Review of Societies, Networks, and Transitions: A Global History Second Edition by Craig A. Lockard Wadsworth

Societies, Networks, and Transitions: A Global History. 2nd ed., by Craig A. Lockard. Boston: Wadsworth, 2011. 1120 pages. ISBN-10: 143908520X  ISBN-13: 9781439085202

The first thing that strikes a reader about the new edition of Craig Lockard’s world history textbook are the maps, both in a short introductory geography section on map-reading and in the text itself.  The maps, illustrations, and excerpted documents are beautifully rendered here in full color, with excellent captions and contextualization.  This first impression speaks to the broader advantages the book offers, namely good timelines and summaries, a readable text, and interesting “voices” from history in boxed sections of the book.  In short, the book is visually pleasing, and the changes Lockard made from the last edition (one column format rather than two, more marginal boxes with explanation and documents) works well.

For those with the first edition, Lockard’s second edition is organized much the same, with a global scope to each section of chapters organized along civilizational lines.  The book includes pull-out essays that focus on global connections and themes that are excellent short primers for students on some of the reasons why world history is important.  Lockard has shortened the overall length of the book, but he has added bookend material – more on prehistory and a section on the global recession of 2008.  The timeliness of this latter change is a nice addition to the book, and it makes this text one of the most relevant to contemporary issues facing students today.

While there is much to recommend Lockard’s book to instructors, especially those interested in cultural matters (something that is well covered here), the author makes organizational decisions that place the book in a certain camp of world history texts.  Unlike the Worlds Together, Worlds Apart text that has embraced a deliberately thematic approach, this volume retains an emphasis on the rise and fall of civilizations, albeit within a global framework.  Some of the chapters are unusual within this organization and seem to marginalize certain groups of people within world history.   An example – chapter four groups the rise of Shang and Zhou China with the early civilizations of Southeast Asia, Polynesia and the Americas (north and south) under the title:  “Around the Pacific Rim.”  In fact, in each section, chapters focus on single civilizations except for a chapter that groups a whole bunch of disparate regions. In section two, chapter 9 explores Africa, the Americas and Oceania; China has become part of East Asia.

A strong part of the book’s structure is its twin emphasis on geographical literacy and on hearing the common voices of history.  The maps are outstanding and frequent, and Lockard’s active analysis of their importance is helpful for students.  The second area of real strength is Lockard’s use of common voices in history.  Not only does he include short profiles of people from the various civilizations he is discussing, but he starts many chapters with short narratives that bring real people into the story he is telling.  This narrative device serves to pull readers into the chapter.  One problem with this integration of historical actors should be mentioned, however, and that is Lockard’s gender analysis in the book.  Often chapters discuss the politics, economics, society and culture of an empire, then at the end of a chapter a paragraph appears on “women” in this empire.  Had there been a parallel paragraph on “men” in the society, this device might be more persuasive, but as it stands, Lockard tacks on women’s roles to an established narrative.  A more nuanced use of gender as a lens for examining the relationships between men and women in society and the ways in which gender shaped the broader development of these civilizations would have been a welcome addition.

In general, Lockard’s book contains excellent material for any world history course, and the production value is quite high.  This is an advantage for the book, but it also speaks to a challenge the book may face in terms of cost.  The combined volume lists at $175.95, making it one of the more expensive options for world history textbooks in the field.  Perhaps with the advent of more e-book selling, packaging of sections of the book will make it quite affordable and erase any worries instructors may have.  One last distinction I would like to mention—as a single author of a major world history text, Professor Lockard has created a volume with a clear authorial voice, a crisp narrative tone, and a real global breadth.  This is usually something only attempted by teams of authors, so Lockard should be congratulated on this second edition, a sure sign of the book’s success so far.

Reviewed by Tammy M. Proctor, Utah State University
Edited by Jodi R.B. Eastberg and Tanya Maus

(c) 2011 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 2, Spring 2011. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy. [Originally published on the St. Scholastica website]