Conversations in World History

Conversations in World History is a bridge to the past connecting scholars to people interested in the deeper meaning of history. Here, my informal chats with historians open up the past, their research, and major questions and debates in the field. These episodes should help us all engage in the fascinating conversations of world history and to hear from the people who are writing the next pages. The host, David Sherrin, is an author and award-winning social studies teacher. Check out other episodes and his books at

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Monday Jun 12, 2023

In this special "Student's Corner" episode, a group of students from my class at Scarsdale High School share their research paper findings in two minute segments. The students spent about five months developing topics, questions, and research, including primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. These types of authentic research papers are quite rich and thought-provoking as they emerge from student interest. 

Wednesday Jun 07, 2023

I speak with Joseph Sassoon, Professor and Director of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies of Georgetown University. Joseph is also the author of the recent book The Sassoons: The Great Global Merchants and the Making of an Empire. A NYTimes review of the book can be found here. We discuss the fascinating Sassoon family, a conversation that takes us from 19th century Baghdad to Mumbai and then to Shanghai and England. The fortunes of the Sassoon family were tied up in so many of the great events of the period from the Opium Wars in China to the Civil War in the United States.

Monday May 29, 2023

In this Teacher's Corner episode, I speak with Nora Schaffer, a social studies teacher in Brooklyn, NY. Nora has a fascinating background in art history, anthropology, and restaurant management. She is now pursuing a PhD in education at Columbia University's Teachers College and we discuss how she brings all her various expertise to the classroom. Additionally, we talk about ways to make the learning of WWI relevant and engaging for students.

Sunday May 21, 2023

Professor Peter Burke is a Life Fellow of Emmanuel College at the University of Cambridge. He has published hundreds of articles and more than 30 books since the early 1970s. His work has been translated into 33 languages. We discuss his most recent book called Ignorance: a Global History. 
Books recommended by Peter:
The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb
Terra Incognita by Alain Corbin

Sunday May 14, 2023

Peter Bol is the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. We discuss the two dynasties --T'ang and Sung-- that rule China from about 618-1279 CE. We talk about why this period is important for Chinese and World History and the conversation ranges from what the high school textbook gets right and wrong to Neo-Confucianism to Chinese minorities and the introduction of foot-binding. 

Sunday Apr 30, 2023

Liz Clarke is a South African illustrator who has been the artist behind seven graphic histories from Oxford University Press including Abina and the Important Men and Witness to the Age of Revolution, both of which have been discussed on the podcast. We talk about the process of making graphic histories and the challenges in creating a visual representation of the past. We discuss the collaboration between the historian and the illustrator and how her work has evolved over time.

Tuesday Apr 04, 2023

Marie Favereau is Associate Professor of History at Paris Nanterre University. We discuss her book The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World, which was shortlisted for the Cundhill Prize for the best history writing in English. The Khanate of the Golden Horde was the empire ruled by Chinggis Khan's descendants in Russia and Central Asia. Marie explains how the Mongol Empire was unique, the values of a nomadic civilization, and the Horde's impact on Euroasian trade and cultural exchange.
Books recommended by Marie:
Korea and the Fall of the Mongol Empire by David Robinson
The Secret History of the Mongols

Wednesday Mar 29, 2023

Andrew Porwancher is a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma who teaches courses in Constitutional Studies. He earned his Ph.D. in history from Cambridge. We discuss his book The Jewish World of Alexander Hamilton, which won the Journal of the American Revolution Book-of-the-Year Award. Andrew has held research fellowships at a number of universities, including Harvard, Princeton, and Oxford. In 2017, Porwancher won the Longmire Prize for innovation in teaching. We discuss the groundbreaking argument he advances that Alexander Hamilton was probably born Jewish. Why does he believe this and how strong is the evidence? Equally important, what light might this shed on Hamilton’s perspectives toward Jews during an era of pervasive antisemitism, his stance on religious liberty, and his relationships with prominent Jews of his time.
Books recommended by Andrew:
Alexander Hamilton and the Development of American Law by Kate Elizabeth Brown
Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth by Stephen F. Knott

Tuesday Mar 21, 2023

Today I speak with Adam Hochschild, journalist, lecturer at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and author of eleven books. American Midnight: The Great War, a Violent Peace, and Democracy’s Forgotten Crisis is his most recent. King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa and To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 were both selected as finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award. We discuss the British Anti-Slavery Movement and his 2006 book Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the PEN USA Literary Award, the Gold Medal of the California Book Awards, and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Adam recommends these two books:
The Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano
Disposable People by Kevin Bales

Tuesday Mar 14, 2023

Today I’m speaking with Professor Christopher Ebert of Brooklyn College and Professor Thiago Kause of UNIRIO, which is the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. They are co-authoring a book about the history of the city of Salvador da Bahia, the first capital of colonial Brazil. Chris was my master’s thesis advisor about a decade ago and he previously wrote a book called Between Empires: Brazilian Sugar in the Early Atlantic Economy, 1550-1630. He specializes in Latin American history from an Atlantic perspective. Thiago is a professor of Early Modern History and Brazilian history. We discuss the process and value of co-authoring a history book –which is pretty unique in this field– and then we dig into what made Salvador an important city in the colonial Atlantic world and why it continues to be such a special city within Brazil and the Americas.
Recommended Books:
Blacks of the Land by John Monteiro
Divining Slavery and Freedom by João José Reis 


Conversations in World History

What is it? Conversations in World History is a bridge to the past connecting scholars to people interested in the deeper meaning of history. Here, my informal chats with historians open up the past, their research, and major questions and debates in the field. The "Teacher's Corner" episodes involve talks with K-12 social studies teachers to hear how they bring world history to life. These episodes should help us all engage in the fascinating conversations of world history and to hear from the people who are writing the next pages. 


Who am I?

I am an author of picture books as well as engaging and practical books about teaching social studies. I teach at Scarsdale High School in Westchester. I formally taught at Harvest Collegiate in New York City, where I was a founding teacher and served as department chair, instructional coach, and Master Teacher.


My picture books are:

  • Big Bad Wolf's Yom Kippur (Apples & Honey Press, 2023)

  • The Pirate Rabbi (Apples & Honey Press, 2024)

My pedagogy books are: 

  • Authentic Assessment in Social Studies: A Guide to Keeping it Real

  • The Classes They Remember: Using Role-Plays to Bring Learning to Life 

  • Judging for Themselves: Using Mock Trials to Bring Learning to Life.  


I was named a New York City Master Teacher for 2014-2015 and was the recipient of the 2014 Robert H Jackson Center National Award for Teaching Justice. I have guest lectured in various graduate school education courses and led professional development for teachers at places such as NCSS, Revolutionary Learning Conference, Columbia Teacher's College, and Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda. 

I spent two years as a street educator for Projeto Axé, a Brazilian organization that provides education and outreach for street children in Salvador, Brazil. 

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