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Bard College Catalogue, 2019–20
Robert J. Culp (director), Richard Aldous, Myra Young Armstead, Leon Botstein, Omar Cheta, Christian Ayne Crouch, Jeanette Estruth, Tabetha Ewing, Cecile E. Kuznitz, Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, Sean McMeekin, Gregory B. Moynahan, Joel Perlmann, Miles Rodríguez, 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, drama, literature, 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
- “Knowledge and Power in Occupied Japan: U.S. Censorship of Hiroshima and Nagasaki”
- “Pageantry: From Medieval to Modern”
- “South Side, World Wide: The Fusion of History and Fiction in Richard Wright and James T. Farrell’s Chicago”
- “Troubled Waters: Drinking Water Quality, Environmental Justice, and the Politics of Permissibility in Newburgh, New York”
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.
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: An Introduction to the Urban Histories of Lagos, Nairobi, and Johannesburg
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, EUS, GIS
This course 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
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
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.
Modern Latin America since Independence
History 120 / LAIS 120
See LAIS 120 for a full course description.
The United States in the 20th Century
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, GIS
Four decades into the 20th century, LIFE magazine editor Henry Luce declared it the “American Century.” This course explores the different meanings Americans and people elsewhere have ascribed to Luce’s term. Over the last century, the United States has changed in dramatic ways (global power, demographics, economics), while continuing longer-standing trajectories (sense of mission, racialized citizenship, socioeconomic inequality). Themes include the Gilded Age, imperialism, world wars, women’s rights, the New Deal, Cold War, Civil Rights Movement, expansion of the federal government, and American popular culture.
The Widow at Montgomery Place in the 19th Century
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES
DESIGNATED: ELAS COURSE
In 1802, Janet Montgomery began to convert her 380-acre riverfront property from a “wilderness” into a “pleasure ground.” This transformation reflected prevailing ideas about the ideal aesthetic relationship between humans and nature as well as emerging notions regarding scientific agriculture. Development of the property also mirrored contemporary social and cultural conventions, as the estate was populated by indentured servants, tenants, slaves, free workers, and elites. This course approaches Montgomery Place as a laboratory for understanding social hierarchies, cultural practices, and evolving visions of nation and “place.”
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.
Imperial Chinese History
CROSS-LISTED: ASIAN STUDIES
China’s imperial state, sustained in one form or another for over two millennia, was arguably history’s longest continuous social and political order. This course explores the transformations of imperial China’s state, society, and culture from their initial emergence during the Zhou period (1027–221 BCE) through the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911, when a combination of imperialism and internal stresses destroyed the imperial system. Readings in philosophy, poetry, fiction, and memoir are supplemented with a rich array of visual sources.
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.
A Haunted Union: 20th-Century Germany and the Unification of Europe
CROSS-LISTED: GERMAN STUDIES, GSS
A history of the German-speaking lands from Napoleon’s dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806 through the development of the German state in 1871, the cataclysmic initiation by this state of the two 20th-century World Wars, and the creation of the new political entity of the European Union. 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.
European Diplomatic History
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).
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.
Apartheid in South(ern) Africa
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS
Apartheid was a political beast that ravaged southern Africa from the late 18th century until 1994’s democratic election of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela. However, recent economic struggles and the perceived failings of the African National Congress are shedding new light on apartheid’s legacies of inequality and South Africa’s longstanding regional dominance. This course uses primary-source documents to explore apartheid’s philosophical, economic, and social origins within political institutions and daily life from the time of the Scramble for Africa (1881–1914).
CROSS-LISTED: FRENCH STUDIES
The French nation gave birth to itself in 1789 but would be reborn as demographic and economic changes, brought about through colonial relations, forced new ideas about France’s political identity. This survey of French politics, society, and economy in the 19th and 20th centuries—from the French and Haitian Revolutions to the fall of France in Indochina—also addresses how the rise of the French intellectual, reformulation of gender roles, and resistance in overseas territories somehow created one of the most strongly articulated modern identities in Europe.
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
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.
Inventing Modernity: Peasant Commune, Renaissance, and Reformation in the German and Italian Worlds, 1291–1806
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.
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.
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.
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.
Environmentalism of the Poor
Who is an environmentalist? What is environmentalism? The American tradition features Henry David Thoreau, Teddy Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, and the Sierra Club, and favors myths of wilderness. After readings by economist Joan Martinez Alier, historian Ramachandra Guha, and environmentalist-humanist Rob Nixon on various people’s movements around the world, the class considers the environmentalism of the disadvantaged in the United States, including Native Americans, African Americans, Latinx, and the working classes.
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 CE.
High Middle Ages
CROSS-LISTED: FRENCH STUDIES, MEDIEVAL STUDIES
With a focus on Europe and the Middle East (with glances to Asia and North Africa) from the first millennium through the 14th-century Black Death, the course 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.
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.
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.
Immigration in American Politics, Past and Present
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS, SOCIOLOGY
Dreamers and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), illegal aliens, dangerous Muslims, fear for jobs, “populism” gone rampant. During and since the 2016 presidential election, immigrants and immigration policy have played a central role in American political debate (with many apparent parallels in Europe). This course tries to specify what is novel in the American case—and what is not so new. Class readings focus on historical accounts of the immigrant in American politics as well as emerging understandings of the present instance.
The Making of the Atlantic World
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, FRENCH STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS, LAIS
The “Atlantic World” encompasses the histories of the peoples, economies, ideas, and products that interacted in the oceanic basin in the early modern period. This was an international arena that shaped or destroyed communities, and developed as a result of voluntary and involuntary movement. Students consider the histories of the actors and agents who shaped or were shaped by Atlantic systems, as well as the implications of how we write or remember that history.
Zionism and Jewish Nationalism
CROSS-LISTED: JEWISH STUDIES
With a focus on Zionism and other forms of Jewish nationalism, the course explores the European background of these movements as well as ideologies such as political, cultural, labor, religious and revisionist Zionism; territorialism; and socialist and liberal diaspora nationalism. Also addressed are the answers proposed by each movement to the questions: What is the most effective means of securing the rights of Jews as a stateless minority? How should Jews relate to the other groups among whom they live? Do Jews need a territory of their own, and if so, why?
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 a look at America’s role in a world marked by the rising influence of China, India, and nongovernmental actors.
The Past and Present of Capitalism in the Middle East
The primary focus is capitalism as it was understood and practiced in the Middle East during the periods of European colonization and postcolonial nationalism. Hence, the course addresses differences based on citizenship status, class, geography, nationality, political affiliation, religion, and socioeconomic background. Additionally, students engage critically with questions of difference and inequality between colonial and nationalist rulers, colonized populations, and ethnic and religious minority groups.
CROSS-LISTED: EUS, HUMAN RIGHTS
Are famines inevitable? For Robert Malthus, 18th-century clergyman and political economist, famines were (along with war and plague) natural curbs to overpopulation, necessary because humans reproduce faster than their food supply. For Amartya Sen, 20th-century philosopher and economist, famines result from social and economic policies, not food shortages. To understand what causes famines, the class examines famines globally, from premodern times to the present. Readings from Malthus and Sen, plus historians William Chester Jordan, Mike Davis, Robert Conquest, Frank Dikötter, Rob Nixon, and Cormac Ó Gráda.
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, GIS, 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.
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.
Migrants and Refugees in the Americas
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS, RES
The wall. Raids. Deportations. Separation of families. Sanctuary. Refugee resettlement. These words—usually confined to policy, enforcement, and activism related to migrants and refugees—have exploded into the public view. Focusing on south-north migration from Latin American regions, the course looks at the history of migrant and refugee human rights over the last three decades, with readings including migrant, refugee, and activist narratives and an array of historical, legal, political, and other primary sources.
Law in the Middle East: From Ottoman Edicts to Contemporary Human Rights
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS, MES
This course examines how law was constituted and applied among Muslim and non-Muslim communities of the Ottoman Empire (16th through 18th centuries); how this particular early modern legacy shaped the policies of the Ottoman and post-Ottoman states toward legal reform in the modern period (19th and 20th centuries); and the politics of law in the contemporary Middle East. Readings revolve around the intersection of law with various social spheres, such as religious conversion, gender, slavery, and human rights.
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.
Dominion: Empire and Environment in Modern History
How have empires shaped the environment? And how, in turn, have human and nonhuman environments affected the course of empires? Students consider the interplay between empire and the environment from a global perspective. Topics discussed: how European settlers changed the natural environment of New England, why the Chinese government decided to build gigantic dams, and what the history of empires can tell us about contemporary debates on human-made climate change. Guest speakers join the conversation throughout the semester.
Confucianism: Humanity, Rites, and Rights
CROSS-LISTED: ASIAN STUDIES, GSS, HUMAN RIGHTS, PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION
The class looks at the transformations of Confucian philosophy, social ethics, and political thought. Close readings in seminal texts provide a foundation in the earliest Confucian ideas of benevolence, rites, and righteousness. Among other topics, the course considers how Confucian thought shaped Western ideas of rights and how Confucian concepts of humanity, relational ethics, and social responsibility offer alternatives to Euro-American rights discourse.
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.
Gender and Sexuality in Modern China
CROSS-LISTED: ANTHROPOLOGY, ASIAN STUDIES, GSS, HUMAN RIGHTS, STS
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.
CROSS-LISTED: ASIAN STUDIES, EUS, GIS
The fate of the global environment depends in large part on how China handles its environmental challenges. The country’s coal consumption is the single largest contributor to global climate change, and domestic environmental problems like desertification, air pollution, and a rapidly degrading water supply threaten to undermine its economic growth and political stability. This course explores the economic, social, cultural, and political dynamics that have generated the current crisis, and analyzes how and why the government has dramatically shifted its approach to emerge as a leader in climate change mitigation.
The Political History of Common Sense
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, FRENCH STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS
This course broadens understanding of modern democracy by locating populism and its tensions with myriad forms of expertise, such as orthodox religious authorities, Enlightenment thought, abolitionism, and state forms of information gathering and knowledge production. Opposition to book learning and intellectualism may only be as old as the wide-scale presence of books, intellectuals, and experts in social life. So however seemingly universal and transhistorical folk knowledge, proverbial wisdom, and, especially, common sense are presented, their meaning, significance, and practice have changed over time.
How to Wage War in Colonial America
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, FRENCH STUDIES, HUMAN RIGHTS, LAIS
Colonial America existed in a constant state of war. This course examines formal and informal military conflicts from the 16th to the early 19th century, looking at well-known engagements like the so-called French and Indian War as well as lesser-known episodes, such as the French and Abenaki raid on Deerfield in 1704. Students learn how European and indigenous American rules of violence developed, shifted, and adapted in response to the Columbian Exchange, and how war came to shape contemporary American identity.
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.
American Indian 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.
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.
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.
American Environmental History
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, EUS
For centuries, nature has played a pivotal role in the imagination of America. At the same time, Americans have dramatically reshaped their own environment and those of places far beyond. This seminar explores the environmental history of North America, with a special focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. Topics include settler colonialism, Native American resistance, railroads, meat production, conservation, environmental disasters, dams, nuclear energy, space travel, environmentalism, and contemporary debates about the Anthropocene.
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.
The Second World War
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, POLITICAL STUDIES
The class examines the Second World War in all its manifold dimensions, from causes to consequences, covering all major fronts. Students taking the course as a Major Conference are strongly encouraged to use the resources of the FDR Library in Hyde Park, New York.
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.
Political Ritual in the Modern World
CROSS-LISTED: ANTHROPOLOGY, ASIAN STUDIES, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS, SOCIOLOGY
Bastille Day, the U.S. presidential inauguration, the Olympic opening ceremony, and rallies at Nuremberg and Tiananmen Square: political ritual has been central to nation building, colonialism, and political movements over the last three centuries. This course uses a global, comparative perspective to analyze the modern history of political ritual. Topics covered include state ritual and the performance of power, the relationship between ritual and citizenship in the modern nation-state, and the ritualization of politics in social and political movements.
Orwell and His World
Since George Orwell’s death in 1950, Animal Farm and 1984 between them have sold more than 40 million copies, and “Orwellian” has become, in the words of one linguist, “the most widely used adjective derived from the name of a modern writer … even nosing out the rival political reproach ‘Machiavellian,’ which had a 500-year head start.” This course looks at Orwell in the context of the tumultuous 1930s and 1940s, examining his take on British and international politics, culture, and society through his fiction, nonfiction, letters, and diaries.
Resistance and Collaboration in the Holocaust
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.
How to Read and Write the History of the Postcolonial World
CROSS-LISTED: GIS, MES
The primary goal of the course is to think about historical narratives of the postcolonial worlds as constructed artifacts and as products of certain intellectual environments. Each class meeting explores an influential school of historical writing, such as the French Annales or Italian microhistory. Discussions revolve around the possibilities and limits of writing history in light of the existent historical sources, academic and disciplinary norms, other disciplinary influences (especially from literature and anthropology), and present political considerations.
The Power of Print
CROSS-LISTED: 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.
Jamestown: An American Horror Story
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS
Jamestown, the first permanent English locality in the Western Hemisphere and the model for all future English colonial ventures, is a settler story from hell. Cannibalism, starvation, constant war with First Nations, slavery, and ecoterrorism—Jamestown had it all. This seminar investigates historiographical trends centered on Jamestown’s changing place in American narratives and then turns to early Virginia primary sources (oral, visual, textual, archaeological) as students learn strategies to retrieve and reconstruct different historical voices, especially those of enslaved and indigenous peoples.
Africa and the Post Colony: A Study in Method and Social Movements
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS
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.
The Suburban Ideal
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, EUS
Once a marker of refinement and status in the American mind, suburban life morphed to become synonymous with oppressive conformity, racial exclusion, and gender restrictions. Some of these characterizations continue today, but have been complicated by the rise of the boutique city even as blacks, new ethnic groups, and working class people are voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily reshaping the landscape between urban centers and the countryside. Readings explore the complexities of suburbia in the United States from 1830 to the present. Open to Upper College students only.
On the Move: U.S. Policy from 1890 to the Present
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES
Immigrants, workers, soldiers, suburbanites, activists. Over the last century, Americans were on the move. In this research seminar, students take an in-depth look at the history of the United States in the long 20th century with an emphasis on movement. Social movements discussed include populism, workers’ rights, progressivism, pacifism, indigenous rights, women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, religious fundamentalism, conservatism, and Black Lives Matter. Other movements are also explored, including colonialism, migrations, and social mobility.
Captive Children and Empire
CROSS-LISTED: AFRICANA STUDIES, AMERICAN STUDIES, GIS, HUMAN RIGHTS
An examination of the contemporary reality and afterlives of prominent captive children, including Native American Powhatan Pocahontas, English settler-colonist Esther Wheelwright, and Ethiopia’s Prince Alamayu. Through archival detective work and a consideration of changing media representations, students learn how to recover the lived experiences of children and teens who were “spirited away” and consider how these histories shape current dialogues and representations of imperial encounter, colonial legacies, child rights, and family separation.
The Great War in World History
This seminar 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.
CROSS-LISTED: MEDIEVAL STUDIES
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.
Jewish New York, 1881–1924
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES, EUS, JEWISH STUDIES
Between 1881 and 1924, approximately 2.5 million Jews left Eastern Europe; one million of them settled in New York, transforming the city into the largest Jewish community in the world and laying the groundwork for the communal and cultural patterns that mark American Jewish life to this day. The course looks at East European Jewish society, the experience of migration, and issues including family and gender roles, religious life, the American Jewish labor movement, and the development of American Yiddish culture.
Spectacular History: From Minstrelsy to Reality TV
CROSS-LISTED: AMERICAN STUDIES
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.
Latin America: Race, Religion, and Revolution
CROSS-LISTED: HUMAN RIGHTS, LAIS
Students investigate how racial concepts formed and became fixed ideas through distinct revolutionary-inspired debates on interracial mixture and indigenous rights, and then consider the simultaneous rise of wars and conflicts over religious meanings and faiths. The latter part of the course focuses on Guatemala, which combined extreme violence over race, religion, and revolution, and focused global attention on indigenous and human rights.
Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire
CROSS-LISTED: MEDIEVAL STUDIES, RES
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.
Finnegans Wake: Vico, Joyce, and the New Science
CROSS-LISTED: EXPERIMENTAL HUMANITIES, ICS, STS
In 1725, Giambattista Vico presented a “New Science” of poetic imagination intended to recontextualize the established foundations of the natural sciences of Descartes and Bacon. In 1939, with much of the world on the verge of war, James Joyce presented an immersive demonstration of Vico’s science in Finnegans Wake. By turns confusing, hilarious, and profound, Joyce’s “vicociclometer” provided a reorientation in myth and history of the relation of ancient and modern life, religion, and politics. The class uses the “exception” provided by both texts to look at the norms of modern intellectual history.
Islamic Empires: The Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals (1500–1850)
A look at the history of three empires of Islam during the early modern period, covering an area stretching from the Balkans to the Middle East, Iran, and India. Topics include the varieties of Islamic rule; relations between diverse populations (Muslims, Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Hindus) as well as urban, rural, and nomadic communities; incorporation of the Islamic world into the global world economy; and transimperial networks of commerce and knowledge.
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.