Author(s): Chao Chien
2000 Years of World History is a new presentation of the history of the world. The history of the world's civilizations is told in one continuous run with minimum emphasis on the separation of nations. National histories serve the needs of individual nationals. American history deals with those events considered significant to America, and likewise French history focuses on those that have meanings to the French. However, studying the histories of the Americans, the French, and others does not equate with studying the history of the world. No nation is an island. Past events of a country, its history, were intrinsically interwoven with those of other countries, be it through cultural exchange (the spreading of the knowledge of paper-making, use of gun powder, etc.), diplomatic intercourse (evangelizing of religions, the opening of Japanese ports by Matthew C. Perry, etc.), or conflict (no example needs to be given). National histories, because of their preoccupation with national interests, often place secondary emphasis on events beyond that scope, and that can lead to bias; bias in the sense that our understanding of such events can take on a skewed perspective. This prejudice can further be slanted due to nationalism. That is the root of the Walter Benjamin quote: "History is written by the victors." The writers of national histories tend to shine their nations in good light. That leads to the coloring of good and evil, and right or wrong. The fact is, historical events should not be understood in such moralistic terms. They should be presented as facts-not even interpretations of facts, but facts based on evidence. We should let the history users draw their own conclusions on these events of the past and make their own moral determination, rather than imposing on them our notion of moral values. An example would be the ongoing conflict in Syria. The United States is backing the rebels against the Syrian government, and the president of Syria, Bashar Hafez al-Assad, is branded a monster. He kills his own people. He should be brought to trial as a war crime offender. These are all judgment-loaded assertions. If one were to read pro-Syria reporting, one would get a completely opposite sense. The Syrian government is battling rebels, who are Syrians. Therefore, the Syrian government is of course killing its own people. By siding with the rebels, who are thus anointed as being on the right, the Syrian government is naturally cast as the villain. However, the Syrian government was in place before the challenge of the rebels. Does it not have the right to defend itself, or do we expect the Syrian government to lay down its arms and proclaim, "Ah, we have learned from the Americans that we are the bad guys, so we now surrender and make room for the good guys"? History with a world view allows us to take a bird's-eye view of international events. If we were to do that with the Syrian analogy we would be instead focusing on the involvements of not just Syria and USA, but Iraq, Turkey, the Kurds, Russia, and Iran and Israel, each having its interests at stake. We will quickly shed our attachment to the notions of good vs. evil and who is right and who is wrong. Extant history, often that which is taught in classrooms, is fraught with such moralistic proselytizing, and it distracts from our attempt to understand what happened in the past and learn from it. These involve issues of ethnicity, culture, and even definitions of nations. An example would be the long history of Egypt. The Egypt of today is not the Egypt of 2,000 years ago. The old Egypt is dead. Its language is no longer spoken. Its customs are no longer practiced. Today's Egypt is an Arabic nation. It therefore arouses a feeling of incongruity when the Egyptian cultural minister uses the phrase "our heritage." 2000 Years of World History attempts to present history in a renewed light.