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History | Selected Topics

In addition to the courses listed in the university catalogue, History faculty offer selected topics courses reflecting their interests and specialties.


TOPICS BY AREA

African History

Asian History

European History

Public History

US History

Transnational/Comparative History

Middle Eastern History

Russian/Soviet History

  

FALL 2014 SELECTED TOPICS

HIST-296 001: Cultural History of China

This course examines the cultural, religious, intellectual, and artistic traditions of the East Asian heartland over the past two millennia. Emphasis is on the accretion of multiple religious traditions (Chinese, Buddhist, Daoist, Muslim, and Christian), visual and literary aesthetics, and the absorption of Western scientific thought.

HIST-296 001: African History to the 1800s

This course surveys African societies from prehistory to the eve of European colonial rule in the 1880s. Focusing on political, economic, and social change, it examines the rise of African civilizations and state formation; the trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean trade networks; and systems of slavery. This course situates African history in a global context and provides students with a historical framework for interpreting current events in Africa.

HIST-396 001: Food, Media, and Culture

This course investigates the intersection of food, ideology, identity, and media in American history. Cookbooks, memoirs, magazines, radio and TV-shows as well as feature films have traditionally used food to discuss national, ethnic, and class identity, while simultaneously promoting norms on citizenship, gender and sexuality. The sources discussed in the course reach from the first American cookbook in the late eighteenth century to food centered videogames in the twenty-first century. Meets with AMST-330 001.

HIST-396 002: American Environmental History

The environment stands alongside politics and social forces as a crucial factor shaping American history from the formation of North America to the rise of the suburbia. This course explores how Americans have interacted with and reshaped the continent's ecosystems from the colonial era to the present. Meets with AMST-396 001.

HIST-399 002: The Cold War

The Cold War determined world history between 1945 and 1991. This course introduces students to the historiography of the conflict by combining scholarly interpretations with primary documents, visual propaganda, film, and literary fiction.

HIST-445 001: Russian Studies: Dostoyevsky's Russia

This course explores Fyodor Dostoyevsky's views on organized religion, faith, sexuality, political violence, freedom, and materialism through his works in their historical and cultural context. Meets with HIST-645 001.

HIST-449 001: The Modern Presidency: FDR to Obama

The American presidency is the most powerful office in the world today. This course traces the history and development of the modern presidency from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Barack Obama. It takes a chronological approach, but also considers important themes in presidential history. Meets with HIST-649 001.

HIST-449 002: African Americans and the World

Exploring African American engagement with international politics and U.S. foreign relations, this course considers African Americans and the Haitian Revolution, the international abolitionist movement, black emigration, African American critiques of U.S. imperialism, Pan-Africanism, black communism, African American artists and entertainers in Europe, Africans Americans and Third World decolonization, Black Power in a global context, and the Anti-apartheid movement. Meets with HIST-649 002.

  

TOPICS IN AFRICAN HISTORY

HIST-296 001: African History to the 1800s

This course surveys African societies from prehistory to the eve of European colonial rule in the 1880s. Focusing on political, economic, and social change, it examines the rise of African civilizations and state formation; the trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean trade networks; and systems of slavery. This course situates African history in a global context and provides students with a historical framework for interpreting current events in Africa.

HIST-299 003: Gender & Sexuality in Africa

This course explores how African and Western scholars have approached gender identities in Africa; how these approaches have changed over time; and how they have shaped our understanding of African history. The course provides students with a firm understanding of the literature on and interpretations of gender and sexuality in Africa. Open only to History majors.

  

TOPICS IN ASIAN HISTORY

HIST-296 001: Cultural History of China

This course examines the cultural, religious, intellectual, and artistic traditions of the East Asian heartland over the past two millennia. Emphasis is on the accretion of multiple religious traditions (Chinese, Buddhist, Daoist, Muslim, and Christian), visual and literary aesthetics, and the absorption of Western scientific thought.

HIST-296 002: China in Foreigners' Eyes

In this course, students experience modern Chinese history through the eyes of cultural outsiders. By analyzing travel writings and diaries left by foreigners passing through China, they trace the perceptions, preoccupations, biases, and commentary that have long shaped foreign impressions of its land and peoples.

HIST-396 005: Modern China

This course explores the transition from empire to nation-state in modern Chinese history (1600-present). Topics include the rise of the last imperial dynasty in the seventeenth century, the heyday of the Qing order, the Western impact, and the revolution and nation-building enterprises of the twentieth century. The course emphasizes politics, culture, ethnicity, and gender.

  

TOPICS IN EUROPEAN HISTORY

HIST-299 001: World War I

This course is an intensive engagement with the historiography of a major issue in world history. World War I was one of the most important events of the twentieth century. When it began, Europe was the center of global empires, economic networks, and culture. By its end, four great empires had collapsed, millions were dead or injured, and the preconditions for the rise of fascism were established. This course examines major interpretive debates over the origins, fighting, and consequences of the war for the societies that clashed in it. Open only to History majors.

HIST-496 004: Consumerism: Britain and the United States

Consumerism is, arguably, the dominant ideology of the twentieth century. This course explores key debates about Western consumer societies, including such themes as: self-service and choice; retailing (department stores to malls); consumer politics and organizations; gender, race, and identity; and fashion. Besides asking how historians can research such a diverse activity, it poses fundamental questions, such as whether consumerism has improved the quality of life. Meets with HIST-696 004.

HIST-500 001: European Empires, Commerce, and Science

This course focuses on recent scholarship that explores aspects of the European imperial project, especially in the eighteenth-century Atlantic World and with a special emphasis on the French Caribbean. Themes include emerging ideas of race and colonial identity; the meaning of globalization for eighteenth-century Europeans, including sometimes ambivalent attitudes towards commerce and empire; and the importance of science in furthering imperial goals and creating colonial gentility.

HIST-500 002: Jews and Muslims in Modern Europe

This course examines the experiences of Jews and Muslims in European history from 1700 to 2000. We will be particularly interested in how these minorities were affected by the great changes of modern European history, including the rise of secularism, democracy, imperialism/decolonization, industrial society, and nationalism.

  
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TOPICS IN PUBLIC HISTORY

HIST-468 001: History & the Public

This course explores the wide range of ways the public encounters and creates history. The class examines the representation of the past in films, new media, oral narratives, monuments and memorials, museums, archives, national parks, and historic structures and landscapes. The course includes several field trips to area cultural institutions.

HIST-496 001: Lens on the Past: Producing Historical Documentary Films

This interdisciplinary course combines SOC's Film and Media Art Department's expertise in teaching documentary filmmaking with CAS' History Department's expertise in teaching historical interpretation and research methods. The course focuses on a specific historical time period, theme, or event. Students work in teams to produce several short documentaries focusing on this theme. The course covers the historical context of the central theme along with an introductory history of history documentary film. It addresses the issues of ethics and representation, copyright, and Fair Use guidelines. Students develop practical skills using archival resources, selecting appropriate imagery and sound, and conducting interviews. They learn the arts of storytelling and scriptwriting combined with visual and sound techniques to bring history alive. Meets with HIST-696 001.

  

TOPICS IN US HISTORY

HIST-296-003: Vampire Narratives

For almost two hundred years, vampire narratives have served as projection surfaces for cultural angst and fears of social change. Using these narratives as a magnifying glass, this course investigates how vampires have been used to negotiate immigration and xenophobia, women's suffrage, fear of miscegenation, the Cold War, homophobia and AIDS. The class considers what aims the contemporary obsession with vampire narratives serves and what it reveals about today's culture. The course includes nineteenth century texts, history, silent movies, reading literature and theory, and academic analysis. Meets with AMST-296 001.

HIST-299 001: Conversations in History: Modern American Politics

For the period from World War I to the present, this course explores historical debates over the two defining elements of American political life: liberalism and conservatism.

HIST-396-001: Food, Media, and Culture

This course investigates the intersection of food, ideology, identity, and media in American history. Cookbooks, memoirs, magazines, radio and TV-shows as well as feature films have traditionally used food to discuss national, ethnic, and class identity, while simultaneously promoting norms on citizenship, gender and sexuality. The sources discussed in the course reach from the first American cookbook in the late eighteenth century to food centered videogames in the twenty-first century. Meets with AMST-330 001.

HIST-396 002: Civil Rights in the United States: Movements of Change

In this course students explore activist and civil rights movements in the United States, analyzing both the political and social actors articulating these movements, as well as the particular tactics and strategies mobilized by different communities and groups. Students consider how movements across the country and world play out in the contexts of their own lives. Focus on particular themes or movements including race/ethnicity; sexuality; immigration/nationalism; war/conflict; and class/Neoliberalism examines the various movements and actions that have mobilized around these concerns, such as the Civil Rights Movement, LGBT rights, the Minuteman Civil Defense Corp, squatters/occupiers, and so forth. Meets with AMST-320 002.

HIST-396 002: American Environmental History

The environment stands alongside politics and social forces as a crucial factor shaping American history from the formation of North America to the rise of the suburbia. This course explores how Americans have interacted with and reshaped the continent's ecosystems from the colonial era to the present. Meets with AMST-396 001.

HIST-396 003: U.S. through Foreign Eyes

Since its inception, the United States has been the subject of celebration, inspiration, and condemnation from those living outside its borders. This course uses a wide variety of primary sources to explore how the United States has tried to project itself abroad, as well as how a variety of commentators, e.g., journalists, heads of states, intellectuals, migrants, and minorities in other countries, have responded to the United States at different times. Meets with AMST-320 001.

HIST-396 004: Environmental Politics in American History & Culture

This course explores the evolution of environmental politics in the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. It examines environmental ethics, conservation, law and policy making, the role of science, environmental racism, and movements such as environmental justice, ecofeminism, animal rights, deep ecology, and sustainability. The course studies changing attitudes and ideas of different groups toward the natural environment, and how those have influenced the politics of the environment, whether through governmental policies or private activism. Students obtain a clear understanding of the legal, political, organizational, scientific, and economic factors shaping past and current environmental debates. Meets with AMST-340 001.

HIST-449 001: FDR, the Jews, & the Holocaust

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Jews, and the Holocaust This course examines the relationship between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Jews. It focuses on the crucial period of Nazi persecutions of Jews in the 1930s and the slaughter of Jews during World War II. It explores the controversy over whether America's liberal hero failed in his response to one of the great humanitarian crises in history. The course also explores the moral question of the responsibility of world leaders to genocidal violence in foreign lands. Meets with HIST-649 001.

HIST-449 001: The Modern Presidency: FDR to Obama

The American presidency is the most powerful office in the world today. This course traces the history and development of the modern presidency from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Barack Obama. It takes a chronological approach, but also considers important themes in presidential history. Meets with HIST-649 001.

HIST-449-002: Black Popular Culture

Covering from slavery to the hip hop generation, this course critically examines the role of black popular culture (i.e., folklore, fashion, sports, theater, music, and film) in the African American freedom struggle. It places special emphasis on the analysis of race, class, gender, and political discourses. Meets with HIST-649 002.

HIST-496 001: Selected topics: US Urban History

This course will explore the rich history of US cities and suburbs from the nineteenth century through the present. We will pay close attention to how the dynamics of race, gender, class, and sexuality have interacted with the urban landscape and built environment. Among other topics, we will investigate the impact of riots, urban amusements, slum clearance policies, suburbanization, and gentrification.

HIST-496 002: Laws, Rights, and the State

Focuses on the legal regimes and governmental institutions that have influenced American society and politics from the revolutionary through the neoliberal eras. Topics include how Americans have defined and contested rights, regulation, and citizenship, in the context of the emergence of social, political, and economic modernity. Meets with HIST-696 002.

HIST-496 005: American Conservatism

This course examines the origins of modern conservatism, its self-defined values and mission, its enduring appeal to ordinary people, and the ebb and flow of its influence on American life. In focusing on the emergence and development of modern right-wing perceptions, ideology, and activities, the course redefines accepted ideas about America's political Left and Right. It challenges the notion that liberal institutions have been at the center while conservative forces have been on the periphery of American politics. Meets with HIST-696 005.

HIST-500 001: History of American Radicalism

This course surveys the history of the U.S. Left, assessing its successes and failures, from the American Revolution to the present. Although the course focuses largely on political movements, it also explores cultural, musical, cinematic, literary, and artistic expressions of radicalism. Course topics include abolitionism, labor, Populism, anti-imperialism, socialism, communism, anarchism, black radicalism, feminism, the New Left, nuclear abolitionism, gay liberation, anti-globalization, and Occupy Wall Street. The course makes extensive use of film and fiction in addition to historical monographs.

  

TOPICS IN TRANSNATIONAL/COMPARATIVE HISTORY

HIST-296 003: Divided Cities in 21st Century

Divided cities embody complex consequences of nationalism, war, migration and economic disparities in the last century. Focusing on salient cases like Jerusalem, Beirut, Berlin, and Dubai, this course studies historical, cultural, and geographic accounts of the impact of divisions on residents' daily lives and their sense of local identity. Meets with JWST-296 002.

HIST-496 004: Consumerism: Britain and the United States

Consumerism is, arguably, the dominant ideology of the twentieth century. This course explores key debates about Western consumer societies, including such themes as: self-service and choice; retailing (department stores to malls); consumer politics and organizations; gender, race, and identity; and fashion. Besides asking how historians can research such a diverse activity, it poses fundamental questions, such as whether consumerism has improved the quality of life. Meets with HIST-696 004.

  

TOPICS IN MIDDLE EASTERN HISTORY

HIST-296-002: Arabs & Persians

Considers the historical relationship between Arabic and Persian speakers since the advent of Islam. The problem of "Arab" and "Persian" as ethnic markers is raised and students investigate how the interactions and rivalries of Arabs and Persians have shaped their collective identities down to the present day. Particular attention is given to the central but often distinct roles that Arabs and Persians (and Arabic and Persian) have played in the spread of Islam and "Islamicate" culture and society. The relationship of Arabs and Persians with Turks, the third major ethnicity resident in the heartland of Islam, is also explored.

HIST-396 001: Israel and Palestine: History and Culture

This course approaches the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through historical, ethnographic, and cultural perspectives. Beginning with the Zionist and Palestinian nationalist movements in the late nineteenth century, the course traces their interactions to explore the complexities of national and communal identities, and notions of home and return in Israeli and Palestinian society. Meets with JWST-320 001.

HIST-496-001: Zionism & the Establishment of Israel

This course considers the evolution of Zionism in Europe as a national political movement, its various expressions, and the road to the establishment of the State of Israel. Meets with HIST-696 001.

HIST-496 003: Modern Iran

Considers the history of Iran from the late nineteenth century to the present. Discussion topics include great power rivalries and the rise of Iranian nationalism, the oil economy and elite modernization, political Islam and the Iranian Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war and state militarization, and most recently, the nuclear crisis. Meets with HIST-696 003.

  

TOPICS IN RUSSIAN/SOVIET HISTORY

HIST-312 001: Tolstoy vs. Napoleon: Russia and the West

Marking the bicentennial of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, the course will explore Russia's geopolitical and cultural engagement with the West from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century. Integrating history, literature and film, the course will culminate with a close reading and examination of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

HIST-399 002: The Cold War

The Cold War determined world history between 1945 and 1991. This course introduces students to the historiography of the conflict by combining scholarly interpretations with primary documents, visual propaganda, film, and literary fiction.

HIST-445 001: Russian Studies: Dostoyevsky's Russia

This course explores Fyodor Dostoyevsky's views on organized religion, faith, sexuality, political violence, freedom, and materialism through his works in their historical and cultural context. Meets with HIST-645 001.

HIST-496 003: Soviet Foreign Policy

This course will focus on the relationship between ideology and national security in the formation of Soviet policy as well as the evolution of foreign perceptions and misconceptions about Soviet interests. The materials will include primary documents, scholarly works, literary fiction, and film.

HIST-696 006: The Soviet Union

This course treats the history of the Soviet Union (1917-1991), seeking to explain how this civilization arose, survived, and ultimately fell, with particular attention to the history of communism as an idea. Readings help give a sense of both the aspirations and sufferings of its citizens.


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