What is World History?

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What is World History?

Post by Shorts are comfy and easy to wear » Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:27 am

I began thinking about this question during my most recent rereading of CMST upon reading the following toss up:
According to Matthew Paris, a king of this modern-day country rejected a letter by King John in 1213 seeking an alliance and promptly expelled English envoys. The Mensagem (“men-SAH-zhem”) helped popularize the belief that a monarch killed in this modern-day country would return to lead a Fifth Empire, an event that Canudos (“kuh-NOO-doosh”) leader Antônio Conselheiro (“cone-sell-YAY-roo”) claimed to predict. The Treaty of Zamora secured the independence of one kingdom after it won the Battle of Ourique (“oh-REEK”) against a state based in this country. Ferdinand the Holy Prince was captured and killed following a battle in this country against its (*) Marinid dynasty. The Iberian Union was formed after Sebastian I of Portugal was killed in this country during a battle between “three kings” at Ksar El Kebir. A sultanate from this country was defeated by a Christian alliance at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. For 10 points, the Battle of Tangiers was fought in what African country, whose Almohad Caliphate opposed the Reconquista? ANSWER: Kingdom of Morocco [or al-Mamlakah al-Maghribiyah; or Tageldit n Lmaɣrib]
<RD, World History>
For the most part, I like the idea behind and the execution of this toss up. However, I would not call it "world" history. The lead-in has a Moroccan as an active agent, but this clue is something that would be more likely known through study of English history (particularly because the story comes from an English chronicler) than Moroccan history. The remainder of the question is either about what Europeans did in Morocco and the impacts of those actions in Europe or how the actions of Moroccans affected Europeans. If we were to create a definition of world history from this question, the stage (Morocco), but not the actors (Europeans), dictates what does and does not qualify. History is not the land's story, but the people's, and if this question were labeled by whose story it is telling, it should have been called European history.

I must admit that my analysis of this question is cherry-picked support for my gut feeling that quiz bowl is not defining "world" properly in its history distribution; I haven't extensively surveyed the canon and I am biased towards non-Western history. However, it has been pointed out numerous times that quiz bowl, as a game played and created by people from the West, is fundamentally and necessarily biased towards its own culture. This is exactly why a definition of what is "world history" is important. With only 1/1 per standard packet, the space to explore the history of the majority of the world is very limited and should be used for that purpose.

I don't think there is a clear-cut divide between what is and is not world history, particularly in more recent times as the world has become more integrated. The best metric I can think of is whether the majority of the question clues, and rewards knowledge of, the actions of/effects on non-Western cultures. We need to be cognizant of who we are representing in our questions and how best we can represent the world's diversity in the restricted space accessibility allows.
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Mon Oct 29, 2018 9:00 am

You may be very interested in the debate we recently had on the Theory board, where some of these same issues were discussed

viewtopic.php?f=117&t=21597
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Re: What is World History?

Post by ErikC » Mon Oct 29, 2018 10:48 am

I'd agree with the idea that this specific tossup should have been reclassified European history for the reasons you stated - but would this also apply to questions about the colonization of sub-Saharan Africa? Morocco has had a very different relationship with Europe than Nigeria or Senegal has. Would every question partially or fully about European powers involving themselves in other continents be European history? Would it need to be mostly or entirely about native actors?

Also, I'd like to point out that Canadian history was classified as European history in Penn Bowl, so I'm sure the above tossup could be too. Morocco happens to be very close so it's much easier to do so without being absurd as calling Canada a European country.
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Cheynem » Mon Oct 29, 2018 11:35 am

I should note that while I think more "colonial driven" history for the world history portion of the distro might be necessary for lower level difficulties, at something like CMST, which is regular plus, I think Alex is correct in that the world history should reward less European focused knowledge.
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Tom Hill » Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:53 pm

Is it just me, or is anyone else a little irritated by a question on 'Morocco' where the clues are mainly about the Almoravids and Almohads? Yes, both dynasties originated in modern-day Morocco, but the polities they ruled extended far beyond its modern boundaries, and the rulers were fairly itinerant. In the first clue, Matthew Paris refers to the ruler in question as "the king of all Africa" (something like that, cba to find the reference), and if the story is true, the envoys would have been received at Seville, where the Caliph Muhammad al-Nasir was at the time. Incidentally, a Caliph (i.e. claiming universal authority over Muslims) is certainly not the same as a "king of Morocco". (Also - while I'm at it, the giveaway correctly refers to the Almohad Caliphate, but the previous line incorrectly calls it a sultanate).

I suppose if I were playing this I'd probably have made the logical jump and given the right answer, but after a least a few seconds of sitting there confused (despite knowing that passage in Matthew Paris, which surely ought to be worth a first line buzz). You wouldn't write a question on 'Turkey' from clues about the Byzantine Empire.

I know I'm just harping on about a particular question here, but it seems to me that similar problems probably often affect world history writing (especially pre-modern). The tossups have to be broad in scope to be accessible, but that risks them becoming fraught with imprecision.
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:37 pm

Tom Hill wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 12:53 pm
Is it just me, or is anyone else a little irritated by a question on 'Morocco' where the clues are mainly about the Almoravids and Almohads? Yes, both dynasties originated in modern-day Morocco, but the polities they ruled extended far beyond its modern boundaries, and the rulers were fairly itinerant. In the first clue, Matthew Paris refers to the ruler in question as "the king of all Africa" (something like that, cba to find the reference), and if the story is true, the envoys would have been received at Seville, where the Caliph Muhammad al-Nasir was at the time. Incidentally, a Caliph (i.e. claiming universal authority over Muslims) is certainly not the same as a "king of Morocco". (Also - while I'm at it, the giveaway correctly refers to the Almohad Caliphate, but the previous line incorrectly calls it a sultanate).

I suppose if I were playing this I'd probably have made the logical jump and given the right answer, but after a least a few seconds of sitting there confused (despite knowing that passage in Matthew Paris, which surely ought to be worth a first line buzz). You wouldn't write a question on 'Turkey' from clues about the Byzantine Empire.

I know I'm just harping on about a particular question here, but it seems to me that similar problems probably often affect world history writing (especially pre-modern). The tossups have to be broad in scope to be accessible, but that risks them becoming fraught with imprecision.

I guess this begets a pretty interesting question: what is Morocco? The Arabic name for Morocco is literally "al-Maghrib," which is the same word that provides English with the word Maghreb. So, in a sense, this question has a degree of validity in that there has generally been one particular state that has dominated the place referred to as "al-Maghrib" at most times throughout history (the Alaouite kingdom in particular for the past several centuries) in contrast to the large number of semi-independent cities and principalities to its east. However, there's a complication in that the term "Maghreb" can also be used to refer to the entire region of Islamic North Africa west of Egypt.

In general, however, I agree with Tom's criticism. What's the point of asking this question with "Morocco" as the answerline? The Almohads and Almoravids are both plenty difficulty-appropriate as answers. I guess if you really want to ask about both you can do this, but I'm not really sure what that accomplishes.
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Tom Hill » Mon Oct 29, 2018 2:50 pm

Ah, I didn't actually know that modern Morocco is 'al-Maghrib' in Arabic - thanks for pointing that out Will. As it happens, my own research has meant I've read more about those cities to the east (Carthage, Mahdia, Bejaia), all of which are frequently + casually referred to as part of the 'Maghreb' by European scholars - which probably added to my confusion.

I think this essentially supports my basic point though - that over the course of centuries the words 'Morocco' and 'Maghreb' have meant different things to different people (and Matthew Paris may never have heard either!). For me it's not so much about the technical legitimacy of the question as its playability - you could write a tossup on 'Germany' clueing entirely from Salian Emperors, but it seems unnecessary to do so. As Will says, a tossup in this case on the Almoravids/Almohads would just feel crisper and cleaner.
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Shorts are comfy and easy to wear » Tue Oct 30, 2018 2:21 am

I think questions on European colonialism could be justifiably categorized as either world or European, but ideally the writer/editor would choose clues that fit the distribution they choose to put it in.

Much of the discussion I wanted to generate has already happened in the thread Bruce linked, but I think its worth considering how eliminating subdistributions, as Bruce brought up in that thread, might affect the diversity of representation. I agree with him that this would make my original question invalid and that a well-edited set with diverse topics can be made with either system. However, I think that an overt reminder to write on non-Western topics is beneficial to ensure that they aren't underrepresented, intentionally or unintentionally.
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Skepticism and Animal Feed » Tue Oct 30, 2018 4:35 pm

Re: the Morocco thing

If I were writing a tossup on Morocco and wished to use clues on medieval dynasties that roughly originated in Morocco, I would probably begin the tossup with "One dynasty that originated in this modern-day country won the battle of so-and-so", followed by stuff like "one ruler born in this modern-day country had a vizier named so-and-so" and "one castle in this modern-day country was called this nickname by some famous person". Point being, I'd constantly repeat the phase "this modern day country" to make it clear that I am looking for the name of a modern-day country, cognizant of the fact that borders change and many modern countries would be meaningless to a medieval person etc.

The benefit to writing a tossup on "Morocco" rather than "Almohad Dynasty", of course, is that the answerline is more accessible and further that it allows you to bring in clues from those more obscure Moroccan dynasties you wish were better represented without making the answerline impossible.
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Cheynem » Tue Oct 30, 2018 5:03 pm

This is especially true for lower level difficulties in which you would not do a tossup on on the specific dynasty (or, for that matter, if you just want to include a greater variety of clues).
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Shorts are comfy and easy to wear » Tue Jan 01, 2019 11:48 pm

What about questions on non-Western ethnic groups in Western countries? Following my previous logic, these would be world history, but I have trouble thinking about a toss up on Japanese-Americans as anything but American history. I think the disjunction comes from whether the emigrants want to join the culture of their new home; most immigrants to Western countries have moved to find what they believe will be a better life, while Western colonizers largely disdained local cultures.
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Re: What is World History?

Post by Cheynem » Wed Jan 02, 2019 1:27 am

Yeah, a lot of this just comes down to what the tossup focuses on. This might be clearer if we take a different approach--you could do a tossup on a "world" topic (Japan...Somalia...Iraq...Afghanistan...China) that is just an American history tossup because all the clues relate to American actions there or whatnot.
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