Highlighted Courses

Spring 2020

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 historians do history? How do they go into archives filled with historical documents and come out with narratives, interpretations, and arguments? To demystify this process, we will recreate it in class. Students will be given a very wide range of primary documents produced by three central events in U.S. history: the fight to integrate a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas (1955-59); the attempt to dispossess native Americans of their lands with the Dawes Act (1877); and the conflict with the British crown over the Stamp Act taxes (1765-66). Armed with these historical documents, and supported by guest lectures from a range of history department faculty, we will attempt to produce history. View more course details.

Instructors: Beth Lew-Williams and Daniel Rodgers
M 10:00 - 10:50am


HIS 295: Making America: Technology and History in the United States

The American Revolution coincided with the Industrial Revolution and technology has played a prominent role in the nation’s history since the United States was founded. Technologies have brought us together and pulled us apart, and Americans have both embraced and resisted technological change throughout our nation’s history. From the colonial era through the twentieth century, a rich panoply of people have “made” America by designing, building, and using the various technologies that have fed, clothed, housed, protected, and entertained us. Native American warriors, enslaved inventors, female factory workers, immigrant canal and railroad builders, college-educated engineers and self-made entrepreneurs have all constructed the nation through their work creativity. By exploring all this technological work, and by understanding how it has both shaped and reflected America’s society and culture, you will be better equipped to understand the meaning of technology in your own lives today. View more course details.

Instructor: Emily Thompson
M W 10:00 - 10:50am


HIS 306 / LAO 306 / LAS 326: Becoming Latino in the US

(formerly Latino History)

Transnational. Native born. Immigrant. 400 years on the land. Border. Indigenous. White. Mestizo. Black. Asian. Urban. Los Angeles. Chicago. New York. Miami. Rural. Delano. Salinas. Bisbee. Tierra Amarilla. Crystal City. Missions. Barrio. Farm workers. Muralists. Maquiladora workers. Professionals. Activists. Mexico. Caribbean. Central America. South America. There is something for everyone in this class. Latinos are a relatively new and heterogeneous group whose members have a history that runs deep in this nation and who have a large place in its future. Comprising over 1/6th of the US population and rising, come learn the origins of Latinos in the United States that is often left out of textbooks. View more course details.

Instructor: Rosina Lozano
Tu Th 11:00am - 11:50am


HIS 333 / LAS 373 / AAS 335: Modern Brazilian History

This course examines the history of modern Brazil from its independence in the 1820s to the present day. The lectures, readings, and discussions chart conflict, change, and continuity within Brazilian society, highlighting the role played by disenfranchised social actors in shaping the country's history. Topics include the meanings of political citizenship; slavery and abolition; race relations; indigenous populations; uneven economic development as well as Brazil's experiences with authoritarianism and globalization. View more course details.

Instructor: Isadora Moura Mota
M W 1:30 - 2:50pm


HIS 372: Revolutionary America

Hardly a week goes by without American politicians summoning the views of crusty “Founding Fathers” to support their own political agenda. Such rhetoric typically draws on a sanitized, even quaint version of the nation’s revolutionary past: a tale of wrongfully oppressed colonists—staid, breech- wearing, and bewigged—standing up for liberty and democracy. The real story, however, is far more interesting. This course traces the dramatic upheaval of the American Revolution—its ideals and contradictions, its anxiety and violence, its achievements and tragedies—from many perspectives: female and male, black and white and Indian, free and enslaved, American and British, Loyalist and Patriot. We’ll explore why colonists declared independence and how they won it, why the Revolution created an “empire of liberty” rooted in slavery, and how ordinary people influenced these extraordinary events. From the Seven Years War through the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, we will seek a more accurate, inclusive, and human understanding of the contested origins of the United States’ fragile political experiment. View more course details.

Instructor: Michael Blaakman
M W 10:00 - 10:50am


HIS 374: History of the American West

Let’s head west! We’ll survey more than five hundred years of the region now known as the American West, with materials drawn from memoirs, legal records, films, and novels. You will also get introduced to the Western American archives at Firestone Library, and help with a crowd- sourcing project to transcribe nineteenth-century overland trails journals. You will also learn how to analyze historical images and to think about visual records as primary source documents. No previous background in American history required. View more course details.

Instructor: Martha Sandweiss
M W 10:00 - 10:50am


HIS 389: American Cultural History

Rise of popular entertainment, values, ideas, cultural expression, and the culture industries in modern American history. View more course details.

Instructor: Rhae Lynn Barnes
Tu Th 1:30pm - 2:20pm


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 differed and evolved ever since—for women and men; in dictatorships and democratic societies; globally, nationally, and locally. No prior knowledge required, only intellectual curiosity, and an appetite for lots of reading (much of it in historical materials), and a willingness to learn through discussion with others. View more course details.

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


HIS 414 / AMS 414: Life-Writing: Diaries, Memoirs, Autobiographies, and History

History increasingly focuses on the big: On the world, the oceans, and trans-continental developments. This course looks instead at individuals. It examines the rise, evident on both sides of the Atlantic between 1650 and the First World War , and among women and men, in producing diaries, memoirs and autobiographies. Why exactly did this happen? What does it mean to write an auto-document? How do these genres illumine changing notions of the self, emotions and gender; and how were they connected with the evolution of the novel? How can those at work on macro subjects usefully exploit and understand these sorts of micro sources? View more course details.

Instructor: Linda Colley
Tu 1:30 - 4:20pm


HIS 470 / HUM 471 / AMS 471: Abraham Lincoln and America, 1809-1865

With the thoughts I’d be thinkin’, I could be another Lincoln, if I only had a brain, sang the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. The good news is that you don’t have to be a scarecrow to find out about the thinking of Abraham Lincoln. For most of us, Lincoln is one of the rare figures in American history who is still recognizable to everyone. But our images of him – the Great Emancipator, the Model American, the Man of the People, the Savior of the Union – do not tell us everything about Lincoln. Through this course, we will pursue an intensive encounter with Lincoln’s own words and times, and especially his political and economic ideas, and discover an individual of complexity, mystery, humility and generosity — one of the indispensable figures of American times. View more course details.

Instructor: Allen Guelzo
Th 1:30 - 4:20pm


HIS 491 / GSS 491: Fertile Bodies: A Cultural History of Reproduction from Antiquity to the Enlightenment

Why did the ancient Greeks believe that a woman was ruled by her uterus? Why did Christians shun sex and procreation while worshipping a holy mother? And why did early anatomists think they could discover the “secrets” of women by opening them up? These questions all point to the centrality of women’s reproductive bodies to structures of power and knowledge in ancient, medieval, and early modern Europe. This course will trace the evolution of medical, religious, and cultural discourses about women’s bodies from ca. 450 BCE to 1700, linking various ways of thinking about virginity, fertility, and pregnancy to the development of notions of difference and concepts of purity that proved foundational to ‘western’ culture. We will begin in classical Greece with Hippocratic writings about the ‘hysterical’ womb, learn about cross-dressing saints and maternal monks, view amulets and birthing charms meant to protect medieval mothers, read registers of early modern midwives, and finally, learn how Enlightenment ‘science’ built new sexual hierarchies for the modern world. View more course details.

Instructor: Melissa Reynolds
Tu 1:30 - 4:20pm