This is the first of a sequence of two term-courses that are required of all MA students in History. It is a general survey course that explores specific themes and periods from the first human communities to c. 1500, and problematizes them in comparative, theory-intensive ways. It runs parallel to the SPS 101 (Humanity and Society I) freshman course, which serves as the teaching practicum of HIST 501 for SU graduate students in History who also serve as SPS 101 section instructors. Both SPS 101 and HIST 501 embody a discrete, step-function view of historical development, examining sets of institutional-cultural "solutions" situated along each major material-technical threshold, without however proceeding in a continuous narrative from one such locus to another. Topics dealt with in the first semester include : Modernity's subsumptions and transformations of pre-modernities; comparing contemporary with prehistoric hunters and gatherers; nomadic pastoralism, mounted archers, steppe empires; the economics of peasant production; the role of movement and conquest in history; "dark ages" and state formation; precocious maritime civilizations in Antiquity; tributary states and societies; the function and varieties of fief distribution; types of urban space and culture; the world on the eve of the "European miracle"; the Italian Renaissance as the dawn of early modernity.