On Top Of The World


A podcast about how we teach World History and why we teach what we do.


  • Ep 13 - “Texting in Class” Review of Strayer

    Ep 13 - “Texting in Class” Review of Strayer

    31/03/2016 Duration: 39min

    In this episode, Matt and I debut a new segment in this podcast called “Texting in Class.” During this segment we review a popular world history textbook and provide some insights into its strengths and weaknesses. We start with one of Matt’s favorites, Robert Strayer’s Ways of the World. After a brief discussion of the format and its suitability to the new AP world history curriculum, we give glowing praise to its use of visual sources (some dealing with representations of Buddha can be found here) as well as its chapters on nomadic peoples and European imperialism. In the second half of the episode we debate the merits and challenges with narrative-heavy textbooks, before examining his analysis of the origins of the global economy and the Bantu migrations. Recommendations are:Matt – Hamalainen, The Comanche EmpireDave – Vansina, Paths in the Rainforest

  • Ep 12 - F*ck Niall Ferguson

    Ep 12 - F*ck Niall Ferguson

    11/03/2016 Duration: 43min

    In this episode, Matt and Dave discuss Niall Ferguson’s controversial bestseller Civilization: The West and the Rest with Matt's grad school colleague Jack Bouchard. It is safe to say that none of us are huge fans of the “six killer apps” that Ferguson believes account for the supremacy of the “West,” particularly due to his heavy reliance on 19th century scholarship like this. Citing more recent work like R. Bin Wong’s China Transformed and Davis’ Late Victorian Holocausts, we suggest ways to challenge Ferguson’s popular narrative and teach a more complex explanation for the “rise of the West.” Recommendations are: Matt – Rosenthal and Bin Wong, Before and Beyond DivergenceJack – Pomeranz, The Great DivergenceDave – Fallows, China Airborne

  • Ep 11 - An Interview of Tamara Shreiner

    Ep 11 - An Interview of Tamara Shreiner

    15/02/2016 Duration: 45min

    In this episode I interview Tammy Shreiner, an assistant professor of social studies education at Grand Valley State University. She describes her work on the “World History For Us All” project, a collaborative endeavor between K-12 teachers and university professors – the unit on the history of living rooms can be found here. We also discuss her doctoral research on how high school students think about history, the impact of state standards on secondary-level world history, and the importance of data literacy for historians. For those interested my ugly Christmas sweatshirt looked exactly like this. Book recommendations are:Dave – Jerven, Poor NumbersTammy – Maier and Imazeki, The Data Game

  • Ep 10 - The Transition from High School to University

    Ep 10 - The Transition from High School to University

    01/02/2016 Duration: 52min

    In this episode Matt and Dave discuss how teachers can prepare students for the transition from high school to university. We are joined by three of our close friends from the AP World History reading to help us with this subject; Eric Jones (associate professor of Southeast Asian studies at Northern Illinois University), Jennifer Sweatman (assistant professor of history at Washington and Jefferson College), and Jennifer Beck (AP World History teacher at Loyalsock Township High School). Together we discuss the AP reading, university-level expectations, possible reading and writing assignments, and our most inspiring history teachers. We also choose one book or album if stranded on a desert island, with Dave and Jenn S opting for classic literature, Jenn B fending off the hunger pains, and Matt and Eric bringing rather divergent musical options. Recommendations are: Eric – Toer, This Earth of MankindJenn S – Feraoun, Journal: 1955-62Dave – Lee, The Ugly RenaissanceMatt – Ferrar, Freedom’s MirrorJenn B – Loewen

  • Ep 9 - An Interview with Eric Jones

    Ep 9 - An Interview with Eric Jones

    20/01/2016 Duration: 41min

    In this episode, Matt and Dave discuss the place of Southeast Asia in world history with Eric Jones, an associate professor of history as well as assistant director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University. During our interview, he talks about how he fell in love with the region and key aspects of its history, including the role of women like Sitie in pre-colonial trading organizations, the birth of the Dutch East India Company, colonial forms of exploitation in Java, the spread of Islam into the region, and the local significance of WWII and the Vietnam War. His recently published book Wives, Slaves, and Concubines: A History of the Female Underclass in Dutch Asia is available on Amazon and speaks to several of the examples listed above. He also mentions other teaching resources including Bradley’s Imagining Vietnam and America. Finally, special thanks go out to him for creating the music you hear on this podcast and the special live version of the theme used at the beginning

  • Ep 8b - An Interview with Craig Benjamin: Part 2

    Ep 8b - An Interview with Craig Benjamin: Part 2

    30/12/2015 Duration: 40min

    This episode is the second part (first part is here) of an interview with leading “big-historian” Craig Benjamin. Over a couple of Fosters we discuss big-history critics, first-year courses, world history textbooks (including his own), the AP reading, and the World History Association (WHA). My book recommendation is an edited volume on teaching big history at the Dominican University of California:Dave – Teaching Big History

  • Ep 8a - An Interview with Craig Benjamin: Part 1

    Ep 8a - An Interview with Craig Benjamin: Part 1

    29/12/2015 Duration: 40min

    In this episode Dave speaks with Craig Benjamin on his career as a world historian. He describes his graduate work at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and his fateful meeting with David Christian that led him to become an important proponent of big history. We then discuss how university students respond to the big history “creation-myth” and how to manage the classroom while debating controversial subjects. Episode 8b will be posted shortly, and it includes the second half of this interview. I forgot to ask Craig for a book recommendation during the interview, but I will make amends below;Dave – Christian, Brown, and Benjamin, Big History: Between Nothing and Everything

  • Ep 7 - A Presentation on African Topics in World History

    Ep 7 - A Presentation on African Topics in World History

    01/12/2015 Duration: 27min

    Due to a busy holiday travel schedule, Matt and I were unable to record a new podcast for early December. Instead, we are offering bonus content! In October I presented at the Great Lakes History Conference in Allendale, MI on five African topics for world history instructors. These topics were designed to link with the Michigan social studies curriculum which divides world history into several main time periods. Elementary social studies instructors deal with the pre-1500 period, and I suggest the Indian Ocean coast as an ideal topic. At the high school level, I use the trans-Atlantic slave trade to explore the First Global Age, the life of Sara Baartman to examine the dark side of Global Revolutions (1700-1914), and the Cold War in the Congo as well as soccer in Africa to explore 20th Century and Contemporary Global Issues. This presentation is also available in its entirety on Youtube courtesy of the Michigan Council for History Education, where you can watch the other presenters on my panel (Dr. Michael H

  • Ep 6 - Assessment

    Ep 6 - Assessment

    17/11/2015 Duration: 43min

    In this episode, Matt and Dave discuss how we evaluate our performance in the classroom over a round of Shiner Bock beer. We reminisce about our favorite lectures during our undergrad days, me at a small liberal arts college in central Ontario with sports teams called the Excalibur, and Matt at a small liberal arts college in Houston with an endowment roughly equal to the GDP of Bhutan or Bermuda. We then debate how we can make lectures interesting, use student feedback, and assess our own performance as an instructor. Recommended books are: Dave – Simon, Behmand, and Burke, Teaching Big HistoryMatt – Tovani, Do I Really Have To Teach Reading?

  • Ep 5 - Easter Island

    Ep 5 - Easter Island

    27/10/2015 Duration: 38min

    This episode expands on our Easter Island subject guide, and critiques how most textbooks deal with its history. This remote locale is famous for its mysterious moai, the massive stone heads which have become iconic for the hubris of its inhabitants. Flenley and Bahn, along with Jared Diamond, suggest the island was deforested in order to build these statues, leading to starvation and cannibalism. However, Hunt and Lipo argue that the island was deforested by a far less intimidating creature, and present a much more hopeful narrative from Easter Island’s past. Recommended books are: Dave – Kirch, On the Road of the WindsMatt – Matsuda, Pacific Worlds

  • Ep 4 - An Interview with Andrew Behrendt

    Ep 4 - An Interview with Andrew Behrendt

    16/10/2015 Duration: 43min

    In this episode Matt and I do our first-ever interview with Andrew Behrendt, a University of Pittsburgh grad student and soon-to-be-minted PhD in Eastern European history. We discuss the transition from area studies to world history, the Fordham University History Sourcebooks including the response of Pope Nicholas I to the Bulgar Khan, possible world history topics drawn from Eastern Europe, the refugee crisis in Hungary (including a summary video and the Hungarian Spectrum blog) and how the edge of the steppes is a little like New Jersey. Our recommendations include two (well, maybe just one!) classics of Eastern European cinema.Andrew – Wajda, Ashes and Diamonds (1958)Dave – Appelbaum, Iron CurtainMatt – Annaud, Enemy at the Gates (2001) – link goes to scene discussed in podcast

  • Ep 3 - Content vs Skills in World History

    Ep 3 - Content vs Skills in World History

    01/10/2015 Duration: 36min

    In this episode Matt and I debate whether to prioritize content or skills in the world history classroom. We also reference Lendol Calder’s famous “Uncoverage” article from 2006 while discussing a possible ‘signature pedagogy’ for world historians. Book recommendations are:Dave – Levesque, Thinking HistoricallyMatt – MacGregor, A History of the World in 100 Objects

  • Ep 2 - A Review of Guns, Germs, and Steel

    Ep 2 - A Review of Guns, Germs, and Steel

    15/09/2015 Duration: 33min

    In this episode Matt and I discuss Jared Diamond’s extremely popular book Guns, Germs, and Steel. We examine criticisms of Diamond’s research, and offer suggestions as to how it can be used in the classroom. Recommended books are:Dave – Restall, Seven Myths of the Spanish ConquestMatt – Mann, 1491; Rushforth, Bonds of Alliance

  • Ep 1 - Designing a World History Survey

    Ep 1 - Designing a World History Survey

    29/08/2015 Duration: 34min

    In this episode Matt and Dave discuss our first experiences teaching world history, focusing on the mistakes we made and what we do differently now. Recommended books are:Dave – Burton, A Primer for Teaching World HistoryMatt – McNeill and McNeill, The Human Web

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