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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $28.00
  • July 2016
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93728-2
  • 100 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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Defining a Nation

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Ainslie T. Embree (Author, Columbia University), Mark C. Carnes (Author, Barnard College)

 

Part of the Reacting to the Past series, Defining a Nation plunges students into India’s struggle for sovereignty and identity.

Defining a Nation is set at Simla, in the foothills of the Himalayas, where the British viceroy has invited leaders of various religious and political constituencies to work out the future of Britain’s largest colony. Will the British transfer power to the Indian National Congress, which claims to speak for all Indians? Or will a separate Muslim state—Pakistan—be carved out of India to be ruled by Muslims, as the Muslim League proposes? And what will happen to the vulnerable minorities—such as the Sikhs and untouchables—or the hundreds of princely states? As British authority wanes, tensions among Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs smolder and increasingly flare into violent riots that threaten to ignite all India. Towering above it all is the frail but formidable figure of Gandhi, whom some revere as an apostle of nonviolence and others regard as a conniving Hindu politician. Students struggle to reconcile religious identity with nation building—perhaps the most intractable and important issue of the modern world. Texts include the literature of Hindu revival (Chatterjee, Tagore, and Tilak); the Koran and the literature of Islamic nationalism (Iqbal); and the writings of Ambedkar, Nehru, Jinnah, and Gandhi.

Reacting to the Past is a series of historical role-playing games that explore important ideas by re-creating the contexts that shaped them. Students are assigned roles, informed by classic texts, set in particular moments of intellectual and social ferment.

An award-winning active-learning pedagogy, Reacting to the Past improves speaking, writing, and leadership skills, promotes engagement with classic texts and history, and builds learning communities. Reacting can be used across the curriculum, from the first-year general education class to “capstone” experiences. A Reacting game can also function as the discussion component of lecture classes, or it can be enlisted for intersession courses, honors programs, and other specialized curricular purposes.

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Endorsements & Reviews

Reacting to the Past is the most absorbing and engaging teaching I have ever done. . . . Students engage each other with a passion I have rarely seen in a classroom.” — Elizabeth Robertson, Drake University

“Combines the student instinct for competitive gaming with the academic values of critical thinking and persuasive speaking.” — Craig Caldwell, Appalachian State University

“It is one of the best ways I know of engaging students in great books and significant moments in history.” — Larry Carver, University of Texas at Austin

Student-led classroom

Reacting to the Past is the perfect solution to a “flipped” classroom experience: students take charge of their own learning by assuming roles in a moment of historical crisis.  

History comes alive

Reacting to the Past games do not have a fixed script and outcome. While students must adhere to the beliefs and worldview of the historical figures they have been assigned to play, they must devise their own means of expressing those ideas persuasively in speeches or other public presentations. For these assignments they draw on the rich selection of primary sources in the student game manual.  

A proven pedagogy

By playing games in the Reacting to the Past series, students develop speaking, writing, critical-thinking, problem-solving, leadership, and teamwork skills. For its innovative approach to teaching and learning, Reacting to the Past has been supported by organizations like the Teagle Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education. 

The Reacting Consortium

Reacting to the Past was developed under the auspices of Barnard College, which hosts an annual institute where interested faculty can learn more about the series by playing condensed versions of the games. To learn more about the annual faculty institute and other events near you, go to the Conferences and Events page. 

    Historical Vignette: The Train to Simla
    Introduction
    The Historical Moment: June 1945
    Special Rules: Departures from the Historical Context
    Roles
    Basic Game Rules
    Schedule of Assignments and Class Activities
    India: A Chronology
    India: An Essential History
    Glossary

    Appendix A: Major Documents
    Appendix B: Embree, India’s Search for National Identity
    Appendix C: Recommended Reading