As we come to the end of the school year, we end our series of monthly features on teaching history with a creative assignment devised by one of our US History professors. Instead of assigning only written or oral work, Robert Olwell was one of a handful of History faculty who asked their students to make video essays on specific topics related to the course.
15 Minute History
It’s become more and more widely known that, before first contact with Europe, the Americas were populated by advanced civilizations with complex systems of writing, government, and technological innovation. A number of these civilizations were clustered in the area known as Mesoamerica, which presented geographic difficulties for its inhabitants due to its harsh climate and environment, and yielding few natural resources. So, how did Mesoamerican civilizations thrive? Guest Ann Twinam from UT’s Department of History discusses three of the major Mesoamerican civilizations: the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec (Mexica), and their once-forgotten contributions to human civilization.
The story of Islam’s beginnings have been told and retold countless times. The traditional narrative says that the Prophet Muhammad, an illiterate orphan from the town of Mecca, became a prophet of God and founded a community that conquered much of the known world in little more than a century after his death. But what do we really know about Muhammad and the time in which he lived, based on historical evidence? How has this led some to reinterpret the origins of Islam? Our guest, Fred M. Donner from the University of Chicago, has spent much of his career studying the earliest history of Islam. He offers his hypothesis on what the early Islamic community may have looked like, and describes an exciting new find that may shed new light on an old puzzle.