History in the World
History in the World courses use history as a valuable tool to help students critically exam our society, culture, and politics. Preference given to first- and second-year students.
HIST 18101 Democracy in America? (J. Sparrow) This course will explore the unlikely career of democracy in US history. Throughout its past, the United States has been defined by endless and unpredictable struggles to establish and extend self-government of one kind or another—even as those struggles have encountered great resistance and relied on the exclusion or subordination of some portion of society to underwrite expanding freedom and equality for those enjoying the fullest benefits of citizenship. American democracy has also relied on a conceptual separation between state and society that has necessarily broken down in practice, as political institutions produced and sustained economic forms like slavery or the corporation, social arrangments like the family, and cultural values such as freedom—even as private interests worked their reciprocal influence over public institutions. Over the course of the quarter we will explore this contested history of democracy in America through a close reading of classic texts (including Tocqueville’s famous study), contextualized by the most current historical scholarship. Small, incremental writing assignments and individual presentations will culminate in a final essay that can emphasize philosophical/theoretical or historical/empirical questions according to students’ interests. Students will also have the option of conducting their own original research to satisfy some portion of the coursework, which may lead to subsequent internship opportunities with relevant faculty.
HIST 18702 Race, Politics, and Sports in the United States (M. Briones) Kneeling or standing for the national anthem? Breaking the glass ceiling, coming out of the closet, or crossing the color line in sports? This course will take up the question of why sports are so central to American identity and what historic role sports and athletes have played in American political life. Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, Jackie Robinson, and Bill Russell are only a few of the athletes who fought for freedom, inclusion, and equality in sports and American life. Through close critical readings of popular and scholarly writing, memoirs, and visual culture (film and television), we will examine the seminal overlapping events in sports history and American history to understand the collision and convergence of our politics and sports culture.
History Gateways are introductory courses meant to appeal to first- through third-year students who may not have done previous course work on the topic of the course; topics cover the globe and span the ages.
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 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 14204 History of the Present (K. Belew) This gateway course takes a reverse approach to the study of history, defining issues relevant to the current moment—some determined by the students—and exploring the long stories required to understand the present. We might examine the election of 2016, social movements, climate change, debt, gun ownership, statelessness, and other issues. Each topic will occupy one week of the class. Students will learn historical thinking skills, critical reading, and argumentation, and will complete a final assignment geared towards providing historical context for an ongoing debate in the public sphere. This lecture course is an elective open to non-majors and to first- and second-year students, although upper-year students and History majors and minors are welcome. No previous history course work is required.
History majors take at least one history colloquium, though you are welcome to take more than one. If you are pursuing the Research Track take a colloquium prior to Spring Quarter of your third year. If you are in the Regular Track can take a colloquium at any point prior to graduation.
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.
HIST 29675 History Colloquium: Urban History (A. Lippert) According to Hank V. Savitch and Paul Kantor, "cities are the crucibles through which radical experiments become convention. They are concentrated environments in which people adapt and their resilience is tested. They are the world's incubators of innovation—made possible by critical mass, diversity, and rich interaction." This undergraduate research colloquium will explore American cities and their influence on United States history, with an emphasis on the nineteenth century. We will discuss a range of secondary historical monographs and will examine primary sources, including print culture, material objects, images, architecture, and the built environment. Requirements include careful reading, active and thoughtful participation, and a fifteen-page work of original research that will be presented in class.
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.
NEHC 10101/HIST 15801 Introduction to the Middle East (K. Peruccio) Prior knowledge of the Middle East not required. This course aims to facilitate a general understanding of some key factors that have shaped life in this region, with primary emphasis on modern conditions and their background, and to provide exposure to some of the region's rich cultural diversity. This course can serve as a basis for the further study of the history, politics, and civilizations of the Middle East.
HIST 10103 Introduction to African Civilization 3 (K. Hickerson) African Civilization introduces students to African history in a three quarter sequence. Part Three examines the dramatic transformations of African societies in the long nineteenth century. At the beginning of this era, European economic and political presence was mainly along the coast, but by the end of this era nearly the entire continent was under formal colonial control. This course examines how and why this transformation occurred, highlighting the struggles that African societies faced managing internal reforms and external political, military, and economic pressures. Topics include the Egyptian conquest of Sudan, Omani colonialism on the Swahili coast, and Islamic reform movements across the Sahara, as well as connections between the end of the transatlantic slave trade and the formal colonization of the African continent. Students will examine memoirs of African soldiers, religious texts, and colonial handbooks, alongside ethnographic artifacts, photographs, and textiles. This course will equip students with a working knowledge of the struggles that created many of the boundaries, both political and social, of modern Africa.
MUSI 12200/HIST 12800 Music in Western Civilization 2: 1750–Present (R. Kendrick) This two-quarter sequence explores musical works of broad cultural significance in Western civilization. We study pieces not only from the standpoint of musical style but also through the lenses of politics, intellectual history, economics, gender, cultural studies, and so on. Readings are taken both from our music textbook and from the writings of a number of figures such as St. Benedict of Nursia and Martin Luther. In addition to lectures, students discuss important issues in the readings and participate in music listening exercises in smaller sections.
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 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 13700 America in World Civilization 3 The American Civ sequence is nothing like your high-school history class, for here we examine America as a contested idea and a contested place by reading and writing about a wide array of primary sources. In the process, students gain a new sense of historical awareness and of the making of America. The course is designed both for history majors and non-majors who want to deepen their understanding of the nation's history, encounter some enlightening and provocative voices from the past, and develop the qualitative methodology of historical thinking. What conditions have shaped inclusion and exclusion from the category "American" in the twentieth century? Who has claimed rights, citizenship, and protection, and under what conditions? The third quarter America in World Civilization focuses on multiple definitions of Americanism in a period characterized by empire, transnational formations, and America's role in the world. We explore the construction of social order in a multicultural society; culture in the shadow of war; the politics of race, ethnicity, and gender; the rise and fall of new social movements on the left and the right; the emergence of the carceral state and militarization of civil space; and the role of climate change and the apocalyptic in shaping imagined futures.
CLCV 15000/HIST 17000 Myth and Its Critics (C. Ando) The class will survey mythological traditions of the ancient Mediterranean: Hebrew, Greek and Roman. We will explore the power of myth to convey and contest religious, political and social truths, and will engage the most famous ancient critics of myth, notably Plato and Saint Augustine.
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.
LACS 16300/HIST 16103 Introduction to Latin American Civilization 3 (D. Borges) Taking these courses in sequence is not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This sequence is offered every year. This course introduces the history and cultures of Latin America (e.g., Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean Islands). The third quarter focuses on the twentieth century, with special emphasis on economic development and its political, social, and cultural consequences.
HIST 16900 Ancient Mediterranean World-3: Late Antique 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.
HIPS 17502/HIST 17502 Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization III (A. Johns) Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This three-quarter sequence focuses on the origins and development of science in the West. The course is organized around a series of broad questions about science. These questions are addressed by means of examples drawn from both the past and the present. The historical cases arise in chronological sequence, ranging from the development of experimental methods in the late seventeenth century to the advent of biotechnology in the modern era. They furnish a selective set of materials for a history of scientific practice. Their other purpose here, however, is to highlight the depth and importance of many problems still confronting the world of science today—problems that are cultural as well as scientific and that demand of us an understanding of what science is and how it works.
HIPS 17503/HIST 17503 Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization III: The History of Medicine Part II, 1900–Present (M. Rossi) Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. This three-quarter sequence focuses on the origins and development of science in the West. The twentieth century is sometimes called the golden age of medicine: a period in which medicine broke free of tradition and combined with science to provide powerful new ways of understanding disease and spectacular new technologies for fighting sickness. Along with amelioration of suffering, however, came new diseases, new medical systems, and new ways of thinking about the relationship between medical bodies, political bodies, and the nature and scope of human misery. This course examines some of the many transformations of, predominantly Euro-American, medicine in the twentieth century, looking not only at advances in medical knowledge and technologies, but also at the social, political, moral, and affective ramifications of new ways of thinking about the promise and perils of (bio)medical practice.
NEHC 20013/HIST 15604 Ancient Empires-3 (N. Moeller) For most of the duration of the New Kingdom (1550–1069 BC), the ancient Egyptians were able to establish a vast empire and becoming one of the key powers within the Near East. This course will investigate in detail the development of Egyptian foreign policies and military expansion which affected parts of the Near East and Nubia. We will examine and discuss topics such as ideology, imperial identity, political struggle and motivation for conquest and control of wider regions surrounding the Egyptian state as well as the relationship with other powers and their perspective on Egyptian rulers as for example described in the Amarna letters.
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?"
SALC 20200 Introduction to the Civilizations of South Asia 2 (D. Chakrabarty) This sequence introduces core themes in the formation of culture and society in South Asia from the early modern period until the present. This sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies. These courses must be taken in sequence. The second quarter analyzes the colonial period (i.e., reform movements, the rise of nationalism, communalism, caste, and other identity movements) up to the independence and partition of India.
NEHC 20603/HIST 25616 Islamic Thought and Literature-3 (A. El Shamsy) This course covers the period from circa 1700 to the present, exploring works of Arab intellectuals who interpreted various aspects of Islamic philosophy, political theory, and law in the modern age. We look at diverse interpretations concerning the role of religion in a modern society, at secularized and historicized approaches to religion, and at the critique of both religious establishments and nation-states as articulated by Arab intellectuals. Generally, we discuss secondary literature first and the primary sources later.
NEHC 20645/HIST 24401 History of the Fatimid Caliphate (P. Walker) This course will cover the history of the Fatimid (Shiite) caliphate, from its foundation in the North Africa about 909 until its end in Egypt 1171. Most of the material will be presented in classroom lectures. Sections of the course deal with Fatimid history treated chronologically and others with separate institutions and problems as they changed and developed throughout the whole time period. Readings heavily favored or highly recommended are all in English.
NEHC 20464/HIST 20310 Climate, Culture, and Society in the Ancient Near East (H. Reculeau) This course is part of the new curricular initiative, Course Cluster on Climate Change, Culture, and Society. Using primarily case studies from the ancient Near East (from prehistory to the first millennium BCE), the course will investigate the nature of the relationship between human societies and their environment, with a specific focus on situations of climatic change. Students will reflect on discourses on human-environment interactions from Herodotus to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, on notions such as environmental or social determinism, possibilism and reductionism, societal collapse, and resilience, and on recent academic trends at the crossroads of the humanities, social sciences, and environmental studies. This will allow them to develop critical skills that nurture their reflections on current debates on anthropogenic climate change and the Anthropocene.
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.
HMRT 21002/HIST 29319 Human Rights: Philosophical Foundations (B. Laurence) Human rights are claims of justice that hold merely in virtue of our shared humanity. In this course we will explore philosophical theories of this elementary and crucial form of justice. Among topics to be considered are the role that dignity and humanity play in grounding such rights, their relation to political and economic institutions, and the distinction between duties of justice and claims of charity or humanitarian aid. Finally we will consider the application of such theories to concrete, problematic and pressing problems, such as global poverty, torture and genocide.
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.
CRES 24003/HIST 18303 Colonizations 3 This three-quarter sequence approaches the concept of civilization from an emphasis on cross-cultural and societal connection and exchange. We explore the dynamics of conquest, slavery, colonialism, and their reciprocal relationships with concepts such as resistance, freedom, and independence, with an eye toward understanding their interlocking role in the making of the modern world. The third quarter considers the processes and consequences of decolonization both in the newly independent nations and the former colonial powers.
CMST 24112/HIST 26808 Screening India: Bollywood and Beyond (R. Majumdar) Cinema is, unarguably, the medium most apposite for thinking through the complexities of democratic politics, especially so in a place like India. While Indian cinema has recently gained international currency through the song and dance ensembles of Bollywood, there remains much more to be said about that body of films. Moreover, Bollywood is a small (though very important) part of Indian cinema. Through a close analysis of a wide range of films in Hindi, Bengali, Kannada, and Urdu, this course will ask if Indian cinema can be thought of as a form of knowledge of the twentieth century.
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 25116 Utopia, Dystopia, and the Apocalypse in Western Culture (J. Niermeier-Dohoney, Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences) How should we think about the future? Western culture has approached the future with eagerness and anxiety, cautious optimism and a sense of doom. Some have believed that the golden age is long past while others have posited that the best of times are just around the corner. This course will examine how Western society has asked and answered questions about potential futures throughout its history. We will look especially at ways in which these questions have been explored through utopian, dystopian, and apocalyptic scenarios within religious, scientific, and political cultures. These narratives have denoted moral righteousness, critiqued the hubris of science and industrialization, and advocated or denounced systems of governance and social organization. They also reveal historical assumptions about human nature, progress, and the relationship between rationality and irrationality. Topics will include Biblical apocalypticism and its influence in the medieval and modern worlds; medieval and early modern millenarianism or the active pursuit of the apocalypse; early modern utopianism and its influence on later utopian writing; modern economic prognostication; modern utopian and dystopian science fiction in literature, film, and television; nineteenth- and twentieth-century socialist and nationalist utopianism and totalitarianism; global catastrophic risks such as asteroid impacts, pandemics, climate change, ecological degradation, and nuclear war; and the increasing importance of science in "futurology" or "future studies," a burgeoning field in the postwar era.
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 26516 The United States and Latin America, a History from 1840s to Trump (M. Tenorio) Over the second half of the twentieth century, it became a cliché that the United States was an empire and that the so-called Latin America was its backyard, the region where the empire paraded, with largesse, its mighty will. And yet, on one hand, over the last 150 years both the United States and "Latin America" have had variegated forms of interactions, which cannot be easily characterized as one single historical constant; on the other, in today's world the question seems unavoidable: is "Latin America" still an homogenous unique region with which the United States interacts collectively in the same ways whether in political, economic, or military terms? Making use of historical analysis in tandem with constant discussions of current events in the United States and "Latin America," the course seeks to invite students to add a disciplined historical imagination to the historian/political scientist/analyst toolbox. The course will consist of lectures, student presentations, and class discussions. Each student will be required to introduce readings in class at least once, depending on the number of students. In addition, there will be two take-home essays over the semester. The essay questions will be distributed a week in advance of the due dates.
CRES 27526/HIST 29104 Race and Gender in the Making of the Modern Atlantic World(s), c. 1700–1990s (D. Lyons) This colloquium proposes that the development of race, racial ideologies, and gender in the Atlantic is central to understanding the formation of the modern world. We will mobilize race and gender as analytic categories that shaped encounters with and relations between colonized and colonizer. By adopting this approach, we will explore how race and gender shaped various historical experiences: such the circulation of peoples and goods in transatlantic contexts; the formation and establishment of slavery, the slave trade, and the plantation complex; anti-slavery, abolitionism, and emancipation; immigration and post-slavery labor; citizenship and nationhood; reproduction; postcolonial LGBTQ rights and twentieth-century racial politics. We will also problematize race and gender as flexible categories that historical actors formulated and implemented to establish, maintain, and contest hierarchies of political, economic, and social power. We will use a combination of primary texts, novels, and secondary sources to explore the comparative and intersecting historical experiences of African, Amerindian, Chinese, Creole, European, and Indian experiences in the Atlantic world from early encounters and exploration to twentieth-century decolonization and postcolonialism—thereby challenging traditional racial binaries that have previously informed our understanding of transatlantic empires.
HIST 28104 Imagined Frontiers: From the West to Mars (R. Suits, Von Holst Prize Lecturer) This class will explore the idea of the frontier across US history—how contemporaries imagined it, how it really was, and how we remember it today. We will read of utopian projects, cosmopolitan trading hubs, the Indian Wars, greedy capitalists and desperados, the myth of the mountain men, nuclear waste disposal, and Mars. Through topics like these, we will untangle how the violence, profit seeking, and romance of the frontier has shaped how we define ourselves, from politics to space travel to economics to art and song.
HIST 28205 Revolutions and Reactions: The United States in the Nineteenth Century (A. Rowe, Teaching Fellow in the Social Sciences) We will examine the history of the United States from the Revolution to the twentieth century, a period that saw virtually every aspect of American life transformed. Thirteen embattled states along the Atlantic coast became a continental empire by 1850 and a world empire by 1898. Railroads and telegraph lines tied the country together, changing the pace of overland travel and communication for the first time in millennia, since people had learned to write and ride horses. The expanding frontier drew Americans into the West and, even more, expanding commerce drew Americans into cities. An artisan system of production, in which workers produced their own wares with their own tools, gave way to industrial production, in which capital and labor were divided into two more or less antagonistic social classes. Rural America was not immune to these sweeping changes. Farmers on the western prairie, who worked in a barter economy in 1820, found themselves involved in global commodities markets by 1870 with their crop traded as futures contracts in Chicago, Brussels, and London. Finally, the idea of equality announced in the Declaration of Independence seized the imagination and inspired the implacable demands from indentured servants, middle-class women, and slaves. If all this seems overwhelming for a single course, imagine living through most of it in a single lifetime.
HIST 29000 Latin American Religions, Old and New (D. Borges) This course will consider select pre-twentieth-century issues, such as the transformations of Christianity in colonial society and the Catholic Church as a state institution. It will emphasize twentieth-century developments: religious rebellions, conversion to evangelical Protestant churches, Afro-diasporan religions, reformist and revolutionary Catholicism, new and New Age religions.
LLSO 29080 Modernity and Its Discontents from Dawn to Decline (D. Lyons) The project of modernity is under considerable strain: the stability and perhaps even the desirability of secularism, mass democracy, individualism, cosmopolitanism, and technological and bureaucratic rationalism have all been increasingly challenged by worldwide political events as well as by postmodern, radical, conservative, and religious intellectuals. In this course we will read some classical statements of modernity as a means of best understanding modernity and its features. We will then move on to a consideration of more contemporary critiques of modernity with an eye toward both identifying the limits of the modernity and possible avenues for the retrieval and reconstitution at least some its features.
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 29419 Writing Women: Feminist History and Feminist Historiography (P. O'Donnell) This course is an introduction to both the lived experience of feminist history and feminist historiography—the ways in which that lived experience has been written and remembered. Although this course specifically focuses on US feminism in the late twentieth century, it aims to place this history in a broader, transnational context, while paying close attention to the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality. We will think critically about how the waves of feminism swelled and crested across the twentieth century's latter decades and about how narratives about those waves were, and are, constructed. We will examine a wide range of material, including archival documents, historical analyses, theoretical texts, memoirs, and films. Students in this course will develop the critical tools to engage with a variety of historical documents, while sharpening their understanding of the contexts out of which these texts emerged. Students will also be challenged to (re)examine their approach to their own historical writing: why and how they choose to tell the stories they do.
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.
JWSC 29560/HIST 23416 Reckoning With the Holocaust (B. Blaber) In the years since the end of WWII, many thinkers have striven to make sense of the horrors of the Holocaust, interrogating not only its causes but also its enduring effects. We will grapple with questions and concerns that have emerged through these reflections and have helped shape what might be broadly termed post-Holocaust thought. How might the Holocaust trouble notions of history, testimony, and representation? What kinds of ethical, theological, and philosophical traditions might or ought the Holocaust call into question, and what new concerns arise as a result of the Holocaust? In the wake of the Holocaust what must be rethought? We will examine testimonial and documentary works that attempt to bear witness to the Holocaust, as well as works that argue for the necessity of such endeavors. We will read philosophical and theological arguments about how to understand the horrors of the Holocaust and poetry, literature, and art that ask us to consider the practical and ethical challenges in representing the Holocaust. We will consider the historical contexts in which these works were produced, tracking some of the shifts and developments in scholarship about the Holocaust over the last seventy years and asking what is at stake in studying the Holocaust today. Throughout the term, we will pay particular attention to works by Jewish authors, many of whom offer us complex ruminations on their own relationships to the Holocaust.
HIPS 29632/HIST 25016 The Poet's Scientist: A Pre-disciplinary Course in Science and Literature (L. Huang) I'm interested in understanding a way of writing about scientists that is not readily available to historians of science, a more expressive, more intuited way of writing that we can find in some poets and novelists: Osip Mandelstam writing of the way "Lamarck wept his eyes out over his magnifying glass"; Arthur Koestler of how Kepler laid "a monstrous egg" with his elliptical orbit. I am interested in the particular license taken in these instances—that flash of soul; I think the same license is taken to great effect in, for instance, the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel, and I want to see what we can win by it if we permit ourselves to tolerate it in real histories, and particularly in histories of science. That's a larger inquiry than this course undertakes, but I try to begin here by studying some writers who have won by it.
HIST 29801 BA Thesis Seminar I History students in the research track are required to take HIST 29801–29802. BA Thesis Seminar I provides a systematic introduction to historical methodology and approaches (e.g., political, intellectual, social, cultural, economic, gender, environmental history), as well as research techniques. It culminates in students' submission of a robust BA thesis proposal that will be critiqued in class. Guidance will also be provided for applications for research funding. All third-year history students in the research track and in residence in Chicago take HIST 29801 in spring quarter. Those who are out of residence take it in autumn quarter of their fourth year. You must receive a B grade in BA Seminar I to continue in the research track and enroll in BA Seminar II.
KNOW 29970/HIST 25317 Experiencing the Real: Nature, Culture, Society (J. MacLean & M. Rossi) TAn essential, if little remarked-upon, aspect of our work as scholars and students within an academic community is that we are concerned with that which is real. We read about things that are real; we write about things that are real; we attempt to prove the realities of our theories and we theorize the real. But what is it like to take "the real" as a question not simply of text or theory, but of experience? In this course, we will immerse ourselves in some of the many ways in which we (human beings living in an industrialized society in the early twenty-first century) have come to know that which is real and to distinguish it from that which is unreal, ambiguous, or even fake. Equal parts ethnography, history, reportage, philosophy, and fabrication, this course takes action and embodiment as its key elements—particularly action and embodiment as manifested through the sometimes-twinned, sometimes-conflicting pursuits of science and art. In considering the nature of the real, we will consider our own embodiment and cognition in conjunction with the material and technological worlds of our own late modern moment as principle elements of the ways in which we come to know the real. This course is one of three offered in the Experimental Capstone (XCAP).
Graduate Courses Open to Undergraduates by Consent
MAPS 33501/HIST 23308 Gender, Sex, and Empire (D. Heuring) This course examines the complex and contested relationships between gender, sexuality, social organization, and power in histories of (primarily British) imperialism and colonialism from the early conquests in the New World through the twentieth century. Employing insights from gender history, postcolonial studies, and feminist theory, we look at a broad range of historical case studies to explore themes such as the intersectionality of race, class, and gender; the instability of gender ideologies; how power was articulated through the fields of gender and sexuality; the politics of intimacy; and the regulation and "improvement" of colonial bodies. Our goal is to better understand the ways that gender and sexuality and Western imperialism were coconstitutive in specific imperial and colonial contexts. Open to third- and fourth-year undergraduates with consent.
HIST 42803 Varieties of Intellectual History: Reading Rousseau and Freud (J. Goldstein) This discussion course has been designed to serve as an introduction to the discipline of intellectual history through a sampling of the abundant and diverse scholarly literature on two pivotal modern thinkers, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Sigmund Freud. The course will be divided into two parts, one on each thinker. Each part will begin with a reading of selected texts by Rousseau or Freud, followed by a consideration of a series of books and articles that, by means of very different methodologies, seek to make sense of those texts, specify their conditions of possibility, or assess their reception and impact. Intended primarily for graduate students but open to upper-level undergraduates with permission of the instructor. Upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.
HIST 47701 Colloquium: US Social History—Catholics as Americans (K. Conzen) This colloquium focuses on recent historiography to explore the implications of the presence of Roman Catholics within the American population for the central interpretive narratives of American history. Readings will range in time from the colonial period to the later twentieth century and address such themes as colonization, westward expansion, immigration and ethnicity, church-state relations, slavery and the Civil War, citizenship and political participation, welfare and reform, gender and sexuality, race relations, transnational ties. Upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.
HIST 49301 Colloquium: History and the Archive (A. Goff) This course takes up the archive as a tool of historical thinking in the modern period. We will be oriented towards three related themes. First, we will consider how the archive has structured historical practice from the emergence of the research seminar in the mid-nineteenth century through the new historicism of the late twentieth century. Second, we will take up historians' treatment of the archive as an object of study in works of social and cultural history, postcolonial studies, gender studies, and memory studies. Putting these concerns together, we will finally turn toward the tension between the archive in theory and practice, addressing what has recently been termed "the archival divide" between the commitments of archivists and historians in the face of the cultural and digital turns. Open to upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.
HIST 49302 Colloquium: History of Political Corruption (J. Lyon) The aim of this colloquium is to immerse students in the long history of corrupt political practices, especially (but not exclusively) in Europe. Dynastic regimes, nepotistic/clientilistic patronage networks, and the buying and selling of offices are only some of the ways that corruption, as we typically define it today, has left its mark on history. This course will concentrate on recent historiography about the history of corruption, from the Roman Empire to the modern period, but we will also read select primary sources in order to consider how past polities understood political corruption and sought to address it. All required readings will be in English. Grades will be based on a series of short papers and classroom discussion. Open to upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.
HIST 49404 Colloquium: Historical Time and the Anthropocene (D. Chakrabarty) The course will review debates in the social sciences and the humanities on the idea of a new geological age of the humans, the so-called Anthropocene, and discuss their implications for historiography and historical thinking. Upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.
HIST 49701 Colloquium: Cultural Cold War (E. Gilburd) In this course we will consider culture wars amidst the Cold War. We will range across media and aesthetic schools to examine the entanglement of art and politics, culture and diplomacy, creativity and propaganda, consumerism and the avant-garde, nuclear aspirations and dystopian visions, artistic freedom and police operations. The course's basic premise is that, notwithstanding the bipolar world it created, the Cold War was a multisided affair, so our readings will extend beyond the United States and the Soviet Union to include various national contexts. Upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.