History of Africa and Asia

From: $80.00 / month for 5 months

Grades: 9th-12th

Class:  Wed 2:00–3:00 p.m. ET

Dates (1st Sem): Aug 26–Dec 20, 2024

Dates (1st Sem): Jan 13–May 9, 2025

Prepaid: $649 (FY) or $349 (per semester)

Instructor: Farrar Williams

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Course Description

View Syllabus

This is a full-year course providing 1 credit in History. This course may also be taken by semester (0.5 credit each semester), with the History of Africa and the Middle East covered during the first semester and the History of Asia covered during the second semester.

Would your student like to center their education on world history in a different way? This course explores the history of Africa and Asia. We’ll learn about the history of great ancient civilizations, from the early Mesopotamians and Egyptians to the mysterious Indus River Valley people and the first Han Chinese dynasties. In addition, we’ll look at the development of trade networks across Africa and the Indian Ocean and how they created enormous wealth and power in the medieval world. Students will also learn about the rise of Islam and the ways its spread influenced history. We’ll examine the different ways that the clashes between Europe and its neighbors played out in Africa, the Middle East, India, China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Finally, we’ll look at the roots of contemporary conflicts and issues across the continents.

This course is centered around engaging with a variety of different sorts of texts, including films, memoirs, graphic novel memoirs, primary sources, and secondary sources. While our class will include lecture and note taking practice, my emphasis is on class discussion and participation. Learning happens outside the class when students read and watch videos. Processing that information happens in the classroom when we discuss, synthesize, and prepare for written assignments.

Course Structure

This course has four units: Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia. Each unit will cover the basic geography, religions, and cultures of the region and the history from prehistoric times to the present or recent past, meaning that we’ll have a chance to see themes repeated and find connections as we make our way through history four times.

Each unit contains:

              • A nonfiction history book (there are two short books for the East Asia unit)
              • One or two memoirs
              • A film
              • An essay assignment
              • A map quiz
              • Weekly history questions that practice close reading and summarizing skills
              • Additional readings and short summary video links, including short primary source readings, provided by me

Who should enroll?

Students in grades 9-12 who are:

              • Interested in history, especially students interested in getting a different view of history than is usually explored in high school history classes
              • Interested in a world history course that is not centered on the Western world
              • Interested in honing their nonfiction reading and writing skills or students who enjoy memoirs and nonfiction graphic novels

Technology Requirements

              • High speed, broadband Internet
              • Sound card and microphone (for live sessions)
              • Streaming video capabilities to watch recorded lectures and weekly short video assignments
              • Students may be asked to scan or take pictures of certain assignments for submission

Evaluation and Feedback

My goal as an educator is always to help your student move forward in their skills with reading, writing, and critical thinking, especially as applied to history. Students start in different places. This is why I give extensive feedback on key writing assignments and make myself available to talk students through tricky assignments if they ask for help. It’s also why I give marks for class participation. The back and forth of the classroom is a big part of how we learn. Students who are less comfortable speaking up in class will have ample opportunities to participate in writing and other ways.

Rubrics are provided for all writing assignments. Grades reflect class participation, writing assignments, short answer questions, and map quizzes.


Communication is through Canvas. Parents and students are encouraged to reach out with any questions. Additionally, I provide a short narrative progress report at the end of each quarter.


Required Texts

The following books are required:

The History of Africa & the Middle East (First Semester):

              • It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
              • Islam: A History by Karen Armstrong
              • Perseoplis, Volume I by Marjane Satrapi
              • Lissa by Coleman Nye and Sherine Hamdy

The History of Asia (Second Semester)

              • The Ocean of Churn by Sanjeev Sanyal
              • Wild Swans by Jung Chang
              • Barefoot Gen vol 1 by Keiji Nakazawa

Books are used in succession and families should feel free to make use of the library when necessary. E-book editions are also fine, though not recommended for graphic novels. Audiobooks are also fine, but may not be available for all titles and are not appropriate for graphic novels.

Concerned parents should preview the content to make sure they are comfortable with all works. I’m happy to answer any questions about the books we’ll be using in this course.

The following films are required by streaming. At writing, three of these films are on Netflix. However, I can’t make guarantees about if they’ll still be available there when we watch them. All are available to rent streaming for a reasonable cost and may also be at your library.

The History of Africa & the Middle East (First Semester):

              • Hotel Rwanda (2004)
              • Wadjda (2012)
              • The Woman King (2022)
              • Cry Freedom (1987)

The History of Asia (Second Semester)

              • Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001)
              • First They Killed My Father (2017)

Please note:

              • The Trevor Noah memoir is the edition for younger readers, which removes curse words and some discussion of sex and drugs. You can see the review of Noah’s memoir for young readers on Common Sense Media.
              • The memoir Persepolis uses some curse words and introduces some discussion of sex and drinking. Common Sense Media has a review of the animated version, which is very faithful to the graphic novel and reflects the content that might concern parents.
              • Persepolis, Lissa, Son of the Revolution, Cry Freedom, The Woman King, and Barefoot Gen all depict violence in various ways. There are reviews of them on Common Sense media.
              • Barefoot Gen depicts the horror of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.
              • The films Wadja and Lagaan are both rated PG.
              • You can find reviews of the films Hotel Rwanda and First They Killed My Father on Common Sense Media.
              • I will provide an alternate assignment for students or parents not comfortable watching the film First They Killed My Father. It is the only work I currently plan to do that for.




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Instructor Bio

Farrar Williams

Farrar Williams is a longtime educator with experience teaching in a variety of settings and levels. She has her undergraduate degree in history from Mount Holyoke College and her master’s in education and teaching from Goddard College. Farrar spent many years as a humanities teacher and administrator at a small Quaker middle school, where she honed her belief that education is a process, not a product, and that the goal is to bring out each student’s individual light. For the last decade and a bit, she has been homeschooling her sons, writing, and teaching in homeschool co-ops and drama groups. In addition to teaching, she’s currently an educational consultant and works with homeschool families on college admissions. When not teaching or working, Farrar is probably solving sudoku, reading a YA novel, or trying to resist putting in another batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. She lives in Washington, DC. Contact: fwilliams[at]aimacademy.online


All classes taught by Farrar Williams