Spring 2021 Undergraduate Courses

HIS142 World History Since 1500

Instructor: A. Daum

This course will examine major civilizations in world history since roughly 1500, with particular attention to the foundational ideas and beliefs that have both inspired and challenged them. Human civilizations have been continuously evolving, adapting, expanding, fragmenting, and interacting with one another for thousands of years. Understanding the history of civilizations requires attention not only to material and technological changes over time, but also to the belief systems, ideologies, and structures of power that have defined civilizations and shaped our lived environments. Has the rising intensity of global interaction over the past several centuries led us on a path of convergence toward a single civilization? Or does the past demonstrate that despite high levels of contact and exchange, human civilizations remain as varied as ever?

HIS143 Global Inequality and Power

Instructor: H. Langfur

The increasing interaction of peoples and nations we call globalization benefits some more than others. This course focuses on the historical origins and consequences of a world divided between the rich and poor, the privileged and excluded, the mainstream and the marginalized. Students will consider, among various topics, the emergence of racial and ethnic categories, which accompanied the divergence of a small number of wealthy nations, primarily in the northern hemisphere, from many more poor ones, primarily in the south. They will examine resulting hierarchies that structure other realms of social life, including gender relations, religious conflict, access to education and technology, and environmental degradation. The course also explores how individuals, communities, and societies have challenged dominant understandings of the world, advanced alternative perspectives, and struggled for social justice. 

HIS162 US History 2

Instructor: C. Casteel

This is not your high school history class. We won't ignore presidents and generals, but we will push beyond them to look at ordinary people, popular culture, and the ideas that shaped American history from the end of the Civil War to the present. From Robber Barons and Captains of Industry; to radical unionists and free-lovers; from the rise of Jim Crow to civil rights activism; from Victorian bustles to flappers and feminists; from the New Deal to the Tea Party; we cannot understand the present without understanding how these stories have transformed America over the last century and a half. We will use film, music, and compelling stories about men and women living through the issues of their day to show that history is not just a list of names and dates. USH **NOTE: HIS 161 is not a prerequisite for HIS 162. Students may register for one, both, and in any order.

HIS182 Asian Civilization 2

Instructor: M. Nathan

Introduction to major themes and events in the histories of China, Korea, Japan, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia in recent centuries. Considers the impacts of colonialism and imperialism, the emergence of nationalist and revolutionary movements, decolonization and the Cold War. Our goal is to understand the historical forces and transformations shaping contemporary Asia, the common experiences that different areas of Asia have shared in the recent past, and what distinguishes the histories of particular Asian nations within a comparative perspective. This course is the same as AS 182 and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements. 

HIS202 Roman Civilization

Instructor: J. Dugan

Survey of Rome's mythical beginnings to the time of the emperors that covers the full spectrum of Roman cultural expression. Topics covered are not only literature, painting, sculpture, and architecture but also details of everyday life in the Roman world, as well as the roles played by marginal figures (women, slaves, foreigners). This course is the same as CL 223 and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements. 

HIS209 The American Civil War

Instructor: C. Emberton

Introduction in to the causes of the American Civil War, its impact on the American nation, and its continued significance for American politics and society. Topics covered include: the role of slavery in antebellum politics and the crisis of the 1850s, army life, the changing nature of warfare and introduction of total war tactics, changes in gender relations and women's political activism, Abraham Lincoln and his assassination, slave emancipation, Reconstruction, and the memorialization of the war from the nineteenth century to the present day. We will read a variety of primary and secondary source documents, as well as literary treatments of the period and films, in order to obtain a fuller cultural understanding of this pivotal moment in American history. 

HIS216 Crime and Punishment in America

Instructor: T. Thornton

In colonial America, practicing witchcraft was against the law. Beating your wife was not. Convicted wrongdoers faced hanging, flogging, even branding - but not prison. There has always been crime and punishment in America, but just what counts as crime, which crimes are committed, which are especially dreaded, how criminals are prosecuted, who they are and what kinds of penalties they face has changed from century to century. 

HIS244 American Business History

Instructor: C. Casteel

This course analyzes the historical development of business in the United States from the time of the country's founding until the present, with a particular focus on the twentieth century. In addition to tracking important changes in the American business growth and activity, the course also explores impact of technological change, the relationship between business culture and society, race, class, and gender, consumerism and the role of the worker. Much of our discussion will explore the ways in which managerial decision making, technological choices, and relationships between capitalists, workers, government, and consumers have been shaped, and also shape, culture and society. 

HIS273 The Art and Practice of Fashion

Instructors: P. F. McDevitt and E. Otto

The history of clothing is in many ways the history of civilization itself. The earliest evidence reveals a universal fashion impulse--that is, a desire to use clothing, accessories, and body modifications for symbolic and aesthetic purposes. This course sets out to explore the theory, art, and practice of fashion through the history of the design, production, marketing, consumption, and meaning of clothing. Students will explore the ethical considerations raised by labor practices in the fashion industry and the environmental costs associated with it. Far from a mere academic exercise, the class will encourage students to evaluate their own fashion and consumption practices in light of the issues raised by the course material and discussion.

HIS274 Bodies at War

Instructor: S. Handley-Cousins

War creates the perfect setting for health crises. Militaries are disease vectors, transporting germs to new lands. Soldiers living in close quarters and poor conditions suffer from dysentery, trench foot, and malaria. And of course, the central aim of warfare is to inflict bodily injury. Since ancient times, wars have created public health problems, ranging from the Plague of Athens to the spread of sexually transmitted infections during the World Wars and Vietnam. Soldiers have been used as test subjects, helping to shape ideas about ideal intelligence and body types. As military technology advances, so does the damage that new weapons create, evidenced by the devastating wounds inflicted by mini balls and improvised explosive devices. This course explores the many ways that health, disability, and war have intersected across history. From the Peloponnesian War, to the Hundred Years War, to Operation Iraqi Freedom, we will discuss topics including physical and mental war wounds, sexuality, public health, the rise of military medical authority, eugenics, and chemical and biological weapons. 

HIS301 Historical Writing

Instructors: C. Casteel, N. Mbah, and S. Handley-Cousins

This course is designed to help students develop the essential skills of good historical writing: the ability to synthesize a wide variety of secondary information, construct nuanced interpretations of primary source material, formulate original historical arguments, and tell engaging, meaningful stories about the past. Students will practice these four foundational areas (synthesis, analysis, argumentation, and narration) through a variety of informal and formal writing assignments, including blog posts, in-class writing, book reviews, and a research essay. In addition, students will gain experience presenting their work orally and visually.

HIS307 History of Paris

Instructor: L. Vardi

The objectives of the course are to provide students with insights both into European urbanization and the specific development and cultural importance of Paris. The course covers four different time periods: the Middle Ages, the eighteenth century, the second half of the nineteenth century (from Haussmanization during the Second Empire to the 1889 World's Fair and the Eiffel Tower), ending with the post-WWI influx of Americans, known as The Lost Generation. The main text for the course will be Colin Jones' History of Paris. Students are encouraged to write a research paper on an American in Paris from a list of important visitors. 

HIS308 Gaming History

Instructor: S. Handley-Cousins

In this class, students will participate in two or more Reacting to the Past role playing games centered on the American experience. Students will embody the past by taking on a character and "living" through a historical event, such as the drafting of the Constitution or the tumultuous sectional crisis. In order to win, students will need to listen carefully, make back room deals, pass notes, and give persuasive speeches. In the process, students will hone reading, writing, public speaking, critical thinking, and negotiation skills.

HIS314 Modern Africa: Globalization and Imperialism Since 1800

Instructor: N. Mbah

The second of two introductory surveys of African history offered by the Department of History. In this course, we focus on African history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The course covers the increasing encroachment on African by European colonialism and the historical responses of Africans to colonial rule. Among the larger themes that the course will focus on are the responses of African societies to the ending of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Islamic reform and activism in the nineteenth century, colonial political economies, religious change, labor mobilization and migration, urbanization, African political mobilization, and anti-colonial nationalism. The course will also consider some of the historical outcomes in post-colonial Africa. This course is the same as GGS 211

HIS317 History of Early Modern Britain

Instructor: C. Schen

This course surveys British history between c. 1485 and c. 1800, between the end of a civil war and the dawn of an industrial and imperial world power. We will study topics from among the following: social changes that affected women, the family, and household; political transformations that shaped the relationship of King and Parliament, government and people; religious reformations that made Britain an officially Protestant country; cultural developments that contributed to philosophy, science, the arts, and literature; and economic revolutions that impacted agriculture and spurred industry. 

HIS329 US History Since 1945

Instructor: G. Zubovich

A survey of modern United States history from WWII to the millennium that examines popular culture, social movements, foreign and domestic politics, and economic developments. 

HIS331 Special Topics: Drugs and Global Capitalism

Instructor: D. Herzberg

Drugs have been crucial objects in the development of the modern world.  Drug profits drove European empires and transnational capitalism, even as “drug wars” built and expanded an unequal infrastructure for global governance.  This course examines major episodes in global drug history, including (but not limited to) opium and the British empire; cigarettes and the origins of multinational corporations; cocaine and global drug control; and pharmaceuticals and the global biopolitics of health.  We will see how drugs have served as instruments of control, but also vehicles for resistance, in the contested development of global capitalism.

HIS345 US Disability History

Instructor: J. Barclay

This course is organized thematically, and is designed to give undergraduate students a deeper, more nuanced understanding of disability history and of the lived experiences of people with disabilities or mental illness. This course focuses specifically on disability history in the United States. It begins in the early 19th century with the foundation of asylums and special schools for disabled children and adults. The course will trace the rise and decline of institutions and segregated education, the emergence of the disability rights movement in the 20th century, and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. There will also be sections on disabled veterans of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War. 

HIS356 Social History of Women in the U.S., 1875-Present

Instructor: S. Cahn

This class will examine women as political activists, women in popular culture, and women's diverse experiences of work, family and sexuality. We will compare late 19th century women's reform movements, culminating in the successful drive for women's suffrage in the 1910s, to the second wave feminist movement spawned in the 1960s and 1970s. We will also explore popular culture as a realm of performance and a powerful site for the creation of female images and ideals. Finally, we will examine birth control, abortion, sexual danger and sexual pleasure as important personal as well as political issues in women's lives. How much have women's lives changed since the 19th century? Have women of varied ages, racial/ethnic communities, and social class been empowered by these changes? How do we assess or measure social change, power, and gender hierarchy? 

HIS359 Reformation

Instructor: J. Dewald

This course explores the causes and development of the division of western Christianity into Protestant and Catholic communities. Following a general survey of social and religious tensions in the late Middle Ages, attention will be given to the contexts and political trends in fifteenth century Europe leading to the so-called "magisterial Reformation" under Luther and Calvin. The religious ideologies of the reformers will be examined against the background of Renaissance culture and developing ideas of the nation-state, the rediscovery and transformation of classical learning, the development of literary and historical criticism, the growth of populism and the power of the laity in the Radical Reformation, and the beginnings of anti-Trinitarian ideas among the Socinians. Some attention will be given to the conciliar and theological efforts to reform the Catholic Church, and to the dispersion of Reformation political ideals and theology to the New World, with special reference to New England. 

HIS367 Food in Asia

Instructor: Y. Liu

What is food for? This simple question invites us to ponder myriad ways that food connects to our lives, from cooking to eating, from spice to medicine, from the expression of the self to the mediation of social relationship. Not surprisingly, food constitutes a vital aspect of Asian culture that figures saliently both in Asia and beyond. Even without going to Asian, we may all have the experience of tasting sushi, General-Tso’s chicken, or curry. This course probes the history of food in Asia, exploring both the rich culture of food within Asia and its fast spread to the rest of the world in recent past. Topics covered in this course include the techniques of cooking (we may try ourselves), the religious meanings of food, regional features, food trade, food and colonialism, food and national identity, and Asian food in America. In the end, the course seeks to use the study of dishes and drinks in Asia as a gateway to not just understand the fabric of Asian society but also illuminate our dietary habits and ways of living here and now. [No prior knowledge in Asian languages or history is required.] This course is the same as AS 367, and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements. 

HIS379 African-American History, 1877 to Present

Instructor: J. Barclay

This course analyzes the history of African-Americans from 1877 to present. It addresses a number of themes including the experiences of freed persons during the period immediately following slavery, the legal and socio-economic development of racial segregation and discrimination, along with the persistent and varied forms of resistance that African Americans engaged in as avenues of redress. The course also treats the arts and discusses the development of black vernacular arts during the period, linking, for example, the rise of musical forms such as blues and jazz to the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement. 

HIS392 Chinese Medicine in the World

Instructor: Y. Liu

This course surveys the history of Chinese medicine seen through world history. It focuses on the continuous and dynamic exchange of medical ideas, practices, and materials between China and the rest of the world from antiquity to the present. Rather than treating Chinese medicine as a monolithic, stable, and isolated system of healing, the course highlights its active interactions with other healing cultures throughout history. By offering revealing comparisons and identifying unexpected connections, this course seeks to not just enrich our understanding of the global history of Chinese medicine but also utilize historical knowledge to illuminate our ways of living today. This course is the same as AS 390, and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements.

HIS409 Voyages of Discovery

Instructor: L. Vardi

Europeans have always been on the move, visiting or trading with other parts of the world, or bent on conquest as during the medieval Crusades. With the discovery of the New World, a new era nonetheless opens when the accumulation of territory and goods would appear boundless, inciting further voyages to find places as yet "undiscovered" and "unclaimed." Through primary readings of explorers' accounts and through secondary analyses, we will chart the changing aims and justifications for such explorations: what drove them, what stimulated individuals who undertook them, who financed them and to what ends. 

HIS415 Topics in Renaissance History

Instructor: C. Schen

Varying topics in Renaissance history, as chosen by the professor. 

HIS420 Special Topics: Monuments, Markers, and Memory

Instructor: C. Emberton

Recent events such as the Black Lives Matter movement have led to a national reckoning with how Americans memorialize the past. In particular, monuments to the Confederacy and American slaveholders have resulted in a collective re-evaluation of various memorial practices, and in many cases, removal of these monuments from the public landscape. Why now? What has sparked this moment of re-evaluation? What is at stake in these contests over public memory? Are there different ways to imagine memorial cultures that do not rely upon mythologized representations of the past? In this course, students will tackle these questions through a variety of genres, including written texts and documents, art/sculpture, photography, and film.

HIS421 Topics in British History

Instructor: P. F. McDevitt

Varying topics in British history, as chosen by the professor. 

HIS426 Special Topics: Stalinism

Instructor: K. Zubovich

The Stalin era was one of the most turbulent periods in Soviet history. Between 1928 and 1953, the Soviet Union was dramatically transformed by rapid industrialization, collectivization, state violence and terror, and war. In this seminar, students will explore the major events and turning points of this period. We will also learn about key debates and themes in the historiography of Stalinism.

HIS429 History of the American Landscape

Instructor: T. Thornton

Introduces students to the historical study of the human-made landscape. Focusing on phenomena ranging from Puritan town plans to streetcar suburbs, and domestic architecture to shopping plazas, students learn to evaluate the landscape as the historical artifact of human activity and human choices, shaped by a shifting mix of cultural values, economic patterns, technological developments, and government policies. 

HIS439 Gender and the Cold War

Instructor: V. Wolcott

This course will examine how the cold war's politics and culture, including its foreign policy, shaped gender relations and sexuality in the United States. In addition to readings, we will analyze various forms of popular culture and social policy. Students will also discuss the significance of gender and the cold war for understanding contemporary American politics and culture. This course is the same as GGS 439 and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements.

HIS447 Health and Illness in American Society

Instructor: D. Herzberg

This course traces the experiences of health, illness, and medicine in American history in the 19th and 20th centuries. We will address the shift from traditional to scientific and professional medicine; the experience of being ill and of being a patient; the "medicalization" of everyday experiences; the health impact of modern commercial capitalism; and the use of medicine as a source of cultural authority in ongoing political battles over identity (e.g. citizenship, race, gender, sexuality). Students will have the opportunity to find and analyze historical documents in a substantial research project. 

HIS450 Problems in 20th Century US History: The Culture Wars

Instructor: G. Zubovich

“There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war…for the soul of America.” When presidential hopeful Patrick J. Buchanan spoke these words at the Republican National convention in 1992, he aired a longstanding belief that the country’s religious, moral, and political character was under threat. So too did Joseph R. Biden, who promised to “restore the soul of the nation” once he was elected. Why do Americans and their political leaders so often resort to heated theological language and what does it tell us about their country? This course investigates the divisive debates in the twentieth century about the relationship between religion, morality, and government—as well as the cultural and political polarization these debates reflected and engendered. Topics covered include evolution, birth control, religious pluralism, the metric system, sex ed, the United Nations, and rap lyrics.

HIS460 Special Topics: The New Europe, 1945-2020

Instructor: S. Pack

This seminar examines major topics and themes in European history since the end of World War II. Through extensive readings of primary documents and secondary works, the course will cover the following: the transition from war to peace; the consolidation of a democratic West and a socialist East; the rise of mass consumer society in both blocs; the end of the European empires and transition to multilateralism; the challenges of political and ethnic violence; and the rise of a new cultural pluralism across the continent in the early twenty-first century.

HIS496 Public History Internship

Instructor: C. Trumper

Students learn to connect their historical studies with the world outside the academy by doing an internship at a historical site or museum. Students must arrange the internship themselves. The internship site must have a strong connection to history; some local examples include the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, the Amherst Museum, Old Fort Niagara, and the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural site. Students register for this course through the History Department's Director of Undergraduate Studies.

HIS497 Honors Thesis 2

Instructor: J. Barclay

All seniors in the History honors program are required to take this two-semester sequence. The first semester consists of weekly seminars that will help students choose a good topic and teach research strategies. The second semester involves a research project arranged with and carried out under the guidance of a faculty member.