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History 199 Descriptions: Fall 2019

History 199     Elements of Historical Thinking. The purpose of this course is not to cover a certain amount of ground, but to introduce students to the nature of historical interpretation. To do that, individual instructors will chose a topic that will show students the various ways historians interpret their evidence and allow them to practice interpretation on their own. Whatever the topic, the central aim is for students to come away from the course with a better understanding of the nature and limits of historical evidence, the various legitimate ways of approaching it, and the art of making persuasive claims about it.

The individual course titles for Fall Semester 2019 are:

  • The Crusades. An examination of the roots of the Crusading Movement in Western Christian societies; the ways the crusades brought three world cultures (The West, Byzantium, Islam) into contact and confrontation; the vitality of the crusading idea in Western Europe; the different perspectives on the crusades found in contemporary sources; and the movement of crusade history from a very Christian-centered view to one taking into account the experiences of non-Christians encountering the crusaders.
  • Europe’s Immigration Crisis:  An exploration of how mass immigration has transformed European politics, society, and culture, from the end of World War II until the present-day refugee crisis. Topics include nationalism, xenophobia, and racial violence; immigrants’ everyday lives and activism; debates surrounding multiculturalism and diversity; and the changing meaning of European identities in a globalizing world. Focuses primarily on Great Britain, France, and Germany.
  • Lincoln.  A study of Abraham Lincoln’s life in the broader historical perspective of the western movement, social mobility, party politics, the legal profession, the sectional crisis, and the Civil War.  Roughly equal time is devoted to Lincoln’s pre-presidential and Civil War years.
  • Natives and Newcomers in Early America.  Natives and Newcomers will introduce you to the craft and art of historical detection through an exploration of relations between Native peoples and European newcomers in lands the immigrants called the Americas. We will investigate novel sources of evidence, grapple with the particular difficulties of studying ethnohistory, and evaluate scholarly debates about the cultural negotiation between Indians and colonists from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. 
  • The Opium Wars. An examination of two conflicts—The Opium Wars of 1839-1841 and 1858-1860—that are of often said to signal the beginning of “modern China.” But what does it mean to study the history of such events? Not only will students consider the many facets of these wars, but examine how Chinese and non-Chinese historians have represented them.  How do the differing images they have constructed affect how we understand China today?
  • Propaganda State.  The use of propaganda as a means to mobilize civilian populations is in many senses a defining feature of modernity. This course examines the deployment of propaganda in peacetime and war from the early twentieth century to the present through the investigation of a series of case studies and broader theoretical readings. These case studies also examine the interrelationship between mobilizational propaganda and other modern phenomena such as ideology, public relations and advertising.
  • The Scottsboro Trials.  An examination, in its historical context, of a famous 1931 legal case in which nine black teenagers were falsely accused of raping two white women in Scottsboro, Alabama.
  • Slavery and Freedom in Early America.  This course will examine the history of slavery and freedom in early North America, from the beginnings of colonization through the period of gradual emancipation in the United States. We will consider the varied kinds of evidence that historians have used to tell the story of slavery and freedom--from ships logs to slave narratives to archaeology. Throughout the course, we will pair primary and secondary sources to show how historians have located, interpreted, and written about the archive of slavery and freedom. At the center of our conversations will be the question of who gets to tell their story.
  • Technology in American History.  What has "technology" been?  What kinds of stories about the history of technology get told, and why?  How can we best understand technologies’ reflecting and, in turn, shaping American values?  How can we best explain our “technological enthusiasms” (and fears)?  What have been the most important American technologies (and how do we decide what counts as important, anyway)?  Can historical thinking about the technological paths we have invented/discovered help us to adapt to challenges today?
    As we explore these questions, we’ll also cover basic topics like the emergence of industrial and post-industrial economies; the growth of large-scale systems (agriculture, transport, communication, energy, land development, consumption); unforeseen consequences of technological change; and the relations of technological change to federal policies, national defense, public health, and notions of “the good life.”
  • The U.S./Mexico Borderlands.  An examination of the socio-political, economic, and cultural history of the U.S.-Mexico border, a site for more than four centuries of peaceful encounters, violent clashes, and episodes that defy simple categorization.  How the border has affected the construction of racial/ethnic, gender and class identities will be investigated for what it can reveal about national and transnational histories.  Themes to be explored include capitalist development, rebellions, transculturation, immigration, narcopolitics, and militarization.