SPR 19: Early Modern History Courses

HIST 12203  Italian Renaissance: Dante, Machiavelli, and the Wars of Popes and Kings  (A. Palmer)  This course will consider Florence, Rome, and the Italian city-states in the age of plagues and cathedrals, Dante and Machiavelli, Medici and Borgia (1250–1600), with a focus on literature, philosophy, primary sources, the revival of antiquity, and the papacy's entanglement with pan-European politics. We will examine humanism, patronage, politics, corruption, assassination, feuds, art, music, magic, censorship, education, science, heresy, and the roots of the Reformation. Writing assignments focus on higher-level writing skills, with a creative writing component linked to our in-class live-action-role-played (LARP) reenactment of a Renaissance papal election.

HIST 13002  History of European Civilization 2  European Civilization is a two-quarter sequence designed to use close readings of primary sources to enrich our understanding of Europeans of the past. As we examine the variety of their experiences, we will often call into question what we mean in the first place by “Europe” and "civilization." Rather than providing a narrative of high politics, the sequence will emphasize the contested geographic, religious, social, and racial boundaries that have defined and redefined Europe and its people over the centuries. We will read and discuss sources covering the period from the early Middle Ages to the present, from a variety of genres: saga, biography, personal letters, property records, political treatises, memoirs, and government documents, to name only a few. Individual instructors may choose different sources and highlight different aspects of European civilization, but some of the most important readings will be the same in all sections. The two-quarter sequence may also be supplemented by a third quarter, in which students will have the opportunity to explore in greater depth a particular topic in the history of European civilization.

HIST 13003 (Section 4)  History of European Civilization 3—Crossing the Channel: England and France  (A. Locking, collegiate assistant professor) The two-quarter sequence may be supplemented by a third quarter, in which students will have the opportunity to explore in greater depth a particular topic in the history of European civilization. There are few countries that have such a long and complex relationship as England and France. Both connected and separated by the English Channel, England and France have directly aided, invaded, and invariably shaped each other for well over a millennium. In this course, we will examine some of the most crucial moments of political alliance and division and cultural diffusion and differentiation which have helped create the popular image of the love-hate relationship between the English and French peoples. We will focus on major historical moments ranging from medieval conflicts such as the Norman Conquest and the Hundred Years’ War to the modern religious and political upheavals of the Protestant Reformation and the French Revolution. We will discuss a variety of sources from French and English authors. Throughout the course we will explore how the constant rivalry and alliance between the English and French peoples helped shape the political and cultural developments of Europe as a whole.

HIST 15300  Introduction to East Asian Civilization 3  This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This is a three-quarter sequence on the civilizations of China, Japan, and Korea, with emphasis on major transformation in these cultures and societies from the Middle Ages to the present. Taking these courses in sequence is not required.

HIST 20111  History of Death  (K. Hickerson)  From the treatment of mortal remains to the built environment of cemeteries, tombs, and memorials, the dead have always played a role in the lives of the living. This course examines how beliefs and practices surrounding death have been a source of meaning making for individuals, institutions, religious communities, and modern nations. It will ask students to consider how examining death makes it possible to better understand the values and concerns of societies across time and space. This course will consider case studies from Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, North America, Europe, and Asia, from the Middle Ages to the Vietnam War. It introduces students to the methods and debates that animate the historical study of death—coming from histories of the body, social history, and the study of slavery—and ends by asking the question: "Is it possible to have a global history of death?"

HIST 25117  Natural History of Humans/Human History of Nature  (J. Niermeier-Dohoney, Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences)  This course asks students to think very broadly about human history as a type of natural history and the recent history of nature as a part of the human narrative. Students will be introduced to the concept of "deep time," its discovery by geologists and biologists in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the impact that these had on the subject of human history. Topics will include sixteenth- and seventeenth-century historiography and Biblical exegesis; the geological theories of Hutton, Cuvier, and Lyell; and the biological theories of Lamarck and Darwin. We will then examine ways in which certain modern sciences have affected the way historians have approached the study of humanity. Topics will include how the structure and function of the brain affected kinship development, language acquisition, and social bonding; interpretations of "human nature" from theological, philosophical, anthropological, and psychological perspectives; the problem of massive time scales and intergenerational governing, justice, and ethics; and the role of geography in shaping civilizational development. Finally, we will consider ways in which the rising human impact over natural earth systems may necessitate a radical change in the way the subject of human and civilizational history will be studied going forward. Topics include anthropogenic changes to the biosphere through hunting and agriculture in the ancient world and the globalization of communicable diseases and invasive plant and animal species after 1492; the impact of climate change on modern civilization; the potential that humans are responsible for a new geological epoch; and what "history" looks like without humans.

HIST 29525  The Global Life of Things  (O. Cussen, Von Holst Prize Lecturer)  We are often told that the market has taken over all aspects of our social lives. The effects of this process can be seen in the financialization of the economy, the deregulation of labor, and the exploitation of natural resources. Goods are produced on one side of the world and consumed in another. Even college students are seen as investments that accrue value. How did this happen? This course will examine the deep history of how so much of the world became commodities. Focussing primarily on the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, we will ask how work, time, land, money, and people were commodified. We will also consider how historians and anthropologists have told the history of global capitalism through particular commodities, including sugar, cotton, meat, grain and mushrooms. Readings will span western Europe, India, the Atlantic World, Chicago, and contemporary Japan. Periodically, we will reflect on how these histories bear on questions of labor, gender, and the environment in the present day.

HIST 29674  History Colloquium: American Indian History  (M. Kruer)  This colloquium will explore the history of the indigenous peoples of North America from the century before contact with Europeans to the present day. Topics will range from early encounters between American Indians and European colonists, the contested creation of a shared world in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Native struggle for independence in the early United States, the nineteenth-century subjugation of Indian tribes in the west, and the twentieth-century indigenous resurgence of "Red Power" movements and other groups advocating for self-determination. Readings are primarily scholarly monographs, which provide examples for discussion, and guidebooks on project design and writing techniques. Readings will also include theoretical pieces on the development of the field and methodological discussions of scholarly practice, with the aim of "decolonizing" the study of Native American societies and their histories. Students are expected to plan, research, and write an original paper using resources available through the University of Chicago libraries and the special collections of the Newberry Library, a national center for the study of Native American history.