History of Western Civilization – Hist 100-027

Class Time: MWF 9:30-10:20am
Class Location: David King Jr. Hall 2053
Credit Hours: 3
Instructor: Ammon Shepherd
Office: Research Hall 484
Office Hours: MF 11:00am – 12:00pm (or anytime by appointment)
Course Website:
Western-Civ-Fall2013-Syllabus [pdf]


Course Description:

“We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it.”
― Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

OeilHow we understand the world around us today is influenced by the “filters” or “lenses” with which we view events and experiences. This is also true of how we understand the past. History, believe it or not, is interpreted differently by each person. During this course we will look at the history of “Western Civilization” through different filters to interpret our understanding of what happened and why. We will try to determine what “Western” and “Civilization” mean. We will also learn how to look at primary and secondary sources critically, and practice creating a defined argument based on our interpretation of sources.



  1. Demonstrate a knowledge of the basic chronology of themes, people, and events in “Western Civilization”.
  2. Determine the bias or “filter” with which an historical work was written by critically analyzing primary sources.
  3. Describe themes, patterns, or processes in history with a compelling argument using primary sources.


Required Course Materials:

The Combined volume:

Backman, Clifford R. The Cultures of the West, Combined Volume: A History. 1st ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2012.

OR two separate volumes:

Backman, Clifford R. The Cultures of the West, Volume One: To 1750: A History. 1st ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2012.
Backman, Clifford R. The Cultures of the West, Volume Two: Since 1350: A History. 1st ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2012.

Other readings will be available in class or via links on the class website.



Attendance and Participation (Attendance, Discussions, Quizzes) : 30%

Timeline: 10% (Due December 6, 2013)

Objects from the Past: 20% (5% each)

Mid-term Exam: 20% (October 11, 2013)

Final Exam: 20% (December 16, 2013)



See the Assignments page for more details.


Two Classmates:

Contact Info:

Contact Info:



See Schedule Page for more details.


Important Dates:

  • Last Day to Add (Full-Semester Course): September 3, 2013
  • Last Day to Drop (Full-Semester Course): September 27, 2013
  • Selective Withdrawal Period (Full-Semester Course): September 30 - October 25, 2013
    (undergraduates only)
  • For other important dates, see here:


Course Policies


Cell phones, pagers, and other communicative devices are not allowed in this class. Please keep them stowed away and out of sight. Laptops or tablets (e.g., iPads) may be permitted for the purpose of taking notes only, but you must submit a request in writing to do so. Engaging in activities not related to the course (e.g., gaming, email, chat, etc.) will result in a significant deduction in your participation grade.

Honor Code

GMU is an Honor Code university; please see the Office for Academic Integrity for a full description of the code and the honor committee process. The principle of academic integrity is taken very seriously and violations are treated gravely. What does academic integrity mean in this course? Essentially this: when you are responsible for a task, you will perform that task. When you rely on someone else’s work in an aspect of the performance of that task, you will give full credit in the proper, accepted form. Another aspect of academic integrity is the free play of ideas. Vigorous discussion and debate are encouraged in this course, with the firm expectation that all aspects of the class will be conducted with civility and respect for differing ideas, perspectives, and traditions. When in doubt (of any kind) please ask for guidance and clarification.


If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) at 993-2474, All academic accommodations must be arranged through the ODS.


Mason uses only Mason e-mail accounts to communicate with enrolled students. Students must activate their Mason e-mail account, use it to communicate with their department and other administrative units, and check it regularly for important university information including messages related to this class.