(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
[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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
[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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as BLST 208 [A/D] and HIST 211 [AF]) As the crisis of the postcolonial nation-state deepens in the context of globalization and statism in African countries especially in the last three decades, African societies have experienced significant migration of skilled and unskilled workers. These migration flows are raising new questions about the nature of politics, economics, and culture in various African national and transnational contexts. To explore the political, social, and economic consequences of these waves of migration in African states and among countries receiving African migrants, this course will examine the following topics at the core of the transformation of African states in the global age: colonialism and the construction of modern African states; globalization and political legitimacy in postcolonial African states; globalization and African labor migration; globalization and African popular culture; globalization and Africa's new religious movements; globalization and Africa's refugee crisis; Africa and globalization of the media; Africa and the global discourse on gender and sexuality; Africa and the global discourse on AIDS/HIV; Africa and the globalization of football (soccer). Course readings will focus not only on the impact of globalization and state crisis on African societies, but also on how emerging national and transnational African populations are shaping the processes of globalization.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Vaughan.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 210 [A] HIST 210 [AF] and RELI 220) The course will examine the central role of Christianity and Islam in pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial African societies. Focusing on case studies from West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa, course lectures will explore the following issues in African religious, social, and political history: Christianity, Islam, and African indigenous belief systems; Muslim reformist movements in West African societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; mission Christianity and African societies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; Christianity, Islam, and colonialism in Africa; Christianity, Islam, and politics in postcolonial African states.
Limited to 25. Spring semester. Professor Vaughan.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as POSC 218, HIST 218 [AS/TR], & ASLC 218) As one of the world’s great powers, China has had a profound impact on the developing world. Through financial, military, and political means, China has shaped the economies, cultures, and environments of nations throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia. This course examines the historical and political aspects of this influence with the aim of better understanding the implications of China’s global presence. The course pays particular attention to how racialized narratives have complicated the relationships between Chinese actors abroad and their host communities as well as the experiences of migrants from the developing world in China. Using readings and other media from a wide range of fields and diverse perspectives, we will look at the deep historical roots of this power, while also examining the contemporary ramifications of China’s aspirations and actions beyond its national borders. Students will write about, discuss, and present on topics related to these themes.
Limited to 30 students. Priority given to sophomores. Spring semester. Associate Professor Ratigan and Professor Melillo.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as HIST 252 [US/TE/TR/TS/C] and SWAG 252) What can we learn about MLK and Malcolm X and from Magneto and Professor X? What can we learn about gendered and racialized depictions within comic books? As a catalyst to encourage looking at history from different vantage points, we will put comic books in conversation with the history of race and empire in the United States. Sometimes we will read comic books as primary sources and products of a particular historical moment, and other times we will be reading them as powerful and yet imperfect critiques of imperialism and racial inequality in U.S. history. Besides comic books, this course uses a wide range of material including academic texts, traditional primary source documents, and multi-media sources.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Professor Peralta.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Fall semester. Professor Gomes.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as BLST 275 [CLA], SWAG 274, HIST 275 [LA/TS/TR/ P ] and LLAS 275) Latin American slavery was one of the most brutal institutions the world has ever known, and it affected women and girls, boys and men in profoundly different ways. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. Students will gain in-depth understanding of how gender and sexuality affected the experiences of enslaved Africans and their descendants in Latin America from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Topics will include gender roles in Western Africa and how these diverged from the expectations of Spanish and Portuguese slave masters; the sexual and reproductive as well as labor exploitation of enslaved African women and girls; how enslaved men constructed masculinity within the emasculating institution of slavery; gender relations and family structures within slave communities; childhoods under slavery; and the sometimes distinct visions of freedom imagined by enslaved women and men. 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. Regions to be covered include Brazil, the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, and the Andean region. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.
Fall semester. Professor Lohse.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as BLST 277 [CLA], LLAS 277 and HIST 277 [LA/TS/TR]) The Haitian Revolution began in 1791 with a slave revolt on a single plantation and, after more than a decade of total war, destroyed slavery forever and resulted in the independence of the world's first Black republic. By the end of 1804, the white planter class had been killed or exiled and Black men ruled the island. Before it happened, white slave masters could never imagine that tens of thousands of enslaved Africans would one day break their chains and succeed in defeating French, British, and Spanish armies. For millions of enslaved people, the Haitian Revolution proved that the dream of freedom could become reality and inspired slave conspiracies and rebellions from Virginia to Brazil. At the same time, Haiti struck fear in white slave masters throughout the Americas, who did their best to strangle the new Black Republic in its cradle. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. Students will gain in-depth understanding of the origins and development of the Haitian Revolution and its impact in Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.
Fall semester. Professor Lohse.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as RELI 277 and HIST 274 [TC/TE/P] ) Literature from the later Roman empire abounds with accounts of heightened acts of violence between religious groups: Roman judges torture religious deviants; monks massacre banqueters and destroy temples with their bare hands; Christians clash with each other on darkened city streets; Christians attack Jewish synagogues and festival-goers. What about the late Roman world encouraged such violence? Were some religious groups more or less tolerant than their counterparts? Were incidents of violence primarily rhetorical, or do they reflect the real volatility of social interactions? How might the literary representation of violence be an act of violence itself or encourage physical violence? This course investigates the intersection of violence and religion from the third through the seventh century C.E., paying particular attention to questions of definition, legitimacy, and the interpretation of violent acts. As we explore these questions, we will engage with ongoing theoretical discussions about identity, violence, social performance, and boundary construction. Over the course of the semester, students will compile research portfolios that examine and analyze incidents of inter-religious violence.
Spring semester. Assistant Professor Falcasantos.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as BLST 278 [CLA], LLAS 278 and HIST 278 [LA/TS/TR/ P ]) More people of African descent live in Brazil than in any country in the world, except Nigeria. Of the more than 12 million Africans deported as captives to the Americas, Brazil received 24 percent. In contrast, North America received less than 4 percent. This readings-based course features both secondary and primary sources. 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 Brazil at the beginning of the sixteenth century until final abolition in 1888. Topics will include the ways in which specific regions of Western Africa contributed captives to specific regions of Brazil, the nature of Portuguese colonial institutions and their impact on the lives of Africans and their descendants, resistance and rebellion, routes to freedom, slave and free Black families, and the origins and development of vibrant Afro-Brazilian religions and cultures . 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. Students will be evaluated on class participation, a series of weekly reading notes, and two short papers.
Spring semester, Professor Lohse.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022, Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as AMST-328, EDST-328, and HIST-328 [US/TR/TS]) Children’s literature has a diversity problem. A 2018 study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that of more than 3000 children’s books published that year, roughly 50% featured main characters who were White. Only 10% featured Black characters, 7% featured Asian / Pacific Islander characters, and 5% featured Latinx characters. (27% of the books surveyed featured animal characters.) By far the least represented group in children’s literature were Native Americans, who appeared in fewer than 1% of the books surveyed.
This course explores the ethics and impact of inclusive representation in children’s media. It focuses on the challenge of teaching young people under-represented histories, particularly when those histories engage with raw, difficult, and often still painful subjects. How can we tell historically accurate stories to children without whitewashing or sugarcoating the past? Why is the drive to make children’s media more inclusive critically important?
A major component of this course involves experiential learning. Working together in small groups, and with guidance from experts in children’s publishing (editors, authors, illustrators, librarians), students will research, write, and publish a book for children on a topic related to Native American history. Readings will combine scholarship about children’s literature and publishing, the importance of historical representation and storytelling, and Native American history. Students will engage directly with the local community through focus groups, discussions with Native American knowledge keepers and cultural consultants, as well as visits to local libraries and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This course is open to all and no prior experience is necessary, however students must be willing to work collaboratively, and will be required to attend one out-of-class field trip.
Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Professors Boucher and Vigil.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
[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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
[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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as AMST-337, FAMS-337, and HIST-337) Almost from their very first days, even as they provoked a sense of wonderment, movies also provoked alarm and became targets of censorship. This course traces that set of reactions from the campaign to shut down the 1915 racist epic, “Birth of a Nation;” through the campaigns against sexual display and ethnic insult in the 1920s; to the Production Code era in the 1930s, with its “fallen women,” gangsters, and “screwballs"; through the end of the studio system and the rise of political censorship in the Cold War era. Frequent film viewing and intensive reading will be required, as also will be several smaller and at least one larger writing assignment.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Professor Couvares2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as HIST 348 [US/TR/TS] and SWAG 348) This seminar will explore the intersections of gender, migration, and labor, with a particular focus on Asian American women in the United States (broadly defined to include the U.S.’s territories and military bases), from 1870 to the present. Through transnational and woman-of color feminist lenses, we will investigate U.S. colonial and neo-colonial formations which disrupt local economies, compelling women to migrate from their homes across national borders and then channeling them into limited employment opportunities in some of the most exploitative industries in the United States, including manufacturing, agricultural, and domestic work. Students will do close analysis of historical evidence, including written documents, images, film, and newspapers. There will also be intensive in-class discussion and varying forms of written work, which will culminate in a final research paper on a topic chosen by the student.
Recommended Prior Coursework: SWAG 100 or HIST/SWAG 158. Limited to 20 students. Spring semester. Professor Peralta.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(Offered as EDST 352, HIST 352 [US/TC/TR/TS], AMST 352 and SOCI 352) Focusing on the United States, this course introduces students to foundational questions and texts central to Education Studies. We will explore the competing goals and priorities Americans have held for primary, secondary and post-secondary education and ask how and why these visions have influenced—or failed to influence—classrooms, schools, and educational policy. We will pay particular attention to sources of educational stratification; the tensions between the public and private purposes of schooling; and the relationship between schooling and equality.
In the first part of the course, students will reflect on how Americans have imagined the purpose of self-education, literacy, public schooling, and the liberal arts. Among the questions we will consider: What do Americans want from public schools? Does education promote liberation? Has a liberal arts education outlived its usefulness? How has the organization of schools and school systems promoted some educational objectives in lieu of others? In the second section of the course, we will concentrate on the politics of schooling. Here, we will pay particular attention to several issues central to understanding educational inequality and its relationship to American politics, culture, and society: localism; state and federal authority; desegregation; and the complicated relationship between schooling and racial, linguistic, class-based, gender, and ethnic hierarchies. Finally, we will explore how competing ideas about the purpose and politics of education manifest themselves in current policy debates about privatization, charters, testing, and school discipline. Throughout the course, students will reflect on both the limits and possibilities of American schools to challenge and reconfigure the social order.
Limited to 20 students. Fall semester. Visiting Professor Luschen.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(Offered as POSC 363 and HIST 363 [US/TE]) The goal in this course is to examine the geopolitics which lies at the intersection of international relations and foreign policy. But what is geopolitics and why is it as often berated as it is embraced by American politicians and policy elites alike? Over the past two centuries, what part has geopolitics played in the currents of world politics and in the conduct of American foreign policy? What role has geopolitics played in the post-Cold War era, after the demise of the Soviet Union and the ostensible triumph of liberal capitalism? Using the methods of diplomatic history and political science, this course will explore critical moments and themes in American foreign policy. Our overall aim is to better understand today’s position of the United States in world politics as well as present domestic controversies over the character of America’s global role. This is also a period which has been characterized by growing tension between two sets of political power dynamics: one is dominated by a territorial logic of power that has as its basis the direct control of specific territory, people and resources; the other is dominated by a more diffuse logic of power that derives from the command of “de-territorialized” global political, economic, technological and cultural forces which emanate from states as well as stateless groups with a global and transnational reach. In an attempt to better understand world politics in the age of America’s preponderance, the course will ultimately examine how American presidents have understood and navigated between these two sets of political power dynamics in articulating and conducting foreign policy, and how the American public and elites have facilitated or complicated this task.
Requisite: Two or more classes in the social sciences. At least one must be a POSC course (200 level or above) Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Machala and Professor Emeritus G. Levin.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Independent reading course.
Fall and spring semesters. The Department.2022-23: Not offered
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
(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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
[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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
[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.2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
(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.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022
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 (498D) as well.
Open to juniors and seniors. Fall semester. The Department.2022-23: Offered in Fall 2022