History 400 Jr. Seminars: History Majors Only

Fall 2023

HIS 400 S01: Slavery and Identity in the British Empire

The institution of slavery was at the heart of the global empire that the British built up in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In manifold ways it shaped millions of people’s lives, outlook, and sense of identity, across the Anglophone world — in North America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. Using the rich resources of the Firestone Library, this seminar examines what enslavement meant to the men, women, and cultures it affected, and how we can and should write about it today.

Instructor: Fara Dabhoiwala
Monday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S02: 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 in 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 S03: 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. Since the late eighteenth century, 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 S04: Islands

This course will use the history of the Cocos Keeling Islands, a small atoll in the Indian Ocean, to interrogate questions of claiming, colonialism, international law, race, class, gender and geopolitics across the 19th and 20th centuries. While examining primary and secondary documents on the Cocos, students will explore islands of their own choosing for their junior papers. They will further be encouraged to make use of any additional languages in their respective competencies, and to think as laterally as they can before being eaten by a very large crocodile on Dean’s Date.

Instructor: Michael Laffan
Wednesday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S05: Dismantling Slavery: Black Activism in Latin America

Racial protest has deep historical roots in the experiences of Africans and their descendants who resisted, reshaped, and eventually helped overthrow slavery in the Americas. Of the estimated eleven million people forcefully transported from Africa to the New World between 1500 and 1870, at least two thirds ended up settling in Latin America, where they engaged in a long and protracted process of liberation culminating in Brazilian abolition in 1888. This course explores the history of slave emancipation in places such as Cuba, Peru, Brazil, and Argentina all the while reflecting about its legacies in the present. Centering the Black experience over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, we will focus on how the enslaved navigated and contested a political landscape characterized by the rise of global capitalism, abolitionist discourses, and disputes over rights to citizenship. We start with the world created by the Haitian Revolution in the late eighteenth century, explore the multidirectional flows of Black activism all over the Atlantic, and conclude at the dawn of the twentieth century with a discussion of the meanings of freedom in post-emancipation societies. Although focusing on Latin America, the class looks at a broad range of Black experiences in comparative perspective, including the United States.

Instructor: Isadora Mota
Tuesday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S06: Surveillance

This junior seminar surveys the diverse approaches to studying state and corporate surveillance—with attention to the challenges of doing so—from the 1600s until the present. Topics include the creation of the early modern information state, imperial surveillance from India to the Philippines, surveillance in totalitarian regimes, growth of electronic surveillance in the cold war, the transfer of military technologies to internal security and border control, surveillance of civil rights and anti-war movements, recent controversies around electronic surveillance, and the development of large-scale state sanctioned hacking. Students will consider issues of secrecy, concealment, and outright destruction of evidence, all specific forms of challenges around how historians must contend with fragmentary and often deliberately deceptive evidence. Students will be encouraged to draw upon their language skills in developing their projects.

Instructor: Matthew L. Jones
Wednesday, 1:30 to 4:20pm

HIS 400 S07: George III: American Revolution and Global Histories

The American Revolution was in reality multiple conflicts. A struggle for independence against the British, it was also a civil war between different factions in America, a war between the European powers sweeping into four continents, a rebellion on the part of black slaves, struggles for identity and survival on the part of Native Americans, and a conflict that created new empires as well as destabilizing old ones. This seminar uses different angles and the rich resources of the Firestone Library to re-appraise a world-changing conflict.

Instructor: Linda Colley
Wednesday, 1:30 to 4:20pm