European & Russian History

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 13002  History of European Civilization II  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 13200  History of Western Civilization II  (K. Weintraub)  Available as a three-quarter sequence (Autumn-Winter-Spring) or as a two-quarter sequence (Autumn-Winter or Winter-Spring). This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. The purpose of this sequence is threefold: (1) to introduce students to the principles of historical thought, (2) to acquaint them with some of the more important epochs in the development of Western civilization since the sixth century BC, and (3) to assist them in discovering connections between the various epochs. The purpose of the course is not to present a general survey of Western history. Instruction consists of intensive investigation of a selection of original documents bearing on a number of separate topics, usually two or three a quarter, occasionally supplemented by the work of a modern historian. The treatment of the selected topics varies from section to section. This sequence is currently offered twice a year. The amount of material covered is the same whether the student enrolls in the Autumn-Winter-Spring sequence or the Summer sequence.

HIST 14000  Introduction to Russian Civilization II  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 16800  Ancient Mediterranean World II: Rome  Available as a three-quarter sequence (Autumn-Winter-Spring) or as a two-quarter sequence (Autumn-Winter or Winter-Spring). This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This sequence surveys the social, economic, and political history of Greece to the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC), the Roman Republic (509 to 27 BC), and late antiquity (27 BC to the fifth century AD). This quarter surveys the social, economic, and political history of Rome, from its prehistoric beginnings in the twelfth century BCE to the end of the Severan dynasty in 235 CE. Throughout, the focus is upon the dynamism and adaptability of Roman society, as it moved from a monarchy to a republic to an empire, and the implications of these political changes for structures of competition and cooperation within the community.

HIST 20803  Aristophanes's Athens (J. Hall)  The comedies of Aristophanes are as uproarious, biting, and ribald today as they were more than 2,400 years ago. But they also offer a unique window onto the societal norms, expectations, and concerns as well as the more mundane experiences of Athenians in the fifth century BCE. This course will examine closely all eleven of Aristophanes's extant plays (in translation) in order to address topics such as the performative, ritual, and political contexts of Attic comedy, the constituency of audiences, the relationship of comedy to satire, the use of dramatic stereotypes, freedom of speech, and the limits of dissent. Please note that this course is rated Mature for adult themes and language.

HIST 21403  The British Empire on Trial: Corruption, Scandal, Dissent  (Z. Leonard, Teaching Fellow)  Throughout the long nineteenth century, British empire building remained a contentious pursuit. It threatened to shatter Britons' moral compasses, destabilize social hierarchies, squander tax revenue, and inflict untold miseries upon foreign populations. To legitimize their expansionism, colonial policy makers claimed that they were introducing benighted regions to the benefits of a universal rule of law. This course will examine how this legalistic form of governing actually functioned by probing the trials of three classes of offenders: "insurgent" and nationalist agitators, reformist critics of colonial misrule, and despotic officials themselves. Focusing on cases in England, the Caribbean, India, and Egypt, readings will reveal the shortcomings of the British judicial apparatus and identify the loopholes that enabled a proudly "free" nation to subjugate and silence dissidents with near impunity. By participating in mock trials, students will gain familiarity with historical legal processes and the rhetorical tactics that actors employed both in the courtroom and in the public sphere.

HIST 23516  Problems in the Study of Gender and Sexuality: Medieval Masculinity  (J. Lyon)  This course will introduce students to concepts of masculinity in the Middle Ages, especially in the period between approximately 1000 and 1500 CE. Special attention will be paid to medieval notions of honor and to the roles that knighthood, chivalry, and monasticism played in promoting (often contradictory) masculine ideals. The course has two main goals. First, to assess and discuss recent scholarly debates and arguments about medieval masculinity. Second, to read closely a variety of medieval sources—including Arthurian literature, chronicles of the Crusades, biographical texts, and monastic histories—in order to develop new perspectives on masculinity during the Middle Ages.

HIST 23708  Soviet History through Literature  (E. Gilburd)  This course considers the main themes of Soviet history through canonical works of fiction, with an occasional addition of excerpts from autobiographies, memories, and police files.

HIST 24007  Chernobyl: Bodies and Nature After Disaster  (P. O'Donnell)  When reactor number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station exploded, it quickly made headlines around the world. Swedes found radiation in their air, Germans in their milk, Greeks in their grain, and Britons in their sheep. Ukrainians and Belarusians found it in their rain, wind, water sources, homes, and in their children's thyroids. Americans worried about finding it in their bodies, especially in pregnant or fetal bodies. A lot of roads led to the Chernobyl disaster: the Soviet state system, to be sure, but also the Cold War arms race, a faith in scientific progress shared in East and West, and a global disregard for the natural world and the human body. This course will follow those roads to the climax of the explosion and then examine the many paths out of Chernobyl: the disaster's aftereffects on geopolitics, environmentalism, feminism, and body politics. We will draw on a recent outpouring of scholarly and popular works on Chernobyl, including books, podcasts, and television series. We will also read texts on feminism, environmentalism, and other nuclear disasters, Cold War histories, and fiction to provide context and sites for further inquiry.

HIST 25014  Introduction to Environmental History  (F. Albritton Jonsson)  How have humans interacted with the environment over time? This course introduces students to the methods and topics of environmental history by way of classic and recent works in the field: Crosby, Cronon, Worster, Russell, and McNeill, etc. Major topics of investigation include preservationism, ecological imperialism, evolutionary history, forest conservation, organic and industrial agriculture, labor history, the commons and land reform, energy consumption, and climate change. Our scope covers the whole period from 1492 with case studies from European, American, and British imperial history.

HIST 25110  Philosophy of History: Narrative and Explanation  (R. Richards)  This lecture-discussion course will focus on the nature of historical explanation and the role of narrative in providing an understanding of historical events.  Among the authors discussed are Edward Gibbon, Immanuel Kant, R. G. Collingwood, Leopold von Ranke, Lord Acton, Fernand Braudel, Carl Gustav Hempel, Arthur Danto, and Hayden White.

HIST 25216  The History of Alchemy (J. Niermeier-Dohoney, Teaching Fellow)  This course will examine the history of alchemy in the Greco-Egyptian Mediterranean, the Arab Middle East, the Latin Middle Ages, and the early modern era. Topics will include alchemy's development as a chemical science for understanding physical change in nature, its major goals (e.g., gold making and the discovery of the Philosopher’s Stone), the application of its theories in medicine and pharmacology, religious admonitions and defenses of its practices, its relationship with other contemporary esoteric fields such as natural magic and secrecy, its potential effects on political economy, its intellectual place in the history of the scientific revolution, reasons for its “decline” in the early eighteenth century, and its revival in the spiritualism of Victorian Britain and twentieth-century Jungian psychology. Readings will include major primary source writings in translation by Zosimus, Abū Mūsā Jābir ibn Ḥayyān, George Ripley, Paracelsus, George Starkey, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton, as well as modern histories on the topic. This course may include the examination of manuscripts at Regenstein Special Collections and in-class chemical demonstrations of some simple alchemical experiments.

HIST 25709  Race and Ethnicity in the Modern Middle East  (K. Hickerson)  This seminar examines the ways that race and ethnicity are identified and discussed in Middle Eastern societies from the late-eighteenth century to the contemporary period. This class will analyze debates surrounding Middle Eastern racial and ethnic constructions in order to consider the extent to which these are the products of European colonialism—as some claim—or other legacies including Ottoman slave trade networks. This course addresses the ways these categories have shaped nationalist discourses, anticolonial struggles, US involvement in the Middle East, and contemporary questions of citizenship. Students will examine the role of diaspora encounters in Europe and the Americas in crafting these categories and ask whether new flows of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and the Philippines to the Middle East are reconfiguring old constructions or creating new ones. Sources will include literature, music, and film and methodologies are cultural, social, and political history. The class comprises case studies from Morocco, the Nile Valley, Turkey, Israel, and the Gulf States.

HIST 29422  Ancient Stones in Modern Hands  (A. Goff and S. Estrin)  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. Assignments: Active participation in class, one secondary text analysis, one analysis of a controversy, and one proposal for a monument, museum, or school curriculum. Special Prerequisite: 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). This is a traveling seminar that includes a 4-day trip to visit California museum collections.

HIST 29423  Just War Theory and Realism  (E. Tschinkel, Teaching Fellow)  This course will explore the just war versus realist debate during the twentieth century by investigating three key moments, represented by three key texts: Politics Among Nations by Hans Morgenthau, Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer, and "On the Moral Equality of Combatants" by Jeff McMahan. We will begin with the "Walzer Moment" andl discuss the radical (or not) nature of the text, its critical reception and Vietnam War context, as well as the important concepts of jus in bello, jus ad bellum, and other basic just-war concepts. We will then look backwards to Morgenthau and discuss, among other concepts, the circumstantial application of morality. Finally, we will fast forward to McMahan and discuss the debate on the separation, or lack thereof, between jus in bello and jus ad bellum. Throughout the course our readings will be supplemented by historical texts such as The Global Cold War by Odd Arne Westad and Vietnam at War by Mark Bradley.