Highlighted Courses

Fall 2019

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 214: British Empire in World History, 1700-2000

What is empire? Today, we generally think of it as something bad, and as something that Europeans did. Yet, along with monarchy, different forms of empire have been the most common form of rule for much of human history; as late as 1900, China, Japan, Russia, Turkey, and the United States all styled themselves as empires, as well as some of the Western European powers. So this course will address the phenomenon of empire generally through the particular experience of Britain, for a short period the biggest empire ever in history.  We look at how this empire was made, its relationship with war, naval power, and religion, how the empire worked and was supposed to work, the ideas that underpinned it, how it was represented in art and literature, and at those who believed in it and those who resisted it.  We will also consider the degree to which empires still exist today but under different names. Accordingly, this course meshes British history, imperial history, and global history. View more course details.

Instructor: Linda Colley
Tu Th 10:00am - 10:50am


HIS 283: War in the Modern Western World

Warfare has always been central to the human condition, and few if any factors have been as decisive as war in shaping modern Western history. This course surveys war in the Western world from the end of the Middle Ages to the present day. Each week of the course highlights a particular conflict, from the Hundred Years’ War and the Battle of Agincourt, through the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War and the World Wars, down to the present day. While due attention is given to strategy, tactics, and technological change, the course also sets the changes in warfare within broad political, social, and cultural contexts. Readings include eye-witness accounts, literature about warfare, and historical books and essays. View more course details.

Instructor: David Bell
Tu Th 11:00am - 11:50am


NEW! HIS 301: Modern Eastern Europe, 19th to 20th Centuries

This history of Eastern Europe should help us understand some of the lingering conflicts in Europe as well as between Europe and the US today. The most severe conflicts in post-1945 Europe took place in Europe’s east. While Western Europe has followed a path of reconciliation and integration, Europe’s east experienced yet another turbulent century. What caused the wars on the Balkans that took lives of thousands of people, mostly civilians? What are the roots of Russian-Ukrainian conflict? Did the West “abandon” Eastern Europe during the Cold War leaving millions of people at the mercy of Stalin? We will analyze these and many other questions in an effort to get a better understanding of the region that has long been marginalized in European history narratives but that has defined Europe as we know it today. View more course details.

Instructor: Iryna Vushko
M W 11:00 - 11:50pm


HIS 303 / LAS 305 Colonial Latin America to 1810

What is colonization? How does it work? What kind of societies does it create? Come find out through the lens of the Latin America. First we study how the Aztec and Inca empires subdued other peoples, and how Muslim Iberia fell to the Christians. Then, we learn about Spanish and Portuguese conquests and how indigenous resistance, adaptation, and racial mixing shaped the continent. You will see gods clash and meld, cities rise and decline, and insurrections fail or win. Silver mines will boom and bust, slaves will toil and rebel; peasants will fight capitalist encroachments. This is a comprehensive view of how Latin America became what it is. View more course details.

Instructor: Vera Candiani
T Th 11:00am - 11:50am


HIS 332: India Before Europe: Politics, Religion, and Culture in South Asia, 1000-1857 CE

What was India like before British colonial rule? Did the idea of India even exist before modernity? This class takes a deep dive into the history of the Indian sub-continent, which consists today of the nations of Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, going as far back as the eighth century BCE. It will explore issues of cultural ‘encounter’ between Islamicate and Indic forms and the changing relationship between Asia, Europe, and Africa as it played out in South Asia. While traversing through the major political formations that arose in South Asia from 750 to 1750 CE, the class explores the interaction of politics with such domains as gender and sexuality, the arts and sciences, and the economy. South Asia’s pre-colonial past has been central to modern political struggles in India over the place of Muslims and the Islamicate past in India’s present. It has also been central to debates about the impact of colonialism on South Asia. This class will provide you with the means to think critically about how the pre-modern past informs present-day debates. View more course details.

Instructor: Divya Cherian
M W 10:00am - 10:50am


HIS 368: England from the War of the Roses to the Glorious Revolution

Why study early modern England? As the phrase suggests, early modern England was strikingly modern in some ways and seemingly wholly alien in others. In this course, we explore how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century conflicts over salvation, God’s will, and the nature of the monarchy led to the creation of adversarial Parliamentary politics, while a provincial economy that revolved around sheep-farming became the hub of a global empire. The course combines an exciting political narrative – Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, and more – with excursions into the social and mental worlds of early modern English people, delving into the ways people experienced disruptive change. Precepts address humanism, plague, martyrdom, demonic magic, puritanism, encounters with ethnic difference, and more. Readings are drawn mostly from a wide variety of fascinating primary sources with some classic and cutting-edge historiography as well, and precepts include hands-on activities with rare early modern books, spindles and wool, and quills and ink. Course assessment focuses on engagement with texts and independent research, with regular short and straightforward quizzes replacing long exams. View more course details.

Instructor: Eleanor Hubbard
M W 1:30pm - 2:20pm


HIS 395: History of Medicine and the Body

What does it mean to fall ill? Does a medical treatment work always and everywhere in the same way? How has medicine responded to and shaped ideas of difference–gender, race, age, ability? How have changing ideas of health affected everyday life? This course, by taking a temporally and geographically expansive approach to the body and medicine, will challenge your assumptions about and perhaps even your experience of your body in fundamental terms. We will explore ideas of health and disease in the pre-modern world, and then closely examine the processes by which medicine became “modern”: the rise of anatomy and dissection, the fight against germs, the development of medical technology, and modern practices of health, life, and death. View more course details.

Instructor: Katja Guenther
Tu Th 10:00am - 10:50am


NEW! HIS 423 / AAS 423 / AFS 423: Revolutionary Movements and Liberation Struggles in Africa

The famous black intellectual Frantz Fanon once wrote that decolonization is by nature a violent phenomenon given that colonialism is predicated on violence. Yet there are different levels of violence. Most African nations gained independence in relatively pacific processes in the 1950s and 1960s. Revolutionary armed struggles for liberation were, for the most part, the exception. This course explores the exceptional histories of revolutionary struggles for independence in Africa. We will discuss the context, the intellectual and ideological motivations for the struggle, including the strategies of insurgency that liberation movements employed in Algeria, Kenya, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa. How revolutionary and historically contingent were these struggles? What do they teach us about the socio-political, cultural, and economic predicaments of our current time? Join the course and let us find out. View more course details.

Instructor: Benedito Machava
Tu 1:30pm - 4:20pm


HIS 464: History with Objects and Landscapes

How did the built and unbuilt environments we live with today come about? Why do our everyday objects look the way they do? Who shaped our mundane physical realities and for what? This multidisciplinary course teaches the tools to answer such questions through studying rural and urban geographies and ecologies, material culture, and human behavior in history. A sustainable future depends on us understanding the intimate historical and social logic of environmental destruction and plumbing the full archive of human actions on matter, and through energy and time for solutions. Undergrad and graduate students of all disciplines are welcome. View more course details.

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


NEW! LAS 429 / ENV 325: Science, Technology, and Society in Latin America*

How do science and technology collide with social movements and cultural values? What does glaciology have to do with Peruvian politics? Why was cybernetics promoted as the key to socialist promises in Chile? Is there a connection between the Amazon rain forest and early aeronautics? This course explores these and other questions in modern Latin American history through the lens of science and technology studies (STS). View more course details.

* This course is offered as an automatic HIS cognate for Fall 2019 only.

Instructor: Ryan Edwards
M 1:30pm - 4:20pm