Highlighted Courses

Spring 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; while, 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 is a course that meshes British history, imperial history, and global history. View more course details.

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


NES 390 / HIS 221: Medieval Cairo: A Survival Guide

There was a lot of stuff in eleventh-century Cairo. Now is your chance to get to know it by making it yourself. Cook from thousand-year-old Egyptian recipes; eat and judge the results for yourself; carve rock crystal; weave linen cloth; manufacture paper by hand; cook iron-gall ink; cut a reed pen; write like a medieval scribe; handle real medieval manuscripts, ceramics, coins and glass. This course will catapult you backward by a millennium. View more course details.

Instructor: Lorenzo Bondioli and Marina Rustow
Tu Th 11:00am - 12:20pm


HIS 306 / LAO 306: Latino History

Comprising over 1/6th of the US population and rising, the origins of Latina/o/xs in the nation are fascinating. Transnational. Native born. Immigrant. Undocumented. Citizens. 400 years on the land. Indigenous. White. Mestizo. Black. Asian. Urban. Los Angeles. Chicago. New York. Miami. Rural. Delano. Salinas. Missions. Barrio. Farm workers. Muralists. Maquiladora workers. Professionals. Activists. Mexico. Caribbean. Central America. South America. Latina/o/xs are a relatively new and heterogeneous group, whose members have a history that runs deep in this nation. View more course details.

Instructor: Rosina Lozano
M W 2:30pm - 3:20pm


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
Tu Th 11:00am - 11:50am


HIS 375 / AMS 371: U.S. Intellectual History

A lecture course focusing on the history of American ideas about politics, religion, and economics, the class tells the history of the United States from a very particular perspective: that of prominent thinkers and writers. It focuses on the stories and ideas of public intellectuals—people like Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William James, Jane Addams, and W.E.B. Du Bois—who have shaped American culture. We will read and talk about their debates regarding the meaning of democracy, the nature of truth, and the role of religion in our public life. The readings for History 375 course are mostly primary sources written by famous intellectuals themselves. View more course details.

Instructor: Peter Wirzbicki
Tu Th 1:30pm - 2:20pm


HIS 389: American Cultural History

“How much thought...can be hidden in a few short lines of poetry?” Music writer Robert Palmer asked, “How much history can be transmitted by pressure on a guitar string?” The battle over who and what was “American” during both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries often manifested through a politicization of culture and the culturalization of politics. This course will serve as an intensive historical survey on the rise of mass popular culture from 1800 to 1970, and will investigate the ways popular culture was influenced by and affected American race relations, labor, gender, sexuality, technology, migration, and urbanization. Popular culture filters, reflects, and refracts many central prejudices and preoccupations of a given society while shaping central historical events. The forms of American culture (and things coopted into it) we will study will be wide-ranging: hula hooping, standup comedy, gospel music, film, the public spectacle of executions, blackface, circuses, freak shows, Broadway musicals, abolition lecture circuits, and more. View more course details.

Watch course promotion video.

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 evolved over time — 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). View more course details.

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


HIS 419 / NES 419 / COM 438 / VIS 420: Topics in the History of Modern Syria: Ba'thist Syria – Ideology, Literature, and Film

Have you ever seen a Syrian movie? Have you ever read a Syrian novel or collection of short stories? Now’s your chance. This seminar situates cultural production in Ba`thist Syria (1963-present)—in terms of its conditions of creation, circulation and reception—within a broader historical and theoretical framework. Through an exploration of historical debates in the scholarly literature on politics, aesthetics and culture, we will work to both contextualize and comment upon ongoing discussions surrounding modern and contemporary Syria. All readings (and most films) are in English, although those with interests and abilities in French or Arabic or Russian or German will be encouraged to indulge them. There will be weekly film screenings available either through Video Reserves or on Tuesdays at 4:30 pm in the Rocky Theater to in addition to the seminar itself. Some background in Middle East studies would be helpful. (Attendance at the Tuesday night film screenings is not mandatory and non-attendance will not affect the course grade in any way.) View more course details.

Instructor: Max Weiss
W 1:30pm - 4:20pm


HIS 427: From Alexander to Genghis Khan

Conquerors are the fascinating engines of history, great leaders forcing change into history by invading, destroying, and leaving the remains to be rebuilt into great empires. Conquerors are seen as agents of change, “Revolutionaries with armies” who come and find the weakness in the enemy and force it to submit to changes that it would normally never concede. This idealized vision of conquerors, and the associated praise, is a cornerstone of how we see and tell history. We start with historical narratives of different eras - the Hellenistic Period, the Roman Empire, the Islamic World, the Mongol Period - from the dates of conquests, and consider conquerors as the founders of these epochs. This course, through a combination of lectures and discussions, will try to think through and challenge some of the ideas we have of the conquerors and the world before and after them, particularly in the context of the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Central Asia. You will read some exciting primary sources, look at coins and seals, and art from different eras, and consider the secondary works that discuss and challenge some of our preconceived notions about history and concepts such as the Greek culture, late antiquity, Islam, the medieval period, and the Mongols. View more course details.

Instructor: Khodadad Rezakhani
M W 1:30pm - 2:50pm


HIS 445: Remembering Deportation and Genocide in France Since the Second World War

An estimated 160,000 persons were deported from France to camps in Central and Eastern Europe during the Second World War. 76,000 of these were Jews, most of the rest résistants. The Jews did not survive the ordeal: a mere 2,500 returned. Résistants fared better—47,500 came back—, but the toll was still a terrible one. Daunting as it was to speak about such matters, people made the endeavor nonetheless. Survivors felt duty-bound, if not compelled, to try. There were artists of all kinds, moreover, whether survivors or not, who were determined to join in. The result was a corpus of work that was varied and substantial, indeed, enormous in the case of France. It is the purpose of this course to examine examples of that work, written or filmed by Jews and non-Jews alike, with an eye to understanding what the two kinds of experiences, each traumatic in its own ways, shared in common and what they did not. View more course details.

Instructor: Philip Nord
Th 1:30pm - 4:20pm


HIS 446: Political Prisons: Crime, Persecution, and Incarceration in 19th-Century Europe

What does it mean to serve a prison term for your political convictions? How did different countries and regimes treat political opposition across time? How did prisons change over the past two centuries? This course addresses these questions and more in an effort to understand the nature and the evolution of political prisons in modern times. The focus is upon the nineteenth century; geographically, we will pay specific attention to Eastern Europe and Russia where political persecution and political imprisonment were oftentimes more severe than elsewhere in Europe. We will read personal narratives, fiction, historical and philosophical studies related to political persecution and prison in the nineteenth century. Included among the readings are some of the seminal works on the prison, most notably, Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s House of the Dead, and Michele Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. The readings and discussion should help us understand better the political dynamic and political regimes in today’s Europe. In particular, we should gain insight to a specific mode of politics and treatment of political opposition in Russia as well as the tensions between Russia and the West in the modern times, with repercussions to the present. View more course details.

Instructor: Iryna Vushko
W 1:30pm - 4:20pm


HIS 451 / URB 451/ AMS 413: Writing About Cities

How does the past live on in cities? Cities are more than buildings: They hold stories and memories of our shared history. Because of this, urban spaces offer us a site to investigate central questions in American life, about topics like race, ethnicity, immigration, sexuality, and memory. What are cities? Why does place matter? Who remembers the past, and how? Students will explore these questions in three ways. First, they’ll learn to read cities as cultural texts, working their way through the layers of meaning that accumulate over time. Second, they’ll engage in cultural analysis, archival research, and geographic fieldwork, carrying our discussions out of the classroom and into the world around us. And third, they’ll contribute to discussions about place and memory by proposing a new memorial or monument for Princeton’s campus. At the end of the semester, students will present their proposals to university administrators. History echoes in cities. Together, we’ll learn to listen. View more course details.

Instructor: Sean Fraga
Th 1:30pm - 4:20pm


HIS 476 / MED 476/ HUM 476: The Vikings: History and Archaeology

Who were the Vikings, at home and abroad? How did their raiding and settlement change the course of history for the British Isles and Western Europe? What motivated them to create a global network of trade between Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic? And where does all of our information come from? This course will study the political, social, and economic impact that Norse expansion and raiding had on early medieval Europe, as well as the changing situations in Scandinavia that inspired and resulted from this expansion. The assignments in this class are designed to help you learn how to analyze different types of sources to make historical arguments. We will examine Norse culture and religion from contemporary and later texts, sagas and epic poetry, material culture, and the results of archaeological excavation, including short scientific articles about skeletal isotopes, paleopathology, and ecology to learn about migration, warfare, and the biological impact of Norse settlement. We will also consider modern attitudes towards the Vikings, their depiction in film, television, and visual media, and the misuse of their culture and stereotypes by modern organizations and white nationalist groups. View more course details.

Instructor: Janet Kay
Tu Th 1:30pm - 2:50pm


HIS 479 / AMS 479: Society, Politics, and Ideas in 1980s America

Ronald Reagan. Michael Jackson. Mikhail Gorbachev. E.T. AIDS. Televangelists. Madonna. Referring to “The 1980s” conjures up a jumble of images in our heads. This course is dedicated to untangling those images—to sorting through the myths and realities of America’s recent past. To do so, we will immerse ourselves in sources from the 1980s, ranging from presidential speeches to memoirs to science fiction novels. We will try to understand the events and trends that made the 1980s a distinct era in United States history, including: the election of Ronald Reagan and the rightward shift in American politics; the swift and sudden end of the Cold War; the spread of computers and related technologies; the deepening gulf between rich and poor; and the “culture wars” over topics like abortion, pornography, and AIDS. We will also trace how these and other events from the 1980s continue to shape our present. From the presidency of Donald Trump to the ubiquity of Apple products, we live in a world made by the 1980s. This class will thus help us understand not only our past—but also our present. View more course details.

Instructor: William Schultz
M 1:30pm - 4:20pm