Middle Eastern Inter-connectivity lesson planApril 26, 2010
One of things that really struck me about them was the linkages between them. This seems an obvious point – of course their histories were inter- linked, they were in the same part of the world!
But actually, history is often taught as if, say, Ancient Egypt was an isolated phenomenon, whose links were entirely with what came after – the Ancient Greeks and so on. In fact, Egypt had a huge impact on contemporary Palestine (Moses is as good an Ancient Egyptian name as you’ll get), and on Syria (the port of Byblos was for a thousand years virtually an Egyptian appendage); and Egypt itself was caught up in such great waves of Middle Eastern history as the expansion of the nomadic Amorites, the invasions of the Sea Peoples, the rise of the great empires of Assyria, Babylon and Persia, and so on.
This interplay of different areas a) influencing other areas, and b) being influenced by them, is intriguing.
Here's an outline of a lesson plan that could be used to demonstrate this:
Select one of the areas of the ancient Middle East (which are, from east to west, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Palestine, Anatolia, and Egypt, and then Arabia to the south. If there’s a group of students, each student or small group could take a different area.)
Draw a timeline (I’m not keen on timelines by themselves, but they can be quite useful in student exercises), and on it place the major events in the selected area’s history. Then colour in red those periods and events in which your area is being influenced by other areas (by trade, conquest, colonization, cultural transmision etc); and colour in blue those periods or events in which your area is itself influencing other areas.
(I'll have to find a more elegant way of saying this when I come to write this up as a lesson plan.)
What you’ll find is that every area (apart, perhaps from Arabia, at least before AD 500) have phases when they’re influenc-ing, and other times they're being influence-ed.
Having traced these linkages, it would then be interesting to ask – why does a region sometimes have an impact on its neighbours, and at other times is itself impacted upon by them? Is it that a “great man/invention/architectural design” randomly appears? Or are there deeper factors at work?
How does their geography help answer this question?
In thinking about some of these points, students will begin to see how linkages between areas aren’t marginal to their story. Very often, they ARE the story. The spread of city life…of writing…of the alphabet…of iron tools and weapons; the muddling of whole populations by the rise and fall of empires; the step-by-step progress or regress that all these changes entailed – all these changes shaped the history of the ancient Middle East, and the world, and all were dependent upon the links between the various areas which make up this region.
And probably every other region ... but that's for another day.
By Peter Britton