History (HIST) 201

Western Thought and Culture I: Before the Scientific Revolution (Revision 4)

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study online with video component*.
*Overseas students, please contact the University Library before registering in a course that has an audio/visual component.

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: This course is intended as a foundation course for BA and BGS students and is designed for learners with little or no previous university experience. It provides a good starting place for new students intending to study history, literature, philosophy, or other aspects of the humanities.

Precluded Course: HIST 201 is a cross-listed course—a course listed under two different disciplines—HUMN 201. HIST 201 may not be taken for credit by students who have obtained credit for HUMN 201.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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HIST 201 has a Challenge for Credit option

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When, where and how did human beings first develop cultures worthy of being called civilizations? How did the classical world of Greece and Rome come into existence, and what were its finest cultural achievements? Which were the first Christian societies, and what were their intellectual and cultural legacies? What were the main features of the Romanesque and Gothic phases of medieval European civilizations? Why did the Renaissance happen, and what fundamental cultural and intellectual changes did it bring about? These are some of the questions examined in HIST 201.

HIST 201 is the first of two, three-credit courses that together survey the development of Western civilization from its origins in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to the complicated and sophisticated world of the post-industrial era. Although the course employs a historical framework, its overall approach is interdisciplinary, drawing upon the findings of archaeologists, classical scholars, theologians, art historians, literary critics, and philosophers as well as historians of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.


  • Unit 1: Prehistory and Ancient Mesopotamia
  • Unit 2: Ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean
  • Unit 3: Ancient Greece
  • Unit 4: Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic World
  • Unit 5: The Roman World
  • Unit 6: The Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire
  • Unit 7: The Decline and Fall of the Roman World
  • Unit 8: The Civilization of Byzantium
  • Unit 9: Early Middle Ages and Charlemagne
  • Unit 10: Medieval Synthesis, 1000-1300
  • Unit 11: From Medieval to Renaissance
  • Unit 12: The Renaissance


To receive credit for HIST 201, you must achieve a course composite grade of at least “D“ (50 percent) and a grade of at least 50 percent on the final examination. The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Essay 1 Essay 2 Final Exam Total
25% 35% 40% 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators that can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Matthews, Roy T., F. Dewitt Platt and Thomas F. X. Noble, Experience Humanities, Volume 1: Beginnings Through the Renaissance. 8th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014.

Other Materials

The course materials also include an online student manual and study guide. The course assigns videos which can be streamed online through the AU Library or borrowed as DVDs from the Library.

Challenge for Credit Course Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows students to demonstrate that they have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university level course.

Full information for the Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the HIST 201 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least “D” (50 percent) on the entire challenge examination.

Part I: Exam Part II: Exam Total
50% 50% 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 4, May 13, 2013.

View previous syllabus

Updated October 18 2016 by SAS