Admission & Financial Aid

Admission & Financial Aid


Regulations & Requirements

Regulations & Requirements


Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses



Professors Couvares†, Epstein, R. López, Moss, Redding (Chair), Ringer, and Servos; Associate Professors Manion*, Maxey, and Melillo*; Five College Associate Professor Glebov;  Assistant Professors Boucher, Cho, A. Gordon, Hicks, Sen, and Walker;  John J. McCloy Visiting Professor Simon; Lewis-Sebring Visiting Associate Professor L. Gordon; Five College Visiting Assistant Professor Trask; Visiting Lecturer Hickmott; Dean's Fellow Presswood.

*On leave 2017-18.

†On leave fall semester 2017-18.

‡On leave spring semester 2017-18.


Goals for the History Major

Students who complete the major in History will be able to

     ♦  Think critically about the relationship between historical evidence and arguments.

     ♦  Challenge and revise existing narratives of the past, both to comprehend the events they describe and to shed light on society’s evolving needs and concerns.

     ♦  Question their own ideas and assumptions, and reflect on the often hidden relationships between ideas and social institutions, and between individuals and their cultures.

     ♦  Analyze texts, documents, and oral historical materials, and assess the uses made of these materials by other historians.

     ♦  Frame research questions, conduct independent research, and write persuasively.

The requirements for the history major encourage students to develop these capacities by studying the history of a particular region or historical topic in depth and by ranging more widely so as to fulfill geographical and chronological breadth requirements.

Majors will demonstrate their mastery of History by successfully completing nine history courses that include

     ♦  Four courses in an individually chosen area of concentration

     ♦  One course each in at least three different geographic areas

     ♦  Either two courses that cover the pre-1800 period [P], or one pre-1800 course and one comparative history [C] course

     ♦  A research seminar (numbered 400 and up) resulting in the completion of a 20- to 25-page research paper that conforms to the department’s “Guidelines for Research Papers”

     ♦  HIST 301, Writing the Past or HIST 402, Proseminar: Research and Writing

Some individual courses may fulfill more than one of the above requirements. Students who have taken history courses outside of the Five College Consortium (including history courses taken in study abroad programs) must petition the department to receive its approval to count those courses toward the major requirements. Majors should consult their departmental advisers as they select their courses or if they have questions about the requirements.

In addition, all majors must satisfy a comprehensive assessment by either

     ♦  Completing a senior thesis on an independently chosen topic, and participating in an oral defense of the thesis with three faculty members chosen jointly by the student and the department. The thesis adds two to three additional courses (normally HIST 498 and 499) to the major program for a total of eleven or twelve history courses. The thesis is a requirement for the student to be a candidate for a degree with Latin honors.


     ♦  Completing a capstone project. A major who elects not to write a thesis will prepare a brief (10-minute) oral presentation based on his or her 20 to 25 page research paper, and will also prepare a brief (5 page) written commentary on the paper. The presentation should highlight the research question, the sources and methods of investigation, and the overall conclusion. Students will give their presentations in their senior years, on a day designated by the department, and with faculty and junior and senior majors in attendance. The written commentary should highlight the research question, discuss how the student would revise the paper if he or she had more time, had access to distant archives, etc., and elaborate on how the paper draws upon the student's background in the major.

Concentration within the major. In completing their major, history students must take four courses either in the history of one geographical region (chosen from the six possibilities listed below), or in the history of a particular historical topic (for example, colonialism or nationalism), or in a comparative history of two or more regions, chosen by the student. The geographical regions are as follows:

1) United States [US]; 2) Europe [EU]; 3) Asia [AS]; 4) Africa and the diaspora ([AF]; 5) Latin America and the Caribbean [LA]; 6) Middle East [ME].

Each student shall designate a concentration in consultation with his or her advisor.

Departmental Honors Program. The Department recommends Latin Honors for seniors who have achieved distinction in their course work and who have completed a thesis of Honors quality. Students who are candidates for Latin Honors will normally take two courses, HIST 498 and HIST 499, in addition to the courses required of all majors. With the approval of the thesis advisor, a student may take either HIST 498 or HIST 499 as a double course. In special cases, and with the approval of the entire Department, a student may be permitted to devote more than three courses to his or her thesis.

Course Levels in the Department of History. 

Introductory level history courses (numbered in the 100 range) assume little or no previous college or university-level experience in studying history either in general or in the specific regions covered by the courses. They are appropriate both for students new to the Department’s offerings and for those who wish to broaden their historical knowledge by studying a region, topic, or period that they have not previously explored.  

Intermediate level courses (200 and 300 level courses) usually focus on a narrower region, topic, or historical period. Although most intermediate level courses have no prerequisites (see the individual course listings), they assume a more defined interest on the part of the student, and are appropriate for those who wish to enhance their understanding of the specific topic as well as their analytical and writing skills. Courses at the 200 level often have as an objective the strengthening of students’ abilities to analyze primary documents and other sources as students deepen their historical understanding of a region; some may require individual research projects. Intermediate courses at the 300 level typically present students with historical topics that have received extensive analyses by leading scholars, and ask students to dig into the theoretical and evidentiary debates underlying divergent conclusions. Although the reading and writing requirements for intermediate courses vary, the work-load for 300-level courses is not necessarily heavier than the work-load for 200-level courses.

Upper-level courses (numbered in the 400 range) include both research seminars and Honors thesis courses. Research seminars may require either the permission of the instructor or have prerequisites which vary according to the individual courses. These courses are appropriate for students who have demonstrated an ability to work with historical sources and to write shorter, evidence-based analytic papers. In research seminars students will do background readings on the particular topics and will then go on to research and write a 20 to 25 page paper based on both primary and secondary sources under the supervision and guidance of the faculty member teaching the course. The completion of at least one such research seminar is a requirement of the History major. A History major who chooses not to write a senior Honors thesis will prepare a Capstone project in the second semester of the senior year based on this research paper. Students who wish to write an Honors thesis in their senior year should be in contact with a member of the Department or the Department Chair late in their junior year to discuss possible topics.

Key for concentration and breadth requirements for the major:  US [United States]; EU [Europe]; AS [Asia]; AF [Africa and the diaspora]; LA [Latin America and the Caribbean]; ME [Middle East]; P [Pre-1800]; C [Comparative].


World War II in Global Perspective

[C] This course will explore World War II in global perspective. Historians of Europe, Japan, and the United States will join together to teach the history of the world’s most destructive war. Topics include the rise of militant regimes in Germany and Japan; German and Japanese aggression in the 1930s; the attack on Pearl Harbor; famous battles of the war; the Holocaust; German and Japanese occupation practices; civilian life in the Allied and Axis countries; and the later memory of the war. The course will also address moral controversies raised by the war, including the Anglo-American firebombing of Germany and the decision to drop the atomic bomb. Texts for the course will include film, memoirs, government documents, graphic and other novels, and secondary accounts of the war.  Class will consist of two lectures and one discussion section per week. 

Omitted 2017-18.  Professors Epstein and Maxey.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2018, Spring 2020


World War II in Asia

(Offered as HIST 102 [AS] and ASLC 102) Arguably beginning with the Manchurian Incident in 1931 and ending with Japan's surrender to the Allies in 1945, the Second World War lasted longer in Asia than anywhere else.  Yet, histories of the global conflict still tend to focus disproportionately on the European theater.  Countering that tendency, this course surveys the Asian theater, asking and answering a number of questions: How did imperialism and the rise of nationalist movements precipitate total war in Asia?  What was the character of the warfare and how did it transform politics and societies in Asia?  How did the war alter the geopolitical configuration of Asia and give rise to the Cold War?  What are the continuing legacies of the war in the region today? While we will use Japan as a fulcrum to engage these questions, the course will attend to the regional dynamics of World War II in Asia.   Classes will combine lectures, group work, and discussions.  There will be a mid-term, final exam and three topical essays. Three class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Maxey.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017


Russian Empire in Eurasia

(Offered as HIST 112 [AS/EU/p/c], ASLC 112, EUST 112 and RUSS 130.) In the course of five hundred years, the Russian empire in Eurasia evolved as the largest territorial polity in the world. In this course, we will explore the medieval foundations of the imperial state and look at its predecessors and models (Kievan Rus’ and the empire of the Mongols), discuss ways in which cooperation and resistance shaped the imperial state and society, and study cultural and political entanglements among different ethnic, linguistic and confessional groups in Eurasia. Chronologically, we will cover the period from the tenth century to the crisis of the empire in the early twentieth century. Thematically, we will focus on structures of imperial state and society (the imperial house, peasantry, nobility, confessions, intelligentsia, revolutionary movement) and most important regions of the Russian Empire (Ukraine, the Caucasus, the Baltics, Siberia, Central Asia). Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester.  Five College Associate Professor Glebov.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2018, Spring 2022


Race, Empire, and Transnationalism: Chinese Diasporic Communities in the U.S. and the World

(Offered as HIST 114 [AS/c] and ASLC 114.) How does a study of the Chinese diasporic communities in Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, the United States, and other parts of the world help us understand the questions of ethnic identity formation, construction, and negotiation? More specifically, how does the study of their history and experiences force us to rethink the concepts of “China” and “Chinese-ness”? How did scholars, officials, and travelers construct the categories of “China” and being “Chinese”?  These are the main questions that we seek to answer in this introductory course to the history of the Chinese diaspora. We will begin by looking into the early history of Chinese migration (circa 1500 to 1800) to particular geographical areas in the world, including the United States. The rest of the course will look into the history of selected diasporic communities from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. All throughout the course we will also examine how these diasporic people and their families manipulated and continue to manipulate attempts by dominant groups to control their identities, bodies, and resources, and how their lives challenge the meanings of “China” and “Chinese-ness.” Other questions to be discussed during the course are:  What caused people from China to move, and to where? What forms of discrimination and control did they experience? How do their experiences and histories deepen our understanding of “race,” “empire,” and “transnationalism”?  Themes to be discussed throughout the course include imperialism, colonialism, race, ethnicity, gender, nationalism, transnationalism, orientalism, hegemony, and globalization. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Five College Associate Professor Chu.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2018, Fall 2020, Fall 2022


Readings in the European Tradition II

(Offered as EUST-122 and HIST-122[EU]) This course offers a critical examination of the concept of European civilization from the seventeenth century through the present day. What did it mean to be “European” in the modern era? To what extent was “European” civilization forged by Europe’s connections to the wider world, and by ideas, art, literature, and politics that originated outside the geographical boundaries of Europe? How was the idea of a coherent European culture and character used as a tool of conquest within the European empires? And how did various people – in Europe, in the empires, and beyond – forge new social, cultural, and political solidarities through their critiques of the idea of European civilization? Does the concept of European civilization remain valuable in our modern, globalized era? The course will combine a study of canonical works of European art, literature, and politics with less well-known texts and works of art created by “non-European” people. Required of European Studies majors.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Boucher.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021


Europe in the Middle Ages

(Offered as HIST 123 [EUP] and EUST 123) This course provides an introduction to the remarkable history that still conditions our current lives. The course explores how the mingling of people at the far western end of the Eurasian continent led to the rise of a European civilization that would later seek to mold the world in its own image. It examines how a distinct "Europe" arose from the effort of "barbarians" to "restore" the Roman Empire and their failure to do so. It considers how fragmented communities under a universal religion sought to reconstruct their lives by rebuilding their material bases, reimagining their faith, and reconstituting their polities. It canvasses how this process was tied to the constant encounter and conflict with others and how this would serve as a template for later expansion. Through the voices and visions of the past and the writings of modern authorities, the course will provide an overview of how, in the course of the Middle Ages, a Europe arose, developed and changed, and set the basis for the making of our modern world. Two course meetings per week. 

Fall semester. Professor Cho.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017


Europe in Transition, 1350-1750

(Offered as HIST 124 [EUP] and EUST 124.) Europe in Transition provides an introduction to the momentous transformations that Europe underwent during the early modern period. From the post-Black Death turmoil in the fourteenth century to the impending crisis of the Old Order in the eighteenth, Europe experienced multiple upheavals that continue to shape our modern lives. The course visits the experience of contemporaries recorded in memoirs, diaries and letters, their visions and dreams presented in treatises, essays and novels, and the modern debates and syntheses of historians to discern these changes. It examines how conscious revivals of imagined ancient traditions gave way to assertions of contemporary greatness. It considers how an urge to purify and reform religious life brought about an irreversible schism, fraternal strife, and tolerance. It probes how the resulting social disruptions required innovative forms of consent, control and governance. It canvasses how these processes were tied to expanding horizons and new commercial practices that intensified exchange and exploitation with the wider world. It reveals how new discoveries required new modes of inquiry and knowledge-making. The course asks how these changes together led Europeans to gain a striking self-confidence in their own ideas of man, society, and history, whereby Europe would seek to mold the world in its own image. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Cho.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017


World War I

(Offered as HIST 130 [EU] and EUST 130) The image of the First World War is so iconic that it can be evoked through a handful of tropes: trenches, machine guns, mud, “going over the top,” crossing “no man’s land.” Yet in many ways this is a partial vision, one that focuses myopically on the experiences of European soldiers who occupied a few hundred miles of trenches in northern France. Why is it that a conflict as unprecedented in its size and complexity as “the Great War” has been reduced in our minds to this very limited scale? In conjunction with the war’s 100th anniversary, this course both explores the role of World War I in our cultural imagination and aims to create a broader, messier, and more complicated portrait of the history. It will examine the conflict on multiple fronts, study the perspectives of both Western and non-Western soldiers and civilians, and analyze the war’s role in shaping the twentieth century. Three class meetings per week.

Limited to 40 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Boucher.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2022


Europe in the Twentieth Century

(Offered as HIST 132 [EU] and EUST 133) At the turn of the century, Mark Twain described Europe as a paradise of “tranquil contentment,” prosperity and genuine freedom. Labelled as the “Age of Extremes,” however, Europe’s twentieth century was marked by fierce ideological and political conflict, war and genocide and the beginning of the end of a domination over world affairs that the European nations had exercised for centuries. By 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and lauded once again as a beacon of relative stability and peace. This course will explore the major events, development and trends of European history in the twentieth century: the two world wars; the confrontation between liberalism, fascism, and communism; decolonization; the Cold War; the socio-cultural revolution of the 1960s; the Balkan Wars in the 1990s and the apparent triumph of democracy in European politics.  Course materials will focus on changing notions of race, class, and gender during the course of the century and draw on primary documents, including novels and historical fiction, memoirs, films, political manifestos, government documents and interviews.  Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2017-18. Visiting Professor Trask.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2012, Fall 2015


Nineteenth-Century America

[US] A survey of American history from the early national period to the turn of the century, with an emphasis on social history. The course will trace the growth of slavery, the dispossession of Native Americans, Civil War and Reconstruction, the rise of postwar large-scale industry, and big cities. Topics will include changing ethnic, racial, gender, and class relations, the struggles between labor and capital, and the emergence of middle-class culture. The format will include lectures and weekly discussions; readings will be drawn from both original and secondary sources. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Melillo.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Spring 2016


Twentieth-Century America

[US] The course traces United States political, social, and cultural history from 1900 to the present. Among the topics covered are the rise of the modern corporation, class conflict and the Progressive movement; immigration, ethnic pluralism, and the rise of mass culture; the Great Depression and the New Deal; World War II, the Cold War, and McCarthyism; the civil rights, women’s and environmental movements, the New Left, the New Right, and the continuing inequalities of race and class. Films and videos will regularly supplement class readings. Three class meetings per week.

Limited to 40 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Couvares.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2022


The U.S. in the World: 1756-1898

[US] This course is an introduction to the major trends and developments in U.S. foreign relations from the nation’s rise from a loose coalition of colonies on the Atlantic seaboard to a continental and world power by the beginning of the twentieth century. This course will seek to understand the effect of expansion on the nation’s values, institutions, and history, and examine the methods used to extend the nation’s borders, trade, and influence. It engages “foreign relations” in broad terms to incorporate ideology, race, gender, technology, economics, geopolitics, and culture as important forces in shaping the United States’ understanding of and behavior toward the world. The country’s domestic character critically determined the ways in which the nation’s power took shape on the world stage, even as global interactions shaped nascent U.S. institutions and identities. This course will examine how economic and security needs shaped foreign policy goals, while social norms and domestic values informed the ways Americans interacted with other societies.  Three class meetings per week.

Limited to 60 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Walker.


Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023


The U.S. in the World: 1898 to the Present

[US] This course investigates the United States’ foreign relations in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and seeks to understand why and how it has become increasingly involved in world affairs. Starting with the War of 1898 and closing with the contemporary global war on terrorism, it examines the interplay of domestic and foreign considerations that have defined the “American Century.” This period raises important questions about the nature of American power in relation to traditional empires. The course asks students to think critically about the United States in the context of imperialism and explore how Americans, both in and out of government, sought to reconcile domestic values and identities with the country’s growing global presence. It investigates the ideological, economic, political, social, racial, and security considerations that shaped America’s emergence as a world power and formed the basis of modern American foreign policy and domestic society.  Three class meetings per week.

Limited to 40 students (10 spots reserved for first-year students). Fall semester.  Professor Walker.


Other years: Offered in Spring 2023


History of Sexuality in the U.S.

(Offered as HIST 162 [US] and SWAG 162)  Sexuality is a product of history and culture. This course will survey sex throughout U.S. history in relation to the various discourses of power and difference that have given it meaning such as class, ethnicity, gender, race, and religion. Topics covered include settler colonialism, sex work and the revolutionary city, sex and the family under slavery, masculinity and the West, sexology and the invention of homosexuality, the new woman, reproduction and family planning, the making of urban gay subcultures, the invention of the pill, sexual liberation, the politics of abortion, HIV/AIDS, and the LGBT rights movement. We will consider the ways in which the study of sexuality creates opportunities to re-think major themes in U.S. social, cultural, and political history. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Manion.


Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2023


An Introduction to U.S. Latino/a History, 1848--Present

(Offered as HIST 165 [US] and AMST 165) This course is an introduction to the history of U.S. Latinos/as, 1848 to the present. Central themes include ethnic and national identity, migration, gender, and political mobilization. Questions the course will answer include:  What is ethnic identity? How does it relate to nationality? How has race historically fit into the equation? We will consider the role that imperialism has played in shaping patterns of Latino/a migration, identity and political mobilization. While the history of some groups begins with U.S. territorial conquest, for most Latinos/as migration has been central to their experiences. How has the crossing of different kinds of cultural and political frontiers changed over time? What is the difference between immigration and transnational migration? And how have different ideas of “home” and changing patterns of migration affected modes of political mobilization and ideas of citizenship? The course pays particular attention to the 1960s through the 1980s when Latinos/as mobilized in defense of their rights and against economic exploitation and undertook the “decolonization” of their communities. We will address why their struggles took the form of the right to have rights, a rejection of stereotypes, and the right to define their own identities. But what kind of narration of self did they recover? What issues divided different groups of U.S. Latinos/as (e.g., Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicanos, etc.) from one another? What commonalities have they shared? By the 1980s, ethnic-specific identities and mobilizations were increasingly subsumed under pan-Hispanic and pan-Latino/a movements. Why? What does “Latino” mean? How is it similar to or different from “Hispanic”? Is there an “American experience” that unites different U.S. Latinos/as groups and that separates them from Latin Americans? Two class meetings per week. 

Omitted 2017-18. Professors del Moral and Lopez.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016


The History of Education in the U.S.

(Offered as HIST 170 [US] and AMST 250)  What do Americans want their schools to accomplish? What happens when they don’t agree (as has frequently been the case)? How have disagreements about educational goals been embedded in policy? And how have schools mediated larger conflicts—over the place of pluralism in the American nation or the contradictions between democratic commitments to political equality and capitalist tendencies towards economic inequality—in American politics and culture? By exploring questions like these, this discussion-based course addresses central themes in the history of American education. First, it explores the history of American educational goals, drawing clear distinctions between what Americans say they want their schools to accomplish and what functions schools actually perform. Second, the course examines struggles for power over educational governance, including debates over localism, bureaucratization, expertise, philanthropy, and privatization. Third, the course focuses on educators’ efforts to foster cohesion and respond to diversity in a pluralist nation. And finally, the course centers arguments over stratification, especially whether schools can transform—or are destined to simply replicate—racial, gender, and socio-economic hierarchies. The course is organized chronologically, addressing: the nineteenth century common school movement and rise of the high school; education for Native Americans, African Americans, and immigrants at the turn of the twentieth century; educational progressivism, including debates over testing, tracking, and vocational education; battles over school desegregation in the half century following Brown v. Board of Education (1954); the expanding federal role in education after the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (1964); and late twentieth century movements for privatization, testing, standards, and accountability. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Lewis-Sebring Visiting Professor L. Gordon.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2018


Modern China

(Offered as HIST 172 [AS] and ASLC 146 [C].) This survey of Chinese History examines the matrix of the internal and external forces and movements that have shaped modern China from the mid nineteenth century to the present. During this period, the Chinese people dispensed with a form of government that had been used for three thousand years to form, despite various complications, a modern nation-state. We will explore major events in Modern China beginning with the Opium War, the Taiping Rebellion, the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of a new Republic, the Republican revolution, the “New Culture” Movement, Communist revolution, War against Japan, the Chinese Civil War, the founding of the People’s Republic of China, China’s role in the Korean War, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, post-Mao economic reform and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, all with comparative references to current events. Readings, which include a wide variety of documents such as religious and revolutionary tracts, eye-witness accounts, memoirs, and letters, are supplemented by interpretive essays and videos.  Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Dean's Fellow Presswood.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023


Between conflict and co-existence: The making of medieval and early modern South Asia, 1200-1800 A.D.

(Offered as HIST 173 [ASP] and ASLC 173 [SA]) This course introduces major themes and developments in medieval and early modern South Asian history with a focus on the emergence and flourishing of Islamicate regimes in the sub-continent. Commencing with the origins of Islamic polities in South Asia, the course explores the Delhi Sultanates, various syncretistic movements and devotional sects, the Vijayanagara Empire, and the Mughal Empire, as well as politics, religion, literature, art, architecture, and trade within these formations. Readings are drawn from a variety of both primary and secondary sources and combine political, social, and cultural histories. Challenging both colonialist and nationalist views of this vast period as one of religious persecution, tyranny, and stagnation, the course seeks to demonstrate the vitality, hybridity, and dynamism characterizing these centuries of the second millennium. We will therefore lay particular emphasis on the processes of transculturation between the Islamic and Indic distinguishing this period. Two class meetings per week."

Spring semester. Professor Sen.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Fall 2023


Introduction to Modern South Asian History

(Offered as HIST 174 [AS] and ASLC 174 [SA]) This survey course introduces key themes and events in the making of modern South Asia. The objective is to provide a skeletal historical narrative of the various transformations the subcontinent and its peoples experienced through the colonial and post-colonial eras.  A variety of primary sources and audio and visual materials will be utilized in conjunction with excerpts from panoramic textbooks as well as portions of monographs, combining perspectives from political, social, cultural and economic history.  Commencing with the transitions occurring in the middle to late 18th century, the course explores some of the major historical developments in South Asia until the present moment including the East India Company-state, colonial and imperial rule, social reform, the revolt of 1857, Indian nationalism, caste and communal conflict, and the struggles for post-colonial democracy. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Sen.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017


Japan's Modern Revolutions: 1800-2000s

(Offered as HIST 176 [AS] and ASLC 247 [J].) The transformation of the Japanese archipelago from a relatively secluded agrarian polity in the early-nineteenth century into East Asia’s leading economic power with a global footprint by the end of the twentieth century is one of the most dramatic stories of modern history.  This course introduces the history of this transformation through two “revolutions”: the formation of an imperialist nation-state and post-World War II creation of a pacifist democracy. We will pay close attention to the political debates and social conflicts that accompanied these revolutions. We will begin with the collapse of Tokugawa shogunate, follow the rise of the modern Japanese nation-state through colonial expansion and total war, and conclude with the postwar economic recovery, democratization, and the socio-political challenges facing the Japanese nation-state in the twenty-first century.  Our goal along the way will be to explore in the specific context of Japanese history themes relevant to the history of global modernities: the collapse of a traditional regime, the creation of a nation-state, imperial expansion, industrialization, feminist and socialist critiques, total war, democratization, high economic growth and mass consumer culture. Classes will entail lectures combined with close readings and discussions that engage primary texts, interpretive essays, and film.  This is a writing attentive course with requirements including short writing exercises and topical essays. Three class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Maxey.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2022


Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 181 [AF] and BLST 221 [A]) Africa is a continent of fifty-four countries, but in many people’s minds the continent’s name conjures up a host of stereotyped images--some positive and many negative--that misrepresent the continent as an undifferentiated whole. The primary goal of this course is to address the images of Africa by putting the continent’s contemporary situation into historical perspective from the late nineteenth century until the present day. The main themes will be the social, political and economic impacts of imperial policies on African societies, the constructions and alterations of “tribal” identities and nationalist politics, issues concerning medicine and public health, the development of “gatekeeper” states, and problems faced by post-colonial states. We will explore the variety of experiences as people from multiple societies have often innovated new cultural forms in the wake of colonial rule, and the advent of “resource conflicts,” particularly those involving petroleum, diamonds, and other minerals. Three class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Redding.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2023


Middle Eastern History: 500-1600

(Offered as HIST 190 [MEP] and ASLC 126 [WA]) This course surveys the history of the Middle East from the outset of the Islamic period to the beginning of the modern period. It is divided into the following segments: the formative period of Islam, the classical caliphates, the classical courts, the Mongols, and the great empires of the Ottomans and the Safavids. The course is organized chronologically and follows the making and breaking of empires and political centers; however, the focus of the course is on the intellectual, social, cultural and religious developments in these periods. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester.  Professor Ringer.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2022


The Modern Middle East: 1800-Present

(Offered as HIST 191 [ME] and ASLC 148 [WA]) This course surveys the history of the Middle East from 1800 to the present. The focus is threefold: following political, social and intellectual trends as they evolve over time, exploring contemporary historical and methodological debates and analysis, and introducing students to important historical literature of the period. The class is divided into modules: “From Subject to Citizen,” “Engineering a Modern Middle East,” “Nationalism and the Quest for Independence,” “Islamist Opposition,” and “Taking Sovereignty: Contemporary Debates and the Post-Modern Era.” The class is discussion-oriented and writing intensive. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Ringer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Fall 2009, Fall 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2018


Jewish History in the Modern Age

[EU/C] This course introduces students to the history of the Jews from the 16th century to the present. Jews--a small group, lacking a stable geographical or political center for most of modern history--have played a remarkably central role in world events.  Jewish history exemplifies questions of tolerance, intolerance, and diversity in the Modern Age.  From Europe to the Americas to the Middle East, Jewish history has witnessed constant interchange between the non-Jewish world and its Jewish subcultures.  This course investigates Jewish history’s multiple dimensions: developments in Jews’ political status and economic opportunity; dramatic demographic shifts and global migrations; transformations in Jewish cultures, ideologies and identities; and religious adjustments to modernity.  We examine a variety of Jewish encounters with the modern world: integration, acculturation, assimilation, anti-Semitism, Jewish dissimilation and nationalism. Finally, the course will use this broad historical lens to explore and contextualize the double watershed of the 1940s—the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel—as well as contemporary Jewish life.  Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor A. Gordon.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2023


Spain and the Pacific World, 1571-1898

[CP/AS] This course explores the historical relationship between the Spanish Empire and the peoples and environments of the Pacific Ocean region. We will begin in 1571 with the opening of Manila as a Spanish trading port and end in 1898 with the Spanish-American War. Over the course of the semester, we will discuss the trans-Pacific silver and silk trades, the function of Catholic missionaries in shaping the Pacific World, environmental exchanges between the Americas and Asia, indigenous resistance to imperialism, and the role of Pacific peoples in the development of the world economy.  Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Melillo.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Spring 2020


≠ (Inequality)

(Offered as MATH 205, BLST 209 and HIST 209 [US]) This course will look at issues surrounding inequality in K-12 math education. Mathematics has a reputation for being something that either you can do or you can’t: the so-called "geniuses" know all the answers already, whereas for everyone else it is a constant struggle. In addition, math and other STEM fields have traditionally been discouraged as career paths for women and for students from underrepresented groups. At Amherst today, students from those groups are still in the minority in math classes. We’ll ask why this is, whether it can and should be changed, and if so, how.

Our discussions will be guided by some of the following questions: To what extent is math ability an innate talent that you are either born with or not? How and why is variation in accomplishment in mathematics related to race, gender and socio-economic class? What mathematics should we teach in schools and how should those teachers be prepared? What is "math phobia," how does it develop and how can it be treated? How do attitudes towards math in the general public affect student learning?

Limited to 25 students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professors Ching and Moss.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018


Christianity and Islam in West Africa

(Offered as BLST 210 [A] HIST 210 [AF] and RELI 220.) This course explores how Christianity, Islam, and indigenous African religious beliefs shaped the formation of West African states from the transformative nineteenth-century Islamic reformist movements and mission Christianity, to the formation of modern nation-states in the twentieth century.  The course provides a broad regional West African overview, paying careful attention to how religious themes shaped the communities of the Nigerian region — a critical West African region where Christianity and Islam converged to transform a modern state and society.  Drawing on primary sources and historical texts as well as Africanist works in sociology, anthropology, and comparative politics, this Nigerian experience illuminates broader West African, African, and global perspectives that underscore the historical significance of religion in politics and society, especially in non-Western contexts.

Fall semester.  Professor Vaughan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2022, Spring 2023


Disease and Doctors: An Introduction to the History of Western Medicine

[C] Disease has always been a part of human experience; doctoring is among our oldest professions. This course surveys the history of Western medicine from antiquity to the modern era. It does so by focusing on the relationship between medical theory and medical practice, giving special attention to Hippocratic medical learning and the methods by which Hippocratic practitioners built a clientele, medieval uses of ancient medical theories in the definition and treatment of disease, the genesis of novel chemical, anatomical, and physiological conceptions of disease in the early modern era, and the transformations of medical practice associated with the influence of clinical and experimental medicine in the nineteenth century. The course concludes by examining some contemporary medical dilemmas in the light of their historical antecedents. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Servos.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020


Turning Points in the History of Science

[EUP] An introduction to some major issues in the history of science from antiquity to the twentieth century. Topics will include the genesis and decay of a scientific tradition in Greco-Roman antiquity, the reconstitution of that tradition in medieval Europe, the revolution in scientific methods of the seventeenth century, and the emergence of science as a source of power, profit, and cultural authority during the past century. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Servos.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2018


Science and Society in Modern America

[US] A survey of the social, political, and institutional development of science in America from the Civil War to the present. Emphasis will be on explaining how the United States moved from the periphery to the center of international scientific life. Topics will include the professionalization of science; roles of scientists in industry, education, and government; ideologies of basic research; and the response of American scientists to the two world wars, the Depression, and the Cold War. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Servos.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2009, Spring 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2019


Geopolitics and American Foreign Policy

[G, IL] The goal in this course is to examine the geopolitics which lies at the intersection of international relations and foreign policy. But what is geopolitics and why is it as often berated as it is embraced by American politicians and policy elites alike? Over the past two centuries, what part has geopolitics played in the currents of world politics and in the conduct of American foreign policy? What role has geopolitics played in the post-Cold War era, after the demise of the Soviet Union and the ostensible triumph of liberal capitalism? Using the methods of diplomatic history and political science, this course will explore critical moments and themes in American foreign policy.  Our overall aim is to better understand today’s position of the United States in world politics as well as present domestic controversies over the character of America’s global role. This is also a period which has been characterized by growing tension between two sets of political power dynamics: one is dominated by a territorial logic of power that has as its basis the direct control of specific territory, people and resources; the other is dominated by a more diffuse logic of power that derives from the command of “de-territorialized” global political, economic, technological and cultural forces which emanate from states as well as stateless groups with a global and transnational reach. In an attempt to better understand world politics in the age of America’s preponderance, the course will ultimately examine how American presidents have understood and navigated between these two sets of political power dynamics in articulating and conducting foreign policy, and how the American public and elites have facilitated or complicated this task.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Machala and  Professor Emeritus G. Levin.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2021


Art, Politics, and Propaganda in Modern Europe

(Offered as HIST 220 [E] and EUST 220) In an interview shortly before her death, Leni Riefenstahl, renowned director of the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, claimed that art was apolitical and that she was blameless in the crimes of the Nazi state. “I didn’t drop any atom bombs. I didn’t denounce anyone. So where does my guilt lie?” she questioned. This course explores the specific relationship between visual artifacts such as Triumph of the Will and politics and society in modern Europe. Focusing on primary artifacts and scholarly interpretations of Europe’s cultural history, students will examine how the politics and the practices of visual artifacts reflected and/or shaped Europeans’ experiences of historical change in the twentieth century. First, we will examine the terms and concepts central to the study of propaganda and persuasion, the historical contexts of propaganda in war (World War I, World War II, and the Cold War) and revolution, and major contemporary theoretical approaches to understanding propaganda. In case-studies of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union, the course will explore the role of visual aesthetics in ethical questions of consent and coercion in everyday life under authoritarian regimes and in wartime conditions. Second, the course will explore the changing relationship between art and politics, and the efforts made by artists to not simply reflect, but shape political, cultural, and social change beyond the confines of state-sponsored propaganda. Students will develop skills in analyzing primary artifacts including visual art and film within the context of historical transformations and artistic movements.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2017-18. Visiting Professor Trask.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021


The Century of Sex: Gender and Sexual Politics in Modern Europe

(Offered as EUST 224, HIST 224 [E], and SWAG 224)  In the 1920s and 30s, authoritarian and fascist states across Europe declared that sexuality was not private. Sexual choices in the bedroom, they claimed, shaped national identities and the direction of social and cultural development. Through a variety of programs, propaganda and legal codes, states such as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy sought to regulate sexual behavior and promote specific gender roles and identities. The intervention of the state in the intimate lives of citizens in the twentieth century, however, was rooted in the transformations of state, culture and economy that took place long before the speeches of great dictators. This course explores the cultural debates surrounding sexual practices, medical theories of gender and sexuality, and the relationship between sexuality and state that shaped European societies in the twentieth century. In case studies from across the continent, the course explores a range of topics, including but not limited to the history of sex reform, prostitution, homosexuality, venereal disease, contraception, abortion, the “New Woman” and sexual emancipation movements, sexual revolutions and reactionary movements and reproductive politics, among others. Students will explore how seemingly self-evident and unchanging categories – feminine and masculine, straight and gay, “normal” and “deviant”– have taken shape and changed over time, and how historical processes (modernization, imperialism, urbanization) and actors (social movements, sex reformers, nationalist groups and states) sought to define and regulate these boundaries in the so-called “century of sex.”  Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Trask.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018


The Age of Chivalry, 1000-1500

(Offered as HIST 225 [EUP] and EUST 225) Medieval Europe is often remembered and imagined as a chivalric civilization – a time when men were courageous and courteous, ladies were fair and respected, and the clash of arms was also an embodiment of Christian piety.  This course seeks to uncover the myths and realities of medieval chivalry and thereby provide a window into the material, social, and cultural life of the Middle Ages. The course will track the beginnings of chivalry as a form of warfare centered on the horseback soldier, to its transformation as a code of conduct and ethos of a ruling class, and its later formalization into rituals and ceremonies to be performed and enacted as a means of social distinction.  By examining documentary, fictional and pictorial sources, the course will review how competing ideals of chivalry were depicted and prescribed; how Christian ideals, aristocratic values and commercial realities aligned together; and how a mode of fighting became a way of life that defined an era.  Two class meetings per week. 

Fall semester. Professor Cho.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Fall 2017


Women and War in European History, 1558-1918

(Offered as HIST 226 [EUp]. ARHA 226, and EUST 226) Although overlooked in military histories until recently, women have long been actively involved in warfare: as combatants, as victims, as workers, and as symbols. This course examines both the changing role of women, and the shifting constructions of “womanhood,” in four major European conflicts: the wars of Elizabeth I in sixteenth-century England, the wars and peace of Marie de Médicis in seventeenth-century France, the French Revolution, and the First World War. Using methodologies drawn from Art History and History, the course seeks to understand the gendered nature of warfare. Why are images of women and the family central to the iconography of war, and how have representations of womanhood shifted according to the aims of particular conflicts? To what extent do women’s experiences of warfare differ from men’s, and can war be considered a source of women’s liberation or oppression? Students will analyze a range of historical images in conjunction with primary source texts from these conflicts and will also develop an original research project related to the course’s themes. Two class meetings per week.

Recommended requisite: A course in Art History or History. Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professors Boucher and Courtright.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2019


The French Revolution

(Offered as HIST 230 [EU/P] and EUST 230) Often viewed as one of the defining events in modern history, the French Revolution has been debated and discussed, derided and celebrated by generations of politicians, cultural commentators, and historians. This course enters into this on-going conversation by examining the nature of the revolutionary process as it unfolded in late eighteenth-century France and its empire. Beginning in the “old regime” of kings and commoners, it untangles the social, political, and intellectual roots of the Revolution and investigates the extent to which these factors contributed to the radical overthrow of the French establishment in 1789. It then follows the extension of the Revolution throughout French society and across the seas to the Caribbean, analyzing how popular and colonial upheavals influenced the revolutionary new order of “liberty, equality, and brotherhood” that was taking shape in France. Finally, the course explores the aftermath of the Revolution by tracing the various ways that its history has been interpreted and reinterpreted from the nineteenth century to the present day. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester.  Professor Boucher.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2014, Spring 2018


Race and Empire: The British Experience from 1760

(Offered as HIST 231 [EU] and EUST 231) From the mid-eighteenth century through the 1960s, Britain presided over the most powerful empire in the world. At its height, this small island nation ruled one-quarter of the earth’s surface and more than 450 million of its inhabitants. Not only did British imperialism play a decisive role in shaping world politics, economics, and cultures in its day, it also left a number of profound legacies that continue to affect our lives in the present. This course traces the rise, fall, and lasting influence of the British empire, and pays particular attention to questions of race and ethnicity. Through a series of colonial encounters --such as the first contacts made between explorers and Pacific Islanders in the 18th century, the interactions between missionaries and Africans in the 19th century, or the migration of South Asians to Britain in the 20th century--it examines what “race” meant in different historical contexts. The course thus explores the institutionalization of racism in government, law, and society, and analyzes moments in which racism has been combated and overturned. Readings and course materials will be drawn from secondary and primary sources, including newspapers, novels, photographs, artwork, oral histories, and films. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Boucher.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2016, Spring 2021


Nazi Germany

(Offered as HIST 234 [EU] and EUST 234)  In the 1920s, Germany was celebrated throughout Europe and North America as a model of democratic political reform, artistic experimentation, economic prosperity, and cultural diversity.  Yet by 1933, millions of Germans gave their political support and allegiance to a movement that called for the destruction of democracy, an attack on Jews, Communists, gay men, and lesbians, and deemed "asocial" anyone who did not conform to narrowly prescribed social, political, and sexual standards. This course will explore the rocky transition from the Germany of the Imperial period to the authoritarian Third Reich through the way station of the democratic Weimar Republic. It will examine the promise and excitement, the sense of possibility and openness of the 1920s, and the utopian vision of a "racial state" that succeeded it in the 1930s.  This course explores the emergence of Hitler and Nazism in Germany, the culture wars in the 1920s and 1930s, Nazi ideology and aesthetics, Nazi racial policies, daily life in the Third Reich, the march toward World War and the “war against the Jews” - the Holocaust.  Class participants will discuss specific case-studies as well as broader themes surrounding the nature of political consent and coercion in German society.  Texts will include films, diaries, historical fiction, memoirs, government and policy texts and scholarly accounts of the era.  Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor Trask.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2009, Fall 2010, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2021


Stalin and Stalinism

(Offered as HIST 235 [EU], EUST 245, and RUSS 235)  Joseph Stalin, the infamous Soviet dictator, created a particular type of society in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. Stalinism became a phenomenon that influenced the development of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, and North Korea. The course will begin with the exploration of Stalin’s own life, and then focus on what historical forces enabled the emergence of Stalinism. The course will cover the period on the eve of and during the Russian Revolution, Stalinist transformation of the USSR in the 1930s, WWII, and the onset of the Cold War.  Among issues to be explored are the extent of popular support for Stalinist-type regimes, the mechanisms of large-scale political terror, the longevity of Stalinist regimes, and historical memory about Stalinism. Three class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Five College Professor Glebov.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2021, Fall 2023


Soviet Union During the Cold War

(Offered as HIST 236 [EU] and EUST 238)  The Cold War indelibly shaped the second half of the twentieth century.  Spies seemed ubiquitous; nuclear annihilation imminent.  Films such as Red October and the James Bond series forged a Western image of the Soviet Union.  But how were these decades experienced behind the Iron Curtain?  This class explores Soviet history between the end of World War II and the collapse of the USSR.  We will study the roots of the Cold War; the politics of de-Stalinization in the USSR; the unfolding of Soviet influence in Eastern Europe; and Soviet relations with the West, China, and the developing world.  We will also explore the internal dynamics of Soviet society: the rise of the Soviet middle class, consumerism, tourism, the entertainment industry, demographic trends, education, and public health.  Two class meetings per week. 

Omitted 2017-18. Five College Professor Glebov.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Fall 2018, Spring 2023


Segregated America

(Offered as BLST 239 [US] and HIST 239 [US])  This course will examine the practices, cultures, and consequences of racial segregation in the modern United States.  Beginning with the Jim Crow South, students will learn to interpret segregation not simply as a system of racial separation but as a critical site of political, economic, and psychological investment.  Two questions will animate this class:  how did segregation work and for whom, historically, did it work? In attempting to answer these questions, students will learn to see the ways in which a supposedly bygone institution has continued to profoundly shape the nature and distribution of power in the United States.  Students will, for instance, ponder connections between the color line in the South and the history of red-lining in the urban North.  In doing so, this class will ask students to consider the ways in which southern history might be understood as national history, and the ways in which the presence of segregation remains central to the persistence of inequality in American life. 

Omitted 2017-18.  Visiting Lecturer Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Fall 2018


The Last Russian Revolution: State and Society from the Late Soviet Period to the Present

(Offered as HIST 240 [EU], EUST 240, and RUSS 345) This course explores the tumultuous and unprecedented transition from the late Soviet Communism to contemporary Russian Federation. We will discuss the state of the Soviet Union on the eve of dissolution and politics of nationalism; emergence of the post-Soviet states and divergence in their historical development; transition to capitalism and privatization; challenges of federalism and regionalism in post-Soviet Russia; relations between the Russian Federation and “Near Abroad,” NATO and China, and the social and cultural developments from the late Soviet period to the early twenty-first century.  The class will also explore the historical evolution of the phenomenon of Putinism as rooted in long-term transformation of the former Soviet space. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Five College Professor Glebov.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2020, Fall 2022


U.S. Carceral Culture

[US] An overview of punishment from the Enlightenment to modern times. Topics include theories of criminality; birth of the penitentiary; growth of carceral culture; role of reform movements; relationship between slavery, abolition, and punishment; rise of criminology, eugenics, and sexology; persistence of poverty among carceral subjects; and the emergence of the contemporary prison industrial complex. Primary sources for consideration include newspaper articles, reform and abolition organizational records, official prison reports, and legal and sociological papers. Secondary readings will be primarily historical with some critical theories of difference and power including critical race theory, feminist theories of intersectionality, queer theory, and contemporary critical prison studies. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 30 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Manion.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2018, Spring 2021


Race and American Capitalism: from Slavery to Ferguson

(Offered as BLST 248 [US] and HIST 246 [US])  An unconventional history of capitalism, this class explores the various ways African Americans have experienced and responded to shifts in the organization of the American economy. Beginning with the middle passage and creation of plantation slavery in the New World, we will explore the commodification of African Americans' labor, and the ways in which that labor became a cornerstone of capital accumulation, both globally and in the United States. We continue through the revolutions of emancipation, the rise of Jim Crow and the making of urban America, to our present day reality of deeply rooted, and racialized, economic inequality. More than a history of exploitation, however, we will address the various ways in which African Americans chose to manage both the challenges and possibilities of American capitalist development.  How, for instance, did black ownership of real estate in the segregated South shape Jim Crow governance? To what extent has black business contributed toward struggles for political and social equality? Finally, we will assess the numerous black critics, including intellectuals, activists and working African Americans, of the American political economy. How have such men and women called attention to the ways race and class have combined to shape both black lives and black political subjectivity?

Fall semester. Visiting Lecturer Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020


African American History from the Slave Trade to Reconstruction

(Offered as BLST 231 [US] and HIST 247 [US]; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the History major.) This course is a survey of the history of African American men and women from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries through the Civil War and Reconstruction. The content is a mixture of the social, cultural, and political history of blacks during two and a half centuries of slavery with the story of the black freedom struggle and its role in America’s national development. Among the major topics addressed: the slave trade in its moral and economic dimensions; African retentions in African American culture; origins of racism in colonial America; how blacks used the rhetoric and reality of the American and Haitian Revolutions to their advancement; antebellum slavery; black religion and family under slavery and freedom; the free black experience in the North and South; the crises of the 1850s; the role of race and slavery in the causes, course, and consequences of the Civil War; and the meaning of emancipation and Reconstruction for blacks. Readings include historical monographs, slave narratives by men and women, and one work of fiction.

Combined enrollment limited to 25 students.  Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Moss.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2013, Fall 2019


African American History from Reconstruction to the Present

(Offered as BLST 241 [US] and HIST 248 [US; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the History major]) This course is a survey of the social, cultural, and political history of African American men and women since the 1870s. Among the major topics addressed: the legacies of Reconstruction; the political and economic origins of Jim Crow; the new racism of the 1890s; black leadership and organizational strategies; the Great Migration of the World War I era; the Harlem Renaissance; the urbanization of black life and culture; the impact of the Great Depression and the New Deal; the social and military experience of World War II; the causes, course and consequences of the modern civil rights movement; the experience of blacks in the Vietnam War; and issues of race and class in the 1970s and 1980s. Readings and materials include historical monographs, fiction, and documentary films.

Limited to 50 students. Omitted 2017-18.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2022, Fall 2022



This course will explore the life and times of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Through a deep engagement with his published work and public rhetoric, relevant secondary literature, and personal papers, students will locate the civil rights leader within the broader upheavals of mid-century America. As such, the course serves as an introduction to modern US history, the black freedom struggle, and the archive of civil rights. Moving beyond mythology, this course will emphasize his connections to American liberalism, the labor movement, the black prophetic tradition and human rights. As such, this course will excavate the radical King, a man whose life and work often challenged the liberal consensus on questions of class, race, and empire, and thus questions later ahistorical characterizations of the Civil Rights Movement as either “moderate” or “conservative.”  The course will culminate in a student research-led conference, to mark and reflect upon the fiftieth anniversary of King’s assassination in 1968. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester.  Visiting Lecturer Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2021


Americans Writing Russia, 100 Years On

(Offered as HIST 253, POSC 253 [SC], and RUSS 253) For decades Moscow was the quintessential posting for any American correspondent with ambition. The magazines, the papers, the radio, and then the television networks sent their best to live and work in what were usually trying conditions, to try to conjure for the American media consumer a likeness of a country as fascinating as it was feared. The correspondents succeeded and failed with some regularity. Take John Reed, whose Ten Days That Shook the World, a series of dispatches on the 1917 revolution, has landed on both “best” and “worst” book lists. We will begin with Reed and go on to Walter Duranty, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for a report that has since been proved false. We will proceed to look at the work of journalists who sought (or didn’t seek) ways to work around Soviet censorship and those who have been fortunate enough to work without a censor. We will focus more closely on American coverage of post-Communist Russia. How well (or poorly) have our correspondents done – and why? What are the practices that expand or limit our ability to learn what happens in Russia? All readings and discussion in English.

Limited to 35 students. Spring semester. Visiting McCloy Professor Gessen.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018


American Foreign Policy Since the End of the Cold War

[US] This course will study the evolution of American foreign policy since 1989.  We will examine the theory and practice of diplomacy under the first President Bush, President Clinton, the second President Bush, and President Obama.  At the heart of the course will be a consideration of the extent to which the United States has attempted and been able to sustain the unipolar power position in world politics that the United States gained with the collapse of the Soviet Union. One two-and-a-half-hour meeting per week.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Emeritus G. Levin.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016


The History of Higher Education in the United States

(Offered as AMST-255 and HIST-255 [US])  This course explores the history of higher education in the United States from the nation’s formation to the present.  Four themes are woven thought a roughly chronological structure.  First, readings outline the competing purposes Americans envisioned for colleges and universities.  Students analyze debates between proponents of broad training in the liberal arts and supporters of more narrow occupational preparation as well as disagreements over the appropriate relationship between research and teaching.  Second, the course explores student life, institutional access, and debates over the relationship between excellence and equity.  Readings highlight patterns of exclusion based on race, class, ethnicity, religion, and gender that have marked the history of American higher education since its earliest days while also exploring the varied forces that eventually diversified student populations.  How universities served as sites where class was both produced and contested in American culture will be a particular focus of analysis.  When addressing this theme, we will consider the post-World War II democratization of American higher education, the politics of college admissions, and stratification within and between post-secondary institutions.  Third, the course raises questions about the power universities came to hold, in the half century following World War II, as centers of knowledge-making networks.  We will examine how federal and philanthropic investment altered the role of the university in the twentieth century United States and created new types of expertise while also exploring how ties between the federal government, philanthropy, and the university affected late twentieth century social thought.  Finally, the course explores universities as political sites, with a particular focus on the consequences of student activism in the 1960s and 1970s and today.  We will ask how university administrators responded to student critiques of the “multiversity”; how African American, Latino, women’s, and ethnic studies programs emerged; and how the demands of student activists altered research priorities, student life, and academic culture.    

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester.  Lewis Sebring Visiting Professor L. Gordon.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2019


Political Economy of the Modern Middle East

(Offered as HIST 258 [ME] and ASLC 258) In 2011, the Middle East was convulsed by revolutions. Some, like Syria's, are still raging; others, as in Egypt, appear to be in remission.  Some states, particularly monarchies, seem to have proved immune. This course will ask why these revolutions erupted, why they did so in 2011, and why some states were transformed and others were not.  It will also explore the development of Israel’s political economy since independence. We will rely on a political economy approach to these questions, exploring the interactions of the state, economy, society and ideology--especially political Islam---that led to the upheavals of 2011 and have shaped the evolution of the region since then.  Along the way, the course will cover the relationship between economic growth and social outcomes; the governance of Middle Eastern states from the end of colonial rule to the present; the role of demographics in shaping both politics and economics; human capital and food security; the role of gas and oil; models of development embraced by regional states or imposed upon them; intra-regional trade; the structure of civil society; dynamics of popular mobilization; and the effects of war. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. McCloy Visiting Professor Simon.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2023


U.S. Security Policy in the Middle East

(Offered as HIST 259 [ME/US] and ASLC 259) U.S. security policy in the Middle East has shaped America’s interaction with the region since World War II. Indeed, U.S. strategic interest has defined this interaction and even dominated it in crucial ways. The substantial overlap between security policy and the broader diplomatic, economic and cultural dimensions of the U.S. relationship with the countries of the region is reflected in the structure of the course and assigned readings. Although the course presupposes a basic understanding of U.S. national security decision-making and some familiarity with modern Middle Eastern history, the readings and class discussion should provide enough of this background for students who have not already been exposed to these topics to participate and complete the course successfully. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester. McCloy Visiting Professor Simon.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2017


Struggles for Democracy in Modern Latin America, 1820 to the Present

[LA] Latin Americans began their struggle for democracy during the Independence wars at the start of the nineteenth century. Their struggle continues today. This course considers the historical meanings of democracy in various Latin American countries, with particular attention to the relationship between liberalism and democracy in the nineteenth century; the broadening of democracy at the start of the twentieth century; the rise and fall of military dictatorships in the 1960s-1980s and their impact upon civil society; and the current clashes between neo-Liberal economic programs and the neo-populist resurgence of the left.  Readings and discussions will focus on the ways broad economic and political shifts impacted individuals' lives; how each economic class experienced these shifts differently; the way race and gender have shaped peoples' experience with democratization and repression; and the personal processes of radicalization by which individuals became inspired to take risks in their struggle for inclusion and against repression.  Because the approach is thematic and chronological, some countries and regions will receive more attention than others.  Meetings and readings will draw on secondary studies, historical documents, testimonials, music, images, and film. Two meetings per week.

Fall semester.  Professor R. López.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022


Introduction to Latin America: Conquest, Colonization and Rebellion

[LA/p] Over the course of three centuries, massive migrations from Europe and Africa and the dramatic decline of indigenous populations in South and Central America radically transformed the cultural, political, economic, and material landscape of what we today know as Latin America. This class will investigate the dynamism of Latin American societies beginning in the ancient or pre-conquest period and ending with the collapse of European rule in most Spanish, Portuguese, and French speaking territories in the New World. We will explore this history through the eyes of various historical actors, including politicians, explorers, noble men and women, indigenous intellectuals, and African slaves. In addition to interrogating the myriad of peaceable and creative cross-cultural exchanges and interactions that characterized the relationship between these groups, we will also explore how conflict, exploitation, and natural disaster shaped the Colonial Latin American experience. Through a mixture of lecture, small and large group activities, and analysis of primary and secondary sources we will also consider how historians understand the past as well as the foundational debates which shape our current interpretations of colonial Latin American history. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Hicks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Fall 2021


Environmental History of Latin America

[LA] In this course we will focus on the links between environmental impacts (such as environmental degradation, desertification, soil “exhaustion,” species extinction, genetic simplification, oil extraction, biotic invasions, deforestation, pesticide contamination, and animal grazing) and human problems (such as colonial and imperial domination, declining subsistence, defense and violation of civil rights, income inequality, scientific racism, regional underdevelopment, incomplete capitalist transformation, social marginalization, and political violence). Questions we will engage include: How have environmental changes contributed to, or otherwise conditioned, processes of conquest and domination? How have these processes of conquest, domination, and resistance, in turn, altered the environmental? In what ways has environmental devastation been a rational response to the challenges people face, and in what ways has it been irrational? Can history guide us in our current efforts to develop a sustainable approach to the environment that helps the land and its fauna, but does so in a way that brings greater justice and self-determination to the people who live there, while at the same time balancing the interests of the state and of investors? The class will introduce students to classic texts in Latin American environmental history (including the foundational studies by Warren Dean and Elinore Melville), as well as some of the newest scholarship. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor R. López.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2021


Power and Resistance in the Black Atlantic

(Offered as BLST 201 [D] and HIST 267 [LAp/AFp])  The formation of "the Black Atlantic" or "the African Diaspora" began with the earliest moments of European explorations of the West African coast in the fifteenth century and ended with the abolition of Brazilian slavery in 1888.  This momentous historical event irrevocably reshaped the modern world.  This class will trace the history of this transformation at two levels; first, we examine large scale historical processes including the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the development of plantation economies, and the birth of liberal democracy.  With these sweeping stories as our backdrop, we will also explore the lives of individual Africans and African-Americans, the communities they built, and the cultures they created.  We will consider the diversity of the Black Atlantic by examining the lives of a broad array of individuals, including black intellectuals, statesmen, soldiers, religious leaders, healers and rebels.  Furthermore, we will pay special attention to trans-Atlantic historical formations common during this period, especially the contributions of Africans and their descendants to Atlantic cultures, societies, and ideas, ultimately understanding enslaved people as creative (rather than reactive) agents of history.  So, our questions will be:  What is the Black Atlantic?  How can we understand both the commonalities and diversity of the experiences of Africans in the Diaspora?  What kinds of communities, affinities and identities did Africans create after being uprooted by the slave trade?  What methods do scholars use to understand this history?  And finally, what is the modern legacy of the Black Atlantic?  Class time will be divided between lecture, small and large group discussion.

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Hicks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2021


Caste and Politics of Inequality in India

(Offered as HIST 271 [AS] and ASLC 271 [SA]) This course explores how caste was politicized over the course of colonial and post-colonial periods in India. It focuses on the emergence and development of various movements opposed to caste-based inequality and injustice, as well as the ongoing search for social justice. The course reviews scholarly debates about understanding this form of identification and social hierarchy, and examines the complex ways in which caste articulates with other social phenomena, like gender, class, religion, and nationality.  It lays emphasis on the writings and work of key anti-caste thinkers and activists, in particular, Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the preeminent leader of the Dalits, and a key figure in drafting the Constitution of India. Based on close readings of various kinds of primary sources, as well as an engagement with secondary literature in history, political science, sociology, anthropology and literary studies, the course follows the story of the struggle to “annihilate” caste. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Sen.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2016, Fall 2018


Gandhi: A Global History of Non-Violence

(Offered as HIST 272 [AS] and ASLC 272 [SA])  Political and social movements in South Africa, the United States of America, Germany, Myanmar, India, and elsewhere, have drawn inspiration from the non-violent political techniques advocated by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi during his leadership of the anti-colonial struggle for Indian freedom from British colonial rule.This course charts a global history of Gandhi’s thought about non-violence and its expression in civil disobedience and resistance movements both in India and the world. Organized in three modules, the first situates Gandhi through consideration of the diverse sources of his own historical and ideological formation; the second examines the historical contexts and practices through which non-violence acquired meaning for him; the third considers the various afterlives of Gandhian politics in movements throughout the world.  We will examine autobiography and biography, Gandhi's collected works, various types of primary source, political, social, and intellectual history, and audio-visual materials. In addition to widely disseminated narratives of Gandhi as a symbol of non-violence, the course will also closely attend to the deep contradictions concerning race, caste, gender, and class that characterized his thought and action. By unsettling conventional accounts of his significance, we will grapple with the problem of how to make sense of his troubled legacy. Prior familiarity with the subject matter is not required.  Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Sen.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017


Perspectives on Chinese History

(Offered as HIST 276 [AS] and ASLC 276 [C]) China--the modern nation--was born of revolution. Before the revolution there was China--the civilization--with its long and complex history. Modern historians, Western and Chinese alike, have tended to describe this history as “traditional,” leaving the modern condition to be defined by what happened in the West. In this course we will suspend this modern prejudice while asking a variety of questions on some specific topics. How did ancient laws and rituals come to define the relations between imperial states and local societies? How and to what degree did they continue to do this as societies changed? How did world religions like Buddhism and Christianity come to cohabit with Confucian ethics and ancestral rites? How did complex networks of trade, manufacturing, and credit coexist and interact with global economies and powerful military states? How did cohorts of classically educated, literary and artistic men help to integrate ethnically and linguistically diverse peoples into a culturally consistent foundation against which, and upon which, the modern Chinese nation could be built? How did ordinary working people and especially women participate or react? In each case we will discuss and develop our perspectives on how one thing led to another and then consider how modern views have tended to highlight or obscure the process. Sources include historical narratives and biographies, classical texts, philosophical and religious essays, family instructions, comparative historical analyses, fiction, and film.  Reading and discussion.  Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2017-18.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2016


Muslim Reformers of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

(Offered as REL 281 and HIST 281)  A study of eminent Muslim reformers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, hailing from diverse Islamic cultures and geographical locations including South Asia, West Africa, Egypt, Arabia, Iran, Central Asia, and the Ottoman Empire. We will examine ways in which religion intersected with social and political reform projects, explore thematic conversations among these reformers that transcend time and place, and look at ways in which many of these issues continue to resonate to the present day. 

Limited to 25 students.  Spring semester.  Professors Jaffer and Ringer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018, Spring 2020


South African History

(Offered as HIST 283 [AFP] and BLST 222 [A]) South African history is undergoing radical shifts in the way it is being written, read and interpreted, and this course will explore established and emerging themes in the history of this intriguing country. The time period covered will span the precolonial indigenous cultures and move on to study the initiation and expansion of white settlement and its early dependence on slave labor. The course will also investigate African resistance, both in its political and cultural forms, as well as the social effects of gold-mining and migrant labor. African nationalism, including the ANC, the Black Consciousness Movement, and the United Democratic Front, will be the focus of our study of the responses to apartheid and the ultimate collapse of the apartheid state. The course will end with discussions of recent events in South Africa, particularly the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its aftermath as well as the developing AIDS epidemic and the growing problem of crime. Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18. Professor Redding.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2021, Spring 2023


Africa Before the European Conquest

(Offered as HIST 284 [AFP] and BLST 211 [A]) The African continent has been called by one historian the social laboratory of humanity.  Art, trade, small-scale manufacturing, medical knowledge, religion, state systems, history and legend all flourished before the formal political take-over of the continent by European powers in the late nineteenth century. It is this varied history of states and cultures in the period before 1885 that this course will examine. The course will explore four topics in depth: slave-ownership within African societies and the impact of both the trans-Atlantic and east African slave trades; the interaction of religion and power on the rise and fall of the central African kingdom of Kongo; the genesis of the Zulu state in southern Africa and the historical evidence behind the contradictory histories of Tshaka; and the changing roles of women as economic, political, and social actors.  We will discuss some of the differences between oral historical narratives and written ones to understand both the history of the people living on the continent as well as the active process of writing and interpreting that history. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Redding.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2018


Black Radicalism in the Global South

(Offered as BLST 291[D] and HIST 291[AF/c]) This course will examine the geographic formation contemporary scholars have identified as the "Global South," and explore how it has been historically infused by the political struggles of people throughout the African Diaspora. Transnational in scope, this course will address the American South, the Caribbean and Africa, placing the history of colonialism and decolonization alongside--and in dialogue with--efforts to achieve racial justice in the United States.  In turn, we will probe how the Global South simultaneously nurtured, and was created by, the emergence and development of a Black Radical Tradition, and broader notions of black diasporic identity. Through close readings of primary sources, this course will establish pioneering intellectuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Eric Williams, Frantz Fanon, Ella Baker, Stokely Carmichael, Claudia Jones and CLR James as "southern" critics of racism and western modernity. In turn, this course will assess the black radical's relationship to modes of thought (particularly liberalism, nationalism and Marxism) initially articulated outside the Global South. Finally, we will critically assess the extent, and limitations, of such efforts to "make the world anew."

Omitted 2017-18.  Visiting Lecturer Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020


The History of Israel

[ME] This course will survey the history of Israel from the pre-state origins of Zionism in the late nineteenth century to the present. It will explore political, military, social and cultural history. We will seek a better historical understanding of many of Israel’s ongoing challenges, such as the place of religion in civil life, the state’s relation to world Jewry, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. We will pay special attention to contested identities and inner debates within Zionism and Israel, highlighting different and occasionally opposing visions of a Jewish homeland. In addition to historical documents and books (non-fiction and fiction), we will rely on the growing wealth of Israeli documentary films. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor A. Gordon.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2011, Fall 2014, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, January 2021


Proseminar in History: Writing the Past

This course offers an opportunity for history majors to reflect upon the practice of history. How do we claim to know anything about the past at all? How do historians construct the stories they tell about the past from the fragmentary remnants of former times? What is the connection of historians’ work to public memory? How do we judge the truth and value of these stories and memories? The course explores questions such as these through readings and case studies drawn from a variety of places and times. Two class meetings per week.  

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students per semester; history majors will be given preference. Fall semester: Professor Boucher.  Spring semester:  Professor Redding.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023


African Migrations and Globalization

(Offered as BLST 311[A/D] and HIST 311 [AF].)  This course examines how postcolonial African migration and transnational African populations in Western countries have shaped African states and societies in the global era.  Drawing on key readings about the formation of nation-states in Africa and the historical sociology of transnationalism since World War II, we will discuss what concepts such as the nation-state, communal identity, global relations, and security mean in the African context and explore African transnational experiences in the context of state crisis and globalism.  The course also will focus on how African national and transnational encounters in the context of globalization consistently reflect African agency, revealing important discussions on homeland and diaspora, tradition and modernity, gender and generation. 

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester.  Professor Vaughan.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2022


History and Politics of Human Rights

[C] This course will introduce students to major philosophical roots, historical developments, and contemporary debates in human rights politics.  The course will begin by examining the global historical evolution of the notion of human rights, stressing the pivotal role of the American and French Revolutions in framing modern conceptions of rights in the late eighteenth century. It will then examine the growth of international laws, institutions, and norms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Finally, the course will explore the human rights dimensions of three major issues in contemporary politics: humanitarian intervention; the war on terror and national security; and global capitalism and working conditions.  Considerable weight and attention will be given to human rights issues in the context of the United States and its domestic and international politics. At the same time, the universalizing nature of human rights and their global import compels us to think beyond cultural, political, and historical boundaries to challenge our assumptions about the meaning and form of universal rights. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Walker.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Spring 2018, Spring 2019


Religion, Empires, and Secular States in the Nineteenth Century

(Offered as HIST 319 [c], ASLC 320 [WA] and RELI 322) Conceptions of the religious and the secular that continue to resonate today assumed global significance in the course of the nineteenth century as colonial empires and nascent nation-states negotiated how they would govern heterogeneous populations and interact with each other. Drawing on scholarship from a number of disciplines that historicize the categories of religion and secularity, this course will examine the political function of the religious and the secular as conceptual and regulatory categories in the 19th century.  Colonial administrations, for example, employed the conceit of secularism to neutralize religious difference while individuals and communities attempted to reform and modernize local traditions as “religion” in order to navigate global hierarchies.  We will begin with a historiographic and theoretical survey, covering topics that include the academic creation of “World Religions,” the politics of conversion within the British Empire, and the discourse of Orientalist spiritualism.  The second half of the course will apply these historiographic and theoretical concerns to East Asia and Japan in particular. Requirements will include two topical essays and one longer paper entailing modest research. Two  class meetings per week.

Limited to 15 students.  Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Ringer.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2019


War, Occupation, and Genocide: The Experience of World War II in Europe

(Offered as HIST 325 [EU] and EUST 325) Seventy years on, World War II remains a point of rupture, an “hour zero,” in histories of Europe, Germany and the modern world. Rather than fading into the memories of our past, the Second World War has grown in the public imagination, spurring a deluge of films and books on the experiences of combat, loss and survival. Considered the most total conflict of world history, World War II wrought unparalleled destruction upon both soldiers and civilians across three continents. The Nazi regime turned the conflict into the most horrific war in European history, resorting to genocidal methods in their “war of annihilation” against European Jews. States harnessed levels of social mobilization and personal commitment to an extent not seen before or after. Through scholarly texts and original artifacts, this seminar explores the relationship between the destructive capacity of war and the effects on those who produce, are subject to, and must come to terms with its experience. The course focuses on the diverse experiences of the people who were involved in the war: soldiers on the battlefields; women mobilized into new roles at home and on the frontlines; children whose lives were shaped by new strategies of survival and/or given purpose by the war effort; colonial troops who both fought for Europe’s empires and against colonialism; European Jews who faced “impossible” choices in the path to genocide; and individuals for whom the war provided new opportunities to transgress boundaries of community surveillance, state and sexuality.  The course will focus on topics including: the social, economic, ideological and sexual complexities of wartime occupation; population movement and displacement; domestic mobilization; and the Holocaust.  Two course meetings per week.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Trask.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018


German Conservative Revolution and the Roots of the Third Reich

(Offered as HIST 330 [EU] and EUST 330)  This course will explore the thought and historical context of Germany’s radical rightwing intellectuals, who played a fateful role in the ideological formation of National Socialism in the wake of the Great War. These thinkers identified themselves with the oxymoronic and elusive title of a German “Conservative Revolution.” Defying traditional divisions between Left and Right, they opposed parliamentary democracy and royalist reactionary Wilhelminian conservatism, as well as Liberalism and Marxism. Beyond offering an important case study into the role, responsibility, and accountability of public intellectuals, this course will focus on the content and context of this group's radical conservative thought. Our discussion will highlight five fields of knowledge that they attempted to reshape: theology, legal thought, race biology, geography, and political philosophy. Once the National Socialist party took power, its relations with Conservative Revolutionaries was anything but simple: some Conservative Revolutionaries joined the Nazi party or collaborated with the Nazi state. Many others, however, dissented, and claimed that Nazism distorted their ideas. The posthumous legacy of these thinkers was equally ambivalent and unpredictable, while many sank into oblivion, some inspire and challenge not only contemporary rightwing movements and intellectuals, but also contemporary left. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Admission with consent of the instructor. Spring semester. Professor A. Gordon.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2018


European Migrations

(Offered as HIST 335 [EU] and EUST 335)  By tracing the journeys of people into, across, and out of Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this course explores the role of migration in forging modern national, regional, and global identities. On one level, it analyzes the factors that have impelled groups of people to cross borders. On another, it examines how these migrations have changed the social landscape of Europe, serving both to forge and to challenge the divides of culture, religion, and nationhood. Topics will include: mass emigration and the rise of European imperialism; debates over “belonging” in the era of nation-building; the development of passports, visa restrictions, and quotas; the emergence of the categories of “refugee” and “asylum seeker”; forced migration and human trafficking; colonial and postcolonial immigration into Europe; and contestations over multiculturalism. Readings will relate to a variety of geographical locations, but with special emphasis on migration into and out of Britain, France, Germany, and their empires. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 35 students. Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Boucher.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2016


A Price for Everything: Making of a Market Society

(Offered as HIST 339 [EU/p] and EUST 329)  This seminar reviews the various socio-cultural configurations of economic relations from the high medieval to the early modern era. Drawing on works from a range of disciplines, we focus on the intersection of market and culture, on how people have struggled to arrange and institutionalize market exchange, and how they have sought to make sense of those changing relations. The course is built around a basic question that is also a current debate: What can we and what can we not buy and sell? And why? To answer these questions, we first consider the foundational works that still govern our basic notions about the market society we live in. We then review several fields of our social lives that have been transformed through market exchange: What makes one good a gift and another a commodity? How can we set a price on the work we do? How did money make the world go around? Why am I often the sum of what I own? And what do these questions tell us about our relationship with each other and our things? We will consider both critical essays and historical case-studies. The goal of the course is to gain a historical and critical perspective on the making of a market society, provide approaches for applied research, and allow us to be conscious participants in the contemporary transformation of our own society.  Two class meetings per week. 

Limited to 20 students.  Spring semester.  Professor Cho.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018


Gender and Sexuality in Latin America

(Offered as HIST 345 [LA] and SWAG 345) Popular mythologies of Latin America have historically relied on hyper-masculine archetypes, including the conquistador, the caudillo, and the guerrillero to explain the continent’s past, culture and political development. By contrast, students in this course will be asked to bring women, gender and sexuality from the margins to the center of Latin American history. In doing so, we will reevaluate four transformative historical moments: the Spanish conquest, the wars of independence, the emergence of industrial capitalism, and the proliferation of late twentieth-century political revolutions. Through an exploration of these key periods of upheaval we will assess how social conflict was frequently mediated through competing definitions of masculinity and femininity. In addition, this course will explore the ways in which women’s activism has been central to social and political movements across the continent. Furthermore, we will investigate how the domain of sexual practice and reproduction underpinned broader conflicts over racial purity, worker power, and the boundaries of citizenship in racially and ethnically diverse societies. The course will culminate in a final research paper on a topic chosen by the student. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Hicks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2019, Spring 2021



(Offered as HIST 350 [AF/LA/c] and BLST 309 [CLA/D]) One of the longest and largest migrations in world history was between Western Africa and Brazil; over the course of four centuries the slave trade displaced nearly six million Africans to the then-Portuguese colony.  In this course, students will explore the material, cultural, intellectual, linguistic and economic exchanges that defined the relationship between Western Africa and Brazil from 1500 to the present. Through this history, students will consider how this unique connection spurred new forms of transatlantic consciousness and identity in Brazilian society. Our examination of the linked histories of Africa and Brazil will allow us to probe a number of questions: How does this history help us understand Brazil’s emergence as the world’s first self-described “racial democracy”? Who decides what is “modern”? How is race related to ideas of civilization, order and progress? What does “authenticity” mean?  Does understanding black history outside of the United States challenge our ideas of how racial identities are created, experienced and maintained?  And finally, is black consciousness universal? Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Hicks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017


The Immigrant City

(Offered as HIST 351 [US] and AMST 351) A history of urban America in the industrial era, this course will focus especially on the city of Holyoke as a site of industrialization, immigration, urban development, and deindustrialization. We will begin with a walking tour of Holyoke and an exploration of the making of a planned industrial city. We will then investigate the experience of several key immigrant groups – principally Irish, French Canadian, Polish, and Puerto Rican – using both primary and secondary historical sources, as well as fiction. Students will write several papers on one or another immigrant group or a particular element of social experience, and a final research paper that explores in greater depth one of the topics touched upon in the course. The course will include students from Amherst College and Holyoke Community College and is open to all students, majors and non-majors. All students will engage in some primary research, especially in the city archives and Wistariahurst Museum, in Holyoke. Amherst College history majors who wish to write a 25-page research paper and thereby satisfy their major research requirement may do so in the context of this course. Classes will be held at both Amherst and Holyoke sites; transportation will be provided.

Enrollment is limited to ten students per institution.  Spring semester. Professors Couvares and Clinton (HCC).


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2018, Spring 2020


The Purpose and Politics of Education

(Offered as HIST 352 [US], AMST 352, and BLST 351.) Focusing on the United States, this course introduces students to foundational questions and texts central to the history of education and education studies. We will explore the competing goals and priorities Americans have held for primary, secondary and post-secondary education and ask how and why these visions have influenced – or failed to influence – classrooms, schools, and educational policy. We will pay particular attention to sources of educational stratification; the tensions between the public and private purposes of schooling; and the relationship between schooling and equality. In the first part of the course, students will reflect on how Americans have imagined the purpose of self-education, literacy, public schooling, and the liberal arts. Among the questions we will consider: What do Americans want from public schools? Does education promote liberation? Has a liberal arts education outlived its usefulness? How has the organization of schools and school systems promoted some educational objectives in lieu of others? In the second section of the course, we will concentrate on the politics of schooling. Here, we will pay particular attention to several issues central to understanding educational inequality and its relationship to American politics, culture, and society: localism; state and federal authority; desegregation; and the complicated relationship between schooling and racial, linguistic, class-based, gender, and ethnic hierarchies. Finally, we will explore how competing ideas about the purpose and politics of education manifest themselves in current policy debates about privatization, charters, testing, and school discipline. Throughout the course, students will reflect on both the limits and possibilities of American schools to challenge and reconfigure the social order. Course assignments will consist of a mix of short papers and analytical reading exercises. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Moss and Lewis Sebring Visiting Associate Professor L. Gordon.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022


The Local and Global 1970s

(Offered as BLST 342 [US] and HIST 358 [US])  Often overshadowed by the long 1960s and the conservative ascendancy in the 1980s, the 1970s provides an important transitional moment for the United States, one that arguably linked local experiences to global dynamics and social movements in unprecedented ways. It was also a decade fraught with contradictions. On the one hand, Americans experienced widespread disillusionment with the power of the federal government to promote and protect the minority from the majority. Historians seeking to understand the collapse of the welfare state or the origins of white resistance to civil rights’ initiatives most often point to the 1970s as the time when the Supreme Court abandoned school desegregation and the federal government shifted the burden of the social welfare system onto the market, state and local governments, and onto poor people themselves. And yet, the 1970s also saw an explosion of progressive social activism, as the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and the environmental movement, among others, all came into their own. Likewise, this was also a time of U.S. retreat and military overextension, and a time of new hegemonies of human rights regimes and multinational corporations. This course asks students to consider how connecting the local with the global can help us better understand and resolve these apparent contradictions. How does our understanding of American politics, society, and culture change depending upon our point of view? What are the possibilities and limitations of global and local methods of inquiry? How might historians more fruitfully combine sub-disciplines to understand the ways in which Americans experienced and engaged with their historical realities as members of local, national, and global communities?  One class meeting per week.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester.  Professors Moss and Walker.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2022


Schools, Poverty, and Social Policy in Twentieth-Century America

(Offered as HIST 359 [US] and AMST 359)  When calling for the nation’s first public school systems, Horace Mann described common schools as the “great equalizer of the conditions of men” and “the balance wheel of the social machinery.” This basic idea, that formal education can reduce poverty by “leveling the playing field” or providing a “fair start in life” is among the most cherished ideals in American social and political thought. At the same time, whether and how education can equalize the social, economic, and political order has generated considerable debate, especially in the twentieth century. Drawing on philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology, literature, and popular culture, this course focuses on three questions: What does educational equality mean? Why should we equalize education? And can equal schools create an equal society? By exploring the many ways Americans answered—and argued over—these questions, the course investigates the promise and pitfalls of treating schooling as a social policy tool. Readings and discussions also examine efforts to link educational reform to reform in other policy arenas, namely employment, housing, social welfare, and criminal justice. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Lewis-Sebring Visiting Professor L. Gordon.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Fall 2018


People's History of Revolutionary America

[US/p] This course examines the revolutionary period through the lives of ordinary, poor, and marginalized children, women, and men including Native Americans, people of African descent who were enslaved, bound, and free, and indentured servants, laborers, and skilled artisans who emigrated from Europe. We will ask the following questions: What were the everyday conditions of workers? How were ideals of "liberty" and "freedom" conceptualized? How did enslaved African Americans experience this era? What were the prospects for women's educational and political advancement, both before and after the war? Was there in fact anything revolutionary about the American Revolution? The main course texts are social and cultural histories of the period as well as primary sources such as newspapers, novels, memoirs, broadsides, and political manifestos. Central topics covered include maritime culture, urban poverty, women's work, colonialism, immigration, slavery, education, and politics. The course includes two field trips to regional historic sites. Students will conduct original research in local archives. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Manion.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2019


National Security Decision Making

This course will afford students the opportunity to experience the process of national security policy-making through role-play and intensive interaction mediated by visitors with extensive White House experience and direct involvement in significant strategic decisions. The first part of the course will explore the national security decision-making process instituted under the National Security Act of 1947, its subsequent evolution, and the varied roles that national security advisors have played.  The second part will focus on specific challenges that would trigger National Security Council meetings at various levels in the “real world,” ranging from acute crises to chronic problems that might create a crisis in some plausible future. Over the course of the seminar, students will rotate through the different roles, so that each participant will come to grips with the full range of factors that shape policymakers’ choices and, ultimately, national security policy. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. McCloy Visiting Professor Simon.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2017, Spring 2018


Envisioning Freedom

(Offered as BLST 381 [CLA/D] and HIST 365 [LA/FA])  Did the emancipation of millions of African-descended people from the bonds of chattel slavery--beginning with the 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti and ending with Brazilian abolition in 1888--mark the beginning of an irrevocable march towards Black freedom?  Or was it merely an evolution in the continuing exploitation of Black people throughout the Americas?  This course scrutinizes the complex economic, political, ideological, social and cultural contexts which caused and were remade by emancipation.  Students are asked to consider emancipation as a global historical process unconstrained by the boundaries of the modern nation-state, while exploring the reasons for and consequences of emancipation from a trans-national perspective that incorporates the histories of the U.S., the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa.  By focusing on the ideological ambiguities and lived experiences of enslaved people, political actors, abolitionists, religious leaders, employers and many others, this seminar will question what constitutes equality, citizenship, and freedom.  Finally the course will explore what role emancipated slaves played in shaping the historical meanings and practices of modern democracy. 

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester.  Professor Hicks.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Fall 2017


Japan's Empire in Asia, 1868-1945

(Offered as HIST 370 [AS] and ASLC 370 [J]) Japan emerged as the only non-Western multi-ethnic empire in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Comparing that empire to others across the globe, this course will consider how Japanese imperialism facilitated the complex circulation of goods, ideas, people and practices in modern Asia.  We will ask how that complex circulation shaped Japan, as well as the colonial modernities of Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria.  Topics will include the formation of a regional imperial order in Asia, colony and metropole relations, gender and imperialism, regional migration, empire and total war, decolonization, and history and memory. Requirements include short response papers and topical essays.  Two class meetings per week.

Omitted 2017-18.  Professor Maxey.


Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2019, Fall 2020


WWII and Japanese Americans

(Offered as AMST 374 and HIST 374 [US])  In the largest incidence of forced removal in American history, the U.S. incarcerated 120,000 people of Japanese descent during WWII, two-thirds of whom were American citizens. Preceded by half a century of organized racism, the attack on Pearl Harbor provided justification for imprisonment of an entire ethnic group solely on the basis of affiliation by “blood.” At the same time, Japanese Americans served in the U.S. military with extraordinary distinction, earning recognition in the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team in Europe as the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in American military history. Thousands more served in the Military Intelligence Service using their knowledge of the Japanese language as a “secret weapon” against the Japanese Empire. We will examine the historical background leading to these events and Japanese American resistance to official actions including the cases of Yasui, Hirabayashi, Korematsu, and Endo which reached the U.S. Supreme Court. We will also explore the imposition of the draft upon men behind barbed wire and those who became draft resisters. We will also trace the post-war rise of movements to gain redress, successful with President Reagan’s signing of HR 442 in 1988, and the extraordinary rise of memorials and museums commemorating incarceration and memory-making.

Limited to 18 students.  Spring semester.  McCloy Visiting Professor Odo.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022


Subaltern Studies: History from Below

(Offered as HIST 375 [AS], ANTH 375 and ASLC 375 [SA])  This course explores the intervention made by the Subaltern Studies Collective in the discipline of history-writing, particularly in the context of South Asia.  Dissatisfied that previous histories of Indian nationalism were all in some sense “elitist,” this group of historians, anthropologists, and literary theorists sought to investigate how various marginalized communities--women, workers, peasants, adivasis--contributed in their own terms to the making of modern South Asia.  Their project thus engaged broader methodological questions and problems about how to write histories of the marginal.  Combining theoretical statements with selections from the 12-volume series as well as individual monographs, our readings and discussion will chart the overall trajectory of Subaltern Studies from its initial moorings in the works of the Italian Marxian theorist Antonio Gramsci to its later grounding in the critique of colonial discourse.  The objective is to understand how this school of history-writing transformed the understanding of modern South Asian history. Our discussion will engage with the critiques and debates generated in response to the project and the life of the analytical category, “subalternity,” outside South Asia.  Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 25 students. Spring semester.  Professor Sen.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2014, Spring 2018

390, 490

Special Topics

Independent reading.

Fall and spring semesters.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023


Early Islam: Construction of an Historical Tradition

(Offered as HIST 393 [MEP] and ASLC 355 [WA])  This course examines in depth the formative period of Islam between c. 500-680. Using predominantly primary material, we will chart the emergence, success, and evolution of Islam, the Islamic community, and the Islamic polity. The focus of this course is on understanding the changing nature over time of peoples’ understanding of and conception of what Islam was and what Islam implied socially, religiously, culturally and politically. We concentrate on exploring the growth of the historical tradition of Islam and its continued contestations amongst scholars today. This course will familiarize students with the events, persons, ideas, texts and historical debates concerning this period. It is not a course on the religion or beliefs of Islam, but a historical deconstruction and analysis of the period. This class is writing intensive. Two class meetings per week.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Ringer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Spring 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2022, Spring 2023


Wine, History, and the Environment

(Offered as HIST 402 [c] and ENST 401) Wine is as old as Western civilization. Its consumption is deeply wedded to leading religious and secular traditions around the world. Its production has transformed landscapes, ecosystems, and economies. In this course we examine how wine has shaped the history of Europe, North Africa, and the Americas. Through readings, scientific study, historical research, and class discussion, students will learn about such issues as: the environmental impact of wine; the politics of taste and class; the organization of labor; the impact of imperialism and global trade; the late nineteenth-century phylloxera outbreak that almost destroyed the European wine industry; and the emergence of claims about terroir (the notion that each wine, like each culture, is uniquely tied to a place) and how such claims are tied to regional and national identity. Through class discussion, focused research and writing workshops, and close mentoring, each student will learn about wine while designing and executing an independent research project. We will also get our hands dirty with soil sampling, learn the basics of sediment analysis in the laboratory, and have a go at fermentation. Two meetings per week.

This is a research seminar open to juniors and seniors. Priority given to history and environmental studies majors. History majors may take this course either as a research seminar or in place of HIST 301 “Writing the Past.”

Limited to 15 students. Omitted 2017-18.  Professors R. López and Martini.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2023


Therapeutic Transformations: The “Wonder Drugs” and Modern Medicine

Physicians often say that medicine became truly effective in the mid-twentieth century when an avalanche of new remedies became available, first in Europe and North America but soon thereafter around the world.  Collectively dubbed “the wonder drugs,” these products included sulfa drugs and antibiotics for bacterial infections, cortico-steroids for arthritis and other inflammatory diseases, tranquilizers for mental illness, and diuretics for hypertension.  The new medicines offered patients relief from dread diseases and physicians long-awaited validation of the power of scientific medicine.  For a generation that came of age in the 1940s and 1950s, they testified to the creative and beneficent powers of science.  The “wonder drugs” also gave pharmaceutical firms lucrative new products and governments complex new regulatory challenges.  Many of our current debates over drug development, testing, marketing, and pricing commenced in the 1950s, as newly-introduced drugs helped reshape health care. This seminar will treat the history of these “wonder drugs”:  their origins in biomedical research, their production and distribution, and some of the medical and political issues that are associated with their cost and safety.  All participants in the seminar will be required to write a research paper of at least 20 pages involving the use of primary sources. Two class meetings per week.

Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Servos.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Fall 2017


On Nationalism

[c] Nationalism–by far the most powerful political idea of the past 250 years–has transformed human history the world over. By positing a new form of human identity, it has liberated and enslaved, built and destroyed. Most importantly it persisted by presenting itself as a natural fact of human life. Studying nationalism, therefore, is an act of self-exploration, whether we regard ourselves as national or not. Yet, though nationalism has shaped the modern age, people strongly disagree on its most basic concepts: What are nations? When did they emerge? What is their future? This research seminar will begin with a systematic and comparative study of the key theories of nationalism, seeking to understand both their claims and historical contexts. From this theoretical foundation, the seminar will explore case studies from different epochs and continents. Further: more than focusing on nationalism’s impact on politics, our case studies will illustrate nationalism’s impact on gender norms and class, on religion and philosophy, on culture and the arts. Finally the course will culminate in individual student research projects, consisting of a 25-page research paper and a final presentation as part of a mini-conference event.

Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 15 students.  Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Fall semester. Professor A. Gordon.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023


European Economic Take-Off in Global Perspective, c. 1050-1750

(Offered as HIST 425 [EU/P] and EUST 425) The history of the pre-modern European economy is usually understood as the singular and exceptional rise of the first modern economy. Yet recent research in economic history and shifts in the world economy have provided new perspectives to reconsider the rise of the European economy. From this long-term and global viewpoint, the story of Europe’s economic take-off becomes the remarkable story of a backwater that became mainstream. How was Europe able to reposition itself from a periphery of the Eurasian economy to a central node of the global economy? What drove Europeans further and further into the East and how did their incursions disrupt or adapt to previous trade networks and practices? How did the exports and imports of Europe change as their relation to the world economy changed? By considering these questions, the course will revisit the familiar histories of the Commercial Revolution, the travels of Marco Polo, the Age of Discovery, the East India Companies, the Atlantic System, and the road to the Industrial Revolution. Using the analysis and synthesis of modern historians, we will situate the economic take-off of Europe in the context of the transformation of the world economy. Utilizing past travel logs, eyewitness reports, business contracts, customs receipts, and other non-narrative sources, students will complete a research paper that tackles one of these histories and casts them in new light. One class meeting per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Cho.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Spring 2018


Defining the Modern: Russia Between Tsars and Communists

(Offered as HIST 439 [EU] and EUST 339) The course will explore a most intense and fascinating period in Russian history: the years 1890-1910. This period witnessed rapid urbanization and industrialization; the rise of professional and mass politics; first instances of modern terrorism and an intensification of nationalist struggles; imperialist ventures in Central Asia, Manchuria, and Korea; several revolutions and wars; and, above all, an unprecedented efflorescence of modernist culture in the late Russian Empire which was readily exported to and consumed in Europe. We will analyze these developments through a range of sources, including resources found at the Mead Art Museum. In addition to acquainting students with major developments in turn-of-the-century Russian Empire, the class will address contemporary scholarly debates that focus on concepts such as “modernity,” “self,” “discipline,” “knowledge,” “civil society,” and “nationalism.” Students will be required to complete an independent research paper. One class meetings per week. 

Omitted 2017-18. Five College Professor Glebov.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2016


Living the Revolutionary Utopia: Reconfiguring the Russian Empire as the Soviet Union, 1917–1920s

(Offered as HIST 445 [EU] and RUSS 345) The Russian Revolution of 1917 was the end of the dynastic imperial regime and the onset of the new, unprecedented attempt to create a utopian society of universal equality and justice. It was also the beginning of the bloody and brutal Civil War and foreign intervention. Yet the Russian Revolution as a modernist project of remaking the social order and human nature had a much longer history as it developed since the nineteenth century in politics, science, literature, and arts. Following the Revolution, the Bolshevik reordering of state, society and empire developed along with and conflicted with the futuristic project of global transformation of the old world.  What Soviet life would look like and how the Soviet multiethnic empire should be built became highly contested projects.  This seminar introduces students to the new research into the elaboration, implementation, domestication, taming, or overcoming of revolutionary utopianism and futurism. Studying secondary and primary sources, we will explore how people created new forms of life, moral, knowledge, gender order, postcolonial arrangements, and new state institutions. Students will produce a research paper based on primary sources, including those at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Five College Professor Glebov.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2017, Spring 2019


Sex and Law in Colonial America

[US/p] An exploration of life in colonial North America through laws passed to regulate, restrict, and give meaning to sexual relations by British, Spanish, French, and Dutch colonizers. Major themes will be sexual and gender norms, faith and family, economic systems, geography, and culture with an emphasis on cross-cultural conflicts, interactions, and communities. Students will work extensively with primary source documents from court cases about interracial sex, premarital sex, sexual assault, abortion, same-sex intimacies, bastardy, and people of indeterminate sex and gender. Students will write an original research paper. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 15 students. Not open to first-year students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Manion.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016


The Long Civil Rights Movement

(Offered as HIST 455 [US] and BLST 431 [US]) This course will explore the temporal, ideological and cultural dimensions of the American Civil Rights Movement. Following 1954’s Brown vs Board of Education decision, a diverse social movement of students, preachers, working people, activists and intellectuals challenged—and eventually dismantled—Jim Crow segregation in the American South. How did this happen? To answer this question, we will examine the origins of the movement, its institutional dimensions, its key figures, and its intellectual underpinnings. In addition, this class will trace the afterlife of the movement, assessing its national and global reverberations, as well as its relationship to the Black Power movement. As a research seminar, this course will culminate in the production of a 25-page research paper based on an analysis of primary sources related to the movement. Two class meetings per week.

Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 18 students. Omitted 2017-18. Visiting Lecturer Hickmott.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2020, Spring 2022


America and Vietnam

[US] This seminar will trace the path and nature of the United States' involvement in Vietnam from World War II to the fall of Saigon in 1975 and its aftermath. It will examine U.S. policy in the context of Cold War foreign relations and how U.S. policy responded to the decolonizing Third World and the perceived danger of communist expansion and control in Southeast Asia. The seminar will explore the various pressures and influences on American policymakers, the nature of the war, and its effects on Vietnam and the United States. It will also stress Vietnamese perspectives on the conflict and analyze how Vietnamese history and culture shaped interactions with the United States, the Soviet Union and the global community.  Finally, the course will spend significant time on the conflict's broad impact on U.S. society and popular culture, as manifested through music, film, and literature.  One class meeting per week.

Limited to 15 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Walker.




Intelligence and U.S. National Security Policymaking

[US] The purpose of this course is to provide an overview of the role and effectiveness of intelligence in forming and executing national security policy in the U.S. Government. It will include three major components: (1) a survey and assessment of the intelligence enterprise, its organization, and major functions, to gain insight into how the intelligence community works, and into its ethos and organizational culture; (2) an examination of the impact of intelligence collection and analysis on the policy community and of the interactions between the policy and intelligence communities from both their perspectives; and (3) review of case studies to gain deeper insight into intelligence community/policy making community dynamics in the “real world.”  One class meeting per week.

Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 18 students.  Fall semester.  McCloy Visiting Professor Simon.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016, Fall 2017, Fall 2018


Mexican Material and Visual Culture

[LA]  We surround ourselves with stuff. These items that we create, use, display, and dwell in contain evidence about our lives. This course examines the historical role of material, architectural and visual objects in the creation of Mexico’s political and social order from the ancient Aztecs and Maya through today. Students will analyze material and visual evidence to learn about ethnic and gender relations, economic transformations, structures of rule, the experience of inequality, and the continual reconstruction of historical memory. Materials we will study include preconquest illuminated manuscripts, sculptures and temples; Spanish colonial paintings, architecture, ritual items, arts and crafts, maps, books, and botanical drawings; and modern sculpture, architecture, urban planning, maps, photographs, handicrafts, clothing, magazines, and even beauty contests. We will draw upon the rich collection of Mexican art in the Mead Art Museum, as well as items available in area museums and in digital archives. We will supplement our study of material culture with secondary texts and primary sources. Knowledge of Spanish and previous experience with Latin American history would be helpful, but are neither required nor expected. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 15 students. Not open to first-year students; preference given to juniors and seniors majoring in history or in art history. Omitted 2017-18. Professor R. López.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015


Anticolonial Nationalism in India

(Offered as HIST 474 [AS] and ASLC 474 [SA]) Anti-colonial nationalism in India was one of the first major movements towards the decolonization of the global south. This reading and writing intensive research seminar examines the story of the Indian nationalist movement and the effort to liberate the subcontinent and its peoples from British colonial rule. Drawing on both primary and secondary sources, the course chronologically explores the rise and development of nationalist ideology and practice, and introduces students to four broadly conceived historiographical schools and their interpretations of this movement--nationalist, Marxist, Cambridge, and Subaltern Studies.  Students will thereby engage with a number of prominent historiographical debates about Indian nationalism and gain an in-depth appreciation of the triumphs, contradictions, and failures that marked the struggle for freedom in India, as well its troubled legacies. Writing assignments are designed to culminate in a substantial research paper. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Sen.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2013, Fall 2017



(Offered as HIST 475 [AS] and ASLC 475) The practice of history has been reshaped over several decades by a series of theoretical turns that cut across the humanities: the cultural turn, the linguistic turn, and transnational turn. Historians now grapple with a number of "posts" (post-structuralism, post-modernism, post-colonialism), "news" (the new imperial history, the new humanities, the new environmental history) and "criticals" (critical regionalism, critical race studies, critical Asian studies) as we read, write, and teach history. This seminar will grapple with a number of these theoretical provocations and examine their application to the writing of history. The syllabus pairs a theoretical reading with a historical monograph applying the same theme--ideology, time, the social, etc.--to modern Japan. Assignments include weekly responses, presentations, an annotated bibliography, and a final paper. Students wishing to fulfill the seminar paper requirement may opt to write a research paper. One class meeting per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 20 students. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Maxey.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016


The History and Memory of the Asia-Pacific War

(Offered as HIST 477 [AS] and ASLC 462 [J].) The fifteen years of war initiated by Japan—variously referred to as the Pacific War, the Great East Asian War, the Fifteen-year War, World War II, and the Asian-Pacific War—continue to shape the politics and diplomacy of Asia. This seminar examines the historiographic challenges that arise from the war in the memory and history of Japan, East Asia, and the United States.  The principal questions guiding the seminar will be: What is the relationship between history and memory in our media-saturated world? How are the memory and history of war intertwined in both national and international politics?  What forms of memory have been included and excluded from dominant historical narratives and commemorative devices? What role can the academic discipline of history play in these controversies? The goal of the seminar will be to immerse ourselves in a critical conversation and to produce archival research projects.  To that end, scholarly monographs, edited volumes, oral history, literature, and film will guide our discussions.  Active class participation, ungraded writing exercises, and one research paper (20~25 pages) will be required. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Maxey.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2008, Fall 2010, Fall 2014, Spring 2018, Fall 2020


Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 488 [AF] and BLST 321 [A]) There were numerous rebellions against the state during the period of European colonial rule, and violent resistance to state authority has continued to characterize political life in many post-colonial African countries. This seminar will examine the development of several outbreaks of violence in Africa in the colonial and post-colonial periods to explore important questions in a comparative context. We will look at the economic, social, religious, and political roots of these disturbances; at the challenges faced both by rebel groups attempting to gain a foothold and by states with a fragile hold on ruling authority; and at the social disruptions caused by the participation of child and youth soldiers in various conflicts. We will also discuss the problems historians face in trying to narrate and analyze revolts whose strength often emerged from their protean character, and the legends and rumors that frequently swirled around violent revolts and their role in the construction of historical narratives. The events studied will include the Maji-maji rebellion in German-controlled Tanganyika in 1906-1907; the first (1896-1897) and second (1960-1980) Chimurengas (revolts) in southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; the widespread revolt in the 1980s and '90s in South Africa against the apartheid regime; and the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda in the late 1990s. Students will each write a 20- to 25-page research paper on an individually chosen topic as a final project; in addition there will be frequent, shorter writing assignments throughout the semester. There will be one class meeting per week.

Admission with consent of the instructor. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 20 students.  Omitted 2017-18. Professor Redding.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023


An Era of Translation: The Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Empire

(Offered as HIST 489 [ME] and ASLC 489) The Ottoman Empire underwent a process of intense reform in the nineteenth century. Reformers were determined to strengthen their countries’ sovereignty vis-à-vis increasingly aggressive European imperial powers and embarked on a series of measures designed to improve their economies, political institutions and militaries. European institutions served as one important source of inspiration for Ottoman reformers. This course explores the complex relationship between preservation and change and between admiration and rejection of Ottoman and European ideas, institutions, and cultures that characterized the nineteenth-century reform process. We will move beyond the oversimplification and distortion inherent in the paradigm of “adoption vs. rejection” and instead seek to conceptualize the complex relationship with Europe, and with the Ottomans’ own traditions, as a process of translation. The concept of "translation" allows us to understand the process as multidirectional, entangled and interactive. The course draws on a close reading of a variety of primary and secondary sources. Students will be encouraged to apply theories of "translation" to their own research projects. Two meetings per week.

Limited to 15 students. Not open to first-year students; preference given to upper-level HIST and ASLC majors with prior coursework on the Ottoman Empire and/or Iran. Admission with consent of the instructor. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Ringer.  

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2016


Inside Iran

(Offered as HIST 492 [ME] and ALSC 459 [WA])  This seminar explores contemporary Iran from a historical and interdisciplinary perspective. The aim of the course is both to provide an overall understanding of the history of Iran, as well as those key elements of religion, literature, legend, and politics that together shape Iran's understanding of itself. We will utilize a wide variety of sources, including Islamic and local histories, Persian literature, architecture, painting and ceramics, film, political treatises, Shiite theological writing, foreign travel accounts, and U.S. state department documents, in addition to secondary sources.  Two class meetings per week.

Recommended requisite: a survey course on the modern Middle East. Admission with consent of the instructor. Limited to 15 students.  Not open to first-year students. Fall semester. Professor Ringer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2017, Spring 2020, Fall 2021


Turkey: From Ataturk to Erdogan

(Offered as HIST 493 [ME] and ASLC 493) Mustafa Kemal "Ataturk" looms large in Turkish historical memory. As a national hero and Turkey’s first President from 1923 until his death in 1938, Ataturk symbolizes a shift from empire to republic, from subject to citizen. He is remembered for promoting the secularization, democratization and Westernization of Turkey. Turkey’s current President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has now served as head of the Turkish Republic for nearly as long as Ataturk. Supporters point to Erdogan's policies of democratization as the fulfillment of Ataturk’s intentions, while his opponents argue that Erdogan is deliberately dismantling the foundations of Ataturk’s secular and western-oriented republic. This seminar focuses on how these two leaders are variously imagined and claimed, as a window onto contemporary debates surrounding secularism and the place of religion, nationalism and minority rights, the tensions between authoritarianism and democracy, and the ways in which competing visions of the Ottoman past surround alternative constructions of Turkey’s future. Two course meetings per week.

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Preference given to students who have taken HIST 191. Omitted 2017-18. Professor Ringer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2021



(Offered as HIST 494 [ME], ANTH 431, and ASLC 494.) At different points in its nearly 2000-year history, the city now known as Istanbul has been the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. Alternately branded as a “global city” and selected as the “Cultural Capital of Europe,” Istanbul continues to thrive as a complex urban landscape of intersecting economies, histories, and ideas. Over its long history, millions of people and multiple communities have called Istanbul their home--each shaping the city with distinct visions of the past and longings for the future. As innumerable identities (communal, religious, national, ethnic) have been both claimed and erased to serve a variety of political, economic, and social ideologies, Istanbul stands today as a city where the meanings of space and place are contested like few others. This seminar explores the connections between contemporary politics and society in Turkey through the contested histories of space and place-making in Istanbul, with special attention to the varied historical legacy of architecture of the city. Two 80 minute class meetings per week.

The seminar will culminate with a 12-day trip to Istanbul, Turkey. All students enrolled in the course are expected to participate in the trip. The trip will begin immediately after the final exam period, departing on May 12 and returning on May 23. The cost of the trip will be covered by the College.

Limited to 12 Amherst College students. Open to sophomores and juniors. Admission with consent of the instructors. Enrollment is by written application only, with an interview process to follow in fall 2017.  Preference given to students who have prior course work in Middle East studies. Spring semester. Professors Dole and Ringer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2015, Spring 2018

498, 498D, 499, 499D

Senior Departmental Honors

Culminating in one or more pieces of historical writing which may be submitted to the Department for a degree with Honors. Normally to be taken as a single course but, with permission of the Department, as a double course as well.

Open to juniors and seniors. Spring semester. The Department.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023

Related Courses

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