SPR 19: Global History Courses
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 24810 China and Global Capitalism since 1911 (J. Werner, Collegiate Assistant Professor) This course examines China's violent encounter with capitalism over the last century. How are we to explain the "failure" of China to follow the classical free-market path of development? Why did Marxism become such a powerful ideology in a country that was so incompletely capitalist, and what is the relation of the Mao era's "socialism" to capitalism? Is contemporary China a case of free-market excess or of state domination? How does today's US–China trade war rise from this history? In order to answer these questions, this course will develop capitalism as a category that goes beyond a narrow focus on economic issues. We will apply and evaluate several competing frameworks that allow us to conceptualize capitalism as simultaneously a global structure and an everyday practice of social life. Drawing upon these different approaches, we will interpret not just the movement of commodities and the dynamics of class division in China, but changing concepts and practices of gender and nation as well. Through these discussions we aim to understand how capitalism has shaped China while using China's experience to enrich our understanding of capitalism.
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 29524 Approaches to World History (D. Knorr, Von Holst Prize Lecturer) What is world history? This seemingly simple question is a source of great debate, such as the heated responses to the College Board's recent decision to cut material prior to 1450 from AP World History. How we answer it says a great deal about how we view the world and history generally. This course introduces answers to this question by previous scholars and challenges students to assess how these answers relate to their own education and intellectual interests at the University of Chicago. We will touch on major approaches and trends in the growing field of world history, including civilizational studies, the "great divergence" or "rise of the West," world-systems theory, environmental history, "big history," and the study of specific people, places, and objects in the context of world history. Students will leave with a solid grounding in one of the most vibrant and contentious fields of history today and a better understanding of the diversity of ways to situate historical narratives and current events into a global perspective.
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 29533 Economic History III: The Global Economy from Great Depression to Great Recession (J. Levy) This is the third part in the economic history sequence. Topics include the second Industrial Revolution and the new imperialism, the Great Depression and World War II, the American postwar world economic order, communism, and third-world development; globalization, growth, inequality, and climate change; the great recession.