Highlighted Courses

Spring 2018

Please note: First-year students are encouraged to try either 200- or 300-level courses in History, according to their own interests. In general, the difference between 200- and 300-level courses is a matter of the topic’s breadth (200-level courses covering longer periods of time and/or larger areas of space than 300-level courses), rather than indicating any degree of difficulty, pre-assumed knowledge, etc. (NOTE: This distinction will not necessarily apply where History is cross-listed, e.g. AAS 313/HIS 213)

While a 200-level course is necessary for entry into the Department, students need not “start” their History careers with one. First-year students are welcome and encouraged to take 300-level courses regardless of their previous experience.


HIS 280: Approaches to American History

How do we know what we know about history? How can a single historical event be viewed so differently by the people who experienced it? With a focus on primary sources, this course exposes students to the methods and tools historians use to answer historical questions, perform historical analysis, and join a scholarly conversation. During the semester, we will look at three distinct events in American history through the lens of the people who lived through those events: the Salem witch trials, Native American policies, and the Little Rock school integration crisis. Priority is given to sophomores, but first-year students are welcome. This course is recommended for students intending to major in History or exploring that possibility. View more course details.

Instructor: Kevin Kruse, Weinryb Grohsgal
M 10:00am - 10:50am


HIS 366: Germany Since 1806

Germany currently holds the center stage of Europe at a moment of political, economic and social crisis. Can Germany provide leadership for the rest of Europe? Or is a German attempt to exercise leadership destroying European solidarity and European society? Such questions can only be answered by thinking about Germany’s past—late political unification in the nineteenth century, and an extraordinarily violent first half of the twentieth century. German history both before 1933 and after 1945 is inevitably interpreted in the light of—or rather through the darkness of—the Nazi dictatorship and a racist view of dominance and empire. How have Germans—and other Europeans and the rest of the world—learnt from German history? These are the big themes of this course. View more course details.

Instructor: Harold James
M W 11:00am - 12:20pm


HIS 350: History of International Order

From refugees and climate change to nuclear weapons, our news headlines are full of problems that cross state borders and require international cooperation. But what do states really owe to the “international community,” and who is going to police it? What kind of power and authority do international organisations like the United Nations really have, and what kind of power should they have? This class traces the modern history of such questions. It reveals the way men and women from the global north and the global south have answered them very differently over the last two hundred years. Beginning with the Congress of Vienna in 1815, we explore the history of schemes and visions of international order—spanning international law and world government, humanitarianism and human rights, decolonization and self-determination. View more course details.

Instructor: Natasha Wheatley
Tu Th 1:30pm - 2:20pm


HIS 375: U.S. Intellectual History: Anne Hutchinson to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don’t listen to the detractors: America does, in fact, have an intellectual history. From Puritan ministers describing the fiery pits of hell to American revolutionaries debating democracy to progressive reformers discussing what liberty meant in an interconnected industrial world, ideas and intellectuals have been central to America’s culture and politics. Each week in this course we will examine a different “episode” in which Americans developed their intellectual history: moments like the writing of the Declaration of Independence; the development of Transcendentalism in Concord, Massachusetts; labor strikes in the Gilded Age; and the invention of Pragmatism. This reading in this course will consist largely of the writings of America’s great intellectuals—Jonathan Edwards, John Adams, Margaret Fuller, William James, W.E.B. Du Bois, etc.—in their own words. We will work to put them in the context of the time that produced these thinkers. View more course details.

Instructor: Peter Wirzbicki
M W 10:00am - 10:50am


HIS 403: The History of Free Speech

In the Western world today, especially in the U.S., we celebrate freedom of speech as one of our core values. But that's not true across much of the globe. And it wasn't the case in the West either, for most of its history: even the concept of 'free speech' didn't really exist. The aim of this course is to find out when and why that changed, and how the definition and experience of free speech has evolved over time—for women and men; in dictatorships and democratic societies; globally, nationally, and locally. The history of free speech remains largely unwritten, so come along if you’d like to help shape it—and to think about what freedom of speech means, or should mean, in the present. View more course details.

Instructor: Fara Dabhoiwala
Tu 1:30pm - 4:20pm


HIS 407/LAS 407: Commons, Enclosures and Colonization in the Early Modern Atlantic

The 16th-18th centuries brought together two of the most impactful phenomena of Atlantic early modernity - the maintenance or enclosure of commons and overseas colonization. In this course we will study the interactions between these two phenomena. We will trace first how and why commons persisted or were enclosed in the Spanish, English, French and Portuguese realms in Europe. This will enable us to examine how and why the institution was transmitted during colonization in the New World, yielding a very varied landscape of possession and usufruct of lands across the continent. Readings are in English, and no background knowledge is assumed. View more course details.

Instructor: Vera Candiani
W 1:30pm - 4:20pm


HIS 420 / POL 490 / SAS 410: Modern India: History and Political Theory

India, soon to be the planet’s most populous society, is also the world’s largest, most complex, and most improbable democracy. How did this caste-bound, religiously divided, colonially dominated society come to reconstruct itself as a modem democracy? Gandhi, often thought of as the godfather of modern India, isn’t the half of it. This new course will make sense of modem India’s history and politics through the full diversity of ideas that have shaped it—ideas driving its conflicts, inciting its aspirations, and defining its identities. The historian E.P. Thompson once said that “all the convergent influences of the world run through [India]: Hindu, Muslim, Christian, secular; Stalinist, liberal, Maoist, democratic socialist, Gandhian. There is not a thought that is being thought in the West or East that is not active in some Indian mind.” Through a combination of lectures and seminars, we’ll go beyond Thompson and see how Indians have seized upon and reworked ideas of the nation, equality, rights, constitutions and representation for their own purposes, and how in 1947 they embarked on the most important democratic experiment in world history since the American and French Revolutions. You don’t need previous knowledge of India to take this course, just an interest in moving beyond Western ideas to explore the ideas that animate the most surprising democracy in the world. View more course details.

Instructor: Sunil Khilnani
Tu Th 1:30pm - 2:50pm


HIS 487 / ECS 487: The Age of Democratic Revolutions

Are we on the brink of a new Age of Revolution? Almost 60 years ago, in the midst of nationalist anti­colonial revolutions and the nuclear standoff of the Cold War, the great Princeton historian R.R. Palmer asked the same question, in a book that became a classic: The Age of the Democratic Revolution. Now, in the midst of a populist surge in the West, rising tensions between the United States and Russia, unchecked inequality, and a looming climate catastrophe, this course will reexamine the three great revolutions of the Atlantic World that marked the dawn of the modern age: the American, French and Haitian. What did earlier generations of historians miss about these events? And what new lessons might we draw for our own time from a fresh examination of them? Subjects considered will include human rights and equality, the nature of revolutionary democracy, political violence and terror, the emergence of global capitalism, slavery, popular movements, nationalism, and the politics of gender. We will consider the legacies of all these subjects for our own day, and discuss how to tell a history of the Age of Revolutions for the twenty-first century. View more course details.

Instructor: David A. Bell, Andrew Edwards
Tu 1:30pm - 4:20pm