Bard College Catalogue 2017-18
Cecile E. Kuznitz (director), Richard Aldous, Myra Young Armstead, Leon Botstein, Omar Youssef Cheta, Christian Crouch, Robert J. Culp, Holger Droessler, Tabetha Ewing, Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, Sean McMeekin, Gregory B. Moynahan, Joel Perlmann, Miles Rodríguez, Alice Stroup, Drew Thompson, Wendy Urban-Mead (MAT)
The Historical Studies Program focuses primarily, but not exclusively, on political, social, economic, and cultural aspects of history. The program encourages students to examine history through the prism of other relevant disciplines (sociology, anthropology, economics, philosophy) and forms of expression (art, film, literature, drama, architecture). The program also introduces a variety of methodological perspectives used in historical research and philosophical assumptions about men, women, and society that underlie these perspectives.
Areas of Study
Study plans can be divided into the following categories: national, regional, or local history (for example, American, European, Asian, Russian); period-oriented history (ancient, medieval, early modern, modern); and topical specializations (environmental history, urban history, diplomatic history, ethnic history, African American history, history of gender and sexuality, history of ideas, history of science and technology). Individual study plans may be further subdivided into specific areas of concentration.
In the Lower College, students are expected to take three or four history courses covering different regions and time periods and using a variety of research methodologies. Students are required to take a global core course before graduation, and preferably before Moderation. For Moderation, students are required to submit the standard two short papers and a paper responding to an assigned reading. By the time of their graduation, students must have completed between six and eight history courses covering at least three world regions and one period prior to 1800. These should include one course focused on issues of historiography. As part of the preparation for their Senior Project, Upper College students should take two 300-level seminars; one of these should be a Major Conference taken in the junior year that culminates in a substantial research project.
Recent Senior Projects
- “An Ancient City for the Future: Reconstructing Physical and Intellectual Narratives in Beirut in the 1990s”
- “Between Myth and History: Goethe, Spengler, and the Faustian Legend”
- “Black Internationalism and Nationalism in Atlanta: Through the Lens of the Political Career of Andrew Young”
- “A Cape Full of Holes: Courtliness as Political Theory within the Angevin Empire”
The course descriptions that follow are presented numerically, beginning with 100-level introductory classes and continuing through 300-level seminars, and represent a sampling of offerings from the past four years. Tutorials and Major Conferences are also offered regularly; recent examples include Anarchism, Critical Geography, and The Decision to Drop the Bomb.
The following descriptions represent a sampling of courses from the past four years.
History 100 / Classics 100
The course has two main purposes: to see how much is implied by the notion of historical causation and what it means to “think historically,” and to understand the way the foundations of Western culture were first shaped in the Near East and then developed quite distinctively in the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome. The class also looks at the chronological and causal sweep of ancient Mediterranean culture as a whole, from its beginnings to the death of St. Augustine.
The class analyzes and compares some of the most iconic and influential revolutions in world history, including the French Revolution of 1789, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and China’s Communist Revolution of 1921–49. Other revolutionary events examined include the German Peasant Revolt of 1525, China’s Cultural Revolution, protests by students and intellectuals that rocked Europe in 1968, and the “velvet revolutions” and near revolutions that transformed state socialism in 1989.
Europe from 1350 to 1815
Who made “Europe?” How did power, wealth, and literacy spread north and westward from the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds? How did two new religions, Christianity and Islam, become established politically? How, despite recurring famines and epidemics, did the “Little Ice Age” (1300–1815) yield the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, and the Enlightenment? What is the connection between the Atlantic slave trade and the Industrial Revolution? Students read historians and historical sources to debate answers to these and other questions.
Europe since 1815
The first half of the course covers the period from the Congress of Vienna in 1815 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, addressing such topics as the establishment of parliamentary democracy in Great Britain, the revolutions of 1848, and European imperialism. The second half focuses on the Great War, Russian Revolution, Great Depression, rise of fascism, Holocaust, Cold War, and fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
Colonial Latin America since Conquest
History 110 / LAIS 110
See LAIS 110 for a full course description.
Three Cities: A History of Lagos, Nairobi, and Johannesburg
cross-listed: africana studies, eus, his
This introductory course in African history traces the development of Lagos, Nairobi, and Johannesburg, beginning with people’s first encounters with the concept of the “city” (before 1850). Students explore the impact of colonization, apartheid, and globalization in the postindependence era, looking at each of the cities through the perspectives of the people who participated in their construction.
Inclusion at Bard
Colleges have clearly served as stepping-stones, remediating against racial inequalities by providing pathways toward upward mobility for blacks and other minorities. At the same time, recent disclosures by Brown and Georgetown Universities of, respectively, a founder’s fortune made in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the sale of slaves to pay off antebellum debts exemplify the role played by institutions of higher learning in reproducing racial and other social hierarchies. This course explores how these contradictory dynamics have manifested themselves at Bard by reviewing the College’s evolving admission policies and the experiences of alumni/ae of color.
War and Peace
cross-listed: gis, human rights
A survey of the international system since the outbreak of war in 1914, with particular attention paid to the three great conflicts of the 20th century—World War I, World War II, and the Cold War—and the shifting balance of power in Europe and Asia. Special prominence is given to the policies and strategy of the Great Powers as well as the ideological forces that defined them.
This survey course begins with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 and then moves chronologically through the 20th century. Readings include seminal texts by George Orwell, Winston Churchill, Vera Brittain, Graham Greene, Isaiah Berlin, and Philip Larkin.
Early Modern French Empire
cross-listed: africana studies, french studies
To study greater France is an opportunity to consider how the language of nation and empire overlays complex networks of contact, exchange, and identity between metropolitans, indigenous peoples, and those without states. What sustained supranational connections between, for example, Quebec, Senegal, St. Domingue (Haiti), the French state in Paris, and French port cities such as Nantes and Marseilles? The course focuses on the Atlantic Ocean, its trade, and how societies that developed (or were destroyed) on its shores experienced pain and promise on a new human scale.
The Pacific World
cross-listed: american studies, asian studies, gis, human rights
The Pacific Ocean covers a third of the Earth’s surface. Home to over a thousand languages and thousands of years of rich histories, the Pacific has been, and continues to be, one of the most diverse regions of cultural, social, economic, and environmental interaction. This seminar begins with the settlement of the Pacific Islands from Southeast Asia over 40,000 years ago and ends with a critical analysis of debates about the geostrategic and economic significance of the Pacific today.
Introduction to Modern Japanese History
cross-listed: asian studies, gis, gss
Japan in the mid-19th century was beleaguered by British and American imperialism and rocked by domestic turmoil. How, then, did it become an emerging world power by the early 20th century? Why did Japan’s transformations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries lead to the total war of the 1930s and 1940s, and what factors explain its postwar economic growth and renewed global importance?
Origins of the American Citizen
cross-listed: american studies, human rights
The United States is often portrayed as emerging triumphantly in 1776 to offer inclusive citizenship and a transcendent, tolerant, “American” identity to all its indigenous and immigrant residents. Yet the reality of American history belies this myth. This course focuses on six moments that definitively challenged and shaped conceptions of “American identity”: the early colonial period, the Constitutional Convention, the Cherokee Removal, the era of internal slave trade and the “Market Revolution,” the Mexican-American War, and Reconstruction.
The Mystery of History
cross-listed: american studies
In “whodunnits,” the criminal has to be discovered; in police procedurals, another popular mystery genre, we know who did it, but need to find the facts that will lead to an arrest and conviction. Students become detectives as they take on a broad range of issues in American history: Were there really witches in Salem? How did the revolutionary generation square their call for liberty with their dependence on slavery? Were Sacco and Vanzetti robbers and murderers or the victims of a political prosecution?
The Ottomans and the Last Islamic Empire
cross-listed: gis, mes
After World War I, the Ottoman Empire disappeared from the world scene. In its place arose numerous states, which today make up the Middle East and parts of Eastern Europe. In these states, memory of the empire is alive and well; it is in relation to the Ottoman legacy that national identities were constructed and claims to national borders settled (or not). Topics: the empire’s origins, its Islamic and European identities, everyday life under the Ottomans, and the emergence of modern Turkey.
cross-listed: french studies, german studies, human rights, ics, italian studies, spanish studies
Through a policy of aggressive expansion, the nation-states of Europe controlled over 85 percent of the world’s habitable land by 1900. How did expansion and the postcolonial reaction to it transform European culture and sensibility? How did a region defined by a millennium of continuous conflict find not only relative peace but, in the European Union, a new political form and model for global human rights? This seminar features contributions by a range of Bard faculty.
The Mediterranean World
cross-listed: italian studies, lais
A historical journey to the Mediterranean world of the 16th and 17th centuries using the scholarship of Fernand Braudel as a vehicle. The class considers geography, demography, climate, and economies; next, the formation of social structures; and last, politics, religion, and culture.
cross-listed: american studies, eus
This course looks at a variety of physical structures and spaces from the industrial and postindustrial eras in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, and Vilna. The class considers what the sites reveal about urban life across time, including such issues as technological innovation, new forms of leisure, changing relationships to the environment, and the development of working class culture.
Introduction to Russian Civilization
cross-listed: medieval studies, res
An examination of the origins and evolution of Russian civilization from the founding of the first Eastern Slavic state through the 18th century, when Russia began to modernize by borrowing from Western culture. Among the topics considered are the ethnogeny of early Russians, the development of state and legal institutions, the relationship between kinship and politics, the role of religion in public and private spheres, economic organization, social institutions, popular culture, and the impact of the outside world upon Russian society.
20th-Century Germany and the Unification of Europe
cross-listed: german studies, gis, human rights
This course explores Germany’s pivotal place in the ideological divisions, political catastrophes, and theoretical, social, and scientific innovations of modern Europe. A guiding theme is the paradox that even as Germany is perhaps the most “modern” of European states, it has been haunted since its inception by its past. Topics include the impact of World War I, the political experiment of Weimar democracy, the Holocaust, the student protests of 1968, and the creation of a new German and European identity after 1989.
European Diplomatic History, 1648–1914
A survey of the major developments in European diplomatic history between the Treaty of Westphalia and the outbreak of World War I. Key themes: the changing nature of diplomacy and international order; the rise of the nation-state and standing armies; war finance and the bond market; and the French Revolutionary upheaval, the Industrial Revolution, and ideological responses to them (e.g., liberalism, nationalism, conservatism, socialism, and anarchism).
The History of Experiment
cross-listed: experimental humanities, sts
The scientific method and the modern form of the scientific experiment are arguably the most powerful inventions of the modern period. Although dating back, in its modern form, to the 16th century, the concept of the experiment as an attempt to find underlying continuities in experience goes back to earliest recorded history. The class looks at different epochs’ definitions of experiment, focusing on the classical, medieval, and Renaissance eras to the present. Texts by Aristotle, Lucretius, da Vinci, Leibniz, Newton, Darwin, Curie, Tesla, Einstein, McClintock, others.
Diaspora and Homeland
cross-listed: africana studies, gis, human rights, jewish studies
The concept of diaspora has gained widespread popularity as a way of thinking about group identity and its relationship to place. Students read recent theoretical works on diaspora and then examine case studies of diasporic populations from ancient times to the present, including the Jewish people, black African-descended people since the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and Chinese and South Asian migrant populations.
West African History, 1000–1900
cross-listed: africana studies
This survey of the peoples and kingdoms of West Africa between 1000 and 1900 c.e. takes a long view of the medieval kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai; and studies the Hausa states, Yoruba chiefdoms, and republican communities and city-states of the Igbo people. Topics include the social and political organization of West African societies, bureaucratic and government institutions, modes of worship, and the history of domestic slavery and traffic of West African captives in the Atlantic World.
The History of Technology and Economics in the Modern Period
cross-listed: eus, gis, sts
The course considers how a separate domain of technology first came to be defined during the 18th century and addresses how institutional forces, such as law, academia, business, and government, came to define and influence technological change and scientific research during the industrial revolution. Case studies range from the bicycle to the birth control pill.
Jews in the Modern World
cross-listed: Jewish studies, religion
In the modern period Jews faced unprecedented opportunities to integrate into the societies around them, as well as anti-Semitism on a previously unimaginable scale. In response to these changing conditions they reinvented Jewish culture and identity in radically new ways. This course surveys the history of the Jewish people from the expulsion from Spain to the establishment of the state of Israel. It examines such topics as acculturation and assimilation, Zionism, the Holocaust, and the growth of the American Jewish community.
Peasant Commune, Renaissance, and Reformation in the German and Italian Worlds, 1291–1806: Inventing Modernity
cross-listed: german studies, italian studies
Using Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy as its starting point, this course examines the role of the drastic upheavals of the early modern period in defining the origins of such institutions as capitalism, political individuality, religious freedom, democracy, and the modern military. Also addressed is the historiography and politics surrounding the “invention” of the Renaissance in the late 19th century and Burckhardt’s relation to von Ranke, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche.
The Making of the Modern Middle East
cross-listed: gis, human rights, mes
An introduction to the major transformations of the Middle East from the late 18th century to the present. Topics include reform movements in the Ottoman Empire, European imperialism, nationalist movements (including the Arab-Israeli conflict), political Islam, military intervention, and the Arab Spring (and its aftermath). The course emphasizes the interactions between society, culture, and politics, with particular attention paid to such social and cultural aspects as gender, labor, popular culture, and forms of protest.
The Cold War
cross-listed: gis, human rights, res
Like two scorpions, the Soviet Union and the United States warily circled each other in a deadly dance that lasted more than half a century. In a nuclear age, any misstep threatened to be fatal—not only to the antagonists, but possibly to the entire human community. What caused this hostile confrontation to emerge from the World War II alliance? This course reconsiders the Cold War by simultaneously weighing both the American and Soviet perspectives on events as they unfolded.
Topics in Modern European History, 1789 – Present
This course employs methodologies and historiographies ranging from gender and demographic history to diplomatic and military history. It offers both an in-depth presentation of key aspects of modernity and a survey of contemporary historiography. Among the key issues discussed are the relation of the Industrial Revolution to the creation of new institutions of invention and patent, the role of institutional structure in diplomacy, and the effect of new mass media on citizenship.
James Bond’s World
The character of James Bond has played a defining role in creating our understanding of what it means to be a spy and an Englishman. This course looks at the reality behind the fiction of one of Britain’s most glamorous and enduring exports, as well as the author who created him and the context of the postwar world. Background reading: Ian Fleming’s The Blofeld Trilogy and Simon Winder’s The Man Who Saved Britain.
Alexander the Great
History 201 / Classics 201
Alexander the Great changed the world more completely than any other human being, but did he change it for the better? How should Alexander himself be understood—as a tyrant of Hitlerian proportions, as a philosopher-king seeking to save the Greek world from self-destruction, or as a deluded madman? Such questions remain very much unresolved among modern historians. This course undertakes a thorough reading in the ancient sources concerning Alexander and examines as much primary evidence as can be gathered.
History of New York City
cross-listed: american studies, eus
A history of New York City from its founding as a Dutch colony to the present postindustrial, post-9/11 era. Emphasis is on the 19th and 20th centuries, when the city was transformed by immigration and rose to prominence as a global economic and cultural capital.
When Race Morphed: Understanding the Peoples of the United States, 1900 to the Civil Rights Era
cross-listed: american studies, human rights, sociology
This course traces ethnic and racial divisions among Americans during the 20th century. The nonwhite groups we speak of today—blacks, Asians, and Native Americans—are part of this history; so too are the many European immigrant groups who arrived in the tens of millions by the 1920s, the Mexicans, Chinese, and others. Students consider the social history of these peoples across the years; the ways in which they were understood, by intellectuals and in government classifications like the census; and how “whiteness” was changing.
Russia under the Romanovs
cross-listed: gis, res
A survey of Russian history during the reign of the Romanov dynasty from 1613 until the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917. Key themes include military history and imperial expansion, autocracy and its critics, Russia’s allegedly “belated” economic modernization, serfdom and land reform, the long-running argument over Russian identity between “Westernizers” and Slavophiles, and the origins and nature of Russian political radicalism in both populist and socialist strains.
Wars of Religion
cross-listed: gss, human rights
Religion and revolution have formed an unholy alliance at several distinct moments in history. This course is a journey across the motley religious landscape of early modern Europe, in which the ideas and practices of heretics, infidels, and unbelievers nestled in the spaces where orthodox Catholicism held sway. From the expulsion of Iberian Jews and Muslims to European contact with “cannibalism,” and from Luther in Germany to Carmelite nuns in Canada, students trace the stories of real people through Inquisition records, diaries and conversion tales, early pamphlets, and accounts of uprisings.
The First Power Couple: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt in Depression, War, and Peace
cross-listed: american studies, gss, human rights
An examination of the public policies, leadership strategies, and sometimes contentious political partnership between Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The course concludes with a look at Eleanor Roosevelt’s role as a member of the first U.S. delegation to the United Nations, chair of the first Human Rights Commission, and the driving force behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Students conduct primary source research at the FDR Presidential Library.
Gutenberg 2.0: Making Books for Everyday Life and Ordinary People
cross-listed: experimental humanities, french studies, sts
This study of the history of the book examines authorship, readership, circulation, print technology, and the culture of print that papered bureaucracies and news media in the early-modern period. In addition to workshops in letterpress printing and digital bookmaking, the course considers selections from the how-to manuals that abounded in the period; instructional articles in Diderot and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, the first great encyclopedia project; and the ways that digital technologies inform our understanding of early-modern techniques for everyday life.
Crusading for Justice: On Gender, Sexuality, Racial Violence, Media, Rights
This course focuses on the activism of journalist Ida B. Wells, daughter of two American slaves, who exposed lynching as state-sanctioned, extralegal violence against black men and women, and challenged legal double standards that erased the victimization of black women and the sexual agency of white women. In Wells’s work, we see more than a century of black feminist thought, critical race theory, and civil and human rights activism.
Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World
History 211 / Classics 211
cross-listed: classical studies, gss
The course explores the gendered relations of men and women in the ancient Greco-Roman world, focusing on literary and historical sources, in order to understand the social history of ancient sexuality and its manifestations. Topics include women’s lives in classical Athens; Greek homoerotic relationships; sexuality as part of Greek drama, religion, and mythology; and women in Roman myth, literature, and history.
Early Middle Ages
cross-listed: classical studies, medieval studies
The European “middle ages,” originally so called as a term of derision, are more complex and heterogeneous than is commonly thought. This course surveys eight centuries, with a focus on the formation and spread of Christianity and Islam in the Mediterranean, European, and Nordic worlds. Topics include religions and polities; the roles of Jews and Judaism; monuments and their meanings; and the transformations of the Mediterranean, Near East, northern Atlantic, and Europe, 200–1,000 c.e.
High Middle Ages
cross-listed: french studies, medieval studies
The course focuses on Europe and the Middle East (with glances to Asia and North Africa), from the first millennium through the 14th-century Black Death, and asks: How did towns change and a middle class emerge in Western Europe? How did capitalist cultures develop, linking East and West? How did universities complement or challenge the status quo in Europe? How did political patronage sustain ancient philosophy in the Muslim world? And how did medieval climate, technology, and epidemic transform Asia, the Middle East, and Europe?
The Invention of Politics
cross-listed: human rights
Individuals and groups spoke, wrote, and fought to make their claims to public power in the period between 1500 and 1800 in ways that forced a reimagining of political relationships. The greatest institutions in place, particularly monarchies and the papacy, used their arsenals of words, documents, symbols, and ritual to maintain their legitimacy in the face of subtle or uproarious resistance. The tensions between groups created new political vocabularies to which we, in our present, have claimed historical ownership or explicitly rejected.
The World Makers: The Intellectual Foundations of U.S. Foreign Policy since 1890
“Sometimes I’ve been charged with being an elitist,” diplomat George F. Kennan observed in 1945. “Of course I am. . . . God forbid that we should be without an elite. Is everything to be done by gray mediocrity?” This course examines the foreign policy intellectual elite that Kennan both admired and personified, including Alfred Mahan, Woodrow Wilson, Charles Beard, Walter Lippmann, Paul Nitze, Henry Kissinger, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Francis Fukuyama, Paul Wolfowitz, and Samantha Power, who each have shaped the discourse and practice of U.S. foreign affairs.
cross-listed: gis, political studies, res
This course examines the Russian Revolution and Civil War; the new economic policy and succession struggle after Lenin; the major phases of Stalinism; the “Great Patriotic War” (WWII) and the onset of the Cold War; “soft repression” and the growth of the Soviet bureaucratic elite of cadres under Leonid Brezhnev; Alexei Kosygin’s reforms and efforts to improve Soviet economic performance; Soviet foreign policy; the economic crisis of the 1980s; and, ultimately, the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Photography and Visual History in Africa
cross-listed: africana studies, experimental humanities, human rights
Key themes include photography’s role in shaping historical knowledge and the representation of Africa and its peoples, the appropriation of image making into African creative practices and daily life, the politics of exhibition and archiving, and the ethics of seeing war and social justice. Students design a historical photography exhibition and have the opportunity to interact with leading curators, photojournalists, and art photographers who have spent time in Africa.
Genealogy of Modern Revolutions in the Middle East
cross-listed: gis, human rights, mes
The revolutions (some would say “uprisings”) that unfolded in several Arab countries after December 2010 took the world by surprise. Until then, commentators in the West and the Middle East alike described the political culture of the Arab world as “apathetic” and “prone to authoritarianism.” This class explores the long history of modern revolutions (and uprisings) in the Middle East, including examples of nonviolent revolutions, militant revolts, labor strikes, and coups d’état.
Comparative Atlantic Slave Societies
cross-listed: africana studies, american studies, french studies, human rights, lais
Forced labor, whether indentured or enslaved, underpinned the early modern Atlantic world. Beginning in the early 16th century, millions of enslaved Africans and indigenous Americans came to or moved around the Americas. This course focuses on the African and indigenous Atlantics, and considers three important issues: the comparative development of slavery, methods of resistance, and processes of emancipation and national formations at the end of the 18th century. Readings help students trace the development of “African American,” “Afro-Brazilian,” “Afro-Mexican,” and “Afro-Caribbean” cultures.
Reason and Revolution: European Intellectual History to 1870
cross-listed: french studies, german studies, sts, victorian studies
The course outlines some of the principal transformations in the modern understanding of society and nature within a political, cultural, and institutional framework. Particular attention is placed on the interrelation of science, theology, and philosophy that characterized the period (from Descartes and Leibniz to Mach and Nietzsche). Topics of interest include skepticism, the interrelation of enlightenment and romanticism, feminism, conservatism, utopian socialism, nationalism, and anarchism.
Harlem, Bronzeville, South Central
cross-listed: africana studies, american studies, eus
While pockets of African American residential concentration have existed in American cities since the colonial period, the black ghetto—relatively large, dense, and racially monolithic—has been a feature of the U.S. urban landscape only for the past century. This course addresses the cultural, social, economic, and political factors that created, and sustain, these areas. Case studies focus on Harlem, Chicago’s Bronzeville, and Los Angeles’s South Central sections.
From Shtetl to Socialism: East European Jewry in the Modern Era
cross-listed: gis, jewish studies
Eastern Europe was the largest and most vibrant center of Jewish life for almost 500 years prior to the Holocaust. In that period East European Jewry underwent a wrenching process of modernization, creating radically new forms of community, culture, and political organization that still shape Jewish life today in the United States and Israel. Topics: the rise of Hasidism and Haskalah (Enlightenment), modern Jewish political movements, pogroms and Russian government policy toward the Jews, and the development of modern Jewish literature in Yiddish and Hebrew.
The Progressive Era in U.S. History
cross-listed: american studies
A survey of the period between 1890 and 1930, with a focus on the social and cultural politics of reform that it spawned. Topics include cross-Atlantic exchanges that informed an American progressive consciousness, competing historical interpretations of progressivism, and the legacy of progressivism for later 20th-century liberalism.
North America and Empire
cross-listed: american studies, gis, human rights
A look at the rise of the United States from hemispheric to global power over the course of the 20th century. Two world wars, a global depression, and the Cold War, as well as a series of smaller but no less violent conflicts, dominated U.S. foreign relations during that time. The course concludes with an outlook on America’s role in a world marked by the rising influence of China, India, and nongovernmental actors.
Mexican History and Culture
History 220 / LAIS 220
This course explores the complex relationship between history and culture from Mexico’s preconquest indigenous origins to the Mexican Revolution and contemporary nation-state. Using primary sources like codices and native language writings as well as anthropological, historical, literary, and poetic texts, the class traces the major cultural continuities and revolutions to the present. Topics also include religious devotions and wars, indigenous cultures and rights, Mexican death culture, and the drug war.
A History of the Modern Police
cross-listed: american studies, french studies, gis, human rights
The course investigates the invention and evolution of the police from the late 17th century to the present, focusing largely on France, Britain, and the United States. The class considers the development of the police as an expression of sovereign right and of citizens’ rights, from enforcer of the king’s will to public servant.
Radio Africa: Broadcasting History
cross-listed: africana studies, experimental humanities, human rights
The radio was critical to Africa’s colonization and decolonization. While colonial authorities used radio to broadcast news and transmit governing strategies, local African communities sometimes appropriated the radio for political and entertainment purposes. This course uses developments in radio technology to explore histories of political activism, leisure, cultural production, and entertainment across sub-Saharan Africa from colonial to present times. In conjunction with the Human Rights Project’s radio initiative, students design a podcast on a topic of relevance to the course.
Africa and the Indian Ocean
cross-listed: africana studies, asian studies, gis, human rights
The Indian Ocean, which runs along East Africa’s Swahili coast, has long facilitated the movement of people, goods, and ideas between Africa and Asia. It also represents a historiographical tradition through which to think about Africa’s past in ways not permitted by the Black Atlantic tradition. Students use architectural plans and traveler accounts to reconstruct the historical origins of slave and trading towns, and rethink the geographical and theoretical axes along which we engage with African histories of colonialism, nationalism, and decolonization.
Russia, Turkey, and the First World War
This course explores Tsarist Russia’s collapse during and after World War I, as well as the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the wake of that conflict. The primary focus is on five major periods: political upheaval in the late Tsarist and Ottoman regimes (1903–09), the Italian and Balkan wars (1911–13), the Great War (1914–18), the Russian upheaval of 1917–18, and the Russian Civil War, which largely coincided with Turkey’s war of independence (1919–23).
After examining the dilemmas of reform in the 1980s and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the course traces the different paths of Russia and other successor states through the present day. Key themes: the command economy and efforts to liberalize it; the nature of the Soviet collapse and whether it was inevitable; the hyperinflation of the early 1990s and its consequences; the rise of the Mafia; the war(s) in Chechnya; the transition from Yeltsin to Putin; and the current scene.
War against the World
Ecological history is a skeptical version of the triumphalist history of technology. For each achievement, there has been a price to pay. Studies have traced the toll of agriculture on human health in a world where living things compete for water; examined how electricity and the combustion engine have contaminated air, water, and earth; and correlated dams with reduced salmon spawning and pesticides with extinctions and mutations. Readings include Joachim Radkau’s Nature and Power and case studies from around the world.
From Missionaries to Marines: The United States in the Middle East from the 19th Century to the Present
cross-listed: american studies, gis, human rights, mes
Popular perceptions of American involvement in the Middle East coalesce around three issues: oil, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and 9/11. This course questions whether this articulation of the United States’ presence in the Middle East fully reflects American interests in the region. It also explores how U.S. policy has oscillated between disengagement and intervention.
cross-listed: human rights
This course grounds students in the foundational literature of 20th-century anticolonial and postcolonial thought. By focusing on the francophone world, students follow developments in Paris, Marseilles, Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Senegal, enabling them to assess heterogeneous responses to a single imperial framework. Readings include the poetry of Aimé Césaire, essays by Léopold Senghor and Suzanne Césaire, the psychosocial theory of Frantz Fanon, a novel by Maryse Condé, and history by C. L. R. James.
Turkey and Europe
cross-listed: gis, political studies
An exploration of the “Eastern Question” from the Napoleonic era to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which fixed (most) of the post-Ottoman borders in the Middle East, at least until the rise of the Islamic State. The main focus is on Great Power and Ottoman diplomacy, but the course also considers internal developments in the Ottoman Empire, especially those brought about by (or in opposition to) European influence; the Ottoman role in the origins and conclusion of World War I; and recent relations between Turkey and the European Union.
China in the Eyes of the West
cross-listed: asian studies, gis
European Enlightenment thinkers viewed the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) as the world’s most enlightened despotism, but by the turn of the 20th century most Western thinkers considered China to be the “sick man of Asia.” This course reconstructs the visions of China formulated by Europeans and Americans during the 19th and 20th centuries, and explores how those visions changed over time. Texts include popular histories, news reports, travel writing, academic works, novels, photographs, films, websites, and blogs.
Shanghai and Hong Kong: China’s Global Cities
cross-listed: asian studies, eus
Shanghai and Hong Kong are cities with long cosmopolitan pasts. This course explores the history of their current economic, social, and cultural dynamism, and in doing so probes the historical roots of globalization. It analyzes how 19th- and early 20th-century colonialism and semicolonialism both drove and conditioned, in somewhat different ways, the development of these two cities.
Gender and Sexuality in Modern China
cross-listed: anthropology, asian studies, gss, human rights
This course explores the roles of gender and sexuality in the construction of social and political power in China over the last 500 years, including traditional areas of focus such as foot binding, the cloistering of women, and the masculinization of public space; the transformations of Confucian age/sex hierarchies within the family; women’s rights movements of the early 20th century; and the Communist revolution’s ambivalent legacy for women in the People’s Republic of China.
The American Dream
History 2307 / Sociology 2307
cross-listed: american studies
“But there has been also the American dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.” These words from James Truslow Adams summarize the optimism and sense of exceptionalism that have defined much of American experience. This course considers the various articulations of the Dream and the ideological and structural supports for it, and how these have changed over time.
London Calling: Britain in the 1980s
When the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was asked what she had changed about British life, she answered: “Everything.” This course looks at a transformational period in British politics, culture, and society, examining seminal contemporary texts by writers such as Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, Nick Hornby, Alan Clark, and Margaret Thatcher herself.
American Urban History
cross-listed: american studies, eus
A study of U.S. urbanization as a social and cultural process best understood by relevant case studies. Topics include, but are not limited to, urban spatial practices and conceptualizations, the establishment of the nation’s urban network, the changing function of cities, the European roots of American city layout and governance, urban social structure, the emergence of urban culture, and ideations/representations of American cities.
Native American History
cross-listed: american studies, human rights
An overview of the history created by and between native peoples, Africans, and Europeans, from the 15th through the 20th century. Attention is paid to the exchanges and contests between Native Americans and African Americans in the colonial and early national period, as well as today. Primary sources and historical interpretations of interactions provide a context for evaluating questions of current Native American politics and financial and land reparations.
Power and Performance in the Colonial Atlantic
History 236 / Theater 236
See Theater 236 for a full course description.
Greek Religion: Magic, Mysteries, and Cult
History 2361 / Classics 2361
See Classics 2361 for a full course description.
20th-Century Diplomatic History
cross-listed: political studies
This course examines in depth the tumultuous history of the “short 20th century.” While one cannot understand the period without grappling with social movements and ideas, the emphasis here is primarily on high politics, war, and diplomacy from the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, with a brief epilogue on the post–Cold War era.
Mao’s China and Beyond
cross-listed: asian studies, gis
No individual shaped modern China more than Mao Zedong. This course uses Mao’s life and writings as a framework for exploring modern Chinese history, beginning with an analysis of how the 20th-century revolutions relate to other social, cultural, and economic trends, including urbanization, industrialization, consumerism, and the expansion of mass media.
Joyce’s Ulysses, Modernity, and Nationalism
cross-listed: ics, sts, victorian studies
Although it concerns only one day in 1904, each chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses is written in a radically different style. This course complements Joyce’s stylistic innovation by using multifarious contemporary documents and historical texts to unfold the historical context and resonance of each of Joyce’s chapters. Among the key issues addressed are the function of historical and mythical time in everyday life and the effect of politics and mass media on personal experience.
Capitalism and Slavery
History 2631 / Human Rights 2631
Scholars have argued that there is an intimate relationship between the contemporary wealth of the developed world and the money generated through 400 years of slavery in the Americas. Is there something essential that links capitalism, even liberal democratic capitalism, to slavery? This course examines the development of this linkage, focusing on North America and the Caribbean from the early 17th century through the staggered emancipations of the 19th century. Contemporary issues (e.g., reparations, the “duty” of the Americas to Africa) are also considered.
Encounters in the American Borderlands
cross-listed: africana studies, american studies, eus, human rights
Frontiers and borders have threaded across the Americas like a spiderweb from the late 15th century until the present. What did it mean to have an encounter in these borderlands—between Native Americans and Europeans or Africans? Are borderlands exclusively a physical space or are they imagined as well? This course provides an overview to borderlands in North America from the Columbian Exchange (1492) to the late 20th century, and considers the possibilities and perils for those living in the zone between empires and nations.
The Holocaust, 1933–1945
cross-listed: german studies, human rights, Jewish studies, sts
This course examines modern anti-Semitic movements and the aftermath of World War I; Nazi rule and the experience of German Jews from 1933 to 1938; the institution of ghettos and the cultural and political activities of their Jewish populations; the turn to mass murder and its implementation in the extermination camps; and the liberation and its immediate aftermath. Special attention is paid to the question of what constitutes resistance or collaboration in a situation of total war and genocide.
The Other Europe: East Central Europe after World War II
cross-listed: gis, human rights, res
After a brief history of East Central Europe before and during World War II, the course concentrates on the region’s evolution since the war. Turning points examined include the Berlin uprising of 1953, the Hungarian revolution and reforms in Poland in 1956, the “Prague Spring” of 1968, the Solidarity movement in Poland, and the revolutions at the end of the 1980s.
American Environmental History I
cross-listed: american studies, eus
Since the Old World first encountered the New, a battle has raged over what this New World might become. For some, it meant moral and spiritual rejuvenation. For most, it meant an opportunity to transform material circumstances. At no time have those two visions been compatible. This course examines attempts to fashion a scientific or aesthetic rationale for the use and abuse of natural resources, to subdue or preserve the wilderness, and to understand the relationship between humans and nature.
American Environmental History II: The Age of Ecology
cross-listed: american studies, eus
This course investigates Americans’ interaction with their environment from roughly 1890 to the present. It considers how the role of the federal government has changed from the “conservation” to “environmental” eras, why the Dust Bowl occurred, how chemical warfare changed the life span of bugs, whether wilderness should be central to the environmental movement, and other topics that address how we live in the world.
The Civil War and Reconstruction
cross-listed: africana studies, american studies
An exploration of the connection between the American Civil War and the subsequent Reconstruction project in the former Confederate states. Also examined:?the competing understandings of the war’s goals by contemporaries; the experiences of various participants (Northerners, emancipated slaves, Southern whites) in Reconstruction; political and extrapolitical opposition to Reconstruction; and the institutional and constitutional legacy of the project.
Beyond Witches, Abbesses, and Queens: A History of European Women, 1500–1800
cross-listed: gss, human rights
Women make history—as historical actors and as historians. This course examines the “woman question” in the medical, legal, religious, and political discourses of the early modern period through processes such as the centralization of European states, Protestant and Catholic reformations, explorations, and colonial settlement. It also serves as an opportunity to reflect upon the history of women’s studies, both as a field of inquiry and as an academic institution.
Entrepreneurs, Intellectuals, and the History of the Global South
cross-listed: asian studies, gis, mes
This seminar explores the circulation of goods and ideas in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean worlds from c. 1750 until c. 1950. Rather than studying the history of the colonized non-West in relation to Europe, this course brings to the forefront the connections between different parts of the colonized world, most notably the Middle East and South Asia. It does so through studying economic and intellectual developments.
Captivity and Law
cross-listed: africana studies, human rights
The class focuses on the confrontation of early modern African and European political thought and practices of captivity—abduction, wartime hostage-taking, slavery, and other forms of internment. Captivity engages questions of war and ransom as much as labor, religion, and race. It involves contracts, written or not, for renting, selling, buying, and freeing people. As such, captivity figures prominently in laws of war and peace. The language of the law indicates varying degrees of legitimacy and becomes a touchstone for the changing morality of societies.
Research Seminar in U.S. Urban History
cross-listed: american studies, eus
In this course, students pursue specialized study and research in American urban history. Those interested in urban space and its meanings, urban planning and design, new urbanism, suburbanism, the postmodern city, urban politics, urban infrastructure, and urban culture are invited to bring their individual topics to the table. The class initially considers a common set of readings having to do with urban historiography before shifting focus to individual student research projects and the literature and methods informing them.
cross-listed: human rights, mes
The cry “Plague!” has struck fear among people around the world, from antiquity to the present. What is plague? How has it changed history? Starting with Camus’s metaphorical evocation of plague in a modern North African city, this Upper College seminar examines the historical impact of plague on society. Readings include literary works by Camus, Boccaccio, Manzoni, and Defoe; historical and philosophical analyses by ancients Thucydides and Lucretius; and contemporary literature on history, biology, and public health.
The Lives of Other Slaves
cross-listed: human rights, mes
In the United States, the antebellum “Cotton Kingdom” shapes understandings of slavery and its legacy. But slavery was not limited to the trans-Atlantic trade. Millions of Africans were enslaved and forced to convert to Islam in an eastern-oriented trade. Taking the experiences of slaves in the Ottoman Empire (c. 1300–1922) as a starting point, this seminar explores the identities, trajectories, and afterlives of slaves in the Middle East (broadly defined to include North Africa, the Balkans, and the Caucasus) during the early modern and modern periods.
The Case for Liberties
cross-listed: french studies, human rights
What is tyranny? When is rebellion justified? Given human nature, what is the ideal government? Is there a human right to free trade? Is commerce compatible with art and philosophy? Such questions prompted Netherlanders in the 16th and 17th centuries to carve a Dutch Republic out of the Spanish Empire, and to create a “Golden Age” of capitalism, science, and art. Monographs on Dutch history are supplemented with paintings, scientific treatises, and the literature of rebellion and republicanism (including Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise).
Resistance and Collaboration
cross-listed: german studies, human rights, jewish studies
The class considers the concepts of resistance and collaboration, in particular as they apply to the actions of victims and bystanders during the Holocaust. The class examines patterns of reaction—passive, armed, cultural and spiritual resistance—and the range of behaviors among bystander groups, including collaboration, inaction, and rescue. By reading a number of scholars with widely varying views, such as Hannah Arendt, Yehuda Bauer, and Isaiah Trunk, students grapple with the issues on theoretical, empirical, and ethical levels.
The Arab-Israel Conflict
cross-listed: human rights, Jewish studies, mes
This course provides students with an understanding of this conflict from its inception to the present. Among the themes discussed are how the Jewish national movement that began in the late 19th century and the Arab national movement that arose to contest Ottoman and European rule of Arab peoples led to the emergence of the State of Israel and the Palestinian refugees in 1948. The course examines how the political character of the conflict has changed over the decades.
Biography and U.S. History
cross-listed: american studies, eus, human rights
Students survey the ways in which life stories can convey multiple and often opposing understandings of the past. Biographies can reinforce “Great Man” understandings of history, recover the role of ordinary people, confirm the idea of individual agency, highlight the power of context in framing individual decision making, precisely locate and define extraordinary actions and actors, render history in human terms, and suggest rightly or wrongly a coherence to the past.
The Power of Print
cross-listed: asian studies, experimental humanities, sts
An exploration of print media over the last half millennium and its impact on society, culture, and politics. Through a mix of theoretical and historical texts, students consider how print has fostered the development of new political communities, created and undermined cultural authority, and enabled new dynamics of knowledge production. Analysis of the rise of digital media provides critical perspective for understanding how the materiality of the printed text and its circulation through space has affected its social, cultural, and political significance.
Violent Cultures and Material Pleasures in the Atlantic World
cross-listed: africana studies, american studies, experimental humanities, lais
Emeralds, chocolate, sugar, tobacco—precious, exotic, sweet, addictive. Like human actors, commodities have stories of their own. They shape human existence, create new sets of interactions, and offer a unique lens through which to view history. This course explores the hidden life of material objects that circulated from the early modern Atlantic into the rest of the world.
Central European Cities: Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest
cross-listed: eus, german studies, gis
In this course, the metropolis is used to investigate the Central European experience of modernity. Basic themes include the cultural reaction to mechanization and bureaucratization of modern urban life; the metropolis as a new arena to contest traditional political and social roles; and the role of the city in the development of new sociological and philosophical theories and in new forms of communication, association, and political action.
Reading the Postcolonial in African History and African Political Thought
cross-listed: africana studies, gis, human rights, political studies
Scholars have interpreted “postcolonial” as a temporal disjuncture, after colonialism. This course shifts away from that understanding to a more theoretical site of engagement over the discourses of colonialism, nationalism, race, and globalization. Topics discussed include historiography, the relationship of power to knowledge production, and critiques of colonialism, nationalism, and apartheid.
The Historical Politics of Africa’s Civil War
cross-listed: africana studies, human rights, political studies
This seminar challenges students to move beyond the rhetoric of political conflict in Africa and instead understand current struggles as crises of historiography. Ongoing conflicts in the Central African Republic and South Sudan are considered within a historical context of civil war in postindependent Africa. Through primary and secondary sources, students explore possible causes for civil unrest in Nigeria, Angola, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone, as well as the actors and interests involved, and proposed resolutions.
European Intellectual History since 1890: Central Debates of the 20th Century
A survey of the central suppositions and conflicts through which 20th-century European thought developed, using as its central theme the “great debates” of this period and their consequences. Sorel, Gramsci, Heidegger, Benjamin, Adorno, DeBeauvoir, Fanon, Luhmann, and Habermas are among the thinkers studied.
Latin America: Revolution, Repression, Trauma
Over the last 100 years, Latin America has been a place of extremely contentious, violent, and unresolved conflicts. Although considered a land of revolution, the region experienced very few revolutions in the 20th century. But revolution and its possibility had many unintended consequences, including the rise of military regimes, state terrorism, and civil wars. By studying Latin America from the perspective of both revolution and repression, the seminar allows for a more complete understanding of the region’s recent human rights crisis and legacy of trauma.
The Great War in World History
This course looks at the changes and trends in the research and writing of history as practiced by professional historians. After brief consideration of the origins of history as a formal academic discipline in the 19th century, and of the transition from political to social history in the mid-20th, the class considers the multiplicity of approaches that came out of the “theory explosion” between the 1960s and 1990s. The course draws from the fields of modern European, African, and world history.
Global Latin American Conjunctures
History 3225 / Sociology 3225
See LAIS 3225 for a full course description.
Before Bard and Beyond: A Public History Practicum on the Hudson Valley
cross-listed: american studies, art history
For millennia the Hudson Valley has sustained communities that exploited the resources of the region to support themselves. In the late 1700s, the valley began to be prized for its beauty as well as its utility. Elites began to build large country houses surrounded by “pleasure grounds” that overlooked the river. The main Bard campus comprises three of these estates as well as Native American sites and early farms. Students produce a collaborative public history exhibit, utilizing Dublin Core Metadata standards and Omeka online-exhibit-building software.
cross-listed: medieval history
Who were the Vikings? When and how did they stop being Vikings? What was their impact on the medieval world? To answer these questions, students in this Upper College seminar examine archaeological evidence, documents, and modern scholarship.
Your Papers, Please? Technocracy, Technology, and Social Control in Nazi Germany, the DDR, and the BRD
cross-listed: german studies
This course addresses the coercive and violent powers of the modern state as they were refined through technologies and techniques in National Socialist Germany, and then alternately condemned and utilized in the (East) German Democratic Republic (DDR) and (West) German Federal Republic (BRD). Topics range from the development of new techniques of propaganda and military oversight to the manipulation of social technologies such as identification papers, the census, racial pseudoscience, and, most horrifically, the concentration camp system.
Topics in American Immigration History and Policy
The course touches on the entire history of American immigration, but focuses on the period since 1870. Topics considered include policy debates over restricting immigration and the distinctive dynamics of Mexican immigration. Class readings consist of primary source documents as well as the work of historians and social scientists. Students prepare an extended research paper on a topic of their choice, usually based heavily on documents from the relevant period.
Four Case Studies of Revolutionary Violence
The question of violence—of repressive governments, revolutions, and counterrevolutions—is traced across case studies from South Africa, France, Russia, and China. The course seeks to understand each revolution in terms of both indigenously generated dynamics and world-historical factors. This is a graduate-level course offered jointly by the MAT Program and the College.
Spectacular History: From Minstrelsy to Reality TV
cross-listed: american studiess
This course traces the ups and downs of the spectacle—as term, event, and structure of feeling—in American culture from the end of the Civil War to the present. What caught the eyes of Americans over this century and a half has a lot to tell us about popular culture, performance, and the media, but also about economics, race, and violence. Students encounter the American spectacular in a variety of forms and places, including show stages, courtrooms, postcards, novels, advertisements, television, and videos.
Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire
cross-listed: medieval studies, ress
A survey of the eastern Roman empire, with an emphasis on politics, war, and strategy. Taking as its foil the Edward Gibbon classic, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the class investigates the hidden strengths of Byzantium—especially the underrated arts of diplomacy, deterrence, and strategic flexibility—that allowed an allegedly “decadent” empire to survive for so long.
Cuba and the Spanish Caribbean in Global Perspective: Sugar, Slavery, and Revolution
cross-listed: africana studies, american studies, gis, human rights
This seminar explores global connections and hybridities involving sugar, slavery, and revolution in the Spanish Caribbean, from the 19th century to the mid-20th century. The continued influence of these colonial legacies today is also addressed.
The Politics of History
cross-listed: gis, human rights
What are the origins of history as a modern discipline? How have particular modes of history developed in relation to nationalism, imperialism, and the emergence of the modern state? How have modern historical techniques served to produce ideology? This course addresses these and other questions through readings that offer diverse perspectives on the place of narrative in history, the historian’s relation to the past, the construction of historiographical discourses, and the practice of historical commemoration. Writers discussed include Hayden White, Dominick LaCapra, Michel Foucault, G. W. F. Hegel, Walter Benjamin, and Joan Wallach Scott.
Education in Colonial Africa: Theory, Memoir, Fiction
cross-listed: africana studies
What might provide a window into the multiple layers of consciousness, types of identities, and fractured and unpredictable loyalties of Africans under colonial rule? Schools anywhere are sites bristling with these variegated exercises of power and shaping of consciousness—all the more so in colonial Africa. This advanced seminar engages key texts on theories of empire together with African-authored memoirs and works of fiction that feature the experience of education. Additional readings from analytical monographs.
1917 Revolution in Russia
cross-listed: human rights, res
Topics include the economic and social developments that preceded the Russian Revolution, intellectual and cultural background of the revolutionary movement, ideology and practice of the major political parties that participated in revolutionary events, the role of women in the movement, political dynamics of the revolution, reasons for the Bolshevik victory, and the effects of the revolution on Russian society. Readings include original works and scholarly studies.