Get up and Goals!

Geo-history textbook - UK

Tuesday, 04 February 2020

Welcome to the UK version of the Global History of Humanity

The purpose of this textbook

You have in front of you a History textbook for secondary level education that provides four things:

  • a comprehensive sweep of world history, within three linked volumes; 
  • a set of four lenses with which to view historical events; 
  • critical commentary on world events (both historical and modern) 
  • supporting tasks and activities, which enhance students’ understanding of History and global citizenship education. 

This book is part of the European Union’s Get up and Goals Project, which aims to provide materials for schools on gender, international inequality, climate change and migration, and to further Sustainable Development Goal 4:7, Quality Education for All.

This introduction will provide a summary of how this book serves History teachers and students, and how it can support the History curriculum in the four regions of the United Kingdom. 


Overview of A Global History of Humanity

The book is divided into three volumes. Volume One covers 70,000 BCE to 1000CE; Volume Two the centuries from 1000 to 1870 CE; and Volume Three from 1870 CE to the present day. As explained in the general introduction, ‘This textbook covers the history of humanity, from homo sapiens’ departure from Africa, to the twenty-first century. The first volume focuses on the expansion of frontiers, starting with the agricultural frontier that created empires and cities.’ The book tracks human migration and development in this early period; in Volumes two and three, (which match more closely to the History curriculum in the UK), this continues with a focus on social development and economic activity, and the impact this has had on human life and the planet.

The book is global in scope. This provides insights into historical events in a global context, rather than in isolation. However, as well as linking events on all continents in a given era, this book provides a set of lenses on world history through several themes. These are: Humans change Nature (colour code green); Humans on the Move (colour code orange); Social Organisation and Inequality (colour code purple); and Worldviews (colour code red). 

By taking a global view of world history, subject matter such as slavery, or empires, or the Cold War are revisited through the four main themes above. This means that although the teacher or student may not gain detailed knowledge of world events such as the Second World War (as may be found in an existing History text book), fresh insights will be given to these topics. Other supporting themes flow through the book: that of frontiers – how humans learned to exist at and move frontiers, both physically in their expansion across the globe, but also in technology and social development; the theme of subaltern, or subordination, which scrutinises the choices and events which have led to the social inequality we see in the world today; and how belief systems emerged to justify the actions of the powerful, and then served as a bolster to maintain their power.

The benefits of the four main organisational themes are that events in world history are viewed, and reviewed, from diverse perspectives. For example, through the theme of Social organisation and Inequality, the changing roles and gradual exclusion of women is tracked through the book, showing how over millennia women were marginalised from public life on many continents, and how they have struggled to return to a more equal role. Humans on the Move enables the student to understand Migration as part of the human condition, and the rich diversity of communities that results from this wandering. The focus on Worldviews helps the student understand how social, political and religious perspectives accelerated the impact of events, both positively and negatively. The focus on Nature draws our attention to the impact of human development on the natural world, presenting History from a non-human perspective, and raising the question of what story should we be studying? 

Further on in this introduction, the Slave Trade will be explored, to show how these organising themes examine different aspects of a topic to increase historical understanding. The aim in all of this, is that the quality of discussion and reasoned historical argument will be enhanced. History curriculum in the United Kingdom identifies historical concepts, listed by two of the regions as ‘continuity and change, cause and consequence, similarity, difference and significance’ (England, Northern Ireland) and therefore, this book will help with those concepts.

There is much in this book that will assist in broadening students’ understanding of historical events, the connections between complex events, and their likely impact. In this way, it will help with research and analysis of those events, and enable students to ‘pursue historically valid enquiries ..., and create relevant, structured and evidentially supported accounts in response.’

What might you see that is different?

There is much that is familiar in any text book on history – chronological timelines; extracts and quotations from historical figures or modern historians; images and charts that enhance understanding of events. Call-out boxes in the margin are used to help with terms and definitions; and there are focus and question sheets to help discussion or further investigation. All these aspects would be of interest to the student, and support independent working.

However, there are differences. While each volume can be read independently, it would be useful to become familiar with all three, in order to gain a fuller understanding of historical perspectives, and how events are revisited through the themes.  The slave trade is an example from all four regional History curricula, which will illustrate how this book ‘works’.

In introducing the Atlantic slave trade, the authors describe the slave ship as follows:

The slave ship was a key invention for the imposition of capitalism. The well-armed slave ship with a wide range was a powerful sailing machine. It was also a vessel, a factory, a prison, a trading station, and a war machine. (Volume 2:2, page 118)

Each of these claims is explored in the subsequent pages, and evidence is presented to support the view of the ship as an advanced (for its day) technological and economic machine, pushing frontiers of nature, migration, technology and work. As well as fresh critical perspectives that may stimulate imagination and challenge students, there is familiar material; for example, reproductions of slave ships and world maps of routes. Less familiar may be the linked topics such as the development of Capitalism, and the impact of the Atlantic System of slavery on Africa’s future development and culture. 

The four themes provide other dimensions: when analysing slavery from the perspective of Humans on the Move, the Atlantic System (or Triangle) is seen as a significant part of a global economic development, but one which also included slavery around the Indian Ocean. In Humans change Nature, the movement of sugar cane across the Caribbean and South America brought with it a migration of people in various roles, as sea traders, plantation owners, pirates and slaves, as well as changing eco-systems and local economies. When viewed through the theme Social Organisation and Inequality, students would explore how slaves reacted to their situation, how they responded through creating new communities (slave life on the plantations, communities of escapees, freed slaves, and protesters). There is also a spotlight on how women slaves were treated. When considering slavery through the lens of Worldviews, the rise of capitalism is explored, energised by the development of clocks (a mechanised regulation of work) and an emerging global banking system. Out of slavery and economic competition, concepts such as race and nation are defined. 

All these elements are brought together in a new way, through the approach taken by this book.

This is why the thematic approach means that events may not follow a strict chronological sequence; as looking at a topic like the slave trade through each theme may necessitate returning to an earlier century, to set the scene for the new theme. In a similar way, twentieth century topics such as the First World War, the Second World War and the Holocaust are covered, but through the themes, rather than a strict step-by-step chronology. However, this book’s perspectives could be very useful in History to support students’ progress in critical perspectives, and understanding of alternate viewpoints.  

Therefore: it is important that the teacher becomes familiar with its volumes and chapters; the timelines, maps and diagrams; the extracts and sources; the terminology; and the four main themes. The information worksheets, maps, question sheets and diagrams can be used as electronic (or printed) stimuli, to support teacher-led input, paired or group work, or independent work, and may be adapted and extracted as needed to meet the aims of the session.

A Global History of Humanity linked to UK regional History curricula

The United Kingdom has devolved systems of education. A distinct feature of the secondary school History curriculum is that each region has a local study focus – for example, the 20th century conflict following the partition of Ireland, in Northern Ireland; the internal history of Scotland, and the impact of Scots internationally through emigration; and local study in Wales, for example, Industry. This book will help set those events in a wider context, so supporting historical investigation.
The next section aims to show how aspects of this history book can further link to and support the aims of regional History curricula, and enhance its delivery.

The United Kingdom has devolved systems of education. A distinct feature of the secondary school History curriculum is that each region has a local study focus – for example, the 20th century conflict following the partition of Ireland, in Northern Ireland; the internal history of Scotland, and the impact of Scots internationally through emigration; and local study in Wales, for example, Industry. This book will help set those events in a wider context, so supporting historical investigation.

The next section aims to show how aspects of this history book can further link to and support the aims of regional History curricula, and enhance its delivery. 


The History curriculum in England encourages a study in depth for KS3 students; for example, Mughal Empire, China, or Russia – all of which are examined throughout this book. GSCE (2014) matches Volume 1 (and 2) - Medieval 500- 1500; Volume 2 - Early modern 1450-1750, and Volumes 2 and 3 - Modern, 1700 to present. All three eras are examined in Britain, Europe and World topics. While British History is 40% focus, aspects of industrialisation, such as the international cotton trade, and migration to North America in Volume 2 link the history of cities in England with international events. Other topics in the book, such as rebellions, women’s rights, Indian Independence and depression and dictators, link to optional study topics, at Key Stage 3.

Northern Ireland: CCEA 

Given the colonial history of Ireland, elements of Volume 3, Colonialism, would support a broader understanding of European expansionism, and the economic factors at work. For GCSE (2017), Volume 3 would be particularly useful, providing a focus on Nazi Germany, and rise of the USA. The CCEA curriculum on International Relations 1945–2003 links to sections in Volume 3 on the war on terror which aim to show how activity during the Cold War led to the rise of Islamic State groups in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 

Scotland: SQA

The Scottish curriculum in History focuses on Scottish, British, European and World history, through three time periods: Medieval, Early Modern and Later Modern. Much of the material that is presented for study in the N5 specification is touched on by this book. In particular, the focus on Europe and the World, in the 19th and 20th centuries will be of use, along with the growth of colonialism, and the reaction of social justice campaigners, including civil rights protest movements worldwide.

The Scottish N5 curriculum also has a research assignment element, and the thought-provoking themes of the book may be useful stimuli for the student to use. 

A further element is the recurring theme of global Migration within the volumes.  This is a strong focus in elements of the syllabi which focus on Scotland, (migration both to and from Scotland), and would enhance understanding of the movement of peoples globally, and the factors that cause this. 

Scotland’s emphasis elsewhere in the high school curriculum on Citizenship and critical thinking would be supported by use of this book. 


In common with other UK regions, there is an emphasis on twentieth century history of Europe, Russia and the USA. Volumes 2 and 3 in particular, with the focus on societal change and development, match topics in WJEC GCSE (2017) Units 1 and 2. Topics in Studies in Depth, such as ‘South Africa up to 1994’, would find valuable information in Volume 2 on the impact of the Atlantic system on Africa, and in Volume 3 in the extracts on Apartheid. In Unit 3: thematic studies from a broad historical perspective, the theme of ‘Change in Patterns of Migration’ would find much useful material in these volumes, particularly Volumes 2 and 3. 

The History curriculum for Wales states that students at KS3 should ‘...have experiences that make history enjoyable, interesting and significant, and that will enable them to engage as active citizens with issues of sustainable development and global citizenship.’ The purpose of this book is to support understanding of these subjects. 


A strength of this book is in the way it offers different lenses to view familiar topics. This will provide, it is hoped, fresh resources and new understandings for History. A further strength is the expansion of horizons, bringing together aspects of History that may be less familiar in school. While this book may not replace existing text books in History, it will help with student projects particularly at KS3, GCSE, GCE A Level (England, NI and Wales) and National 5, 6 & 7 (Scotland). This book provides something for all the UK’s four regional educational curricula in History; but also would be useful for Citizenship and Environmental Education, Geography, and RME, PSE and PSHE. 

As the book aims to increase historical understanding and reshape perspectives, it could be used a catalyst for the student to reflect on their learning. For example, the themes of nature and climate change, migration, social inequality and worldviews may be useful in both reflecting on the past, but also how these factors might impact on the future history of humanity. 

A first activity with students: 

Each volume begins with an Imagine section – as a bird flying over planet earth

Ask students to create their own description of what the bird sees when flying over the UK, or the region in which they live. 

Having read an example from the book, this task could be set, with no further guidance. When students have made notes, or written about what their bird sees, they could compare in pairs or small groups, to see if what they have chosen similar perspectives. Have they focussed on towns, or the landscape; have they focused on commercial activity or people’s homes, on groups, or individuals? Which groups, and why? What are they doing, why is this important, or noteworthy?

The task could be reshaped. While each student is still ‘seeing’ as the bird, the teacher could direct the task, and ask for two things they see, two things they hear, two things see that are good about their region / country, and two things they would change.

An investigation could follow to find out how did the ‘good aspects’ come about, in their country, and what might be the global cost past and present for those benefits; and for the ‘things they would change’, where else in the world has this occurred, how, and why; and what might we learn from history or other cultures, in order to change it?

Happy investigating!



Guide to the use of the geo-history textbook for teachers

This guide to the use of the geo-history textbook "A Global History of Humanity" leads teachers along a path that starts with the principles of global history and continues by illustrating the four major recurring themes with which the textbook organises the narrative, showing the possible and multiple uses of a text constructed in an extremely flexible way and explaining, with an abundance of practical examples, didactic activities and maps, how the teaching of history is connected to education for global citizenship.
A theoretical-practical guide that makes clear the connections between historiographic choices, didactic choices and pedagogical-educational choices, in order to bring the great themes of global citizenship into everyday teaching.



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Last modified on Tuesday, 22 March 2022 13:05