Undergraduate Level Courses
The Europe I sections offer an analysis of the major political, social, economic, diplomatic, religious, intellectual, and scientific developments in European Civilization to 1789. Some seats in this class are reserved.
The core requirement in History for COLLEGE students is as follows: 1 HIST Focus course: HIST 099, any section. Please note that HIST 099 must be taken at GU. 1 introductory History survey: 007, 008, 106, 107, 111, 112, 128, 129, 158, 159, 160, or 161.
Note that students who receive AP or IB credit or placement for History CANNOT take HIST 007, 008, or 099 for credit and should instead complete the requirement with courses in the 100-499 range.
HIST 099 is one of the required core classes in History. All sections of HIST 099 fulfill the same role, though each instructor will develop a specific topic. Students are urged to consult syllabi available on line or at the History Department.
The general aim of HIST 099 is to introduce students to various elements of historical work and thinking, within the context of looking at a particular historical period, event, or theme in some depth. Though lectures and discussion will focus on particular topics, there will also be class exercises, assignments, and readings that will allow instructors and students to explore how historians identify, define, and employ primary sources of all types, how historians analyze those sources, how they formulate questions, how they engage with the work of prior historians, and how they aim to reconstruct various elements of the human experience in particular times and places.
Offerings for Fall 2019:
Rio de Janeiro – Bryan McCann
Italian Renaissance – Tommaso Astarita
World War II – Aviel Roshwald
Material Culture – Susan Pinkard
US Working Lives – Joseph McCartin
The Global 1960s – Alexander Macartney
Slavery in the American North – Cory Young (at CALL Campus)
Please note that if you receive AP/IB placement or credit, you cannot take HIST 099 (or 007 or 008) for credit.
Please note that HIST 099 must be taken at GU and cannot be transferred.
Enrollment by tutorial form and permission of Department only Majors may petition to attach a 3-credit tutorial to an outside internship during the Fall or Spring semester. Eligible internships will require at least 10 hours a week, and include substantial research and writing, in an area at least somewhat related to historical work. The petition should include a description of the internship and a statement of how the student sees the internship fit with the student’s academic progress. The internship tutorial will consist primarily of meetings with a faculty supervisor to discuss the progress of the internship research and work and to review work written for the internship, and of writing a reflection paper that, among other things, connects the internship experience with the student’s academic work.
Antisemitism has been a persistent phenomenon in Western (and other) cultures for over two thousand years. This course will examine the nature and historical development of anti-Jewish sentiment and Antisemitic theories, from their roots in the ancient pagan world to their current political and social expressions. We will discuss the texts and ideas that shaped attitudes toward the Jews throughout history, giving special attention to the ways in which they intersected with politics, literature, religion, and popular culture. Finally, we will consider the different ways in which both Jews and non-Jews have responded to Antisemitic behavior and beliefs.
Atlantic World draws together the histories of four continents, Europe, Africa, North America, and South America, to investigate the new Atlantic world created as a consequence of the Columbian encounter in 1492. The class traces the creation of this world from the first European forays in the Atlantic and on the coast of Africa in the fifteenth century to the first wars for colonial independence and the abolition of slavery. Topics include the destruction and reconfiguration of indigenous societies; the crucial labor migrations of Europeans, Native Americans, and Africans; and the various strategies of accommodation, resistance, and rebellion demonstrated by the many different inhabitants of the Americas. Some seats in this class are reserved.
Pacific World focuses on the Pacific Ocean world, which has historically been regarded as a vast and prohibitive void rather than an avenue for integration. Yet over the last five centuries motions of people, commodities, and capital have created important relationships between the diverse societies situated on the “Pacific Rim.” This course examines the history of trans-Pacific interactions from 1500 to the present. It takes the ocean itself as the principal framework of analysis in order to bring into focus large-scale processes–migration, imperial expansion, cross-cultural trade, transfers of technology, cultural and religious exchange, and warfare and diplomacy. This “oceans connect” approach to world history brings these processes into sharp relief while also allowing for attention to the extraordinary diversity of cultures located within and around the Pacific.
From humble beginnings nearly 1500 years ago, to enormous power and prestige in the Middle Ages, to political decline and foreign occupation in the modern era, Islam has developed into a highly diverse, global tradition representing nearly one quarter of the world’s population. Yet it is most widely known through caricatures of terrorists and despots. This course examines that phenomenon. It focuses on the historical development of Muslim communities and their interactions with European and other powers. It emphasizes the impact of those interactions on Islam’s ideological and political developments. The interaction between religion and politics is a major sub-theme of the course.
This course examines the history of modern Africa from c. 1850 to the present. We will explore major political, economic, social, religious and environmental changes over this time, but we will also think about how historical knowledge is created and how historians assess evidence about the past. The first goal of this course is to give you historical background to contemporary Africa. By looking at general patterns as well as specific places and events, we’ll examine some of the major themes in Africa’s recent history. We’ll study European conquest of the continent and African resistance to European domination; the political and economic impact of colonialism; how independence from colonialism was achieved and what it meant; and major cultural, social and religious changes of the 20th century. Then we’ll turn to the era of independent African nations and explore the historical context of some of the issues facing present-day Africa. Throughout the class, we will consider how Africans have acted to create their own history, within the context of larger global and historical forces they do not control. We also will examine the importance of dynamics of age, gender, class, and ethnicity within African societies themselves. A second goal of the class is to help you challenge epistemological categories – in essence, to ask how we know what we think we know. What do terms such as “African” and “European” mean in practice, and what do they obscure? How has “the West” created knowledge about “Africa,” and what are the implications of this? A third goal is to teach you to think and write like historians, asking questions and exploring puzzles about the past. With Africa serving as the context, you will practice the art of historical analysis. Questions we will ask in this class include: Why did something happen when it happened and what were its consequences?
The course, subtitled “Origins and Imperium,” is introductory, has no prerequisites, and assumes no prior knowledge of China or its language. The organization of the course is basically chronological, but within that framework we will be approaching China from a wide range of viewpoints, taking up political, economic, social, religious, philosophical, and artistic developments. In this fall semester, we will cover the formation of China’s social, political, and intellectual culture and its development through various dynastic regimes, up through the end of the Ming Dynasty in the late 16th century. In addition, in this semester we will explore the historical roots of several claims made by the People’s Republic of China in the 21st century, including linkages with Xinjiang, Central Asia, and Tibet; the “Silk Road” origins of the 2013 Belt and Road Initiative, and China’s aspirations for a blue-water navy. The course has two basic goals: (1) to present a basic introduction to the traditions and legacies of the history and culture of China, including conflicting, even contradictory, interpretations of these traditions/legacies; and (2) to use the specific study of China as a means for developing more general skills in the discipline of historical analysis.
This course begins a two-part sequence offering a general history of Japan from the earliest records of Japanese civilization through to the present. The course is introductory, has no prerequisites, and assumes no prior knowledge of Japan or its language. The organization of the course is basically chronological, but within that framework we will be approaching Japan from a wide range of viewpoints, taking up political, economic, social, religious, philosophical, and artistic developments. In this fall semester, we will cover the formation of Japan’s social, political, and intellectual culture, including the formation of Japan’s distinctive identity and the tensions between centrifugal and centripetal forces. We will also examine changes in Japan’s relationship to East Asia and, by the 16th century, the rest of the planet. The course ends with the collapse of the last of the shogunal/military governments in the 1860s, paving the way for Japan’s “modernization” in the 19th and 20th centuries. The course has two basic goals: (1) to present a basic introduction to the traditions and legacies of the history and culture of Japan, including conflicting, even contradictory, interpretations of these traditions/legacies; and (2) to use the specific study of Japan as a means for developing more general skills in the discipline of historical analysis.
This seminar course is designed for first-year students with advanced placement in history who have an interest in pursuing the study of history at the upper level; some knowledge of European history and any science background will be helpful but is not necessary. Science and religion have played powerful roles in shaping Western civilization: unparalleled resources – human, financial, and natural – have been invested in each of them, and they can be associated with many of the West’s proudest accomplishments and cruelest wrongdoings. Thought of together, science and religion conventionally conjure up images of conflict. They are envisioned as rival forces associated with contending institutions and serving opposing interests. Historical controversies over the structure of the cosmos and modern-day debates over the science curriculum in U.S. high schools offer support to the conclusion that science and religion exist in an unrelenting state of war. The aim of this seminar is to test that generalization by examining the actual history, focusing on key episodes in which scientific and religious interests have intersected.
This seminar course is designed for first-year students with advanced placement in history who have an interest in pursuing the study of history at the upper level. Michel de Certeau wrote, in the 1960s, that “Indeed, modern western history begins with the difference between the present and the past.” Our class examines the process of differentiation, by which individuals and societies create their histories—simultaneously remembering and forgetting, choosing some events or people as “historical.” The simple word “history” evolves from two different meanings: the Ancient Greek historein – to relate (bear witness) – and the French histoire – “a story.” The former carries a presumption of literal truth, relating what happened in the sense of reconstructing reality; the latter tells a story in which the larger truth takes precedence over the fidelity of accurate detail. As de Certeau suggests, the word we use for writings about history, historiography, contains within it contradictory elements of “real” and “discourse.” The historian can’t write down everything: s/he has to choose what to leave out. The “graphy,” the writing down, requires the historian to construct a written discourse, which must conform to rules of grammar and to principles of rhetoric. What differentiates memoirs from a novel? What turns one version of the story into a “master narrative,” learned by an entire society? How does a historian go about reconstructing “history?” We begin with Herodotus then turn to Marc Bloch’s The Historian’s Craft. Next, we read some traditional historical sources: memoirs; a journal; letters; a diary. Our last personal source is a blog, published as Baghdad Burning (written by a Sunni woman living in Baghdad, in the years after the American invasion). Students will also have individual readings for some sessions. We will end with the wonderful adventures of the great Polish journalist, Ryszard Kapuczynski, Travels with Herodotus.
The fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 represents a crucial watershed in the history of European civilization. Nevertheless, the patrimony of ideas of pagan antiquity survives and continues to inspire political and religious beliefs. The course starts with a brief survey of the principal events which shaped this complex period in order to introduce some of the key lines of cultural history of the Middle Ages. A great transformation was later represented by the phenomenon of the re-birth of cities. In fact, around the eleventh century, demographic and economic factors produced a real urban revolution in some areas of Europe, and this turning point actually represents the transition from the feudal system to the late Medieval civilization. The course analyzes the society, the politics and the culture of medieval Italy, focusing mainly on cities from the eleventh to the fifteenth century. The structure of the city-state republic, the family, the daily life, the economy, the religious beliefs and practices, the world of the marginal and the mentality of the people will all be discussed in the effort of reconstructing the features of medieval urban civilization. Particular emphasis will be given to the city of Florence in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The complex city universe expresses itself through a peculiar art and architecture (cathedrals, fresco cycles, city walls and gates, public palaces, altar-pieces, market squares and monasteries) which will be studied in order to reconstruct the material environment and the ideological aspects of late Medieval and early Renaissance Italian civilization.
Offered in Fall at the Villa in Fiesole, Italy.
Elizabeth I’s 45-year reign in England was over 400 years ago and yet she still holds sway in the modern imagination. From movies (Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth and Judy Dench in Shakespeare in Love), to novels (by Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir and many others) and even in video games (she’s a character in Assassin’s Creed and Sid Meier’s Civilization), Elizabeth continues to be a powerful and charismatic figure. But who was she really? How do artistic renderings of the Virgin Queen compare to the historical reality? This course will examine the life and reign of Elizabeth I, in both fact and fiction — using historical documents, novels, plays, and films to get at this complicated and important woman. It will cover some of the most famous, transformative events in English history, such as the Elizabethan religious settlement, the defeat of the Armada in 1588, Shakespeare and the English Renaissance, as well as her use of gender and iconography to create a public, political identity. The course is lecture-based with both primary and secondary readings.
Beginning with a survey of the diverse societies of the Americas before 1500, this classes focuses on the coming of Europeans, the deadly impact of the disease they brought, and the integration of the hemisphere into European empires and a new global economy during three subsequent centuries. We will emphasize how the long state-organized peoples of regions subjected to Spanish rule adapted socially and culturally to sustain silver as a key global commodity; we will explore how Africans were dragged in bondage to Atlantic America to labor in booming sugar economies ruled by every European power: Portugal, Britain, France, Spain, and more. The interactions among Europeans and the diverse peoples who produced everything focus much of the analysis—culminating in the rising resistance that challenged Europeans in regions from the Andes to Haiti in the late eighteenth century.
Through lectures, readings, class discussion and audio-visual material, this course examines the history of the Middle East from the late sixth to the late seventeenth centuries. The lectures focus on broader topics, such as the emergence of Islam; the history of major Middle Eastern empires; changing geo-strategic and cultural conditions; and the evolution and functioning of classical and medieval Muslim institutions. Discussion sections will enable students to deepen their knowledge regarding local diversities within the unifying systems of Muslim beliefs, law, and administration; the material and intellectual exchanges and interactions between the Muslim world and non-Muslim communities and polities; and Muslim reactions to the Crusades and the Mongol invasions.
The Slavs, Origins of Russia, Kiev, the Mongol period, Muscovy, Imperial Russia to 1825 with special attention to autocracy, serfdom, foreign policy, the Orthodox Church, Westernization, society, culture, and the birth of the revolutionary movement.
A survey of East European peoples and states from the rise of the Medieval Kingdoms to about 1800. The course will trace the influence of the multi-national Jagiellon, Habsburg, Ottoman, and Romanov empires in the region. Topics will include: the formation of ethnically and religiously diverse societies, the role of noble democracy, and the influence of the Enlightenment and Romanticism.
This course explores the history of North America from the arrival of the first Europeans in the Caribbean to the conclusion of the American Civil War. Focusing on the colonies that became part of the United States, this course explores the dynamics of imperial rivalry, relations between European, African and Amerindian peoples, economic development and regional differentiation, the emergence of revolutionary nationalism, the westward expansion of the United States, the collapse of the Union into civil war, and emancipation. We will read extensively from primary sources.
This seminar course is designed for first-year students with advanced placement in history who have an interest in pursuing the study of history at the upper level. This is a course about the history of one of the most significant and most contentious philosophies, movements, and governing ideologies in the history of the modern world. From its visionary beginnings in the early 19th century to the collapse of the USSR near the end of the 20th century, socialism has given rise both to grand dreams of equality and freedom and to great fears – and the reality — of totalitarian tyranny. Fierce debates and battles between socialists and their adversaries did much to shape the major political changes of the past 200 years, including both world wars. Given the vast scope of the subject, a one-semester course can only offer an introduction. We will read about and discuss the key ideas, events, and transitions, and personalities in the evolution and devolution of socialism. The focus is mostly on Europe, with some attention to China, Cuba, Africa, and the United States.
Profound political, cultural and environmental transformations occurred in Europe between the fourth and the tenth centuries CE. As the Roman Empire gave way to “Dark Age” kingdoms, the ways of life of ordinary people and elites, within and beyond Rome’s former limits, forever changed. This course draws upon traditional historical sources as well as the material record (bones, buildings, soils and trees) to delve into the human and natural processes that defined the era. Diverse topics are addressed, from saints and popes, to barbarian migrations and recurrent plague, to multiculturalism and Christianization, to climate change and economic fragmentation. Although focused on Europe, the course also considers connections with Rome’s Byzantine and Muslim heirs.
The ravages of the Northmen throughout Europe and beyond have been an area of fascination and of historical interest for centuries. Yet few students understand or are aware of the actual history of the people that had such a tremendous influence. This course will attempt to remedy that gap while at the same time offer a deeper understanding of the Vikings themselves. Throughout the semester we will follow a multi-disciplinary approach to the history of the Vikings in the “Heroic Age.” We will survey the history of Scandinavia and examine the history of the Northmen within both the European and world context. As such we will look at Norse activity in continental Scandinavia, in Western and Eastern Europe, the North Atlantic and beyond examining the many ways in which the Vikings interacted with foreign peoples – as merchants, conquerors, pilgrims, colonists, mercenaries, and as pirates. The course will move thematically and chronologically from c. 600 CE to c. 1200 CE examining a range of topics. We will discuss the legendary history of early Scandinavia and the consolidation of the Scandinavian kingdoms. We will attempt to recreate the early Norse world view including the creation of the world and other aspects of the Viking religious experience. Students will be introduced to a wide variety of Norse Gods and heroes and understand how the mythological and cosmological lore of the region helped shape an ethos of the North. The course will also examine the great period of the Viking expansion which in many ways shaped the history of Europe. We will look at, among other things, the Danish invasion of England, the settlement of the Normans in Northern France, the Rus and the origins of Russia as well as the discovery of America around the year 1000. While the course does move chronologically during this period, we will also look at a wide variety of historical themes including the development of Europe’s first parliamentary government (the Thing); the arrival of Christianity in the North; the legal status of feuding; and the role of women in Viking society. Within this historical framework, a good deal of attention is devoted to Viking art and archaeology, to the pagan religion of early medieval Scandinavia, and to its system of writing (the celebrated runes) and its literature (including the mythological and heroic poetry of the Edda, the court poems of the skalds, and the Icelandic sagas). Finally, the course will address the modern ramifications of the Viking Age as well as the depiction of the Vikings in modern art, music and film.
What factors have influenced the U.S. government’s and Americans’ interactions with the rest of world? Who has shaped these encounters? What has the relationship been between these relations and U.S. domestic affairs? How have foreigners responded to U.S. actors and influence? We will analyze U.S. foreign relations, a broader category than simply foreign policy by examining the political, military, economic, religious, and cultural influence of the U.S. The course begins with the Declaration of Independence and ends with World War II. In particular, we will discuss how the U.S. became a global power through topics such as the U.S. acquisition of the Philippines, the World Wars, U.S. business intervention in Latin America, and missionary involvement in Asia. We will also consider the different ways historians have sought to explain U.S. foreign relations.
This course covers the tumultuous era of the Gilded Age and Progressivism, and the emergence of modernity in the United States. The course will be organized around alternating lecture and discussion, with a strong emphasis on reading primary sources. Topics will include (but not be limited to) Populism, the rise of Jim Crow, woman suffrage, industrialization and urbanization, Progressive politics and the transformation of the American West. The lives of ordinary life and the transformation of popular culture will be at the center of our inquiries. Texts will include fiction and non-fiction, primary and secondary sources.
From raging medieval European kings and falling in love in medieval Japan to tasting God and smelling race and “feeling cool” in twentieth century America, this seminar explores scholarship on the senses and emotions from a range of world regions and time periods in order to explore basic questions about the relationship between the mind and the body, the individual and society, biology and culture. This seminar is intended for history majors. However, students in psychology, cognitive science, anthropology, sociology, economics, and political science will have something to learn from how historians study the relationship between the experience and standards of feeling in particular historical contexts and the motives and actions inspiring historical transformations in experiences of the body.
From climate change deniers to the Me-Too movement to debates about the roots of social inequality, the most pressing debates of our day mobilize assumptions about the deep past and about what is ‘natural’ in human nature. What if the key to our future lies in the concepts, practices, and possibilities from our species’ deepest pasts? Drawing on archaeology, neuroscience, linguistics, biology, and the paleo-sciences, this course explores case studies from unfamiliar and understudied early human histories that upend deep-seated assumptions about the nature of the world and our species: from the biological underpinnings of sex drive, violence, and emotions, to the roots of economic and political inequality. Together we consider how new interpretations of deep-time human lifestyles revolutionize how we imagine the possibilities of our species’ future and the terms of debate in the present.
France, 1789… Europe, 1848… Mexico, 1910… Russia, 1917… China, 1949… Revolutions challenge old values and ideas. In doing so, they can increase freedoms and equality, propose solutions to social issues like poverty, and create new, dynamic political and cultural forms. At the same time, revolutions often entail mass violence, war and destruction, class conflict, and ultimately, the distortion or complete rejection of revolutionary aims in favor of the previous status quo. But are all of these characteristics true for all of these revolutions? What can we learn as historians by comparing revolutions that happened in very different places at very different times? In this course, we will explore several different modern revolutions and specific ways of bringing them into conversation with one another, in order to deepen our understanding of what it means to talk about “revolution” as a historical concept more broadly. Using a variety of primary and secondary sources, we will examine individual revolutions with the goal of moving to a deeper, more global understanding of the connectivity among these distinct events that shaped the modern world.
Focusing primarily on three repressive states – the Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China,and Nazi Germany – this course will examine the uses of humor under twentieth century authoritarian regimes as a means of exploring their social and political dynamics, with special emphasis on the diverse experiences of their subjects. Authorities typically recognized and sought to exploit humor’s polemic power, jealously guarding a monopoly over its public use. Meanwhile, faced with constrained bounds of expression, individuals created their own humor in various settings and ways for a variety of purposes. In examining the complicated ecosystem of humor that resulted, we will ask whether individuals, paralleling the ambitions the state, sought power in its various avatars: identity, legitimacy, and physical and emotional control. Was their humor a defense or survival mechanism? Did their joking bring pleasure or relief, or was its purpose more to bring horror into starker relief? How was the balance among these instincts influenced by the significant differences in the regimes of oppression or imprisonment? Using a broad range of specialized scholarship and primary sources including written satire, visual media, and joke collections students will discuss, assess, and formulate arguments about the function of humor under authoritarianism.
The Global History of Capital introduces students to the historical study of capital in global frames. We will explore questions raised in the historical examination of capital in motion, as investable wealth moves across the planet, transforming places into property, things into commodities, and people into labor. In addition to important texts on capital by influential thinkers, such as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Max Weber amongst others, we will read historical monographs on the transformation of sugar from a luxury good to a mass commodity and the primary source of calories for Britain’s industrial laborers; the lives and resistances of black men and women for sale in New Orleans slave markets; and smugglers and pirates evading the British Imperial authority in the Indian Ocean. Through monographs and other assigned readings, we will trace the arc of the history of capital across the surface of the planet: from silver mines and slave plantations in the Americas to the merchant vessels plying the Atlantic and Indian Oceans; from the factories and mills of industrial Europe to the peasant farms in Europe’s Asian and African colonies; from the nineteenth century era of British imperialist capitalist dominance to the twentieth century rise of American capital.
In this course we will explore the relationship between human practices and the natural world in African history. The course inquires into the ways that people and plants, animals and microbes, and ideologies and physical landscapes have shaped the African environment. Our objective for the course is to understand the complicated histories behind contemporary environmental issues impacting Africa and the globe. We will begin with deep histories of the African environment. We will look at how historians have drawn on sources from the natural world—waterways, rainforests, plants, and pests—as a window into the local and global dimensions of the continent’s distant past. In the second unit of the course we will examine environmental conquests. We will consider how ecological traumas of colonization shaped European and Africans ideas and interactions with the environment. Next we analyze contemporary African environmental issues in historical perspective, including battles between poachers and rangers in wildlife preserves, agricultural development and degradation, and conflicts over natural resources. The course concludes with a session on the future of African environments and global climate change. Our readings and discussions will center on several key questions: How do we understand the relationship between humans and the natural world? How might we take apart the category of “nature”? How have local environments been shaped by regional and global encounters? What can local histories tell us about global environmental change? How does colonialism shape contemporary debates about preservation, degradation, and overpopulation in Africa?
The silk road (or silk roads) is a term used to describe routes used by travelers, merchants, monks and others across the Eurasian continent, or by sea between Asia and the Mediterranean basin. More broadly, however, the notion of “silk road” encompasses the longterm trans-Eurasian exchange of goods, crops, art, ideas, religion and other things, starting from when humans first fanned out across the old world. The question at the center of this course, then, will be “what has been the nature of trans-Eurasian exchanges, and what has been their historical impact?” In investigating this question, we will learn something about the basic dynamics and highpoints of Central Asian history (for a more thorough survey of Central Eurasian history take HIST 108), and tune in at various points to the history of China, India, the Islamic world, Russia and Mediterranean Europe. The course will be mainly discussion format, and students will develop and present research projects focused on one of the things exchanged cross the silk roads, for example, a disease, a precious material, a religion, or a technology.
The goal of this course is to introduce students to the development of Marian beliefs, devotions, practices, and representations within Christianity, as well as in Judaism and Islam from Late Antiquity to the present day. Through examining Marian doctrines, Marian devotions, Mary in art and liturgy, Marian feasts, and principal Marian literary works, students will understand the historical development of this familiar and global figure. By examining the central influence of the Virgin Mary, students will gain a broader historical understanding of the cultures of world Christianities, Judaism and Islam.
Now, in the twenty-first century, we are so accustomed to living in a consumer society that it is easy to overlook the fact that, like all cultural forms, it has a history. In Elizabethan English, to consume something meant to destroy it: fire consumed fuel, decay consumed corpses, disease consumed organs of the body, spending on unnecessary objects consumed wealth. The medieval church condemned luxurious consumption as a sin. In the era of the Renaissance and Reformation, consumption continued to be seen as a morally dangerous activity that could waste resources and undermine social order. By the middle of the eighteenth century, however, demand for an ever-expanding range of goods came to be widely seen as a constructive force. It was the motor of global economic development, indeed, the very source of the wealth of nations. As one writer observed at the time, “the luxuries of our ancestors are necessities for us.” The spread of consumer goods beyond a narrow elite was linked to the diffusion of polite manners and refined tastes. Shopping became a popular pastime for the affluent. Possessions came to be seen as reflecting or even constituting the character of the person who owned them while also serving as powerful markers of class in a profoundly unequal world. Such changes created the conditions that inspired businessmen to greatly expand production using techniques of industrial manufacturing, including the division of labor and steam powered machinery. In turn, this industrial revolution transformed many aspects of nineteenth-century life. Soon railroads and steamships brought a dazzling array of manufactured goods at all price points to towns, villages, and otherwise remote rural areas. Architecture and urban spaces were adapted to facilitate an ever-denser concentration of industrial and commercial activities given over to the acquisition and display of goods. The notion of a mass “consumer society,” in which the acquisition of new and often superfluous goods was seen as a fundamental right, became both ubiquitous and controversial. This course will explore the emergence of modern patterns of consumption and the ideas that both legitimated and challenged them from the era of Jane Austen to the age of Mad Men. Although this is officially a course in European history, American material will be incorporated, too, especially towards the end of the semester. Our sources will include classics of social thought and works of fiction, a wide selection of other primary documents, and recent scholarly literature as well as images and objects from the period under study.
Using a mixture of film and written sources (memoirs, autobiographical accounts, collections of documents), we will examine the question of collaboration and resistance in the decades around World War II.
This course examines Islamic warfare from the earliest Muslim conquests through WWI. After discussing classical Islamic conceptions of war and peace, the course examines the early Muslim conquests, the Crusades, the Mongol invasion of the Islamic world, and the wars of the Mamluk, Ottoman, and Safavid Empires. In the second part of the course we consider topics such as land, naval, and siege warfare, military manpower and military slavery in Islam, war financing, military technology, weapons and tactics, logistics and provisioning, fortresses and border defense, and the impact of war upon societies. The last phase of the course studies military modernization attempts of the Ottoman Empire and Egypt in the nineteenth century, and the ultimate defeat of modernized Muslim armies by the combined forces of ethnic nationalism and Great Power imperialism. In this section we also consider the increased destructiveness of modern warfare for non-combatants and the displacement of civilian populations.
People have been interacting with and reshaping the environment in the Middle East for millennia. The period from the 1800s to the present, however, has witnessed a tremendous shift in the speed and scale of the transformation of the region’s ecology and the human relationship with the environment. Through engagement with key environmental history themes, primary and secondary sources, fictional works including films and novels, photographs, and short documentaries, this class will explore this transformation in the Middle East and place it into its global context. Over the course of the semester we will examine how human interaction with the different environments such as river valleys, lowlands, mountains, seas, deserts, cities and ports has changed in the age of global capitalism. What are the impacts of capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, nation-state formations, wars, and climate change on the environments of the Middle East and the lives of its inhabitants? Ultimately, this course will aim to reinterpret the history of the modern Middle East in ecological terms by highlighting the importance of physical geography, climate, water, oil and disease in the political trajectory of the region in the last two centuries.
The course will investigate the revolutionary message of the Qur’an and how it has been interpreted and utilized by a variety of Muslim revolutionaries throughout fourteen and a half centuries. It will cover the model of the Prophet Muhammad as a revolutionary, early Shi`ite and Abbasid revolutions, the jihads of West Africa and the Sudan as well as the modern Islamic movements: Muslim Brotherhood, the Iranian Revolution, Takfir wa Hijra, Islamic Salvation Front, Hamas, Hizbullah, Jihad Islami, Taliban, al-Qaeda and ISIS.
From John Carlos to Tommie Smith raising their fists with their medals at the 1968 Olympics to Colin Kaepernick taking a knee to protest police brutality, athlete protests generate debate, anger, and fascination. Since their beginning, organized sports have been a product and a participant in social change in America. This course will use sports and athlete protests as a lens to explore racism and inequality in American history. Delving into the history of boxing, basketball, and football will provide us an opportunity to explore the different dimensions of racism, segregation, and the continuing fight for civil rights. The course will be a mix of lecture and discussion; readings will include primary and secondary sources as well as documentary screenings. Together, we will consider the historical role of athletes in political protests and their place in social, political, and ideological changes from the times of slavery to this day.
What do markets do? What do we mean when we say “the market”? To what extent was American history shaped by our nation’s peculiar relationship with a market economy? In addressing these questions, this course covers themes American history from the late colonial period to the modern day, with focus on voluntary market actions as attempts to solve problems and reshape society. Instead of criticizing or praising markets, this course will provide examples for how markets work and how they affect culture and society. The course is mainly discussion-based, but there will also be lectures and primary source exercises in class.
Get ready to get your hands dirty and dive into the past! This class will work with the National Park Service on an Ethnohistory of Contraband Camps and Descendant Communities in the national capital region. Beginning in 1861, enslaved men, women, and children fled from their owners to the Union Army, including in the Washington, DC region. From the so-called “contraband camps” where they spent the war, they aided the progress of the war and of emancipation. This class will produce an interactive storymap of the locations of those camps during the Civil War, trace their evolution after the war, and search for descendant communities today. This class is Hands On History: we will go to archives, sift through material, explore the streets of Washington, and together produce something that the National Park Service and future generations can use for years to come.
Registration in this class requires departmental approval.
This 1-credit workshop course is a new requirement for all senior History majors who are not pursuing the Honors program (and thus are not enrolled in HIST 408). It is offered in the Fall of senior year. The purposes of this course are to provide a common capstone experience to senior majors; to help them reflect on and highlight what they have learned in the course of their studies; to help them develop and present the skills they have gained; to assist them as they prepare either for further studies or for entering the work force; and to give them a chance to gain essential experiences in the presentation of their own work and accomplishments. Students will not need to prepare much new work for this course, but they will present work they have already done, offer reflections on it, and learn to present it in different ways.
HIST 408-409 form a two-semester study of History as an intellectual discipline. Enrollment is by invitation of the Department. Fall: Readings and discussions with departmental faculty on the various methods, concepts, and philosophies of history, and the development of a research prospectus with a faculty mentor. Spring: Research seminar under the guidance of the mentor and Seminar Director. (Enrollment only by permission of the Director of Undergraduate Studies). Students must commit themselves for the full two semesters.
Taking the long history of the circulation of ideas, goods and people from the South Asian subcontinent across the world, this seminar will explore a variety of theoretical and methodological approaches to global history. The course will range from the ancient to the contemporary period, with each unit focusing on the circulation of a particular idea, object or group of persons from the subcontinent. Our case studies are: 1) yoga from ancient India to the modern US; 2) blue dye from the medieval Indian Ocean to contemporary denim culture; and 3) South Asian indentured laborers and the working-class in the making of modern America. Topics will include the political, ethical and cultural implications of cultural borrowing; the social life of material objects; the changing nature of trade in the Indian Ocean with the advent of European imperialism and capitalism; coerced labor in the making of the world; immigration and the making of subaltern national subjects. Some familiarity with social theory and/or a prior history course on South Asia preferred.
After the United States and Haiti, Spanish and Portuguese America achieved political independence from European powers. In an age where monarchy was the dominant political formation of “civilized” countries, the new nations, with the exception of Brazil, chose a republican form of government. How to organize a country and create a nation from a colony? Who counted as a citizen? Who wanted to count as a citizen and how did they perceive their own roles within the new state? What territories could be included in the new state? All those questions and more were asked in the nineteenth century in Latin America as the different countries emerged from their colonial condition. Many of these issues, especially regarding the full integration of people as citizens into the nation-state persist into the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries. This course will explore many of these questions, based on some of the new exciting research that has been published in the past decade. The course examines these issues through theoretical perspectives, biography, intellectual history, and the new cultural/political history.