Global History

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 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 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 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 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 29528  Property and the Public Interest  (J. Levy)  In this colloquium, drawing from law, history, philosophy, and social science, we examine the conflicted relationship between property and the public interest.  Topics include the basis and evolution of private property rights, reasons for the state, and the relationship between property rights and the public interest. Assignments: Two short essays and a final paper.

HIST 29652  Migration and Citizenship  (M. Briones)  Looking through a broad interdisciplinary lens, this colloquium examines the history of migration and citizenship. The focus is largely on the United States, but, given its topic, the course will necessitate transnational and comparative histories. How did nineteenth- and early twentieth-century "sojourners" become "citizens"? What constituted the public's perception of some immigrants as inassimilable aliens and others as an ostensible "model minority"? We will interrogate not only what it means to have been and to be an immigrant in America but also what it means to be a citizen in a multiracial democracy. As a history colloquium, the course's main purpose is to help students learn to write a long research paper based on primary sources. The class is not a survey course. We will be taking on specific episodes and themes in immigration history. Assignments: An original research paper (-20 pages) using primary and secondary sources.

HIST 29679  Writing Family History—Migration Stories  (T. Zahra)  Almost every family has a migration story, whether it involves a move across international borders or within a single nation (south to north, east to west). Sometimes these movements entailed deportation or flight from war or persecution, other times a search for better opportunities or to join (or escape) family members. These stories often become a part of family lore and identity, even if we don't know much about how or why they took place, or even if they are true. This course will combine genealogical and historical research. Students will research the history of a family member's migration, using primary sources and genealogical tools, and will contextualize that individual story in the broader history of migration (and migration in our own times).