SPR 19: US History Courses

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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 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 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.

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.