In “Athens, Greece, 403 BCE” students, as Athenians, reestablish the polis after war and tyranny, debating amnesty, citizenry, education, foreign policy. In “China, 1587” students, as Chinese scholars, apply Confucian precepts to a dynasty in peril and confront a crisis in succession raised by the Wanli Emperor’s break with tradition.
Through role-playing, students investigate large questions of historical causation. The class is constructed as a set of games that unfold unpredictably. Students run all game sessions; instructors advise factions and grade oral and written work. At the end of each game portion, in a series of post-mortem explorations, instructors set forth what did happen historically and compare “real” history to what happened in the classroom version.