Fall 2021 Undergraduate Courses

HIS 141 World History to 1500

We will explore the development of societies in diverse regions of the world, from earliest times up to about 1500. Because it covers such a long period of time and such a wide range of places, the course is necessarily selective; it examines some themes and places more fully than others. But during these centuries, all parts of the globe saw the emergence of complex societies, cultures, and political arrangements. By tracing the ways that process unfolded, History 141 seeks to provide students with a broad overview of world history, while also improving their skills of historical analysis and contributing to their understanding of the contemporary world.

We move through time and across geographical and political boundaries, comparing and contrasting across time and placeto develop knowledge of a broad outline of world history. The topics of the course analyzepolitical, economic, social, and cultural and intellectual history to give a broad a view of human experience in the past. We will look at events and developments from the vantage point of participant and observer, of insider and outsider to particular cultures, regions, and states. We will all be historians in this course, reading and analyzing primary documents, as well as our secondary text, to understand the chronology and significant themes of the past.

HIS 142 World History Since 1500

This course will examine some major developments in world history since roughly 1400, with particular attention to the foundational ideas and beliefs that have both inspired and challenged them.

This course is taught by a historian, but it addresses students of all disciplines. It focuses on some of the processes and impulses that have generated a more interconnected and ultimately global world.

Selected topics will help you understand how, why, and to what ends people have migrated and communicated across cultural divides; spread ideas and goods beyond geographical and state borders; and established transnational personal, intellectual and economic networks.

Our course will make you realize, too, the difficulties in and coercive character of many encounters between different societies. Moreover, we will learn about the globalizing effects of culture and the multiple transfers of artistic expressions across time and space.

HIS 144 introduction to Health Medicine and Society

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. 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 161 US History 1

This course will investigate the major issues and events that affected the development of “America” and the United States from early European settlement to the end of the Civil War.

Throughout the semester we will be considering the notion of “Becoming American.” What is an American? Is American identity based on place of birth and geographic residency? Does “American-ness” have to do with one’s race or gender or ideological beliefs? Something else entirely? And, most importantly, who gets to decide who is American?

As we will see, the definition of what an American is—and the question of who gets to call themselves American—has shifted over time

HIS 181 Asian Civilization I

This course surveys the history of Asia from ancient times to 1600, covering the regions of East Asia (China, Japan, Korea), South Asia (mainly India), and Southeast and Central Asia. It aims to provide students with the general knowledge of the civilizations emerged from these regions, exploring their political culture, characteristics of the society, religious practices, as well as the features of science, technology, and medicine. In particular, the course focuses on the interconnections—and sometimes fragmentation—of these regions and their ties to the rest of the world throughout history, as mediated by the movement of ideas, texts, people, and things. We ask the following questions: (1) What made people and things in the past move across different cultural domains in Asia and beyond? What were the consequences? (2) How did the dynamics of cultural interaction change over time, and shift between various places in Asia? (3) How do we understand Asia today as informed by this network perspective? In the end, by examining a combination of primary (in translation) and secondary sources on Asian history, the course seeks to identify many connections that linked together the regions under study, and the transformation of societies upon such vibrant cultural exchanges.

HIS 199 UB Seminar - Race and Gender in Another America

The America we will explore was the first America to appear on a map, a place we now call colonial Latin America. Indigenous, African, and European women and men understood themselves differently there. Our geographic focus will be on the three most dynamic areas of colonial settlement—central Mexico, highland Peru, and coastal Brazil. We will consider how peoples of vastly different origins interacted, fought, formed families, and forged multiracialyet patriarchal and economically stratifiedsocieties. To what extent do our contemporary notions of race and gender help us understand this history? To what extent do they lead us astray? How can this other place and time help us better understand ours? In pursuing these questions students will become familiar with the types of broad,far-reaching questions college courses examine. They will hone their skills in critical thinking, ethical reasoning, research, writing, and engaged discussion while learning about historical methods.

HIS 199 UB Seminar - Afrofuturism

How do you write/right the history of the future? This is a question that has inspired Afrofuturist thinkers for centuries. The idea that writing the history of the past can better help us understand the present is commonly held belief: you’ve got to know where you came from to know where you are going. But does knowing the past necessarily lead you to right/write the future? Writing the history of the past is an invitation to understand the present, whereas writing the history of the future is a call to action inthe present. Indeed, rather than excavating the past to show us what our present is,Afrofuturists write the history of the future to show us what our present couldtobe.

This class is about how Afro-diasporic people have relentlessly and creatively imagined themselves into the future otherwise (beyond preset oppressive scripts) and about the importance of studying those liberatory visions. In his book Freedom Dreams, historian Robin D.G. Kelley asks a question that has doubtlessly motivated all oppressed peoples, but especially those of the African diaspora: “how do we dream ourselves out of this dark place...[?]” (196). And like many before him, beside him and to come, Kelley knows the answer. You just do because “unless we have the space to imagine, and a vision of what it means to realize our full humanity, all the protests and demonstrations in the world won’t bring about our liberation (198).” If we can’t afford to underestimate the power of protest and of struggle, we also can’t afford to underestimate the power of dreaming. Thus, this class is a celebration of struggle and of the creative, visionary and imaginative power of the African diaspora. This is a discussion-based class rather than a lecture course. This course is also project based. The vehicle for our project will be the Impossible Project.

HIS 199 UB Seminar - Memoir and History

All humansconstantly create narratives that tie the past to the present and generate meaning out of their personal experiences. Some people go further, sharing their life stories—or parts of them—with a broader public. In the first unitof this seminar we will consider how and why people construct memoirs and why they appeal to certain audiences. We will practice creating memoirs ourselves. In the second unitwe will examine how historians’ approachesto the pastdiffer from memoir writing and explore how historians evaluate and make use of memoirs as they studythe past. In the third and final unit, we will learn about the practice of oral history and conduct interviewson some aspect of history—possibly experiences of the Covid pandemic—as part of group projects designed by the class. In addition to taking part in a group oral history project, everyone will submit a memoir of their own with reflections on how it was created.

As we study memoir and history, participants in this seminar will also examinethe stage of life known as “the college years” and identify ways to navigatethem successfully (hopefullywith some memoir-worthy experiencesalong the way). For this part of the class, you will do a number of exercises, including keeping a time-management log that shows how you spend your time over a week, taking and handingin notes on a video, and studying UB’s academic integrity policy. We will discuss these exercises in class, focusing on what you can learn from them to help you succeed incollege, including effective time management, good note-taking skills, and a clear understanding of academic integrity.

HIS 203 Greek Civilization

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 209 The American Civil War

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..

HIS 217 Civil Rights in America

This course will examine the African American civil rights movement in America. Following the call to view civil rights from a local perspective, we will study the movement in a variety of locations: from the rural south to the urban north. In addition to examining the nonviolent struggle for integration in the South we will look at activist demands for better housing, jobs, and economic parity nationwide. Rather than viewing the black power movement as separate and divisive we will intertwine the history of black power and self-determination with the history of civil rights activism. Although the course will focus on the post-World War II period, we will discuss the roots of the movement in early twentieth-century struggles for justice.

HIS 240 Alcohol and Other Drugs in US History

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 "crack: cocaine, 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, racialized cultural politics of drugs. 

HIS 243 A History of Eugenics

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 294 Holocaust: History, Culture, and Memory

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 300 Age of Exploration

Bridges the Atlantic by examining European exploration and the founding of European colonies in North and South America, 1400-1800.

HIS 301 Historical Writing

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 306 Special Topics: Beastly Histories

What defines a human? What defines an animal? Throughout the course of human history, people have interacted with other animalsin myriad ways –using them for food, clothing, labor,and entertainment; associating with them as pets and companions; and even appreciating their behaviors intrinsically. Nonhuman animals have been our symbols and models, and they have even channeled the sacred for us. The bulk of thiscourse will explore the interactions of humans with other animals in the context of the Atlantic World, from roughly the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, and will close with more contemporary twentieth and twenty-first century concerns. We will examine how indigenous, European, and African peoples defined their relationships with animals and theconcepts of “animal” and “human.”A key theme in this course is how powerful thinkers used notions of animality and beastlinessto justify the subjugation and dispossession of certain groups of peoples. In particular, we will explore the various ways in which the oppression of animals and disabled people have overlapped in the early modern and modern eras. Using both Critical Disability Studies and Critical Animal Studies, we will explore the relationships between speciesism, ableism, saneism, and racism in the early modern and modern eras.

HIS 316 Early Modern Europe

This course serves as an introduction to European history from approximately 1400-1789, using several key themes. Many dramatic transformations-religious, political, economic, social, intellectual-played a role creating the modern world. This course examines transformations central to the development of the modern and encourages seeing the familiar elements brought about by these changes. This class also strives to show the complexity of this period, including the instability and uncertainty of the changes. Many things about the Early Modern are unfamiliar to us, and in many ways it is an alien culture. Early Modern Europe has a dual nature, and the readings of this course should be a tug-of-war between the familiar and odd; it should be recognizable and strangely distant at the same time. Ultimately, this course proposes that the birth of the modern world, as we know it, was not the only path, and the Early modern period offered many possibilities.

HIS 318 History of Ireland

This course is an introduction to the history and historiography of Ireland from the seventeenth century to the present, with an emphasis on Ireland's social, cultural and political history from the Cromwellian invasion to the Good Friday Peace accords. While the past is important to most modern cultures, it is particularly central to modern Irish society. The past (or various interpretations of the past) is so often used as ammunition in the on-going battle over the relationship between the Republic of Ireland, Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The goal of the class will be to untangle the intertwined threads of history, legend, propaganda, and folklore which comprise the Irish vision of the past. Topics covered include: the 1798 United Irishmen's Rebellion, the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Catholic Emancipation, the Great Famine/An Gorta Mor, the Gaelic Renaissance, the Home Rule movement, the Troubles, the Irish Diaspora, and the roles of the religion, sport, music, drama and literature in the creation of the Irish nation.

HIS 322 Latin America: Culture and History

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 328 History of Brazil

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.

HIS 367 Gender and Sexuality in Africa

How do African women and men construct and reorder their lives on a daily basis? How do they negotiate their positions, ascribed gender roles and identities in familial, communal, and national spheres? What are the salient and socio-economic and political issues facing them? How do they emerge as agents of social change? Examines current policy frameworks and agendas such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and public policy responses to poverty, gender inequalities in democratic participation and socioeconomic development. Interrogates human rights issues and the rights of the girl child as they pertain to social practices such as female mutilation and child soldiers. Analyzes the changing dynamics of households due to the combined effects of transnational migration, HIV/AIDS and conflicts and their gender implications. Revisits opportunities for social change in the face of an increased pressure from globalization, environmental degradation, a growing retrenchment of the state, and many threats to human security. Interposing several theoretical lenses and building on an interdisciplinary approach, this seminar analyzes the agency roles of women and men in particular African countries. The course objects are to inspire analytical and critical thinking in students, to develop research and problem solving skills, and to challenge students to integrate multiple analytic perspectives. This course is the same as GGS 350 and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements. 

HIS 370 Modern Korean History

This course looks at the historical transformations that shaped Korean society, culture and politics in the peninsula from the late 19th century to the present. Attention will be given to Korea's interconnections with events occurring elsewhere in East Asia and other parts of the world as we examine the fast moving events following Korea's forced opening in 1876 by Japan. Included among the major historical events and issues that will be covered in this course on modern Korean history are imperialism and self-strengthening efforts, the period of Japanese colonial rule and its effects on Korean society and politics, the division of the country after 1945 and the Korean War, authoritarianism and military dictatorship in the South, along with the concurrent industrialization and economic development of the 1960s and 70s, student protests and democratization in the South, post-war developments in North Korea, current problems in inter-Korean relations and the prospects for unification in the peninsula. This course is the same as AS 370, and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements.

HIS 391 China and the World

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 requirements.

HIS 394 Medieval Civilization II

The second semester of a yearlong sequence devoted to an exploration of the medieval European world. It is not assumed, however, that students enrolled in the course have previously taken HIS 393 Medieval Civilization I. HIS 393 examined the earlier Middle Ages, from c.450 to c.1100. HIS 394 will consider the later period, from c.1100 to c.1500. This period was marked by new patterns of spiritual and intellectual life, by the emergence of new ideals of aristocratic demeanor and behavior (chivalry and courtly love), by the growth (and the decline) of papal authority, by the re-emergence of cities, and the revival of monarchical power. 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? A particular focus will be the role and significance of Christianity. How did Christianity as a set of beliefs and as a set of institutions influence, and in turn become influenced by, medieval society?

HIS 395 Special Topics: Women of Early Modern England

This course explores the roles of women within early modern England (1500-1750) from Queen Elizabeth I to those of the lowest classes. Patriarchal cultureand pre-existing theories about the female body labeledwomen as inferior, restricting them based upongender and sex. Yet early modernwomen wereoftenresourceful,wieldingmoreautonomyand influence than we recognize. We will examine both primary and secondary sources tolearn about women’srolesin medicine, family life, labor, religion, politics, thelegal system, and more.This class focuses on imbedding us into a different period, where we can learn aboutthe women of early modern England, their contributions, their lives, and theagencyof those,we might be quick to dismiss as powerless.

HIS 403 Special Topics: Cold War in Latin America

This course explores the history of state-sponsored violence in the Americas paying particular attention to violence, memory, repression and human rights, as well as tireless efforts to contest authoritarian regimes. We begin the class with a range of broad writings that map the contours of growing field of the history and anthropology of violence, and the hemispheric history of the Cold War in the Americas. In the weeks that follow, we pay close attention to Chile, Argentina, and Brazil as case studies that illuminate these larger histories. We set each national case study in historical context, discuss key readings, and watch and analyze a film that develops the themes embedded in each place and time.

HIS 418 Comparative Slavery: Africa, America, and the Caribbean

This seminar examines slavery in a global context, by comparing and contrasting systems of slavery and slave experiences from classical Greece and Rome, through Medieval Europe and Islamic Mediterranean Slavery, to the Modern Atlantic (slavery in Africa, Europe, and the Americas). The course demonstrates how slavery went from a common human practice to a racialized operation in the modern period. It is divided into five parts: old world slavery, colonial slave systems, slave societies, slavery and gender, and slave soldiers. Throughout the course, we will seek to understand how and why the institution of slavery changed over time and why it was different from place to place. This course is the same as GGS 418 and university repeat rules will apply.

HIS 419 Special Topics: Sexual and Reproductive Health

In this class, we will study how cultural ideas about sexuality and reproduction have influenced medical treatments and medical care in the U.S. since the 19thcentury. What factors, other than disease, drew physicians’ attention to our reproductive organs? How did patients’gender, race, and class influence how physicians thought about their health issues?What expectations did patients have towards medicine? Topics will include, among others,the medicalization of pregnancy and childbirth, abortion, circumcision, STIs, and gender affirmation treatments.

HIS 420 Special Topics: Vichy France

The course examines wartime France, starting with the defeat in June 1940 and the Vichy regime established thereafter in southern France,its relations with German-controlled northern France and the extent of collaboration with the Nazisand the advent of resistance. The readings cover these aspects from scholarly perspectives and are crucial to the understanding of the period. Students will write response papers to the readings at the start of (just about) each class, aided by prompts provided beforehand. These will be entered in a blue book that I will provide. I will be looking for your ability to focus on the arguments of each reading, and for improvement over time, as you get to read my comments.

HIS 438 European Intellectual History

An introduction to the intellectual history of Europe since the Enlightenment studied through analysis and important documents of philosophy, political and social theory, literature and art. A central focus of this course will be the consciousness of a crisis of modern society and culture that permeated broad sections of nineteenth and twentieth century thought. The course begins with an examination of the humanistic values of the Enlightenment, traces their fate in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and concludes with the question of their survival in our time. Readings will be selected from a variety of thinkers - Voltaire, Goethe, Hegel, Marx, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Kafka, Max Weber, Freud, Brecht, Sartre, Orwell, and Foucault - representing a broad spectrum of philosophic and political opinion. At the same time an attempt will be made to examine the history of ideas within the broader framework of the political, social, economic, and cultural history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

HIS 447 Health and Illness in American History

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 healthcare as a form of ¿biopower,¿ that is, as a tool of governance in American social hierarchies of citizenship, race, gender, class, and sexuality. Students will have the opportunity to find and analyze historical documents in a substantial research project.

HIS 473 Technology in American Society and Culture

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 497 Honors Thesis I

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.