SPR 19: European & Russian 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 2)  History of European Civilization 3—The Crusades: History and Imagination (A. Locking) 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. This course will explore the development of the medieval crusading movement and the impact it had on broader European cultures, both for contemporary medieval people and in modern imagination. The first part of the course will focus on the crusading movement as an historical event, from the First Crusade’s capture of Jerusalem to the Fourth Crusade’s sack of the Christian city of Constantinople. For this first part, we will discuss some of the most popular of the medieval crusade chronicles. Who were the crusaders? What motivated them? How did encounters with non-Latin Christians, Muslims, and others shape the evolution of crusading ideology? The second part, we will move beyond the historical reality of the crusades to examine how crusading ideology influenced broader medieval society and culture, and how the crusades became a prominent part of European historical imagination even to the modern day. What place do the crusades hold in our communal memory? Why do the crusades continue to inspire movies, political speeches, and even memes?

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 13300  History of Western Civilization 3  (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 13803  The Soviet Union  (E. Gilburd)  This lecture course surveys the making and unmaking of the Soviet Union as a society, culture, economy, superpower, and empire from 1917 to 1991. The Soviet Union began as an unprecedented radical experiment in remaking society and economy, ethnic and gender relations, personal identities, even human nature. In the course of its history, it came to resemble other (capitalist) societies, sharing, in turn, their violence, welfare provisions, and consumerism. The story of this transformation—from being unique and exhilarating to being much like everyone else, only poorer and more drab—will be at the center of our exploration. The main themes of the course include social and cultural revolutions; ideology and the role of Marxism; political violence from the birth of the socialist state to the end of the Stalin terror; Stalinism, its origins, practices, aesthetics, legacies, and critiques; law, dissent, and human rights; nationality policies and the role of ethnic minorities; the economy of shortages and the material culture it created; institutions of daily life (communal apartments, courtyards, peasant markets, dachas, and boiler rooms); socialist realism and the Soviet dreamworld.

HIST 16900  Ancient Mediterranean World-3: Late Antique (R. Payne)  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 final course of the sequence examines late antiquity, a period of paradox. The later Roman emperors established the most intensive, pervasive state structures of the ancient Mediterranean, yet yielded their northern and western territories to Goths, Huns, and Vandals—and ultimately their Middle Eastern core to the Arab Muslims. Imperial Christianity united the populations of the Roman Mediterranean in the service of the same god, but simultaneously divided them into competing sectarian factions. A novel culture of Christian asceticism coexisted with the consolidation of an aristocratic ruling class notable for its insatiable appetite for gold. The course will address these apparent contradictions while charting the profound transformations of the cultures, societies, economies, and political orders of the Mediterranean from the conversion of Constantine to the rise of Islam.

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 20805  Cities and Urban Space in the Ancient World  (M. Andrews)  Cities have been features in human landscapes for nearly six thousand years. This course will explore how cities became such a dominant feature of settlement patterns in the ancient Mediterranean and Near East, ca. 4,000 BCE–350 CE. Was there an "Urban Revolution," and how did it start? What various physical forms did cities assume, and why did cities physically differ (or not) from each other? What functions did cities have in different cultures of the past, and what cultural value did "urban" life have? How do past perspectives on cities compare with contemporary ones? Working thematically and using theoretical and comparative approaches, this course will address various aspects of ancient urban space and its occupation, with each topic backed up by in-depth analysis of concrete case studies.

HIST 20902  Empires and Peoples: Ethnicity in Late Antiquity  (R. Payne)  Late antiquity witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of peoples in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Vandals, Arabs, Goths, Huns, Franks, and Iranians, among numerous others, took shape as political communities within the Roman and Iranian empires or along their peripheries. Recent scholarship has undone the traditional image of these groups as previously undocumented communities of "barbarians" entering history. Ethnic communities emerge from the literature as political constructions dependent on the very malleability of identities, on specific acts of textual and artistic production, on particular religious traditions, and, not least, on the imperial or postimperial regimes sustaining their claims to sovereignty. The colloquium will debate the origin, nature, and roles of ethno-political identities and communities comparatively across West Asia, from the Western Mediterranean to the Eurasian steppes, on the basis of recent contributions. As a historiographical colloquium, the course will address the contemporary cultural and political concerns—especially nationalism—that have often shaped historical accounts of ethnogenesis in the period as well as bio-historical approaches—such as genetic history—that sometimes sit uneasily with the recent advances of historians.

HIST 22102  Medieval Travelers  (R. Fulton Brown)  Why did Europeans respond as they did to the opportunities opened to them with Columbus's discovery of a "new world" in the late fifteenth century? What precedents and preconceptions did they have for their encounter with this "new world"? This course seeks to answer these questions by looking to the accounts of those who traveled both within and beyond Europe, in fact and in imagination, during the centuries preceding Columbus's voyage. Its argument will be that to understand what Columbus and his contemporaries found when they arrived in the "new world," we must first understand what they thought they were looking for—and that what they were looking for is not necessarily what we might expect. The course gives students the opportunity to write a significant research paper, written in the character of a medieval traveler, whether a merchant, pilgrim, crusader, missionary, geographer, or conquistador.

HIST 22610  Paris and the French Revolution  (Colin Jones, Professor of History, Queen Mary University of London)  The French Revolution is one of the defining moments of modern world history. This course will explore the mix of social, political, and cultural factors which caused its outbreak in 1789 and go on to consider the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy in 1792, the drift towards state-driven Terror in 1793–94, and the ensuing failure to achieve political stability down to the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799. We will view these epochal changes through the prism of France's capital city. Paris shaped the revolution in many ways, but the revolution also reshaped Paris. The urbane city of European enlightenment acquired new identities as democratic hub from 1789 and as site of popular democracy after 1793–94. In addition, the revolution generated new ways of thinking about urban living and remodelling the city for the modern age. A wide range of primary sources will be used, including visual sources (notably paintings, political cartoons and caricatures, and maps).

HIST 23612  Modern German History, 1740–Present  (A. Goff)  This course introduces students to topics in German history from the late eighteenth century to the present. Our focus will be on the complex dynamics that transformed the German lands from a federation of small central European states into a major broker of power in contemporary Europe. Lecture topics will include the German Enlightenment, the Napoleonic wars, the social and political revolutions of the nineteenth century, unification, German colonialism, the World Wars, the Weimar Republic, National Socialism, the Holocaust, divided Germany, and reunification. Throughout, we will consider the relationship of Germany to the world by examining the place of the German lands between western and eastern Europe, and by taking up German participation in international trade, imperial networks, and global migration. As we approach these subjects from a variety of registers of experience, course materials will emphasize primary sources, including historical documents, music, works of art, literature, and artifacts. No background in German or European history is required.

HIST 29416  Modern European Intellectual History  (E. Tschinkel, Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences)  In this lecture course, we will examine the ways in which European thought in the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries was a period of radical critique of some of the most basic tenets that had prevailed in previous centuries. We will trace some of these modern critiques through the decades, such as ontological critiques of Enlightenment rationalism, the use of genealogy as a form of critique, critiques of modern life, critiques of colonialism, and critiques of these critiques. This course will represent an overview of the high intellectual history of modern European thought. Context, both historical and intellectual, will be provided in the lectures, and weekly texts will be discussed in discussion sections. Authors will include, for example, Heidegger, Sartre, Foucault, Benjamin, Beauvoir, Arendt, and Derrida.

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.