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Social Studies Curriculum Social Studies - World History
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Course Introduction

World History addresses events and issues in world history from the earliest evidence of human existence to modern times. Whenever possible, students will be expected to make connections between historically significant events and current issues. These connections are intended to add personal relevance and deepen students’ understanding of the world today.

Topics include, but are not limited to, the Neolithic Revolution, the dawn of civilization, the development of world religions, patterns in world trade, contributions of classical civilizations, the diffusion of technology, colonization and imperialism, global conflict, modern revolutions and independence movements, and current trends in globalization.

The standards can be taught chronologically, thematically, or regionally, but are organized into chronological periods. Periodization is an organizational tool historians use to make connections and draw distinctions. Periods are flexible ways of making meaning, and may overlap chronologically.

Civic Preparation
One of the fundamental purposes for public schools is the preparation of young people for civic engagement in solving local and global problems. The future progress of our communities, state, nation, and world rests upon the preparation of young people to understand the interconnections and interactions between their local, national, and global communities in order to make reasoned and far-reaching decisions. The study of world history supports students in understanding how human and natural systems interact and connect places to each other. Historically literate students can better participate in their communities and the world in a responsible, informed and civically minded way. The skills and habits of mind that students develop as they study world history will nurture their sense civic and global awareness.

To that end, throughout this course, students should have ample opportunities to:

  • Apply historical analysis and reasoning to identify, examine, and rationalize a variety of issues facing local, national, and global communities today.
  • Consider various perspectives including political, historical, economic, cultural, and environmental aspects to analyze and explain current events.
  • Develop and demonstrate the values that sustain America’s democratic republic including open-mindedness, engagement, honesty, problem- solving, responsibility, diligence, resilience, empathy, self-control, and cooperation.

Foundational Skills of the Social Studies Disciplines
It is vital that students develop skills using the unique approaches found in the social studies disciplines. Students will use historical thinking to analyze, evaluate, and use historical evidence, including primary and secondary sources, artifacts, photographs, art, the writing of historians, historical fiction, and historical resources of other genres, such as museum exhibits and websites, to independently construct and defend in writing their interpretations of historical eras and events. They will corroborate their sources of evidence, and place their interpretations within historical contexts.

Among other elements of historical thinking, students should have opportunities to consider the concept of historical significance. Of all the events that have happened in the past, historians determine those that are significant enough for study. Led by their teachers, students should have opportunities to consider and discuss the relative significance of diverse events.

Further, students should develop skills associated with the disciplines of geography, political science, and economics, most notably the ability to construct arguments using the evidence, texts, and tools valued within each discipline. These skills are embedded within the standards in places that seem particularly appropriate. However, local educational agencies and/or teachers can use their discretion to integrate skill instruction in a manner that meets local needs.

A Note on the Organization of the Utah Standards in All Core Areas
Utah standards are organized into strands, which represent significant areas of learning within content areas. Depending on the core area, these strands may be designated by time periods, thematic principles, modes of practice, or other organizing principles.

Within each strand are standards. A standard is an articulation of the demonstrated proficiency to be obtained. A standard represents the essential element of the learning that is expected. While some standards within a strand may be more comprehensive than others, all standards are essential for mastery of the content and skills.


Core Standards of the Course


(Ca. 150,000 B.C.E.–1,000 B.C.E.)

The advent of farming, sometimes referred to as the Neolithic Revolution, changed the world in profound ways. The transition from procuring to producing food altered the genetic structure of plants and animals. Some societies became sedentary. Inequalities between individuals and societies grew. Land ownership became more important. Specialization and trade became possible. Large-scale warfare became more common. Written records were needed. The changes that resulted from farming created a substantially different world, leading to the formation of the first civilizations and shaping world history.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

WH Standard 1.1:
Students will analyze the differences and interactions between sedentary farmers, pastoralists, and hunter-gatherers.

WH Standard 1.2:
Students will use geographic concepts to explain the factors that led to the development of civilization, and compare and contrast the environmental impact of civilizations, pastoralists, and hunter-gatherers.

WH Standard 1.3:
Students will use artifacts and early written records to make inferences about the significance of technological development and diffusion, including writing, in Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus River civilization, and the Huang He (Yellow) River civilization.

WH Standard 1.4:
Students will compare life before and after the Neolithic Revolution and cite the most significant effects of that revolution on the development of civilization(s).


(Ca. 1000 B.C.E.–900 C.E.)

The classical civilizations of the Mediterranean (Egypt, ancient Israel, Greece, and Rome), Persia, China, India, and other regions have had a significant impact on global belief systems, legal systems, governments, culture, and social systems. Some developed vast empires, consolidating government power in revolutionary and influential structures. Emerging contacts between civilization centers began the diffusion of ideas and technologies. Classical civilizations rose and fell under remarkably similar circumstances, exhibiting global patterns.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

WH Standard 2.1:
Students will identify and explain patterns in the development and diffusion and syncretism of world religions and philosophies, including Judaism, Hinduism, Greek philosophy, Confucianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.

WH Standard 2.2:
Students will use primary sources to identify patterns in the stratification of social and gender structures across classical civilizations.

WH Standard 2.3:
Students will make evidence-based inferences about the cultural values of classical civilizations, using artistic expressions of various genres as primary sources.

WH Standard 2.4:
Students will explain the impact of early trans-regional trade on the diffusion of religion, ideas, technology, and other aspects of culture.

WH Standard 2.5:
Students will construct an argument for the significant and enduring political, economic, technological, social, or other cultural contributions of classical civilizations.


(Ca. 500 C.E.–1450 C.E.)

The collapse of classical civilizations ushered in an era of unprecedented connection, sometimes referred to as the post-classical period. The fall of some civilizations opened opportunities for the growth of others, most notably the Islamic world. This era brought increasing oceanic and land trade in trans-regional networks. Civilization spread from its traditional centers as powerful states emerged in Japan, the Asian steppes, Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia, and other locations. In spite of their relative isolations, civilizations flourished in the Americas. Mongol conquerors linked many centers of civilization in unprecedented ways.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

WH Standard 3.1:
Students will use patterns in trade and settlement to explain how geographic features such as the Indian Ocean, the Saharan Desert, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Strait of Malacca, and the Mediterranean Sea supported or impeded trade.

WH Standard 3.2:
Students will evaluate historians’ interpretations regarding the patterns in the development of civilizations in the Americas compared to other places in the world.

WH Standard 3.3:
Students will evaluate the long-term effects of the Mongol conquest, such as the diffusion of ideas, technologies, and diseases.

WH Standard 3.4:
Students will explain the social, political, religious, technological, and economic changes in medieval Europe that created a context for later European colonization.

WH Standard 3.5:
Students will identify patterns in the diffusion of technology, writing, religion, political systems, and other elements of civilization, using case studies such as the Chinese impact on Japan, the Arab impact on Mali, the Byzantine impact on Russia, the Roman impact on Europe, and the Olmec impact on later American civilizations.


(Ca. 1400 C.E.–1750 C.E.)

During what is sometimes referred to as the early modern period, the balance of global power shifted toward Europe. Europeans gained increasing control of international trade routes. European exploration led to the inclusion of the formerly isolated Americas and Oceanic regions in global systems. Global connections brought drastic environmental and social changes. Maritime and land empires were formed not just by Europeans, but by Turkish, American, and Chinese states, creating enduring patterns of colonization. Societies that previously had little contact with civilization centers were no longer isolated. The world seemed to become smaller as global integration, diplomacy, and world trade became more complex. In response, new ways of understanding the world emerged.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

WH Standard 4.1:
Students will compare the development of Europe’s maritime empires with land-based empires such as those of the Ottoman Turks, Chinese, and Russians.

WH Standard 4.2:
Students will develop an interpretation of whether the ideas embodied in movements such as the Renaissance, the Reformation, scientific revolution, and Enlightenment led to a changing balance of world power.

WH Standard 4.3:
Students will describe the complex cultures of indigenous societies, such as those in Polynesia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, and the Americas.

WH Standard 4.4:
Students will analyze the long-term effects of the Columbian Exchange.

WH Standard 4.5:
Students will compile and corroborate primary sources as evidence to explain the impact of global exchange and colonization.


(Ca. 1750 C.E.–1914 C.E.)

The era between 1750 and 1914 was filled with scientific, industrial, intellectual, cultural, technological, and political revolutions. The Industrial Revolution raised the standard of living for many, but also expanded inequalities between and within nations. New ideas about the role of government and national identities led to political innovation, with revolutions and independence movements occurring in North America, Latin America, and France. Elsewhere, earlier trends in colonization continued and intensified, with colonial empires integrating nearly all societies. Human migration occurred on a massive scale as demographic trends shifted, slavery declined, and industrialized centers demanded workers.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

WH Standard 5.1:
Students will identify the cause-and-effect relationships between absolutism, nationalism, and the political and social revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries.

WH Standard 5.2:
Students will analyze the underlying and immediate causes and the immediate and long-term effects of the Industrial Revolution on nations that industrialized versus those that did not.

WH Standard 5.3:
Students will use a variety of data to identify push and pull factors affecting migration during the Industrial Revolution.

WH Standard 5.4:
Students will use primary sources and evidence to evaluate the influence of leading intellectual movements such as realism, romanticism, capitalism, nationalism, and Marxism.

WH Standard 5.5:
Students will compare and contrast the long-term effects of imperialism on a global scale.

WH Standard 5.6:
Students will identify the key ideas and characteristics of current political, economic, and intellectual revolutions such as a contemporary revolution, a social movement, or an independence movement.


(Ca. 1914 C.E.–1989 C.E.)

Conditions introduced in earlier centuries led to total and industrialized war on a global scale in the 20th century. A global economic depression demonstrated the interconnectedness of nations and their colonies. Extremism led to genocides on an unprecedented scale. Intellectuals and artists attempted to make sense of the changing world. European colonies in Africa and Many African and Latin American nations struggled to free themselves from the legacies of imperialism within the context of the Cold War. The postwar era saw early shifts in power to two superpowers.

(Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

WH Standard 6.1:
Students will identify cause and effect relationships between World War I, the global Great Depression, and World War II.

WH Standard 6.2:
Students will identify and compare patterns and tactics of othering and demonization that are evident in selected genocides in the 20th century.

WH Standard 6.3:
Students will explain the political ideas at the heart of decolonization, independence movements, and the formation of new political systems, such as liberation theology, civil disobedience, autonomy, separatist movements, and pan-Africanism.

WH Standard 6.4:
Students will use primary and other sources to contextualize and explain the intellectual and artistic responses to global conflict and economic instability, such as conservatism, cubism, fascism, liberalism, self-determination, socialism, surrealism, and new forms of music.

WH Standard 6.5:
Students will use case studies to identify the reach and implications of the Cold War for daily life, such as the Vietnam War, the Great Leap Forward, the Berlin Wall, East and West Germany, NATO, the Warsaw Pact,proxy wars, music, culture, and the Olympics.

WH Standard 6.6:
Students will make a case for the most significant social, political, and economic consequences of 20th century global conflicts and crises, such as human migration, genocide, poverty, epidemics, the creation of social welfare systems, the rise of dictators, the nuclear arms race, and human rights violations.


(Ca. 1990 C.E.–Present)

The proximity of the recent past can make it difficult to see patterns or to identify the most significant events; however, many of the trends evident throughout history continue in the contemporary world. Recent history has seen greater globalization with the formation of worldwide organizations, multinational corporations and a global culture. New threats such as terrorism, compounded by the struggles of unstable governments, demographic trends, and environmental catastrophes create humanitarian crises. Technological development, industrialization in new areas, and new farming technologies (i.e., the Green Revolution) provide hope for solutions to pressing global problems.

Possible Guiding Questions to Consider:

WH Standard 7.1:
Students will evaluate the role of global organizations, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), multi-national corporations, military alliances, and other international civic and political institutions within the increasingly global culture of the world.

WH Standard 7.2:
Students will use a variety of evidence, including quantitative data, to evaluate the social and environmental impacts of modern demographic trends, particularly population changes, urbanization, and migration.

WH Standard 7.3:
Students will identify international human rights issues, seek and evaluate solutions, and share their ideas with appropriate public and/or private stakeholders.

WH Standard 7.4:
Students will identify a pressing global problem and select the most promising political, technological, medical, or scientific advances being created to address those problems.

UEN logo - in partnership with Utah State Board of Education (USBE) and Utah System of Higher Education (USHE).  Send questions or comments to USBE Specialist - Robert Austin and see the Social Studies website. For general questions about Utah's Core Standards contact the Director - DIANA SUDDRETH .  

These materials have been produced by and for the teachers of the State of Utah. Copies of these materials may be freely reproduced for teacher and classroom use. When distributing these materials, credit should be given to Utah State Board of Education. These materials may not be published, in whole or part, or in any other format, without the written permission of the Utah State Board of Education, 250 East 500 South, PO Box 144200, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-4200.