Gateway Courses

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 11901  Dracula: History and Legend  (J. Lyon)  Since the publication of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula in 1897, his story of a vampire from Transylvania has often been linked to the history of Vlad III Dracula, also known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Tepes (died 1476 or 1477). Vlad earned a reputation as a bloodthirsty and cruel warrior (even during his own lifetime) as he fought to rule along the dangerous political and military frontier between the Hungarians and the Ottoman Turks. His savage reputation is the reason why he has been identified as the inspiration for the cold-blooded vampire count, but there is much more to the stories of both the historical and the fictional Dracula. In this course, we will examine the life and career of Vlad III Dracula, setting him in the context of the world of fifteenth-century Christian–Muslim interactions in Eastern Europe, before turning to the later Dracula legend as depicted in Stoker's novel and subsequent films. Throughout the course, we will examine the ways in which Transylvania and neighboring regions have straddled the divide between East and West, Christian Europe and mysterious/violent "other" in both history and popular culture. Open to all undergraduates.

HIST 16602  Markets Before Capitalism  (A. Bresson)  Is the market system a new invention linked to the recent development of modern European societies? Is the market the hero or the villain of the story? Is everything marketable? Is the market the driver for economic development? We will address these and other questions in a deliberately comparative way, focusing on the cases of ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Greece and Rome, and medieval and early modern Europe. We will read excerpts from Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Weber, Polanyi, Braudel, Wallerstein, Geertz, Horden, and Purcell. We will examine the controversies in which these scholars were involved and the echoes they still have in our own contemporary debates. Assignments: Two papers, two quizzes.

HIST 18600  US Labor History  (A. Stanley)  This course will explore the history of labor and laboring people in the United States.  The significance of work will be considered from the vantage points of political economy, culture, and law. Key topics will include working-class life, industrialization and corporate capitalism, slavery and emancipation, the role of the state and trade unions, race and sex difference in the workplace.

HIST 18703  Early America, 1492–1815  (M. Kruer)  This course explores the development of American culture, society, and politics from the first contact between Native Americans and Europeans to the emergence of a stable American nation by the end of the War of 1812. It emphasizes the diverse experiences of the many kinds of Americans and the different meanings that they attached to the events in their lives. Topics include the meeting of Indigenous, African, and European peoples, the diversity of colonial projects, piracy and the Atlantic slave trade, the surprising emergence of a strong British identity, the coming of the American Revolution, the range of Americans' struggles for independence, and the role of the trans-Appalachian West in shaping the early republic. This lecture course is open to nonmajors and does not presume any previous history coursework. Assignments: Two papers.

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 17105  Race and Racisms in the Americas  (M. Tenorio)  This course seeks to explore the variegated ways the idea, and the consequences, of race has affected the history of the Americas from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century. The course emphasis comparisons and different forms of racisms in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Cuba, and Brazil.

Making History

Making History courses forgo traditional paper assignments for innovative projects that develop new skills with professional applications in the working world. Open to students at all levels, but especially recommended for third- and fourth-year students.

HIST 29527 The Spatial History of Nineteenth-Century Cities: Tokyo, London, New York  (S. Burns)  The late-nineteenth century saw the transformation of cities around the world as a result of urbanization, industrialization, migration, and the rise of public health. This course will take a spatial history approach; that is, we will explore the transformation of London, Tokyo, and New York over the course of the nineteenth century by focusing on the material "space" of the city. For example, where did new immigrants settle and why? Why were there higher rates of infectious disease in some areas than in others? How did new forms of public transportation shape the ability to move around the city, rendering some areas more central than others? To explore questions such as these, students will be introduced to ArcGIS in four lab sessions and asked to develop an original research project that integrates maps produced in Arc. No prior ArcGIS experience is necessary, although students will be expected to have familiarity with Microsoft Excel and a willingness to experiment with digital methods. Assignments: Discussion posts, homework (mapping), and a final research project.

HIST 29530  Introduction to Digital History I  (F. Hillis)  What is digital history and how do we do it? This lab-based experimental class will devote two sessions each week to questions of theory and methodology, considering what digital approaches can offer to the field of history; we will also examine and critique recent work by historians engaging with digital methods. In the third meeting of the week, a mandatory Friday lab session, students will learn the basics of digital mapping, network analysis, text mining, and visualization. (No prior technical knowledge is needed or expected.) By the end of the quarter, students will be asked to reflect on the advantages and limits of digital approaches in the historical field and to develop a proposal for a digital project of their own. Students who wish to see this work to fruition are invited to enroll in "Introduction to Digital History II," which will offer students more advanced technical training and will coach them toward completion of their projects.

Research Colloquia

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 29670  History Colloquium: Britain's Age of Revolutions  (A. Johns)  This course looks at British history in the "long seventeenth century," ranging from the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558 to the end of the Stuart dynasty in 1714. The period was one of upheaval, extraordinary both in itself and in its lasting consequences. The country saw protracted civil conflict, a king put on trial and executed, and (arguably) two revolutions. Its culture was distinguished by figures such as Shakespeare, Milton, Newton, Locke, and Purcell. And it created the origins of a world empire, as well as pursuing radical developments in economics, politics, and experimental science. We shall explore aspects of this period, using selected primary and secondary sources to introduce the history and historiography of early modern English culture. Assignments: Weekly brief submissions of questions for discussion and a research-based term paper.


HIST 10101  Introduction to African Civilization I  (E. Osborn)  African Civilization introduces students to African history in a three-quarter sequence. Part One considers literary, oral, and archeological sources to investigate African societies and states from the early Iron Age through the emergence of the Atlantic World. We will study the empires of Ghana and Mali, the Swahili Coast, Great Zimbabwe, and medieval Ethiopia.  We will also explore the expansion of Islam, the origins and effects of European contact, and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

HIST 13001  History of European Civilization I  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 13100  Western Civilization I  (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 13500  America in World Civilization I  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. America in World Civilization I examines foundational texts and moments in American culture, society, and politics, from early European incursions into the New World through the early republic of the United States, roughly 1500-1800. We will examine encounters between Native Americans and representatives of imperial powers (Spain, France, and England) as well as the rise of African slavery in North America before 1700. We will consider the development of Anglo-American society and government in the eighteenth century, focusing especially on the causes and consequences of the American Revolution.

HIST 13900  Introduction to Russian Civilization I  This two-quarter sequence, which meets the general education requirement in civilization studies, provides an interdisciplinary introduction to Russian civilization. The first quarter covers the ninth century to the 1870s; the second quarter continues on through the post-Soviet period. Working closely with a variety of primary sources—from oral legends to film and music, from political treatises to literary masterpieces—we will track the evolution of Russian civilization over the centuries and through radically different political regimes. Topics to be discussed include the influence of Byzantine, Mongol-Tataric, and Western culture in Russian civilization; forces of change and continuity in political, intellectual and cultural life; the relationship between center and periphery; systems of social and political legitimization; and symbols and practices of collective identity.

HIST 15100  Introduction to East Asian Civilization 1  (G. Alitto)  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 16100/HIST 16101  Introduction to Latin American Civilization I  (E. Kourí)  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 first quarter examines the origins of civilizations in Latin America with a focus on the political, social, and cultural features of the major pre-Columbian civilizations of the Maya, Inca, and Aztec. The quarter concludes with an analysis of the Spanish and Portuguese conquest and the construction of colonial societies in Latin America.

HIST 16700 Ancient Mediterranean World I: Greece  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. This sequence surveys the social, economic, and political history of Greece to the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC), the Roman Republic (509 to 27 BC), and late antiquity (27 BC to the fifth century AD). This quarter surveys the social, economic, and political history of Greece from prehistory to the Hellenistic period. The main topics considered include the development of the institutions of the Greek city-state, the Persian Wars and the rivalry of Athens and Sparta, the social and economic consequences of the Peloponnesian War, and the eclipse and defeat of the city-states by the Macedonians. The sequence meets the general education requirement in civilization studies.

HIPS 18400/HIST 17410  Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization II: Renaissance to Enlightenment  (R. Richards)  This undergraduate core course represents the first quarter of the Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization sequence. Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This lecture-discussion course examines the development of science and scientific philosophy from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. Considerations begin with the recovery of an ancient knowledge in the works of Leonardo, Vesalius, Harvey, and Copernicus. Thereafter the course will focus on Enlightenment science, as represented by Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and Hume. The course will culminate with the work of Darwin, who utilized traditional concepts to inaugurate modern science. For each class, the instructor will provide a short introductory lecture on the texts and then open discussion to pursue with students the unexpected accomplishments of the authors under scrutiny.

HIPS 18401/HIST 17411  Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization II: Medicine, 1500–1900  (M. Rossi)  This undergraduate core course represents the first quarter of the Science, Culture, and Society in Western Civilization sequence. Taking these courses in sequence is recommended but not required. This course examines the theory and practice of medicine between 1500 and 1900. Topics include traditional early modern medicine; novel understandings of anatomy, physiology, and disease from the Renaissance onward; and new forms of medical practice, training, and knowledge making that developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

NEHC 20539/HIST 23100  Renaissance East and West  (C. Fleischer)  An examination of the Renaissance, c. 1400–1600, as a global rather than purely Western European phenomenon, with emphasis on comparison and interaction between Christendom and Islamdom.

NEHC 20605/HIST 26005  Colloquium: Sources for the Study of Islamic History  (J. Woods)  This course is designed to acquaint the student with the basic problems and concepts as well as the sources and methodology for the study of premodern Islamic history. Sources will be read in English translation and the tools acquired will be applied to specific research projects to be submitted as term papers.

NEHC 20692/HIST 25711  Armenian History through Art and Culture  (H. Haroutunian)  This ten-week crash course surveys Armenian history, Armenian culture (religion, mythology and music, manuscript illumination, art and architecture), and Armenian traditions and customs (festivals and feasts, birth and wedding rituals, funerary cult). It also discusses transformations of Armenian identity and symbols of "Armenianness" through time, especially in the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, based on such elements of national identity as language, religion, art, and shared history. The course is recommended for students with interest in Armenian studies or related fields, such as history, civilizations studies, or art and cultural studies.

HIST 22407  Medieval England  (R. Brown)  How merry was "Olde England"? This course is intended as an introduction to the history of England from the withdrawal of the Roman legions in the early fifth century to the defeat of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field in AD 1485. Sources will include chronicles, biographies, laws, charters, spiritual and political treatises, romances and parodies. Themes will include the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, the Viking and Norman invasions, the development of the monarchy and parliament, monastic, peasant, and town life, the role of literacy and education in the development of a peculiarly "English" society, and the place of devotion, art, and architecture in medieval English culture. Assignments: Students will have the opportunity to do a research paper or craft a project of their choice based on the themes of the course.

HIST 23812  Russia and the West, Eighteenth–Twenty-first Centuries  (E. Gilburd)  There are few problems as enduring and central to Russian history as the question of the West—Russia's most passionate romance and most bitter letdown. In this course we will read and think about Russia from the eighteenth to the twenty-first centuries through the lens of this obsession. We will study the products of Russian interactions with the West: constitutional projects, paintings, scientific and economic thought, the Westernizer-Slavophile controversy, and revolutions. We will consider the presence of European communities in Russia: German and British migrants who filled important niches in state service, trade, and scholarship; Italian sculptors and architects who designed some of Russia's most famous monuments; French expatriates in the wake of the French Revolution; Communist workers and intellectuals, refugees from Nazi Germany; and Western journalists who, in the late Soviet decades, trafficked illicit ideas, texts, and artworks. In the end, we will follow émigré Russians to Europe and the United States and return to present-day Russia to examine the anti-Western turn in its political and cultural discourse.

CRES 24001/HIST 18301  Colonizations I  (R. Gutiérrez)  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 course covers themes of slavery, colonization, and the making of the Atlantic world in the first quarter.

HIST 24513  Documentary Chinese  (G. Alitto)  This course guides students through critical readings of primary historical documents from approximately 1800 through 1950. These documents are translated sentence by sentence, and then historiographically analyzed. Most of these documents are from the nineteenth century. Genres include public imperial edicts, secret imperial edicts, secret memorials to the throne from officials, official reports to superiors and from superiors, funereal essays, depositions ("confessions"), local gazetteers (fangzhi), newspapers, and periodicals. To provide an introduction to these genres, the first six weeks of the course will use the Fairbank and Kuhn textbook The Rebellion of Chung Jen-chieh (Harvard-Yanjing Institute). The textbook provides ten different genres of document with vocabulary glosses and grammatical explanations; all documents relate to an 1841–42 rebellion in Hubei province.  Assignments: Each week prior to class students electronically submit a written translation of the document or documents to be read; a day after the class they electronically submit a corrected translation of the document or documents read. A fifteen-page term paper based on original sources in documentary Chinese is also required. A reading knowledge of modern (baihua) Chinese and some familiarity with classical Chinese (wenyan) or Japanese Kanbun. Other students may take the course with permission from the instructor.

HIST 25114  Natural History and Empire, circa 1400–1800  (J. Niermeier-Dohoney, Teaching Fellow)  How did European imperial expansion transform knowledge of natural history in the early modern period? This course will examine the systematic observational body of knowledge of the physical world of plants, animals, environments, and (sometimes) people in the context of European imperial expansion during the early modern era (1400–1800). Topics and themes will include early modern sources of natural history from antiquity and their (re)interpretation in imperial context; early modern collecting cultures and cabinets of curiosities; Linnaeus and the origins of taxonomy; botany, animal husbandry, and the concept of "improving" nature; the relationship between natural commodities and commerce; the ecological and environmental consequences of European encounters with the Americas; attempts by nations without overseas empires (or those that had lost them) to replicate the economics of empire through various managerial schemes; early modern notions of climate and its effects on health and "character"; the influence of natural history on the emerging concepts of race and gender; and the role of indigenous knowledge in the development of early modern science.

HIST 25416  History of Technology in America  (M. Rossi)  This course gives students an introduction to the history of technology, with a particular focus on the ways in which arts and manufactures, mechanisms and devices have shaped American culture and experience. Through a selection of readings in the recent historiography of technology in America we will address the various ways in which different groups of Americans and different American institutions have wrestled with questions of landscape and labor, community and identity, and ideology and politics through and with products of technological innovation, among other topics. Assignments: Students will be expected to contribute weekly response papers and to write a final paper (2,000–3,000 words) on a particular technology of their choosing.

HIST 26304  Literature and Society in Brazil  (D. Borges)  This course surveys the relations between literature and society in Brazil, with an emphasis on the institution of the novel in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The nineteenth-century Brazilian novel, like the Russian novel, was an arena in which intellectuals debated, publicized, and perhaps even discovered social questions. We will examine ways in which fiction has been used and misused as a historical document of slavery and the rise of capitalism, of race relations, of patronage and autonomy, and of marriage, sex, and love. We will read works in translation by Manuel Antonio de Almeida, José de Alencar, Machado de Assis, Aluísio de Azevedo, and others. Assignments: Quizzes, class presentations, short papers, and a final paper.

HIST 26500  History of Mexico, 1876–Present  (E. Kourí)  From the Porfiriato and the Revolution to the present, this course is a survey of Mexican society and politics, with emphasis on the connections between economic developments, social justice, and political organization. Topics include fin de siècle modernization and the agrarian problem; causes and consequences of the Revolution of 1910; the making of the modern Mexican state; relations with the United States; industrialism and land reform; urbanization and migration; ethnicity, culture, and nationalism; economic crises, neoliberalism, and social inequality; political reforms and electoral democracy; violence and narco-trafficking; the end of PRI rule; and AMLO's new government. Assignments: Cass presentations, take-home midterm, and final essays.

HIST 26613  Courts, Trials, and Controversies in Modern India  (A. McClure, Donnolley Fellow)  The courtroom is a physical location where judges and juries sit to hear cases and deliver justice. It is also a site of intrigue, drama, controversy, and, as we will consider in this course, a tremendously rich and important source of history. The focus of this course will be the modern legal and political history of colonial and postcolonial India in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course will move through a series of courtroom trials that range from everyday cases that received almost no attention in their time to high-profile cases involving political leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi. Placing these trials in their wider political, social, and cultural context, the course will encourage students to consider the place of law in history, and of history in law. By the end of the course, students will be able to critically interrogate what the purpose of different forms of trials are, what politics undergirds law, and what light the drama of the courtroom can shed upon larger questions of historical interest. Themes will include colonial violence, nationalism, postcolonial state formation, personal law, gender and justice, and history from below.

CHDV 27861/HIST 24921  Darwinism and Literature  (D. Maestripieri & R. Richards)  In this course we will explore the notion that literary fiction can contribute to the generation of new knowledge of the human mind, human behavior, and human societies. Some novelists in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century provided fictional portrayals of human nature that were grounded in Darwinian theory. These novelists operated within the conceptual framework of the complementarity of science and literature advanced by Goethe and the other Romantics. At a time when novels became highly introspective and psychological, these writers used their literary craftsmanship to explore and illustrate universal aspects of human nature. In this course we read the work of several novelists (George Eliot, H. G. Wells, Joseph Conrad, Jack London, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, Italo Svevo, and Elias Canetti), and discuss how these authors anticipated the discoveries made decades later by cognitive, social, and evolutionary psychology. Assignments: Short papers, a presentation, and a major paper.

HIST 29801  BA Thesis Seminar I  (P. O'Donnell)  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.

HIST 29803  Historiography  (P. O'Donnell)  The course provides a systematic introduction to historical methodology and approaches (e.g., political, intellectual, social, cultural, economic, gender, environmental history), as well as research techniques. Students will gain analytical, research, and writing tools that will assist them in their research colloquia and their BA theses. Historiography is required for all majors beginning with the class of 2021, but open to all students.

Graduate Courses Open to Undergraduates by Consent

CLAS 30419/HIST 40400  Empire in the Ancient World  (C. Ando)  Empire was the dominant form of regional state in the ancient Mediterranean. We will investigate the nature of imperial government, strategies of administration, and relations between metropole and regional powers in Persia, Athens, the Seleucid empire, and Rome. Open to upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.

HIST 47201  Colloquium: US Legal History  (A. Stanley)  This course focuses on the connections between law and society in modern America. It explores how legal doctrines and constitutional rules have defined individual rights and social relations in both the public and private spheres. It also examines political struggles that have transformed American law. Topics to be addressed include the meaning of rights; the regulation of property, work, race, and sexual relations; civil disobedience; and legal theory as cultural history. Readings include legal cases, judicial rulings, short stories, and legal and historical scholarship. Upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.

HIST 58601  Colloquium: Iran and Central Asia I—Safvid Iran  (J. Woods)  The first quarter will take the form of a colloquium on the sources for and the literature on the political, social, economic, technological, and cultural history of Western and Central Asia from approximately 1500 to 1750. Classroom presentations and a short paper are required. Open to upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.

HIST 60302  Colloquium: Immigration and Assimilation in American Life  (R. Gutiérrez)  This course explores the history of immigration in what is now the United States, starting with the colonial origins of Spanish, French, Dutch, and English settlements, the importation of African slaves, and the massive waves of immigrants that arrived in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Additionally, we will study the adaptation of these immigrants, exploring the validity of the concept of assimilation, comparing and contrasting the experiences of the "old" and "new" immigrants based on their race, religion, and class standing. Open to upper-level undergraduates with consent of instructor.