[This is an ongoing semester-long class that will continue for 18 weeks. Students are welcome to enroll in the full 18-week series or pick-and-choose the specific classes that suit their interests.]

This class explores cross-cultural encounters in the early modern & modern world.

National boundaries often define the parameters of history textbooks and yet so many historical developments transcend such borders. Whether we examine histories of migration and population growth, resource consumption, colonialism, scientific innovations, capital flows, epidemics and pandemics, warfare, technological change, or even industrialization and urbanization, it is rare to be able to explain these patterns fully without analyzing their transnational and global dimensions. Indeed, for many of these examples working solely within the confines of the nation-state can lead to inaccurate and misleading interpretations.

The arrival of Spanish conquistadors to the Americas, Christian missionaries to Asia, and merchant sailors, geographers, soldiers, colonial settlers, and NGOs to Africa forever altered the societies that they encountered. Today many still regard the history of the so-called “non-western world” as inextricably linked to the colonial era and with the West. Europe and the United States’ place in this history are familiar to most. The history of the former colonized world, however, largely remains an elusive and peripheral domain.

This class will explore both the history of non-western societies before the colonial era and how they changed in response to encounters with local, regional, and European communities from the fifteenth century to the present. Global and imperial contact will serve as our thematic foci, providing us a means to connect the history of peoples in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe together. We will also assess how global interactions shaped the cultural and political dynamics of western and non- western societies through trade networks, migration, food, and war.

These frameworks will shape the students’ study of foundational events, issues, and perspectives during the early-modern to modern periods of world history while also connecting to current events.

This course will provide students an environment to engage critically with the history of  “non- western” peoples. We will explore how historical developments, local events, migration, and cultural interactions influenced how these societies changed over time.

This course aims to help students:
-Develop the skills to think transnationally and globally
-Demonstrate analytical and critical thinking in their conversations about global patterns and processes
-Assess the importance of the history of non-western peoples on their own merit and in relation to the West
-Evaluate the burgeoning research in the field of modern global history
-Lay the groundwork for students to conduct their own research along these lines should they be so inclined

Polyhistoria classes emphasize critical thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. We believe that students learn history best by doing what professional historians do.

(Read more about our approach to history.)

The concepts of modernity, progress, and universal history have often been identified and taught in classrooms as inherently Eurocentric. The term “Eurocentrism” denotes a world-view which, implicitly or explicitly, posits European history and values as “normal” and superior to others. Europe used to be just one corner of the world, and a fairly peripheral one in historical terms. Its philosophies, technology etc., drew heavily on the influence of Asia and Africa. But in the colonial era, Europe set itself up as the center of the world and put together an exploitative system in which other areas were treated as its periphery. This legacy still lives on today in the Eurocentric world maps which we hang in our classrooms, and in the public school curriculum of our history classes which teach the rest of the world as nothing more than Europe’s periphery. This class aims to replace the Eurocentric model of history with a broader, more global perspective.

1) Students’ cameras and microphones must be turned on during the class.
2) This class requires the continuous use of logical thinking & hypothetical reasoning skills to critically analyze the topics covered in the class. These cognitive functions are generally not sufficiently developed until a student is 13+ years old. Students must have the ability to think critically and logically to analyze the topics covered in the class.

This class is designed to include lots of interaction and discussion. Light, weekly homework assignments will be posted on the classroom wall each week for students who are interested in further learning.

[A lot of interaction in classes with more than 6 students can cause students’ computers to freeze and the video call to be dropped. Therefore, the class interaction level will be modified in classes with 6+ students because of the Zoom limitations. Larger classes will be taught in the format of an engaging lecture with moderate interaction.]

1 hour per week in class, and an estimated 0 – 1 hour per week outside of class.

Modern History, Economics, International Relations

Meets once a week for 18 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 13-17


(Aug 8)
WEEK 1: World History in a Global Age: Methods, Perspectives, and Historiography
-Reading Like A Historian
-What does it Mean to Study the History of ‘Non-Western Civilizations’?
-Gall-Peters Projection: Cartography & Social Inequality

(Aug 15)
WEEK 2: Overseas Expansion and Global Encounters
-Overseas Expansion in the Early Modern Period: Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, 1400-1600
-Maize and Grace: Africa’s Encounter with a New World Crop, Maize’s Journey to Africa

(Aug 22)
WEEK 3: Imperial Encounters: Culture, Law & Medicine
-Law & Empire, Terra Nullius
-Economy, Empire, and Slavery
-Domingos Álvarez, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World
-How The French Conquest of Algeria Was Sick With Nostalgia

(Aug 29)
WEEK 4: State, Religion, and Trade
-State and Religion: Asian, Islamic, and Christian States, 1500-1800
-The Canton Trade
-Ugandan Barkcloth, a Fabric Made From Fig Trees
-When Sipping Tea Was A Socially Ruinous Act

(Sept 5)
WEEK 5: Agriculture, Food, and Peasant/Slave Rebellions
-Seeds of Subversion in Two Peasant Empires
-Louisiana Purchase
-Haitian Slave Revolt
-Bread Riots
-Sugar Cane In The New World

(Sept 12)
WEEK 6: Women, Domesticity, and Empire
-A Groundbreaking British Doctor Who Was Almost Erased From the History Books
-A Colonial Lexicon of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility
-Literacy Instruction and Gender in the Colonies

(Sept 19)
WEEK 7: Enlightenment & Scientific Revolution
-Enlightenment and Revolution: Europe, the Americas, and India, 1650-1850
-John Locke’s Life, Liberty, …and Property?

(Sept 26)
WEEK 8: Revolution & Revolts
-Ideology, Disguise, and Resistance in Agrarian Politics
-The “Way” of Peasant Politics
-Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, & The Making of the Modern Nation-State
-The American, French, & Latin American Revolutions Compared

(Oct 3)
WEEK 9: Licit and Illicit Flows of Knowledge, Innovation & Products
-How the printing press killed Yogh “ƺ”
-Science, Commerce, and Law: The varied institutions and actors that both define and police the boundaries between legal and illegal activities
-Why Ben Franklin Risked Death To Steal Rice From Italy

(Oct 10)
WEEK 10: Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution in Africa, China, and Europe
-How Africa’s Maize Turned White
-Flag Boats, Silver, Contraband and Rice
-The Dark and Fabulous Dinner Parties of the First Professional Food Critic/Tax Lawyer

(Oct 17)
WEEK 11: World Economies and Their Origins
-The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the World Economy
-Latin American Inequality: Colonial Origins, Commodity Booms, or a Missed 20th Century Leveling?
-Opium, Empire and the Global Political Economy

(OCT 24)
WEEK 12: Commodity Chains and Continental Connections
-Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History
-Caribbean Cane Fields to English Teacups
-Does Globalization Make the World More Unequal?
-How Salt Helped Win the Civil War


(Nov 7)
WEEK 14: Nationalism in the “Western” and “Non-Western Worlds”
-What Makes A Nation?
-Meeting between von Francois and Witbooi
-Barbarism, Virtue, and Modern American Nationalism
-Cold Meat Cutlets: British Food in India
-Afghanistan, Resistance to 19th-century British Invasion

(Nov 14)
WEEK 13: Colonizers and Colonized
-Europeans in China and Curry Powder in Great Britain
-The White Man’s Burden
-Madras Curry: The British Invention of Curry
-Curry Powder: Bringing India to Britain

(Nov 21)
WEEK 15: World War I and the “Non-Western World”
-The Ottoman State and Its Non-Muslim Populations
-Memories of Senegalese Soldiers
-Syrian Congress Memorandum, 1919


(Dec 5)
WEEK 16: World War II and the “National Question”
-South African Rule, 1915-46
-Muslim Unity and Arab Unity
-Letters from Nanking
-From Colonies to Third World

(Dec 12)
WEEK 17: Post-Colonialism and the Cold War
-On Violence (The Wretched of the Earth)
-Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam
-Workers, Peasants, and the Crisis of Colonialism
-Blood of the Poppy: The Cold War and the Birth of the Afghan Narco State

(Dec 19)
WEEK 18: Globalization and Post-Colonial Encounters
-Maize as Metonym in Africa’s New Millennium
-Development and Disappointment: Social and Economic Change in an Unequal World, 1945-2000
-The Problem With International Aid
-Curry Travels the World

Thrilled by the opportunity to teach cutting-edge social science scholarship to teenagers, I leapt at the opportunity to teach classes online. I enjoy old, rare books and gardening in Colorado, where even the incompetent can have beautiful roses. In addition to teaching and gardening, I remain actively involved in competitive sports, and you are cautioned not to wager against me at the ping-pong table.

I teach ancient languages, human & political world geography, history, philosophy, economics, political science …and anything else that catches my interest.


Feel free to send me an email at crystal@polyhistoria.com


Come hang out with me on Twitter for more tidbits of interesting research, linguistic curiosities, and forgotten history.

Weekly Enrollment
$18 USD per learner, per week

(Pick-and-choose specific weeks that suit your learner’s interests and schedule.)

On Thursdays at 11am Mountain