Early Modern History

HIST 10101  Introduction to African Civilization I  (E. Osborn)  African Civilization introduces students to African history in a three-quarter sequence. Part One considers literary, oral, and archeological sources to investigate African societies and states from the early Iron Age through the emergence of the Atlantic World. We will study the empires of Ghana and Mali, the Swahili Coast, Great Zimbabwe, and medieval Ethiopia.  We will also explore the expansion of Islam, the origins and effects of European contact, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

HIST 13001  History of European Civilization I  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 13500  America in World Civilization I  The American Civ sequence is nothing like your high-school history class, for here we examine America as a contested idea and a contested place by reading and writing about a wide array of primary sources. In the process, students gain a new sense of historical awareness and of the making of America. The course is designed both for history majors and non-majors who want to deepen their understanding of the nation's history, encounter some enlightening and provocative voices from the past, and develop the qualitative methodology of historical thinking. America in World Civilization I examines foundational texts and moments in American culture, society, and politics, from early European incursions into the New World through the early republic of the United States, roughly 1500-1800. We will examine encounters between Native Americans and representatives of imperial powers (Spain, France, and England) as well as the rise of African slavery in North America before 1700. We will consider the development of Anglo-American society and government in the eighteenth century, focusing especially on the causes and consequences of the American Revolution.

HIST 13900  Introduction to Russian Civilization I  This two-quarter sequence, which meets the general education requirement in civilization studies, provides an interdisciplinary introduction to Russian civilization. The first quarter covers the ninth century to the 1870s; the second quarter continues on through the post-Soviet period. Working closely with a variety of primary sources—from oral legends to film and music, from political treatises to literary masterpieces—we will track the evolution of Russian civilization over the centuries and through radically different political regimes. Topics to be discussed include the influence of Byzantine, Mongol-Tataric, and Western culture in Russian civilization; forces of change and continuity in political, intellectual and cultural life; the relationship between center and periphery; systems of social and political legitimization; and symbols and practices of collective identity.

HIST 15100  Introduction to East Asian Civilization 1  (G. Alitto)  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 16602  Markets Before Capitalism  (A. Bresson)  Is the market system a new invention linked to the recent development of modern European societies? Is the market the hero or the villain of the story? Is everything marketable? Is the market the driver for economic development? We will address these and other questions in a deliberately comparative way, focusing on the cases of ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Greece and Rome, and medieval and early modern Europe. We will read excerpts from Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Weber, Polanyi, Braudel, Wallerstein, Geertz, Horden, and Purcell. We will examine the controversies in which these scholars were involved and the echoes they still have in our own contemporary debates. Assignments: Two papers, two quizzes.

HIST 18703  Early America, 1492–1815  (M. Kruer)  This course explores the development of American culture, society, and politics from the first contact between Native Americans and Europeans to the emergence of a stable American nation by the end of the War of 1812. It emphasizes the diverse experiences of the many kinds of Americans and the different meanings that they attached to the events in their lives. Topics include the meeting of Indigenous, African, and European peoples, the diversity of colonial projects, piracy and the Atlantic slave trade, the surprising emergence of a strong British identity, the coming of the American Revolution, the range of Americans' struggles for independence, and the role of the trans-Appalachian West in shaping the early republic. This lecture course is open to nonmajors and does not presume any previous history coursework. Assignments: Two papers.

HIST 25114  Natural History and Empire, circa 1400–1800  (J. Niermeier-Dohoney, Teaching Fellow)  How did European imperial expansion transform knowledge of natural history in the early modern period? This course will examine the systematic observational body of knowledge of the physical world of plants, animals, environments, and (sometimes) people in the context of European imperial expansion during the early modern era (1400–1800). Topics and themes will include early modern sources of natural history from antiquity and their (re)interpretation in imperial context; early modern collecting cultures and cabinets of curiosities; Linnaeus and the origins of taxonomy; botany, animal husbandry, and the concept of "improving" nature; the relationship between natural commodities and commerce; the ecological and environmental consequences of European encounters with the Americas; attempts by nations without overseas empires (or those that had lost them) to replicate the economics of empire through various managerial schemes; early modern notions of climate and its effects on health and "character"; the influence of natural history on the emerging concepts of race and gender; and the role of indigenous knowledge in the development of early modern science.