Current Course Offerings

Fall 2020 Undergraduate Courses

HIS 141LR Human Origins of Global Society

Professor Schen 

Human origins mark the start of human history, when the world was bounded by oceanic separations. We will begin with the ancient past and consider how global connections are forged, ending roughly 1500. Among other topics, the course may consider: how humans meet the challenges of their environment, migrate, develop new social and political systems, secure necessities and acquire luxuries, create religions and intellectual ideas, produce art, music, and architecture, and make war and peace. HIS 141 covers the Breadth requirement. Per the university repeat policy, HIS 141 may be used to replace the grade for UGC 111.

HIS 144LR Introduction to Health, Medicine and Society

Professor Handley-Cousins

What does it mean to be healthy? What does it mean to be sick? And how have human beings tried to control health and illness? This course explores the many ways that humans have sought to understand bodies, to control disease, to comprehend death, and to deal with atypical bodies and minds. In this class, we will read and talk about the history of medicine, of course, but also touch upon a variety of social and cultural factors that help us to better understand the progress (or lack thereof) of scientific medicine: race, gender, ability, sexuality, class, colonialism, and oppression, among others. We will begin in ancient times and end in the modern era, but take a winding path on our journey, touching on everything from Egyptian death practices to eugenics to HIV/AIDS and ebola. The history of medicine is not a straight forward accounting of ingenuity and discovery, but rather a wild, crazy, sometimes gross, often horrifying, story about people and the worlds they lived in.

HIS 161LR US History 1

Professor Casteel

This is not your high school history class. We won't ignore presidents and generals but we will also push beyond them to look at ordinary people, popular culture, and the unexpected ideas that shaped American history from Native American settlement to the aftermath of the Civil War. We will pay particular attention to the interaction among Europeans Africans and the Native Peoples of the New World. We will also explore historical methodologies, practice critical thinking, and discuss how this history has shaped the country we know today. We will use film, music, and compelling stories to show that history is not just a list of names and dates; it is a gripping drama of individuals and groups from foot soldiers to farmers striving to create a new nation.

HIS 181LEC Asian Civilization I

Professor Liu 

Introduction to major themes and events in the histories of China, Korea, Japan, the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia in early times. Considers the developments of ways of thought, the emergence of and interactions among states and empires, and artistic and literary movements. Our goal is to understand the historical forces and transformations shaping Asia before about 1600. This course is the same as AS 181, and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements. HIS 181 covers the AAL requirement.

HIS 199SEM UB Seminar-Bad Medicine: Race & Tuskegee

Professor Herzberg

In this course we will dig deeply into multiple dimensions of a single historical event:  the Tuskegee syphilis study, which ran from 1932 to 1972.  In the study, medical researchers with the U.S. Public Health Service recorded the natural history of syphilis by observing African American men suffering from the disease.  The researchers did not inform the men of their illness, and did not provide medical treatment to them even as effective treatments became available.  The study was widely known and its results published regularly in prestigious medical journals.  Yet when it was exposed in 1972, the Tuskegee study immediately became a scandal that helped push reforms in research on human subjects.  How and why did the study happen?  What social changes led to the study becoming a scandal?  What were the long-term consequences of America’s troubled tradition of racist medical research how does the Tuskegee study, ended nearly half a century ago, continue to matter today?  Through this academic exploration, students will not only gain critical thinking skills but also skills in studying and time management, research, writing, and speaking.

HIS 199SEM Cats: Nature, History, Culture

Professor Vardi

Cats are, along with dogs, domesticated animals treated as companions by humans in many parts of the world. They still have their uses however: dogs herd sheep and cattle; they assist with the hunt; they protect properties; they are used as guides to the blind and as police dogs sniffing out drugs; cats have more modest uses: they chase rats and mice. Yet most of us consider both dogs and cats principally as pets. While 90 million dogs are owned in the United States, there are 94 million cats and 600 million around the globe. They are our companions. This has not always been the case. Cats were worshipped as gods in Ancient Egypt; they became dreaded during the Middle Ages as agents of the devil and the familiars of witches (a double delusion since there were no witches), and emerged as pets in the eighteenth century. Cats, as wild but especially as a domestic species therefore have a history. It is the course?s aim to use cats as a portal into historical thinking and historical methods.


HIS 199SEM UB Seminar-American Utopias

Professor Wolcott

Oscar Wilde wrote, "A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at." Since the colonial period Americans have embraced utopia as both a literary form and as an opportunity to live their ideals in intentional communities. By the twentieth century American utopian thought pervaded architecture, theme parks, and university campuses. In this course we will read and discuss a variety of utopias, looking for similarities and differences that helped define American visions for the future. In addition, students will be introduced to historical methodologies and have an opportunity to create their own utopia in a group project. We will also take time in class to discuss and implement time management skills, research skills, and other components that lead to success in the classroom.

HIS 203LEC Greek Civilization

Professor Teegarden

Elements of Greek civilization analyzed from synchronistic and developmental views to produce a coherent image of that culture as a living and expanding entity. This course is the same as CL 222, and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements.

HIS 240LEC Alcohol and Other Drugs in American History

Professor Herzberg

In the 21st century, Americans are debating whether to legalize marijuana. But how did marijuana get to be illegal in the first place? Who decided that some drugs are so dangerous we should fight a war against them, while others are so beneficial that entire industries should be devoted to encouraging their use? Why are American debates over drugs so intense and so complex, and why have they produced such a contradictory legal and cultural landscape? This course answers such questions by exploring the rich history of alcohol and other drugs in America: from the Pilgrims¿ beer riots to Prohibition, from cocainized Coca-Cola to crackheads, from Bayer¿s Heroin to Purdue Pharmas OxyContin, from the Marlboro Man to vape lounges, from vipers to hippies to ravers. We will track the changing worlds of drug discovery and commerce; drug use and drug-using subcultures; drug regulation and policing (domestic and global); drug treatment and addiction science; and the shifting, racially-charged cultural politics of drugs.

HIS 243LEC Eugenics

 Professor Rembis

This course is designed to give undergraduates an introduction to the history of eugenics and to situate American eugenics in a broader global context. The course begins in 1883 in England, with Francis Galton, the English aristocrat who created the science of eugenics. It then focuses on the United States from the 1880s to the end of World War II. In the second part of the course we explore the expansion of British/American eugenics to Latin America, and Eastern and Western Europe, including Nazi Germany. In the third part of the course, we explore the history of eugenics after World War II, all the way down to the turn of the 21st century, when the mapping of the human genome and developments in genetic science and reproductive technologies fueled new concerns about eugenics in the United States and abroad.

HIS 252LR Power and Challenges in European History

Professor Dewald

European nations wielded power over the inhabitants within their own borders and exercised tremendous economic, intellectual or cultural, and imperial power over vast areas of the globe. How did Europe since roughly the eighteenth century exercise such influence: and what were the internal and external challenges to influence and power? Themes of the course may include, but are not limited to, interactions and exchanges with other parts of the world; colonization and decolonization; capitalism and alternative economic models; society, class, and gender; intellectual and cultural creativity; science and technology; industry and agriculture; political reform, revolution, and conservatism; and religion and secularization. 

HIS 293LEC The Second World War

Professor Pack

The Second World War was the most destructive and profoundly transformative conflict of modern world history. This course will examine the origins, key decisions, major turning points, and consequences of the war from several perspectives. Because war constitutes one of the most terrible and all-embracing aspects of the human experience, considerable time will also be devoted to non-military aspects: daily life, propaganda, culture, and some of the ethical and practical dilemmas faced by ordinary people and leaders alike. 

HIS 294LEC Holocaust: History, Culture and Memory

Professor Pines

How did the Holocaust happen? How was the Final Solution developed and executed? How have victims, perpetrators, and bystanders written and re-written the accounts of what happened? And how do we remember this today? This course places the Holocaust in the broad context of Western history, thought, and culture by focusing on a variety of sources that include survivor testimonies, novels, and political theory. We will study classic texts such as Elie Wiesel's Night, Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem, and Art Spiegelman's Maus. We will also view selected films, among them Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, and Alain Resnais' Night and Fog. This course is the same as JDS 208, and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements.

HIS 301DIS Historical Writing

Professor Barclay
Professor Casteel
Professor 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.

HIS 306LEC Special Topics: Imperial Russia

Professor K. Zubovich

This course explores the history of the Russian Empire from 1682 to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917. We will examine the modernizing efforts of Peter I and Catherine II, the expansion and consolidation of the country’s vast and diverse empire, and the powerful ideas and movements that threatened to topple Russian autocracy in the nineteenth century. In the final weeks, we will explore the revolutions of 1905 and 1917.

HIS 322LEC Latin America: Culture and History

Professor Trumper

The leaders of the newly independent Latin American nations faced a multitude of problems. Geography, culture, economics, and political rivalries doomed most Latin nations to chaos and economic underdevelopment. The first part of this class will focus on the colonial legacy and nineteenth century frustration. The class will examine two unique attempts to grapple with those problems in Haiti and Paraguay. The next two sections will cover failed attempts at reform in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay and then study equally futile revolutions in Mexico, Cuba, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. The fourth section of the course will focus on current problems, including drugs, debt, immigration, and the looming pressure of the United States.

HIS 328LEC History of Brazil

Professor Langfur

Examines major topics in Brazilian History, including the conquest of Amerindians, the consolidation of Portuguese colonial society, the role of slavery and abolition, the interplay of political independence and economic independence, and the contest between authoritarian rule and democracy. Considers Brazilian women's lives, race and ethnic relations, environmental controversies, and the cultural expressions of religion, music, and sport - all in historical perspective. Covers five centuries of social change, from the arrival of European colonists to the recent past. AAL

HIS 341LEC US Women’s History (1st Half)

Professor Cahn

This course will examine the history of women in colonial America and the U.S. through the 19th century. We will concentrate on social history, looking at how women of different races, ethnicities, classes, regions and ages experienced and shaped their daily lives under the constraints of a given era. Themes will include work, family relations, slavery, childbirth and motherhood, sexuality, and popular culture. We will also look at political issues, including changing notions of patriarchy, women's legal status, the meaning of the American Revolution for women, and women's political activism in the abolition, temperance, and woman's rights movements. The central questions will be: How can we understand these issues historically, and what relevance do they hold for more recent history and our own time. This course is the same as GGS 252, and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements.

HIS 346LEC 19th Century Europe

 Professor Daum

This course is a survey on European history between the French Revolution in 1789 and the First World War. It covers the major political, social, and cultural developments of this "long nineteenth century." The course addresses the emergence of revolutionary and national movements as well as the recomposition of the European map through wars and state-building. It will pay equal attention to the fundamental transformations of society through industrialization, urbanization, and the emergence of a mass public. Cultural and ideological aspects include the rise of modern science, the changing role of religion, and the main ideologies of the century: nationalism, liberalism, socialism, and imperialism.

HIS 369LEC Korean History up to 1800

Professor Nathan

This course traces roughly two thousand years of Korean history, from tribal federations to the rise of early states that vied with one another for supremacy and the eventual establishment of political rule over the peninsula by a succession of dynastic states Silla, Kory, and Chos. The goal is to familiarize students with the major social, cultural, political, intellectual and religious developments in the Korean peninsula up to the start of the nineteenth century, while at the same time placing these historical developments within the wider regional context of Korea’s relations with China and Japan. For most of East Asia's history, the people of Korea had more culturally extensive and historically significant contacts with its two neighbors than they had with each other. For this reason learning about Korea’s history provides a unique window onto premodern East Asia, and the history of these interconnections in turn reveals something important about the formation of a distinctive Korean identity. In addition to reading and being tested on primary and secondary sources on Korean history, students will be expected to demonstrate their ability to discuss and think critically about the material through written assignments. This course is the same as AS 369 and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements.

HIS 391LEC China and the World

Professor Stapleton

Survey of Chinese views of the world order, exchanges in material culture across China's borders, and the ways in which Chinese governments and people have interacted with the world from the imperial era to the present era of the rise of China. This course is the same as AS 391, and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirement

HIS 393LEC Medieval Civilization I

Professor Glodzik

The first semester of a two-semester sequence devoted to an exploration of the medieval European world. This course examines the earlier Middle Ages, from c. 450 to c.1100 AD, that is from the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West and the disintegration of classical civilization to the First Crusade. This course will focus on certain kinds of historical themes and issues and will adopt a certain approach to historical inquiry. The main purpose is to understand the culture and society of the medieval world. How was society organized? What was the mental outlook? What values were assumed or articulated? In particular, what was the role of Christianity, and how did Christianity as a set of beliefs and as a set of institutions influence, and in turn become influenced by, medieval society? In considering these matters, less attention will be paid to a narrative of events than to a scrutiny of key developments and transformations. We will look at the barbarian world, the Carolingian Empire, the Vikings, the development of feudalism, and the circumstances that led to the First Crusade. 

HIS 403SEM Special Topics: Russia and the West

Professor K. Zubovich

This seminar examines the long history of encounter between Russia and “the West.” In this course, we chart this important relationship from the sixteenth century to the present. Readings draw from a range of primary and secondary sources. Medieval travel logs, Catherine the Great’s correspondence with Voltaire, John Steinbeck’s Russian Journal, and Cold War-era films will inform our analysis and discussion of this complex past. In the final weeks of the semester, we will turn to more recent international events with an eye to historical precedent.

HIS 446SEM Topics in Diplomatic History: Human Rights and Humanitarianism

Professor G. Zubovich 

This course investigates the origins, proliferation, and transformation of human rights in world history from the 18th century to the present day. Often portrayed as timeless principles, human rights and humanitarianism have histories—ones that intersect with the birth of nation-states, colonialism, international organizations, media corporations, social movements, and America’s “forever” wars. This course focuses on the heated debates among historians and public figures about the past, present and future of human rights and humanitarianism

HIS 447SEM Health and Illness in US

Professor Rembis

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. 

HIS 472SEM Topics in the History of Science

 Professor Daum

What constitutes “science” in the modern era?  What role do society and cultural contexts—including institutional support, ideological interests, political goals, and gender roles—play for generating and legitimizing scientific research?  What happens when science enters the public sphere, becomes “popular,” and serves as a reference point for political discussions?

Our seminar pursues such questions by focusing on three examples: the history of Darwin and evolutionary ideas in the 19th century; medicine and public health in Nazi Germany; and the role of science and technology in Cold War America.  To gain some first-hand insights, we will also visit scientists from UB departments in the fields of engineering and the natural sciences.

All participants are expected to read and analyze secondary literature and selected sources; write several papers throughout the semester; analyze and present selected films; and participate actively in the class discussion.​


HIS 473SEM Society and Culture Technology in American

Professor Casteel

We live surrounded by technologies. We rely on them for much of our daily routine, but we often take the technologies for granted. What exactly is “technology?” And what is its place in both our past and our present?  In this course we will be exploring the relationship between people (particularly in the United States) and technology. To do this we will examine technology from a variety of perspectives (makers, users, maintainers).

HIS 485SEM Twentieth Century Chinese Politics

Professor Stapleton

China changed more radically, arguably, than any other country in the twentieth century. This seminar explores these changes, which have had and will continue to have major impacts across the world. After a broad and rapid survey of Chinese social and political history in the 19th and 20th centuries, subsequent units examine particular topics in greater depth. Students will complete research projects based in part on primary sources in English translation.

HIS 492SEM Poisons, Drugs, and Panaceas

Professor Liu

What is a poison? How do we understand the effects of poisons on our body? How do we make the best use of these potent matters that can benefit us and the society at large? These are some of the fundamental questions to the history of medicine, and driving ones for this course. Examining the history of poisons through twelve case studies, we will explore the complexity of poison materiality by contemplating the intimate relations between poisons, medicines, and foods. We will learn how the experiences of the body shaped the conceived values of poisons. We will examine the circulation of poison knowledge across social and geographical domains. Using specific poisons as the anchor of our analysis, we will explore the social fabric and cultural milieu in which particular ideas and practices of poisons emerged, flourished, or diminished. One key aspect of the course is to introduce a comparative perspective to the study of medical history. By studying above topics in both European/American and Asian contexts, we will identify surprising parallels, striking differences, and hidden connections between these traditions. Finally, we will ponder how knowledge of poisons in the past illuminates our notions and habits of ingesting and experiencing drugs today. This course is the same as AS 492.

HIS 497SEM Honors Thesis 1

Professor Schen

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.

Fall 2020 Graduate Offerings

HIS 501SEM Historical Inquiry

  Professor Dewald

What is historical knowledge?  How is it put together, and what is it good for?  Those are the questions on which this seminar focuses.  We’ll address them mainly by looking at recent work by practicing historians, asking how they define the problems they study, construct their arguments, and discover and use evidence.  From these examples, we’ll try to deepen our understanding of the topics and interpretive strategies that today engage professional historians.

But those questions specific to the contemporary discipline of history can’t be separated from broader problems that surround all study of the past, and we’ll consider some of those as well.  How much can we ever know the past, given that by definition it’s over and done?  Does the history written within university departments differ significantly from other forms of knowledge about the past, as produced by amateur historians, novelists, social scientists, and many others?  How do our specific disciplinary practices shape and reflect our thinking?

HIS 502SEM American History Core 1

Professor Barclay

This course seeks to introduce MA and PhD students to the history and historiography of America to 1865. That is, this course will help students master a basic narrative of American history through the Civil War. At the same time, it will introduce them to the main historiographical trends of the past twenty-five years.

HIS 504SEM Early Modern European Core

Professor Vardi

This seminar examines Europe from the fifteenth century to the French Revolution of 1789. During these centuries, Europe underwent a series of dramatic transformations: Europeans encountered other regions of the globe and came to dominate several of them; printing increased the speed with which ideas circulated and evolved; other new technologies changed the nature of warfare, enhanced government power, and began the processes that would culminate in the Industrial Revolution. The seminar seeks to provide students with an overview of these changes, and to sketch the main lines of current historical thinking about them.

For this reason, seminar readings will be drawn from recent monographs and other scholarly studies of the period; no textbook will be assigned, but students whose knowledge of the period is weak will be expected to acquire such background knowledge on their own, through reading in standard textbooks and/or Wikipedia. Three short (about ten pages each) essays on the assigned reading will be required, each counting for about 30 percent of the course grade. The remaining 10 percent of the final grade will be based on contributions to seminar discussions.

HIS 544SEM History of the Body

Professor Liu

Why is there a history to the body? If we assume that our biological bodies have remained largely unchanged since antiquity, what account for the diverse perceptions and experiences of the body throughout history and across cultures? Why does a study of the body matter in historical inquiries? This seminar seeks to explore the rich cultural history of the body by reading monographs in the fields of history, anthropology, literature, and philosophy, which encompass both theoretical analyses and empirical studies of the body in varied contexts. The course focuses on, but not limited to the history of medicine, and scrutinizes issues of sick bodies, dissected bodies, gendered bodies, disabled bodies, dead bodies, non-human bodies, among others. In addition, the course discusses extensively the history of the body beyond the Western world, and explores how the body is differentially understood and practiced in Asia and in Africa. In the end, by reading the body literature across disciplines, this seminar aims to not just inspect the body in various times and places, but also illuminate the understanding of our own bodies in the contemporary world.​

HIS 549SEM Topics: US and the World

Professor G. Zubovich

This course surveys the myriad of ways Americans have engaged with peoples abroad. In addition to foreign policy, Americans have gone abroad as tourists, missionaries, and musicians, they have flooded foreign markets with consumer goods, taken part in human rights organizations, received immigrants, and waged wars across the world. This course will introduce students to the methodological debates about the field of U.S. and the World. It will cover both American influence on foreign peoples and the impact of the world on the history of the U.S. in the twentieth and twenty first centuries.

HIS 559SEM Colonial Latin America Core

Professor Langfur

This seminar concentrates on the formation and transformation of racial, ethnic, and gender relations and identities in colonial Latin America and the wider Iberian Atlantic world.  Examining the historical literature on Spanish and Portuguese America between1492 and the early nineteenth century, students will consider how historians have posed and answered questions concerning the legacy of contact, conflict, and cooperation among men and women of indigenous, European, and African origin.  How did native peoples define themselves in the face of European conquest?  How did Europeans view the original inhabitants of the New World?  How did transplanted African cultures, disrupted by slavery, persist or assume new forms in the Americas? How did women navigate restrictions placed on their conduct by a patriarchal church and secular society?  To what extent did colonists develop new American identities incompatible with European colonial control?  By delving into scholarship concerning these and other themes, students will probe how historians have made sense of Latin America's colonial period and its role in shaping the vast region that now comprises the southwestern U.S., the Caribbean basin, Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Students focusing on the Atlantic world, early America, early modern Europe, global colonialism, race and gender relations, identity formation, and subaltern studies will find this course valuable.  As one of our graduate program’s “core” seminars, it is required for history doctoral students who wish to offer Latin America for the major field of their oral examinations.  For others, background in the field is not required, nor is training in Spanish or Portuguese.

HIS 564SEM Imperialism and Decolonization

Professor McDevitt

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the study of modern European imperialism and its aftermath since the 17th century.  It will not be a survey course and therefore coverage will not be the aim. Rather it will exploring different approaches to the rise and fall of imperialism.  By examining the way the history of imperialism has been written and discussing the major issues of the literature, it is hoped that students will gain a broadened understanding of the complex process of imperial expansion and retraction.  

HIS 635SEM Special Topic: Research on Spatial Methodology and History

Professor Wolcott

The last decade has witnessed a “spatial turn” in historiography that has profoundly influenced a variety of sub-fields in History. This course will introduce students to this literature and allow them to develop an independent research project in which a spatial framework is used. Such projects could range from topics in urban history, public policy, geography, or cultural history. The first month of the course we will meet on a regular basis to discusses relevant historical and theoretical works. The remainder of the course will be spent working on your research papers, meeting periodically with me to discuss your projects, engaging in peer review, and presenting your projects to the class.

HIS 701SEM Proseminar on History Teaching

Professor Pack

The proseminar on history teaching is a forum for conversations on techniques and resources for effective history teaching. The focus is on college teaching in a variety of settings and formats; aspects of K-12 teaching and public history may also be addressed. Class meetings involve discussion of short readings and problems encountered in the classroom. The major written assignment is a first draft of a teaching portfolio. This is a non-credit course required of first-time Teaching Assistants (may be taken concurrently with first semester as a TA). It is open to all graduate students. There are no prerequisites.