The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began

Online Seminar

Course Title:
The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began

Valerie Hansen

Section 1 Dates:
Wednesdays at 3:30 - 5 p.m. eastern
October 14 - November 11, 2020

Section 2 Dates:
Mondays at 4:30 - 6 p.m. eastern
October 12 - November 9, 2020

Course Description

People often think that the years immediately prior to AD 1000 were, with just a few exceptions, lacking in any major cultural developments or encounters, that Europeans hadn’t yet reached North America, and that the farthest feat of sea travel was the Vikings’ invasion of Britain. But how, then, to explain the presence of blond-haired people in Maya temple murals at Chichén Itzá, Mexico? Is it possible that the Vikings had found their way to the Americas during the height of the Maya empire?

In fact, the year 1000 was the world’s first point of major cultural exchange and exploration. We begin our journey with the Vikings who crossed from Scandinavia to Iceland, Greenland, and finally landed in Canada just around that time (and we’ll talk about the possibility that they reached the Yucatan Peninsula as well). We travel with a second group of Norse, the Rus, who traveled across Eastern Europe and introduced Christianity to today’s Ukraine. At this time, Islam spread into Central Asia and Africa, just as Buddhism and Hinduism moved into Southeast Asia. We conclude with the most globalized place on earth: Song-dynasty China and its trade partners in Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia. Throughout the class, we’ll be debating whether globalization is the right term for the changes taking place around 1000.

Each week we’ll read one or two chapters from my new book, The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World—and Globalization Began. In class we’ll discuss key passages from different primary sources in translation that I’ll distribute each week (usually around 20 pages). In addition, I’ll talk briefly about various works of fiction, some written around the year 1000, others examples of well-researched historical fiction. I don’t expect you to read them before that week’s class—unless you’re inspired to jump in—but I hope that you might decide to read them after the course ends.

Information Links

Valerie Hansen
  • About the Professor

Valerie Hansen

Valerie Hansen teaches Chinese and world history. Particularly interested in the history of the Silk Road, she is the author of The Silk Road: A New History with Documents, published in 2016 (an expanded version of her 2012 book). Her most recent book, entitled The World in the Year 1000: When Globalization Began (published in April 2020), explores what happened when the different peoples around the world realized for the first time that they had neighbors and had to decide how to react. Specifically, it examines the people and goods that traveled from one region of the world to another in the five centuries before Columbus. She travels to East Asia frequently, teaching at Yale's joint undergraduate program with Peking University in both 2008-09 and 2011-12, at Yale-NUS in Singapore in fall 2015, and at Xiamen University in Fujian, China, in fall 2016.

Syllabus & Required Readings

Week 1:
The Norse in North America

Assigned Readings: Chapters 2 and 3 of The Year 1000;
Primary source readings: The Vinland Sagas; (if you have time, read the two sagas and note the key differences. The introduction is less important but still valuable).
Optional fiction: Beowulf (Sean Heaney translation), Paul Kingsworth, The Wake

Week 2:
The Norse in Eastern Europe and the Spread of World Religions

Assigned Readings: Chapter 4 of The Year 1000;
Primary source readings:  PDF available on course page, "Year 1000 Week 2 Russian Primary Chronicle".
Optional fiction: A. B. Yehosha, Journey to the End of the Millennium

Week 3:
The Islamic World

Assigned Readings: Chapter 5 of The Year 1000;
Primary source readings: PDF available on course page, "Year 1000 Week 3 Al-Bakri reading".
Optional fiction: Shahnameh (Dick Davis translation); Amin Maalouf, Samarkand

Week 4:
Voyages in the Indian and Pacific Oceans

Assigned Readings: Chapter 6 of The Year 1000;
Primary source readings: Steve Thomas, The Last Navigator
Optional fiction: Dennis Washburn (trans.) The Tale of Genji

Week 5:
Song-dynasty China and Its Trade Partners in Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia

Assigned Readings: Chapters 7 and 8 of The Year 1000;
Primary source readings: Chau Ju-kua (now spelled Zhao Rugua), On the Chinese and Arab Trade in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries: entry #23 Mecca, #24 Zanguebar (Zanzibar), #25 Berbera Coast, #26 Sohar, #27 Somali Coast pp. 124-132. The book is available online via this link.
Artwork: The Qingming Scroll (Video). If you have time, please watch.

Required Reading(s):
The Year 1000: When Explorers Connected the World -- and Globalization Began - $20.49 -
The Vinland Sagas (Penguin Classics) - $13.18 -
The Last Navigator: A Young Man, an Ancient Mariner, the Secrets of the Sea - $18.99 -

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Info Accordions

Yale Alumni Academy’s Virtual Seminars meet weekly on Zoom for five, 90-minute sessions. Enrollment is limited to 20 participants. This small group format thrives on a sense of intellectual collegiality, including sharing our backgrounds and the curiosities that we bring to this course. Online courses are primarily synchronous, with live sessions focused on discussion and interactive exchange amongst faculty and fellow participants. 

Outside readings and other multi-media course materials enhance the learning experience and can be accessed via the private course website hosted on Yale’s Canvas learning platform. Participants will receive a training on the online tools, and technical support will be available throughout the program. To join the course, you will need a computer or tablet with a video camera and a high-speed internet connection. 

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