The Clio Project Conceptual Framework: The Cultural Universals

The conceptual framework for The Clio Project utilizes six categories of human activities. These are often called the cultural universals because all human societies, from the simplest to the most complex, have activities that take place in these six areas.

Every society:

  • Expresses ideas through Art and Aesthetics.
  • Organizes a division of work and distribution of wealth, Economics.
  • Develops formal or informal methods of teaching the young, Education.
  • Evolves methods for appointing leaders, passing laws, and group protection, Politics and Public Life.
  • Develops systems of faith, worship and rites of passage, Religion.
  • Devises formal and/or informal rules directing family and communal life, Social Arrangements.

By using six categories as an organizational scheme, the rich, complex experiences of women are more accurately portrayed. This model expands a traditional view of history that equates significance with activities in public life, an arena often dominated by men. Also, it emphasizes analysis and writing rather than a focus on individual women's biographies.

In her guide, Exploring a Common Past: Interpreting Women's History in the National Park Services, Professor Sara Evans utililizes a similar type of model that she calls The Dynamics of Gender. The Clio Project has reproduced the guide in full followed by examples from world history for each of her seven themes. To access the Evans' guide, see Interpreting the Past Through the History of Women. Either of these models, Dynamics of Gender or the Cultural Universals, is useful for exploring women's history.

In the chart and explanation below Missy McDonald illustrates a conceptural overlap between Professor Evans' seven "dynamics of gender" and the Clio Project's model of the six "cultural universals."

models graphic

Searching the Site

The five ways to search for lessons on The Clio Project website are listed below. Click on one of links for a list of the lessons. Click:

  1. A-Z Browsing for a list of all the lessons in alphabetical order by title.
  2. Category and get the list of the six cultural universals then click one of these such as "Politics and Public Life," and you will get a list of the lessons that best fit that category.
  3. Person and you will get a an alphabetical list of specific individuals included lessons.
  4. Place and you will get broad world areas with a list of lessons related to specific countries following.
  5. Time/Era for a list of time periods and the number of lessons for each is shown. Click on the Time/Era you are interested in and get a list of the lessons available in that time period.