Making Sense of World History is a comprehensive and accessible textbook that helps students understand the key themes of world history within a chronological framework stretching from ancient times to the present day.

To lend coherence to its narrative, the book employs a set of organizing devices that connect times, places, and/or themes. This narrative is supported by:

  • Flowcharts that show how phenomena within diverse broad themes interact in generating key processes and events in world history.
  • A discussion of the common challenges faced by different types of agent, including rulers, merchants, farmers, and parents, and a comparison of how these challenges were addressed in different times and places.
  • An exhaustive and balanced treatment of themes such as culture, politics, and economy, with an emphasis on interaction.
  • Explicit attention to skill acquisition in organizing information, cultural sensitivity, comparison, visual literacy, integration, interrogating primary sources, and critical thinking.
  • A focus on historical “episodes” that are carefully related to each other.

Through the use of such devices, the book shows the cumulative effect of thematic interactions through time, communicates the many ways in which societies have influenced each other through history, and allows us to compare and contrast how they have reacted to similar challenges. They also allow the reader to transcend historical controversies and can be used to stimulate class discussions and guide student assignments.

With a unified authorial voice and offering a narrative from the ancient to the present, this is the go-to textbook for World History courses and students.

The Open Access version of this book has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 license.

part I|33 pages

Organizing world history

chapter 1|31 pages

Making sense of world history

Size: 12.08 MB

part II|120 pages

Prehistory and ancient history

chapter 2|31 pages

The Big History prelude

From the Big Bang to hominids
Size: 10.55 MB
Size: 9.24 MB

chapter 4|44 pages

A critical transformation

The development of agriculture, nomadism, and fishing
Size: 16.69 MB

chapter 5|44 pages

Some early impacts of agriculture

Key technologies and trade practices
Size: 14.92 MB

chapter 6|52 pages

Grappling with “civilization”

The development of cities, states, and writing
Size: 18.25 MB

chapter 7|52 pages

Early civilizations around the world

Size: 16.77 MB

chapter 8|37 pages

Belief systems

The nature and development of early religions
Size: 15.00 MB

part III|254 pages

Classical history

chapter 9|53 pages

Political organization on an unprecedented scale

The classical empires
Size: 23.62 MB

chapter 10|56 pages

Similarities and differences

The Roman and Chinese Empires compared
Size: 18.33 MB

chapter 11|49 pages

The birth of missionary religions

Why and how did the world’s major religions emerge?
Size: 22.80 MB

chapter 12|34 pages

A new force in world history

The Islamic conquests
Size: 14.09 MB
Size: 36.18 MB

part IV|159 pages

The Middle Ages

chapter 14|30 pages

Seeking global commonalities

Some key thematic trends 900–1500 and beyond
Size: 13.77 MB

chapter 15|57 pages

Regional developments

Eurasia after 900
Size: 27.42 MB

chapter 16|35 pages

Regional developments

Polynesia, the Americas, and Africa
Size: 19.04 MB
Size: 16.50 MB

part V|227 pages

The Early Modern period

Size: 14.17 MB

chapter 19|54 pages

Exploration and trade

Linking the continents
Size: 18.76 MB

chapter 20|53 pages

Comparing new empires in Asia

Size: 46.14 MB

chapter 21|41 pages

It seems so natural now

The emergence of the modern nation state
Size: 27.26 MB

chapter 22|37 pages

The Great Divergence

The rise of the European economy and military
Size: 18.90 MB

part VI|360 pages

The nineteenth and twentieth centuries

Size: 22.03 MB

chapter 24|35 pages

Industrial revolutions

Innovation, factories, and economic growth
Size: 16.42 MB

chapter 25|33 pages

Political revolutions around the world

A diverse set of experiences with important commonalities
Size: 16.63 MB

chapter 26|31 pages

A unique historical transformation

The abolition of slavery 
and serfdom
Size: 17.50 MB
Size: 17.00 MB

chapter 28|52 pages

Devastation and fear

War in the twentieth century
Size: 26.43 MB

chapter 29|39 pages

The worst of times and the best of times

The Great Depression and postwar recovery
Size: 17.21 MB

chapter 30|39 pages

An unprecedented development

Postwar decolonization
Size: 16.15 MB

chapter 31|38 pages

Population movements

Dramatic changes in the numbers, location, and 
health of humans
Size: 25.52 MB

part VII|53 pages

Drawing lessons

chapter 32|51 pages

Drawing lessons from history

Why, how, and what
Size: 13.64 MB