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ERIC Number: EJ1024568
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0037-7724
Why Didn't China Discover the New World?
Wolla, Scott
Social Education, v77 n2 p68-73 Mar-Apr 2013
The rise of China, as well as any of the emerging economies, has much to offer students and teachers of social studies--especially in the fields of history and economics. Traditionally, history education in the United States has emphasized Western civilization and provided instruction for educators with that end in mind. In an era of increased globalization, the Western emphasis is opening up into a more global view. While this is a necessary and positive change, some social studies teachers may feel underprepared and hesitant to teach Eastern or Asian history. One way to overcome this hesitancy about broadening curriculum is to seek out a broader range of expertise. The fields of history and economics coexist in an environment of mutual respect and occasional encounters; unfortunately, truly interdisciplinary curricula in these fields are hard to come by. Economics can add an interesting dimension to history instruction. Teachers can strengthen lessons by incorporating economic "reasoning" into the context of history instruction. The story of Zheng He, the third Chinese emperor of the Ming dynasty, Yung-lo's (1403-1425) chief envoy, can be a great way for teachers to infuse history with economic reasoning in a thought-provoking way. Yung-lo sent Zheng He on a mission to "proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas." These expeditions were an effort to make the country more prosperous and powerful, but also to promote trade and collect tribute from neighboring countries. Zheng He earned great status for his efforts. In addition, his emperor gained power, wealth, and the admiration of neighboring countries. But what specific role did economics play in these impressive expeditions? How might economic incentives have encouraged these endeavors? Not only is the story of Zheng He a great way to discuss economic and personal incentives and institutions or society's rules, customs, and laws but also the importance of understanding history in the context of emerging research and scholarly disagreement among historians. Students will come away from the experience better informed of the historical events, capable of using economic reasoning methods in historical contexts, and mindful of the ever-changing process by which history is written. A teaching activity and handout are included.
National Council for the Social Studies. 8555 Sixteenth Street #500, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Tel: 800-683-0812; Tel: 301-588-1800; Fax: 301-588-2049; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: China