SPR 19: Middle Ages History Courses

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, 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. 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 15300  Introduction to East Asian Civilization 3  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 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 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 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 29677  History Colloquium: Religion and History  (R. Fulton Brown)  The study of religion presents an enormous challenge to the historian. On the one hand, religious beliefs typically posit a reality beyond that accessible to the tools of analysis employed by most historians; on the other, such beliefs and their associated practices have given shape and purpose to human society and psyches throughout human history, making them one of the most important drivers of human thought and behavior. In this colloquium, we will wrestle with the question of how, as historians, it is possible to make sense of the role of religion in history. We will explore different methodologies for thinking about religion and test them with specific examples of belief and practice across various religious traditions. To ensure a variety of perspectives, students will be able to choose the tradition they want to focus on for their class presentations and final projects.