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School in a Book: History of Europe


Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Minoans: The ancient civilization located on the island of Crete near ancient Greece from about 1700 BCE to the 1400s BCE. Its people were known for their written language, Linear A; their palace complex with a large labyrinth that was featured in Greek mythology; their large bureaucracy; their indoor plumbing; their advanced art and architecture; and their wide trading network. Its island location allowed its people to spend more time on cultural achievement and the gathering of wealth and less time on protection. The civilization disappeared for unknown reasons.

The Myceaneans: The ancient civilization located near Greece in the city of Mycenae from about 1600 BCE to about 1100 BCE. Its people were known for their graves filled with gold and silver; for their warlike culture; for their strong kings including Agamemnon; for their monumental palaces; for their written language, Linear B; and for being the setting of Homer’s epic poems.

Homer: The author of the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey who lived in ancient Greece in the 600s or 700s BCE

The Celts: The civilization located in various parts of Europe from around the 700s BCE to the 400s CE whose people are known for their distinctive language, religious beliefs, and artistic traditions; their bravery in battle; their love of nature; their complex social and political organization; and their successful resistance to Roman takeover. At their peak in the first century CE, they were spread over much of central Europe. They did not have a written language, so knowledge of them is limited to Roman records.

Ancient Greece: The civilization located in modern-day Greece, Asia Minor, Crete and beyond from the 700s BCE to the 400s CE. It was known for the political independence of each of their city-states and their many contributions to political, artistic and scientific thought.

Hellenism: Greek culture, which included the development of democracy, philosophy, science, music, oratory, rationalism, individualism, theater, sports and much more. After spreading to Persia, Egypt and India after Alexander the Great’s campaigns, then to Rome, it became the basis of Western culture.

Ancient Athens: The largest and one of the most prominent ancient Greek city-states, which was known for its focus on education, particularly oration and rhetoric; its invention of the democratic style of government; its art and architecture, which included the Parthenon and the Acropolis; its busy port; and more. Athens was the home of Socrates, Plato and Cicero. The first Olympics was held there.

Cicero: A famous Greek orator, statesman and scholar who wrote about just government in De Republica, oratory in De Oratore and more

Socrates: The Greek philosopher who introduced the Socratic Method of questioning

Plato: The Greek philosopher taught by Socrates, who also recorded Socrates’ teachings

Aristotle: The Greek philosopher taught by Plato

Ancient Sparta: One of the most prominent ancient Greek cities and Athens’ rival, known for its focus on military education; its use of agricultural slaves; its comparatively extensive rights for women; its invention of the phalanx; and more. In one well-known battle against the Persians on a mountain pass, 300 Spartans died rather than retreat.

Phalanx: A military marching formation that was rectangular in shape in which individual soldiers marched forward as one entity

The Macedonian Empire: The short-lived empire extended by Alexander the Great in the 300s that, at its largest, included the kingdom of Macedon in northern Italy, Greece, Egypt, parts of Persia and India. After Alexander’s death, it fragmented.

Alexander the Great: The King of Macedonia who extended the Macedonian Empire during the 300s BCE. He is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history and many stories are told of his hubris (pride), including the story of the Gordian Knot. After losses in India, his soldiers refused to go further and Alexander died on the way home at the age of 32. Alexander failed to organize his colonies or make a plan for succession after his death. It is said that his last words were, “To the strongest.”

The Etruscans: The civilization located in central Italy from the 700s BCE to the 200s BCE prior to and concurrent with the Romans. It was known for its cultural legacies to Rome, including the arch, vaults, and other engineering techniques.

Ancient Rome: The civilization that started and was centered in Italy from the 500s BCE to the 500s CE that grew to dominate Europe. It was known for its expansiveness; its military might; its strong infrastructure including roads and aqueducts; its invention of concrete and the Roman arch that concrete made possible; its calendar; the Roman Catholic Church; and its self-inflicted fall. For its first 500 years, Rome was the Roman Republic, with a Greek-influenced democratic oligarchy. At its largest, it extended to much of western and central Europe, including modern-day Italy, France, Spain, and parts of Germany. The empire faced many challenges including economic decline, political instability, invasions from barbarian tribes, and over-extension of its military. Despite efforts to revive its power, the empire was eventually sacked by the Goths in 410 CE and finally dissolved in 476 CE after the fall of the last Western Roman Emperor, Romulus Augustus, to the Germanic king Odoacer. The fall Roman Empire is widely seen as a turning point in European history, marking the end of classical civilization and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

The Roman Republic: The name of the Roman civilization during its first 500 years when it was a Greek-influenced democratic oligarchy led by patricians (oligarchs)

The Roman Empire: The name of the Roman civilization from the first century till its fall when it was a dictatorship led by emperors. Roman emperors presided over the Roman golden age, capitalizing on their system of strong central rule by taking on massive infrastructure projects and building well-known feats of architecture such as the Roman aqueducts, Roman roads and more.

Julius Caesar: The Roman general and statesman who lived during the first century BCE. He was known for his conquest of Gaul and his invasion of Britain, which expanded the Roman Empire; for his reforms to the Roman Republic, such as the introduction of the Julian calendar, which had a lasting impact on Western civilization; for his murder by his fellow politicians that led to the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire; and for being one of the greatest military commanders in history.

Marcus Antonius/Mark Antony: The Roman politician and general who lived during the first century BCE. He was known for being a close ally of Julius Caesar and for playing a key role in the events following Caesar’s death and for his alliance with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt. After Caesar’s assassination, Antony formed an alliance with Octavian and Lepidus known as the Second Triumvirate and together they defeated Caesar’s assassins in the ensuing civil war. Later, he was defeated by Octavian, who became the first Roman emperor.

Gaius Octavius/Octavian/Emperor Augustus: The Roman politician who founded the Roman Empire and became its first emperor. He was known for his political acumen, shown in his ability to convince Rome to move from an oligarchy to a monarchy; for his leadership skills, shown in his ability to bring peace and stability to Rome after decades of civil war; and his cultural, political, and military achievements, including the expansion of the Roman Empire, the establishment of a standing army, and the construction of many monumental buildings. He became known as Augustus after becoming emperor.

Emperor Nero: The Roman emperor who ruled during the first century CE after being adopted by the previous emperor. He is known for his tyrannical rule; for his brutal persecution of Christians; for his extravagance; for allegedly starting the Great Fire of Rome and blaming the Christians; for his madness; for expanding the Roman road system and other infrastructure; and for committing suicide after the Roman Senate declared him a public enemy.

Emperor Diocletian: The Roman emperor who ruled during the late 200s and early 300s CE and was known for restructuring the Roman Empire into four administrative regions, each with its own emperor, which helped stabilize it and extend its longevity; for implementing price controls as well as military and tax reforms; and for persecuting Christians.

Constantine the Great: The Roman Emperor who ruled during the 300s CE and was known for his conversion to Christianity; for establishing Christianity as the dominant religion in the Roman Empire; and for splitting the empire into the Western Roman Empire (where Rome remained the capital) and the Eastern Roman Empire/The Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople (formerly Byzantium) as the capital. Because Rome had been in decline for many years, Constantinople himself moved to Constantinople and headed that half.

The Council of Nicaea: A conference held by Constantine the Great that helped define the doctrine of the Christian Church

The Edict of Milan: A law of Constantine the Great’s that granted tolerance to Christians and other religions in the Roman Empire

The Eastern Roman Empire/The Byzantine Empire: The empire set up by Constantine the Great when he split the Roman empire into two halves. It lasted from the 300s CE to the 1400s CE. It included parts of Greece, Asia Minor and the Balkans. It is known for serving as the continuation of the Roman Empire after the Western Roman Empire fell; for spreading classic Greek and Roman culture; for spreading Christianity; and for influencing Byzantine art and architecture.

Odoacer: The Germanic king who in 476 overthrew the last Western Roman emperor to become king of Italy, an event that marks the end of ancient history and the beginning of the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Roman Catholic Church: The Christian church that was founded in the 1st century CE and is centered in Rome, Italy. It is known for playing a major role in the development of Western civilization and for being a dominant cultural and political force for over a thousand years, influencing art, architecture, law, education, and morality.

The Pope: The bishop of Rome and the supreme head of the Roman Catholic Church

The Holy Roman Empire: The collection of loosely organized, multi-ethnic territories in central and western Europe that were each ruled by kings or other leaders as well as the mostly powerless emperor of the empire. It lasted from the 900s CE to the 1800s CE. It was known for its first and most famous emperor, Charlemagne, and for its role in the Crusades, the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War.

Charlemagne: The first Holy Roman Emperor, formerly a king of the Franks, who was crowned in 800 CE. He was known for unifying much of Western Europe by creating the Carolingian Empire; spreading Christianity; promoting education and laying the groundwork for the revival of learning known as the Carolingian Renaissance; and issuing the legal code known as the “Capitularies”.

The Vikings: A seafaring people who lived from the 700s CE to the 1000s CE, primarily from Scandinavia (Norway, Denmark, and Sweden). They were known for their naval raids and conquests, which took them as far as North America, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East; trading, which led to the establishment of settlements, such as the one at Normandy in France; their longships; and their rich and distinctive culture.

Feudalism: The social, economic, and political system that dominated Europe, including France, England, Germany and Italy, from the 800s CE to the 1400s CE. It was characterized by the granting of lands (fiefs) by a lord to vassals in exchange for loyalty, military service, and agricultural production; hierarchical relationships between lords, vassals, and serfs (tenant farmers who worked the land and owed labor and tribute to their lords); dominance of the landed nobility and relative powerlessness of the monarch; a system of justice and administration based on local custom and the authority of lords, rather than central laws.

William the Conqueror: The King of England during the 1000s CE who started as the Duke of Normandy in France. He is best known for claiming the English throne after the death of an English king who had no successors, then defeating his competitor at the Battle of Hastings to become the King of England, thus beginning the Norman Conquest of England. He is also known for bringing to England Norman nobles and administrators who significantly influenced the development of the English language and other aspects of English culture; for attempting to control England by establishing a new system of feudalism that involved a series of castles, fortifications, and lands granted to Norman lords; and for commissioning the Domesday Book, a comprehensive survey of England’s land and resources.

The Norman invasions: The series of military campaigns led by Norman nobles in the 1000s and 1100s CE aimed at conquering and settling new lands in Europe and the Mediterranean. The Norman invasions were characterized by their use of advanced military tactics, including the use of heavy cavalry. The Norman Conquest of England led by William the Conqueror was part of this effort. The Normans also set up the Kingdom of Sicily in southern Italy and Sicily, which became a center of trade and culture. Many Norman knights joined the Crusades.

The bubonic plague/black plague/Black Death/black plague: The pandemic of that swept through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia in the 1300s CE that killed between 75 million and 200 million people, or roughly one third of the world’s population at the time. It was spread through fleas that lived on rats. Death often came within three to five days. The pandemic led to widespread economic disruption, social upheaval, and the death of many skilled workers and intellectuals. The pandemic also helped bring about the end of the feudal system and the rise of a money economy, as well as contributing to the development of new ideas about medicine and the causes of disease.

The Hundred Years War: The series of conflicts fought between England and France in the 1300s and 1400s over control of the French throne. It was initiated by Edward III of England. It was known for the use of new military tactics, such as the widespread use of longbows; for the use of new weapons, such as the cannon; and for contributing to the decline of feudalism.

Joan of Arc: The French army leader who rallied the French to victory in several key battles of the Hundred Years’ War, including the liberation of the city of Orleans. She was known for believing herself to be inspired by God to lead; for being captured by the English and tried for heresy; for being burned at the stake; for being a symbol of French nationalism; and for being canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church in 1920.

Johannes Gutenberg: The inventor of the first movable type and the first printing press for books, which began the printing revolution in the 1400s

The fall of Constantinople: The capture of the Byzantine Empire’s capital city, Constantinople, by the Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, which helped establish the Ottomans as a major power in the region and signified the end of the Middle Ages

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

The Renaissance: The cultural and intellectual movement that took place in Europe from the 1300s to the 1600s and was characterized by a renewed interest in classical learning and a revival of the arts and sciences. It was characterized by renewed interest in ancient Greek and Roman culture; a shift away from the religious and feudal norms of the Middle Ages; the production of some of the most innovative and enduring works of Western civilization, including Michelangelo’s David, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and Shakespeare’s plays; and increased exploration, with advances in cartography and navigation that enabled European powers to establish colonies and expand their trade networks across the globe.

The Protestant Reformation: The major religious, political, and cultural movement that took place in Europe in the 1500s as a reaction against the corruption and excesses of the Roman Catholic Church, which led to the formation of new Protestant denominations and considerably reduced Catholic power

Martin Luther: The father of the Protestant Reformation. A German monk and theologian, he is most known for his “Ninety-Five Theses,” the list of criticisms of the Catholic Church’s practices, especially the sale of indulgences, that he nailed to the door of a church in Germany. His ideas quickly spread throughout Europe, challenging the authority of the Church and leading to the formation of Protestant denominations. He is also known for translating the Bible into German, making it accessible to the common people, and for writing numerous treatises and sermons that outlined his views on salvation, faith, and the role of the Church.

King Henry VIII: The king of Great Britain in the 1500s who is known for severing ties with Roman Catholicism after the Pope refused to annul his marriage; establishing the Church of England, with himself as the head of it; and his six wives

The colonial era: The period of time from the 1400s to the mid-1900s when European powers established colonies and empires in various regions of the world, including the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. This period is characterized by European exploration, the establishment of settlements, the exploitation of resources and labor, and the imposition of European cultural, political, and economic systems on the colonized populations.

Vasco da Gama: The Portuguese explorer and navigator who is best known for his role in opening up a sea route from Europe to Asia in the late 1400s. He was the first European to reach India by sea, and his voyage marked the beginning of the European exploration of Asia and the eventual establishment of European colonies in the region.

Ferdinand Magellan: The Portuguese explorer and navigator who is best known for leading the first expedition to circumnavigate the Earth in the early 1500s. After crossing the Atlantic, Magellan reached South America, then sailed across the Pacific to the Phillippines. Though Magellan died there, his expedition continued and some of the crew returned home safely.

Hernán Cortés: The Spanish conquistador who played a key role in the conquest of the Aztec Empire in Mexico in the 1500s. Cortés arrived in Mexico with a force of approximately 600 men and quickly gained the support of several indigenous groups who were hostile to the Aztecs. He marched on the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, with a mixed army of Spanish soldiers and indigenous allies and captured the city. This marked the beginning of the Spanish colonization of Mexico and established Spain as a major world power.

Francisco Pizarro: The Spanish conquistador who is best known for his conquest of the Inca Empire in South America in the 1500s. After arriving in South America, he quickly established a small settlement in what is now Peru. He then led a force of Spanish soldiers and indigenous allies against the Incas, eventually capturing their emperor, Atahualpa, and securing control of the empire.

The Thirty Years’ War: The religious war that took place in Europe during the 1600s, mostly among states belonging to the Holy Roman Empire but also involving France, Sweden, and the Habsburg empire. It occurred due to ambitions of expansion as well as ideological differences between Protestant and Catholic states. It resulted in the deaths of about a third of the population of the Holy Roman Empire. It contributed to the lessened frequency of religious wars in Europe, the decline of the Holy Roman Empire, and the rise of the modern nation-state. The war also marked the beginning of the modern era of warfare, as it was one of the first wars in which mass conscript armies, new military technologies, and tactics were used.

The English Civil War: The English Civil War was a series of conflicts between Parliamentarians (also known as Roundheads–those that sought increased power of the parliament) and Royalists (also known as Cavaliers–those that sought increased power of the monarchy) that took place in England in the 1600s. The Parliamentarians won and overthrew (and killed) King Charles I; however, the power gap was soon filled by Oliver Cromwell and later, the monarchy was restored with the coronation of King Charles II.

King Charles: The king of England who was deposed during the English Civil War

Oliver Cromwell: The English military and political leader who installed himself as the Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland during the English Civil War. Though he called himself a Parliamentarian, during his reign he dissolved the Rump Parliament and established a military dictatorship known as the Protectorate. He is also known for modernizing England’s military and administrative systems. After his death, Cromwell’s body was exhumed and he was posthumously tried and executed for his role in the regicide of Charles I.

The Seven Years War: A global conflict that took place primarily between France and Great Britain during the 1700s, and also involved most of the major powers of Europe as well as their colonies. It was caused by a complex set of political, economic, and territorial disputes and resulted in the British gaining control of large territories in North America that previously belonged to France. It also aided Britain’s rise as a global superpower.

The Enlightenment/The Age of Reason: The cultural, intellectual, and scientific movement that took place in Europe and North America in the late 1600s and 1700s and which was characterized by a focus on reason, individualism, and scientific inquiry and a challenging of traditional authority, particularly in the fields of religion, politics, and science. Prominent figures of the Enlightenment included philosophers such as John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant, as well as scientists like Isaac Newton.

Eli Whitney: The inventor of the cotton gin, who accomplished this in the late 1700s. This machine revolutionized the production of cotton by making it much faster and easier to separate the fibers from the seeds. The cotton gin allowed cotton to be produced on a large scale, which in turn fueled the growth of the textile industry and helped to drive the American economy during the Industrial Revolution.

The French Revolution: The war that took place in France in the late 1700s that resulted in the overthrow of the monarchy and the feudal system and the establishment of democracy in France. It began with the storming of the Bastille and ended with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. The revolution was caused by a variety of factors, including the financial crisis in France, widespread poverty, and Enlightenment ideas about individual liberty and equality.

The Bastille: The prison located in Paris, France that was attacked and taken by a mob on July 14, 1789, which is now celebrated as Bastille Day in France. The Bastille was eventually torn down, and its stone was used to build the Place de la Bastille, a large square in Paris that remains an important symbol of the Revolution.

Maximilien Robespierre: One of the leaders of the French Revolution and of the post-revolution government, who is best known for establishing the Committee of Public Safety with himself at its head, then starting the Reign of Terror. Eventually, Robespierre himself fell from power and was arrested and executed by the new government.

The Reign of Terror: The period of extreme violence and repression during the French Revolution that was implemented by the Committee of Public Safety, a revolutionary government body established to defend the Revolution from its enemies both foreign and domestic. During this time, thousands of people were arrested and executed without trial on charges of being enemies of the Revolution.

Napoleon Bonaparte: The First Consul of the newly created French Republic, and, following this, the Emperor of the French. He is known for his ruthless and relentless military conquests across Europe; for making France one of the dominant powers in Europe; and for establishing the First French Empire. At its height, his empire included much of Europe, including parts of modern-day France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. However, his empire began to crumble after a series of defeats, and he was eventually exiled to the island of Elba in the early 1800s. He escaped after several years and returned to France, but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and exiled to the island of Saint Helena, where he died.

The Napoleonic Wars: The military campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte

The Battle of Waterloo: The last battle of Napoleon Bonaparte, fought near the town of Waterloo in modern-day Belgium

The Congress of Vienna: The series of diplomatic meetings held in Vienna, Austria in the early 1800s that sought to reestablish peace and stability in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. It resulted in an enlargement of Russia and Prussia; a consolidation of the approximately 300 states of the Holy Roman Empire into a loose German confederation of about 39 states under the leadership of Prussia and Austria; and other changes. The Congress also created system of international relations based on the principle of legitimacy, which held that monarchs should rule according to laws and customs and that borders should be respected. Finally, the Congress reestablished many of the pre-Napoleonic monarchies, imposing conservative, anti-democratic policies aimed at preventing the spread of revolutionary ideals.

The Crimean War: The conflict that took place primarily in the Crimea area on the Black Sea coast of modern-day Ukraine during the mid-1800s between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia. Russia sought to expand, while the other countries sought to check Russian expansion. Russia lost decisively. The Crimean war is known for the introduction of new technologies and tactics, including the use of ironclads, telegraphs, and modern nursing practices and the creation of the Red Cross, which was established to provide humanitarian aid to wounded soldiers.

Nicolaus Copernicus: A Polish astronomer and mathematician who became one of the founders of modern astronomy during the 1500s and who is best known for his theory of the universe that stated that the Earth and the other planets revolved around the Sun, not the Earth as previously thought

Galileo Galilei: An Italian astronomer, physicist, and mathematician who made major contributions to the Scientific Revolution during the 1500s and who is best known for his work using the newly invented telescope to observe the heavens, which led to several groundbreaking discoveries. He was eventually put on trial by the Inquisition for heresy.

The Inquisition: The series of institutions established by the Catholic Church primarily in the late 1100s and 1200s, but also as late as the 1800s in some areas, to combat religious dissent in Europe. It was a judicial body, with the power to investigate, prosecute, and punish individuals suspected of heresy. Its methods were often brutal, and it was known for its use of torture to extract confessions. Those found guilty of heresy were often punished by death, either by burning at the stake or by being hanged and quartered.

The Industrial Revolution: The period of rapid industrialization and modernization that took place in Europe and North America in the 1700s and 1800s. It was characterized by the development of new technologies, especially in manufacturing, farming and transportation, which made consumer goods cheaper; increasing urbanization; economic growth; and the rise of capitalism. Notable inventions of this time included the steam-powered engine and the train; the camera; the steamship; and the telegraph.

The Modern Era (The 1900s through the Present)

World War I: The global conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918 and involved Europe, the United States, Russia, Japan, Australia and other countries. The causes of the war included nationalism; militarism; imperialism; and entangling alliances, which caused nations to defend their allies, spurring even more conflict. The spark that ignited the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary by a Serbian nationalist. The conflict quickly escalated, as Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire formed the Central Powers and went to war against France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, who formed the Allied Powers. The war was fought on several fronts, including the Western Front in France and Belgium, the Eastern Front in Russia, and the Italian Front. The war is known for its mass casualties (including about 20 million deaths); the introduction of new weapons, such as machine guns, poison gas, and tanks; the horrific experience of trench warfare; and for setting the stage for World War II.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand: The heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian Empire whose assassination led to the outbreak of war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, which then led to the outbreak of World War I

The Treaty of Versailles: The treaty that officially ended World War I. It called for harsh financial and military penalties for Germany and created many new Eastern European countries out of the German, Austrian/Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman Empires.

The Weimar Republic: The German government founded after World War I to replace the monarchy

The League of Nations: The precursor to the United Nations which was promoted by U.S. president Wilson after World War I to prevent further large-scale wars

The Great Depression: A severe worldwide economic depression that lasted from 1929 to 1939. It was the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the century. The depression originated in the United States and quickly spread to other countries, leading to a decline in global trade and economic activity. During the Great Depression, millions of people lost their jobs and many were forced to live in poverty.The causes of the Great Depression are complex and include a combination of factors such as the overproduction of goods, a decrease in consumer spending, a decline in agriculture and the failure of the banking system. It led to increased governmental involvement in the economy.

The Commonwealth: A voluntary political association of sovereign states, most of which were once part of the British Empire, which serves as a platform for cooperation and collaboration on a wide range of issues and promotes the values of democracy, human rights and more. Some of these states are republics, while others are monarchies.

World War II: The global conflict that lasted from 1939 to 1945 and involved the majority of the world’s nations, including all of the great powers, eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. The war began with the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin and quickly spread, drawing in many other nations. From there, Hitler overtook many European countries including France, Scandanavia and the Balkans (though Britain successfully resisted). Italy, meanwhile, attempted to take North Africa. Then Hitler invaded the USSR and was unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Japan (who joined in 1940) attacked the British in Southeast Asia and the U.S. at Hawaii. Then Germany declared war on the U.S. The U.S., which had already been supplying aid to the Allies, joined at that time. The war in Europe ended after a decisive victory at Normandy and the rapid advancement of the Allies through Europe that followed. The war in the Pacific ended after the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Japan. The primary causes of the war included aggressive expansionist policies by the Axis powers, particularly Nazi Germany, as well as a failure by the international community to prevent the aggressive actions of these powers. The war resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of people, including soldiers and civilians, and caused widespread destruction across Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The Axis Powers: The name for the alliance between Germany, Italy and Japan during World War II

The Allied Powers: The name for the alliance between Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the U.S. during World War II

Adolf Hitler: The Chancellor of Germany and leader of the Nazi party during the 1930s who is known for starting World War II and for implementing the Holocaust. He committed suicide before being captured by the Allies as they closed in on the city. His girlfriend (who he married before their death), Eva Braun, also killed herself at that time.

The Munich Agreement: The treaty signed in Munich, Germany in 1938 between the leaders of Nazi Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy. The agreement allowed Nazi Germany to annex the Sudetenland, a region in western Czechoslovakia with a large German-speaking population, in exchange for a guarantee of peace. The Munich Agreement is widely seen as having paved the way for the Nazi occupation of the rest of Czechoslovakia and the eventual outbreak of World War II. It is often criticized for appeasement and a failure to stand up to aggression.

Winston Churchill: The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II, who is known for successfully fighting off Germany during the Battle of Britain; for forging an alliance with the United States and Soviet Union to defeat the Axis powers; for his inspiring speeches; for not negotiating with Hitler; and for being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Lend-lease Act: A U.S. law passed in 1941 that called for financial and material aid (including weapons, food and raw materials) to be provided to the Allies by the U.S. during World War II, even though the U.S. had not yet officially entered the war

The Normandy Landing/D-day: The military operation during World War II in which Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, France in 1944, recaptured France from Germany and started the push through Europe that ended the war

Victory in Europe Day/V-E Day: The May 8 holiday that marks the end of World War II in Europe when the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany

The Holocaust: The systematic genocide of eleven million people, including six million Jews, by Germany between 1933 and 1945. The victims, including Jews, disabled individuals, political prisoners, homosexuals, and others, were sent to concentration camps, where they were subjected to forced labor, medical experiments, and mass extermination through gas chambers. The Nazis called this effort the Final Solution.

The United Nations/UN: The international organization founded after World War II to promote peace, security, and cooperation among nations. It has 193 member states and its headquarters is located in New York City. The UN’s main objectives are to maintain international peace; engage in diplomacy; and promote human rights. The World Health Organization and UNICEF are part of the UN.

The Marshall Plan: A U.S.-led plan offering subsidies to help rebuild Western Europe after World War II

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization/NATO: The political and military alliance of thirty North American and European countries that was established in 1949 with the goal of providing collective defense against potential threats and promoting stability in the North Atlantic region

The Warsaw Pact: The agreement between the Soviet Union and many communist Eastern European countries that was made after Word War II to ally against the U.S. and against the spread of democracy

The Iron Curtain: A term used to describe the division of Europe into the Western, democratic countries and the Soviet-controlled communist countries, where political freedom was limited. The countries behind the Iron Curtain were known as the Eastern Bloc, and included countries such as the Soviet Union, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania. The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 marked the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the reunification of Europe, as Communist governments in Eastern Europe fell and countries in the region transitioned to multiparty democracies.

The Suez Crisis: The conflict over control of the Suez Canal Zone in the 1950s between Egypt (where the canal is located) and Israel, Britain and France, who captured it from Egypt. The crisis brought widespread international condemnation and the intervention of the United Nations, which eventually forced Israel, Britain and France to withdraw from Egypt. It damaged the reputation of France and Britain and helped establish the U.S. and the Soviet Union as the two superpowers of the Cold War.

The European Union (EU): The political and economic union of 27 European countries that was founded after World War II to promote peace, stability and economic growth in Europe. It operates through a number of institutions, including the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council. The EU has a common market, which allows for the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people within its member states. The EU has also established a common currency, the euro.

The euro: The currency used by 19 of the 27 countries of the European Union (EU), whose introduction in 1999 was a major step in the integration of European economies and was designed to facilitate trade and investment, promote economic stability, and reduce transaction costs

The Covid-19 pandemic: The flu variant that killed two million people globally and caused local and national governments to require large-scale quarantines

Brexit: The separation of the UK from the EU that occurred in 2020

School in a Book: History of the Middle East


Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

Sumer: The collection of cities in ancient Mesopotamia that arose around 4000 BCE and that made up the first known human civilization. Sumer was built along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and was centered around its main city, Sumer. It was not a unified empire. Sumerian cities featured ziggurats; the use of cuneiform; scribes; accountants and much more. The people of Sumer are called Sumerians and spoke Sumerian.

Ziggurat: Pyramid-like center of worship that featured stepped sides

The Akkadian Empire: The ancient Mesopotamian empire that was at its peak from about 2500 to about 2300 BCE that united Akkadian and Sumerian people under one rule; that is sometimes considered to be the world’s first empire; and that likely encompassed most of Mesopotamia

Sargon of Akkad: The Sumerian ruler who united northern and southern Mesopotamia into the Akkadian Empire in the 2300s BCE and was also known as Sargon the Great.

The Assyrian Empire: The ancient Mesopotamian empire that lasted from about 2100 BCE to about 600 BCE; that dominated northern Mesopotamia in the valley of the Upper Tigris River; that was named after its capital and ongoing prominent city Assur; that co-existed with its southern rival, the Babylonian Empire, with each empire enjoying periods of dominance; and that eventually fell to the Babylonians. The Assyrian Empire was known for its military-minded warrior kings; its polytheistic religion, which included worship of nature and object deification; its siege warfare techniques; its well-organized infrastructure that included roads and aqueducts; and its effective governance over conquered lands. Under some particularly harsh rulers, Assyrians burned and wrecked the towns they captured and murdered many inhabitants in order to instill fear.

Ashurbanipal: The last great ruler of the Assyrian Empire, who ruled in the 600s BCE. He is known for building the great library at Ninevah after ordering historical and scientific works to be written down; creating impressive palace gardens featuring plants from all over the world; and for conquering Babylon for a time.

The Babylonian Empire: The ancient Mesopotamian empire that ruled from about 1900 BCE to about 500 BCE; that dominated southern Mesopotamia; that was named after one of its prominent cities, Babylon; and that co-existed with its northern rival, the Assyrian Empire, with each empire enjoying periods of dominance. The Babylonian Empire is known for its code of law; the invention of a math system using base 60 for time and degrees of a circle; its stable, efficient rule and its well-disciplined armies.

Hammurabi: The ruler who, in the 1700s BCE, first unified and led Babylonia, and who is also known for creating a fair and historically influential justice system for the Babylonian Empire

The Code of Hammurabi: The set of laws created by Hammurabi and the longest, most complete legal text of the ancient world. The laws are appreciated for their fairness; their widespread historical influence; and their effectiveness in strengthening the Babylonian Empire and encouraging internal peace. The Code famously includes the phrase “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” which is quoted in the Old Testament.

Nebuchadnezzar: A king of Babylon during the 500s BCE who is known for regaining Babylonian independence from Assyria, starting a period of their history known as Babylon Revived; for extending Babylonian territory significantly; for capturing Jerusalem and forcing the Jews to live in Babylon as prisoners; for creating the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; for building the tower of Babel; for extending trade networks; for using other successful strategies for making Babylon a beautiful world capital and marketplace; and for, later in his life, going mad

The Hittites: The ancient Mespotamian people who inhabited a collection of city-states in what is now modern-day Turkey from around 1600 BCE to the 1100s BCE. They were known for being the first people to smelt iron; for their warlike culture; for their invention of the chariot; for their boulder sculptures; for their 1000 gods; and for introducing the horse to the Middle East.

The Phoenicians: The ancient Mesopotamian civilization who inhabited a collection of city-states on the east end of the Mediterranean Sea from approximately 1550 to 300 BCE, when the Persians, and later the Greeks, conquered Tyre. They were known for creating the first known alphabet; for the greatness of their art; for being the greatest seafarer of ancient times; for their purple dye, which they made from snails; for their invention of glass blowing; for their peacefulness; for their colonies, including Carthage in Egypt; for their active role in aiding the rise of Greece and Rome; for the trade with India and China; and for their prosperity.

The Hebrews/Jews: The ancient Mesopotamian people who settled Palestine around 1900 BCE; who migrated from Ur, in Mesopotamia; and whose story is told in the Old Testament. They fled to Egypt during a famine, became enslaved there, then escaped back to Palestine. There, they fought the Palestinians, whom they called the Philistines, for territory. As part of the effort, they conquered Jericho. The Jews are known for their monotheism; their individualism; their strong cultural identity and resistance to assimilation, which kept them united in spite of multiple exiles and separations; and for their idea that negative occurrences result from sin, not from the whim of a god (personal responsibility).

Moses: The Hebrew leader and prophet who lived in the 1200s BCE and that is a central figure in the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He is known for leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt; receiving the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai; and receiving the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible

Abraham: The Hebrew leader and prophet who lived around 2000 BCE and that is a central figure in the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He is known for being the father of Isaac and Jacob and the grandfather of the twelve tribes of Israel and therefore is considered the father of the Jewish people. He was also the recipient of God’s covenant with the Jewish people.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel: The twelve ancestral tribes of the Jewish people, all of whom descended from Jacob. Each tribe had its own territory and played a specific role in the social and religious life of ancient Israel. The tribes were often united under the leadership of judges, kings, and other leaders, and served as the basis of the ancient kingdom of Israel.

King Saul: The first king of Israel who ruled during the 1000s BCE. He was chosen by God to be king after the people of Israel demanded a king to rule over them like the other nations. Saul is also known for starting out as a successful and popular leader, then later disobeying God and falling from grace and his persecution of David.

King David: The second second king of Israel, who ruled in the late 900s BCE. He was from the tribe of Judah and is best known for his military victories; his justice, faith and mercy; establishing Jerusalem as the political and religious capital of Israel; his musicianship; and his authorship of the biblical psalms.

King Solomon: The third third king of Israel, who ruled during the 900s BCE. He was the son of King David and Bathsheba and is known for his wisdom, wealth, and building projects (including the construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem and his palace.

The Ark of the Covenant: The container that held the stone manuscript with Moses’ Ten Commandments and the sheepskin manuscript of the Torah. It was held in the temple at Jerusalem for many years, then lost during a battle with the Palestinians.

The Babylonian captivity: The period during which many Hebrews were enslaved by the Assyrians and Chaldeans in Babylon in the late 500s BCE. This happened in part because after Solomon’s death, Israel and Judah split and were weakened.

The Old Testament: The group of historical and instructional religious texts written by various Hebrew authors, likely from about 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE, that makes up the first part of the Bible. (The second part is the New Testament.) Some of the stories take place during the Hebrews’ time and some are based on ancient oral traditions. The Old Testament is thought to be fairly historically reliable.

The Torah: The first five books of the Old Testament that forms the basis of Jewish law and tradition. The Torah was originally written on sheepskin and kept in the Arc of the Covenant. Earlier Old Testament laws were based on the Ten Commandments, but many more were added as the Jews mixed with other cultures. Of primary importance to the Hebrews was retaining their form of monotheism, their purity and their separateness.

The diaspora: The scattering of the Jewish people from their homeland of Israel to other parts of the world. It started during the Babylonian captivity. Over the centuries, Jews have migrated to many other countries, forming vibrant communities and preserving their cultural and religious heritage despite being far from their original homeland. Note that in recent years, the term diaspora has been used to describe the dispersal of other groups of people as well, including African Americans, Irish, and Armenian communities.

Jerusalem: The city in Israel that was established around 3000 BCE, then became the capital in about 1000 BCE under King Solomon. It is known for its significance to three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam; for being the site of the Temple Mount, the location of the First and Second Temples and the Al-Aqsa Mosque; for being the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the most important Christian sites in the world; for its capture and attempted recapture during the Crusades; and more. Both Muslims and Christians held this city and area as their rightful historical religious site of worship, which has inspired a great deal of conflict throughout history.

Myceneans: The ancient Greek civilization that dominated Greece and the Aegean region from 1600 to 1100 BCE and were known for their advanced bronze-age culture; their extensive trade networks; and their military prowess

Seljuk Turks: The Turkic civilization located in modern-day Iran and beyond that lasted from about the 1000s CE to the 1200s CE and was known for their military prowess and for influencing the cultural and political development of the Islamic world

Greek dark ages: A period of decline and instability in Ancient Greece from the end of the Mycenaean civilization in the 1100s BCE to the 700s BCE, which was characterized by a loss of political unity, economic regression, and cultural obscurity. It ended when Athens, Sparta and other Greek city-states rose to prominence.

Homer: An ancient Greek poet who is widely regarded as the greatest epic poet of Western literature, and is best known for his two epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, which recount the events of the Trojan War and the adventures of Odysseus, respectively

The Persian Empire: An ancient Mesopotamian empire that existed in modern-day Iran, Afghanistan and beyond from the 500s BCE to the 300s BCE and was known for its vast size; its military prowess; its and cultural diversity; its contributions to art and literature; and their use of an imperial road system, a postal system, and a centralized bureaucracy; and his peaceful incorporation of other conquered territories

Cyrus the Great: The founder of the Persian Empire, who ruled from 550 BCE to 530 BCE, and is known for his military conquests; political acumen; religious tolerance (he freed the Jews out of captivity in Babylon); and for creating the Cyrus Cylinder

The Cyrus Cylinder: An ancient clay artifact that was written in Babylonian cuneiform in the 500s BCE and discovered in the 1800s CE and is considered the world’s first written declaration of human rights. It describes Cyrus the Great’s policy of religious tolerance and the restoration of temples and the release of captive peoples.

King Darius: A leader of the Persian Empire during the time of ancient Greece known for being an excellent military general; for his belief in Zoroastrianism, which later influenced Christianity; for building roads connecting all parts of the Persian Empire; for introducing a standard coinage; and for controlling the Western end of the Silk Road. Eventually, Darius and the Persians were conquered by the Greeks.

Arabs: An ethnic group originating in the Middle East that is known for speaking the Arabic language

Muhammad: The founder of Islam who was born in Mecca in the 600s BCE and who is known for receiving revelations from Allah (God) through the angel Gabriel, which were recorded in the Quran; for being the final prophet in a long line of prophets that includes Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus; and for capturing Mecca (after teaching in exile in Medina for a time) and becoming its ruler

Muslims: Followers of Islam

Sunis and Shiites: The two largest branches of Islam, with the primary difference being that Sunnis believe that the first four caliphs were the rightful successors to Muhammad, while Shiites believe that the first caliph, Ali, was Muhammad’s chosen successor and that the imams that followed were divinely inspired

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Abbassid Dynasty: The dynasty that led the Islamic Empire from about 800 CE to about 1300 CE, bringing a golden age to the area. It featured political unity, long-term stability, a flourishing capital at Baghdad, advances in chemistry and astronomy, the invention of algebra, and more. The court in Baghdad was the setting for much of the literary classic The Thousand and One Nights.

The Mongol invasion: The successful overthrow of the Abbasids and Turks by Mongols in the 1200s. Their power in the are did not last, however.

The Crusades: A series of religious wars fought between Christians and Muslims from around 1100 CE to the 1200s CE. The primary goal of the Crusades was to recapture the Holy Land, particularly Jerusalem, which was under Muslim control, and to defend Christian pilgrims who made the journey to the region. There were several Crusades over a period of two centuries, involving many of the most powerful states and armies of Europe at the time. The Roman Catholic Pope initially called for the attacks. The Crusades were unsuccessful, ill-conceived and disastrous for all involved.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Safavid Empire: The empire that ruled Persia and beyond from the early 1500s to the 1700s. It was known for successfully resisting Ottoman takeover; for being one of the greatest Iranian empires; for establishing Islam as the official religion of the empire; for modernizing the area; and for increasing the area’s economic power and global status by increasing governmental efficiency, architectural innovations and fine arts

The Ottoman Empire: The empire that followed the Abbasid dynasty in Persia, lasting from the 1200s to the 1600s. It was known for its flourishing trade with the West; uniting the whole region under one ruler for the first time since the Abbasid Empire; trade route control; the retaking of Constantinople from the Byzantine empire; and more.

Suleymon the Magnificent: The most successful Sultan of the Ottoman Empire who reigned in the 1500s and is known for expanding the Empire to its greatest size and power, conquering much of Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East; for his patronage of the arts; for building many impressive structures, including the Suleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul; and for his legal and administrative reforms, which helped modernize the Ottoman state

The Modern Era (1900 to the Present)

Overview of the history of the Middle East in the Modern Era: During the 1900s, significant political, social, and economic change occurred. The Ottoman Empire fell after World War I. The discovery of large oil reserves in the Middle East in the early 1900s led to the development of the petroleum industry and the increasing involvement of foreign oil companies in the region. The Middle East, it turned out, possessed the world’s largest easily untapped reserves of crude oil, the most important commodity in the 20th century. The kings and emirs of these oil states became immensely wealthy exporting petroleum to the west, allowing them to consolidate their hold on power and giving them a stake in preserving western hegemony over the region. The decline of European colonial empires and the rise of nationalism in the Middle East continued during the latter half of the 20th century, leading to the independence of numerous countries, including Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

The role of the Middle East in World War I: The Middle East played a significant role in World War I as a major theater of conflict and a source of critical resources such as oil. The Ottoman Empire, which controlled much of the region, sided with the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) and fought against the Allied Powers (Britain, France, and Russia). The British and French, in particular, sought to secure control of the oil-rich areas of the Middle East, leading to the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the eventual division of the region into colonial mandates. The Arab Revolt, led by Sharif Hussein of Mecca, also played a key role in the war, as it helped undermine Ottoman control and opened the way for Allied gains in the region. The war ultimately resulted in the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the redrawing of the map of the Middle East. The end of World War I saw the decline of European colonial empires and the rise of nationalist movements in the Middle East, as people sought independence from colonial rule and greater control over their own affairs.

The role of the Middle East in World War II: The Middle East played a crucial role in World War II as a major source of oil and as a crossroads for military operations in North Africa and the Mediterranean. The British and the Allies sought to secure control of the oil-rich regions of the Middle East, which led to the establishment of military bases and the deployment of troops in the region. The German and Italian forces also attempted to gain control of the area, leading to a series of battles in North Africa, including the Battle of El Alamein, which was a turning point in the war. The Middle East was also a critical theater of espionage and diplomacy, as the Allies and the Axis powers competed for the support of local leaders and sought to influence the outcome of the war. The region also saw the emergence of Arab nationalism, as well as the growth of Jewish immigration to Palestine, which would lead to the creation of the state of Israel after the war. The Middle East played a vital role in the outcome of World War II and helped shape the political and economic landscape of the region for decades to come.

OPEC: A global organization founded in 1960 consisting of 14 member countries, mostly located in the Middle East, with the goal of coordinating the petroleum policies of its member countries and securing fair and stable prices for petroleum producers

State of Israel: The Jewish state founded in 1948, partly to unite displaced Jews after the Holocaust and return their historical homeland. This resulted in frequent civil war between the Jews and Palestinians in the area.

Suez Crisis: A political and military conflict that took place in 1956 between Egypt and the UK, France, and Israel. The crisis was triggered by the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, which threatened the strategic and economic interests of the UK and France, as well as Israel’s access to the Red Sea. Israel, in collaboration with Britain and France, launched a military operation to seize the canal, leading to international condemnation and intervention by the United Nations. The crisis resulted in the withdrawal of Israeli, British, and French forces from the Canal Zone, the establishment of the UN Emergency Force to maintain stability, and the strengthening of Nasser’s position as a leader in the Arab world. The Suez Crisis marked a turning point in the Cold War and had far-reaching consequences for the relationships between the Western powers and the Arab world, as well as for the balance of power in the Middle East.

Saddam Hussein: The president and dictator of Iraq during the 1970s, 80s ad 90s who was known for his aggressive foreign policies

The Oil Embargo: In 1973, the Arab oil-producing countries, including several members of OPEC, embargoed oil exports to countries that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War, causing a significant increase in oil prices and economic disruption.

The Iranian Revolution: In 1979, the Islamic Revolution in Iran overthrew the Shah and established an Islamic republic, leading to a new era of political and religious extremism in the region.

Iran-Iraq war: The long, drawn-out war between Iran and Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Iran over river access. With help, Iran won and retained their river control.

The Gulf War: The war against Iraq in the 1990s by a international military coalition, including the U.S. The war was a response to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, which resulted in the devastation of Kuwait including the burning of their oil fields.

Osama bin Laden: Osama bin Laden was the founder and leader of Al-Qaeda, a Sunni Islamist militant group responsible for several high-profile attacks against the United States, including the September 11th attacks in 2001. Born in Saudi Arabia in 1957, bin Laden became involved in the Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation in the 1980s and later founded Al-Qaeda with the goal of driving Western influence and military presence from Muslim countries and establishing a global Islamic caliphate. Under bin Laden’s leadership, Al-Qaeda carried out several major attacks, including the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the September 11th attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people. In response to the attacks, the US launched a military campaign in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban, who had provided safe haven to Al-Qaeda, and began a global manhunt for bin Laden. On May 2nd, 2011, bin Laden was killed in a US military raid on his compound in Pakistan.

Al-Qaida: A Sunni Islamist militant group founded by Osama bin Laden in 1988. Its stated goal is to drive Western military forces from Muslim countries and establish a global Islamic caliphate. Al-Qaeda is known for several high-profile attacks, including the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, and the September 11th attacks in 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people. These attacks led to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the eventual killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces in Pakistan in 2011. Despite the death of bin Laden and the disruption of Al-Qaeda’s central leadership, the group continues to carry out attacks in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, often through its affiliated organizations. Al-Qaeda remains one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist organizations and continues to pose a significant threat to US interests and allies in the region.

School in a Book: Algebra and Geometry

When it comes to algebra and geometry, most schools emphasize skills practice while spending almost no time helping students understand the ideas they are putting to use. Studying the definitions of commonly used higher-level math terms might help further your grasp of these subjects and allow you to converse about them more easily. Fluency in these ideas might also ease transitions between math teachers and curriculum and shorten your review time before exams.

Note that calculus and trigonometry terms are not included in this book, as these ideas require the kind of in-depth explanations that aren’t practical in this format. Also, this treatment of algebra and geometry focuses on the ideas and processes that are most useful for a general audience.


Algebra: An extension of arithmetic in which unknown numbers can be represented by letters

Variable: Any letter that stands for a number

Expression: Any string of numbers and symbols that makes sense when placed on one side of an equation; for example 5x + 4x

Term: Any part of an expression that is separated from the other parts by either a plus sign or a minus sign; for example, 3x and 5x in the expression 3x – 5x

Coefficient: The numerical part of a term; for example, the term 3x has a coefficient of 3

Constant: A number without a variable; for example, the number 2 in 6m + 2 = x

Like terms: Terms whose variables (with any exponents) are the same; for examples, 3x and 5x

Order of operations: The correct sequence of operations to use when solving an expression with multiple operations. Mathematical symbols are often used to indicate this sequence; for example, in (3x + 5x)/2, 3x and 5x are to be added before that number is divided by 2.

Theorum: A mathematical proposition that has been proven true, such as the Pythagorean Theorum

Rational number: A number that can be made by dividing two integers

Irrational number: A real number that cannot be made by dividing two integers

The Commutative Rule of Addition: The rule that states that when two terms are added, the order of addition does not matter

Commutative Rule of Multiplication: The rule that states that when two terms are multiplied, the order of multiplication does not matter

Associative Rule of Addition: The rule that states that when three or more terms are added, the order of addition does not matter

Distributive Rule of Multiplication: The rule that states that when a number is multiplied to an addition of two numbers, it results in the output which is same as the sum of their products with the number individually. The equation for the for this is: a × (b + c) = (a × b) + (a × c). For example, x2 × (2x + 1) = (x2 × 2x) + (x2× 1).

The inverse property of addition: The rule that states that for every number a, a + (-a) = 0 (zero)

The inverse property of multiplication: The rule that states that for every non-zero number a, a x (1/a) = 1

Factorization: The mathematical process of breaking a number down into smaller numbers that, multiplied together, equal the original number

Prime number: A positive number that has exactly two factors, 1 and itself

Square root: The number that, multiplied by itself once, equals the number of which it is a root. For example, the square root of 16 is 4 because 4 x = 16.

Root: The number that, multiplied by itself one or more times, equals the number of which it is a root. For example, the number 2 is a cube root of 8 because 2 x 2 x 2 = 8.

Radical: The symbol √ that is used to indicate the square root or nth root of a number

Exponent: A number that indicates how many times to multiply its associated number. An exponent is written in a smaller font at the top right-hand corner of its associated number.

Exponential growth: The rapid numerical growth that occurs when numbers are multiplied, then multiplied again, with each iteration folding in the previous total and multiplying it by x number

Second-degree term: A variable raised to the second power, like x2, or the product of exactly two variables, like x and y

Linear equation: An equation in which the highest power of the variable is always one and which describes a straight line on a graph. The standard form of a linear equation with one variable is: Ax + B = 0. These are some of the easier algebraic equations to solve, and are introduced early in the subject.

Linear model: A model that assumes a linear relationship between the input variables (x) and the single output variable (y)

Quadratic equation: An equation that has a second-degree term and no higher terms

Quadratic formula: A formula that provides a solution to the quadratic equation ax2 + bx + c = 0. The quadratic formula is obtained by solving the general quadratic equation.

Polynomial: A mathematical expression with one or more algebraic terms, each of which consists of a constant multiplied by one or more variables raised to a nonnegative integral power (such as a + bx + cx2)

Monomial: A polynomial with only one term

Binomial: A polynomial with only two terms

Trinomial: A polynomial with only three terms

Degree of a polynomial: The sum of the exponents of variables that occur in that term (if there is no exponent written on a variable, such as in 3x, the exponent is one). The degree of a polynomial is the greatest degree of any term in the polynomial (for instance, for the polynomial 4x2 + 7xyz, the degree is 3 because of the last term).

Function: An expression that states a relationship between one variable (the independent variable) and another variable. These expressions can be graphed on a coordinate plane.

Nonlinear function: A function whose graph is not a line or part of a line

Vector: A quantity that has both magnitude and direction but not position. Examples of such quantities are velocity and acceleration

Simple interest: Interest that is calculated on the principle amount only

Compound interest: Interest that is calculated on both the principal amount as well as the interest accumulated over the previous period

Amortization: A method for calculating interest payments wherein a much higher proportion of the total interest is charged first, and reduced at a regular rate over the life of a loan

Scientific notation: A way of writing very large or very small numbers in a shorter form, using symbols; for example, 650,000,000 can be written as 6.5 ✕ 10^8

Relation: A collection of ordered pairs containing one object from each set

Transformation: A general term for four specific ways to manipulate the shape and/or position of a point, line, or geometric figure

Simultaneous linear equation: The two linear equations in two or three variables solved together to find a common solution


Plane geometry: The mathematics of flat, two-dimensional shapes like lines, circles and triangles

Solid geometry: The mathematics of three dimensional objects like cubes, prisms, cylinders and spheres

Point: A specific position on a line, plane, or in space. A point is a theoretical construct. It has no dimensions, only position.

Line: A one-dimensional figure that features length but no depth or height. A line is a theoretical construct.

Plane: A flat two-dimensional surface. A plane is a theoretical construct with no depth whose height and width are infinite or indefinite

Solid: A three-dimensional shape

Polygon: Any two-dimensional (plane) shape with straight sides, such as triangles, rectangles and pentagons

Quadrilateral: A polygon with four sides

Pentagon: A polygon with five sides

Hexagon: A polygon with six sides

Septagon/Heptagon: A polygon with seven sides

Octagon: A polygon with eight sides

Rhombus: A quadrilateral with parallel and equally-sized opposite sides; a diamond

Parallelogram: A quadrilateral with parallel equally-sized opposite sides

Trapezoid: A quadrilateral with two parallel and two nonparallel sides

Isosceles triangle: A triangle with two sides that are of equal length

Equilateral triangle: A triangle with equal sides and angles

Scalene triangle: A triangle with unequal sides and angles

Right triangle: A triangle with one internal 90-degree angle

Cube: A three-dimensional figure with six identical square faces

Cone: A three-dimensional triangle with a circular base and a pointed top

Cylinder: A tube-shaped object

Sphere: A ball-shaped object

Pyramid: A three-dimensional figure on which the faces are triangular and converge to a single point at the top

Prism: A three-dimensional figure with identical ends of any shape. For example, a rectangular prism has identical rectangles at each end. Note that a cube is a prism.

Angle: Two lines that meet to form a corner

Parallel lines: Lines that do not intersect

Perpendicular lines: Lines that intersect at a 90-degree angle

Vertex: A corner point

Right angle: A 90-degree angle

Acute angle: An angle less than 90 degrees but greater than 0 degrees

Obtuse angle: An angle greater than 90 degrees but less than 180 degrees

Diameter: A straight line that passes through the center of a circle or sphere and ends at the circle or sphere’s outer edges

Radius: A straight line that extends from the center of a circle or sphere to the outer edge; half of a diameter

Chord: The line segment between two points on a curve

Face: A surface plane of a three-dimensional shape

Edge: The meeting place of two faces on a three-dimensional shape

Slope: The steepness and direction of a line as read from left to right

Transversal line: A straight line that intersects two other straight lines

Coordinate: Two numbers (or a letter and a number) that signify a specific point on a coordinate plane

Coordinate plane: A grid with a horizontal x-axis and a vertical y-axis that meet at a center point, with the center point value being 0 and each line on the grid representing whole numbers as they increase or decrease along each axis. The plane has four quadrants: quadrant I, with a positive x value and a positive y value; quadrant II, with a negative x value and a positive y value; quadrant III, with a negative x value and a negative y value; and quadrant IV, with a positive x value and a negative y value. A coordinate plane is used to graph points, lines and other objects.

X-axis: The horizontal axis in a coordinate plane

Y-axis: The vertical axis in a coordinate plane

Congruent: The same shape and size (though not necessarily positioned the same way)

Similar: The same shape, with the same angle degrees (though not necessarily the same size)

Pythagorean theorem: The rule of mathematics that states that the square of the length of the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides. Written as a formula, this is: a2 + b2 = c2 (for a right-angled triangle).

Proof: Statements that prove that a mathematical concept is true

Trigonometry: The branch of mathematics that applies algebra and geometry skills to circular and periodic functions. It includes the use of sine, cosine and tangent.

Calculus: The branch of mathematics that works with series and sequences; probability and statistics; and limits and derivatives.

School in a Book: Science and History Skills

close up of microscope
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com.


  • Interpreting the Periodic Table of the Elements
  • Drawing a simple diagram of an atom
  • Drawing simple diagrams of molecules
  • Drawing simple diagrams of plant and animal cells
  • Visually identifying parts of the body and body systems
  • Using a telescope
  • Using a microscope
  • Using a map
  • Calculating time zone differences
  • Making and testing a hypothesis and using the scientific method
  • Identifying local plants and animals (daisy, bluebell, iris, crocus, pansy, lilac, rose, marigold, tulip, daffodil, buttercup, lavender, juniper, oak tree, maple tree, ivy, blueberry bush, apple tree, pear tree, palm tree, raspberry bush, blackberry bush, cedar, pine)
  • Identifying rocks
  • Classifying animals into major taxonomic groups (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, arthropods, vertebrates, invertebrates, those having live births and those which lay eggs)
  • Making a sun dial
  • Identifying important cities, states, countries, and bodies of water on a map


  • Building science-related structures and models with Lego and/or other media (such as animals, vehicles, etc.)
  • Block building
  • Train set building
  • Playing with magnets
  • Breaking open and identifying rocks
  • Building circuits
  • Taking nighttime walks
  • Watching astronomical events (such as a lunar eclipse, shooting stars or the Aurora Borealis)
  • Making homemade environmentally friendly house cleaners (using borax, lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar and more)
  • Learning computer programming basics
  • Growing crystals
  • Making a balloon rocket
  • Making a volcano using baking soda and vinegar
  • Making a bottle submarine
  • Making invisible ink
  • Hunting for fossils
  • Making a rainbow
  • Making a bat house
  • Making a birdhouse
  • Making a birdbath
  • Making a bee house for honeybees
  • Making a foam-and-cardboard planetarium
  • Growing coral
  • Comparing rates of decomposition
  • Going on tidepooling and nature collecting excursions
  • Watching sunsets and sunrises


  • What are some of the important similarities between various historical cultures? What are some of the important differences?
  • Were there any good civilizations in history? Were there any bad ones?
  • What part did ethnocentrism play in various historical cultures? What part did racism play?
  • What are the main reasons nations and states waged war? Why did smaller tribes and peoples wage war?
  • How was history influenced by various technological discoveries, including farming, the wheel, metalwork, gunpowder, the printing press, the train and many more?
  • What are some examples of religious wars? To what extent were they motivated by the spread of religious ideas and the quashing of other religious ideas and to what extent were they motivated by other desires or needs?
  • What are some possible reasons towns and civilizations spring up independently in so many different parts of the world within a few hundred years of each other?
  • Why did relatively safe, prosperous nations, like Rome, continuously try to grow larger? Was this a wise strategy?
  • What are some of the historical reasons for poverty?

School in a Book: Statistics and Research

white android tablet turned on displaying a graph
Photo by Burak The Weekender on Pexels.com

Statistics are for everyone. You might not need to know all of the terms presented here, but conversational fluency on politics, economics, science and much more requires most.

Basic Statistics

Percentage: A part of one hundred, with one hundred representing the whole

Mean/average: The score that is found when a group of scores are added, then divided by the total number of scores

Median: The score that falls directly in the middle of a group of scores when those scores are presented in numerical order

Mode: The most frequently occurring score in a group

Range: A number that shows how dispersed a group of scores is

Data set: A collection of numbers or values that relate to a particular subject

Sample: A single data point in a data set

Data distribution: A function that shows all possible values for a variable as well as their frequency of occurrence. Data distributions can be used to find probability.

Standard deviation: The average amount of variability in a data set. Standard deviation shows how far any given value lies from the mean.

Normal curve/normal distribution/bell curve: The arrangement of data into a graph that delineates the average in the center, most of the data points within one standard deviation of the center, and fewer data points two, three and four standard deviations from the center. The normal curve is always symmetrical, since it depicts where various data points lie in relation to each other and to the average.

Probability: The likelihood of something happening. Probability can be represented as percentages or other numbers.

Conditional probability: The likelihood of something happening if something else happens first

Statistical significance: The likelihood that a given result occurred due to the independent variables being studied, rather than random chance

Correlation: The degree to which two or more quantities increase or decrease together. Data sets have a positive correlation when they increase together, and a negative correlation when one set increases as the other decreases. High correlation does not indicate causation.

Spurious correlation: An inaccurate or questioned correlation

Type One error/false positive: The statistical error that occurs when a true null hypothesis is rejected

Type Two error/false negative: The statistical error that occurs when a false null hypothesis is retained

Regression testing/statistical regression: A way of mathematically analyzing experimental results that uses past results to predict future results. Regression testing is used to predict college GPAs based on high school SAT scores, for example.

P value: A number that indicates the degree to which a relationship between two variables has significance; in other words, the probability

Validity coefficient: A number between 0 and 1.0 that indicates the validity of a test, with 1.0 indicating perfect validity

Correlation coefficient: A number that indicates the amount of correlation that exists between two variables, with 0 showing no correlation, a positive number showing a positive relationship and a negative number showing a negative relationship

Reliability coefficient: A number that indicates the reliability of a test’s scores from one iteration to the next, with a number greater than 1.0 indicating low reliability

Nominal scale: A binary scale such as yes/no or male/female

Ordinal scale: A scale in which scores are rated or ordered in comparison to each other

Interval scale: A scale that uses intervals, but not as part of a ratio, such as temperature

Ratio scale: A scale in which scores can be quantified in absolute terms; for example, height, length and weight

Derived score: A score that results when a raw score (for example, 67/70 on a test) is converted to a standardized scoring ratio (for example, 3.8 on a GPA scale)

Scatterplot: A set of data points plotted on a grid with horizontal and vertical axes. Scatterplots are used to visually show relationships between data points.

Venn diagram: A diagram that uses circles that sometimes overlap to show relationships between data sets. Overlapping circles represent data sets that are similar to the degree that they overlap, and different to the degree that they do not.

Basic Research

Experiment: A scientific test to determine whether or not a hypothesis is true. A proper experiment includes a control group, an experimental group and variables (including independent, dependent and controlled variables).

The scientific method: The accepted process for “doing science”; that is, the way that scientific theories are tested. The steps include: making an observation; forming a hypothesis; gathering data, which might include conducting one or more experiments; and analyzing the results and drawing conclusions.

Hypothesis: An educated guess which might provide the basis of an experiment or other research. The hypothesis is also sometimes called the alternative hypothesis, since experiments are usually based around a null hypothesis.

Null hypothesis: The statement that contradicts the research hypothesis, saying that no effect of statistical significance exists. Experiments are often built around a null hypothesis since it is easier to disprove a null hypothesis than to prove a hypothesis directly.

Independent variable: A variable that is not affected by another variable

Dependent variable: A variable that may be affected by an independent variable

Experimental group/treatment group: The group of subjects in an experiment that is exposed to the dependent variable being studied

Control group: The group of subjects in an experiment that is not exposed to the dependent variable being studied. Control groups might include placebo groups, treatment as usual groups or even groups that are not acted on within the experiment in any meaningful way.

Random assignment: The practice of assigning subjects to treatment groups and control groups randomly

Random sampling: Choosing subjects by pure chance, from the whole known population

Probability sampling: Choosing subjects from within a particular population in a randomized manner, rather than purely at random

Nonprobability sampling: Choosing subjects from within a particular population in a non-randomized manner. Subjects might be selected due to their unique characteristics or due to their willingness to participate, for example. Nonprobability sampling is not used to show the probability of a variable, only to study the variable in other ways.

Saturation: The practice of administering a test to subjects over and over again until no new data refute findings of previous data

Validity: The extent to which a test measures what it says it measures

Internal validity: The extent to which a test measures what it says it measures, based on the structure of the test itself

External validity: The extent to which a test’s results can be generalized to other contexts

Face validity: The extent to which a test seems valid at first glance

Content validity: The extent to which a test’s content relates to the subject at hand

Construct validity: The extent to which a test’s construction increasing the test’s validity

Concurrent validity/convergent validity: The extent to which a test’s results overlap with other tests that measure the same phenomenon

Threats to validity: Participant effects; researcher effects; environmental effects; time-related effects; testing modality effects; drop-out effects; maturation effects; placebo effects; participant selection and more

The placebo effect: The effect on subjects not exposed to treatment that occurs when they believe they have received treatment

Reliability: The extent to which a test’s results are consistent, recurring in different iterations. Valid tests are by definition reliable; however, reliable results aren’t always valid since results can be reliably wrong.

Inter-scorer/inter-rater reliability: Degree of consistency of ratings between two or more raters observing the same behavior (like two judges of a contest)

Test-retest reliability: The consistency of the scores of the same test taker across multiple instances of the same test

Sensitivity: The extent to which a test is accurately identifies the presence of a phenomenon

Specificity: The extent to which a test accurately identifies the absence of a phenomenon

Power: The likelihood of detecting a significant relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable, which is due to an experiment’s design

Internal consistency: Measures how consistent the test taker’s answers were to show they were honest and consistent, taking the test correctly

Descriptive research: Research questions that merely explore data in a non-experimental way. These include case studies, observational studies, statistical reports and more.

Relational research: Research that explores correlation

Causal research: Research that seeks to prove or disprove that X phenomenon causes Y phenomenon

Case study: A nonexperimental research study that presents data on a single individual or a single group of individuals experiencing the phenomenon of interest

Blind study: A study in which participants don’t know whether they are in the control group or the experiment group

Double blind study: A study in which both the researchers and the participants don’t know which group participants are in (the control group or the experiment group)

Naturalistic/observational study: A nonexperimental research study in which participants are observed, usually in their natural environment, but not directly experimented on. Interviews might also be used.

Statistical report: A nonexperimental research study consisting of a report that provides a variety of statistical data on a given topic. Two examples are reports on crime statistics in a particular city and a company annual report.

Action study: A nonexperimental study conducted for the purpose of program evaluation and improvement. An example is a needs assessment for a school free lunch program that presents relevant data, conclusions and action steps.

Quantitative research: Experimental research that presents all data in the form of numbers

Qualitative research: Experimental research that presents at least some of its data in the form of words, pictures, video and/or artifacts

Mixed-method research: Research that presents both quantitative and qualitative data

Pilot study: A less extensive preliminary experimental study for the purpose of determining whether or not a full-scale study is warranted. It is designed as an experiment, but is not a true experiment.

Comparative research design: A research design for investigating group differences for a particular variable. Simplistic; doesn’t show causation.

Longitudinal research design: A research design in which the same subject (either the same individuals or samples from the same cohort) is examined and re-examined over the course of time. Answers the research question, “What were the effects on this group over time?”

Single-subject research design: A research design for studying the effect of an experiment on a single subject or group without comparing it with another group

Time lag research design/cohort sequential research design: A research design that duplicates the experiment on a second cohort shortly after the first experiment is conducted; similar to cross-sectional but sequential

Cross-sectional research design: A research design for studying several groups at the same time. The groups might be different from each other in some way, such as children in different grades.

Correlational research design: A research design for studying the relationship between two variables. This design, however, does not show whether the variables directly affect each other.

Ex post facto/causal-comparative research design: No true randomization but otherwise, does show causation

Split-plot research design: A research design in which an experiment is first done on a large plot, then the plot is split into smaller sections and various aspects of the treatment are given to the subplots. This helps show which aspect of the treatment had the most impact on the results.

Norm-referenced assessment: An assessment or test in which each individual’s score is compared to the average score of the entire test-taking group, such as the SAT

Criterion-referenced assessment: An assessment or test in which each individual’s score is compared to the criteria, such as a skills test

School in a Book: History of Japan


Ancient Times (3500 BCE to 500 CE)

Classical Japan: The period of Japanese history that took place from approximately 300 BCE to 800 CE and that was characterized by technological advancements such as bronze and iron; the introduction of rice and barley from neighboring countries; and greater cultural unity that included Shintoism. During this time, Japan began the process of unification.

Shinto: The classical religion of Japan featuring nature spirits and the worship of ancestors

Priestess Hiiko: A tribal priestess who, during the 100s CE, used her religious influence to unite about thirty Japanese tribes, creating the first united Japanese state. She then sent ambassadors to China to learn about their culture and modeled her combined tribe after it.

The Golden Age of Japan: The Japanese era that took place during the 700s during which Shinto and Buddhism co-existed peacefully, Nara became the capital city, the emperor gradually became a ceremonial figure and the government came to be controlled by officials and monks.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

Fujiwara Dynasty: The Japanese dynasty that came to power approximately 800 CE and lasted till approximately 1200 CE. The Fujiwara family were regents, not emperors. They gained their right to rule by marrying their daughters to the emperors. Eventually, the Fujiwara regents became more powerful than the emperors. During their reign, art and literature flourished, but infighting led to civil war and, eventually, their downfall.

Shogun Japan: The rigid feudal system of government that arose in Japan around 1200 CE and ended in the late 1800s. It included the emperors, shoguns and daimyos in the ruling class; the samurai class; and the peasants, craftsmen and merchant classes.

Shoguns: Ruthless military dictators who led Shogun Japan and held more power than the traditional emperors (though the emperors remained as ceremonial figures). Their reigns (called shogunates)

Daimyos: The ruling-class lords of feudal shogun Japan who served under the emperors

Samurai: Specially trained and highly respected warriors who fought on behalf of their daimyos, especially during the first half of the Shogun era. The samurai class developed as a response to the jostling for power that occurred between the shoguns, daimyos and emperors during Shogun Japan. In addition to fighting techniques, samurai studied religion, arts, and more. They followed a code of honor and many detailed rituals. Many became Zen Buddhists.

Hara-kiri: The honorable act of suicide by a samurai after defeat by an enemy

Nobleman Yoritomo: The first shogun of Japan

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Portugese invasion: The invasion of Japan by Portugese sailors in the mid-1500s that introduced guns and Christianity to the area. Though Japanese viewed guns as as weapons of cowards, they adopted them out of necessity.

Oda Nobunaga: A daimyo who, in the late 1500s, overcame other daimyos and reunited Japan after a long period of instability and fragmentation. He was aided by his use of Western style guns.

Hideyoshi: The chief imperial minister following Nobunaga. Hideyoshi planned to expand Japan into China and Korea, but failed to capture Korea after invasion. A believer in a strong central control, he banned foreigners, Christianity and overseas travel.

Tokugawa shogun era/Edo period: The era of Japanese history spanning the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s and the final era to feature traditional Japanese government, culture and society. It was led by the Tokugawa dynasty of shoguns and was known for its isolationist policies and a turn from feudalism to a trading economy. It featured a strong central government, increased stability and prosperity, a population expansion, improved education, advanced ideas about hygeine, reduced military conflict, the persecution of Christians, the new capital city of Edo (Tokyo) and more. During this time, once-respected daimyos and samurai became less relevant and important, while merchants and farmers expanded their businesses and began to thrive. During the latter part of this era, Japan responded to increasing Western pressure to open trade, allowing foreign ships to trade on nearby islands (not on the mainland).

Tokugawa Ieyasu: The first Tokugawa shogun

Nijo castle: The palace built by the daimyos during the Tokugawa shogun era and the largest castle in the world at that time

The Meiji Restoration: The toppling of the Tukugawa shogunate in the late 1800s which ended the Edo period and brought Japan into the modern era

President Fillmore: The U.S. president who sent four warships to Japan in order to intimidate them into opening trade. The effort succeeded and was followed by additional trade agreements with foreigners.

Matthew Perry: The commander of the warships sent by the U.S. to Japan to force trade

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the present)

Wars with China and Russia for Korea: The wars that Japan fought during the early 1900s in an effort to expand into Korea and China–efforts that were resisted by Russia and the U.S. Japan won both wars and annexed Korea, becoming the most powerful nation in Asia for a time.

Chinese-Japanese war: The war that Japan initiated against China in the 1930s. Due largely to China’s weakened position during its ongoing civil war, Japan was not defeated until 1945.

Rape of Nanking: The 1930s invasion of Nanking by the Japanese, during which they massacred 100,000 Chinese.

Emperor Hirohito: The ceremonial leader of Japan from 1901 to 1989 who aggressively opposed foreign nations during his entire reign.

Pearl Harbor: The December 7, 1941 attack on the U.S. by the Japanese which spurred the U.S. to officially join the Allies. It followed Japan’s 1940 alliance with Germany.

Battle of Midway: The World War II sea battle during which Japan overtook Hong Kong, Burma, Indonesia and more, but was successfully resisted by the U.S. Much of the fighting took place off aircraft carriers in the Pacific Ocean. The victory by the U.S., which happened after they cracked Japanese radio codes, became a turning point of the war.

Kamikaze attacks: The air attacks made by Japan on U.S. ships during World War II, which were named for the Japanese word meaning “divine wind”–a word also used for the two successive storms that kept westerners out of Japan for a time before President Fillmore broke through.

Atomic bomb attacks: The 1945 attacks wherein the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These attacks occurred after the U.S. secured Okinawa and Iwo Jima. They were followed by Japan’s almost immediate surrender. Almost one million Japanese were killed, followed by another million as radiation spread. 100 Japanese cities were destroyed.

Post-war rebuilding of Japan: The rebuilding process that took place in Japan after World War II. With the financial help of the U.S., Japan rebuilt itself as a capitalist, industrial nation. They improved their education system, started holding democratic elections, built factories, incorporated modern technology and modernized their infrastructure. Eventually, Japan became a technological giant, with its people among the best educated in the world. It helped spread modernization to South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

School in a Book: History of India


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Pre-Vedic age: The pre-Aryan era of Indian history during which the first known Indian civilization was established

The Indus Valley civilization: The first known Indian civilization, named after the fertile region in which it was established. It featured agriculture including cotton spinning; animal husbandry; carts pulled by water buffaloes; advanced economics; pottery; copper and bronze works; and some trade with the Middle East. This civilization was larger than either of its close contemporaries in Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Mohenjo Daro and Harappa: The two most well-known ancient Indus Valley cities whose excavations greatly increased knowledge of ancient Indian history. Mohenjo Daro featured a citadel; a public bath; a granary; assembly halls; drainage; standard weights and measures; writing; and a population of around 40,000.

The Vedic age: The era of Indian history during which the Aryans ruled. It included the introduction and spread of Hinduism and the start of Indian literature.

The Aryans: A central Asian people who invaded and subdued India during ancient times and dramatically influenced the culture. The Aryan conquerors (who had two-wheeled chariots) became the upper classes of merchants, warriors, priests and rulers and the subdued people became slaves, laborers and artisans. In time this became a caste system. 

The Indian caste system:

The Vedas: The classical epic cultural and religious texts composed during the Vedic era in India. These are the first known literary texts of this region and are still widely read today. 

Siddhartha Gautam: The founder of the religion of Buddhism. Buddha, as he later became known, was born in India about 500 years BCE. His teachings did not take root until long after his death.

The invasion of India by Alexander the Great: The brief period of Indian history during which the Macedonians, led by Alexander, held Indian and Persian lands. In spite of their military losses, Indian leaders helped stop Alexander’s advancement with their devastating use of elephants during battle. Shortly after Alexander’s death, the Greeks withdrew from the area, which was too large and remote to rule effectively.

The Mauryan Empire: The first unified Indian empire, which rose to power around 300 BCE shortly after Alexander’s invasion and after a time of fighting between the various Indian kingdoms. During this empire, trade and wealth increased significantly.

Ashoka: The greatest Mauryan ruler, who expanded the empire through conquest then converted to Buddhism and advocated for peace. He helped spread Buddhism throughout India.

The Gupta Dynasty: The Golden Age of Indian history. This dynasty rose to power after several other empires following the Mauryan Empire failed to keep India united and thriving. During the Gupta Dynasty, India reunited and expanded. Trade with China increased greatly and literature, mathematics, astronomy and medicine flourished.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

India during the Middle Ages: After the Gupta Dynasty, parts of India fell to Hun invaders. Following this, several other dynasties (most of which were Islamic and spread the religion of Islam in India) took over temporarily but failed to reunite the whole of India. The invasion of the Turks and, later, the Mongols further hampered Indian progress. 

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

The Mughal Empire: One of the greatest eras in Indian history during which India was again reunited under one ruler. During this time, infrastructure, administration and the arts advanced greatly. Many well-known monuments were built and the government was reorganized. In some areas, the Mughals continued ruling until the British takeover in the late 1800s, though practically speaking, by that time most of India was controlled by various colonial powers.

Akbar the Great: The greatest Mughal emperor, who successfully united India. He instituted social reforms and promoted Hinduism and Persian culture. 

Shah Jahan: One of the last Mughal emperors. He is most famous for building the Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal: One of the most beautiful buildings in the world, which was built in the 1600s by emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his wife after her death. It took 22 years to complete.

The Indian colonial period: The period of Indian history during which Europeans (including England, the Netherlands, Portugal and France) colonized India. This began in the 1500s as various European trading companies competed ferociously for trading rights and governmental control. It continued with British takeover from the late 1800s till India gained independence in 1947. 

The English East Indian Company: The organization created by England in the 1600s to conduct trade with India. They operated in Calcutta, Bombay and elsewhere.

Bombay: The English name of the Indian city of Mumbai. Bombay was first taken by Portugal, then given to the English king, then sold to the English East Indian Company and used as a trading base for many years.

The British Raj: The British ruler of India during British colonization

British imperialism: The period of Indian history during which the British controlled India. For a time, Queen Victoria served as the Empress of India. 

The Modern Era (The 1900s through the Present)

The Indian industrial revolution: The industrial revolution took root in India in the early 1900s

Indian nationalism: The political ideology that advocated for Indian independence

India during World War I: India fought on behalf of the British against their will. However, with the economic decline of Britain, Indian nationalists slowly gained influence during this time.

Mahatma Ghandi: The Indian nationalist leader who led the long fight for Indian independence from WWI on. Gandhi was a lawyer who lived in South Africa for a time and served as the leader of Indians living there. After returning to India, he launched a movement of non-cooperation with the British which included boycotts of British goods and schools. He advocated for non-violence, though others involved in the movement did not follow this recommendation. Gandhi went to prison multiple times during the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. He was assassinated in 1948, a year after India won independence.

India during World War II: As in World War I, in World War II India fought on behalf of the British.

Prime minister Nehru: The first prime minister of India, who helped create the Indian constitution in the late 1940s

Indian constitution: The constitution created after India gained independence from Britain. It strictly regulated industry, establishing some industries as fully government controlled and others as privately run.

India during the 1950s and 60s: Indian reforms increased irrigation, boosted agriculture and increased industrial production. At the same time, India’s population increased rapidly and poverty and illiteracy were widespread. India also fought some battles with China and Tibet during this time, both of which tried to encroach on its territory.

India during the 1970s and 80s: India experienced inflation and a recession due in part to rapidly rising oil prices. 

India during the 1990s and 2000s: India deregulated the economy, which led to rapid economic growth, and its population continues to rise quickly. 

School in a Book: Logic and Rhetoric

It’s hard to imagine having a proper debate without knowledge of logical fallacies. For one thing, they’re just so common. If you want to argue better, or be better able to discriminate between sides of an argument, you’re in the right place. Just remember to flavor your powers of logic with tact.

Here’s how to analyze an argument for soundness: First, notice whether or not the form of the argument makes sense. Does the conclusion follow from the premises? If not, you likely have a formal fallacy on your hands. As a beginning logician, don’t spend too much time figuring out the name of the fallacy; instead, point out the problem and say something like, “The conclusion doesn’t follow the premises.” Step two is to notice whether or not the statements made in the argument are true; if not, there is an informal fallacy. You should be able to identify all ad hominem fallacies and name them as such. You should also be able to call out these fallacies by name: the fallacy of equivocation; the slippery slope fallacy; the poisoning the well fallacy; the straw man fallacy; the appeals to emotion, fear, pity, ridicule and the like; and the appeals to tradition, authority, and popularity. Other fallacies can simply be identified as a logical fallacy, and often, this is enough.

Important note: Many logical fallacies are known by more than one name. I’ve attempted to use the most common in my list, but if you rely too much on memorization, you won’t always recognize other people’s terms. More important, you’ll miss the point.

Finally, a quote to consider by Gongsun Long, a Chinese logician of ancient times: “One and one cannot become two, since neither becomes two.”

I think that pretty much says it all.


Logic: The set of rules for forming valid arguments; the study of rational argumentation. The word comes from the Greek word logos, originally meaning “the word,” “thought” or “reason.”

Rhetoric: The art of persuasion through the use of language

Semantics: The study of word meanings and usages, which can be complicated by cultural and linguistic factors

Argument: A set of statements that supports an opinion or position

Logical argument: An argument that attempts to demonstrate the factual accuracy of a position. This is usually expressed as two or more premises that lead to a conclusion. An example is: “All A’s are B’s and all B’s are C’s; therefore, all A’s are C’s.”

Rhetorical argument: An argument that attempts to persuade someone of a position, whether or not the position is factually accurate, and that might contain logical fallacies

Valid: Containing a conclusion that logically follows from the premises. An example is: “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.”

True: Accurate and corresponding with reality

Rational/sound: Both logically valid and factually accurate. An example is: “All zebras are mammals and all mammals have fur; therefore, all zebras have fur.”

Premise: A statement that forms the basis of an argument and leads to a conclusion. When it is false, the conclusion might also be false. In the argument “All A’s are B’s and all B’s are C’s; therefore, all A’s are C’s,” the two premises are “All A’s are B’s” and “All B’s are C’s.”

Antecedent: The part of an argument that comes before the “if.” In the premise “If A, then B,” A is the antecedent.

Consequent: The part of an argument that comes after the “then.” In the premise “If A, then B,” B is the consequent.

Deductive reasoning: Drawing a specific conclusion based on a general principle. An example is: “All zebras are mammals, and all mammals have fur; therefore, zebras have fur.”

Inductive reasoning: Arriving at a general principle based on specific facts or observations. An example is: “All apples I have ever eaten are sweet; therefore, all animals are sweet.”

Analysis: Pulling apart an argument to describe its individual elements

Synthesis: Putting the parts of an argument together to find its overall meaning

A priori: Known to be valid or true by reason alone. It means “from the earlier” in Latin.

A posteriori: Known to be valid or true through observation and experience, not reason. It means “from the latter” in Latin.

Logical fallacy: A weakness in an argument, often hidden, that leads to an invalid conclusion

Formal logical fallacy: A fallacy in the structure of the argument that causes the argument to be invalid or illogical, regardless of the factual accuracy of its conclusion

Informal logical fallacy: A fallacy in the content of the argument that causes the argument to be invalid or illogical, regardless of the factual accuracy of its conclusion. Many of these are simple distractions from the actual argument.

Common Formal Logical Fallacies

The affirming the consequent fallacy: A fallacy that follows the form, “If A, then B; B, therefore A.” An example is: “If Fred killed Todd, Fred is angry. Fred is angry, therefore, Fred killed Todd.”

The affirming the antecedent fallacy: A fallacy that follows the form, “If A, then B; A, therefore B.” An example is: “If Fred killed Todd, Fred is angry. Fred is angry, therefore, Fred killed Todd.”

The denying the consequent fallacy: A fallacy that follows the form, “If A, then B; not B, therefore not A.” An example is: “If Fred killed Todd, then he hated him. Fred didn’t hate Todd. Therefore, he didn’t kill him.”

The denying the antecedent fallacy: A fallacy that follows the form, “If A, then B; not A, therefore not B.” An example is: “If Fred killed Todd, then he hated him. Fred didn’t kill Todd. Therefore, he didn’t hate him.”

The affirming a disjunct fallacy: A fallacy that follows the form, “A is true or B is true. A is true. Therefore, B is not true.” In fact, both could be true. An example is: “Either Jane is at home or she is at work. Jane is at home. Therefore, she is not at work.”

The denying a disjunct fallacy: A fallacy that follows the form, “A is true or B is true. B is not true. Therefore, A is true.” An example is: “Either Jane is at home or she is at work. Jane is not at home. Therefore, she must be at work.”

The affirming a conjunct fallacy: A fallacy that follows the form, “A and B are both true. Therefore, C is true.” An example is: “John is tall and John is smart. Therefore, John is a good basketball player.”

The denying a conjunct fallacy: A fallacy that follows the form, “A and B are both true. Therefore, C is not true.” An example is: “John is tall and John is smart. Therefore, John is not short.”

Common Informal Logical Fallacies

Ad hominem fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer points to someone’s character, background or other characteristics, rather than to the relevant facts. The name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “against the person.” An example is: “Jane has a felony record so she won’t be a good student.”

Appeal to authority fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer points to someone’s knowledge, training or other credentials, rather than to the relevant facts. An example is: “My professor told me this, so it must be true.”

Equivocation fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer uses multiple definitions of the same word, misleading the audience. An example is: “I have a right to bear arms. Therefore, it is right for me to bear arms.”

Straw man fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer misrepresents the opponent’s position as being weaker than it really is. An example is: “The opponent is saying that they want extremely high taxes for everyone, even people who cannot afford it.”

Slippery slope fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer claims that a relatively small first step leads necessarily to a chain of related events, which it might or might not do. An example is: “If gay marriage becomes legal, people will soon start marrying animals.”

Poisoning the well fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer presents adverse information about an opponent with the intention of discrediting everything the opponent says. An example is: “The candidate is a liar and a cheat.”

Appeal to emotion fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer attempts to manipulate an audience’s emotions. This is a general category that includes the appeal to threat fallacy, the appeal to fear fallacy, the appeal to flattery fallacy, the appeal to pity fallacy, the appeal to ridicule fallacy and more. An example is: “If you change careers, it will disappoint your family.”

False dilemma fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer presents a limited number of options (usually two), implying these are the only options possible, when in reality there are more. An example is: “Either you like apples or you don’t. If you like them, you should eat them every day, and if you don’t, you should never eat them.”

Begging the question fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer states the conclusion as part of the premise in order to make the argument appear logical. An example is: “God exists because the Bible says so, and the Bible is the word of God.”

Ad nauseam fallacy: A fallacy in which an arguer relies on mere repetition. The name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “to the point of nausea.”

Ad infinitum fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer doesn’t directly lead to a conclusion and instead, merely adds additional facts and information. The name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “to infinity.”

Non sequitur fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer draws a conclusion that does not logically follow from the premises or evidence presented. Non sequitur means “it does not follow” in Latin. An example is: “All dogs are animals. My cat is not a dog. Therefore, my cat is not an animal.”

Appeal to tradition fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer relies on long-held truths rather than the relevant facts. An example is: “We have always gone to church on Sundays. Therefore, Sunday is the best day to go to church.”

Appeal to the people/bandwagon fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer claims a position to be true or good solely because a majority or many people believe it to be so. An example is: “This is the top brand of toothpaste. Therefore, it must be good.”

Guilt by association fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that something related to something bad is also bad. An example is: “Tom is friends with Sarah, and Sarah spent time in jail. Therefore, Tom can’t be trusted.”

Honor by association fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that something related to something good is also good. An example is: “Tom is friends with Sarah, and Sarah is an engineer. Therefore, Tom knows about engineering and her opinion can be trusted.”

Red herring fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer attempts to distract an audience by deviating from the topic at hand by introducing a separate argument the speaker believes is easier to speak to. An example is: “We shouldn’t invest in education. We should focus on reducing crime instead.”

Cherry picking fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer selects individual cases or data points that seem to confirm their position, while ignoring other, contradictory cases or data points. An example is: “We have many positive reviews of our product, so it must be good.”

Appeal to consequences fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer describes the consequences of a position, rather than whether or not the position is true. An example is: “If they pass the law, people will get more divorces. Therefore, we shouldn’t pass the law.”

Appeal to motive fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer attacks the motives of the opponent. An example is: “Sarah works for the company that she is advocating for. Therefore, she can’t be trusted.”

Tu quoque fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer points out the hypocrisy of the opponent. The name comes from the Latin phrase meaning “you too.” An example is: “You drive a car, so your opinion about carbon emission reduction isn’t reliable.”

Etymological fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer uses the historical, disused meaning of a word or phrase as a way to support an argument. An example is: “I am gay, so that must mean I’m happy.”

Moving the goal posts/raising the bar fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer dismisses the opponent’s evidence and demands additional, harder-to-find evidence. An example is: “I won’t believe the results unless I can see ten more DNA test results.”

Survivorship bias fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer points to a small number of successes while ignoring a large number of failures. An example is: “I am great at choosing stock because of the three times I chose correctly.”

False analogy fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer presents an analogy that does not suit the situation or conclusion. An example is: “Running the economy is like running a small business and the same strategies apply to both.”

Hasty generalization: A fallacy in which the arguer draws a broad conclusion based on a small sample or on an example that might not represent the whole. An example is: “This cat scratched me, so all cats must be bad-tempered.”

Oversimplification fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that there is one, simple cause of an outcome when in reality there might have been more than one. An example is: “Poverty can be solved if people just worked harder.”

Appeal to ignorance: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that a claim is true because it has not been or cannot be proven false, or vice versa. An example is: “Aliens must exist because we have no evidence that they don’t.”

Pooh-pooh fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer deems the opponent’s position as unworthy of serious consideration. An example is: “The idea that global warming affects ocean temperature is ridiculous. Therefore, it can’t be true.”

Moralistic fallacy: A fallacy in which the arguer assumes that what ought to be true, is in fact true. An example is: “Lying is always wrong, so this lie is also unjustifiable.”

School in a Book: Art and Architecture

There’s a unique pleasure that comes when creating something beautiful. But don’t just delve in without any background knowledge. Learning a few basic art principles can help you create more successful pieces and learning art history can help you understand and appreciate its influences.

Another tip I once heard: When attending an art gallery or museum, choose your favorite piece and try to explain to someone else why you feel that way. By forcing a choice, you learn how to think critically about what you’re seeing and you become a more participatory viewer. (Kids can do this, too!)


Composition: The placement of a work’s various elements and the ways these elements work together

The six basic elements of art: An artist’s visual tools, including: line, shape, color, value, form, texture and space

Elements of art technique: The various ways of depicting a work’s elements, including: lighting, values, proportions, silhouettes, gradient, contrast, shading and detail

The basic principles of art: Aspects of a work that together make up the work’s effect, including: balance/proportion, contrast/emphasis, movement/rhythm, pattern, unity/harmony/variety

Qualities of a successful piece of visual art: Technical skill; emotive power; movement; pattern; and a balance of contrast and emphasis, unity and variety, and proportions

Balance: The relative proportion of a work’s various elements

Emphasis: Visual dominance

Movement: The way a work encourages the viewer’s eye to take it in, area by area, which can be achieved through the use of diagonal lines, curvy lines, negative space and/or repetition

Pattern: A repetition of a work’s element or elements

Rhythm: A type of movement resulting from repetition and variety within a work

Unity/harmony: A sense of relatedness of the parts of a work

Symmetry: A mirror-image visual effect, with similar elements on opposite sides of the piece

Asymmetry: A non-mirror-image visual effect, with contrasting elements on opposite sides of the piece

Radial symmetry: A visual effect resulting from elements being equally spaced around a central point (as the spokes in a hub)

Dominant: Larger and more eye-catching than other elements in the piece. An example is found in magazines, newspapers and websites, which often use a single photo as the centerpiece of each page.

Negative space: Empty space, as opposed to filled positive space

The golden ratio: Approximately 1.618, a number that appears many times in geometry, art, and architecture and that seems to help create an attractive balance in a work

The rule of thirds: The artistic guideline recommending that the central focus and other key elements of a work should be placed 1/3 of the way down, up, right or left in a composition in order to achieve visual balance

The 70/30 rule of drawing: The artistic guideline recommending that 30 percent of the work is made up of its main focus and the rest is made up of filler and background

Color theory: The set of rules that describe how colors relate to each other

Primary colors: The three basic colors from which the secondary colors are created. Traditionally, and in art theory, these are red, blue and yellow, while in printing pigment, these are cyan, magenta and yellow.

Secondary colors: The colors that are made up of exactly two primary colors. When using the traditional primary colors, these are orange, purple and green.

Complementary colors: Colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel

Analagous colors: Colors that border each other on the color wheel

Achromatic colors: Black, white and grey

Neutral colors: Achromatic and near-achromatic colors like beige, tan, black, brown and grey

Color wheel: A circular representation of the relationships between various colors

Color scheme: A set of colors that provide a theme

Hue: A specific wavelength of light; a color

Saturation: A color’s intensity

Shade: A hue produced by adding black

Tint: A hue produced by adding white

Tone: A hue produced by adding grey

Value: The lightness or darkness of the color

Pigment: A colored material used for artworks that is mostly or entirely insoluble in water

Dye: A colored material used for artworks that is mostly or entirely water soluble

Prehistoric art: The earliest arts, found on every continent, which predated writing and the Neolithic Revolution and which included cave drawings, pottery, textile weaving, statue making and much more

Ancient Mesopotamian art: The art of ancient Mesopotamia and nearby, which included wood and stone statues; cuneiform and other pictographs; elaborate gardens; ziggurats and pyramids; ceremonial architecture including monuments, tombs, temples, sphinxes, obelisks and shrines; and more

Ancient Chinese art: The art of ancient China, which included silk weaving; delicate painted ceramics; bronze ritual vessels; jade and gold statues; intricate calligraphy; gold jewelry; ink handscroll with gold embellishment; the Terracotta Army; the Sanxingdui excavation; and more

Terracotta soldiers: A large collection of larger-than-life clay warriors created in ancient China then buried for thousands of years in the grave of Shi Huang Di

Sanxingdui excavation: A collection of about fifty large bronze heads and a large bronze human figure decorated with elephant heads created and long buried in ancient China

Ancient Grecian art: The art of ancient Greece, which includes simple sculptures in bronze and clay; cave painting; and some life-sized statues like a snake goddess which were influenced by Egyptian art

Ancient Egyptian art: The art of ancient Egypt, which includes pyramids; sarcophagi (intricately decorated coffins); gold works and more. Many ancient Egyptian tombs were crammed with gold jewelry, statues and much more. The Great Pyramid of Giza is Egypt’s most well-known artistic and architectural achievement.

Inuit art: The ancient and medieval art of far-north North America that includes walrus ivory sculpture

Traditional Tibetan and Indian art: The ancient and medieval art of these regions that often features sacred themes, drawing inspiration from Buddhism, Hinduism and tribal religions and that includes religious icons; Tibetan murals and frescoes on monastery walls; cave paintings; textiles and more. Many works were intended to be used as meditation aids.

Traditional African art: The ancient and medieval art of these regions that includes buffalo hide masks; masks of other mediums; brass and gold sculpture; gold jewelry; elaborate palaces; and more. Many traditional African art forms were created as conduits to the spirit world.

Ancient Japanese art: The ancient art of Japan, which includes pottery, sculpture, ink painting, calligraphy on silk and paper, ceramics, origami and more

Traditional Aboriginal art: The art of native Australians, which includes rock engravings and paintings from 50,000 years ago; the Easter Island statues (larger-than-life human figures built during the Middle Ages); treasure chests; masks; battle shields; paintings; and more

Native American art: The traditional art of North America that includes Zapotec masks; ornate Aztec clothing; stone calendars of the Aztecs; massive Olmec heads; Mayan illuminated manuscripts on tree bark; pottery painting; totem poles; masks; quillwork; beadwork; ceramics; burial mounds; and gold and jade statues

Medieval European art: The art of medieval Europe, which reflected the dominance of the Catholic Church and included illustrated and illuminated manuscripts; paintings with gold leaf; gold leaf on glass; holy vessels; mosaics; religious icons; stained glass; detailed church architecture; and more

Medieval Celtic art: The art of the people who spoke Celtic languages and other culturally similar people and which included decorated shields, swoards and armor; religious vessels; gold jewelry; statues; painted manuscripts; and more

The Book of Kells: The most famous medieval illuminated manuscript, which was created by monks in Ireland, Scotland or England in approximately 800 AD. It was named after the Abbey of Kells, where it was kept for centuries. It is appreciated for its masterful calligraphy and illustrations and its overall intricacy and detail. It contains the four gospels of the New Testament, plus various other religious texts.

Medieval Anglo-Saxon art: The traditional art of Anglo-Saxon people that includes illuminated manuscripts and Romanesque-style metalwork including metal armor

Medieval Viking/Norse art: The traditional art of the Vikings and Nordic peoples that includes animal heads and plain large stone structures

Megaliths: Large stone building-like structures such as Stonehenge and Newgrange, the purpose of which is often unclear

Medieval Russian art: The art of Russia after the region’s state-led westernization that included Christian icons, religious paintings and Saint Basil’s Cathedral, which features onion-shaped domes in bright colors

Medieval Islamic art: The traditional art of the Islamic-speaking areas, especially the Middle East, that was inspired by Islam and includes painted ceramics; detailed metalwork; ornate textiles; intricate calligraphy; and architectural domes, arches and minarets

Romanesque art: The art movement that arose in Europe in the Middle Ages that was inspired by ancient Rome and that included frescoes; illuminated books; austere yet imposing churches decorated with sculptures; and other monumental stone structures

Renaissance art: The art movement of the 1400s and 1500s that was a response to the magical thinking of medieval times and that focused on scientific principles and realism. Notable examples include Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci; The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli; and David by Michaelangelo.

Romanticism: The art movement of the 1800s that was a response to Renaissance art and that emphasized emotion and subjectivity over realism

The arts and crafts movement: The art movement of the mid-1800s that was a response to mass production and that featured handmade furniture and other items. A notable arts and crafts artist is John Ruskin.

Art Nouveau: The style of art that arose during the late 1800s in which the work’s elements follow a single curved line or several curved lines to bring unity, balance, emphasis, movement and an organic quality to the piece

Impressionism: The partially abstract style of painting that arose during the late 1800s and that features relatively small, thin strokes and an emphasis on light and movement to create an impression of an image, rather than a realistic depiction of it. A notable example is Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night. Other important impressionists are Henri Matisse, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

Modern art: The art movement that arose during the late 1800s that encompasses a variety of non-traditional, anti-authoritarian styles

Art Deco: The style of art that applied modernism to useful items like clothing, furniture and dishes, bringing a modern style to an average home

Expressionism: The style of art that arose during the early 1900s in which a realistic image is distorted in order to reveal the artist’s ideas and feelings about it, and about the world. A notable example is Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Pablo Picasso: The Spanish artist who invented Cubism and was the most prominent and influential modern artist

Cubism: The style of abstract modern art that arose during the early 1900s and features fragmentation, geometrical shapes and multiple perspectives of the same subject

Contemporary art: Any art style or work of art being created during the current time

Abstract art: Any art style or work of art that depicts its subject in a symbolic, rather than realistic, way

Dadaism: The artistic movement that arose as a response to World War I that rejected realism and rationalism, instead depicting chaos and nonsense

Surrealism: The artistic movement that arose after World War I and combines real and unreal, dreamlike elements, with strange beauty resulting

Salvado Dali: The most prominent and influential artist of the Surrealist movement, whose enigmatic work breaks many formal rules

Pop art: The art movement that emerged during the 1970s that as a response to the traditional hierarchy of artistic culture and taste (and as a response to culture in a larger sense, too) that incorporates objects not normally used in artworks, such as newspaper, soup cans and discarded items

Andy Warhol: The most prominent and influential pop artist who famously used soup cans to comment on consumer culture

Street art: The style of art that emerged during the 1970s and is featured in public spaces with the intention of taking art out of its typical confined settings such as art galleries. It encompasses a variety of mediums like painting, sculpture, or stained glass and is sometimes made illegally in the form of graffiti.

Manga: A form of modern Japanese cartooning and comic art


Atrium: An interior courtyard-like space

Buttress: A structure that helps to reinforce and strengthen a wall

Gable: The triangular portion between intersecting roof pitches, whose shape allows for easy water drainage and good interior ventilation

Mezzanine: A half floor that usually opens to and overlooks a high-ceilinged space

Pavilion: A structure with a roof and beams but no walls that often serves as a shelter in gardens and parks

Ziggurat: A step pyramid, which was the precursor to the sloped pyramid. Ziggurats were created in multiple early world civilizations, including Mesopotamia, the Mayan and Egyptian civilizations, separately, and were often meant to bring people closer to heaven.

Ancient Greek architecture: The architectural style of the ancient Greeks, which included the first columns, canopies and other novel elements, and which greatly influenced other architectural styles in the West. It includes the Parthenon, whose columns were tilted to account for visual distortion, so that the human eye saw it as if it were perfectly straight.

Ancient Roman architecture: The architectural style that dominated for nearly 1,000 years in Europe and that introduced concrete, domes, arches, triumphal gates, paved roads, aqueducts and more. It includes the Roman aqueducts and the Colosseum.

Byzantine architecture: A glamorous architectural style that came about during the Byzantine Empire after the fall of Rome that featured elevated domes organized into octagons, extensive mosaics and other enhanced Greek and Roman ideas

Ottoman Empire architecture: The architectural style that incorporated both Byzantine and Islamic ideas and that featured detailed ornamentation plus domes and minarets

Romanesque architecture: The architectural style that came about in Europe during the Middle Ages whose style incorporated classical Roman and Byzantine elements like arches and sculpture

Gothic architecture: The elegant architectural style that followed Romanesque architecture and that incorporated some medieval and some Renaissance characteristics

Renaissance architecture: The grand architectural style that came about as part of the Renaissance and focused on realism, symmetry, mathematics and discipline

Baroque architecture: The highly ornate, dramatic architectural style that arose during the 1600s and early 1700s and that took Renaissance architecture to a new level, featuring decorative elements like gargoyles, lion heads, baby angels, horns of abundance and the like. A response to the Reformation and Protestantism in the 1600s and originating with the Catholic Church in Italy, it focused less on unity of design and more on emotional evocation.

Neo-classical architecture: The architectural style of the 1700s and 1800s that sought to mimic aspects of Greek and Roman architecture

Colonial architecture: The architectural style of the 1500s through the 1800s that adapted a colonizing culture’s styles to the places they colonized

Modern architecture: The architectural style guided by the idea that form follows function, which is known for minimalist features, lack of ornamentation, simple silhouettes and basic materials such as concrete

Postmodern architecture: A quirky, playful architectural style that came about in the 1960s as a response to the cold, function-focused modern style

Some important world architectural landmarks: The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey; the Eiffel Tower in Paris; the Acropolis in Athens; the Parthenon in Athens; the Colosseum in Rome; The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt; the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy; the White House in Washington, D.C.; Buckingham Palace in London; Big Ben in London; Westminster Abbey in London; the Empire State Building in New York City; St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow; the Space Needle in Seattle; the Guggenheim in New York City; the Taj Mahal in India; the Dancing House in Prague; the Louvre Museum in Paris; the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; the Sydney Opera House in Australia; the Geghard Monastery in Armenia; La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona; Burj Khalifa in Dubai; Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur; Casa Batlló in Barcelona; Angkor Wat in Cambodia; the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem; Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

School in a Book: Anatomy and Medical Science

We love our bodies, don’t we? It’s just so nice to understand what’s going on inside of all of this skin.


The eleven systems of the human body: Skeletal system, respiratory system, muscular system, nervous system, digestive system, reproductive system, circulatory system, endocrine system, lymphatic/immune system, integumentary system, urinary system

Skeletal system: The system of the body that includes the bones and cartilage, that creates a framework for the body and that provides hard surfaces for the muscles to contract on

The four types of bones: Flat (e.g., ribs), long (e.g., legs), irregular (e.g., spine), short (e.g. fingers)

Cranium: The skull bones

Mandible: The jawbone

Scapula: The shoulder blade bones

Clavicle: The collar bone

Sternum: The breastbone

Vertebrae: The bones that make up the spine

Pelvis: The set of bones that includes the hip bones, the sacrum and the coccyx

Coccyx: The tailbone

The sacrum: The large, triangular bone located at the base of the spine and between the two hip bones of the pelvis

Humerus: The upper arm bone

Radius: The bone on the thumb side of the lower arm

Ulna: The bone on the pinky side of the lower arm

Femur: The upper leg bone

Tibia: The shin bone on the inside of the lower leg that is larger than the fibula

Fibula: The bone on the outside of the lower leg that is smaller than the fibula

Patella: The kneecap

Metatarsals: The foot bones

Tarsals: The ankle bones

Carpals: The wrist bones

Metacarpals: The bones in the palm of the hand

Phelanges: The finger and toe bones

Joint: The places where bones meet, most of which are movable

Bone marrow: The soft, spongy tissue located in the cavities of many bones that produces blood cells and stores fat

Cartilage: The connective tissue similar to bone that is more flexible than bone but more rigid than muscle. Most baby bones start as cartilage and slowly turn into bone as the baby grows.

Muscular system: The system of the body that includes muscles, tendons and ligaments and enables the body to move

Muscles: Stretchy tissues that connect to bones that contract and relax, allowing for movement and stability. While contracting, muscles become shorter and harder and may bulge.

Voluntary muscles: Muscles that respond to conscious intention (such as the quads)

Involuntary muscles: Muscles that move without conscious intention (such as the heart)

Skeletal muscle: The muscles located on the bones of the skeletal system that can be voluntarily contracted

Cardiac muscles: The heart and related muscles

Visceral muscles: The smooth muscles inside organs (such as the intestines and bladder)

Abdominal muscles: The muscles in the front and sides of the abdominal wall

Biceps: The muscles on the front of the upper arms

Deltoids: The muscles on the top of the shoulders

Gluteus muscles: The buttocks muscles

Hamstrings: The muscles on the back of the thighs

Obliques: The muscles on the sides of the torso

Pectorals: The muscles on the front of the upper chest

Quadriceps: The muscles on the front of the thighs

Triceps: The muscles on the back of the upper arms

Trapezius: The muscles on the upper and mid-back that help with neck stability

Circulatory system: The system of the body that circulates blood via the heart, arteries and veins, delivering oxygen and nutrients to organs and cells and carrying their waste products away. It also regulates body temperature.

The parts of the heart: Four chambers (two atria and two ventricles); valves to keep blood moving the right direction through the heart; veins and arteries that carry blood to and from the lungs and the rest of the body

The three types of blood vessels: Arteries, veins and capillaries

Arteries: Thick, muscular blood vessels, most of which move oxygen-rich blood away from the heart to tissues and organs

Veins: Thinner-walled blood vessels, most of which move oxygen-depleted blood from tissues and organs toward the heart. They have valves that keep the blood flowing in the right direction.

Capillary: The fine branching blood vessels that help move blood around the body

White blood cells: The cells of the immune system that are involved in protecting the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders

Red blood cells: The cells that are made in the bone marrow and make up blood, and that contain hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen

Digestive system: The system of the body that includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestines and more and that is responsible for the mechanical and chemical processes that provide nutrients and eliminate waste

Esophagus: The tube that connects the mouth to the stomach

Stomach: The sac that stores and breaks down food before it moves to the intestines and other places in the body

Liver: The body’s largest organ by mass, which processes nutrients, removes toxins from the blood and stores food energy in the form of glycogen

Respiratory system: The system of the body that includes the lungs and the passages that lead to them and that allows for the breathing in of oxygen and breathing out of carbon dioxide

Windpipe/trachea: The tube that connects the pharynx and larynx to the lungs, allowing the passage of air

Primary bronchus: The tubes between the trachea and each lung. After passing through the bronchus, air goes into the lungs. Then oxygen goes into secondary and tertiary bronchi, bronchioles, air sacs and capillaries and from there is distributed throughout the body.

Lungs: The pair of spongy, air-filled organs located in the chest that are responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the body and the environment during breathing

Diaphragm: The flat sheet of muscle lying under the lungs that moves up and flattens when a person breathes in and moves down when a person breathes out

Voice box/larynx: The organ in the neck located on the top part of the trachea just below the root of the tongue that contains vocal cords, which vibrate to produce sound when air passes through them during exhalation

Trachea: The wind pipe

Vocal cords: Two bands of muscle in the larynx that can tighten as air passes over them to create a vibration and allow for speaking during breathing. Shorter, faster cords, as those of many females, create higher pitched sounds.

Integumentary system: The system of the body that includes skin, hair, nails, sweat and other exocrine glands that is responsible for organ protection, heat regulation and more

Skin: The soft outer tissue covering that contains the epidermis, the dermis and subcutaneous tissues (fat cells)

Melanin: A natural pigment found in most organisms that protects from UV rays

Pores: Tiny openings on the surface of the skin that allow sweat, oil, and other substances to pass through

Keratin: The tough, protective material that the epidermis, hair and nails are made of

Hair follicles: The structures located at the base of hairs in the skin that produce and grow hair. Their shape determines whether the hair is curly, wavy or straight.

Urinary/renal system: The system of the body that includes the kidneys, the bladder and the tubes connected to them that is responsible for regulating the amount of water and electrolytes in the body, filtering blood and excreting waste materials

Bladder: A muscular, balloon-like sac that holds urine before it is excreted

Urethra: The tube that connects the bladder to the urinary meatus for the removal of urine from the body

Kidneys: The two bean-shaped organs located in the back of the abdomen on either side of the spine that filter blood and produce urine

Lymphatic system/immune system: The system of the body that includes lymphatic vessels, nodes, other organs and lymph and that is responsible for preventing infection, filtering waste products, regulating fluid balance and helping with nutrient absorption

Lymph: The fluid that contains white blood cells, waste products and more that circulates throughout the body through vessels, nodes and organs

Lymph nodes: The small, bean-shaped organs located throughout the body that filter lymph and it passes through them

Endocrine system: The system of the body that includes glands and other organs that produce and secrete hormones into the bloodstream

Endocrine glands: Small organs that make hormones

Hormones: Chemicals that are located throughout the body that act as messengers to regulate a large variety of body functions

Pituitary gland: The pea-sized endocrine gland located at the base of the brain that produces and secretes several important hormones, including prolactin and growth hormone

Adrenal glands: The twin endocrine glands that are located on top of each kidney that produce and secrete adrenaline, cortisol, androgens and more

Adrenaline/epinephrine: A hormone produced by the adrenal glands that prepares the body for “fight or flight” response to stress or danger

Cortisol: A hormone produced by the adrenal glands that helps to regulate various bodily functions, including metabolism, immune response, and stress response

Oxytocin: A hormone produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland that plays a role in social bonding, maternal behavior, and sexual reproduction

Pitocin: A synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin that is sometimes used to induce or augment labor during childbirth

Testosterone: A hormone primarily produced by the testicles that plays a key role in the development of male reproductive tissues and secondary sexual characteristics, as well as in maintaining bone density and muscle mass

Estrogen: A group of hormones primarily produced by the ovaries that play a key role in the development and regulation of the female reproductive system and secondary sexual characteristics

Progesterone: A hormone primarily produced by the ovaries that plays a key role in regulating the menstrual cycle, preparing the uterus for pregnancy, and maintaining a healthy pregnancy

Thyroid gland: The endocrine gland located in the neck in front of the trachea that makes thyroxine and other hormones that control metabolism

The pancreas: The endocrine gland located in the abdomen behind the stomach that produces and secretes insulin and glucagon, which regulate glucose levels in the body. It also releases digestive enzymes into the small intestine.

The nervous system: The system of the body that includes the sensory organs, the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves that is responsible for collecting and processing information from the senses and coordinating body movement

The central nervous system: The brain and spinal cord

Peripheral nervous system: The network of nerves throughout the body that connects the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body

Autonomic nervous system: The part of the nervous system that regulates and controls involuntary bodily functions, including heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, digestion, and glandular secretion. It includes the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

Sympathetic nervous system: The part of the autonomic nervous system that prepares the body for a “fight or flight” response by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, while decreasing digestive activity and blood flow to non-essential organs

Parasympathetic nervous system: The part of the autonomic nervous system that promotes “rest and digest” functions by decreasing heart rate and respiration, while increasing digestive activity and blood flow to non-essential organs

Brain: The central organ of the nervous system, which is located under the skull and made up of billions of neurons and supporting cells that communicate through electrical signaling

Brain stem: The part of the brain that connects the brain to the spinal cord and that controls many automatic functions like heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure regulation

Spinal cord: The thick bundle of nerves located inside a tunnel in the backbone that joins the brain to the rest of the body

Neurons: Nerve cells, which include sensory, association and motor nerve cells

Nerves: Cord-like structures that contain nerve fibers and can be sensory, motor or mixed types

Motor nerves: Nerves that carry signals from the brain to the muscles to move

Nerve impulse: A brief electrical signal that moves through and between neurons

Neurotransmitters: Various chemical messengers such as serotonin and epinephrine that are released by neurons and allow them to communicate with each other

Sensory organs: Organs that send nerve impulses to the brain along nerves

How eyes work: Light enters the pupil through the clear cornea and lens. These bend the light rays so they form an upside down image on the retina and back of the eye. Rods and cones convert the image to nerve impulses which move along the optic nerve to the brain. Then the brain interprets the signal and turns the image right side up.

Stereoscopic vision: The perception of depth and three-dimensional structure, which is obtained through visual information from the eyes

Ear: The hearing organ, which contains an outer, middle and inner part

How ears work: The ear flap funnels and amplifies sound waves to the ear canal, then to the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates. These vibrations pass through bones and holes to the cochlea, then to fluid chambers. Tiny nerve cells in the fluid convert vibrations into nerve impulses, which go along the auditory nerve to the brain. Ears also help keep you balanced through the vestibular system, which senses the movement of fluid in the ducts and sends that information to the brain, which uses it to determine how the body as a whole is moving.

Chemoreceptors: The small organs in the nose and tongue that detect the chemicals responsible for smells and tastes and send this information to the brain

Nasal cavity: The large air-filled space located above and behind the nose that allows for breathing as well as filtering and humidifying incoming air

Cerebrum: The largest part of the brain, located at the front of the skull and divided into the right and left hemispheres, which is responsible for voluntary physical activity, thinking, sensation and emotion. It contains the frontal lobe, parietal, temporal and occipital lobes as well as the cerebral cortex.

Cerebral cortex: The outermost layer of the brain that is divided into four lobes (the occipital, parietal, temporal and frontal lobes) and that is responsible for perception/sensing, thinking, and voluntary muscle coordination

Frontal lobe: The part of the cerebrum that includes the prefrontal cortex and other areas and is responsible for decision making, voluntary physical activity, speech and more

Parietal lobe: The part of the cerebrum that is responsible for processing touch and temperature information, spacial awareness and more

Temporal lobe: The part of the cerebrum that includes the hippocampus and amygdala and other areas and is responsible for memory functions, processing auditory information and more

Occipital lobe: The part of the cerebrum that is responsible for processing visual information and more

Hypothalamus: The small but distinct area of the brain located near the amygdala at the base of the brain that controls body temperature, hunger, and thirst

Amygdala: The area of the brain located near the hippocampus at the base of the brain that is primarily associated with emotional processes, such as fear

Cerebellum: The part of the brain located at the back of the skull that is primarily responsible for muscle movement and balance

Corpus callosum: The large bundle of nerve fibers that connects the two hemispheres of the brain and allows them to integrate cognitive, emotional and bodily functions

The lymbic system: The various parts of the brain, including the amygdala, hippocampus, thalamus, hypothalamus and more, that work together to regulate emotions, stress responses, aggression, social bonding, hunger, sexual desire and other reactions to external stimuli

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep: Sleep that is characterized by rapid movement of the eyes, deep relaxation, and vivid dreams, which happens as part of each 90- to 120-minute sleep cycle

Reproductive system: The system of the body that includes sex organs and that is responsible for the production of offspring

Vagina: The elastic, muscular canal leading to the uterus in which penetrative sex takes place and out of which a baby exits the mother’s body

Vulva: The external genitals of the female, which include the labia, the clitoris, the vaginal opening and more

Clitoris: The small, highly sensitive organ located underneath the labia of females that swells with blood during sexual arousal and is covered by the clitoral hood

Labia: The two folds of skin that are part of the vulva

Cervix: The lower part of the uterus that contracts and opens during childbirth

Ovaries: The pair of endocrine glands located in the reproductive system of females that produce and release estrogen, progesterone and reproductive eggs (ova)

Fallopian tubes: The tubes leading from the ovaries to the uterus

Uterus: The organ in which the fetus grows and lives; the womb

Placenta: The organ that supplies nutrients, oxygen, hormones and more to the fetus and that also supports gas exchange, waste elimination, immune responses and heat regulation

Umbilical cord: The cord-like structure that connects the fetus to the placenta

Testes/testicles: The pair of oval-shaped endocrine glands located in the scrotum of males that produce testosterone and sperm cells (spermatoza), which mix with other fluids during ejaculation to form semen

Prostate gland: A small gland located between the bladder and the penis in males that produces some of the fluid that makes up semen

Scrotum: The suspended dual-chambered sack of skin and smooth muscle that holds the two testicles


Infection: The invasion of an organism’s body tissues by disease-causing agents, their multiplication, and the reaction of host tissues to the infectious agents and the toxins they produce

Immunity: The balanced state that occurs when an organism is able to both resist infection and disease while not overresponding to infectious agents so that autoimmune problems don’t develop

Etiology: The cause or origin of a disorder or disease

Virus: A small pathogen that replicates only inside the living cells of other organisms and can cause illness

Pathogen: A germ, usually a microorganism like a bacteria or virus, that can cause illness

Drug: A natural or synthetic chemical substance other than food and water that, when introduced to the body, causes a temporary physiological change

Vaccine: A medication that usually contains weakened disease pathogens that is introduced to the body via vaccination in order to help stimulate the immune system to develop immunity to those pathogens

Antibiotics: A type of medication that kills or prevents the growth of bacteria in the body. They do not work against viruses.

Tumor: An abnormal and excessive growth of tissue that can form anywhere in the body and that starts as a neoplasm, then forms a mass. Benign tumors are non-cancerous and usually do not spread to other parts of the body. Malignant tumors are cancerous and can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs, as well as spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.

Preventive medicine: Measures taken for disease prevention, as opposed to disease treatment

Conventional medicine: The mainstream medical practices that are widely accepted and used by the medical community, such as pharmaceutical drugs, surgery, and other scientifically-proven treatments. It is also known as Western medicine or allopathic medicine.

Alternative medicine: A wide range of health promoting techniques that are not part of conventional medicine, some of which are backed by research and some of which are not

Nutrients: The carbohydrates and fats that are burned for fuel in the body, as well as the vitamins, minerals and proteins that are used to make body parts, either by facilitating chemical reactions or by being used as actual material

Carbohydrates: Sugars, starches and fibers

Lipids: Fats, which are important for hormone synthesis, insulation, and cellular function

Amino acids: The building blocks of proteins, which are used by the body to build enzymes, hormones and body cells

Vitamin A: A nutrient that helps with vision, skin, and immune function

Vitamin C: A nutrient that helps with the growth and repair of tissues and helps the immune system function properly

Vitamin D: A nutrient that helps build bones and teeth and helps the immune system function properly

Vitamin E: A nutrient that helps protect the body’s cells from damage and helps the immune system function properly

Vitamin K: A nutrient that helps with blood clotting and bone production

Calcium: A mineral that helps with bone and cartilage production and helps muscles and nerves function properly

Iron: A mineral that helps with red blood cell production and with carrying oxygen throughout the body

Magnesium: A mineral that helps regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels and helps muscles and nerves function properly

Zinc: A mineral that helps with wound healing, helps enzymes function properly, and helps the immune system function properly

Potassium: A mineral that helps maintain proper fluid balance in the body and helps muscles and nerves function properly

School in a Book: Geology, Ecology and Meteorology

As humans, we experience the effects of chemistry, biology and physics every day, but not always knowingly. For this reason, geology and ecology are to me the most visual–even the most sensual–of the hard sciences, the ones that allows us to better understand our immediate environment.

Geology isn’t theory and microscopes; it’s what we see around us every day.

Sometimes, it’s hard to mentally separate geology and ecology. Here’s the short version: geology is the study of all the stuff on the earth, and ecology is the study of the way living things interact with it.


The four layers of the earth: The outer crust (oceans and tectonic plates), the mantle (rock), the outer core (extremely hot liquid metal), and the inner core (solid metal)

Rock: An aggregate of various minerals formed together into a hard mass. Some examples are limestone, shale, sandstone, granite, marble, basalt, obsidian, coal, quartz, conglomerate and chalk.

Mineral: An inorganic substance of uniform color, texture, luster and structure that is usually made up of two or more elements

Ore: Any natural material that contains a metal and is mined for that metal. An example is iron ore, which is rock that contains iron.

Crystal: A mineral whose molecules are arranged in a highly regular pattern, which results in a characteristic shape. Some examples are table salt, graphite, ice and quartz.

Dirt: A loose mixture of minerals and organic substances that have been broken down through weathering, animal digestion and more

Soil: Dirt that is fit to grow plants in and contains living organisms

Sediment: Dirt and sand that is carried away with water and wind and deposited in other places in layers. These layers separate according to the size and density of the materials and eventually harden into rock under the sea and elsewhere.

Fossil: The remains of organisms after they are buried under layers of sediment and pressed upon for many years. Some are rocks that show imprints of organic material that has eroded away and others are the actual remains of the organism, such as bone, or remains that have slowly become petrified

Petrification: A process by which organic material, such as wood or bone, is gradually replaced by minerals and turned into stone. Little by little, minerals fill the spaces where the material has broken down until the entire material is replaced with mineral but retains the shape of the original material. This process typically occurs over a long period of time, as the organic material is buried under sediment and subjected to high pressure and temperatures.

Clay: A type of dirt that contains very small particles, which allow for a soft, uniform, well-mixed substance. It holds water well and is often good for farming.

The three types of rocks: Sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic

Sedimentary rock: Rock formed when other rocks break down into sediment, then gradually reform into new layers of rock due to pressure and layering. An example is found in the Grand Canyon, whose layers are clearly visible.

Igneous rock: Rock formed from magma that erupted from a volcano, then cooled into layers and chunks

Metamorphic rock: Rock that has undergone significant changes due to heat. An example is marble, which forms after limestone is subjected to high heat and pressure.

Geological time: A way of dividing the history of the earth into periods based on the types of fossils found in the various layers of the earth’s crust

Radiometric dating: A scientific, though inexact, method for determining the age of rock and other materials based on the decay of radioactive isotopes

Carbon dating: A type of radiometric dating that measures the amount of carbon still in organic materials after death and decay

The water cycle: The process by which water is continuously recycled between the earth, the atmosphere and living things through heat from the sun, evaporation, clouds and precipitation

The carbon cycle: The process by which carbon cycles through plants, animals, water bodies, the soil and the atmosphere. It occurs during plant photosynthesis; the intake of carbon from plants by animals for energy; organic decomposition; and the burning of fossil fuels.

The nitrogen cycle: The process by which nitrogen cycles through plants, animals, water, the soil and the atmosphere as it is used by plants, animals and bacteria for creating amino acids and other needed compounds

Tides: The rise and fall of sea levels caused by the gravity of the moon and sun on the ocean and the rotation of the earth

Ocean currents: The large-scale movements of the oceans due to wind, the rotation of the earth and more

Groundwater: The water that resides under the earth’s surface in porous rocks and cracks in soil and sand

The water table: The top of the groundwater zone, the depth of which is affected by rainfall or lack thereof

Air: The gas mixture that animals breathe and that makes up the earth’s atmosphere. It is made up of oxygen (about 21 percent), nitrogen (about 78 percent) and other gases, including carbon dioxide (about 1 percent). It helps plants make food; protects people from UV rays; and helps people obtain oxygen, which is an important component of human blood. Its gases can be separated out by specialized cooling and compressing processes in which each gas liquefies at a different temperature and allows for separation.

Earth’s atmosphere: All of the air that surrounds the earth, which is held in place by gravity and which has no distinct endpoint. It is divided into layers, with higher, thinner layers that have less oxygen and are unbreathable.

Air pressure: The force exerted by the weight and movement of air molecules on an area due to the closeness of the particles. High-pressure air naturally and quickly moves toward areas of lower-pressure air due to its energy and momentum. The eardrum in the human ear must have equal pressure on both sides; however, air has to move through a bottleneck and, during quick changes in atmospheric pressure, can move unevenly, resulting in what is known as “ear popping.”

Earthquake: A sudden and rapid shaking of the surface of the earth, usually due to tectonic plate shifts

Seismic activity: The sum of all of the tremors and earthquakes in a region over a specified period of time

Tectonic plates: Large pieces of the earth’s crust that move, whose movement is driven by movements deep in the earth’s molten mantle

Fault line: An area where two tectonic plates meet that are particularly vulnerable to earthquake effects

Subduction zone: An area where two plates have collided, causing one plate to slide below the other

Volcano: Openings in the ground from which magma, ash, gas, and rock fragments surge upward and erupt as lava. This occurs when magma is pushed to the surface due to pressure from within the earth.

Magma: Molten rock (plus some minerals and gases) that is found deep in the earth’s crust and mantle and forms due to intense pressure and heat


Ecology: The study of the way living things interact with their environments

Ecosystem: A group of plants and animals that interact with each other and their surroundings

Biome: A community of similar plants, animals, climate and geography

The eleven biomes of Earth: Tropical rainforests, temperate forests, coniferous forests, tundra, grasslands, savannas, deserts, scrublands, alpine, wetlands and marine

Biodiversity: The huge variety of living things in a particular area, which can be lost with selective breeding, deforestation and other human activities

Renewable energy: Energy derived from renewable resources

Renewable resource: A natural resource that replenishes itself fast enough to keep up with human rates of use, including sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat

Non-renewable resource: A natural resource that does not renew itself fast enough to keep up with human rates of use, including minerals, metal ores, fossil fuels (coal, petroleum and natural gas) and some groundwater

Fossil fuel: A fuel that forms deep under the earth from the remains of decomposed animals and plants. Some examples are coal, petroleum and natural gas. They are considered non-renewable because it takes millions of years for them to complete one cycle of formation.

The Ozone Layer: The layer of ozone (O3) that exists in the upper atmosphere of the earth and that protects humans from UV rays

The Greenhouse Effect: The natural process whereby gases in the earth’s atmosphere trap heat and keep the planet warm. When there is an overabundance of these gases (due to human production of carbon dioxide and methane, for example), the planet warms too much, creating climate change that then results in the melting of polar ice caps, the rising of ocean levels, the death of coral reefs and other detrimental effects.

Global warming: A slow warming of the earth resulting from the Greenhouse Effect

Biodegradable: The ability of a substance to be decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms in its environment

Weathering: The breakdown of minerals, rocks and organic materials through freezing, thawing, melting, abrasion, wind, acids and more

Erosion: The movement of soil, sand and sediment from one place to another through wind, water, tilling and more. Since topsoil is richest in nutrients, erosion lowers soil quality.

Evaporation: The process by which a liquid or solid is transformed into a vapor

Water vapor: The gas that forms when water evaporates

Condensation: The process by which water vapor from the air collects back into drops on a solid

Waterlogged: Oversaturated with water. Water-holding capacity is better for rich soil but poorer for sandy soil.

Aeration: The process of adding air to soil, which increases its oxygen levels and helps plants grow. This can be done by bacteria and other animals in the soil, or by specialized human techniques.

Drought: An extended period without adequate precipitation in a given area

Intensive farming: Farming with the help of chemicals, technology, high-output machinery and the like

Soil management: Maintaining proper balance of soil nutrients, airflow and water in soil

Soil conservation: Measures used to prevent erosion and maintain soil quality, such as crop rotation, reduced tillage and more


Weather: The atmospheric conditions, including temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, and other variables, in a given place and time that are caused by changing air pressure and heat from the sun

Climate: The long-term average weather conditions of a particular area

The four basic climate types: Tropical (hot all year); polar (cold all year); temperate (moderate, seasonal change); deserts (dry all year)

Wind: The movement of air that happens when higher pressure air is moving toward lower pressure air. If there is no pressure difference, there is no wind.

Storm: Any disruption in the atmosphere producing severe weather, including strong wind, tornadoes, hail, rain, snow (blizzard), lightning (thunderstorm), clouds of dust or sand carried by wind (a dust or sand storm)

Lightning: The visible and audible flow of electricity that occurs during a thunderstorm. It can occur inside a single cloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. It produces an audible booming sound called thunder. Since the speed of light is greater than the speed of sound, we hear thunder after we see lightning.

Tornado: A funnel-shaped column of wind, evaporated water, dust and debris that moves rapidly, sweeping up objects in its path. It is formed when a thunderstorm occurs in areas of both cold and warm air.

Hurricane: A large rotating storm system with a low-pressure center called an eye, formed when multiple oceanic thunderstorms collide. They are sometimes also called typhoons or cyclones.

Tsunami: A series of huge, destructive waves formed during major ocean events like volcanic eruptions, meteorite crashes, landslides and underwater earthquakes. They are sometimes mistakenly called tidal waves, though they are not caused by tides.

Atmospheric particle: Organic and human-made microscopic solid or liquid particles suspended in the atmosphere

Barometer: A tool to measure air pressure

The four types of clouds: Cirrus, cumulus, stratus, nimbus

Cumulus clouds: Large, puffy clouds with a flat base and a rounded top that often indicate fair weather

Stratus clouds: Flat clouds that form in layers, often cover the entire sky and often produce light rain

Cirrus clouds: Thin, wispy clouds made up of ice crystals that form at high altitudes

Nimbus clouds: Large, dark-colored clouds that produce precipitation

School in a Book: Philosophy

Whether or not you’ve studied philosophy, you’re probably already a philosopher. You think about the meaning of life, absolute and relative moral precepts, political ideals and the indelible qualities of human nature. For this reason, the formal study of philosophy isn’t so much about defining or comparing philosophical ideas–something you’re already quite capable of doing–but about the thinkers of the past who famously argued different sides of these questions.

Here, I offer simple definitions for some philosophy terms that you’re likely to encounter regularly throughout your life. But mostly, I introduce you to some of the more well-known philosophers, which will hopefully give your philosophical discussions and debates more texture, context and depth.

Please keep in mind that due to significant overlaps in subject matter, some major Eastern philosophies are described in the Religion and Spirituality section of this book rather than in this one.


Philosophy: The study of meaning, reality, morality and other large life questions. The word comes from two Greek words that together mean “love of wisdom.” Some major questions of study include: What is the meaning of life? What qualities are fundamental to human nature? How can we know what we know (empiricism versus rationalism)? What is truth? How do we arrive at morality and values? What political structures are most beneficial? How does language shape our beliefs? What is the best way to live? Do humans have free will? What is the nature of existence? What is beauty?

Eastern philosophy: The philosophical tradition of China, Japan, India and other eastern countries that includes Daoism (The Tao Te Ching of approximately 600 BCE), Confucianism (The Analects of Confucius of approximately 500 BCE), Buddhism (which arose in India around 500 BCE) and more and that is known for its focus on the unknowable, the unspeakable and patterns and cycles

Western philosophy: The philosophical tradition of Europe and other western countries that includes ancient Greek thinkers (Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle), ancient Roman thinkers (Cicero and Seneca), medieval Christian thinkers (Aquinas and Augustine) and more and that is known for its focus on logic, cause and effect and absolute knowledge

Metaphysics: The study of nonphysical reality

Epistemology: The study of knowledge

Ethics: The study of morality and right behavior

Ontology: The study of existence and reality

Cosmology: The study of the nature and origins of the universe

Aesthetics: The study of beauty and art

Empiricism: The philosophy that holds that when determining what is knowable, experience and evidence are more important than reason

Rationalism: The philosophy that holds that when determining what is knowable, reason is more important than experience and evidence

Materialism: The philosophy that holds that ultimate reality is material

Naturalism: The philosophy that holds that ultimate reality is material and exists in natural causes, phenomena and events

Idealism: The philosophy that holds that ultimate reality is non-material and exists in the world of ideas

Mysticism: The philosophy that holds that ultimate reality is non-material and exists in a spiritual dimension

Determinism: The philosophy that holds that all events, including human actions, are ultimately determined by preceding causes or natural laws

Humanism: The philosophy that emphasizes human choice, human flourishing, critical thinking and eschews dogma

Stoicism: The ancient Roman philosophy that emphasized the importance of self-control, indifference to pleasure and pain and acceptance of one’s lot in life

Epicureanism: The ancient Roman philosophy that emphasized the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, often through the cultivation of simple pleasures

Cynicism: The ancient Roman philosophy that emphasized simple living, self-sufficiency and rejection of conventional values and social norms

Pragamatism: The philosophy that emphasizes practical consequences and utility

Utilitarianism: The philosophy that judges actions on consequences, not morality, saying that right actions are those that offer the greatest amount good for the greatest number or people

Transcendentalism: The philosophy that emphasizes personal experiences and a close relationship with nature over traditions and dogma

Postmodernism: The modern philosophy that holds that there are no unifying, ultimate, knowable answers and that truth is relative

Existentialism: The philosophy that emphasizes individual freedom, choice, and responsibility and that explores the meaning and purpose of existence

Deconstructionism: The philosophy that pulls apart language, literature, and other cultural artifacts to reveal hidden assumptions and contradictions that underlie them, and that challenges the idea of fixed, universal truths

Phenomenon: An object or experience as it appears to the human senses

Noumenon: The unknowable, underlying reality behind a phenomenon; something’s true nature

Numinous: The quality of being mysterious, awe-inspiring and somehow beyond natural world

Pythagoras: The ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician who is known for developing the Pythagorean theorem and for his ideas on the mystical nature of numbers. Pythagoras; Pythagoras influenced Socrates, who taught Plato, who taught Aristotle.

Socrates: The ancient Greek philosopher who developed the Socratic Method in which he asked question after question in order to confound people who believed themselves to be wise, digging for deeper truths in everything. He emphasized questioning and critical thinking and was condemned to die by drinking hemlock due to his ideas. He is known for saying, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living” and “I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance.”

Plato: The ancient Greek philosopher who founded the Academy in Athens, who (unlike Aristotle) was a philosophical rationalist and who introduced the idea of the world of forms, an imagined place that holds the ideal of each type of real thing. For example, when we think of a table, there is the specific table we see and touch, but there is also the idea of table that is the shared concept of what a table is. That concept belongs to the world of forms. He used the Allegory of the Cave to show how humans only see a mere shadow of what is ultimately real. He was a philosophical rationalist. He is known for saying, “Earthly knowledge is but shadow.”

Aristotle: The ancient Greek philosopher who was the first known proponent of formal logic, who opened a school in Athens, the Lyceum, that competed with Plato’s, and who (unlike Plato) was a philosophical empiricist. He is known for saying, “Truth resides in the world around us.”

Rumi: The Persian philosopher of the Middle Ages who taught about reincarnation and Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam. He is known for many sayings such as, “Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes around in another form.”

St. Augustine: The Christian philosopher of the late Roman empire who wrote about free will, the existence of God and the existence of evil

Boethius: The philosopher of the late Roman empire who attempted to reconcile free will with God’s foresight and who wrote about how to achieve happiness

St. Anselm: The Christian philosopher of the Middle Ages who developed an ontological argument for the existence of God, saying that if you can conceive of the greatest thing that could ever exist, it must exit, because the greatest thing has to exist or it wouldn’t be the greatest

Thomas Aquinas: A Christian philosopher of the Middle Ages who wrote about the logical and scientific nature of Christianity

Niccolo Machiavelli: The philosopher of the late Middle Ages who wrote about how to obtain and maintain political power and who argued that government can’t be bound by morality if it wants to succeed. He is known for saying, “The ends justifies the means.”

Erasmus: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who introduced humanism, arguing that religion is folly and the Christian church was corrupt. He is known for saying, “To know nothing is the happiest life.”

Francis Bacon: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who wrote about the scientific method. He is known for saying, “Knowledge is power.”

Thomas Hobbes: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who wrote about the social contract, saying that social agreements, not moral ideals, are the basis of a peaceful society. He is known for saying, “… The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Rene Descartes: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who wrote about the nature of knowledge, saying that even the existence of physical matter cannot be proven and the only thing we can truly know exists is our own minds. He is known for saying, “I think, therefore I am.”

Blaise Pascal: The philosopher and mathematician of the Early Modern Times who who made contributions to probability theory and who argued for the rationality of Christian belief. He developed Pascal’s Wager, an argument stating that it is safer to bet on God’s existence than to bet against it.

Benedictus Spinoza: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who redefined the concept of God, saying that everything is one, and everything is God. He is known for saying, “God is the cause of all things, which are in him.”

John Locke: The empirical philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued that no truths are universal to all people and all cultures and who came up with the idea of the tabula rasa–the blank slate, which is a metaphor for the unknowing state in which each person is born before they are implanted with cultural ideas. He is known for saying, “No man’s knowledge here can go beyond his experience.”

David Hume: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who said that certainty is absurd and custom is the source of knowledge. He is known for saying, “Custom is the great guide of human life.”

Immanuel Kant: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who sought to prove the existence of the physical world and who tried to unite empiricism and rationalism, saying that both reason and perceptions are needed for knowledge

Georg Hegel: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who believed reality is constantly changing and who suggested that people use dialectic reasoning and avoid assumptions. He is known for saying, “Reality is a historical process.”

Jean-Jacques Rosseau: The political philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued that though man is fundamentally good, laws and government create injustice and oppression. He is known for saying, “Man was born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.”

Adam Smith: The economics philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued for free market capitalism, saying that the basis of society is trade. He is known for saying, “Man is an animal that makes bargains.”

Edmund Burke: The political philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued for conservatism and for a free market economy

Jeremy Bentham: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who is known for developing utilitariansim and who tried to calculate pleasure and proposed that laws are created by considering which give the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. He is known for saying, “The greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

John Stuart Mill: The utilitarian philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued for political freedom, saying that people should be free to do with their own bodies as they wished, but not be free to harm anyone else. He is known for saying, “Over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

Soren Kierkegaard: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who founded existentialism and said that though people believe they want freedom, they really do not. He is known for saying, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”

Karl Marx: The political philosopher of the Early Modern Times who said that class struggle is what causes all of the ills of society. He is known for saying, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

Henry David Thoreau: The transcendentalist philosopher of the Early Modern Times who argued for individual liberty, non-conformism, and conscientious objection through non-cooperation and non-violent resistance

William James: The philosopher of the Early Modern Times who founded pragmatism, saying that people should just do the best they can in spite of uncertainty. He is known for saying, “Act as if what you do makes a difference.”

Friedrich Nietsche: The modern existentialist philosopher who is known for his critique of traditional morality and religion, his concept of the “will to power” and the idea of the “Übermensch”–the “superman.” He is known for saying, “God is dead.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The modern existentialist philosopher who described the limits of language and the limits placed on our thinking by language. He is known for saying, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

Martin Heidegger: The modern existentialist philosopher who wrote about finding meaning in a meaningless world and about living authentically. He is known for saying, “We are ourselves the entities to be analyzed.”

Jean Paul Sartre: The modern existentialist philosopher who believed that people must create their own life purpose. He is known for saying, “Existence precedes essence.”

Simone de Beauvior: The modern feminist philosopher who wrote about the oppression of women. She is known for saying, “Man is defined as a human being and woman as a female.”

Jacques Derrida: The modern deconstructionist philosopher who believed that knowledge is limited by language and by our ability (or lack of ability) to interpret it. He is known for saying, “There is nothing outside of the text.”

School in a Book: History of Russia


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

East Slavs:The earliest known settlers of modern-day Russia. They were independent, nomadic clans with no known agriculture or writing who spoke various Slavic languages.

The Vikings: The various tribes from Scandanavia who, during the Middle Ages, joined the East Slavs in modern-day Russia

The Rus: The tribe (likely Viking) that eventually united the various Viking and Slavic tribes into the single nation of Russia, and the tribe that gave Russia its name

Rurik: The leader of the Rus tribe and the first Russian ruler mentioned in Islamic and Western literature

Kievic Rus: The first Russian state, with Kiev at its center. It was a loose federation of various Rus and Slavic tribes and the center of Varangian wealth and culture

The Varangians: The new name given to the various combined Rus and Slav peoples as they expanded south to Baghdad and Constantinople and along the river routes connecting the Baltic to the Black Sea. After their failure to defeat the well-defended city of Constantinople, they elected to create an ally of it instead by sending gifts of soldiers and more. This effective strategy meant that by 1000, the Varangians were in complete control of the region. However, there was no central government. Varangian clans (each with a prince) ruled local areas along these important (but sparsely populated) trade routes. 

Prince Vladimir: The Rus prince of Kiev who, in the 1000s, greatly expanded Russian territory but failed to fully unify Russia. He adopted Christianity, which started a significant political and cultural shift in Russia that eventually led to the creation of a Russian national identity. He allowed Constantinople to set up an Episcopal see there, beginning the blending of Slavic and Byzantine cultures.

Mongol invasions: The event of the 1200s that contributed to the decline of Kiev and of the Russian state as a whole. This occurred during the last part of the Middle Ages. It halved the population of Rus.

Tartars/Golden Horde: The combined group of Mongol and Turkic invaders that controlled Russia during the 1200s and 1300s. They helped Russia advance in military tactics and transportation while allowing local princes to continue ruling as before. During this time, Russia also developed its postal road network, a census, a fiscal system and its military organization. Soon after the Mongolian Empire broke up, they lost power in Russia.

Moscow: The Russian city that grew in prominence during the Tartar reign by cooperating with it. It became the center of the Russian Orthodox Church, then, under Ivan the Great, the capital of Russia.

Boyars: The Rus princes and upper class government administrators that reclaimed control of Rus from the Mongols. They did not attempt to unify the area under one rule and interfered minimally with the local clan rule. They collected taxes and performed other basic functions. There was only a rudimentary written law code. During this time, cultural and political distinctions formed from one Slavic territory to the next–distinctions that remain to this day.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

Ivan the Great (Ivan III): The leader of Moscow who, in the mid-1400s, united Russia. He extravagantly renovated the Kremlin, reformed military service and more.

The Kremlin: The Russian fortress at the center of Moscow that is now the center of Russian government.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Third Rome: The name given to Moscow after the fall of Constantinople to show that it had taken its place as the third Rome, after Rome and Constantinople

Ivan the Terrible: The ruthless, murderous Russian leader that ruled during the 1500s following Ivan the Great. He took the title of tsar, the Russian word for Caesar. He established the secret police, which terrorized Russia; however, he also established the first feudal representative government–an improvement on the previous feudal system

The Time of Troubles: A period of crop failure and famine in the late 1500s and early 1600s during which Russia lost territory to outsiders. During this time, there was no heir to the throne (Ivan the Terrible had murdered his son), so the other government leaders held the state together until appointing a new dynasty

Romanov dynasty: The dynasty that followed Ivan the Great’s, which ruled from the 1600s till 1917. During this time, the population increased significantly even though the peasants were burdened by high taxes

Peter the Great: The Romanov ruler who, in the 1700s, modernized Russia, which till then functioned under a primitive feudal system. Peter, a great admirer of Western culture, encouraged the arts; spent money carefully; abolished the boyar ruling class; moved the capital to St. Petersburg; gained territory; centralized the government; put the Orthodox Church under state control; hired Western teachers for Russians; created a civil service; improved and expanded infrastructure systems like roads and canals; introduced new industries; and more. Many of his improvements were inspired by his extensive travels to the West, which he undertook while disguised as an ordinary citizen.

The Crimean War: The war between Russia and Turkey over some Black Sea lands, which France and Britain entered on the side of Turkey to check Russia’s growing power. It included the failed Charge of the Light Brigade by the British and was the first war that was covered by newspapers with photographers.

Catherine the Great: The ruler that followed Peter the Great who extended his advances; expanded Russian territory; established social services like education and health care; and established free trade in Russia. Like Peter, she was an admirer of Western culture, and, like Peter, she did not abolish serfdom.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

Russian Revolution: The 1905 worker riots and strikes following Bloody Sunday, when defenseless demonstrators in St. Petersburg were fired on by government troops.

October Manifesto: Russia’s promise of civil rights and representative government following the Revolution. These promises were broken, however, leading to another revolt that ended the Romanov dynasty and instituted a liberal government in its place.

Bolsheviks: The socialist political party led by Lenin that took control of the new liberal government. The Bolshevik Red Army defeated the anti-Bolshevik White Army, then executed their enemies en masse. The Bolshevik party later became the Communist Party.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR/Soviet Union for short): The nation created by a treaty between Russia, Ukraine and two other nation-states. It was led by the Communist Party under Lenin.

Vladimir Lenin: The leader of the Bolshevik party who founded the Communist Party in Russia and was the first leader of the Soviet Union. Following his communist ideals, he gave the land to the peasants and the factories to the workers and promised an end to poverty.

Marxism: Communism, as expressed by Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto. Lenin was a follower of Marxism.

Josef Stalin: The communist leader that took over in 1924 after Lenin died (after fighting for power with Leon Trotsky). He served as dictator of the Soviet Union until his death in 1953.

Berlin Wall: The wall built between East and West Berlin in the 1960s to prevent people from the communist east to flee to the democratic west

The Iron Curtain: The metaphor used to describe the separation between the communist and democratic countries of Eastern Europe throughout the Cold War

The Cold War: The hostilities and threat of war between Russia and western countries that began after Russia obtained nuclear bomb technology (in the 1940s) till the late 1980s

Sputnik: The first artificial satellite to orbit Earth, launched by the Soviet Union in 1957 and beginning the Space Age

The Cuban Missile Crisis: The threat to U.S. that occurred during the 1960s after the Soviet Union built missile bases in Cuba, aiming the missiles at the US. It came to an end after the U.S. blocked trade with the Soviet Union and the Soviets responded by destroying the launch sites.

The fall of the Soviet Union: The end of the communist government of the Soviet Union, after which it was re-named Russia. This event led to various revolutions in Eastern Europe as these countries fought to gain independence.

Mikhail Gorbachev: The leader of the Soviet Union during the 1980s and 1990s who facilitated the dissolution of the Soviet Union, allowed Eastern Europe to elect democratic governments, and allowed the Berlin Wall to be torn down

The Berlin Wall: A guarded concrete barrier that divided poor, communist East Berlin from modernized, democratic West Berlin from the 1960s to 1989. It was a symbol of communist power and corruption, and came down partly due to U.S. President Ronald Regan’s diplomatic efforts.

School in a Book: History of North and Central America


Ancient Times (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

Mesoamerica: The area that now includes much of Mexico and Central America that was home to indigenous groups like the Olmecs, Zapotecs, Mayans and Aztecs

The Olmecs: The people who built one of the earliest civilizations in Mesoamerica, which lasted from about 1400 BCE till about 400 BCE. They are known for their earth and stone pyramids for religious worship and sculptures (including some of enormous heads); their ceremonial centers; and their pyramids.

The Zapotecs: The neighboring people to the Olmecs from around 800 BCE on, who became the first Americans to develop writing

The Mayans: The people who created the first great civilization of the Americas around 600 BCE and flourished till around 800 CE. At their height, they encompassed most of Mexico and beyond, building advanced cities with temples and pyramids, including the influential city of Teotihuacan. They were a peaceful people led by priests. Class system: nobles, priests, rules, officials, servants (in cities) and ordinary people (in countryside and went to cities for needs). Had about 800 hieroglyphs, advanced math, science; calendar; astronomy, intricate roads, crafts. Blood sacrifice. all were independent city-sttaes, as in greece. they fought each toher. declined when lost many farmers due to war (farmers taken hostage and many killed as blood sacrifices.)

Teotihuacan: The largest city in the Americas from approximately 1 to 500 CE, which was built by the Mayans. With a population of about 125,000 at its height, Teotihuacan began as a religious center and featured multi-floor apartment compounds, a planned grid system, temple complexes, and a trading system.

The Moche: The people who settled modern-day Ecuador (in Central America) toward the end of ancient times (around 300 AD) and through the beginning of the Middle Ages (around 700 AD). They made pottery, wove textiles, and did metalwork.

The Hopewell culture: The Native culture that formed in what is now Ohio around 300 CE.

The Middle Ages (500 to 1500 CE)

The Temple Mound cultures: The native cultures that formed along what are now the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers around 700 CE. They were known for their towns with central plazas surrounded by rectangular mounds with temples for the dead on top. They lived in adobe longhouses and grew corn, sunflowers, beans, pumpkins and more.

The Hopi: The Native culture that formed in what is now the southwestern U.S. around 700 CE. They were known for their effective irrigation systems, unique art, rain dances and other complex ceremonies, and the Cliff Palace. They grew corn, beans, squash, cotton and more.

The Inuits: The Native people of the far north in what is now Alaska and Canada, who traded with the Vikings. – middle ages

The Anasazi: The Native people of what is now Colorado, who lived in pueblos. – middle ages

The Cree, Chippewa and Algonquin: The Native peoples of what is now Canada. – middle ages

The Sioux: The Native people of what is now the American Midwest. – middle ages

The Iroquois: The Native people of what is now New York State. – middle ages

The Mohawks: The Native people of what is now New England. – middle ages

The Toltecs: The people that replaced the peaceful Mayans in Mesoamerica around 800 CE, establishing a militaristic city-state featuring temples guarded by stone warriors, warrior chiefs and more. During their dominance, the quality of poetry, art and literature declined.

The Aztecs: The people that replaced the Toltecs in Mesoamerica around 1200 CE. This warlike people is well-known for their pyramids, their unique calendar, their advanced governmental and economic structure and their tiered social structure. They built the city of Tenochitlan and traded throughout Mexico. By the 1500s, their empire stretched coast to coast. It was conquered quickly by the Spanish in the 1500s (In one instance, conquistadores led by Cortez pretended he was a god that Montezuma had been waiting for and tricked him into welcoming him.)

Tenochitlan: The central city of the Aztecs, which was built on an island in Lake Texcoco near present-day Mexico City. The city featured garden islands for growing food and was one of the world’s best-planned cities.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE through 1900 CE)

Colonization: The forceful takeover of a nation or people by a foreign nation

Christopher Colombus: The first European to come to the Americas. Colombus, an Italian-born Spaniard who sailed for England, landed on the Carribean Islands in 1492. Believing it to be India (which had been his destination) he named the islands the West Indies. Colombus may never have known he had located the Americas, even after several successive visits.

Amerigo Vespucci: The Italian explorer who sailed to the Americas in 1497 and 1504 and was the first to realize that a New World had been located. By publishing popular writings about his travels, he sealed his credibility and inspired cartographers to name the area after him.

John Cabot: The Italian explorer who sailed for England to the Americas and located Newfoundland, then set up a colony at Quebec in 1497

Ponce de Leon: The Spanish explorer who located Florida in 1513 at claimed it for Spain

Jacques Cartier: The French explorer who located parts of Canada, including Montreal, in 1534 and claimed them for Spain

Roanoke: One of many failed American colonies settled during the 1500s, which became known as the Lost Colony since none of its inhabitants made it back to their home country. Because all attempts to colonize the Americas during that century failed, most Europeans considered the continent unimportant.

Jamestown: The first permanent English colony in the Americas, located in Virginia near the Powhatan River

John Smith: The leading founder of Jamestown, Virginia

Pocahontas: A native American woman who facilitated trade between her people and the people of Jamestown and saved John Smith’s life twice after he was threatened by her people. Later in life, she was captured and imprisoned by colonists, then converted to Christianity and married a colonist–John Rolfe, who introduced tobacco to the colonies.

Plymouth Plantation: The first name of the first permanent North American settlement, which was founded in 1620 by the English. The first winter, Plymouth Plantation saw the death of over half its settlers. In 1621, however, they shared the first Thanksgiving meal with Squanto and other Native Americans. Over the following 20 years, about 20,000 new settlers arrived to Plymouth and surrounding areas. Without the help of the natives in the area, survival was unlikely. Less than a decade later, they began flourishing by growing tobacco on lands taken from the natives and selling it to Europe. Fur trading became popular as well.

Pilgrims: The original settlers of Plymouth Plantation, numbering about 100, some of whom were religious separatists, rejecting the Church of England, and some of whom were mercenaries. The term is also used for the other settlers of this area throughout the 1620s until the Puritans blended with them in the 1630s.

The Mayflower: The ship that brought the original pilgrims to North America

Plymouth Rock: Reportedly, the first landmark noted by the pilgrims at the place where they landed and settled

Puritans: The group of American colonists who founded the Massachussets Bay Colony and went on to settle many other parts of North America. Unlike some of the Pilgrims, the Puritans were not religious separatists, but considered themselves part of the reformed Church of England.

Squanto: A nickname for Tisquanto, a Native American who is known for helping the Puritans survive their first winter at the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Squanto learned English after escaping a slave ship and settling in England for a time. He returned to America, then served as an interpreter for the Puritans and Native Americans, helping them make alliances and helping the newcomers grow crops. During his time as interpreter, Squanto displayed manipulative behavior that led his people to attempt his capture. William Bradford protected him, but he died of disease not long after.

The first Thanksgiving: The three-day feast of 1621 during which the Pilgrims invited Squanto to celebrate their first successful harvest.

The Massachussets Bay Colony: The second successful American colony, which was established near Plymouth in 1630

New Amsterdam: The original name of New York, one of the original thirteen colonies, established by the Dutch then later taken over by the English and renamed

Pennsylvania: The area given to a group of Quakers by the English king

William Penn: The founder of Pennsylvania and a strong proponent of religious freedom in the New World, whose ideas were a precursor to the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Early French colonies in North America: The French settlements, which included the Great Lakes, the Mississippi river area and the St. Lawrence river area in Canada

Early Spanish colonies in North America: The Spanish settlements, which included Mexico and parts of California, Arizona and New Mexico. The Spanish took Native Americans as slaves to work in mines and Spanish missionaries destroyed native temples and idols.

Native American reactions to colonists: The various ways natives responded to the colonists. At first, the Native Americans in these areas were friendly to the Europeans. Then they began to suffer from smallpox, measles and other European diseases; to be killed; and to be driven off their lands. Until Europeans introduced them to horses, wheeled transportation and guns, they fought only with wood and stone tools, bows, slingshots and spears. The late 1600s saw many violent wars with the native peoples.

The American slave trade: The importing of Africans to the Americas by force, which began in 1619. Soon after, the majority of the people living in some areas were slaves.

Salem witch trials: The trials held in Salem, Massachusetts around 1700 in which men and women were found guilty of witchcraft due to Puritan fears. The trials led to the death of fourteen women and six men.

French and Indian War: The war between the French and British, along with each side’s native American allies, for American territory. It was part of the larger Seven Years’ War between European colonizing nations.

The original thirteen colonies: The American colonies that fought the American Revolution, which included: Virginia, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia

The Sugar Act and the Stamp Act: The exhorbitantly high taxes on sugar and stamp imports [exports?], imposed by the king of England on the American colonies.

“No taxation without representation”: The slogan used by American colonists to protest their lack of representation in the Enlish government in spite of the high taxes imposed on them by that government.

The Boston Tea Party: A protest by the American colonies against Great Britain over taxation of British imports in which a group of colonists snuck into the Boston Harbor at night and threw tea imports overboard.

The American Revolution: The war between Britain and the thirteen American colonies that led to American independence. Partly, it was sparked by unfair English taxes and other laws. It occurred in the mid-1700s and is also called the American War of Independence or the Revolutionary War. The final battle took place in Yorktown, where the British surrendered to America.

Lexington and Concord:

Paul Revere:

Yorkstown: George Washington led the colonists to victory, the British finally surrendering at Yorktown in 1781. Two years later, the Treaty of Paris officially ended the war.

The Treaty of Paris: The treaty between the American colonies and Great Britain that ended the American Revolution and formally recognized the United States as an independent nation

Thomas Jefferson: The main author of the Declaration of Independence and the third U.S. president

The Articles of Confederation: The temporary document which, prior to the creation of the U.S. Constitution, held the American colonies together during the American Revolution. It gave most of the power to the states.

The Constitutional Convention: The 1787 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania gathering during which the founders of the U.S. wrote and adopted the U.S. Constitution

The Federalist Papers: A collection of essays written by the nation’s founders and published in newspapers that attempted to convince citizens to vote to ratify the proposed U.S. Constitution

George Washington: The first president of the United States, elected in 1789, and the heroic general that led the Americans to victory in the American Revolution

U.S. expansion: The acquisition of U.S. territory and population during the 1800s, including European immigrants attracted to American freedom; the Louisiana Purchase; the annexation of Texas; the gaining of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico after a brief war of expansion against Mexico; and more

Upper and Lower Canada: The two parts of Canada after Britain split the English-speaking north (the Ontario area) from the French-speaking south (the Quebec are) to reduce tensions between these areas, who both wanted control

The Louisiana Purchase: The buying of 530 million acres of land, which included Louisiana, from France in the early 1800s–a purchase that doubled the size of the recently-created nation. It occurred because of Napolean’s extravagant spending and his desire to fund a war of expansion against [need fact check].

Lewis and Clark: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the explorers assigned by President Thomas Jefferson to map and report about the Louisiana Purchase and beyond. Their journey took about a year and a half, and they reached the Pacific Ocean at [where?].

Sacajawea: A native American who helped Lewis and Clark navigate across America

The War of 1812: The war between the U.S. and Great Britain over Britain’s continued involvement in U.S. trade. After it, Britain agreed to no longer have military posts on U.S. soil or block U.S. trade with Europe. The treaty of Ghent, which ended the war, helped establish the U.S. as a world power.

Nat Turner: The leader of a violent and unsuccessful slave revolt in Virginia in the 1830s that resulted in the deaths of 50 to 60 White people and the deaths and convictions of many Black participants and led to harsher penalties for slaves

The Alamo: The decisive battle in Texas’ war of independence from Mexico that occurred in the 1830s. In the 1840s, Texas, the Lone Star Republic, joined the U.S.

Davy Crockett: The most well-known defender of the Alamo

The Trail of Tears: The path that Cherokee and other Native Americans took after being forced out of Oklahoma by President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Thousands died on the trail.

The American Civil War: The war that took place from 1861 to 1865 that divided the United States in two—the Northern States versus the Southern States. While the northerners had already banned slavery, partly because their economy was based on manufacturing, the southerners maintained its legality, using slaves on their tobacco, cotton and other plantations. The North also wanted a stronger national government, while the South wanted more power for individual states. After the North won, slavery ended and the U.S. reunited.

Abraham Lincoln: The U.S. president of the mid-1800s who presided over the American Civil War. Lincoln opposed slavery and was in favor of a stronger national government.

The Confederate States of America: The name the southern states took for their union after seceding from the U.S., an act which started the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant: The military commander of the North during the Civil War

Robert E. Lee: The military commander of the South during the Civil War

Fort Sumter: The fort in South Carolina where the Civil War fighting began

Gettysburg: A decisive Civil War victory for the North

The Gettysburg Address: A speech made by Lincoln arging for equality and national unity

The Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln’s announcement of the end of slavery in the U.S.

The thirteenth amendment: The constitutional amendment that ended slavery

John Wilkes Booth: The man who assassinated Lincoln five days after General Lee surrendered to General Grant in the courthouse at Appomattox, Virginia

Reconstruction: The process of rebuilding after the Civil War and transitioning away from slavery

Indentured servants: Servants that remain perpetually indebted to their masters, creating a type of slavery, in spite of being lawfully free

Harriet Tubman: A escaped slave who made trips through southern territory, helping others escape to the North

Canadian independence: The political independence of Canada, which was gained shortly after the U.S. Civil War. Soon, they folded in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario. They declared both French and English their official languages. Before the turn of the century, the Northwest Territories (a very large portion of modern-day Canada) as well as the Yukon Territory were also added. (These areas were previously owned by the Hudson Bay Company.)

Canadian gold rush: The 1800s discovery of gold in Canada’s Yukon Territory that led to a population expansion there

Canadian Pacific Railway: The railway completed in the late 1800s that united Canada from the St. Lawrence River to the Pacific Ocean

The Modern Era (The 1900s through the Present)

U.S. industrialization: From the late 1800s through the early 1900s, the U.S. quickly modernized, became an industrial power, and made significant inventions.

Wilbur and Orville Wright: The inventors of the Wright Flyer, considered to be the first airplane, which they first flew in 1903

Henry Ford: The inventor of the assembly line and the owner of the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. His company led the car sales industry, one of the hallmarks of modern life, and revolutionized factory production methods, which led to greater mass production, another hallmark of modern life.

Albert Einstein: The German physicist who developed the Special Theory of Relativity and other key theories centered around gravity in the early 1900s’ in the U.S.

The U.S. during the first World War: After a time of limited involvement in international affairs, the U.S. entered World War I after German submarines attacked their cargo ships.

President Wilson: The U.S. president at the end of World War I and the developer of the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations. Though advocated for by Wilson, the U.S. government voted not to join the League and resume non-interventionalist policies.

The Roaring Twenties: The decade after the end of World War I and a boom time for the U.S. economy. During this time, city populations swelled, jazz music and movies were popular, the flapper style of dress came into fashion, car ownership increased and skyscrapers and elevators were invented.

Prohibition: The constitutional law against the sale and use of alcohol. Prohibition was granted by the 18th Amendment in the 1920s and ended by the 21st Amendment in the 1930s. During the time of prohibition, mafia and other crime organizations led by people like Al Capone set up bootlegging operations, increasing overall rates of crime.

The 19th Amendment: The constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote, which followed nearly 100 years of protests

Ku Klux Klan: A group of violent

The Scopes Trial: A trial that took place in the 1920s after teacher John Scopes was convicted and fined for teaching evolution in a public school in Tennessee. It was also called the “Monkey Trial.” Scopes was convicted but his sentence was set aside.

Black Friday: The stock market crash of 1929, which started the Great Depression worldwide. It occurred because stock market speculators had overvalued many companies. Unemployment was extremely high, and a massive drought in the Great Plains (the Dust Bowl) and resulting crop failures exacerbated the problems.

NBC: The National Broadcasting Channel, the first company to put out an official network television broadcast, which they did in 1940

The New Deal: The set of government-sponsored programs initiated in the early 1930s by President Roosevelt to increase employment rates and reduce poverty during the Depression. These programs included infrastructure expansions, subsidized farming, a federal minimum wage and more.

Pearl Harbor: The Hawaiian military facility that Japan attacked on December 7, 1941, which led to the U.S. joining World War II the next day. 2400 soldiers were killed in the attack. Japan was motivated in part by U.S. pressure to stop attacking China.

U.S. involvement in World War II: During World War II, the U.S. sided with the Allies to stop the advance of Germany into Europe and beyond and the advance of Japan into China and beyond. They contributed troops and supplies to the European fronts and led the attack on Japan. They ended the war with Japan by dropping atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, purportedly in order to avoid an estimated million deaths from further attacks. President Truman made the decision to do so.

Enola Gay: The plane that dropped Little Boy,

Little Boy: The nickname for the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which killed 130,000 people and more later from fallout

Fat Man: The nickname for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, which killed 750,000 people and more later from fallout

Kamikaze: Japanese suicide bomber planes, which attacked Allied ships during a push for Okinawa

Relocation centers: Prison camps inhabited by Japanese and Japanese Americans starting in 1942 after Roosevelt ordered it. Many stayed for the remainder of the war.

The U.S. during the 1950s: In the decade following World War II, the U.S. led the nuclear arms race and prospered, partly due to wartime advances in industrial production. Americans enjoyed new in-home technologies; the highway and road system greatly expanded; and the television came to dominate home entertainment.

McCarthyism: An anti-communist ideology led by Senator Joseph McCarthy characterized by false accusations of communist allegiance to one’s countrymen

African American Civil Rights movement: The collection of protests that took place during the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S. south and elsewhere that brought an end to racial segregation and discrimination through the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act

Brown vs. the Board of Education: The 1950s U.S. Supreme Court case between the Brown family and the Board of Education of Topeka that banned a Black child from a public school. The court unanimously favored Brown and banned racial segregation in public schools.

The “Little Rock Nine”: The nine students that integrated an Arkansas high school, to violent protest. The students were supported by the National Guard.

Statehood of Alaska and Hawaii: The 1959 creation of these U.S. states

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The most prominent leader of the Civil Rights movement, who delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in the 1960s and was assassinated in 1968. He promoted non-violence and civil disobedience.

John F. Kennedy: The U.S. president who was assassinated in Texas in the 1960s

Malcolm X: A black-nationalist leader who was assassinated in New York City at a rally

Thurgood Marshall: The first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice

The nuclear arms race: The race between the U.S., the U.S.S.R. and other countries to develop atomic weapons after World War II. (Though Russia fought on the side of the Allies during the war, they soon merged with communist countries in Eastern Europe, including East Germany, forming the U.S.S.R.)

The space race: The race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. during the Cold War to advance space exploration

Apollo II: The U.S. mission that took place in 1969 and resulted in the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin

NATO: North Atlantic Treaty Organization. This alliance of western nations formed against communist powers to promote democracy

The Korean War: The war between North Korea and South Korea that took place from 1950 to 1953. It occurred after the communist-led North Korea attacked the democratic South Korea in spite of their recent border agreement. The U.N. sent troops (including many American troops) to defend democracy, believing that any extension of communist-allied countries could lead to further communist military action around the world. No side won, and in the end, the border returned to the 38th parallel, where it had been at the start of the war.

The Vietnam War: The Vietnamese civil war that took place during the 1960s and 1970s between the Viet Cong in the south and the communists in the north (the two parties that took over after Vietnam claimed independence from France in the 1950s). The U.S. sent troops to aid the south to decrease the spread of communism, but no side won and millions died in this long-running conflict.

The draft: The practice of lawfully compelling people to join the army, a practice that took place in the U.S. during the Vietnam War

Space shuttle Colombia: The first reusable space plane, which the U.S. launched in 1981

Hubble Space Telescope: The first telescope in space, which brought pictures of deep space to the world

Barack Obama: The first African American to be elected president of the United States, who took office in 2008

September 11, 2001: The date of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. that led to war in Afghanistan

No Child Left Behind Act: A 2001 act that provided more money to schools but required all schools in the country to meet certain educational standards in return

School voucher program: Federally funded vouchers for low-income parents that can be used to pay for tuition at a private school of the parents’ choice

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict: A major foreign policy issue is stabilizing the Middle East, particularly by resolving the conflict between Israel, a state the U.S. has historically supported, and the Palestinians, an ethnic group in Israel that seeks to establish its own country. The U.S. has a great deal of financial interest in the stability of the entire Middle East due to its oil trade with these countries. The longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict has resulted in many holy wars that have included many other Middle Eastern states. Many Middle Eastern states support the Islamic Palestinians, while many Christian countries support the Judaic Israelites.

The Iraq war: In the Gulf War of the early 1990s the U.S. and its allies liberated the Kuwait from its Iraqi occupiers, forcing the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, to end all his weapons programs. In 2003, the U.S. invaded Iraq, believing Hussein was still creating weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). A democratic government was put in place, but a shortage of troops, a lack of evidence of WMDs, anti-American violence and more have prevented success and stability there. Some people want the U.S. to leave Iraq immediately, while others believe doing so will allow it to become a safe haven for terrorists.

School in a Book: History of South America

Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Chavins: The people who built the first South American cities. In addition to hunting and gathering they made pottery, weaved on looms and made elborate carvings. Their cities, which formed around 2500 BCE, were located in modern-day Peru. They included religious ceremonial sites and a three-story high building with mazes of rooms and corridors.

Tiahuanaco: The city that was built around 300 BCE in the Andes in modern-day Bolivia near Lake Titicaca. Its center featured enormous stone temples and palaces, and it was surrounded by long strings of smaller settlements reaching into the Brazilian rain forests. Distinctive jewelry, pottery and temple stones were found there. The city’s population reached 100,000 before it began to decline. It was abandoned due to drought or destroyed around 1000 CE. The people of Tiahuanaco are referred to as the Tiahuanaco people or the Tiahuanaco culture. They were peaceful and nonmilitaristic.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Huari: The militaristic people who built the empire that spread over half of modern-day Peru from about 800 CE to about 1000 CE.

The Incas: The people who built the empire that spread over much of modern-day Peru after the Huari civilization failed. They came into prominence around 1200 CE and built many important towns, including Cuzco and Macchu Picchu, which remain today. They built stone structures without mortar, using a precise stone fitting technique. Their cultural peak, during which they expanded their empire far north and south, conquering other tribes after a long period of isolationism, occurred in the 1500s. Key features of Incan life included: relay runners who carried messages along the two main roads that spanned the length of the empire; terraced farms built onto the sides of the mountains; wooden spears and slingshots; and quipus (knotted ropes that helped them count). They did not write.

Machu Picchu: A small Incan town located deep in the Andes mountains which served as a spiritual center and possibly as an escape for dignitaries. It featured an astronomical observatory and stone temples. During the early colonial period, natives used it as a last stronghold against their invaders.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Amerigo Vespucci: The first western explorer to reach South America and the first to realize that the Americas existed. After his travels, he created the first map of the New World, giving the new continent his name. His discovery occurred in 1499, just a few years after Christopher Colombus landed on the Carribean islands thinking he had landed in India. Though Vespucci was Italian, he sailed for Spain, which funded his travels with the hopes of colonizing new lands. Vespucci first landed in modern-day Guyana (the northernmost area of South America), then traveled into the Amazon rain forest and to the island of Trinidad.

The colonization of South America: The conquest of South America by the Spanish and, later, the Portugese. It began during the mid-1500s in the Incan areas, which were defeated and destroyed in a year’s time. From there, the Spanish spread throughout the continent, mistreating the natives, smashing native temples and idols and introducing deadly diseases. During the late 1500s and throughout the 1600s, they forced natives as well as African slaves to mine for gold, which brought extravagant wealth to Spain and allowed it to dominate Europe until greed and mismanagement undermined their power.

Conquistadors: The Spanish invaders of South America

South American independence: During the 1800s, South American countries began rebelling and fighting for independence. Eventually, all except French Guyana were successful. Because wealthy plantation owners still held most of the power in these areas, however, living conditions didn’t immediately improve.

Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin: The leaders of the successful South American wars for independence. Though both wanted all of the newly independent countries to unite into a single South American nation (like the United States), this did not happen. Instead, leaders from the wealthier classes fought for power over the working classes. They also did not trust Bolivar, who wanted to reign over South America as its king.

The Modern Era (1900 to the Present)

Overview of South America in modern times: During the 1900s, South America experienced many civil wars as well as wars for independence. Freedom fighters prevailed over colonialism in most of the areas that had not achieved independence in the 1800s; however, many of these new governments were oppressive dictatorships.

U.S. intervention in South America: The U.S. intervened in several South American civil wars, backing the sides they believed were favorable to their interests. At various times, U.S. troops invaded Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Granada and Panama.

Fidel Castro: The anti-capitalist leader of Cuba for the last half of the 20th century who established communism there

The Bay of Pigs invasion: A planned, but aborted, U.S. invasion of Cuba through missile power. It occurred in the 1960s as part of U.S. attempts to thwart the spread of communism.

The Panama Canal treaty: The treaty signed by the Republic of Panama and the U.S. in the 1970s agreeing that Panama would regain control the Panama Canal Zone in the year 2000. Prior to this, in the early 1900s, the U.S. had backed a successful Panamanian independence movement in exchange for control of this zone. They then built this highly valuable canal, which provides the only shipping path through the Americas.

The Cuban missile crisis: A 1960s exchange between the U.S. and the communist-led Soviet Union in which both countries positioned nuclear missiles facing each other and the countries came close to initiating a nuclear war. The Soviet missile was located in Cuba, where the communist leader Fidel Castro had agreed to work with the Soviets in their Cold War attempts at intimidation. Castro believed that doing so might prevent U.S. attacks on Cuba as well.

School in a Book: History of China


Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Xia Dynasty: The first Chinese dynasty, located along the Yellow River in the 2000s BCE. Due to sparse historical references and no historical records, this dynasty’s existence is disputed. It did not feature strong monarch; instead, it was a collection of small, mostly independent farming villages led by a ruling clan. During this time, irrigation and dams were developed.

The Shang Dynasty: The second Chinese dynasty and the first with written records. Like the Xia Dynasty, it was located along the Yellow River and was ruled not by a strong monarch, but by a ruling clan. This dynasty featured bronze and jade works; horses and chariots; domesticated animals; wheat, millet and rice agriculture; silk and calligraphy; and ancestor worship.

The Zhou Dynasty: The third Chinese dynasty, which was characterized by civil war. During this time, paper was invented.

The Warring States Period: The period during the Zhou Dynasty (around 500 BCE) during which Chinese towns were in civil war.

The Qin Dynasty: The fourth Chinese dynasty and the first to feature an emperor. This dynasty marked the beginning of China’s imperial (strong monarch) era and saw great advancements; however, it only lasted fifteen years. The wheelbarrow was invented during this dynasty.

Shi Huang Di (Qin Shi Huang): The first emperor of China. Sometimes called the Yellow Emperor, Shi Huang Di united who, after the Warring States Period, united China for the first time and started the Qin Dynasty. (This happened around 200 BCE. “China” comes from “Qin.”) Born Qin Shi Huang, the emperor changed his name to Shi Huang Di, which means “first emperor.” He introduced standardized weights and measures, a single currency and a writing system; created the Terra Cotta Soldiers; began construction of the Great Wall of China and the Silk Road; instituted Confucianism as the official state religion; replaced feudal system aristocrats with capable administrators; built roads, canals, irrigation systems and other infrastructure improvements and more. However, a modernist, Shi Huang Di also destroyed classic literary works, including some by Confucius.

Xiling Ji: Wife of Huang Di, who is credited with the discovery of silk

Great Wall of China: The wall started by Shi Huang Di in the 200s to help protect China from invaders, such as the Mongols

Silk Road: The trade route stretching across China and into Europe. Traversing it was treacherous and could take several years each direction.

Terracotta soldiers: The over 7,000 larger-than-life terracotta statues that were housed in Shi Huang Di’s tomb

The Han Dynasty: The fifth Chinese dynasty and one of the most powerful and important in Chinese history. Co-existing with the Roman Empire, the Han dynasty started trade with Central Asia and Europe along the Silk Road. During this time, Confucianism became the official Chinese religion and Buddhism and Taoism also grew in popularity. Chinese inventions during this time included the first anesthetic, the first seismograph and improvements in paper making. For a time, its capital was the largest city in the world, and China was as large as the Roman Empire.

Emperor Liu Bang: The first emperor during the Han Dynasty. Popular, he relaxed harsh laws and instituted fair Confucian laws. He also worked to replace classic writings destroyed by the Qin Dynasty, introduced Buddhism from India and beat back the Huns of Mongolia.

Mandarins: The professional Chinese officials that ran the government during the Han Dynasty. Their education included an exam on Confucianism.

Wei Dynasty, Jin Dynasty, and the Southern and Northern Dynasties: The other ancient Chinese dynasties to rule (briefly) before the more stable period that began around the start of the Middle Ages. Like Rome, China was in political disarray during this time due to economic troubles and border encroachment by outsiders. Buddhism grew in popularity during this time, partly due to its emphasis on suffering well.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Sui Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that restored stability during the early Middle Ages. During this time, China built the Grand Canal and rebuilt the Great Wall. Even more important, a strong bureaucracy was established. Bureaucratic positions were established and given to highly educated individuals who passed an imperial exam. This merit-based bureaucratic system lasted until the 1900s and provided a strong foundation for Chinese culture, unity and economy. Japanese emissaries sent to China brought these ideas back to their country, which vastly influenced their government.

The Tang Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that successfully expanded their western border in order to keep control of the Silk Road. A well-organized empire and one of the largest in history, it remained stable for 300 years, ruling over territories from Korea to Thailand to Afghanistan.

The Tibetan period: The period of Chinese history during which Tibet defeated parts of China and China was highly unstable. During this time, the Chinese invented porcelain and printed the first book. 

The Song dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that restored Chinese unity after the Tibetan period, then made considerable economic, technological and cultural advancements. During this time, China’s economy surpassed western economies. They perfected porcelain making; flourished in theater, poetry and painting; made peace on their borders; increased shipbuilding; invented gunpowder, clocks, movable-type printing, paddle wheel boats and the magnetic compass; expanded agriculturally; grew in population to 100 million; modernized banking; expanded trade; enacted government reforms; remained peaceful; started using the world’s first paper currency; and starting the practice of foot binding.

The Mongol Empire: The Chinese empire led by Mongols under Kublai Khan, which was established after China fell to them in the late Middle Ages. The Mongols conquered China with fast horses, far-firing bows and a disciplined army.

Genghis Khan: The first leader of the Mongol army, who took leadership of his small warlike tribe at the age of thirteen and, with it, conquered most of Eurasia. Genghis Khan means “emperor of all men.”

Kublai Khan: The grandson of Genghis Khan and the second leader of the Mongol army who completed the conquest of China (and other places in Asia) in the late part of the Middle Ages. 

The Yuan Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that was started by Kublai Khan in China, and which Khan ruled as emperor. Khan encouraged trade, opening the important Silk Road to the west.

Marco Polo: The Italian merchant and explorer who famously spent seventeen years at the court of Kublai Khan and wrote about the luxuries enjoyed by the Chinese

The Ming Dynasty: The Chinese dynasty that followed the Yuan Dynasty, which returned China to Chinese leadership and restored peace and stability. (“Ming” means “bright” in Chinese.) Though the Mongols retained control of parts of China during the first part of this dynasty, by 1400 they had fallen from power in China (and in many of their other conquered lands). During this dynasty, the Forbidden City was built; roads, canals, palaces and temples were erected; trade and art flourished; and the capitol was moved from Xian to Beijing.

The Forbidden City: The extravagant residence of the emperor that was built during the Ming Dynasty. No one was allowed to enter or leave it without the emperor’s permission. It is said that it included 9,999 rooms. Its halls and temples, some of which were used solely by the emperor, were astonishingly ornate.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

Overview of China during the colonial period: Colonists arrived in southern China in early colonial times, establishing thriving trading ports. The foreigners were met with suspicion by the Chinese, and for good reason: colonists waged war over port control and balanced imports and exports.

The Qing Dynasty: The last imperial dynasty of China, which ruled from the mid-1600s till 1911. Prosperous, it was ruled by the Manchu people. They expanded the Chinese empire to become the largest in the world in 1800; brought efficiency without greatly disturbing existing Chinese customs; and increased trade, especially of tea, porcelain, cotton and silk. However, they were isolationists, only allowing Chinese to take silver as payment for their goods and disallowing foreign goods to enter China. This policy increased illegal foreign trade, including the opium trade.

The Manchus: The rulers of the Qing Dynasty and a foreign people from the northeast. At first, the Manchus lived separately from the Chinese in closed-off areas and Chinese men had to wear long hear in pigtails to show inferiority to the Manchus; however, both Manchus and Chinese were allowed to be civil servants (mandarins). Eventually the Manchus assimilated and were accepted.

The first and second Opium Wars: The wars between China and the colonists over the illegal importing of opium into China. The Opium Wars occurred partly because the colonists were not allowed to trade their goods for Chinese goods, only silver. This policy caused an increase in illegal foreign trade, with opium as a key export. Colonists encouraged heavy opium use by the Chinese and exported huge quantities to this country. When Chinese officials burned British stores of opium, Britain sent warships. Britain won the war and took Hong Kong as its own. After this, China was forced to open trade and made trade agreements with many countries.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The Boxer Rebellion:

The Republican Revolution: The revolution led by Sun Yat-sen in 1911 which overthrew the Qin Dynasty and ended the Chinese imperial era

Sun Yat-sen: The first president of the Republic of China and the leader of the Republican Revolution

Republic of China: The government that followed the Qin Dynasty and was ruled by a president and military leaders. It had two centers, one in the north in Beijing and one in the south at Nanjing. It was characterized by continuous civil war between the communist north and the nationalist south. It fell in 1949.

Chinese Civil War: The war that began with the Republican Revolution and continued throughout the time of the Republic of China until Mao’s communists emerged as victors and created the People’s Republic of China

China during World War I:

China during World War II:

Chiang Kai-Shek: The leader of the joint nationalist and communist forces who defeated northern rebels during the beginning of the Chinese Civil War, then became the leader of the Nationalist Party after the communists broke away

Mao Zedong: The leader of the Communist Party who prevailed after the long Chinese Civil War and created the People’s Republic of China

The Long March: The deadly march of Mao and his communist army from the south to the north before taking power

Chinese-Japanese War: The war between China and Japan that took place during the Chinese Civil War. It started in the 1930s when Japan invaded China and captured several important cities, including Beijing. For a time, nationalists and communists paused their civil war and allied to fight them. When they defeated Japan in 1945, they resumed fighting each other.

People’s Republic of China: The modern government of China, which was founded by Mao Zedong in 1949. Strictly communist for several decades, in the late 1970s it began adopting free trade policies that brought on an economic boom.

Great Leap Forward: Mao Zedong’s campaign to end poverty through the redistribution of land to be run by giant peasant communities. It was a failure, leading to widespread food shortages and the death of millions by starvation.

Cultural Revolution: Mao Zedong’s campaign to suppress anti-communist ideas in which over one million intellectuals, political opponents and others were placed in concentration camps and killed

Little Red Book: The nickname for Mao’s political treatise titled The Thoughts of Chairman Mao

Tiananmen Square demonstration: The 1989 student demonstration in Beijing in which 3,000 people were killed and 10,000 people were injured for advocating for democracy

Return of Hong Hong: The 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China after 100 years of colonial rule by the British

School in a Book: History of Australia


Ancient History (3000 BCE to 500 CE)

The Aborigines: The indigenous people of Australia, who might have come from Asia on a land bridge over 65,000 years ago. (During the last Ice Age, sea water was trapped as ice and sea levels were much lower, allowing for migrations in areas that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.) The Aborigines lived in tribal societies ruled by chiefs. They are known for their music, including the use of the didgeridoo, a wind instrument made from a hollowed-out tree trunk; their spiritual connection to nature, including their concept of the Dreamtime, which refers to the time of creation and the connection between the living world and the spirit world; their expert wood carving and more.

Easter Island statues: The famous collections of around 900 statues made of volcanic rock discovered on Easter Island and created by the Polynesians or an earlier unknown people. The statues, some of which are over 30 feet tall, are of human figures: full bodies, torsos and heads and shoulders, and might have represented watchful ancestors.

The Middle Ages (500 CE to 1500 CE)

The Maori: The indigenous people of New Zealand, who arrived during the Middle Ages from Polynesia. They are known for their traditional forms of dance; their intricate tattoo art; their seafaring skills; and more.

Early Modern Times (1500 CE to 1900 CE)

New Holland: The name the Dutch gave the Australian continent in the 1700s after locating it in the 1600s. (The Dutch also located Tasmania and New Zealand around this time.) The Dutch did not settle the area, however.

Captain James Cook: The British explorer who is known for his trips to the Pacific in the 1700s: several to New Zealand and Australia, parts of which he claimed for Britain; one to the Hawaiian Islands; and one to Antarctica, where thick pack ice prevented him from landing

New South Wales: The name that Captain Cook gave to the east coast of Australia while mapping it, which later became the name of the first Australian colony that included Sydney Cove. After other colonies arose in Australia, then gained independence, New South Wales became one of the six Australian states.

Captain Arthur Phillip: The leader of the first British settlement of Australia, which was made up of over 700 convicts, a few free settlers, and 200 marines. Phillip was sent there in the late 1700s by the British government to establish a penal colony for English prisoners in order to alleviate prison overcrowding in England. After settlement, the British and Aborigines coexisted, but not entirely peacefully. Many Aborigines were killed in conflicts over land and many others died of Western diseases.

Sydney Cove: The bay settled and named by Arthur Phillip’s group of settlers, who struggled to survive in an unfamiliar climate with limited supplies. Later, other groups of convicts and settlers arrived. In the 1800s other colonies were built, some penal colonies and some free.

Treaty of Waitangi: The 1800s treaty between the British and the Maori that gave sovereignty over the island to the British in exchange for various rights and protections, including land ownership rights. Two versions of the treaty were written, though, with one leading the Maori to believe they were giving up governorship, not sovereignty. Following this, there were wars between the British and Maori. Eventually, New Zealand became an official British colony.

The Australian gold rush: The influx of settlers in the mid-1800s that occurred after the discovery of gold there and that resulted in the creation of five new Australian colonies: Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia. After Australia gained independence, these, with New South Wales, became the six Australian states. During the gold rush, the Aboriginal population declined significantly due to land fights and foreign disease.

The Modern Era (1900 CE to the Present)

The Commonwealth of Australia: The full name of today’s Australia, a parliamentary democratic federation of the six Australian colonies, which was founded in the early 1900s. Though it is part of the British Commonwealth (a group of former British colonies), it is sovereign and independent. Its constitution is partially based on the American and British constitutions and calls for free trade and equal rights.

The Australian Imperial Force (AIF): The Australian military group that fought alongside the British during World War I and participated in significant battles, including those at Gallipoli and the western front. Australia allied with Britain because they were a part of the British Commonwealth.

Battle of Kokoda Track: A World War II battle during which Australia successfully prevented Japan from invading. In spite of having limited resources, Australia fought on the side of the Allies in Europe and in the Pacific; were faced with invasion by Japan; and suffered the 1941 bombing of their city, Darwin, by Japan.

Battle of the Coral Sea: A World War II battle during which Australian and American forces successfully halted a Japanese naval offensive

Postwar boom in Australia: The rapid growth of Australia’s economy that occurred after the war due to improved world economies that led to increased tourism; increased immigration from war-torn countries; increased production and export; and more. During this time, Australia imported a great deal of American technology and culture; improved their infrastructure; provided greater access to healthcare and other social benefits; and grew from a relatively small, isolated nation to an important economic power.

School in a Book: Writing and Literary Analysis Skills

In some people, the word writer inspires a feeling of pride or admiration. In others, it inspires dread. If you’re in the latter category, consider making writing improvement your top educational priority. If you aren’t, practice a lot anyway. It’s likely the most useful skill you’ll learn in school.


How to write a paragraph: Write the main idea. Follow this with several supporting sentences. After mastering this basic formula, experiment with placing the main idea elsewhere in the paragraph. Switch to a new paragraph when the main point you’re making and supporting changes–no sooner and no later.

How to take notes on a text: First, find the main idea of the entire section of writing. Practice this skill alone until you are good at it. (This comes in handy in both personal and philosophical arguments, in which the main point of the speaker often gets lost.) After that, identify the main supporting ideas in the section—the points that give rise to the main idea. Finally, make note of any particularly insightful or important side point. Record your notes in the simplest form possible, without unnecessary blank spaces on the page. Use bullets.

How to write an outline: Place your thesis statement at the beginning. Then list the major points that support your thesis using Roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.). Under each of these, list all of the supporting ideas or arguments using capital letters (A, B, C, etc.). If needed, under these, list subordinate ideas using numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.), then small letters (a, b, c, etc.).

How to write a short story: First, create a compelling dilemma involving interesting characters. Think of the story as a movie without a narrator, and write each scene like a movie scene without any background explanation. Start the story at a particularly interesting place in media res (in the middle of action). Make sure that every character undergoes inner change, and the protagonist is quite changed by the end. Make sure that in each and every scene there is an immediate conflict in addition to the story’s larger conflict, and make sure that every scene moves the story forward. Use the standard plot graph, with a slow introduction, then rising action (when lots of complications are thrown in), then a climax (when everything bad happens all at once), then a quick resolution.

How to write a poem: Read several poems of several types, including free verse, odes, haikus, rhyming poems with regular stanza lengths, nonrhyming poems with regular stanza lengths and more. Find a feeling within yourself and choose a subject that in the moment of writing causes that same strong feeling in you. Write a straight description of that subject/metaphor that includes words that convey your reaction to it, without ever describing your thoughts or feelings directly. As you edit it, get rid of any extra words and any words that sound in any way corny (flower, sunshine, beauty, etc.).

How to write an essay: First, research the topic. Then, write a great thesis statement. This will often be one sentence in length, but for more complex themes, you can state the argument, then use a second sentence to review your supporting evidence; for example, “This paper argues that rabbit habitats should be more carefully preserved. It discusses several reasons for this, then offers two practical changes that can be made.” Note that most instructors won’t object to the use of the passive voice or the self-referencing phrase, “this paper.” “Here, I,” as in, “Here, I explain …” also usually works. Next, choose references that support that thesis statement. Then, write a fairly thorough outline that includes the supporting arguments, evidence and references. Write a first draft of the essay without overly concerning yourself with proper grammar and perfect phrasing. The introductory paragraph should grab the reader’s attention and clearly state the position the paper will support. It usually briefly mentions several important supporting arguments and ends with the thesis statement. The middle paragraphs provide support for the main argument, one point at a time and offer credible references, and the conclusion restates the argument and the main supporting points, then ends by widening the reader’s scope. It might refer to the significance or larger application of the position or contain a call to action.


The goal of writing is to be understood, and preferably, to be understood easily. This happens when language is clear, concise, well-organized and direct. The following rules for good writing can and should be selectively broken in creative writing, but in most nonfiction writing and in most practical writing (letters, emails, instructions, etc.), they stand.

Be organized. Write an outline first, and use it.

Be specific and concrete. Otherwise, you’ll lose your reader.

Be concise. Overwriting sounds arrogant.

Don’t use a lot of adjectives and adverbs. They’re out of style.

Pay attention to transitions. When possible, don’t confuse the reader by jumping from one step to the next or one idea to the next without showing (subtly) how they relate.

Pay attention to rhythm. Intersperse long and short sentences and read the piece out loud or have someone else read it out loud to you to see if it flows well.

Use the active voice. This just means to avoid “is” and “are” when possible, particularly when doing so creates a needlessly long phrase, as in “is trying to help people figure out” instead of “helps” or “advises.”

For dialogue, use either “said” or “asked” or leave the quote bare. Don’t use “stated,” “exclaimed,” etc.

State quotes in the past tense, even if the author still believes what they said.

Use the positive form of the statement, avoiding double negatives when possible.

Do not use run-on sentences. One sentence per sentence is enough.

Place the phrase you want to emphasize at the end of the sentence.

Keep related words together. A clause (a descriptive phrase) should be right next to the person, place or thing that it’s describing.

Express coordinate ideas in similar form. (For example, when using bullet points, all of the points should be in the same form, same tense, and as parallel in structure as possible.)

Don’t accidentally inject opinion. When making unsupported statements, consider using “may,” “might” or “can” instead of “should” or “will.”

Don’t be awkward. When grammar rules feel wrong, they can safely be broken. Usually.

Don’t be fancy. No one will like you more for it.

Practice. Revise and rewrite. Wait a year, then revise again. To become a faster, clearer, more organized writer, practice outlining nonfiction texts. Also, master the art of writing short, factual, straightforward stories worthy of a top-notch news reporter. Then move on to the more creative stuff.


Pretend you’re in an argument. An essay is an argument, after all. Pretend someone is in the room with you right now. They don’t agree with what you’re saying but they’re willing to listen without answering back—yet. How would you answer these questions? (When stuck, imagine someone screaming them at you.)

  • Why is what you’re telling me important? Why should anyone care about your opinion on this? Are there relevant statistics, or is there a reason someone might disagree with you? (Introductory sentences or paragraphs, including introductions to new sections.)
  • What is your main point, anyway? (Thesis statement.)
  • What is your evidence? (Supporting paragraphs.)

Just spit it out. Do NOT stare at a blank screen. If you can’t think of a great first sentence, skip it and write the second one. Just write. If the person you’re arguing with were here in front of you, and your grade depended on your convincing them, you wouldn’t not talk. You would just start saying something. You’ll edit later.

Don’t be fancy. It’s harder. Use short, simple sentences. Pretend the person you’re arguing with is a high school student. You can always make things sound more professional in the final edit, combining short sentences to make longer ones and switching out a few key words to bring it up a level. (You might notice that you keep more of those unpretentious sentences than you thought you would, though.)

Be scannable. The goal of writing is to be understood, and preferably, to be understood easily. Don’t make your teachers work too hard to understand what you’re saying. A good reader should be able to fully digest your paragraph in under thirty seconds. If it takes them longer than that, it’s the writer’s fault, not the reader’s.

Don’t pad. This is a first draft. Don’t add in any sentences that don’t strictly need to be there. In the final edit, if a point needs more explanation (and you need more pages), go ahead. Doing so before getting to the end is a waste of time.

Pretend it’s just an outline. Still too intimidated to start writing the real thing? Tell yourself you’re just filling in your outline a bit. Write full, simple sentences (and a few longer, more inspired ones as they come to you) within the outline itself. Then pop in your source quotes or ideas (properly referenced).

Oh, and do write that outline. Organization is everything. Writing is just what happens later.

Don’t go in order. First paragraphs are the hardest. Write whatever seems easiest first. Success begets success.

Don’t stop to research. Add something like [REFERENCE NEEDED] in the paragraph and move on. Which reminds me:

Bracket everything that isn’t yours. [LIKE THIS.] That way, you don’t end up accidentally plagarizing.

Take some hits. It’s painful, but some sentences don’t sound perfect. If you revise endlessly, you’ll spend twenty percent of your time perfecting one percent of your essay (and improving your grade not at all). Teachers aren’t looking for professional-quality writing. They’re looking for professional-quality thinking.

Use your last perfectly-formatted essay as a template. Erase the text, retitle the document, and you’re off.

Tell yourself you’ll bang the whole thing out in an hour. You won’t, but you’ll get the first draft mostly done, and after that you’ll just tie up few “loose ends.” (This really works.)

Remind yourself that this essay isn’t your whole grade. If your organization and thinking is clear, you’ll likely be just fine, grade-wise.

Remember that there’s never a good day to write an essay. They’re almost all equally unfit, and equally fine.


  • What main point does the piece make?
  • What is the historical context of the piece?
  • Who was the author (profession, social standing, age, etc.) of the piece?
  • What is the genre of the piece?
  • What does the author have to gain or lose from others accepting or rejecting his ideas?
  • What events led to the writing of the piece?
  • What events resulted from the writing of the piece?
  • How did the piece change people’s thinking?

School in a Book: Literary Analysis

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When it comes to analyzing a literary work, here is what you need to know: the basic historical context of the piece; the reason the piece is considered great or important; and what the piece is, ultimately, about (what’s its point?). After that, you’ll want to look at the literary devices in the work and understand how they add to its meaning, beauty and effectiveness. This sounds like a lot of work, but don’t be a martyr: for context, and to get through more difficult works, I highly recommend Cliffs Notes, SparkNotes . . . and skimming.

Bonus points: Understand the difference between good and great literature (one is well-written and entertaining while the other is these, plus important and universal in some way) and don’t confuse a work’s true meaning with the meaning that the author intended (the authorial intent). Great literature, it is said, is a mystical creature with a life independent of its creator.

A few additional notes on poetry interpretation: Though any great literary work can abide line by line analysis, due to its shorter length, poetry is particularly amenable to it. At least once in your life, choose a poem you like and study its use of some of the literary devices below as well as its use of repetition, rhyme, rhythm, cadence and, most importantly, diction (both the connotations and the denotations of each word). Think about how each of these elements furthers the meaning of the poem. Ask yourself how these elements add to the meaning of the piece. You might be surprised how much there is to say about those few lovely stanzas.

Most people should probably know most of the terms below; it just makes for better conversation about books. Play with literary analysis by choosing one or two favorite works and identifying some or most of the following literary devices in them. This will help you appreciate their beauty in a way you haven’t before.


Literary convention: A commonly used feature, style, idea or technique in literature. Some examples are: a hero’s journey; a three-act structure; and a sidekick character.

Literary device: A writing tool that helps convey ideas and meaning or adds interest to a work. Some examples are metaphors, similes, and personification.

Subject: The objective main topic of a literary work. An example is Tom Sawyer’s adventures in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Theme: The subjective, philosophical idea that is explored in a work. An example is the theme of boyhood in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Narrative: A work’s story line

Genre: A work’s category based on its content and form. Some examples are mystery, science fiction, romance and historical fiction.

Motif: A recurring idea, symbol or set of symbols in a work that contribute to the work’s theme(s). An example is the house in Gone With the Wind, which is named Tara.

Premise: A work’s basic setup, which might include its setting and the question or problem faced by its main character. An example is the premise of George Orwell’s novel 1984, in which the main character’s desire for freedom is prevented by a totalitarian government.

Diction: Word choice

Syntax: The ways words are organized in sentences and paragraphs

Style: The unique way an author writes, which encompasses many aspects of their work or works, including diction, voice, tone, mood, pace, favored themes and more

Voice: The author or narrator’s unique way of perspective on their material, as conveyed through style, tone and more. Novels can have many voices within them. A magazine can have many voices, but maintain a single tone throughout.

Tone: The attitude of the narrator toward the work. Some examples are: formal, conversational, humorous and nostalgic.

Mood: The overall feeling of the piece. Some examples are dark, brooding and fanciful.

Pace: The speed and rhythm of a work, which is conveyed through sentence length, plot movement and more

Figurative language: Language that implies or represents an idea rather than directly stating it, often for mood, dramatic effect, or humor. Some examples are hyperbole, understatement, analogy, personification, euphemism, simile and metaphor.

Imagery: A mental picture or representation of a person, place, or thing

Analogy: A comparison that goes into some detail

Simile: A figure of speech in which two things are compared using the words like or as

Metaphor: A figure of speech in which something is said to be something else, without using the words like or as. An example is Shakespeare’s line, “All the world’s a stage.”

Symbol: Something that appears in a piece of writing that stands for or suggests something else. An example is the red letter A worn by the main character in The Scarlet Letter.

Onomatopoeia: A word or words that imitate a sound. Some examples are bang and pop.

Personification: The attributing of human characteristics to something that is not human. An example is: “My computer hates me.”

Irony: A figure of speech that occurs when reality is the opposite of one’s reasonable expectation. An example is: “I was hired to write books but instead, I am burning them.”

Paradox: A statement that initially appears to be contradictory but then, on closer inspection, turns out to make sense. An example is: “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.”

Foreshadowing: Hints of upcoming events in a work, often included to build suspense. An example is: “She didn’t know what she was getting herself into.”

Pun: A play on words that relies on a word’s having more than one meaning or sounding like another word. An example is: “A boiled egg for lunch is hard to beat.”

Cliché: An overused expression. An example is: “Actions speak louder than words.”

Double entendre: A phrase that can be interpreted in two different ways. An example is: “That’s what she said.”

Euphemism: An innocuous-sounding phrase used in place of something distasteful or offensive. An example is the use of the word passing in place of the word death.

Allusion: A reference that is not directly stated or explained. An example is using the phrase “to be or not to be” without mentioning Hamlet or Shakespeare.

Oxymoron: A phrase composed of two words with contradictory meanings. An example is “open secret.”

Synecdoche: A figure of speech in which a part stands in for the whole or a whole stands in for a part. Some examples are: using the word boards in place of the word stage and saying “the Americans” instead of “the American team.”

Metonymy: A figure of speech in which a related concept is substituted for the whole. An example is saying “the White House” in place of “the President.”

Alliteration: The repetition of initial sounds in closely-placed words. An example is: “Sally sells seashells by the seashore.”

Consonance: The repetition of any consonant sounds in closely-placed words. An example is: “All’s well that ends well.”

Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds in closely-placed words. An example is: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.”

Denotation: The dictionary meaning of a word

Connotation: A word’s unspoken implication(s)

Plot: The events of a story

Subplot: An additional plot interwoven with the main plot

Conflict: A struggle or challenge that affects the story line

Setting: The time, place, and conditions in which a work’s action takes place; a work’s context

Point of view (POV): The perspective from which the story is told. It can be first person (the narrator speaks as himself), objective (the reader knows no more than the reader), limited omniscient (the narrator knows a bit extra about the characters, as when he/she tells the story through the eyes of the protagonist), or omniscient (the narrator knows everything about the characters and situations).

The five parts of dramatic structure: Exposition (inciting incident), rising action, climax, falling action (resolution), and dénouement

Rising action: The set of events in a story that lead up to the climax

Climax: The peak moment of the action, occurring at or near the end of the work. It is the turning point for the protagonist.

Reversal: The point in the plot at which the action turns in an unexpected direction

Falling action: The action that occurs after the climax, moving it toward its resolution

Dénouement: The final resolution of the story

Characterization: Writing that brings a character to life and makes them unique

Protagonist: The story’s main character

Tragic hero/tragic figure: A protagonist whose story comes to an unhappy end due to his or her own behavior and character flaws

Antihero: A protagonist who isn’t all good and may even be bad

Antagonist: The story’s main bad guy

Round character: A character that is complex and realistic

Flat character: An uncomplicated character that doesn’t feel real to the reader

Foil: A character who provides a clear contrast to another character

Soliloquy: A monologue by a character in a play

Fiction: Imagined, untrue literature

Nonfiction: Factual literature

Biography: A nonfiction life story written by someone other than the subject

Autobiography: A nonfiction life story written by the subject

Memoir: A nonfiction story written by the subject about his or her own experiences, but not about his or her entire life

Anthology: A collection of short stories written by various authors, compiled in one book or journal.

Myth: A story that attempts to explain events in nature by referring to supernatural causes, like gods and deities. Usually passed on from generation to generation.

Fable: A story intended to depict a useful truth or moral lesson. Fables frequently involve animals that speak and act like human beings.

Tale: A story about imaginary or exaggerated events that the narrator pretends is true

Parable: A short story that teaches a moral or spiritual lesson

Parody: A humorous imitation of a popular work

Satire: A humorous work that makes fun of another work or anything else, revealing its weakness

Editorial: A short article expressing an opinion or point of view. Often, but not always, written by a member of the publication staff.

Exposition: Explanatory writing

Didactic writing: Instructional writing

Freewriting: Writing continuously without much thought in order to discover hidden ideas or feelings

Serial: A series of related works or a regularly published work, as a newsletter or magazine

Synopsis: A brief summary of a story, manuscript, or book

Rough draft: The first organized version of a document or other work

Hook: A starting sentence or idea that grabs the reader’s attention. In an essay, the hook might be a statistic or a paraphrased idea presented by an expert. In an article, the hook is usually the main idea.

Thesis statement: The part of an essay that clearly states the essay’s main point. It might also briefly mention several of the relevant supporting points. It is usually either one or two sentences in length (most commonly one).

Three-prong thesis statement: A thesis statement that offers three supporting points and is usually only one sentence long; for example, “I love rabbits because they are fast, soft and beautiful.” This is a simple way to go, if your ideas allow for it.

Five-paragraph essay: A simple essay format that includes one introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs and one concluding paragraph. The three body paragraphs present three supporting points for the thesis (which is usually a three-prong thesis).

Jargon: Terms only familiar to those in the know

Bibliography: The list of books, magazines, journals, people, websites, or any other resources that you consulted in the process of writing a book, article, or paper.

Boilerplate: A piece of writing that gets reused frequently, sometimes with minor changes

Canon: Works generally considered by scholars to be the most important of a genre

Byline: The author’s name appearing with his/her published work

Pseudonym: A “pen name” 

Public domain work: Any written material not under copyright

Query: A short letter pitching an article or a book idea to an editor or agent

Side bar: Extra information put alongside, but not in, the main article

Slant: The bias or angle in a piece of writing

Solicited/unsolicited manuscript: A manuscript that an agent or editor has or has not asked to see

Types of poems: Ode (dignified poem written to praise someone or something), lyric, free verse (rule-free poetry), limerick (lighthearted rhyming poem with a particular structure), haiku, sonnet, villanelle, sestina, acrostic, elegy, epigram, ballad (narrative folksong-like poem), epitaph (brief poem sometimes written on a gravestone paying tribute to a dead person or commemorating another loss), more.

Stanza: A group of lines in a poem that form a metrical or thematic unit, set off by a space.

Verse: Poetic lines composed in a measured rhythmical pattern, that are often, but not necessarily, rhymed.

Beat: One count pause in speech, action, or poetry.

Stress: The emphasis, or accent, given a syllable in word pronunciation or in poetry reading

Meter: A recurring rhythmic pattern of stresses and unstressed syllables in a poem

Rhythm: A term used to refer to the recurrence of stressed and unstressed sounds in poetry

Couplet: A group of two rhyming lines

Triplet: A group of three rhyming lines

Quatrain: A four-line stanza. Quatrains are the most common stanzaic form in the English language, having various meters and rhyme schemes.

Epic: A long narrative poem, told in a formal, elevated style that focuses on a serious subject and chronicles heroic deeds and events important to a culture or nation.

Lyric: A brief poem that expresses the personal emotions and thoughts of a single speaker, not necessarily of the poet.

Sonnet: A fixed form of lyric poetry that consists of fourteen lines, usually written in iambic pentameter, with a varied rhyme scheme.

Acrostic: A sentence where the first letter of each word of the sentence helps to remember the spelling of a word, or order of things

Vilanele: A type of fixed form poetry consisting of nineteen lines of any length divided into six stanzas.

School in a Book: Punctuation and Grammar

Some of the rules of grammar and punctuation don’t need to be taught; instead, they’re inbued, like social skills. However, as with social skills, a little direct coaching goes a very long way. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you how much more educated you’ll seem when you don’t make simple writing mistakes.


The sixteen punctuation marks: Period, question mark, exclamation point, comma, colon, semicolon, apostrophe, quotations marks, slash, hyphen, en dash, em dash, parentheses, brackets, braces and ellipsis. Other symbols are used in mathematical notations and for words from other languages.

Comma (,): The symbol used to separate ideas within a sentence in order to improve readability. Sometimes there’s no clear right or wrong way to use a comma. Do use commas to set off parenthetic expressions, to separate items in a list and to separate independent clauses.

Serial comma: The symbol that is sometimes used at the end of a list, right before the or or and. An example is found in the sentence “The cat likes to play with yarn, cat toys, and clothing.”

Colon (:): The symbol sometimes used to introduce a quotation, explanation, example, or series. It is also sometimes used between sentences instead of a period to show that the second explains or adds directly to the first. Finally, colons can be used for emphasis. An example is: “I have four pairs of boots: one for rain, one for snow and two for fashion.” Another example is: “My sister is beautiful: she has dark hair and a great smile.” A third example is: “Yes, I have a best friend: my sister.”

Semicolon (;): A symbol that is sometimes used between two independent clauses in place of a period, especially when the second clause is closely related to the first, and to separate words and phrases in long lists that already have commas or other internal punctuation in them. An example of the first use is “I was sad; she hurt me on purpose.” An example of the second use is “I own: three black and yellow hats; one long, dark skirt; and one pair of shoes.”

Apostrophe (‘): The symbol used to form contractions or show possession. It is also used as a single quotation mark around a quote that lies within another quote. Some examples are I’ve and Sara’s.

Quotation marks (“): The symbols used around quotations

Slash (/): The symbol used to separate numbers in dates, in website addresses, in fractional numbers, to separate lines in a poem, in the phrase and/or and more

Hyphen (-): The symbol used to join words together to create a compound word, such as “self-esteem”

En dash (–): The symbol used to indicate a range of numbers or dates

Em dash (—): The symbol that is longer than an en dash and used to indicate a break in thought or to emphasize a phrase. An example is “My dogwho I loveis sweet as heck.”

Parentheses (()): The symbols used to contain additional information that isn’t otherwise grammatically connected to the sentence. An example is “My dog (who I love) is sweet as heck.”

Brackets ([]): The symbols used to add needed information into a quote that does not include it, to enclose editorial comments or corrections, to indicate an ellipsis in a quote, and for other reasons. An example is “He said, ‘She [Ms. Smith] is the new director.'”

Braces ({}): The symbols used to contain two or more lines of text or listed items to show that they are considered as a unit. Used mostly in mathematics and computer programming. Example: 2{1+[23-3]}=x.

Ellipsis (…): The symbol used to indicate omitted words or a trailing off of thought


The eight parts of speech: Noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection

Noun: A person, place, thing or idea. Proper nouns, the given name of someone or something in particular, are capitalized. Common (generic) nouns are not capitalized (except when beginning a sentence).

Pronoun: A small word used in place of a noun, including she, her, he, him, they, them, we, it, I and you

Verb: An action or state of being word, like have or walk

Adjective: A word that describes a noun or pronoun, like pretty or smart

Adverb: A word that describes a verb, an adjective or another adverb, like slowly or carefully

Article: The words a, an, and the

Preposition: A word placed before a noun to form a phrase that, taken as a whole, modifies another word in the sentence. The most common are in, with, by, for, at, in, on, out, to, under, within and without. An example is: “With my dog as company, I can do anything.” Contrary to popular understanding, it’s okay to end a sentence in a preposition; however, choose the wording that is the most clear.

Prepositional phrase: A phrase that is made up of at least one preposition and one noun (the phrase’s object) and that modifies another word in a sentence. An example is the phrase “on the shelf” in the sentence “The book on the shelf is mine.”

Conjunction: A word that joins words, phrases or clauses but are not part of a clause or prepositional phrase. The most common are and, but, therefore, however, so, for, or, nor, yet, since, while, and because. Coordinating conjunctions connect grammatically equal elements, while subordinating conjunctions connect clauses that are not equal (because, although, while, since, etc.). There are other types of conjunctions as well.Interjection: A word used to express emotion: oh, wow, ah, etc.

Sentence: A unit of writing consisting of a single main subject (someone or something that is doing something) and a single main action. (Caveat: If two complete sentences convey the same idea, a semicolon can be used to separate them and make up a single sentence.) Sentences may also include adverbs, adjectives, articles and clauses. The number of the subject of the sentence (whether it’s singular or plural) determines the number of the verb in the sentence. A dependent clause should be placed directly after the independent clause to which it refers. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject.

Run-on sentence: A grammatically incorrect sentence that contains two or more independent clauses without proper punctuation (such as a period or semicolon) to separate them

Loose sentence: A sentence that starts with an independent clause and also includes one or more dependent clauses. These can give a paragraph breathability and flow, but too many in a row are tiresome. An example is: “My friend Bill is a farmer and often reminds me of the importance of nature, and I often remind him that I am a city kid, to which he replies that no one is truly a city kid.”

Sentence fragment: A group of words that is missing some element needed to make a complete sentences, such as the subject or the verb. Examples are “Because I need it” and “Good question.”

Topic sentence: The sentence at the beginning of a paragraph that includes the main idea of the paragraph

Verb tense: The form of the verb that denotes the time of the action. When writing, is important to be consistent in the chosen verb tense. There are twelve verb tenses: three subcategories (past, present and future) in four main categories (simple, progressive, perfect and perfect progressive).

Simple verb tense: The verb tense used in the phrases “I eat”, “I ate” and “I will eat.”

Progressive verb tense: The verb tense used in the phrases “I am eating”, “I was eating” and “I will be eating”, where action is ongoing

Perfect verb tense: The verb tense used in the phrases “I have eaten”, “I had eaten” and “I will have eaten”, where action was or will be completed before a specific time

Perfect progressive verb tense: The verb tense used in the phrases “I have been eating”, “I had been eating” and “I will have been eating”, where action started in the past, continued up to a specific point in time, and may continue in the future

Clause: A group of words that contains both a subject and a verb

Independent clause: A clause that can stand alone (and might or might not do so). An example is “I baked some bread” in the sentence “Because I like bread, I baked some bread.”

Dependent clause: A clause that cannot stand alone. An example is “because I like bread” in the sentence “Because I like bread, I baked some bread.”

Helping verb: A verb that helps some main verbs express the action. There are 23 in all: be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being, have, has, had, could, should, must, may, might, must, can, will, would, do, did, and does.

Suffix: A word ending that changes the word’s tense or meaning. An example is -able in the word “readable.”

Prefix: A word beginning that changes the word’s meaning. An example is -un in the word “unhappy.”

Synonyms: Words with the same or approximately the same meaning. Examples are “happy” and “joyful.”

Antonyms: Words with opposite meanings. Examples are “happy” and “sad.”

Homographs: Words which are spelled alike but have different meanings and/or pronunciations

Homonyms: Words that are spelled and pronounced alike but have different meanings. Examples include “bear” and “bare.”

Homophone: One of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning, origin, or spelling. Examples are “flour” and “flower.”

Dipthong: A combination of two vowels to make a single blended sound. Examples are au and ou.

Digraph: A combination of two letters to make a single sound. Examples are th and ph.

Palindrome: A word or phrase that is spelled the same when read in either direction. An example is “eve.”

Acronym: An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word. An example is ASAP, which stands for “as soon as possible.”