Strayer University Political Transformation Chapter Discussion

READING ASSESSMENTS — RAs — in which students interpret and analyze (not just summarize) the required readings for each class meeting.  Each RA should be 150-250 words, 60-100% of a standard-length page, sent by start of class to the professor’s preferred email:  Each one is graded on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high).  There are eleven classes (Weeks 3-13) for which Reading Assessments are required.  Students have the option to either 1/ skip writing an RA for one class, or 2/ drop the lowest score among completed writings.  These assignments ensure that students keep up with the readings.  Equally important, being productive throughout the semester reduces the chances that illness or other emergency prevents students from finishing with a good grade.  Note: RAs normally must be sent as a regular in-text email; you can include an attachment, but not an attachment alone.  The subject line must include student name, RA#, Week #, and author(s) of readings.  Example: Johnson RA1,Week 3, Strayer.  

2/  In analyzing the day’s reading assignment, it’s not enough to simply describe or summarize the content.  It’s essential to recognize the significance of the various details in each reading and why they matter.  In other words, try to identify the larger patterns or processes that they are part of.  Every chapter in Strayer includes a good deal of guidance for doing this, and material presented in class sessions also helps.

3/  Every RA must include the following in the subject line: Your name; the due date; details for the assigned reading.  (It’s a bit of a nuisance, but I’ll receive 25 RAs every week, and it helps to identify and keep track of them.)   For example, next week it is: Johnson, RA1, W3 9/29, Strayer.

   This kind of writing assignment may be new to some of you.  But writing practice comes with each class meeting, so I am confident that you’ll become comfortable and familiar with the requirements, not least because there’s plenty of feedback from me.                                                           – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

SAMPLE READING ASSESSMENTS  (RAs with score and prof’s comments)

    Here are four examples of Reading Assessments (RAs) written by students in HIST 213.  The core text was Robert Strayer, Ways of the World vol. 1 — not vol. 2 which we use in Fall 2021.  Still, it will help to see how students understand and analyze the same author’s previous treatment of earlier eras and issues.  The samples appear in order by score: 7, 8, 9 and 10 out of 10.

This is the correct reading to write on for today, & it shows a sound appreciation of Strayer’s Ch 6. Future Assessments should include some specific details; for instance, no peoples, states or their founders are mentioned. Ch 6 further covers smaller communities not part of empires or other large states, & they deserve a little more attention.  Finally, it’s too short to achieve very much; please be sure to follow the guidelines for RAs fully & carefully.

Score = 7/10

You write English well enough that your main points are clear. Still, since it’s not your first language, here are two suggestions that will help.

2/ Spend more time reading in English (or any other foreign language). Not just course textbooks; read authors you enjoy or on subjects that interest you. One thing that all good writers have in common: they are great readers! Our writing ability improves through practice, but also by increased contact with examples of skilled writing.

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7/22– Strayer, Ways of the World [Ch 6] 

Chapter 6 is talk about Commonalities and Variations of Africa, the Americas, and Pacific Oceania. (600 B.C.E.—1200C.E.)

1.The world’s human population was then distributed very unevenly across the three giant continents (Eurasia, Africa, and Americas). 2. Another continental difference involved the absence in the Americas of most animals capable of domestication. 3. The geographical location of each continent makes the cultural differences.

In the following content, the differences between different civilizations on different continents are also introduced in detail. The civilization of the empire of Africa, the urbanized America, and the Pacific Oceanic near the ecological environment that is active on the ocean. In different places, people’s living habits are also very different. Their food, lifestyle and architecture are different. But they all keep in touch with the outside world and keep trade exchanges with different regions. Because of this, every continent keeps developing. Of course there are many civilizations disappearing and appearing.



This is actually a good start on a first Reading Assessment (RA). Much of para.1, though not really wrong, is too general, even vague. Para.2 is the right kind of analysis to aim for. You correctly identify and understand major features of the Third Wave, including a sound political dimension. In future you can strengthen the analysis by providing a few details, e.g. of states, peoples or rulers, along with relevant dates.

Score = 8/10    
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Strayer, Ways of the World (Pt 2 Intro, Ch 3, 4)
Pgs 96-147, 172-181

    The chapter begins with a description of ancient societies and civilizations, all falling and being invaded by one another. empire and civilizations being started and falling. These civilizations were Native Americans in Mexico and the Andes, ancient Egyptians, ancient Romans, ancient Greeks, ancient China, and many more. This is relevant to the world today as it is still happening. New countries, new wars, new conflicts… they happen every century. More recently, civilizations in Western Europe, Russia, Japan, and West Africa emerged in what is known as the third wave of civilizations.

Something different about the second wave of civilization, however, was that there was no major revolution in terms of advancement of way of life. The ruling social class was predominant in influence, merchants who were the only ones that really came up with new ideas for products were looked at with suspicion, and the peasant class, who was the majority of people, were subjects of the ruling class. They had little hope or chance of rising in the ranks, and since the Farming Revolution had happened with the first set of civilization, and the Industrial Revolution was to happen with the third set of civilization, there really was no innovation for them to go on.


Your Reading Assessment (RA) for today is the most effective so far. It successfully IDs major characteristics of Third Wave civilizations both separately & comparatively. Comparisons with 20C USSR & Japan reveal common patterns in the decline & (partial) fall of political & economic powers. Including a couple of dates would help locate them properly in time, something mentioned in comments on a previous RA. Also, there’s a common misunderstanding here: equating Arabs with Islam (also with the Middle East). Arabs, or more precisely Arabic-speakers, already contributed to trade & civilization (cf. Petra in Jordan), but the advent of Islam greatly magnified their role. Still, within a few decades after 632CE, the expansion of Islam was significant among non-Arabs; they then accomplished much of Islam’s expansion.  Today they are the majority of Muslims.

Score = 9/10

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Strayer, Ways of the World (Pt 3 Intro, Ch 7)
Pgs 272-321

    The chapter begins stating that history rarely has sharp changes in a short period of time, but a lot of these second wave civilizations had serious declines; these included Han dynasty China, the western Roman Empire, Gupta India, Meroë, Axum, Maya, Teotihuacán, and Moche. All of these places “experienced severe disruption, decline, or collapse,” (p. 273). It is interesting to me that this period marks the start of a new period in world history. It reminds me of the collapse of the Soviet Union, because just a few decades ago, they were the world’s only other superpower but the Soviet Union is a nonexistent country today. It also reminds me of Japan. Many economists and specialists theorized that Japan would become a superpower in the 1990s because of their booming economy but their economy has gone down severely and they are not near superpower status today.

The third wave of civilization is often described vaguely, usually as a medieval, postclassical or “mid-period” (page 273) however, these are nondescript and somewhat misleading. During this period West Africa formed new civilizations, with the east using it’s position on the Indian ocean for trade, and the west using the Sahara desert for trade. Globalization was at an all time high, and a lot of this had to do with the start of the Arabs, who colonized from Spain and west Africa to India and Persia. This territory, spanning three continents, “came closer than any had ever come to uniting all mankind under its ideals,” (page 275).



This is a fine RA; the only important missing component might be names of people who founded and/or spread religions, or prominent merchants on the main trade routes. The concluding treatment of Buddhism is perceptive. Interestingly, Christianity also traveled the same routes: Nestorians, Thomasine Christians, etc. They get less attention b/c they remained minorities & rarely if ever controlled the states where they were found.

Score = 10/10

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RA 3: 7/27 Strayer Vol 1; Part 3 Intro, Chapter 7 (pages 307-354)

The main focus of part three and Ch. 7 is the different routes through which goods were exchanged during the time of the third-wave civilizations (form 500 C.E. to 1500 C.E.). These trade routes allowed for the exchange of more than just goods – the merchants who transported their cargo brought along with them Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism, as well as the diseases that afflicted their homes. The Silk road facilitated exchange across the Eurasian landmass through a “relay trade” system which resulted in much higher final prices which made it more suitable for the transport of luxury items such as silk, spices, precious metals and stones for the elite market. Silk, specifically was a high-demand commodity across the continent, originating in China (the knowledge for producing raw silk spread beyond China after the 6th century C.E.) and being transported to India with Buddhist pilgrims and Western Europe through the Islamic world.  The spread of Buddhism occurred on a voluntary basis, with traders and merchants bringing it to the oasis cities of the trans-Eurasian trade routes, however it struggled amongst the pastoral populations of Central Asia. Of course, the religion transformed to fit the preferences of the people it began to flourish amongst, away from its original austere psychological teachings and towards a focus on compassion and earning religious merit which its devotees did by building monasteries and temples which would later serve as places of familiarity and rest for the same merchants. Additionally, through the introduction of camels to North Africa, Muslim Arabs of the region, who were hunting for gold, were able to find and transport it, along with other goods such as ivory and slaves.

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