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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $28.84
  • June 2015
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93887-6
  • 256 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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    Josiah Ober (Author, Stanford University), Naomi J. Norman (Author, University of Georgia), Mark C. Carnes (Author, Barnard College)


    A Norton original in the Reacting to the Past series, The Threshold of Democracy re-creates the intellectual dynamics of one of the most formative periods in western history.

    In this Reacting to the Past game, the classroom is transformed into Athens in 403 BCE In the wake of Athenian military defeat and rebellion, advocates of democracy have reopened the Assembly, but stability remains elusive. As members of the Assembly, players must contend with divisive issues like citizenship, elections, re-militarization, and dissent. Foremost among the troublemakers: Socrates.

    Reacting to the Past is an award-winning series of immersive role-playing games that actively engage students in their own learning. Students assume the roles of historical characters and practice critical thinking, primary source analysis, and argument, both written and spoken.

    For more information about the series, visit


    Motivates students to actively learn by making history come alive

    In each Reacting to the Past game students receive a game book, which outlines the historical context, game premise, central debates, rules, and primary source readings. Students take charge of their own learning by assuming roles in a historical game they will want to win. While players must adhere to the beliefs and worldviews 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. 

    New and improved student and instructor resources

    The new Norton editions of Reacting to the Past use a clear five-part structure: 1) Introduction, 2) Historical Background, 3) The Game, 4) Roles and Factions, 5) Core Texts. This new organization brings a much-demanded consistency to the series and makes it easier for new instructors to learn the games, or for experienced ones to teach multiple titles in succession. 

    A proven approach for history skill-building

    Supported by a national network of engaged teachers, Reacting to the Past helps students develop primary source analysis, public speaking, writing and argument, 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, and was honored with the 2004 Theodore Hesburgh Award for pedagogical innovation. 

    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, go to the Conferences and Events page

      Part 1. Introduction
      Brief Overview of the Game
      How to React

      Part 2. Historical Background
      Chronology: Ancient Athens
      The Foundations of Athenian Democracy
      Athens in the Fifth Century: Politics
      The Fifth Century: War and Peace
      The Peloponnesian War
      The Other Athenians: Women, Metics, and Slaves
      The Treasury of Athena: Finance and Economics

      Part 3. The Game
      Major Issues for Debate
      Rules and Procedures
      Basic Outline of the Game

      Part 4. Roles and Factions
      Overview of Factions
      Public Biographies of Athenian Leaders, 403 BCE

      Part 5. Core Texts
      Pericles, Funeral Oration, 431 BCE
      Plato, The Republic, ca. 390–370 BCE: Part I
      Plato, The Republic, ca. 390–370 BCE: Part II
      Plato, The Republic, ca. 390–370 BCE: Part III
      Plato, The Republic, ca. 390–370 BCE: Part IV
      Plato, The Republic, ca. 390–370 BCE: Part V
      Plato, from Protagoras, ca. 390-370 BCE
      Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus, ca. 75-100 CE
      Plutarch, Life of Cimon, ca. 70-100 CE
      Xenophon, The Economist, ca. 400-350 BCE
      Xenophon, from Hellenica, ca. 400-350 BCE

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