Traditions and Encounters
“Traditions and Encounters: A Brief History” is a historical book authored by Jerry H. Bentley and Herbert F. Ziegler. It was published in 2006 and has 456 pages that provide a chronological account of global cultures and events that have shaped world history. Bentley and Ziegler have co-authored a series of books referred to as Traditions and Encounters, which give a sequential unfolding of events in the world history arranged in parts where each part carries a number of chapters to make up one book. Jerry Bentley is a professor at the University of Hawaii and the senior editor of the “Journal of World History”.His literal works that include “Politics and Culture in Renaissance Naples” (Princeton, 1987), “Shapes of World History in Twentieth-Century Scholarship” (Washington, D.C., 1996) among others, discuss the historiography of global history (“university of Hawaii press”n.p).
Ziegler on the other hand is an associate professor in the University of Hawaii and has been largely involved in the twentieth-century European social and political history. He authored Nazi Germany’s New Aristocracy (1990) and served as an editor at the “Journal of World History(“university of Hawaii press” n.p).”“Traditions and Encounters: A Brief History” contains six chapters that highlight the Early Complex societies that existed between 3500 to 500 B.C.E. The authors narrate how some cultures came to exist and spread across the world, their demographic trends, economic, and social developments that they have achieved. In light of this, this paper provides an analytical review of the book “Traditions and Encounters: A Brief History” highlighting the major issues discussed and critiquing the authors’ work.
To begin with, the book asserts that people used to live in tiny communities without permanent homes until around 12,000 years ago when they began experimenting with agriculture. The first chapter documents how people moved from hunting in gathering during the Paleolithic era (Old Stone Age)to cultivation of crops in Neolithic (New Stone Age) era. There was significant agricultural revolution where people domesticated world animals and cultivated crops as early as 9000 BCE (Bentley and Ziegler 12). They also invented tools that were used to till and prepare crops using stones. Availability of food led to a steady population growth and a grouped and organized way of living resulting in permanent communities. Most of them settled in the river banks as the steady supply of water enabled them to irrigate their crops. Bentley and Ziegler refer to this as The River-Valley Civilization that was characterized by irrigation systems, legal codes, and art and written literature. The second chapter speaks of the early societies in South-West Asia and Indo-European.
During the river-valley civilization, one of the earliest settlements was the Mesopotamian society in South-West Asia where agriculture was invented. Due to population increase, several cities had been formed in the society with systemized governance. According to Bentley and Ziegler, Gilgamesh, the fifth king of the city Uruk, is by far the best known individual of the ancient Mesopotamian society. He led his city to war with the neighboring city of Kish resulting to inventions of conflict resolution mechanisms. States were created and as population continued to grow, people migrated to other geographical locations inter-marrying with the locals, which led to the spread of people in South-West Asia and Indo-European areas.
The close proximity between Mesopotamia and Egypt led to the spread of agriculture and social organization in Africa. After 9,000 BCE, Sudanese domesticated cattle and cultivated grains such as sorghum. On the other hand, Bantu speakers of the sub-Saharan Africa were situated in the modern day Nigeria and Cameroon. They settled on river banks where they navigated on canoes and grew crops. They were referred to as “pygmies” or “forest people who spread though the Congo Forest, breaking into more than 500 distinct but related tongues and occupied almost half of the southern part of Africa(Bentley and Ziegler 273). The Eastern Asia mainly comprised of Chinese who domesticated rise as early as 5000BCE. The conducted their agricultural activities alongside the Yangzi river valley and yellow river valley. Due to their population, they broke into various dynasties that precedent the hereditary monarchical rule. During the ice ages, glaciers locked the world with bridges that people could link across continents. As a result, people migrated from Asia to Central America due to unfavorable climatically conditions that did not favor agriculture. There was plenty of rain, which means they no longer required irrigation in growing crops. They reached Hawaii in the early century CE, and Easter Island by 300 CE, and the large islands of New Zealand by 700 CE(Bentley and Ziegler 374).
The above summary provides a succinct discussion of what Bentley and Ziegler documents in their book. Significantly, the book embraces a chronological flow of events in showing how cultures began and spread across the globe. There is a connection that the reader finds after reading this book. For instance,the proximity between Mesopotamia, where agriculture was discovered, Africa, and South-West Asia explains why agriculture and social organization spread fast in these areas. The arrangement of the text and choice of words enhances the readability of this book. It begins with a pre-history of how people used to live before inventing agricultureup-to the formation of political structures and migration to various parts of the world. The author chooses light words that the reader does not struggle in fathoming their meaning. The main purpose is to ensure that the audience manages to understand their meaning and does not find the text boring(Booth, and Kelly 475). Similarly, the authorship of this book is characterized by an array of literal stylistic devices. For example, Bentley and Ziegler employ the use of formal tone and somber mood within the entire text. This means they avoid the use of satire and irony in explaining the emergence of world history. More so, the embrace facts by citing the source of their information; for instance, The Yangshao society (5000-3000 BCE) was discovered in 1952 in modern Xi-an excavations at the site, Nampo.
The book employs the third-person narration, which is effective in narrating historical events (Booth and Kelly 476). It enhances imagery, which ensures that the reader depicts the events that he or she is getting from the text. Imagery is overly used in the text; for example, Harappan society used a system of writing in which four hundred symbols represented sounds and words… A reader will try to imagine the type of written literature used by this society. Convincingly, the book manages to give the reader an insight of how people managed to evolve from foragers to cultivators. Similarly, the author explicitly explains the role of agriculture in influencing how people lived during this era. It shows how agricultural revolution played role in early civilization and migration across the globe. Therefore, the book “Traditions and Encounters: A Brief History” is a good read that helps in explaining the world’s ancient history.
Bentley, Jerry H, Rose M. Sheldon, Jerry H. Bentley, and Herbert F. Ziegler. Student Study Guide for Use with Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. Boston: McGrow-Hill, 2006. Print.
Booth, Alison, and Kelly J. Mays, eds. “Theme and Tone.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, Portable 10th ed. New York: Norton, 2010. 475-6. Print
“University of Hawaii press”.Journal of world history. 2006. 17(4)