ISSUE 1. Did Homo Sapiens Originate in Africa?
YES: Christopher Stringer and Robin McKie, from African Exodus: The Origins of Modern Humanity NO: Milford Wolpoff and Rachel Caspari, from Race and Human Evolution Science researcher Christopher Stringer and science writer Robin McKie state that modern humans first developed in Africa and then spread to other parts of the world. Paleoanthropologists Milford Wolpoff and Rachel Caspari counter that modern humans developed simultaneously in different parts of the world.
ISSUE 2. Were the Aryans Responsible for the Demise of the Indus Valley Civilization? YES: Stanley Wolpert, from A New History of India, 6th ed.
NO: Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, from Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization Historian Stanley Wolpert states that the Aryan invasion of the Indus Valley did occur and that it played a role in the demise of the Indus Valley civilization. Archaeologist Jonathan Mark Kenoyer counters that there is little proof that the Aryan invasion occurred and that the decline of the Indus Valley civilization was due to internal environmental and social conditions.
ISSUE 3. Was Egyptian Civilization African?
YES: Clinton Crawford, from Recasting Ancient Egypt in the African Context: Toward a Model Curriculum Using Art and Language NO: Kathryn A. Bard, from “Ancient Egyptians and the Issue of Race,” in Mary R. Lefkowitz and Guy MacLean Rogers, eds., Black Athena Revisited Clinton Crawford, an assistant professor who specializes in African arts and languages as communications systems, asserts that evidence from the fields of anthropology, history, linguistics, and archaeology proves that the ancient Egyptians and the culture they produced were of black African origin. Assistant professor of archaeology Kathryn A. Bard argues that although black African sources contributed to the history and culture of ancient Egypt, its civilization was basically multicultural in origin.
ISSUE 4. Was Sumerian Civilization Exclusively Male Dominated? YES: Chester G. Starr, from A History of the Ancient World
NO: Samuel Noah Kramer, from “Poet and Psalmists: Goddesses and Theologians: Literary, Religious, and Anthropological Aspects of the Legacy of Sumer,” in Denise Schmandt-Besserat, ed., The Legacy of Sumer: Invited Lectures on the Middle East at the University of Texas at Austin Historian Chester G. Starr finds Sumerian society to be male dominated, from the gods to human priests and kings, and he barely acknowledges the status of women in either the heavenly or the earthly realm. Museum curator Samuel Noah Kramer relies on much of the same data as Starr, but finds powerful goddesses and earthly women to have played prominent roles in both cosmic and everyday Sumerian life.
ISSUE 5. Does Alexander the Great Merit His Exalted Historical Reputation? YES: N. G. L. Hammond, from The Genius of Alexander the Great NO: Ian Worthington, from “How `Great’ Was Alexander?” The Ancient History Bulletin Professor emeritus of Greek N. G. L. Hammond states that research has proven that Alexander the Great is deserving of his esteemed historical reputation. Professor Ian Worthington counters that Alexander’s actions were self-serving and eventually weakened his Macedonian homeland; therefore, he does not merit the historical reputation he has been given.
ISSUE 6. Did Christianity Liberate Women?
YES: Karen L. King, from “Women in Ancient Christianity: The New Discoveries,” a Report From FRONTLINE NO: Karen Armstrong, from The Gospel According to Woman: Christianity’s Creation of the Sex War in the West Professor of New Testament studies and the history of ancient Christianity Karen L. King presents evidence from biblical and other recently discovered ancient texts to illuminate women’s active participation in early Christianity–as disciples, apostles, prophets, preachers, and teachers. Professor of religious studies Karen Armstrong finds in the early Christian Church examples of hostility toward women and fear of their sexual power, which she contends led to the eventual exclusion of women from full participation in a male-dominated church.
PART 2. The Medieval/Renaissance Worlds
ISSUE 7. Did Same-Sex Unions Exist in Medieval Europe?
YES: John Boswell, from Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
NO: Philip Lyndon Reynolds, from “Same-Sex Unions: What Boswell Didn’t Find,” The Christian Century Professor John Boswell (1947-1994) states that same-sex unions, which dated back to pagan times, existed in medieval Europe until they were gradually done away with by the Christian Church. Reviewer Philip Lyndon Reynolds, while admitting that “brotherhood” ceremonies took place in the prescribed period, asserts that these ceremonies did not have the same authority as sacred unions and therefore cannot be equated with marriage rites.
ISSUE 8. Were Environmental Factors Responsible for the Collapse of Maya Civilization? YES: Richard E. W. Adams, from Prehistoric Mesoamerica, rev. ed. NO: George L. Cowgill, from “Teotihuacan, Internal Militaristic Competition, and the Fall of the Classic Maya,” in Norman Hammond and Gordon R. Willey, eds., Maya Archaeology and Ethnohistory Professor of anthropology Richard E. W. Adams argues that although military factors played a role in the Maya demise, a combination of internal and environmental factors was more responsible for that result. Professor of anthropology George L. Cowgill states that although there is no monocausal explanation for the Maya collapse, military expansion played a more important role than scholars originally thought.
ISSUE 9. Were the Crusades Primarily Motivated by Religious Factors? YES: Hans Eberhard Mayer, from The Crusades, 2d ed., trans. John Gillingham NO: Ronald C. Finucane, from Soldiers of the Faith: Crusaders and Moslems at War German historian Hans Eberhard Mayer states that although there were other factors important to the development of the Crusades, the strongest motivation was a religious one. British historian Ronald C. Finucane counters that although the religious influence on the Crusades was significant, political, social, economic, and military factors in medieval Europe also played a role in their origin, development, and outcome.
ISSUE 10. Does the Modern University Have Its Roots in the Islamic World? YES: Mehdi Nakosteen, from History of Islamic Origins of Western Education a.d. 800-1350 NO: Charles Homer Haskins, from The Rise of Universities
Professor of history and philosophy of education Mehdi Nakosteen traces the roots of the modern university to the golden age of Islamic culture (750-1150 c.e.). He maintains that Muslim scholars assimilated the best of classical scholarship and developed the experimental method and the university system, which they passed on to the West before declining. The late historian Charles Homer Haskins (1870-1937) traces the university of the twentieth century to its predecessors in Paris and Bologna, where, he argues, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the first universities in the world sprang up.
ISSUE 11. Did Women and Men Benefit Equally From the Renaissance? YES: Margaret L. King, from Women of the Renaissance
NO: Joan Kelly-Gadol, from “Did Women Have a Renaissance?” in Renate Bridenthal, Claudia Koonz, and Susan Stuard, eds., Becoming Visible: Women in European History, 2d ed. Historian Margaret L. King surveys Renaissance women in domestic, religious, and learned settings and finds reflected in their lives a new consciousness of themselves as women, as intelligent seekers of a new way of being in the world. Historian Joan Kelly-Gadol discovered in her work as a Renaissance scholar that well-born women seemed to have enjoyed greater advantages during the Middle Ages and experienced a relative loss of position and power during the Renaissance.
ISSUE 12. Was Zen Buddhism the Primary Shaper of the Warrior Code of the Japanese Samurai? YES: Winston L. King, from Zen and the Way of the Sword: Arming the Samurai Psyche NO: Catharina Blomberg, from The Heart of the Warrior: Origins and Religious Background of the Samurai System in Feudal Japan Religious scholar Winston L. King credits the monk Eisai with introducing Zen to the Hōjō samurai lords of Japan who recognized its affinity with the warrior’s profession and character. Japanologist Catharina Blomberg emphasizes the diversity of influences on the samurai psyche–Confucianism, Shinto, and Zen–stressing the conflict between a warrior’s duty and Buddhist ethical principles.
PART 3. The Premodern World
ISSUE 13. Were Christopher Columbus’s New World Discoveries a Positive Force in the Development of World History? YES: Felipe Fernández-Armesto, from Columbus
NO: Kirkpatrick Sale, from The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy Historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto states that although Columbus was far from perfect, the overall results of his work merit consideration as having helped to shape the modern world. Writer Kirkpatrick Sale sees Columbus as a product of a sick, dispirited Europe and concludes that the selfish nature of his work and what resulted from it prevented Europe from using the New World discoveries as an opportunity for the continent’s salvation.
ISSUE 14. Was China’s Worldview Responsible for Its Failure to Continue Its Commercial and Maritime Efforts During the Ming Dynasty? YES: Nicholas D. Kristof, from “1492: The Prequel,” The New York Times Magazine NO: Bruce Swanson, from Eighth Voyage of the Dragon: A History of China’s Quest for Seapower Journalist Nicholas D. Kristof states that China’s worldview, shaped by centuries of philosophical and cultural conditioning, was responsible for its decision to cease its maritime ventures during the Ming dynasty. Naval historian Bruce Swanson acknowledges that China’s worldview played a role in its decision to cease its maritime programs, but maintains that there were other, more practical considerations that were responsible for that decision.
ISSUE 15. Did Martin Luther’s Reforms Improve the Lives of European Christians? YES: Robert Kolb, from Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, Hero: Images of the Reformer, 1520-1620 NO: Hans Küng, from Great Christian Thinkers, trans. John Bowden Religion and history professor Robert Kolb contends that Martin Luther was seen as a prophetic teacher and hero whose life brought hope, divine blessing, and needed correctives to the Christian church. Theologian and professor emeritus of theology Hans Küng views Martin Luther as the inaugurator of a paradigm shift and as the unwitting creator of both bloody religious wars and an unhealthy subservience by ordinary Christians to local rulers in worldly matters.
ISSUE 16. Were European Witch-Hunts Misogynistic?
YES: Anne Llewellyn Barstow, from “On Studying Witchcraft as Women’s History: A Historiography of the European Witch Persecutions,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion NO: Robin Briggs, from Witches and Neighbors: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft History professor Anne Llewellyn Barstow asserts that the European witch-hunt movement made women its primary victims and was used as an attempt to control their lives and behavior. History professor Robin Briggs states that although women were the European witch-hunts’ main victims, gender was not the only determining factor in this socio-cultural movement.
ISSUE 17. Was the Scientific Revolution Revolutionary?
YES: Herbert Butterfield, from The Origins of Modern Science, 1300-1800, rev. ed. NO: Steven Shapin, from The Scientific Revolution Historian of ideas Herbert Butterfield argues that the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries witnessed a radical break with the past and the emergence of dramatically new ways of understanding both knowledge and the world–in short, a Scientific Revolution. Professor of sociology and historian of science Steven Shapin questions the idea of a Scientific Revolution, suggesting that there was no radical break with the past and rejecting the existence of a single event that might be called a Scientific Revolution.
ISSUE 18. Did the West Define the Modern World?
YES: William H. McNeill, from The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community NO: Steven Feierman, from “African Histories and the Dissolution of World History,” in Robert H. Bates, V. Y. Mudimbe, and Jean O’Barr, eds., Africa and the Disciplines: The Contributions of Research in Africa to the Social Sciences and Humanities Professor of history William H. McNeill states that in 1500, western Europe began to extend its influence to other parts of the world, resulting in a revolution in world relationships in which the West was the principal benefactor. History professor Steven Feierman argues that because historians have viewed modern history in a unidirectional (European) manner, the contributions of non-European civilizations to world history have gone either undiscovered or unreported., ,
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