Week 3 review: all quiet on the Arab front

I have been busy at #AHA2014 this week and the students did quite well on their assignments, so I have very little to talk about this time.

On the assignments they were to repeat the question exercise from last week and then find connections between documents. They largely did this, though the connections tended to be vague or simple.

In the discussion forums, I had prompted them to think broadly about the struggle for Arab independence after World War I, especially in the context of floundering empires. They largely wanted to express their conclusions from reading the primary documents (good!) even though I had wanted them to place those documents in the context of the lecture and supplementary readings, which they did not do (bad!)

Their consensus was broadly that the Arabs made a stupid mistake by turning to the British for assistance and the British were too greedy and duplicitous in their dealings with the Arabs. So I produced another mini-lecture about the inadequacy and unfairness of attributing to large historical events the causal factors of human sin like greed and stupidity. I encouraged them to review the “5 c’s” and consider how the events might be explained when considering complexity, change, causality, contingency, and context…all within the limits of the evidence we have at hand.

We’ll see how it goes next week. We’re doing the fundamentalist/modernist debate of the 1920s.


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