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Amherst College Courses

Amherst College Courses

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History

Professors Bradley,Couvares, Epstein, R. López, Manion*, Maxey, Melillo, Moss*, Redding, and Ringer; Associate Professors Boucher, A. Gordon (Chair), Herbin-Triant* and Walker; Five College Professor Glebov; Assistant Professors Gomes, Peralta, and Qiao; Visiting Professor Sperling, John J. McCloy '22 Visiting Professor Semyonov, Visiting Assistant Professor Bell. 

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 perspectives and concerns.Question their own ideas and assumptions, and reflect on the often hidden relationships between ideas and social institutions, and 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.

Major Requirements

The history major requires students to study the history of a particular region or historical topic in depth and also to range more widely so as acquire knowledge of several geographical and chronological fields.

Normally, majors will demonstrate their mastery of history by successfully completing nine history courses that include the following:

Concentration: Four courses in an individually chosen area. After consultation with the advisor, the student should declare a concentration no later than the first semester of the student’s senior year.Geographical range: One course each in at least three different geographic areas (the geographical region covered in each course is noted by an abbreviation; the various abbreviations are described below).Breadth: Either two courses that cover the pre-1800 period (noted as a superscript [P]), or one pre-1800 course and one comparative history [C] course. History 301, Proseminar in History: Writing the Past.Research requirement: The history department’s research requirement is satisfied by writing a 20- to 25-page research paper that conforms to the department’s Guidelines for Research Papers, either in a 400-level research seminar or in another History course, with the prior approval of the instructor.

Some individual courses may fulfill more than one of the above requirements. 

Note that students who have taken history courses outside of the Five College Consortium (including history courses taken in study-abroad or study-away programs as well as history courses taken elsewhere by transfer students) must formally petition the department to receive approval to count those courses toward the major requirements. In general, the department will consider approving up to two courses per semester for students studying away with a maximum of four courses, with additional credit possible for transfer students. At least five non-thesis courses for the major are to be taken at Amherst College, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis. It is expected that in most cases, the research requirement as well as History 301 will be completed at Amherst College. Majors should consult their department advisors as they select their courses or if they have questions about the requirements.

All majors will satisfy the comprehensive requirement by passing History 301 and fulfilling the research requirement, as discussed above, prior to the start of their last semester.

Concentration within the major: Geographic

In completing their major, history students can take four courses either in the history of one geographical region (chosen from the six possibilities listed below), or in a comparative history of two or more regions, chosen by the student. The geographical regions are as follows:

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

Concentration within the major: Thematic (NEW as of 2018-19)

As an alternative to a geographical concentration, a major may choose a thematic concentration that allows the student to specialize in a topic across geographical areas and various time periods. Students may construct their own thematic concentration of four History courses by petitioning the department, or students may choose one of the following concentrations designated by the department:

Empires, nations, and encounters [TE] Political encounters between empires and nations have often been marked by violence but have also been mediated by other forms of cultural and economic exchange. Historians have debated the relative significance of these encounters in studies of imperial conquest, major world wars, nationalist and anti-colonialist movements, and the development of international trade networks. Courses in this concentration study transformations in political structures, institutions, and processes in a wide variety of historical and regional contexts.

Histories of race and racism [TR] Understanding the racial inequalities of our current moment requires an in-depth exploration of the origins of historical processes of racialization as well as how racist ideas, practices, and institutions have developed over time. The critical examination of the historical creation of ideologies of race and white supremacy enables us to challenge historically hegemonic discourses about racial difference that have been grounded in both biology and culture. Studying varied experiences of racism from the perspective of historically marginalized and underrepresented peoples and communities allows us to interrogate our shared complicity in racialized structures of power and privilege, while deepening our intellectual and affective commitment to anti-racism. Courses in this concentration examine the global circulation of ideas about race, as well as the historical creation of identities, affinities, and social movements aimed at contesting white supremacy and racial inequality.

Social justice, rights, and inequality [TS] Struggles for social justice and political rights, and against inequality have created large-scale social movements to demand access to political power and a voice in determining social policies. Historians have examined structural forces, modes of governance, and attitudes that perpetuate inequality, as well as the development of social welfare policies, and ideas of citizenship and civil society that advance particular rights claims through the study of civil rights campaigns, struggles for racial, gender, caste, and economic equalities, anti-imperialist movements, and the evolution of international human rights organizations. Courses in this concentration explore the making and transformations of social inequalities in different geographic and temporal settings.

Cultures, ideas, and emotions [TC] The study of cultures, ideas, and emotions allows for a broader examination of intellectual history beyond the history of political thought and ideology. Historians in this thematic area ask questions about civic and social identity as well as the construction of the self; cultural innovation and borrowing as well as cultural traditions; and the formation of emotional standards and regimes across historical periods and national boundaries. Courses in this concentration study how historical actors understood their lives and times at various moments in time and place.

Honors

History majors may opt to write a senior honors thesis which begins with the student’s selection, in consultation with an advisor, of an independently formulated topic, proceeds with the carrying out of research, a significant portion of which is in primary sources, and concludes with an oral defense of the thesis with three faculty members selected 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. In special cases, and with the approval of the entire department, a student may be permitted to devote more than three courses to the thesis. Successful completion of the thesis is a requirement for the student to be a candidate for a degree with Latin Honors. The department recommends Latin Honors for seniors who have achieved distinction in their course work and who have completed a thesis of Honors quality. The faculty committee that reads the thesis and conducts the oral defense makes a recommendation as to the specific level of Honors that the thesis should receive, although the final determination of Honors is also dependent on the individual student’s GPA.

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. Normally, this research paper should conform to the Guidelines for Research Papers established by the department; the completion of at least one such research paper is a requirement of the History major. 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: AF [Africa and the diaspora]; AS [Asia]; EU [Europe]; LA [Latin America and the Caribbean]; ME [Middle East]; US [United States]; TE [Thematic: Empires, Nations, and Encounters];TR [Thematic: Histories of Race and Racism]; TS [Thematic: Social Justice, Rights, and Inequality]; TC [Thematic: Cultures, Ideas, and Emotions]; P[Pre-1800]; C[Comparative].

Courses offered by other departments at the College that are cross-listed in History are accepted for the History major. Some additional courses that are not cross-listed (i.e., they do not have a History course number) that are approved by the department for credit towards the History major are listed as Related Courses in the Course Catalog. Please consult the department to learn whether a Related Course may also count toward a particular major requirement. In consultation with the advisor, a student may petition the department to have other individual courses accepted for the major. 

*On leave 2022-23.†On leave fall semester 2022-23.‡On leave spring semester 2022-23.

104 Environmental Issues of the 19th Century

(Offered as HIST 104 [TR/c] and ENST 220) This course considers the ways that people in various parts of the world thought about and acted upon nature during the nineteenth century. We look historically at issues that continue to have relevance today, including: invasive species, deforestation, soil-nitrogen availability, water use, desertification, and air pollution. Themes include: the relationship of nineteenth-century colonialism and environmental degradation, gender and environmental change, the racial dimensions of ecological issues, and the spatial aspects of human interactions with nature. We will take at least one field trip. In addition, we will watch three films that approach nineteenth-century environmental issues from different vantage points. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Melillo.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Fall 2018, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2023

105 Global Environmental History of the Twentieth Century

(Offered as HIST 105 [TE/TR/TS/C] and ENST-105) This course examines the environmental history of the world since 1900 with a particular focus on Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and China. We will use books, articles, four films, and a range of online media to illuminate the comparative and interdisciplinary possibilities of global environmental history. In addition to studying the past, we will explore how to use historical knowledge in the formulation of policy recommendations and grassroots initiatives for addressing contemporary environmental issues. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Melillo.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2019, Spring 2022

111 The Holocaust

Offered as HIST 111 [EU/TR/TS] and EUST 111.This course is a detailed examination of the history of the Holocaust. The Nazi attempt to exterminate the Jews of Europe was an event of global proportions and significance, which still shapes the world in which we live. In this introductory course we will interrogate the origins and preconditions of the Nazi genocide, and analyze the transition of Nazi policy from exclusion and persecution of the Jews to systematic murder. We will closely study the perpetrators and try to understand how “ordinary men” became mass murderers. We will reflect on the historical significance of the "bystanders." Throughout the semester we will pay special attention to Jewish dilemmas and conduct during the Holocaust, in response to persecution and mass murder. The Holocaust raises some of the most formidable challenges for historians. Students in this course will identify the major debates and controversies among historians, and will gain a deep understanding of the nature and significance of these dilemmas of historical interpretation. Two class meetings per week.

Maximum enrollment of 60 students.Fall semester. Professor Gordon and Professor Cammy.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023

112 Russian Empire in Eurasia

(Offered as HIST 112 [AS/EU/C/P], 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.

Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Glebov.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2018, Spring 2022, Fall 2024

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

(Offered as HIST 114 [AS/US/TR/C], AMST 114 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.

Fall semester.  Five College Associate Professor Chu.

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

122 Readings in the European Tradition II

(See EUST 122)

125 The Italian Renaissance: Politics, Culture, and Society

(Offered as HIST 125 [EU/TC/P], EUST 125)

Given the misrepresentations of Renaissance Florentine politics in popular media (Netflix series Medici) and the attacks on Renaissance European culture from theorists of decolonization, one might ask: what is the relevance of the Renaissance today? In this course, we will discuss the extent to which the Florentine republic’s struggle for survival in the midst of wars and despotic/oligarchic/feudal usurpations might, again, be of interest to us, and engage with question of race, colonialism, and the representation of Africa and the New World. We will critically examine Renaissance cultural productions (humanist history writing, portraiture, perspective, mapping, erotic art) while appreciating the politics of beauty in architecture, urban planning, and figurative art. Other topics include: the gendered politics of charity; patriarchal families; women writers; domestic slavery; Jewish communities; interactions with Islamic culture. Two meetings weekly.

Spring semester. Professor Sperling.

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

128 Medieval Europe (1000-1500)

(Offered as HIST 128 [EU/TC/TE/P] and EUST 128)

In about the year 1000, a new European civilization came into being. Its center of gravity lay in France, England, and Central Europe, but it preserved parts of its ancient Roman heritage and engaged with Islamic regions of the Mediterranean. In the countryside, feudalism emerged as a new legal, economic, and political system. The Catholic church consolidated itself alongside the new order and competed for dominance. But in towns and cities, burghers swore oaths to each other and established the principles of personal freedom and communal self-governance. Rapidly, new mercantile elites emerged. Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, Christian literature and building activity flourished as well. In this course, we will discuss the most innovative and influential scholarship on these three main aspects of medieval history and study accompanying primary records. Students will be introduced to different historical methods including “global” approaches to Middle Ages that include Africa. Mix of brief lectures, discussion, group work, and in-class assignments. Four short papers that analyze the reading materials.

Fall semester. Professor Sperling.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Spring 2025

130 World War I

(Offered as HIST 130 [EU/TE] 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? 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, studying the perspectives of both European and non-European soldiers and civilians, and analyze the war’s role in shaping the twentieth century. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor Boucher.

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

131 Introduction to the Black Freedom Struggle

(See BLST 131)

155 Twentieth-Century America

[US/TR/TS] 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. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Couvares.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2020

156 The U.S. in the World: 1756–1898

[US/TE/TR] This course is an introduction to the major trends and developments in United States 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.

Fall semester. Limited to 40 students. Fifteen spaces reserved for first-year students. Professor Bell.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023

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

(Offered as HIST 157 [US/TE]) 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). Spring semester. Professor Bell.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023

158 Asian American History: 1800-Present

(Offered as HIST 158 [US/TE/TR/TS] and SWAG 158) This course introduces students to the history of Asian/American migration and settlement in the United States from the late eighteenth century to the present. We will learn about foundational and current themes in the field of Asian American history. Using an intersectional approach, the course traces how issues related to gender and sexuality impact Asian American racial formation in the U.S. For example, we look at how particular immigration pathways impact the lives of Asian immigrant communities differently depending on individuals’ gender and sexual identities. We also explore the ways the fetishization of Asian American women and men has influenced shifts in American foreign and domestic policy.  Major themes include labor migration, community formation, U.S. imperialism, legal exclusion, racial segregation, cultural representations, and social movements. Students will also examine digital oral history archives throughout the U.S., and work collectively on an oral history project on the history of Asian American student activism at Amherst College and beyond.  Two meetings per week.

Limited to 40 students. Fall semester. Professor Peralta.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023

163 LGBTQ History in Popular Culture

(Offered as HIST 163 [US/TC/TR/TS] and SWAG 163) While LGBTQ people might seem to be everywhere in popular culture today, this course takes such representations as a starting point to examine the past. Do popular representations distort the queer past and if so, to what end? By studying LGBTQ history through primary source materials, students will develop a rich and nuanced historical view of such major issues as the homophile movement, the Stonewall riot and other acts of resistance, the rise of the gay press, lesbian feminism, Harvey Milk, the March on Washington, anti-gay violence and hate crimes, the youth/student movement, HIV/AIDS, ACT-UP, Lawrence v. Texas, same-sex marriage, and the transgender revolution. By juxtaposing historic research with screenings of contemporary television and film, students will reflect on the power and limits of such representations and further consider why real stories of LGBTQ communities and people remain so elusive.

Limited to 18 students. Five spaces reserved for Five College students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Manion.

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

171 History of Dynastic China

(Offered as HIST 171 [AS/TC/TE/P] and ASLC 171)

This introductory course provides a broad overview of China’s long history and major cultural traditions from its very beginnings to the eve of modernity. No familiarity with China or previous experience in the study of history is assumed or required. Over the course of the semester, we will investigate long-term economic, social, and cultural transformations in Chinese history. We will examine a broad array of issues, such as the role of geography in shaping history, the glorified antiquity in traditional Chinese political thought, the rise and fall of dynastic empires, China’s troubled relationship with the Inner Asian steppe and nomadic societies, cycles of peasant rebellions and civil wars, emergence of major philosophical schools and the canonization of Confucian thought, establishment of the civil examination system and a bureaucratic state, the formation of a literati elite and its culture, rise of Buddhism and Daoism, evolution of gender, family, and kinship structures, and China’s engagement with the outside world through trade and diplomacy. In this course, students will engage a wide range of primary sources—ancient classics, poems, films, paintings, novels, and memoirs—and learn to develop skills in reading these sources in their historical contexts. At several points in the semester, we will also look at how this history has been used and recycled in contemporary politics and popular culture and reflect upon the continuing legacies of this history for China and the world today. Classes will entail lectures combined with close readings and discussions that engage primary texts, interpretive essays, and film. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Qiao.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024

172 Troubled Transformations: History of Modern China

(Offered as HIST 172 [AS/TC/TE/TS] and ASLC 172) The transformation of China from a declining dynastic empire in the nineteenth century to today’s rapidly ascending global super-power with a communist party at its helm has been both dramatic and traumatic. This course introduces students to the drama and trauma of China’s modern transformations and investigates the epic events and historical processes that have come to shape the fate of the country and its people. We will begin with the opium war and the subsequent colonial incursions by multiple Western powers and the gradual disintegration of a two-millenia-old imperial system. We will then discuss China’s search for modernity with experimentations in industrialization, political modernization, and cultural regeneration. We will study the causes and consequences of China’s many civil wars, the Sino-Japanese War, and the Nationalist and Communist Revolutions in the early twentieth century. And finally, we will try to understand the lived experiences under the tumultuous Communist rule since 1949 that has witnessed fundamental social changes, massive political chaos, and unprecedented economic growth. This course will be of interest to anyone trying to understand contemporary Chinese politics, political economy, society, culture, and international relations. Classes will entail lectures combined with close readings and discussions that engage primary texts, interpretive essays, and film. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Qiao.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Fall 2014, Fall 2015, Fall 2016, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

175 Japan from Shamans to Samurai

(Offered as HIST 175 [AS/TC/TE/P] and ASLC 225) Contrary to images of a uniform and stable culture, the Japanese archipelago possesses a history marked by fragmentation, violent conflict, and dynamic cultural change. This course traces that history from the beginnings of human history on the archipelago to the establishment of one of the most stable and peaceful regimes in human history, the Tokugawa shogunate. Our survey will be organized around a central riddle: why was it so difficult to produce a stable, unified polity on the Japanese archipelago? Placing Japan within the broader regional context of East Asia, we will answer this riddle by following the rise of successive political authorities, from the sacral rulers of the tomb period to the samurai. Prominent themes include the rise of early polities, contact with the Chinese continent and Korean peninsula, the aristocratic culture of the Heian court and its displacement by medieval samurai rule, the role of Buddhist thought and institutions, the “warring states” period of the sixteenth-century and cosmopolitan contact with Christian Europe, and the Tokugawa peace and its urban cultural forms. Throughout, we will read a variety of sources, including eighth-century mythology, aristocratic literature, war chronicles, religious and philosophical texts, as well as modern fiction and film.

This is a writing attentive survey of Japan’s history from antiquity through the eighteenth century. It traces political, social, and cultural developments in order to provide basic literacy in pre-modern Japanese history and a basis both for comparative history and further course work in Japanese history. Classes will combine lectures with close readings and discussions of the assigned texts. Requirements include short response papers and topical essays. Three class meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Maxey.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2015, Fall 2024

176 Japan's Modern Revolutions: 1800–2000s

(Offered as HIST 176 [AS/TC/TE] and ASLC 247) 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 the post-World War II creation of a pacifist democracy. Situating these revolutions within regional and global contexts, we will pay close attention to the political debates and social conflicts that accompanied Japan’s dramatic transformations. We will begin with the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate, follow the rise of the modern Japanese nation-state through colonial expansion and total war, and conclude with post-1945 economic recovery, democratization, and the socio-political challenges facing the Japanese nation-state in the twenty-first century. Along the way we will explore in the specific context of Japan themes relevant to the history of global modernities: the collapse of a traditional regime, the creation of a nation-state, industrialization and the pursuit of empire, feminist and socialist critiques, total war, democratization, high economic growth and mass consumer culture, including so-called “otaku” 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.

Fall semester. Professor Maxey.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Fall 2015, Fall 2022, Spring 2025

181 Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 181 [AF/TE/TR] and BLST 121 [A]) Africa is a continent of fifty-four countries, but in many people's minds, the continent's name conjures up a host of stereotypes—some positive and some negative—that misrepresent the continent as an undifferentiated whole. This course's primary goal is to introduce students to the historical evidence and scholarly conversations about Africa’s pasts from the 1870s to the present. The main themes will be the social, political, and economic impacts of imperial policies on African societies, and the long afterlife of these impacts. We will discuss the construction and alterations of “tribal” identities and nationalist politics, the problems caused by colonial labor policies and the denial of civil rights to Africans, the reconstruction of gender identities and roles, and the emergence of various forms of protest politics in both the colonial and post-colonial periods. Requirements include active participation in class and multiple graded and ungraded written assignments. Two class meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23. 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, Fall 2024

190 Middle Eastern History: 500–1700

(Offered as HIST 190 [ME/TC/TE/P] and ASLC 126) This course surveys the history of the Middle East from late antiquity to the classical period of the Ottoman Empire. The course is roughly divided into three sections: (1) Islam in the context of late antiquity; (2) The Abbasid Empire: Perso-Islamicate synthesis and the articulation of Islamic institutions; and (3) The Ottomans in the Classical Age. The thematic focus of the course is on cross-cultural exchange, adaptation and synthesis. Students will become familiar with a variety of seminal primary texts, the principle historiographical arguments and debates in the secondary literature, and methodological tools of inquiry. The course is appropriate for all students, regardless of major or prior coursework on the Middle East. Two meetings per week.

Fall Semester. Professor Ringer.

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

204 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.

Spring semester. Professor A. Gordon.

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

205 European Intellectual History and Its Discontents

Offered as HIST-205 [EU/TC/TS] and EUST-129. Intellectual history concerns itself with the study of social and political ideas. These ideas are known by big words, such as Conservatism, Liberalism, Socialism. As George Orwell once remarked: “The worst thing one can do with words is to surrender to them.” This course will help students to create a distance needed to analyze the big ideas and the meaning beneath them and help acquire skills for exploration of the origin of key social and political concepts, their development and impact.  The readings for this class will take students on a journey through the battle of ideas in Europe at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century when tensions and paradoxes of modernity surfaced in the form of political and social divisions. This journey will continue through the “Age of Extremes” and the confrontation between Communism, Fascism, and renewed Liberalism, observing the legacy of this defining for the twentieth century history moment. Two meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Semyonov.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2023, Fall 2024

207 The Wild and the Cultivated

(Offered as HIST 207 [TR/C] and ENST 207) For thousands of years, wild and domesticated plants have played crucial roles in the development of cultures and societies. Students in this course will consider human relationships with plants from a global-historical perspective, comparing trends in various regions and time periods. We will focus on the Neolithic Agricultural Revolution, seed-saving practices, medicinal plants, religious rites, food traditions, biopiracy, agribusiness, and biofuels. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 30 students. Fall semester. Professor Melillo.

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

208 Spain and the Pacific World, 1571-1898

(Offered as HIST 208 [EU/TE/TR/C] and LLAS 208)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.

Limited to 30 students. Not offered 2022-23. Professor Melillo.

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

210 Christianity and Islam in Africa

(See BLST 210)

211 African Migrations and Globalization

(See BLST 208)

216 Frida and Diego

(Offered as HIST 216 [LA/TC/TE/TR/TS], LLAS 216 [LA, Humanities] and ARHA 216) This course examines the art, lives, and times of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, two of Mexico’s most famous artists. Through discussion, lectures, readings, and visual analysis we will consider the historical and artistic roots of their radical aesthetics as well as the ideals and struggles that shaped their lives. During their era, Kahlo was overshadowed by her husband Rivera, but in recent decades her fame has eclipsed his. To make sense of this we will address the changing meaning of their art over time, especially in relation to markets, social movements, and gender and sexual identities. By the end of the semester, students will have a strong understanding of these two artists and their work, as well as the contexts in which they lived and in which their art continues to circulate, including early twentieth-century Modernism, the Mexican Revolution, indigenismo, the Chicano Movement, and recent efforts toward ethnic and gender inclusion. No prerequisites, open to all years and majors.

Fall semester. Professor Lopez.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Fall 2022

219 Venice, Perfect City (476-1797)

(Offered as HIST 219 [EU/TC/TE/C/P] and ARHA 219) When the Roman Empire imploded in 476, refugees from the Italian mainland settled on a few disconnected islands sheltered from the open Adriatic Sea by a lagoon. Within a few centuries, they created one of the most unlikely, beautiful, and long-lasting European cities ever to have been built. The cooperative spirit with which early medieval Venetians were able to create an urban environment built on seawater found its expression in the political and societal structures they formed to govern their city, republic, and, eventually, empire. In this course, we will discuss key events in the history of this extraordinary city, whose autonomy and self-government lasted until Napoleon invaded it in 1797. Topics include: Africans in Venice; art, architecture, and urban planning; the formation of an aristocratic but republican constitution; the emergence of civic institutions, poor relief, and neighborhood organizations; the history of the Ghetto and its Sephardic, Ashkenazi, and Italian communities; Venetian sea-trade and the conquest of the Levantine Empire; the Venetian Renaissance; ties with Byzantium, the Mamluk and Ottoman Empires; convent culture; proto-feminism; Enlightenment. These topics will be discussed in the wider context of historical developments in the European and Mediterranean Middle Ages and early modern period. Two meetings per week. 

Spring semester. Professor Sperling.

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

220 Slavery in U.S. History & Culture

(See BLST 220)

223 Law, Sex, and Family in the Wider Mediterranean (1300–1800)

(Offered as HIST 223 [EU/ME/TC/TS/C/P] and SWAG 223) 

This course invites students to assume a comparative and intersectional perspective when analyzing differently organized patriarchal societies of the Mediterranean. Our focus will be on women’s access to properties, marriage, divorce, child rearing, and sexuality; our case studies are located in Renaissance Italy, early modern France, Byzantium, the Ottoman Empire, Mamluk Egypt, Islamic Iberia, and Jewish communities in France and Italy. We will attempt to separate the issue of religious denomination from family history and foreground the question of commensurability in matters relating to gender, sex, and kinship. Topics include: marital gift exchange and divorce in Renaissance Italy and Mamluk Cairo; female resistance to arranged marriages in France and Anatolia; women’s access to power in the Ottoman harem; different forms of slavery in the Mediterranean; the fate of female refugees and converts in the Mediterranean; male and female same-sex desire in Renaissance Italy, the Ottoman Empire, and Safavid Iran. Writing assignments will consist of comparative analyses of historical literature. This is a reading- and writing-intensive course. Class discussions and group work.

Not offered in 2022-23. Visiting Professor Sperling.

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

229 The Virgin Mary: Image, Cult, Syncretism (ca. 400-1700)

(Offered as HIST 229 [TC/C/P], ARHA 229, RELI 229 and SWAG 229) When, in 431, the Council of Ephesus declared the Virgin Mary to be Theotokos or God-Bearer, she had already been venerated in Egypt since the third century as a re-instantiation of Isis. The syncretism of her cult explains her ubiquitous popularity in medieval Byzantium and the Latin West, but also in early Islamic Syria and colonial Latin America. Her frequent depiction on moveable wooden panels (icons) and mosaics accompanied her early rise to liturgical prominence. By 1200, she rivaled Jesus Christ in religious importance, not only through her role as intercessor, but also as dispenser of divine grace in the form of breastmilk. She was the most active miracle-working saint in all of Christianity. Her frequent depiction on icons, altarpieces and devotional panels accompanies – and, in part, explains – the development of figurative art in the West. In colonial America, the introduction of her cult ended prior religious forms of expression, but also helped them to partially survive in a new context. In this seminar, students will produce a 15-page research paper based on a careful analysis of textual and visual sources as well as pertinent scholarship. Two class meetings per week. This course will be conducted in class but also include remote students via zoom.

Not offered in 2022-23. Visiting Professor Sperling.

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

231 Race and Empire: The British Experience from 1760

(Offered as HIST 231 [EU/TE/TR/TS] 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  eighteenth century, the interactions between missionaries and Africans in the nineteenth century, or the migration of South Asians to Britain in the twentieth 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.

Not offered in 2022-23. Enrollment limited to 30 students. Professor Boucher.

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

234 Nazi Germany

(Offered as HIST 234 [EU/TE/TR] and EUST 234) The National Socialist regime that governed Germany under Adolf Hitler from 1933-45 raises numerous historical questions that remain pertinent today: How does a political system move from democracy to dictatorship? How can an advanced economy, a diverse society, and a vibrant culture with an artistic avantgarde beget a regime bent on aggressive war, rapacious expansion, and genocide? Why didn't more people resist Nazism? This course will consider the origins of Nazism and examine Nazi Germany through the lenses of political, social, cultural, military, and gender history, addressing Nazi ideology and aesthetics, Nazi racial policies, the role of gender in the regime, and the questions of agency under as well as resistance to the Third Reich, with substantial attention dedicated to both World War II and the Holocaust. Readings and course materials will be drawn from a variety of both recent and classic secondary sources and primary sources that include diaries, memoirs, and government sources. Three class meetings per week.

Limited to 50 students. Not offered in 2022-23.

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

235 Stalin and Stalinism

(Offered as HIST 235 [EU/TC/TE/TR/TS], EUST 245 and RUS 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. It 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. Two class meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Glebov.

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

236 Soviet Union During the Cold War

(Offered as HIST 236 [EU/AS/TE], EUST 238, and RUSS 237) 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 course 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. 

Spring semester. Professor Glebov.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Fall 2018, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

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

(Offered as HIST 240 [EU/TE], EUST 240, and RUSS 240)

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.

Fall semester. Professor Glebov.

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

245 U.S. Carceral Culture

(Offered as HIST 245 [US/TR/TS] and SWAG 247) 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 mass incarceration. 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 18 students. Five spaces reserved for Five College students. Not offered 2022-23. Professor Manion.

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

246 Race and American Capitalism: From Slavery to Ferguson

(See BLST 248)

248 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present

(Offered as HIST 248 [US/TR/TS; or may be included in AF concentration, but not AF for distribution in the History major], and BLST 241[US]) This course surveys African-American history from Emancipation through the Trump presidency, exploring topics such as Reconstruction, the age of Jim Crow, the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements. Major questions to be addressed include the following: What visions for freedom did African Americans hold in the aftermath of slavery? How have black Americans fought to secure social, economic, and political rights? How has government both supported and subverted black people’s efforts to lay claim to citizenship? How have gender and capitalism shaped the lives and labors of black Americans? What have been the afterlives of slavery and segregation in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, particularly in the areas of voting rights, housing, mass incarceration, policing, and health outcomes? Students will use both primary and secondary sources to investigate how—in the face of numerous challenges—African Americans created vibrant new cultures, accumulated property, built strong communities, and challenged the United States to live up to its founding ideals. Readings include foundational texts in modern African-American history, including writings by Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Michelle Obama, among others. Two meetings per week. Limited to 25 students.

Fall semester. Professor Bradley.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2025

250 King

(Offered as HIST 250 [US/TRTS] and BLST 245) 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.” Two class meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23.

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

252 History of Race, Gender, and Comic Books

(See SWAG 252)

261 History of Central America

(Offered as HIST 261 [LA/TC/TE/TR/TS] and LLAS 261) In this course, students will gain an understanding of major events and themes in the histories of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. As important, they will think and write critically about the contentious history of the region. For good reason, Central America is often considered as a whole, but despite many commonalities, each country's history is unique. How did the indigenous cultures of northern Central America compare to those of the south? Why did the once-united Federation of Central America fracture into five different states? How did Honduras become the quintessential "banana republic"? Why did Guatemala suffer decades of military dictatorships, while Costa Rica abolished its military at the same time? Through lectures and readings, we will answer these questions as we address topics including precolonial indigenous cultures; the conquest, slavery, and encomienda; independence and the struggles of nation-building; foreign interventions; and reforms, revolutions, and counterrevolutions. Two class meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021

262 Latin America and the United States

(Offered as HIST 262 [LA/TE] and LLAS 262) In this course, students will gain an understanding of major events and themes in the history of United States foreign policy toward Latin America from colonial times to the present.  As important, they will think and write critically about the contentious history of U.S.-Latin American relations.  Just a few of the many topics to be addressed are the Monroe Doctrine, the U.S. invasion of Mexico, the construction of the Panama Canal, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and the Iran-Contra Scandal. 

Not offered in 2022-23.

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

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

(Offered as HIST 263 [LA/TE/TR/TS] and LLAS 263) 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.

Not offered in 2022-23. Professor 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

265 Environmental History of Latin America

(Offered as HIST 265 [LA/TE/TR/TS], LLAS 265 and ENST 265) This course focuses on the links between ecological transformations and human problems, and between rural social movements and environmentalism. Questions we will engage include: How has imperialism impacted the environment? How have these environmental impacts shaped the possibilities for political resistance by subaltern groups?  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? Is it possible to protect the environment while affirming the interests of the state and of investors? We will focus on case studies from all across Latin America, with particular emphasis on Brazil, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and the Andes. The class will introduce students to classic texts in Latin American environmental history, as well as some of the newest scholarship. Two class meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23. Professor 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

267 Power and Resistance in the Black Atlantic

(See BLST 201)

268 Black History of Spanish America, 1503-1886

(Offered as HIST 268 [LA/TE/TR/P], BLST 268 [CLA] and LLAS 268) Students will gain in-depth knowledge of the experiences of Africans and their descendants, slave and free, from the time the first captives were brought to Hispaniola in 1503 until the time of abolition in Cuba in 1886 in this course. Regions to be covered include the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America, and the Andean and Southern Cone regions. Topics will include the ways in which specific regions of Western Africa contributed captives to specific regions of Spanish America, the nature of Spanish colonial institutions and their impact on the lives of Africans and their descendants, resistance and rebellion, routes to freedom, and slave and free Black families. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. Select primary documents will acquaint students with the sources historians use to reconstruct these aspects of the histories of largely non-literate African-descended peoples.

Not offered in 2022-23.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2021, Fall 2023

273 Epic Tales of the Ramayana

(Offered as HIST 273 [AS/TC/TS/P] and ASLC 273 [SA]) The Ramayana is one of the most famous epic tales in the world. It is a fascinating narrative of intrigue, exile, love, loss, violence, and redemption and is especially well known by people in or connected to South and Southeast Asia. They would have seen, heard, or read versions of the story of Rāma, Sītā, and the battle with Rāvaṇa at some point in their lives. What is less known is that all these stories refer back to Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa, the first and most prestigious Ramayana story written in Sanskrit around 2500 years ago. We begin this course by reading Vālmīki’s Sanskrit composition in translation. Once we are familiar with Vālmīki’s Rāmāyaṇa, we move on to explore Ramayana narratives through time in languages including Tamil, Old Javanese, and Hindi as well as feminist and anti-caste iterations of the epic. We will also examine Ramayana stories as performances, songs, and television shows. All the while, we will keep in mind the central questions of the course: how do historians interpret literature to write history? How may we think of the relationships between belief, myth and history? We will critically examine questions of translation, circulation, and adaptation. This course ultimately draws our attention to the global power of stories that animated the distant historical past and continue to enchant the present. Two meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Gomes.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2021, Fall 2022, Fall 2023

274 Religion and Violence in the Roman Empire

(See RELI 277)

275 Gender and Slavery in Latin America

(See BLST 275)

277 Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World

(See BLST 277)

278 Black History of Brazil, 1500-1888

(See BLST 278)

279 Making of Modern South Asia

(Offered as HIST 279 [AS/TC/TE/TR/TS] and ASLC 279 [SA].)The Indian subcontinent, the home of more than a billion people, has a rich and dynamic history. This 200-level survey is a history of the making of modern South Asia with a focus on India. Spanning the period from the sixteenth century to the present, the course introduces students to the history, politics, culture, and societies of the Indian sub-continent. It covers the consolidation of the Mughal empire, successor states in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, British imperial rule, resistance to colonialism, anti-colonial movements and political thought, decolonization in the subcontinent, postcolonial social movements, and the new rise of ethnic nationalism. The course outlines this long and complex history through themes including caste, labour, gender, the economy, and political thought and institutions. Two meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Gomes.

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

283 South African History

(Offered as HIST 283 [AF/TE/TS/P] and BLST 322) The transition from white-minority rule in South Africa in 1994 ushered in a new era of independence and democracy in a troubled country whose name had become synonymous with “apartheid.” The last bastion of white-supremacist rule in Africa had fallen. But that transition has not lived up to the high expectations of South Africans as many of the ruling structures built by the colonial and then apartheid regimes have endured. In fact, economic and social inequality has increased in the twenty-seven years since Nelson Mandela was first elected President. Questions about whether South Africans can move beyond the legacy of the past haunt the current population.

Interpretations of South African history have undergone radical shifts as new generations of historians inscribe the past. This course will explore established and emerging themes in the history of this fascinating country. We will cover a broad period from just before the beginning of white settlement in the mid-1600s to the present. The focus will be on understanding how South African populations have confronted and engaged with colonial rule, profound cultural changes, and the development of an oppressively unequal economic system. What are the roots of the current situation, and how do they shape and constrain future possibilities? How do people in contemporary South Africa confront the ideas that have shaped their understanding of their own country as they reconstruct their history?

Spring semester. Professor Redding.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2019, Fall 2021, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

294 The History of Israel

[ME/TE/TR] 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.

Not offered in 2022-23. 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

301 Proseminar in History: Writing the Past

This course offers an opportunity for history majors and students intrigued by the past 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 between the past as it was lived and the narratives that historians write? How do we judge the truth and value of these histories and memories? The course explores questions such as these through readings and case studies drawn from a variety of places and times. A central aim of the course is to give students a sense of how the discipline of History has developed over time, as new theories and agendas have emerged, and as earlier versions of the past have been reevaluated in light of changing circumstances and commitments. Requirements include active participation in class and multiple graded and ungraded written assignments. Two meetings per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 25 students. Fall semester: Professor Boucher. Spring semester: Professor Couvares.

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, Fall 2024, Spring 2025

310 History of Fascism

(Offered as HIST 310 [EU/TE/TR] and EUST 310) Fascism emerged as a political ideology that was simultaneously revolutionary and reactionary, promising national rebirth in opposition to both liberalism and Marxist socialism. But after the defeat of the Axis Powers in World War II, fascism seemingly ceased to be a factor in global politics. How do we assess fascism a century after the establishment of the first fascist regime in Italy? This course will explore the social, cultural, and intellectual origins of fascism, the rise of fascist movements in Europe in the early to mid-twentieth century, the politics and policies of fascist parties and regimes—including in Germany, Italy, Iberia, the Balkans, and the Baltic States—and transnational fascist links between Europe and the Americas, Asia, and Africa. This course will conclude with a consideration of anti-fascism and the "fascism question" in contemporary politics. Readings and course materials will be drawn from a variety of secondary and primary sources. Two meetings per week. 

Not offered in 2022-23.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2011, Spring 2022

314 Black Student Power in the United States

(Offered as HIST 314 [US/TR/TS], BLST 314 [US] and EDST 314) What are the limits and possibilities of students engaging in social justice movements within a college campus and beyond? Which political issues have sparked student movements in the United States, and why? Why do some student movements succeed, why do others fail, and how might one define and evaluate the meaning of success? How have student movements in higher education and beyond changed over time? Centering the experience of African American learners, this course surveys the history of student activism for freedom and racial equality during Reconstruction and Jim Crow; the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement; and, the Movement for Black Lives. In particular, this course will explore how students have fought to secure freedom, equality, and citizenship through education. Students will also critically engage with how other social movements have influenced campus campaigns. Course materials include historical monographs, scholarly articles, primary sources, and video/audio media. Assignments likely include an exam, a book review, a research paper, and an oral presentation. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 25 students. Omitted 2022-23. Professor Bradley.

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

318 Rap, Reagan and the 1980s

(See BLST 318)

328 Indigenous Narratives: Creating Children's Stories about Native American History

(See AMST 328)

332 Beyond Indiana Jones: The History, Politics, and Culture of Global Archaeology

[AF/AS/EU/LA/ME/TC/TE/TR] This course investigates the history, politics, and culture of international archaeological research and expeditions from the mid-eighteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. Rather than discussing the achievements and material remnants of ancient and classical civilizations, it seeks to situate the discovery, study, preservation, and possession of antiquities within the wider global contexts of warfare, nationalism, imperialism, decolonization, social politics of inclusion and exclusion, and popular culture. The course will provide a historical basis for understanding relations between the Global North and the Global South, the debates around contemporary calls for the repatriation of plundered artifacts, the origins of the idea of world heritage, and the common misconceptions about who qualifies as a producer of scientific knowledge. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Bell.

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

333 American Empire

[US/TC/TE/TR] Is the United States an empire? Was the United States an empire? What does it mean to be an empire or to act imperially? And how has the United States’ relationship to these concepts and structures changed over time? This course uses the lens of empire and imperialism to examine the social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental history of the United States from the nation’s founding up to the present. Rather than focusing on traditional diplomatic relations or domestic political culture, it highlights the in-between spaces—western territories invaded by white settlers, overseas possessions annexed by war and declaration, and foreign countries subjected to the disproportionate influence of U.S. presence in their domestic affairs—to explore how American imperial power manifested, how those affected adapted to and resisted it, and how the legacies of this history continue through the present. Two class meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Bell.

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

336 Thatcher's Britain

(Offered as HIST-336 [EU] and EUST-336) As Prime Minister (1979-1990), Margaret Thatcher presided over a tumultuous and still deeply controversial era in British history. This course examines the key events of this decade, exploring the extent to which they constituted a “revolution” in British politics, society, and culture. Students will gain an understanding of the rise of neoliberalism and “Thatcherism” as an ideology and a set of policies that included privatization, free market economics, the attempted dismantling of the welfare state, and a renewed emphasis on personal responsibility. The course will also examine the opposition to these changes that arose from across British society, including from trade unions, the IRA, and the peace movement. Finally, students will consider the lasting effects of the Thatcher era in shaping the racial and class tensions that underlie Britain’s status as a post-imperial nation today. Course materials will predominantly focus on historical scholarship, but will also integrate the study of songs, memoirs, and films, both from the era and today.

Not offered in 2022-23. Limited to 18 students. Professor Boucher.

2023-24: Not offered

337 Movie Censorship in American History

(See AMST 337)

338 The Age of Jim Crow

(Offered as HIST 338 [US/TR/TS] and BLST 338 [US]) This course examines U.S. history—particularly the history of the South—during the era of Jim Crow, the period between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement when African Americans were systematically denied political and social rights.  The right to vote, for example, granted after the Civil War through the Fifteenth Amendment, was limited by the southern states through policies like the poll tax and the literacy test.  African Americans were also subject to segregation and racial violence during the age of Jim Crow.  This course examines the visions white southerners held for what their region should be in this period, as well as the varied black responses—which include accommodationism (with Booker T. Washington as the most prominent advocate for this), protest, and migration out of the region.  In examining the life and death of Jim Crow—and how Jim Crow has been depicted in literature and film—the course grapples with changing ideas about race and rights, including “states’ rights” and the rights of individuals, both black and white. Two meetings per week.

Limited to 20 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Herbin-Triant

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

341 Mexican Rebels

(See LLAS 341)

344 Empires in Global History

Offered as HIST-344 [EU/TE/TR/TS] and EUST-344. Many see today’s world resembling some features of the world in the nineteenth century. Some powers today claim regional hegemony, attempt to pursue the course of supranationalism, and encounter the challenge of diversity. The course will explore the historical experience of the British, French, German, Habsburg, Ottoman, and Russian empires in the nineteenth century by focusing on how those imperial formations met the challenge of modernization and nationalism which included both accommodation of diversity and violent exclusion. Students will acquire the toolkit of comparative historical analysis and will focus on moments of interaction-entanglement of these imperial formations. Two meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Semyonov.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2023, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

345 Gender and Sexuality in Latin America

(Offered as HIST 345 [LA/TR/TS], LLAS 345, 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. Not offered in 2022-23.

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

346 Indigenous Histories of Latin America

(Offered as HIST 346 [LA/TE/TR]  and LLAS 346) In this course, students will explore the cultures and civilizations of native peoples of Latin America from ancient times to the present.  Examining the Caribbean, Mesoamerican, Andean, and Amazonian regions, we will consider questions such as: What were the earliest cultures of the Americas like?  How did civilizations such as the Maya, the Aztecs, and the Inca confront the unprecedented challenges of the conquest?  How did indigenous peoples resist and forcibly adapt to centuries of Spanish and Portuguese colonialism?  What roles did native peoples  play in the new nations of the nineteenth century?  How have indigenous peoples pursued their own struggles for citizenship in the face of threats to their autonomy and the environment?  In a series of short writing assignments and a longer paper based on original research, students will explore secondary historiographies, analyze diverse primary sources, and discuss different historical methods in the study of the indigenous past and present. Two meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

348 History of Asian American Women: Migration and Labor

(See SWAG 348)

352 The Purpose and Politics of Education

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2025

357 The Persian Book of Kings

(See ASLC 357)

358 The Pivotal Decade—The 1970s Origins of Modern America

(Offered as HIST 358 [US/TR/TS])

Often overshadowed by the long 1960s and the conservative ascendancy of 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 when U.S. realignment internationally and military overextension intersected with new hegemonies of human rights regimes, multinational corporations, and “globalization.” This course will emphasize a wide array of social movements and activism—both left and right—and the interplay among formal politics, grassroots organizing, and popular culture. It will ask students to consider how the 1970s catalyzed many of the domestic and international dynamics and debates that define American politics and society today. One class meeting weekly.

In Fall 2022, this course will be offered at both Amherst and Williams College campuses. There will be an end of the semester symposium at Williams College that all enrolled students are required to attend as part of the final project.

Limited to 15 students. Fall semester. Professor Walker.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2014, Fall 2017, Fall 2022, Spring 2025

363 Geopolitics and American Foreign Policy

(See POSC 363)

365 The "Great Divergence": Economic History of Late Imperial China

(Offered as HIST 365 [AS/TC/TS/C/P] and as ASLC 365 [C]) This upper-level course introduces students to the study of the late imperial Chinese economy (15th-19th centuries), one of the most controversial topics in Chinese history. We will begin by situating the late imperial Chinese economy in the global context and engaging rival scholarly approaches to the multifaceted debates over the ”Great Divergence” question: Why and when did China fall behind, while Western Europe embarked on a trajectory of modern economic growth? We will investigate several key issues, such as the imperial state’s role in the economy, China’s Malthusian crisis, the structure of the marketplace, the social status and life of merchants, the nature of Chinese entrepreneurship, the intersections between gender, family, and economic life, and China’s trade connections with the wider world. Students will learn significant scholarly approaches to socioeconomic history and learn to discuss and write historiographically. This course requires neither prior knowledge about Chinese history nor command of the Chinese language. This is a reading-intensive and writing-attentive course. We will read a significant number of monographs and scholarly essays, including both classic and contemporary works. Assignments include short response papers, in-class presentations, a book review, and a final essay. Students wishing to fulfill the seminar paper requirement may opt to write a research paper in place of the final essay. One meeting weekly.

Omit. Professor Qiao.

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

367 State, Society, and Economy in Late Imperial China, 1368–1911

(Offered as HIST 367 [AS/TE] and ASLC 367) This seminar introduces students to the major historical scholarship and debates on the state, society, and economy in China during the Ming-Qing era, the last two imperial dynasties. The purpose of the course is to not only familiarize students with important issues in late imperial Chinese history, but also engage them in representative work by successive generations of scholars in order to understand how historical interpretations (including theoretical orientations, methodology, and use of sources) have developed over time. We will focus on the following key topics: the respective features of the Ming and Qing imperial states; frontier expansion and ethnic statecraft; the structure of local government and rural control; the law in society; heterodoxy, collective violence, and peasant rebellion; the evolution of the Chinese family and lineage system; the nature of the Chinese “gentry” and the foundations of their power; civil examinations and their role in fostering social mobility, elite reproduction, and stable imperial rule; commercial expansion and the rise of an urban culture; the role of merchants in society, the organizations of commerce and industry, and “sprouts of capitalism”; cities and the debate over whether a “civil society” or “public sphere” existed in late imperial China; the flow of silver and China’s participation in the early modern global maritime trade; and the rival approaches to understanding that most controversial of topics, the late imperial Chinese economy and the “Great Divergence” debate. All of these topics have provoked intense debates and fostered an important and growing body of scholarship. This is a reading intensive and writing attentive course. Requirements include short response papers, book reviews, and topical essays. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 25 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Qiao.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2018

368 The Frontier Regions in Chinese History

Offered as HIST 368 [AS] and ASLC 368) This seminar examines the role of various frontier regions and borderlands in the long span of Chinese history. Ever since the ancient times, the development of agricultural communities, dynastic states, and Sinitic cultures in China was deeply intertwined with the fate of the societies on its borders such as Mongolia, Manchuria, Xinjiang, Tibet, Taiwan, and the mountainous southwestern regions. In this course, we will read both classic and cutting edge scholarship on China’s frontier regions and critically engage a number of major historiographical issues in Chinese history such as empire building, frontier expansion, borderland society, cross-cultural trade, environmental changes, the construction of ethnicity, and Chinese nationalism. At the end of the course, students will not only learn about the history of China’s frontier regions, but also gain deep insights into China’s persistent problems in its borderland areas.

Some knowledge of Chinese history and culture is helpful but not necessary to do well in this course. Spring semester. Professor Qiao.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Spring 2023, Fall 2024

370 Japan's Empire in Asia, 1868–1945

(Offered as HIST 370 [AS/TE/TS] and ASLC 370) Japan, the only non-Western colonial empire to emerge during the second half of the nineteenth century, shaped itself and East Asia through imperialism. This course engages that history by paying attention to shifts in scholarly approaches to empire. We will consider, for example, how theories of imperialism and post-colonialism apply to Japan and East Asia. Then tracing the chronological rise and collapse of Japan’s empire, we will consider how the complex circulation of people, goods, ideas, and practices shaped Japan, as well as the colonial modernities of Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria. 

This is an upper-level history course that explores interpretive approaches to Japanese imperialism. Assignments focus on historiographic analysis and comparison in the form of short papers and discussion presentations, culminating in a researched essay and a digital presentation on a topic of your choosing. Two class meetings per week.

Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Maxey.

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

374 WWII and Japanese Americans

(See AMST 374)

376 Sex, Gender, and the Body in South Asian History

(Offered as HIST 376 [AS/TC/TE/TR/TS/], ASLC 376 [SA] and SWAG 377) This course explores how categories of sex, gender, and the body have been configured in South Asian history. We will draw upon primary sources including texts, images, films, and documentaries. We will also read scholarly literature that explores South Asian history through the analytics of sex, gender, and body. We will begin by exploring gender in early South Asian history through poetry in translation as well as selections from epic texts, including sections of the Kāmasūtra that may be widely known but are rarely analyzed within their original historical and courtly contexts in South Asia. Through these poetic and literary texts, we will explore notions of pleasure, love, and intimacy, analyze the intersections between imperialism, sexuality, gendered bodies and colonial rule, and critically examine colonial debates and legal regimes around “widow burning” or sati in colonial South Asia. Finally, we will examine connections between masculinity and the operation of exclusionary nationalisms through the policing of bodies, agency, and love in contemporary South Asia. Throughout, we will pay attention to how social, political, and ethical formations have interacted with gendered bodies and selves in South Asian history.

Two meetings per week.

Spring semester. Professor Gomes.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2022, Spring 2023

380 Women of Color and the Emergence of U.S. Third World Feminist Left

(Offered as HIST 380 [US/TE/TR/TS], AMST 380 and SWAG 380) This research seminar investigates the history of Asian American women and other women of color solidarities and activisms in the emergence of the U.S. Third World Feminist Left during the 1960s and 1970s. This movement saw ending imperialism and colonialism as a necessary part of their fight against racism, sexism, and capitalism in the United States and beyond and drew inspiration from Third World feminism and decolonization activities.  Third World feminism posits that women's activisms in the Third World do not originate from the ideologies of the First World and specifically centers Third World women's radicalism in their local/national contexts and struggles.  Organizations such as the Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA) in New York City, which grew out of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), brought together Black, Puerto Rican, and Asian American women in the socialist fight to end imperialism, sexism, capitalism, and racism.  The images of revolutionary Third World women engaged in anti-colonial struggles in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, especially during the Vietnam War era, inspired U.S.-based feminists of color and helped them embrace leftist Third World solidarity politics.  Utilizing the rich archival sources found in the Sophia Smith Collection (TWWA records, Miriam Ching Yoon Louie papers, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum papers) as well as the Triple Jeopardy newspapers found in the Marshall I. Bloom papers at the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, students will have an opportunity to work collaboratively to produce a substantial research project.

Not offered in 2022-23.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2020

381 Global Transgender Histories

(Offered as HIST 381 [TC/TR/TS] and SWAG 381). This seminar will explore the histories of transgender identities, activism, and communities around the world. Some questions to be engaged include: What concepts have been used to understand gender variant, expansive, and nonconforming people throughout history? How have war, violence, and legacies of colonialism, enslavement, and exploitation shaped the terms and conditions by which people of transgender experience and expression understood themselves and were perceived by others? How have transgender people advocated for self-determination, legal rights, and medical care? How has the transgender rights movement intersected with the civil, disability, women’s, and the LGBTQ rights movements? Students will work with primary sources such as newspaper accounts, legal codes, medical journals, religious texts, memoirs, and manifestos as well as pathbreaking historic studies of transgender people in China, England, Germany, Iran, Thailand, and the United States.

One class meeting per week. Limited to 18 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Manion.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2022

389 Ottoman Modern

(Offered as HIST-389 [ME/TC/TE] and ASLC 389)

The Ottoman Empire underwent a process of intense reform in the nineteenth century. Reformers were determined to strengthen their country’s sovereignty vis-à-vis increasingly aggressive European imperial powers. They embarked on a series of measures designed to improve their economies, political institutions and militaries. Reformers were also concerned to generate a new public, and to develop modern citizens imbued with new civic, political, literary and artistic sensibilities. Europe served as one important source of inspiration for Ottoman reformers. Reformers were in conversation with European modernity, even as they were in conversation with their own traditions.

This course explores the complex relationship between preservation and change, between admiration and rejection, both 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 modernization as a process of translation from the ‘traditional’ to the ‘modern.’

The course focusses on the construction of an Ottoman modern through an examination of literature, art, ideas and institutions. Class is conducted as a seminar. Written work includes a research seminar paper.

Enrollment is limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Ringer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2021, Spring 2023, Fall 2024

390, 490 Special Topics

Independent reading course.

Fall and spring semesters. The Department.

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, Fall 2024

392 Inside Iran

(Offered as HIST 392 [ME/TC/TE] and ALSC 359) This course explores contemporary Iran from a historical and interdisciplinary perspective. The course provides an overall understanding of the modern history of Iran, with a focus on the way Iranian history has been variously constructed and deployed. We will utilize a wide variety of primary sources, including literature, film, political treatises, Shiite theological writing, foreign travel accounts, and U.S. state department documents, in addition to secondary sources. Course conducted as a seminar. Frequent short papers based on class readings and short final research paper. Seminar paper optional. Two meetings per week.

Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Ringer.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2021, Fall 2022

393 Early Islam: Construction of an Historical Tradition

(Offered as HIST 393 [ME/TC/TE/P] and ASLC 355) 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. Two class meetings per week.

Limited to 15 students. Spring semester. Professor Ringer.

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

402 Wine, History and the Environment

(Offered as HIST 402 [TC/TE/C] and ENST 402.) Wine is as old as civilization, and is deeply wedded to 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, the Americas, and, increasingly, China. Through historical readings, scientific study, art, 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 anchored to regional and national identity. We will get our hands dirty with soil sampling, learn the basics of sediment analysis in the laboratory, and have a go at fermentation. Required field trips might include the taking of soil samples and planting of vines at Book and Plow Farm and a visit to a nearby winery. There also might be an optional multi-day oenology trip to New York’s Finger Lake district. Students who are using the course as their research seminar for History or LLAS will have one extra workshop each week to focus on the design and execution of an independent research project.

Limited to 20 students. This is a research seminar open to juniors and seniors. Spring semester. Professor López and Professor Martini.

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

411 Commodities, Nature and Society

[TE/TR/C] Participants in this seminar will explore the environmental and social histories of nine commodities: sugar, silver, silk, coffee, tobacco, sneakers, microchips, units of bandwidth, and the human body. Each of these commodities represents a complex array of linkages among producers, consumers, and intermediaries over time and space. Readings draw upon the disciplines of history, ecology, anthropology, and geography to place these commodities in their social, environmental, and spatial contexts. One of our aims is to understand the changing roles of natural systems and the divisions of labor that underlie the long-term processes of globalization. One class meeting per week.

Limited to 18 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Melillo.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2013, Spring 2015, Spring 2020, Spring 2022, Fall 2024

419 On Nationalism

[TE/TR/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. One class meeting per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Enrollment requires attendance at the first class meeting. Fall semester. Professor A. Gordon, Professor Semyonov.

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

421 Where in the World is Europe? Decolonial, Transnational, and Domestic Perspectives (1500-1800)

(Offered as HIST-421 [TC/TE/TR/C/ P], and as EUST-421) Early Modern History has recently been challenged by a wide variety of theoretical perspectives that seek to decentralize and decolonize our understanding of this time period and its global effects. In this seminar, we will discuss some of these theoretical frameworks and their methodological challenges. We will begin by investigating a variety of encounters in the imperial contact zone, then move into a discussion of various “domestic” topics relating to the Italian Renaissance, German Reformation, and the French ancien régime, and end with an account of the Haitian and French Revolutions. Topics might include: Aztek Catholic feather art; Jesuit Brahmins in India; Ethiopian resistance to Catholicism; Kongolese saints; queer and linear temporalities; racialized bodies; global mapping; Venetian feminists; the German peasant war; Protestant iconoclasm; French salon culture; alchemy; mass possessions. Students will write a 25-page research paper that qualifies for the major requirement; non-majors will write a 15-page research paper.

Limited to 18 students. Not offered 2022-23. Professor Sperling.

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

430 Renaissance Bodies

(Offered as HIST 430 [EU/TC/TR/P], EUST 430 and SWAG 430) This course investigates the ways in which early modern sciences and the figurative arts of the Renaissance converged to represent body-centered visual knowledges ranging from the "secrets of women" to scientific "monstrosities." We will also examine the ways in which Catholicism enhanced body-centered, sensual and visual forms of devotion. Discussions will center on the eroticization of male, female, and queer bodies in a variety of discourses and visual rhetorics. A particular focus is on the representation of black bodies before the onset of modern racism. Case studies will include Eckhout’s "ethnographic" portrayals of African slaves and the native inhabitants of Brazil; Casta paintings in New Spain; Chiara di Montefalco’s miraculous relics; Elena Duglioli’s career as a spontaneously lactating, virginal saint; the cultural history of the dildo; Elena/o de Cespedes’s life as a transman; Sarah Bartmann as fetishized object of desire; male prostitution; and anatomical wax figures. This seminar will be based on class discussions and student presentations. The aim is to produce one substantial research paper based on the investigation of primary (written and visual) materials.

Limited to 18 students. Omit. Professor Sperling.

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

431 Colonial and Decolonial Archives: Historical Research Methods

[AS/EU/ME/US/TE/TR] This course is a hands-on archival studies course as well as a methods-course that introduces students to a variety of theoretical frameworks relevant for historical inquiry. Students will pursue their own primary research in various colonial and de-colonial archives at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College. These archives contain, among others, the reports of female missionaries in Armenia running schools for girls (MHC); journals and letters of British governors in India and their wives (AC); the archives of the Bliss family, founders of the American University in Beirut (AC); but also the papers of Equal Ahmad, post-colonial Pakistani activist and professor at HC; the archives of the Third World Women’s Alliance and other late twentieth century feminist and intersectional activists (SC); the living archive of Loretta Ross, Atlanta-based activist for reproductive justice (SC); and the Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection (AC).  We will frame our archival studies by readings in post- and decolonial theory as well as indigeneity studies, in addition to relevant historical scholarship. Numerous guest lecturers will present their perspectives on the materials. The aim is to produce a substantial original research paper of 15 pages. One meeting weekly.

Spring semester. Professor Sperling.

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

436 Race, Gender, and Sexuality in U.S. History

(Offered as HIST 436 [US/TC/TR/TS] and SWAG 436) This course introduces students to critical theories of difference in thinking and writing about the past. We will read major works that chart the history of the very concepts of race, gender, and sexuality. We will explore how these ideas were both advanced and contested by various groups over the years by reading primary sources such as newspaper articles, personal letters, court records, and organizational papers. Movements for women’s rights, racial justice, and LGBTQ liberation have dramatically shaped these debates and their implications. In particular, feminist theory, critical race theory, and queer theory provide powerful arguments about how we formulate research questions, what constitutes a legitimate archive, and why writing history matters. Students will learn to identify and work with an archive to craft a major research paper in some aspect of U.S. history while engaging the relevant historic arguments about race, gender, and/or sexuality.

Limited to 18 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Manion.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2019, Fall 2020, Fall 2021, Spring 2025

444 Unmixing Peoples: Ethnic Cleansing in History

[ AS/EU/US/TE/TR/TS/C] What is ethnic cleansing? How did various historical actors (from medieval Mongols to modern colonial settlers to nationalists and Communists) decide to remove – and sometimes exterminate – entire peoples? Did ethnic cleansing exist throughout human history, or is it a distinctly modern phenomenon? How did specific historical processes, such as settler colonialism, state and nation-building, ideological and military conflicts contribute to ethnic cleansing? Finally, what is the relationship between modern human sciences and population politics and ethnic cleansing? This research seminar will explore different instances of ethnic cleansing and discuss under what circumstances peoples are unmixed. We will study a variety of materials, such as witness accounts, victim and perpetrator narratives, official reports, as well as analytical and historical studies of ethnic cleansing. Each student will select a case study and write a research paper of 25 pages.

Limited to 18 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Glebov.

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

455 The Long Civil Rights Movement

(Offered as HIST 455 [US/TR/TS] 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 course 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. One class meeting per week.

Not open to first-year students. Limited to 18 students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Bradley.

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

463 Research Seminar in the History of the Atlantic Slave Trade

(See BLST 363)

472 The Indian Ocean World

(Offered as HIST 472 [AF/AS/ME/TC/TE/TR/TSP] and ASLC 472 [SA]) This research seminar will explore connections across South and Southeast Asia as part of the Indian Ocean world. We explore how our understanding of the world is transformed when studied through the lens of the Indian Ocean rather through nation-state histories. We will analyze primary sources including pottery shards, Old Javanese texts, seals, Sanskrit inscriptions, sculptural reliefs, poetry, and paintings. We will also read the works of scholars who have used different approaches to understand interactions across the Indian Ocean. Throughout the module, we will pay attention to how pilgrims, traders, rulers, and scholars traveled and interacted across the ocean space. We will seek to understand the histories of South and Southeast Asia both in their similarities as well as in their historical differences as part of the Indian Ocean world. Ultimately, we will see how placing the histories of South and Southeast Asia within the Indian Ocean world deepens and widens our understanding of the history and the world. One meeting per week.

Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Gomes.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2021, Fall 2022

477 The History and Memory of the Asia-Pacific War

(Offered as HIST 477 [AS/TE/TS] and ASLC 477) The fifteen years of war conducted 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 how the experience of war during the 1930s and 40s are captured in the memory and history of Japan, East Asia, and the United States. The principal questions guiding our discussions 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 self-directed research projects.

 This is a research seminar that will combine historiographic readings and discussions with assignments designed to help you define and execute your own research project. That project will culminate in a seminar paper that will satisfy the History major requirement. 

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Maxey.

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

488 Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

(Offered as HIST 488 [AF/TE/TR/TS] and BLST 321 [A]) There were numerous rebellions in Africa during the colonial period and violent resistance to state authority has continued to characterize political life in many post-colonial African countries. We will look at the economic, social, religious, and political roots of these disturbances. Rebel groups and state forces roiled societies and reconstituted social identities, while legends and rumors swirled around rebellions and their leaders. We will focus on insurgencies and their origins, including spiritual and religious beliefs, disputes over land and labor, and fights against colonial and post-colonial authoritarian states. We will also discuss the problems historians face in researching revolts whose strengths often stemmed from their protean characters. The seminar will study specific revolts, including the Herero Revolt and subsequent genocides in German-controlled South-West Africa in 1904-1907; the first (1896-1897) and second (1960-1979) Chimurengas (revolts) in Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; the Chilembwe Revolt in Malawi in 1915; the Black Consciousness Movement and the student revolt in Soweto, South Africa in 1976; the roles of child soldiers and youth in post-colonial conflicts, and the Holy Spirit Movement and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. Students will complete a 20 to 25 page research paper on individually chosen topics relating to revolts in Africa. Two class meetings per week. 

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

493 Turkey: From Ataturk to Erdogan

(Offered as HIST 493 [ME/TC/TE/TS] 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. Not offered in 2022-23. Professor Ringer.

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

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. Fall 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, Spring 2025

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