In my apparent bid to use European History Since 1648 at UNLV to short-change all the big historical developments of the 17th, 18th, and now 19th centuries, I devoted a scant 20 minutes to what historian Eric Hobsbawm called “the most fundamental transformation of human life in the history of the world recorded in written documents”. Namely, the Industrial Revolution.
The class will most certainly revisit the event/process/phenomenon that re-drew the economic, social, and ultimately political map of Europe. But with students’ midterm exam on the horizon, I thought some practice at tying together the terms and concepts that have animated class so far might be of some use.
Their exam is based on “Triads”, a concept I borrowed from some colleagues. It involves students being presented with three terms—concepts like “The Enlightenment”, texts like “Nathan the Wise”, and individuals like “Sarah Baartman”—and having to write an essay that makes an argument about the relationship between and importance of the terms, while locating them in time and place.
Each discussion group was assigned a triad and asked to come up with a potential thesis statement, also making a note of relevant texts and examples from class that they would use to make their argument.
Each group then presented their ideas, and other members of class pitched in some ideas. I enjoyed hearing students’ thinking about how to connect key concepts, and it provided an interesting opportunity to evaluate their historical thinking skills.
Near the end, we began a conversation about the impacts of the Industrial Revolution on the workplace and on gender roles. But I will re-insert the theme into one or the other of the coming lectures. Maybe we’ll skip World War II by way of getting caught up…