School of Athens, by Raphael

4. Ancient Greece


Question: Is History Created by 'the People' or by Individuals?

Primary Sources:
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War Chapter 23:
Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, Book 3.82-83: Civil War in Corcyra:
Alcibiades by Plutarch:

--> Dailies
1. Do you think Socrates got what he deserved? Why didn't he accept exile?
2. Why do people write a record of their past? How does what happened yesterday in your life affect what you choose to do today?...or does it? Do we all see yesterday the same way. Choose a material object--get your digital camera... take at least 25 photos of it all from different angles or vantage points. Team up with a class member and have them photograph the same object -- compare and contrast your photos on a blog post. How do different human beings view the same object? - from Norman Constantine
3. Write the script for a skit exploring the Persian Wars from the Persian point-of-view.
4. Was Athens really a 'democracy'?
5. Explain how the origins of theatre in Athens are tied to both religion and politics. Check out this resource.

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5. Alexander

Question: Was Alexander's adventure really worth it? In your body paragraphs, you must cite specific examples to back up your thesis -- examples must include one from each of the following: Egypt, Persepolis, Afghanistan, India.

1. What compels someone to lead others?
2. Do you think Alexander honestly felt like he was avenging Persian wrongs? Or was that just propaganda to mask his goal of conquest?
3. Based on what you know about Aristotle, do you think Alexander had listened carefully to his tutor?
4. Describe relations between Egypt and Persia before Alexander came on the scene.
5. Find and give examples of Western influence (esp food, clothes, brands) in the former Persian Empire today. Find and give examples of Persian influence in the West.
6. Was Alexander the Great a "good leader"? Compare/Contrast with Pericles.
7. What do you think should have been done after Alexander's death?
8. Would you have followed Alexander into Persia? Write a short story telling your tale from the point of view of one of Alexander's inner circle.
9. Could a force like Alexander the Great exist today? Why or why not?
10. Using Google Maps, create an illustration of Alexander's whole journey.
11. How did Alexander create his own myth?

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6. Empire: Ancient Rome: The Republic and The Empire


In a group of three: Prepare a presentation on the topic of "Lives of the Caesars"; must include video and at least three primary sources (one source must be Suetonius; the others could be poems, stories, artwork). Avg length 5 - 10 minutes. We'll discuss possible ideas including bio pics, "Jeopardy"-style game show, parodies, and more.

--> Dailies
1. What elements of the Roman Republican political and legal system appear present in the systems of modern democracies?
2. How was the Struggle of the Orders influential on later Roman politics?
3. Please write a brief biography of Hannibal and explain whether or not you think his reputation (in Roman eyes) as a monster was deserved.
4. Please take a picture of something in your own neighborhood or town that appears to have been influenced by Ancient Rome.
5. Imagine you are a Roman in the year 264 BCE (the year of the 1st Punic War). What does your future look like? Then, look at the world around you today. What does your future look like? Think about politics, technology, culture, dominance, balance.
6. Design a Google Streetview architectural tour through Rome.
7. Write a skit/Pixton/xtranormal (your choice) detailing major events in the life of Julius Caesar.
8. Do you think Caesar's killers were justified in their actions?
9. Were the Julio-Claudians really as bad as they seem?
10. Why do many historians consider Hadrian to have been the "best emperor"?
11. Was Rome better off as an 'empire' than as a republic?
12. Choose a Julio-Claudian emperor and write a 2 to 3 page skit where that emperor is seeing a psychologist. What's on his mind? (Be specific to historical events... but feel free to be creative and funny).
13. Required Daily: Read Augustus' 'Res Gestae ' paragraphs 19 - 21 and scavenger hunt for as many pictures relating to the places mentioned as you can find and chart them on a Google Map.

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7.Cha-Cha-Cha-Changes: From the Age of Augustus through Early Christianity, Byzantine, and Late Antiquity

Question: Did the Roman Empire 'decline and fall' or did it evolve into something new?

--> Dailies
  1. Required Daily: Read Tacitus' description of the Death of Seneca and Book One of M. Aurelius' Meditations. Find quotes within those two texts that help explain what Stoicism is all about.
  2. How did the Roman Empire change after the Era of the Soldier Emperors.
  3. Required Daily: How does Early Christian and Byzantine portraiture represent both a continuation of and a break from the past? Look up the Fayum Portraits and the Ravenna Portrait of Justinian as a starting point for your thinking.
  4. Read Book One Of Marcus Aurelius's MEDITATIONS, and then write five "thanks" to a teacher who taught you something critically important.
  5. Who do historians consider the 'last' ancient author? Why?
  6. Who was Augustine of Hippo?
10. Required Daily: Summarize and Compare Gibbon to Toynbee on the End of the Roman Empire.

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7. Stuff to Plunder: the Viking Age


NO WEEKLY: Instead, we will be creating our own Viking characters. Students will do background research the vikings using sources at BBC, Internet History Sourcebook, etc. We'll be creating Twitter accounts for each of our vikings and we'll share what we've learned -- from the point of view of our viking! (At least ten total Tweets and five re-Tweets; the key is that all Tweets must a) Be based directly on historical information and b) Be told from the point-of-view of your viking.) Please include #viking to your tweets! And please use a url shortener like or to make things fit in 140 characters.

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8. The Middle Ages: From Hastings to Notre Dame de Paris

Resource: and

Weekly Question: How do Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals express different understandings about religious theology? (Rough Draft due Thursday for peer review -- BTW, a hint: the "opposite" argument would be that the architecture of churches does NOT mean anything about theology).

Make sure you have:
1. Intro w/ thesis
2. Three body paragraphs -- two examples (one Romanesque and one Gothic in each)
3. Conclusion
4. Appendix for pictures w/ APA citation under each pic (no need for additional bibliography)

Example of an APA-style citation for pictures:

Notre Dame de Paris, facade, 13th century,, photograph taken in 2006.

Sainte Chapelle, interior, 13th century,, photograph taken in 2009.

You should have at least 6 pictures -- three Romanesque and three Gothic; please put them at the end of your paper in an appendix each listed as figure 1, figure 2, etc. When citing, just source as: (figure 1) or (figure 2).

Link to the 1066 game:

--> To Think About...
  1. What would St. Benedict have thought of the monasteries that followed his rules by 800 AD?
  2. What was the significance of the year 1066?
  3. How did the Normans "bring Latin" to England?
  4. Did Gothic architecture reflect a change in Church theology?
  5. Did the architecture cause a change in how people expressed Church theology?
  6. How did the Cistercian reform movement express itself in architecture?
  7. Use public domain photographs to build a visitor's tour of one of the following cathedrals or churches: Chartres, Reims, Notre Dame de Paris, Saint-Chapelle, Ely, Lincoln, Durham, Winchester, Salisbury, Canterbury, Cologne/Köln, San Marco (Venice).

9. A Serf's Life: The Social Orders of the European Middle Ages


Question: Why is it so important to understand _ [i.e. the topic of your expert group] if one is to really understand the culture of the Middle Ages?

--> Dailies -- We'll be doing some dailies in class this week.
1. Do human beings have an innate instinct to be free? (from Anonymous)
3. Why do you think the Church and the monasteries became the centers of learning?
4. Describe the medieval imagination.
5. REQUIRED DAILY: Creative Writing Assignment -- write a short horror story about an invisible killer that devastates a community. (Inspired by the Black Death).

Before the Reformation, did people really work all the time? How was "work" viewed in the "Middle Ages"? How was time viewed? - Ira Socol, Michigan State University

10. The Third Crusade


Use to tell the story of Richard, the Lionhearted and Saladin.

1. Your story may be creative (funny, witty, etc -- after all, it is a children's book), but must have basis in historical fact.
2. You may use template pictures or your own; you could make the story in a faerie tale or tell it as a metaphor a la Dr. Seuss. Or you could tell your story in a matter-of-fact style. It's up to you.
3. If you would prefer using a format other than storybird, you may; but you have to run your idea by me first (for example, one group is making a stop-action animation).
4. Your story book may be humorous, but it should be respectful as the story of the Third Crusade was and is a serious matter.
5. The length of your book is up to you: whatever works best to tell the story.

Due Next Friday to share in class.

Required Reading:
BBC: The Crusades -- A History of Conflict:

Required Listening:
The Third Crusade (BBC):

Richard I


Primary Sources on the Crusades in the Medieval Sourcebook

--> Questions to answer in your notes:

1. Why was Jerusalem so important to Christians and Muslims?
2. Was Saladin a brutal leader?
3. Was Richard the Lionhearted a noble leader?

11. From War to Exploration: From the 100 Years' War to the Early Continental Renaissance


Please read: on the Hundred Years' War. You will also be assigned one of the sub-topic articles to prepare to lead the class in conference discussion.

Movie source on Northern Renaissance Art:

Birth of Artist: The Supreme Art: Image Wars:

--> Dailies
1. Read: and answer the question posed at the end of the post.
2. How is the art of the Renaissance different from the art of the Middle Ages?
3. How is the art of the Northern Renaissance (England, Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia) different from the art of the the Italian and Spanish Renaissance? Think about the influence of religion and politics in art.
4. What type of exploration has a greater long-term impact on a society: external exploration of the world or internal exploration of human understanding such as math and sciences? (from Twitter)
5. Explain how the Medici encouraged "exploration". Why did they do it?

12. Back to the Isles: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England in the 15th and 16th centuries



--> Dailies
1. How does Henry VIII maintain power while breaking away from the Catholic Church and destroying monasteries and churches? (Francesca R., Fort Worth)
2. Summarize how Elizabeth rises to the throne -- from her birth to her coronation.
3. Does Leonardo deserve the title "Genius"? (from last week's talk on the Medici)
4. Explain the links between politics and religion in the face off between England and Spain culminating in the invasion of the Spanish Armada.
5. Give a brief history of Scotland from the 14th through 16th centuries.


1) P/F (25/25 or 0/25) for Rough Drafts each Weds. 2) 100 points for weekly writing assignments due each Fri. 3) Final Exam: equals 20% of total semester grade.