Center for World History
531 Humanities Building


Social Biographies As World History: A Project of the UCSC Center for World History

Resources for Teachers


Globalizing the U.S. Survey Course: Overview


A Globalized U.S. History Survey


Student Syllabus


Teacher's Syllabus


Social Biographies As World History


Commodities as an Approach to World History





"Social Biographies as World History" is a project of the Center for World History of the University of California, Santa Cruz. It provides some model social biographies for classroom and university teachers. The social biographies included in this website were created by World History graduate students in the UCSC Ph.D. program under the direction of Edmund Burke III, Director of the CWH.

Social biography is an attempt to understand the trajectories of ordinary people's lives through the systematic application of the research strategies of social history and the encompassing vision of world history. By reading the facts of these lives through the lens of world history, social biographies cast new light on the standard world historical narrative, with its emphasis on large scale change.

The writing of social biographies as world history has proved a remarkable pedagogical project for many graduate and undergraduate students of world history at UCSC over the last decade. Writing the social biography of an ordinary individual provides an occasion for historians to sharp research skills and improve their understanding of social processes.

To find out more about social biography, see "Writing a Social Biography."

The social biographies included in this website with two exceptions were presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the World History Association on the theme of social biography and world history by current and former UCSC world history graduate students. Kevin MacDonald's essay on Thomas Tew and Anders Otterness' essay on Estavinco were originally presented to the World History Workshop, a Multi-Campus Research Group of the University of California.


"J. Marion Sims and the Birth of Modern Gynecology in the American South" Urmi Engineer (PhD candidate in History, UCSC)

" 'A Man of Courage and Activity': Thomas Tew, Anglo-American Piracy, and the Manhattan to Madagascar Trade Network, 1690-1720" Kevin MacDonald (PhD Candidate in History, UCSC)

"When Atlantic and Pacific Worlds Collide: Anderson and Pappo, or Breadfruit's Arrival" Kevin MacDonald and Anders Otterness
(PhD. Candidates in History, UCSC)

"Eliza Lucas Pinckney: Indigo in the Atlantic World" Eliza Martin (PhD. Candidate in History, UCSC)

"Cabeza de Vaca and Estevanico: A Life in Sixteenth Century Africa, Iberia, and America" Anders Otterness (PhD. Candidate in History, UCSC)

"Refined Foods, Ruined Soils, and Rotten Teeth: Weston A. Price's Critique of the Industrial Food System" Martin Renner (PhD. Candidate in History, UCSC)

"Tang Ah Thye: The Life of an Amah and World History" Shelly Chan (Ph.D., UCSC)

"The One Who Wheezes:" the Colorado River, Salvador Palma, and the Emerging World Economy" Natale Zappia (Ph.D., UCSC)


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