30000- and 40000-Level Courses

NEHC 30201/HIST 35621  Islamicate Civilization I, 600–950  This course covers the rise and spread of Islam, the Islamic empire under the Umayyad and early Abbasid caliphs, and the emergence of regional Islamic states from Afghanistan and eastern Iran to North Africa and Spain. The main focus will be on political, economic, and social history.

NEHC 30601/HIST 35610  Islamic Thought and Literature I  This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. It explores the thought and literature of the Islamic world from the coming of Islam in the seventh century CE through the development and spread of its civilization in the medieval period and into the modern world. Including historical framework to establish chronology and geography, the course focuses on key aspects of Islamic intellectual history: scripture, law, theology, philosophy, literature, mysticism, political thought, historical writing, and archaeology. In addition to lectures and secondary background readings, students read and discuss samples of key primary texts, with a view to exploring Islamic civilization in the direct voices of the people who participated in creating it. All readings are in English translation. No prior background in the subject is required.

NEHC 30852/HIST 58302  The Ottoman World in the Age of Süleyman the Magnificent  (C. Fleischer)  This colloquium comprises a chronological overview of major themes in Ottoman history, 1300–1600. It focuses on the transformation of the Muslim Ottoman principality into an imperial entity—after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453—that laid claim to inheritance of Alexandrine, Roman/Byzantine, Mongol/Chinggisid, and Islamic models of Old World Empire at the dawn of the early modern era. Special attention is paid to the transformation of Ottoman imperialism in the reign of Sultan Süleyman the Lawgiver (1520–1566), who appeared to give the empire its "classical" form. Topics include the Mongol legacy; the reformulation of the relationship between political and religious institutions; mysticism and the creation of divine kingship; Muslim-Christian competition (with special reference to Spain and Italy) and the formation of early modernity; the articulation of bureaucratized hierarchy; and comparison of Muslim Ottoman, Iranian Safavid, and Christian European imperialisms. In addition to papers, students will be required to give an oral presentation on a designated primary or secondary source.

GEOG 31900/HIST 38800  Historical Geography of the United States  (M. Conzen)  This course examines the historical and geographical roots of American regional diversity and national spatial organization, from 1500 to 1920, and asks why American regions have developed and retained distinctive characteristics—and what consequences this has had for contemporary society. These issues are pursued through an examination of colonization processes, economic development, spatial differentiation, settlement patterns, and the changing role of cities. The emphasis is on the kind and quantity of European cultural transfer, physical changes wrought by colonization, the modification of natural environments, the conquest of distance, and the general approach of American society to the uses of space.

HIST 32203  The Holy Roman Empire, 800–1500  (J. Lyon)  During the first seven centuries of its existence the Holy Roman Empire emerged as one of the most politically and culturally heterogeneous states in all of Europe. A vast expanse of central Europe that is today divided among more than a dozen nations was ruled, at least in theory, by the emperors during the central and late Middle Ages. The purpose of this course is to trace some of the major developments in imperial history between 800 (Charlemagne's coronation as emperor) and the early sixteenth century. Topics will include the changing nature of imperial authority from the Carolingians to the Habsburgs, the Church's and the nobility's establishment of quasi-independent lordships inside imperial territory, papal-imperial relations, and the eastward expansion of the empire.

HIST 33418  The Holocaust: History and Meaning  (N. Lebovic, Joyce Z. Greenberg Visiting Professorship in Jewish Studies)  How unique was the Holocaust? What enabled it and what is its legacy? In this course we will consider key texts written about and during the Holocaust. We will consider the rise of racism, Fascism, colonialism, and Nazism. We will reflect about the place of the Holocaust in genocide studies and in recent political and philosophical debates. We will talk about paintings, movies, and music, but most importantly: We'll learn some history. Grad students will be asked to read key methodological texts that will enrich their historiographical and historiosophical understanding of the topic.

HIST 34119  Things Japanese  (J. Ketelaar)  An examination of interpretations of Japan, Japanese thought, religion, culture, art, society from the sixteenth through the twenty-first centuries with a particular focus on critical readings of Orientalism, Buddhist historiography, modernization theories, and indigeneity.

LACS 34600/HIST 36101  Introduction to Latin American Civilization I  Taking these courses in sequence is not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This sequence is offered every year. This course introduces the history and cultures of Latin America (e.g., Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean Islands). The first quarter examines the origins of civilizations in Latin America with a focus on the political, social, and cultural features of the major pre-Columbian civilizations of the Maya, Inca, and Aztec. The quarter concludes with an analysis of the Spanish and Portuguese conquest and the construction of colonial societies in Latin America.

HIST 34905  Darwin's On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man  (R. Richards)  This lecture-discussion class will focus on a close reading of Darwin's two classic texts. An initial class or two will explore the state of biology prior to Darwin's Beagle voyage, and then consider the development of his theories before 1859. Then we will turn to his two books. Among the topics of central concern will be the logical, epistemological, and rhetorical status of Darwin's several theories, especially his evolutionary ethics; the religious foundations of his ideas and the religious reaction to them; and the social-political consequences of his accomplishment. The year 2019 was the 210th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 160th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species.

HIST 35027  Infrastructure Histories  (E. Chatterjee)  Dams, sewers, container ships, water pipes, power lines, air conditioning, and garbage dumps: the critical infrastructures that enable modern life are so often invisible, except when they fail. This course explores the historical role of infrastructure as a set of planet-spanning systems of resource extraction and crucial conduits of social and political power. Looking at cases from apartheid South Africa and the Suez Canal to Mumbai and Chicago itself, we will consider the relationship of infrastructure with capitalism, settler colonialism, and postcolonial development. We will see how forms of citizenship and exclusion have been shaped and negotiated via wires, leaky pipes, and improvised repairs, and we will consider perhaps the biggest question of all: In this age of ecological crisis, do energy-guzzling infrastructural systems have a strange form of more-than-human agency all of their own?

HIST 37006  Not Just the Facts: Telling About the American South  (J. Dailey)  This course engages the various ways people have tried to make sense of the American South, past and present. Main themes of the course include the difference between historical scholarship and writing history in fictional form; the role of the author in each, and consideration of the interstitial space of autobiography; the question of authorial authenticity; and the tension between contemporary demands for truthfulness and the rejection of "facts" and "truth." We will read across several genres, including historical scholarship, biography, and fiction.

CHDV 37861/HIST 34921  Darwinism and Literature  (D. Maestripieri)  In this course we will explore the notion that literary fiction can contribute to the generation of new knowledge of the human mind, human behavior, and human societies. Some novelists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century provided fictional portrayals of human nature that were grounded in Darwinian theory. These novelists operated within the conceptual framework of the complementarity of science and literature advanced by Goethe and the other Romantics. At a time when novels became highly introspective and psychological, these writers used their literary craftsmanship to explore and illustrate universal aspects of human nature. In this course we read the work of several novelists (George Eliot, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Jack London, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Italo Svevo, and Elias Canetti), and discuss how these authors anticipated the discoveries made decades later by cognitive, social, and evolutionary psychology. Assignments: short papers, a presentation, and a major paper.

HIST 39422  Ancient Stones in Modern Hands  (S. Estrin & A. Goff)  Objects from classical antiquity that have survived into the modern era have enticed, inspired, and haunted those who encountered or possessed them. Collectors, in turn, have charged ancient objects with emotional, spiritual, and temporal power, enrolling them in all aspects of their lives, from questions of politics and religion to those of race and sexuality. This course explores intimate histories of private ownership of antiquities as they appear within literature, visual art, theater, aesthetics, and collecting practices. Focusing on the sensorial, material, and affective dimensions of collecting, we will survey histories of modern classicism that span from the eighteenth century to the present, from the Mediterranean to the Pacific. Historical sources will include the writings of Johann Gottfried Herder, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Emma Hamilton, Vernon Lee, and Sigmund Freud, among others; secondary source scholarship will draw from the fields of gender studies, the history of race, art history, and the history of emotions. We will supplement our readings with occasional museum visits and film screenings. Instructor consent required. Email both instructors describing your interest in the course, how it fits into your broader studies, and any relevant background (agoff@uchicago.edu & sestrin@uchicago.edu) by the Friday before Aut pre-registration (undergrad) or the Friday before Aut registration (grad). This is a traveling seminar that includes a 5-day trip to visit California museum collections.

SALC 40106/HIST 46606  Research Themes in South Asian Studies: Textual Transformations, from Manuscript to Print  (U. Stark)  This course offers an introduction to the theory and practice of the history of the book and print culture, a relatively recent and vibrant field of inquiry within South Asian studies. The course will explore some of the main theoretical approaches, themes, and methodologies of the history of the book in comparative perspective and discuss the specific conditions and challenges facing scholars of South Asian book history. Topics include orality and literacy, technologies of scribal and print production, the sociology of texts, authorship and authority, the print "revolution" and knowledge formation under British colonial rule, the legal existence of books, the economy of the book trade, popular print, readership, and consumption. We will also engage with the text as material artifact and look at the changing contexts, techniques, and practices of book production in the transition from manuscript to print.

TURK 40589/HIST 58301  Colloquium: Advanced Ottoman Historical Texts  (C. Fleischer)  Based on selected readings from major Ottoman chronicles from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, the course provides an introduction to the use of primary narrative materials and an overview of the development and range of Ottoman historical writing. Knowledge of modern and Ottoman Turkish required.

RAME 41440/HIST 38006  Fundamentalism  (W. Schultz)  Is fundamentalism a useful term to compare anti-modern movements across a range of religious traditions? Is it a hopelessly problematic term that lumps together vastly different phenomena? Is it an idea whose time has come again, or one whose time has come and gone? This course will use the troubled career of fundamentalism as a window onto the modern history of religion—and the people who study it. We will focus on the origins of fundamentalism as a description of the political mobilization of conservative Protestants in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century and then consider how the term has been applied to Islamic, Jewish, and Hindu movements as well as to secular phenomena like Marxism and nationalism. We will consider fundamentalism itself, the people who study it, and those who mobilize against it.

HIST 45300  Global Science  (E. Kern)  Is all science global, and if so, how did it get that way? Are some sciences more global than others? What has been at stake historically in describing scientific activity as variously local, transnational, international, or global, and how have these constructions influenced the  historiography of the field? In this graduate colloquium, we will explore different approaches to writing and examining scientific knowledge production as a global phenomenon, as well as considering different historiographic attempts at grappling with science's simultaneously local and global qualities, poly-vocal nature, and historical coproduction with global political and economic power.


HIST 51400  Colloquium: Global British Empire in a Comparative Perspective  (S. Pincus)  This colloquium will both introduce students to the literature on the British Empire in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries and the burgeoning, sophisticated, and interdisciplinary literature on comparative empires. We will discuss empires from the perspective of both the colonizers and colonized, discuss the virtues and limitations of the settler colonial paradigm, and consider empires beyond national history framings. Topics will range widely, including culture, society and political economy. This course is designed to be relevant both for students of Britain and its empire and those interested in thinking about empires more broadly. It will be a useful incubator for PhD research papers and for masters theses.

HIST 56703  Colloquium: Society and the Supernatural in Late Imperial and Modern China  (K. Pomeranz)  Introductory studies of Chinese history and culture often ignore religion, treating Confucius's alleged agnosticism as representative of mainstream culture. But ideas about supernatural entities—souls separated from bodies, ancestral spirits, demons, immortals, the vital energies of mountains and rivers, etc.—and practices aimed at managing those spirits were important elements in pre-1949 life. Spirits testified in court cases, cured or caused illnesses, mediated disputes, changed the weather, and made the realm governable or ungovernable. After declining (1950–’70s), at least in public, various kinds of worship are again immensely popular, though usually in altered forms. This course traces changes in the intersection of ideas about spirits and daily social practices, focusing on attempts to "standardize the gods," resistance to such efforts, and the consequences for cohesion, or lack of cohesion, across classes, genders, territory, ethnicity, and other differences. The ways in which religion has been intertwined with attempts to define communities and claim rights within (or over) them will be a central concern. Another central theme is what "religion" means as a category for understanding late imperial and modern Chinese history—an issue that will take on very different valences when we look at the 20th century, in which Western models of what religions should look like became increasingly influential among would-be secularizers and many religious activists as well.

HIST 57300  Colloquium: Environmental History  (E. Chatterjee)  This graduate colloquium provides an advanced introduction to the vibrant field of environmental history. We will trace the evolution of this rich historiography, from first-generation classics—often focused on the American West—through to the geographical and thematic diversification of recent years. The course will give a flavor of this diversity, touching too upon influential works in emerging subfields like animal history, climate history, enviro-tech, and evolutionary history. Throughout, we will study how historians have addressed new analytical and aesthetic challenges: negotiating the insights of the natural sciences, incorporating nonhuman agency, and writing history at the vast scales of deep time and the planetary. The course is ideal for PhD students preparing a general examination field and/or designing a research paper, but is open to MA students as well.

HIST 60500  Colloquium: Angels and Demons  (R. Fulton Brown)  From Enoch to Milton, angels and demons were central to the Christian understanding of creation, whether as the invisible intelligences of the celestial hierarchy or as the powers through which astrologers and magicians worked. This course will focus on reading primary sources from late antiquity through the seventeenth century for the study and importance of angels and demons, the roles which they played in Christian theology and devotion, the development of ideas of virtue and goodness, evil and sin, and the interactions they were believed to have had with human beings. Special attention will be given to both contemplation and magic, as well as the role of the Virgin Mary as Queen of Angels and terror of demons.

HIST 60905  Colloquium: Topics in Early Modern Europe  (A. Johns)  his colloquium introduces graduate students to important themes in early modern history, providing an opportunity to get to grips with both classic interpretations and new arguments in the field. The subjects addressed will vary from year to year, depending on the faculty member leading the class and the interests of the participants. They will generally include a comparative element, however. Students will be expected to gain experience in interpreting historical evidence while appraising historiographical debates. The course will require historiography essays and may serve as an incubator for research papers.

HIST 62610  Colloquium: Topics in US History  (J. Levy)  This reading-intensive course focuses on topics in US history.

HIST 64203  Colloquium: The History of Jewish Time  (N. Lebovic, Joyce Z. Greenberg Visiting Professorship in Jewish Studies)  The colloquium will discuss different conceptions of Jewish time. We will examine temporal concepts in the Bible, Talmud, and medieval and modern texts. We will consider the production of time in everyday life but, also, in Jewish art, philosophy, literature, and history.

HIST 64400  Colloquium: The Humanities, the Human, and the Nonhuman  (D. Chakrabarty & F. Hartog, EHESS)  In this course, we will read some basic classical and early modern humanist texts in European history and try to relate them to later intellectual developments, such as nineteenth-century humanism, as well as to more recent ideas about the posthuman and the nonhuman.

HIST 66701/HCHR 40401 The Contours of Twentieth Century Thought I: Between Dialectical Theology and Analogical Imagination  (W. Otten)  Well into the twenty-first century it seems a good time to look back with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and take stock of the major theological developments of the twentieth century. Aside from the enormous impact of major historical events, such the communist revolutions and two world wars, there was also Vatican II and the civil rights struggle in the United States. Throughout it all we see the profile of some extraordinary individual theologians (Barth, Lubac, Balthasar, Tracy, and others) embedded in a larger story marking the end of some major theological movements (neo-scholasticism) and the beginning of others (dialectical theology and nouvelle théologie). This first of what is intended as a two-sequence course on twentieth-century theology will focus on the work of a number of Catholic and Protestant theologians who struggle with the legacy of the Enlightenment and the need to reconceptualize theological thought in a fast secularizing and globalizing world. Some knowledge of German and/or French will be helpful.

HIST 67100  Colloquium: History of Cities and Megalopolises  (M. Tenorio)  This colloqium considers the cultural, political, and social history of a century modern cities (1870s–1970s) as a global phenomena.

HIST 67400  Colloquium: Settler Colonialism, History and Theory  (L. Auslander & M. Kruer)  This course investigates the phenomenon of settler colonialism, a specific form of empire in which immigrant settlers seek to replicate their home societies through the expropriation of indigenous land and elimination of its population. The recent surge of scholarly interest in settler colonialism has not only revolutionized the study of settler societies in multiple geographic fields, but also established a theoretical scaffold for transnational and global indigenous studies. Yet settler colonial theory has some powerful detractors, and a lively debate about its formulations and the consequences of its application. This course will explore this burgeoning field by engaging with the theoretical literature and case studies that deploy the theory in a variety of contexts across the world. Its core focus will be the British and French empires, but texts will include settler-indigenous contexts including East Asia, South Africa, Australia, Hawai‘i, and Palestine. Students are welcome to pursue research topics in any part of the Atlantic world.

Departmental Seminar

HIST 70001  The Departmental Seminar I  (G. Winant & T. Zahra)  The two-quarter History graduate seminar leads to the completion of the first-year research paper. The autumn quarter focuses on the craft of historical research and the art of critical discussion as students begin work on their individual projects. Students will consider what constitutes a good historical question, examine a wide range of research methods and analytical strategies, and explore how historians articulate the significance of their work. Brief weekly readings and guest sessions with faculty members will encourage students to think and learn beyond their geographical, chronological, and methodological specializations. Assignments will be geared toward laying the groundwork for a successful research paper and will also ask students to experiment with novel questions, sources, and methods. Upon completing the quarter, students should be prepared to begin writing.