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All History Courses

The History Department offers a variety of courses at all levels. Below is a list of recently offered courses. Not all of these courses are offered in any given year, and there may be other courses offered some years. Check the course schedules/descriptions available via the Registrar's Office for the current term's offerings. For the most up to date information, consult the instructor.

HIS 100 Gateway to History: Topics course

History 200 is an introduction to historical practice – what professional historians actually do. It is a requirement for history majors, but we encourage all interested undergraduates to enroll. The class is a small seminar, devoted largely to discussion of primary texts. A final research paper of about ten pages length is required. Juniors and seniors can only register with instructor’s permission. Each section of this course will be organized around a particular theme - please see term description for details.

Last Offered: Spring 2017

HIS 101 The Ancient World

The course introduces European history by examining the civilizations of the ancient world: the cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. We will study multiple aspects of these cultures with a focus on the emergence of the city and its social, political and economic makeup, as seen through a variety of sources from texts and material culture. Students will become aware of the dimension of historiography; that is, how we have come to interpret these peoples today.

Last Offered: Summer 2014

HIS 102 The West and the World to 1500

While exploring the history of Europe and its neighbors from the ancient to the medieval period, this course focuses on how people borrowed from, adapted, and reconciled various ideas to suit their own needs to form, over time, a coherent set of cultural values. To this end, we will consider several themes throughout the semester, including changing models of political organization, ideas of individual rights and responsibilities, attitudes towards women and 'outsiders’, and understandings of nature and of divine power.

Last Offered: Spring 2019

HIS 103 The West and the World since 1492

A thematic survey of European history during the period of Europe's rise to and fall from global dominance. It follows roughly on History 101 but does not assume that you have taken it. The reading consists of important philosophical, political, and literary works and documents, supplemented by a textbook.

Last Offered: Spring 2015

HIS 104 The Ancient City

This course examines the phenomenon of urbanism in the ancient Mediterranean world. After a brief consideration of the rise of cities in the Near East and Egypt, the course focuses on the cities and colonies of ancient Greece and of the Roman Empire, with special attention devoted to Athens and Rome. Topics covered include town planning, public and private spaces and building types, urban life, and colonization, as seen through the archaeological remains of cities located around the Mediterranean basin and beyond.

Last Offered: Summer 2010

HIS 105 Justice and Equality

What is justice? Is it universal or does it vary across cultures and over time? Does justice require equality? If so, equality of what? What steps must we take to become more just and more egalitarian? What can art tell us about justice? What can justice tell us about art? The world’s most powerful minds have wrestled with these questions, and the answers they have posed shape our contemporary global debates. In this unique course, taught by multiple faculty from across the humanities and social sciences, we will consider different conceptions of justice and equality, with special attention to their relevance to the contemporary moment. Beginning with Plato’s Republic , we will address works by such thinkers as Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, Franz Fanon, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Martin Luther King. Students and faculty from multiple sections of this course will occasionally meet as one group to analyze how different disciplines confront these complex topics. Outside speakers will also address the course.

Last Offered: Fall 2014

HIS 106 Witchcraft and Witch Hunts, 1400-1800

During the Renaissance and Reformation, many people throughout Europe became convinced that society was threatened by conspiracies of witches. The resulting panics led to the execution of thousands of people, mostly lower-class women. The course delves into intellectual, cultural and social history to explain how and why this happened, with discussion of both broad trends and local factors. As we will see, responses to witchcraft reflected major changes in European society, culture, and politics that lent new meanings to traditional ideas about witches, possession, and malefice and enabled the systematic condemnation of certain groups of people. The ways in which these ideas were mobilized in individual communities and the reasons for doing so varied widely, however, and we will therefore closely examine several specific examples of witch hunts in order to better understand why they were appealing to so many, why they flourished for a time, and why they ultimately faded.

Last Offered: Fall 2017

HIS 107 The City: Contested Spaces

What does it mean to live in a city? Can you reshape people’s lives by redesigning city spaces? How do city dwellers, architects, politicians, and others interact with and appropriate their own urban past? This interdisciplinary course will introduce students to different ways of looking at cities, framing them as the contested products of a range of human actions. Through an in-depth examination of four complex urban environments – Chicago, Istanbul, Delhi, and Rome – we will learn about the interplay between space, aesthetics, time, memory, and power. Weekly lectures by an anthropologist, an architect, and a historian will complement discussions of film, historical documents, fiction, and relevant case studies. In addition to writing four short papers, students will hone their analytical skills by observing urban life and form with a series of field studies in the city of Rochester.

Last Offered: Fall 2017

HIS 108 History of Mortality

Every human society has had to confront the inevitability and mystery of death. We'll approach the topic from multiple directions, looking at the social history of mortality (including demographics, how social structures influence the experience of dying, and the physical contexts of death) as well as the cultural reactions of ordinary people, philosophers, religious thinkers, and artists. In doing so, we'll pay close attention to how different circumstances and traditions have led to an enormous variety of understandings of and responses to mortality, while also identifying broad similarities across time and throughout the world.

Last Offered: Spring 2018

HIS 109 Introduction to Archaeology

This course introduces the student to the field of archaeology through three units of study: 1) The history of excavation from ancient to modern times, 2) The techniques of excavation and the analysis of material remains, 3) Modern theories of cultural interpretation of archaeological sites. We will discuss the value of archaeological approaches to the fields of anthropology, history, architectural and art history, religious and classical studies. Much of the instruction will be illustrated by case studies of sites; although the view will be global, there will be a concentration in Old World material from prehistory to the early modern period. Students will be required to write three essays, with subjects selected from each of the three course units.

Last Offered: Spring 2016

HIS 110 The Making of Modern Africa

This course uses film, novel, and historical studies to examine the following themes in the making of modern Africa: the forging of new national identities, creation of wage laborers, and the restructuring of agricultural work, gender, and social age. Students will also explore how African women and men, from their homes and workplaces, and as part of nationalist or national liberation movements during and after the Cold War, have sought to redefine their place in the global economy against the backdrop of new opportunities and challenges presented by the HIV/AIDS pandemic, hunger, international debt, and engagement with China.

Last Offered: Fall 2017

HIS 111 The African Diaspora

No description

Last Offered: Fall 2012

HIS 112 Introduction to African Religions of the Diaspora

This course introduces students to the development of African religions in the Americas, Caribbean, and Canada. Religious traditions such as Africanized Christianity, Santería, Candomblé, Vodun, and Spiritual Baptists will be explored. The course not only provides students with a historical overview of each tradition, but it also explores theological frameworks, doctrinal principles, and ritual activities related to each tradition. Class format includes lectures, discussions, and films.

Last Offered: Fall 2015

HIS 113 African Americans in South Africa

When Oprah Winfrey founded a secondary school for girls in post-apartheid Johannesburg, she was following a long tradition of African American solidarity with the equally oppressed black population of South Africa. Forged in the 1780s by black north Atlantic mariners, the solidarity would encompass many areas of life before and during the apartheid era. This course explores four of those areas: evangelical ties connecting African American churches with South Africa’s independent church organizations; the spread of Booker T. Washington’s educational ideals in black South African academic circles; the impact of the Harlem Renaissance on African popular township culture; and the cross-fertilization of political ideologies originating on both sides of the Atlantic: Africans fighting against apartheid learned important lessons from the crusades of anti-colonial activists and internationalists in the diaspora, such as Marcus Garvey, Paul Robeson, and Mahatma Gandhi.

Last Offered: Spring 2019

HIS 115 N/A

No description

Last Offered: Fall 2018

HIS 116 N/A

No description

Last Offered: Fall 2017

HIS 116A N/A

No description

Last Offered: Summer 2014

HIS 117 N/A

No description

Last Offered: Fall 2018

HIS 118 CITIES & URBANISM IN PRE-COLUMBIAN MESOAMERICAN AND THE ANDES

The discipline of archaeology can make unique contributions to our understanding of urbanism and daily life given its ability to examine long-term processes of development and change. The goal of this course is to provide an introduction and overview of urbanism as exemplified by the indigenous cities of the New World (e.g. Mesoamerica and South America). While regional differences will be discussed, we will focus mainly on identifying the theoretical issues that intersect all of the regions we will be studying.

Last Offered: Fall 2018

HIS 119 N/A

No description

HIS 120 Cultural History of Ancient Greece

In this course we will survey the unique military, political, and economic history of ancient Greece from the Bronze Age to the death of Alexander the Great. In addition, and more unusually, we will look at ancient Greece's rich cultural and social history.

Last Offered: Fall 2018

HIS 121 The Roman World

The course offers a comprehensive account of the history of Rome. It first deals with her humble beginnings as a small city-state in central Italy, continuing with the process of Roman hegemony in the Italian peninsula and the Mediterranean world, and ending with the times that led to the fall of the Roman Empire in the west in AD 476. Students will be introduced to the analysis of written and archaeological sources in order to answer the basic question, How do we know about the Romans? Thus, the analysis of the evidence will be the foundation to discuss major topics of Roman civilization. For example, an examination of the city of Pompeii will allow us to reconstruct the daily life of a wealthy Roman city, and the first Roman emperor Augustus' written statement of his own political and military achievements provides us with evidence for the transition from a republican to an imperial form of government.

Last Offered: Fall 2017

HIS 122 Medieval Europe

This course introduces students to the world of medieval Europe, roughly 500-1500 C.E. The role of religion will be a central theme in this study of the so-called “Christian Middle Ages,” as well as the ordering structures borrowed and adapted from Roman and so-called barbarian cultures. We will examine how medieval Europeans dealt with social, cultural, and economic change and will study reactions to the “Others” on the margins and in their midst: heretics, Muslims, and Jews. Students will be exposed to some of the principal historical debates about the period, as well as the major types of primary sources available in English translation, and will develop facility in reading, analyzing, and interpreting both primary and secondary sources.

Last Offered: Spring 2016

HIS 123 A World Reborn and Reformed: Europe, 1450-1700

The centuries from 1400 to 1800 are often described as the birth of modern Europe. In this course, we will examine this period both as a precursor to our times and on its own terms. We will look both at well-known developments—Renaissance, Reformation, colonization, absolutism, and Enlightenment—and at the ways in which regular people navigated the religious, social, economic, and political transformations that upended their everyday lives. Through these topics, we will determine what is both ‘early’ and ‘modern’ about the period from a variety of perspectives.

Last Offered: Spring 2014

HIS 124 Modern Europe

No description

Last Offered: Fall 2014

HIS 125 Vikings

The Viking age lasted a few short centuries and ended a long time ago, approximately in 1100. Who were the Vikings? How did they live? What made them travel such vast distances? In this course we will explore the world of the Vikings, their religious beliefs, family life, technology, law, and literature. We will read their sagas and myths, listen to their music, and watch documentaries that bring to life their ships and villages.

Last Offered: Fall 2016

HIS 126 Hitler's Germany, 1914-1945

This course revolves around the most essential question in modern German history: was Hitler's regime particular to Germany, German culture, and German society, or was merely the manifestation of an immanent quality in all modern nation states? What does it mean to compare any political figure to Hitler? Was his kind of "evil" suis generis or dangerously banal? This course places the rise and fall of the Nazi Party and Hitler in the longer duree of German history, from the Second Empire and WWI, to Weimar, the Nazi State, and the Two Germanys of the Cold War.

Last Offered: Spring 2019

HIS 127 Foundations of Medieval France

No description

Last Offered: Fall 2018

HIS 128 Beyond the Wall: Europe in the Cold War

Until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the past, present, and future of postwar Europe appeared permanently divided, dominated by an inevitable ideological clash. Collapse of the Iron Curtain, however, required a dramatic re-examination, as the once immutable Cold War now appeared more as a post-war parenthesis. This course examines Europe since Zero Hour 1945 as a singular space—one dominated by superpowers, riven by cultural and economic competition, yet also struggling with its past and reimagining its future.

Last Offered: Fall 2017

HIS 130 Russian Civilization

Russian Civilization from its beginnings a thousand years ago to the present day. Each unit will cover historical and cultural background as well as literary texts. We will examine important national "myths" (narratives with a variable connection to the historical record) that govern the Russians' understanding of their history and culture, including: the Golden Age of Kiev, Moscow as the Third Rome, and the myths surrounding the city of Petersburg. We will analyze traditional tensions in Russian civilization which prevail today, such as those between: chaos and order, foreign influence and a strong national identity, innovation and tradition, and between radical skepticism and faith. Readings will include: Russian fairy tales and saints' lives, excerpts from the autobiography of the 17th century heretic Avvakum, tales by Pushkin and Gogol, one of Dostoevsky's most powerful and influential novels ("The Devils/Possessed"), and a wide range of materials from the twentieth century. In English.

Last Offered: Spring 2018

HIS 131 Russia to 1692

This course focuses on the history of Kievan Rus beginning with the official conversion to Byzantine Christianity (988), the period of Mongol rule over Russia, the rise of the city of Moscow to a dominant position among the Russian principalities, and Muscovite society, politics, and economics in the 1500s and 1600s. We will examine the origins of Russian serfdom and Russian autocracy, Muscovite relations with other societies, including England, the role of witches in Muscovite society, and many other topics. We will also be studying the history of the 'Rus' as it intertwines with the history of two neighboring Slavic peoples, the Poles and Ukrainians.

HIS 132 Imperial Russia

This course examines the history of the Russian Empire from the reign of Peter the Great (1692-1725) to the revolutions of 1917. Students will read primary sources in translation, academic articles, and a survey text. About one-half of class time will be devoted to discussion of the readings. Topics will include Peter's westernization of Russian elites and the costs thereof, the Pugachev rebellion of 1773-1775, the spread of Enlightenment ideals to Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, the abolition of serfdom, Sergei Witte’s industrialization drive, socialist movements in Russia, World War I, and the causes of the revolutions of 1917.

Last Offered: Spring 2019

HIS 133 The Russian Revolutions from Lenin to Putin

This class examines the history of the Soviet Union from foundation (1917) to collapse (1991), focusing on internal developments in the Russian part of the Union. We will begin with a discussion of the background to the collapse of the imperial Russian state in 1917, including changes in Russian society and World War I. Later, the class will look at questions such as: Did the New Economic Policy of the 1920s create a stable socioeconomic order? How did Stalin defeat his political rivals and create a personal dictatorship? What were the motivations for the Great Terror of 1937-1938? How did the Soviet Union defeat Nazi Germany in World War II? We will also devote some time to the Soviet role in the Cold War and the appeal of Leninism in colonized and post-colonial societies. The course will conclude with a discussion of the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of a soft authoritarian order in post-Soviet Russia. The syllabus will emphasize primary-source readings and class discussion.

Last Offered: Fall 2015

HIS 134 Russia Now

In this expanded 4-credit version of the 2-credit "Russia Now" course, students will follow current events in Russia through print and electronic sources, and write two short essays and one longer research paper.

Last Offered: Spring 2019

HIS 135 DANTE'S "DIVINE COMEDY": A JOURNEY FROM INFERNO TO PARADISE, PART I. "INFERNO" AND "PURGATORIO"

The first of a sequence of two, the course approaches "The Divine Comedy" both as a poetic masterpiece and as an encyclopedia of medieval culture. Through a close textual analysis of "Inferno," and the first half of "Purgatorio," students learn how to approach Dante’s poetry as a vehicle for thought, an instrument of self-discovery, and a way to understand and affect the historical reality. They also gain a perspective on the Biblical, Christian, and Classical traditions as they intersect with the multiple levels of Dante’s concern, ranging from literature to history, from politics to government, from philosophy to theology. A visual component, including illustrations of the "Comedy" and multiple artworks pertinent to the narrative, complements the course. Class format includes lectures, discussion, and a weekly recitation session. Intensive class participation is encouraged. Dante I can be taken independently from Dante II. No prerequisites. Freshmen are welcome. Part of the Dante Humanities Cluster.

Last Offered: Fall 2018

HIS 136 Dante's Divine Comedy II

Purgatory and Paradise: This course is the second segment of a two-semester sequence on the DIVINE COMEDY. Please see the description for HIS 135 for more details.

HIS 137 History of Poland

The aim of this course is to present a general outline of the cultural, political, as well as social and economic history of Poland in the context of Europe. The complexity of a thousand years of Polish history will be presented in an accessible way. We will also explore the themes of European historical diversity and European identity in the context of Poland.

HIS 137A History of Poland (study abroad)

A survey of Polish history from the Piast dynasty through the period of Jagiellonian rule, the time of the elected kings, 123 years of partitioned Poland, the 1920's and 1930's, World War II, the creation and functioning of the People's Republic, the collapse of the communist system.

Last Offered: Summer 2018

HIS 138 The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Discover the Wonders of a Medieval Mind

This course is the first segment of a two-semester sequence on The Divine Comedy. The purpose of the sequence is to introduce students to the liberal arts through one of the most significant texts in Western civilization. While reading about Dante's adventurous journey from Inferno to Paradise, students will gain a perspective on the Biblical, Christian, and Classical traditions, and on the political, literary, philosophical, and theological dimensions of medieval European culture. The sequence will also provide students with an avenue of investigation on the problem of knowledge--one of the poem's central concerns--and guide them in developing critical tools and research skills. We will begin the course by building a historical and intellectual frame of reference in which to locate THE DIVINE COMEDY. We will then proceed to a close reading of INFERNO and a few cantos of PURGATORY. Lectures and class discussion will be complemented by a weekly recitation session.

HIS 139 History of British India

An introductory survey of the history of India from ancient times to the present, with a special emphasis on the British colonial era and the making of the Indian nation. Course readings will emphasize India's remarkable religious, cultural, and environmental diversity and the challenges and promises that such diversity presents to national identity in the world's most populous democracy. Course format will be an informal mix of lectures, discussions, student presentations, and films.

Last Offered: Fall 2018

HIS 140 East Asia to 1600

This course introduces the early history of East Asia, one of the cradles of the world's great civilizations. Join us on a thousand-year journey through traditional China, Korea, and Japan, up to 1600.

Last Offered: Summer 2010

HIS 141 East Asia After 1600

East Asia is vital to our global economy and rapidly changing American society. We need to understand this region more than ever to be the best possible global citizens in the 21st century. This course introduces the modern histories of China, Korea, and Japan from 1600 to the present. Enemies, friends, imitators, and innovators: the countries of East Asia have played all of these roles. The samurai, imperialism in Asia, the Chinese Revolution, and the Korean War are just a few of the topics we will explore. This course is the companion to “HIS 141: East Asia to 1600,” but does not require any prerequisites--just bring your curiosity.

HIS 142 Traditional China

This course focuses on the history of traditional China from antiquity to the 18th century. Two thousand years of civilization, six thousand miles of the Great Wall, a silk road linking China to Rome, and seven maritime voyages sailing across the Pacific and Indian oceans. How have the notions of “China” and “Chinese” civilization transformed over time through cultural diffusion, commercial exchange, and military expansion? How does increased knowledge of Chinese history change our conceptions of Western civilization and the currents of world history? No prior knowledge of Chinese history or language is required for this course. Besides a standard textbook, one academic monograph (Mountain of Fame) and one Chinese classics (Dream of the Red Chamber) will anchor our readings throughout the course.

Last Offered: Spring 2019

HIS 143 Modern China, 1600-Present

This class covers the search for modern China in the twentieth century. We will trace how China, between invasion, war, and revolution, transformed from an empire to a republic, from republic to Communist state, and from Communist state to the economic powerhouse that it is today.

Last Offered: Fall 2018

HIS 144 Traditional Japan

This lecture course will cover Japanese history from the beginning to around 1850. Emphasis will be on the changing nature of political authority, the changing roles of the a