Ross E. Dunn and Laura J. Mitchell. Panorama--A World History.
Educators and writers of history textbooks have struggled with the need to reconcile traditional forms of content delivery with the fact that students can readily access this same material from varied, though not necessarily academically vetted, sources. As a result, social studies educators and historians have had to reimagine the fundamental nature of both the teacher and the textbook, as neither are necessarily the vital source of content that they once were. An existential crisis of sorts has emerged, as some have called into question the nature and value of social studies in the K-12 classroom. From this relative chaos comes the opportunity to reimagine history education as a means of higher order learning, in that the modeling and development of history-based skills become the most vital and important aspect of the history classroom. Panorama, a new textbook from historians Ross E. Dunn and Laura Mitchell, best exemplifies the pedagogical opportunities enabled by this technologically-driven sea change within history education.
Contextualization and the identification of global interconnectedness are amongst the skills modeled in Panorama, making this new text a welcome addition to the offerings available to teachers of world history, at both the high school and college level. Such is evident in how the authors present the content. Historical phenomena are couched within their global perspective, challenging readers to think about how external forces might have shaped regional developments. Underscoring this are sidebars and in-text definitions that clarify and contextualize ideas, themes, and words that might need further explanation. Thus, the reader has the opportunity to continuously engage with the content without having to turn to a glossary or dictionary. Each chapter begins with an illustration--noted by the authors as "A Panoramic View"--visually depicting the movement of people and ideas that were central to the topics to be covered. This is an interesting and effective pedagogical approach, for it forces the reader to view the world and its history as a crosscurrent of activity, thus moving students away from the belief that history is nationally insular. As a result, the reader is consistently being asked to think about the larger, global processes that shaped and informed historical events. Each chapter closes with a graphic entitled "Change Over Time," which serves to reinforce the chapter's content by signposting content in ensuing chapters. As such, the fundamental process of thoughtful reading will force students to view history as a macro-global narrative. This macro view, however, does not teleologically negate the importance of regional histories. Rather, the authors are careful to construct parallel and interconnected narratives so as to model the interaction of the macro and micro.
The arc of Panorama gives enough detail to provide readers a vital historic narrative necessary to develop the skills mentioned above. Moreover, the authors neither seek to be authoritative or unnecessarily esoteric in their narrative, instead constructing a foundational set of knowledge that allows educators to build on the text by constructing more specific or detailed lessons into certain topics. In this regard, Panorama is perfectly suited for the World History Advanced Placement curriculum, as well as a text for college-level surveys in world history. Moreover, the authors' deemphasizing of national narratives in favor of regional and chronological histories does much to model for readers a more balanced understanding of the history of humankind. As such, the focus on cultural, economic, and intellectual history does much to exemplify and model the importance and value of human interaction and the significance of syncretic cultures. Regional specialists will have few qualms with the geographic and chronological reach of this book, as the authors have successfully worked to evenly integrate as many world regions as possible across the span of human History. This is a much welcome departure from the Anglo- and Sino-centrism of many global history texts.
A minor, yet important correction should be made in future editions of the book. At one point, the authors' claim that the Irish Free State came into existence in 1923, which actually occurred in 1922 (743). Later in the text, the authors' offer a contradictory statement claiming that the Republic of Ireland "achieved independence in 1922" (811). This latter point is incorrect: the 1937 Irish Constitution established a republican government independent of the British Dominion, and the nation officially became the Republic of Ireland in 1949.
Kenneth Shonk, Jr.
University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
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|Author:||Shonk, Kenneth, Jr.|
|Publication:||Teaching History: A Journal of Methods|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2016|
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