History 400 Jr. Seminars: History Majors Only

Fall 2024

HIS 400 S01: Religious Violence and Religious Tolerance in Early Modern Europe

The early modern period witnessed some of the most dramatic outbursts of religious violence in European history. Killing and dying for one’s faith, demolishing sacred objects and spaces in the name of “true religion,” and forcing upon others religious norms through Inquisitions and discipline were things common in both Europe and its overseas colonies. At the same time, an increasing number of individuals and communities devised new ways to accommodate difference and to continue to live together with members of other faiths. The same period that saw a surge in religious persecution was also the birthplace of tolerant ideas and practices that shaped the history of Europe and lay the foundations for many modern societies. This seminar explores religious violence and religious tolerance as interrelated historical phenomena. We will look at iconoclasts, martyrs, dissenters, and inquisitors, but also at religiously diverse communities, mixed families, and pragmatic political decisions – and how historians sought to make sense of them. A special attention will be given to the motivations, experiences, and opinions of non-elites. Students will engage with challenging scholarship and will make use of the rich resources of the Firestone Library and Princeton’s Art Museum. Research papers may be written on a variety of geographical contexts and address different aspects of early modern persecution and/or tolerance of religious, ethnic, and sexual difference.

Instructor: Yonatan Glazer-Eytan
Monday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S02: Two Empires: Russia/Soviet Union and the US

This course will explore the entangled histories of the USA and the Russian Empire/Soviet Union/Russian Federation from the nineteenth century until now. Many observers have paid attention to striking similarities and sharp contrasts between the two countries. How to explain similarities and distinguish borrowing of institutional decisions, cultural scripts, and political ideas from their parallel development? How “global” was the history of the two global powers, and how deep was their interdependency? To answer these and other questions, we will focus on 1) common features in American and Russian trajectories of development (frontier colonization, slavery and serfdom, ethnic and racial conflicts), 2) mutual perception and stereotypes, and 3) international rivalries, with a particular focus on the Cold war and the history of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Instructor: Igor Khristoforov
Monday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S03: The Village: Real and Imagined

This course is an exploration of the village and villages as they appear to us in the historical record. The village is essential to any understanding of the past, since throughout most of human history that is where most people have lived. The village has also proved to be an enduring source of artistic inspiration and fascination. We will explore the pull of villages on our imagination through literature and film, they will supplement the historical readings which will form the mainstay of the class. It is more usual for villages to be studied within the context of Anthropology. This course is emphatically historical. We will consider villages as sites for the making of history, rather than as the "reliquary of old custom," and ask how villagers create, confront and manage change. This course will range widely in space and time from the village of Wharram Percy (England), which is Europe's best known deserted medieval village, to colonial Jamestown to villages in equatorial Africa. 

Instructor: Molly Greene
Tuesday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S04: What is Subaltern History?

Subaltern Studies emerged in 1982 as an intervention in the historiography of colonial India by a group of historians. The Subaltern Studies Collective published twelve volumes of essays and went on to influence the scholarship of other regions of the world and the approach was adopted in disciplines such as anthropology, literary studies, sociology, and political science. This seminar introduces students to the methods of researching and writing about power relations between elites and non-elites from the point of view of the subordinated, the subaltern. How to write subaltern history? How to read the archives and historical evidence in writing histories of those who did not leave written records or whose thoughts and actions either went unrecorded or were represented by elites? Over the course of the semester, students will read examples of classic texts in this genre and other related approaches, learn to read elite sources against the grain in order to uncover evidence on subaltern knowledge, beliefs, and actions, and write their junior papers as works of subaltern history.

Instructor: Gyan Prakash
Wednesday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S05: International History

So many of history’s most important dramas – just like our current crises – cannot be understood within the frame of a single national history. This seminar will introduce students to the methods and insights of international history: a way of exploring international affairs as well as individuals, movements, and conflicts that cross national boundaries. It involves not only the history of war, peace, and diplomacy, but also things like human rights, humanitarianism, decolonization, and global governance. The seminar will simultaneously guide students in the production of their own piece of original scholarship. The focus of readings and workshops will be on the history of international order in the twentieth century, allowing students to take advantage of rich archival holdings in Princeton libraries, especially regarding international institutions like the United Nations and its predecessor, the League of Nations.

Instructor: Natasha G. Wheatley
Monday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S06: Law and Everyday Life in the Nineteenth-Century United States

When we think of law in U.S. history, we usually think of particular kinds of published sources, namely statutes, appellate decisions, and treatises and the legislatures, courts, and legal professionals who issued those texts. That view reflects current, decidedly ahistorical conceptions of the law that project the present onto the past: we assume that those are the places to understand the law’s history because they are the places where we look to find the law today. But law in the United States did not always work the way it does now. This course will introduce students to that legal past and the sources necessary to understand it. We will consider changes in the legal system and legal principles; where and how law was made and applied; the law’s role in people’s daily lives; and people’s expectations of what law could and should do. To explore these issues, we will do hands-on work with primary sources: diaries, correspondence, account books, literature, architecture, material culture, and visual imagery as well as wills, deeds, and trial records from lower courts, in addition to the usual records, namely usual statutes, appellate decisions, and treatises. This course is intended to introduce students to a broader view of the law and this country’s legal past as well as a wide range of sources in legal history and U.S. history more generally. Students who are not considering a conventional legal history topic are welcome. 

Instructor: Laura Edwards
Monday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S07: TBD