Highlighted Courses

Fall 2023

This list provides a more specific description of particular courses than is found in Course Offerings.

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 225 The Mediterranean: From Rome to Fortress Europe

Instructor: Molly Greene

T/Th 10:00 - 10:50 am

map of the mediterranean

We flock to the Mediterranean to see the antiquities of Rome and Athens, but what is the history of the Mediterranean after Antiquity? How is the current refugee crisis connected to the deep history of the sea? In this course we will move beyond the Eurocentric narrative of the Mediterranean as “the cradle of civilization” and recognize the history of the Mediterranean for what it actually is: a meeting place of three continents (Asia, Africa and Europe) and the many peoples and cultures to which they are home. It is a sea that has been crossed by merchants, diplomats, pirates, sailors and pilgrims for over two thousand years. Particular attention will be given to regions, such as North Africa, and actors, such as the Arabs, who are often left out of the story of the Mediterranean. Post Antiquity, the Islamic conquest of much of the Mediterranean world, the rivalries of the monotheistic religions, all born in the Mediterranean, and the distinctive complexities of European colonization of the “near other,” namely the Muslim Mediterranean that was both familiar and feared, are all major themes. At the same time we will consider the marginalization of Mediterranean Europe within Europe, which gave birth to the idea of the “lazy Spaniard” or the “lazy Greek,” which is yet another wrinkle in the history of the region. The European fascination with and claims over classical Antiquity is implicated in both European colonization of North Africa and the Middle East on the one hand and stereotypes about southern Europeans on the other; the use and abuse of this heritage remains one of the most distinctive features of the Mediterranean. Equally characteristic is the regular swing of the pendulum between the sea as a cosmopolitan center of cultural mixing and the sea as a hostile borderland. The latter is dominant today as refugees risk and often lose their lives trying to cross from the eastern and southern shores into Europe. Finally, the course asks what possibilities emerge when we tell the history of a sea rather than of a country or a people.  


HIS 249/AFS 249 A Global History of Modern Ethiopia: Rastafari to Haile Selassie

Instructor: Lacy Feigh

T/TH 1:30 - 2:50 pm

How is Rastafari linked to the last Emperor of Ethiopia? What do these connections tell us about Ethiopia’s place in the making of the modern world? 

Before Emperor Haile Selassie became known worldwide for his public resistance campaign against the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, prior to his splashy coronation in 1930, he was known by another name: Ras Tefari Mekonen. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Ethiopia underwent rapid processes of expansion and modernization in the highlands of Northeast Africa, and at the same time became a beacon of hope for global Black movements, perhaps made most visible through Rastafarian culture and beliefs. This course introduces students to the history of the modern Ethiopian state from its place in Northeast Africa and in shaping moments and movements in global history. By focusing on Ethiopia, students in this course will examine the ways African histories are essential to, but often ignored (or erased) in the telling of modern world history.


HIS 271 / AMS 271 Native American History

Instructor: Elizabeth Ellis

M/W 10:00 - 10:50 am

What was life like for Indigenous peoples in North America before 1492, and how have Native Americans influenced the history of this continent for centuries?

This course will examine more than thousand years of Native American history and provide a broad overview of the processes, events, and ideas that have shaped Indigenous peoples’ lives in North America for centuries. Beginning in the Mississippian Era (1000 CE) and continuing through the #NoDapl (2016) movement, this course will explore the ways that the diverse peoples who lived on this land constructed different kinds of societies and how their goals and political decisions shaped American history. In examining this Native American past, this course asks, how did Native Americans’ ideas of gender, society, and environment shape early modern Indigenous societies? How did Native peoples confront colonization, European encounters, and dispossession in different eras? How did cross cultural exchange and violence create new ideas of race, gender, and American Indian identities? And how has this all shaped the lives of Native people today? This course will explore these questions and investigate the past using oral and written histories, monuments, Indigenous art and theory, and will include the opportunity to visit the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.  


HIS 298 Information Revolutions

Instructor: Matthew Jones

T/TH 1:30 - 2:20pm

How did this slate of glass and metal in my hand come to serve as my portal to information—and to sell my eyeballs to advertisers? To allow seemingly instantaneous communications with much of the planet? What intellectual developments were necessary? What changes in engineering? What kinds of labor? What kinds of tax policy and financial organization? How have business, knowledge production, and warfare changed? How did these changes alter how we view humans—and human intelligence? What have we gained—and what have we lost—from these transformations?

Ranging from the 19th century to the present, Information Revolutions we will follow how networked communications, numerical calculation, symbolic reasoning, and information processing converged to create contemporary information technologies. The course will introduce you to the different kinds of histories—philosophical, engineering, labor, material, social, gender, legal, cultural—needed for making sense of information technologies in the last 150 years. Topics we’ll cover together include Silicon Valley, software engineering, PCs, hacking, artificial intelligence, information, cryptography, outsourcing, privacy, information warfare, social networks, surveillance—and more! The course assumes only an interest in the history of computing or technology, not any technical background.


HIS 345/HLS 345 The Crusades

Instructor: Teresa Shawcross

M/W 1:30 - 2:50pm

Crusades were a central phenomenon of the Middle Ages. This course examines the origins and development of the Crusades and the Crusader States in the Islamic East. It explores dramatic events, such as the great Siege of Jerusalem, and introduces vivid personalities, including Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. We will consider aspects of institutional, economic, social and cultural history and compare medieval Christian (Western and Byzantine), Muslim and Jewish perceptions of the crusading movement. Finally, we will critically examine the resonance the movement continues to have in current political and ideological debates.


HIS 350 History of International Order

Instructor: Natasha Wheatley

M/W 1:30 - 2:20pm

From the Covid pandemic and climate change to nuclear weapons and the war in Ukraine, our news headlines are full of problems that cross state borders and require international cooperation. Yet the nature, structure, and capacity of the international community remains contested and controversial. This class probes the dramatic history of international order across more than two centuries, equipping students to engage the world we know today with new insight, clarity, and rigor. We explore the role of empire, the nature of power, and the force of morals. Topics include colonialism, humanitarianism, international organization, and the laws of war. 


HIS 369/CHV 369 European Intellectual History in the Twentieth Century

Instructor: Edward Baring

T/Th 11:00 am - 12:20 pm



Photograph of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir

What is the best way to organize society? How can we ensure equality between the sexes and different social groups? What is the place of religion in the modern world? How do we grapple with colonialism, and what is its legacy in the present? How do we promote social change, and when, if ever, is violence required? These were all pressing questions for intellectuals in Europe, as they grappled with one of the most tumultuous periods in human history, encompassing two World Wars, the Russian Revolution, the rise of Fascism, the Holocaust, and the collapse of European Empires. In this course, we will examine these intellectuals, track the historical developments that provoked their questions, and discuss whether and how their answers continue to resonate in the present.