Study Assignment 7

Historical Rehabilitation
            Sometimes a person’s understanding of history, especially the history of people far away in space and time, is the product of powerful stereotypes or recurring images that often go unchallenged. Sometimes these ideas have some solid grounding in facts, sometimes they show only one side of a more complex story, and sometimes they are completely mythical. Inaccuracies can be caused by honest mistakes, conscious lies, wishful thinking, or manipulative propaganda. They can emerge just as often from lack of evidence or an error reproduced over and over again, and sometimes they live on for their inspirational value or the fact they make a good story (for example, George Washington chopping down a cherry tree or J. Edgar Hoover wearing a dress.) Often these conceptions fit within a framework of good and evil, with the heroes and villains clearly marked for your convenience.
            Choosing ONE of the following impressions and explain how historical evidence from this week’s readings (and/or any other reliable sources) can shed light on the historical accuracy of this impression. You will find previous chapters of the book useful as well. Note the ways in which these are accurate as well as inaccurate snapshots. Also, explain (or speculate on) some reasons for any inaccuracies.
For this paper, you should still stick to the pre-1500 history. This is not asking about how stereotypes compare to present-day Africa or Mongolia.
Your analysis should be in the form of a short paper (2-3 pages worth of double-spaced text).
Impressions (choose one):
1. Genghis Khan as a destructive invader.
2. Africa as a place of poverty and unstable states.
3. Africans as highly traditional: “living the way they have for thousands of years.”
4. Europeans introducing Christianity and slave trade as entirely new things to Africa.