Fall 2023 Undergraduate Courses

HIS 141 World History to 1500

Instructor: C. Schen

History 141 explores 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. PRE, AAL

HIS 144 Introduction to Health, Medicine, and Society

Instructor: M. Rembis
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. USH, PRE

HIS 161 US History I

Instructor: C. 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. USH

HIS 162 US History 2

Instructor: S. Handley-Cousins

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.

HIS 181 Asian Civilization 1

Instructor: TBA

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. AAL, PRE

HIS 199 Handmade History

Instructor: C. Emberton

The history of clothing is in many ways the history of civilization itself. How do we come to wear the clothes that we wear? Why does fashion change over time and from place to place? Do clothes simply reflect our personal choices or are they representative of power structures in society? Or do they in fact help create those hierarchies? The purpose of this class is two-fold. Firstly, it is designed to introduce students to the types of broad, far-reaching questions college courses often address, the methodologies used to interrogate them, and the skills required to succeed at UB (including: research skills, critical thinking, oral and written proficiency and ethical reasoning.) To that end, the class will explore the history of the production, consumption, and meaning of fashion and clothing in the modern West from the eighteenth century until the present. 

HIS 199 Mystics, Poets, Kings

Instructor: H. Khafipour

Throughout human history, marginalized communities when faced with oppressive rulers, developed ways to endure, survive, and even rise to overthrow their oppressors. In the power dynamic between the oppressor and the oppressed, intellectuals such as mystics and poets provided ideologies for solace as well as resistance. This course traces the history of Islamic mysticism from its inceptions in the 8th century as an ascetic movement to its transformation to include powerful political movements that posed a direct challenge to the legitimacy of kings and religious authorities in the medieval world. Focused on the Islamic civilization, in this course we will read seminal works by great mystics, poets, and theologians to gain a critical insight into a hidden spiritual world that continues to inspire and shape politics, religion and the arts.

HIS 199 Race and Gender in Another America

Instructor: H. Langfur

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 multiracial yet patriarchal and economically stratified societies. 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 Fashion and the Modern World

Instructor: P. McDevitt

This section is reserved for Honors College students only.

The history of clothing is in many ways the history of civilization itself.  This class will explore the history of the production, consumption, and meaning of fashion and clothing.

HIS 203 Greek Civilization

Instructor: D. 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. PRE

HIS 240 Alcohol and Other Drugs in American History

Instructor: D. 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 "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. USH

HIS 252 Power and Challenges in European History

Instructor: J. 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.EUR

HIS 275 The Wars in Vietnam

Instructor: M. Sheftall

This course examines the causes, development and consequences of the Cold War-era military conflicts that took place in Vietnam and throughout Indochina between 1946 and 1975, with a primary focus on the escalation and decline of United States intervention in Southeast Asia during those decades. The Vietnam Wars cost untold lives -- including 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese – and cast long and enduring shadows over U.S. foreign policy and military doctrine (one need only look to recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to see how true this still is), not to mention over American society and culture in general. This course approaches the Vietnam Wars – to include the 1946-1954 French war in Indochina that saw the beginning of significant US involvement in the region – from military, political and cultural perspectives. Major objectives include exploring how these conflicts fit into the larger global context of the Cold War and decolonization and examining the war experiences of military personnel and civilians on all sides.

HIS 293 The Second World War

Instructor: S. 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. EUR

HIS 301 Historical Writing

S. Handley-Cousins
K. Zubovich
P. Mitchell

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: Politics of Film and Literature in Iran

Instructor: H. Khafipour

This course explores the contemporary Iranian society through the study of social tensions created by poverty-wealth, tradition-modernity, masculinity-femininity, and notions of religio-political authority as reflected in the literature and films of the country. We will read poetry and prose by influential thinkers and follow the careers of filmmakers in our examination of Iran’s social history. The theoretical approach of the course allows students to extrapolate broader patterns and insights, which they can then use in their study of other cultures of the world. 

HIS 307 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. EUR, PRE

HIS 322 Latin America: Culture & History

Instructor: C. 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. AAL

HIS 323 Indo-Euro Encounters

Instructor: E. Seeman

This course uses the death practices of the Huron-Wendats of present-day Ontario and French Jesuits to illuminate religious encounters in early North America. In particular, it examines the Feast of the Dead, a Native mortuary ritual, and compares it with French burial practices. The course also broadens out from this specific example of cross-cultural encounter to others in North America. Readings include scholarly articles, primary sources written by missionaries, and reports of archaeological excavations. Assignments include several short papers based on the readings and a ten-page research paper based on primary sources. PRE

HIS 328 History of Brazil

Instructor: H. 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 356 Social History of Women in the U.S. 1875-Present

Instructor: M. Daxenbichler

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? USH

HIS 367 Women, Gender, & Sexuality in Africa

Instructor: N. Mbah

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. AAL

HIS 372 History of Buddhism in East Asia

Instructor: M. Nathan

This course traces the history of Buddhism from its origins in India to its introduction and subsequent growth in East Asia. How did the transmission of Buddhism through Central Asia influence its development? How did Buddhist doctrines and practices change as the religion became part of the social fabric in China, Korea, and Japan? What impact did it have on those countries? After spending a few weeks becoming familiar with the basic outlines of Buddhism in India, we will examine more closely the development of East Asian traditions of Buddhist thought and practice and the roles they played not only in the spiritual lives of people living in China, Korea, and Japan, but also in the political, diplomatic, material, artistic, and social arenas. The links tying the Buddhist traditions of all countries together will be emphasized, but we will also consider the significant differences they exhibited over time. Although a wide range of Buddhist concepts and doctrines will be introduced and discussed, students are not expected to have any prior knowledge either of Buddhism or East Asian history. This course is the same as AS 372. AAL, PRE

HIS 374 History of the Spread of Christianity in Asia

Instructor: TBA

This course traces the introduction and spread of Christianity in Asian history, focusing primarily on East Asia and giving special attention to Korea. It begins with an examination of Jesuit missions to Japan and China, as well as the role that India played in the establishment and maintenance of these missions. The different Jesuit strategies for accommodating or rejecting indigenous religious beliefs and customs are compared and considered, as well as the Nestorians in China much earlier. Then we turn to the unique way in which Catholicism was subsequently established in Korea, where Christianity has enjoyed unparalleled success in East Asia. We will look closely at how Christianity has affected and been affected by socio-political developments, its interactions with and influence upon traditional Asian religions, its relationship to nationalism since the late 19th century, and its tensions and conflict with colonialism and Communism in the 20th century. It concludes by asking what factors might have enabled Christianity to have such success in Korea (and the Philippines) and compare these to the situation in China and Japan. This course is the same as AS 374 and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their major department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements. AAL

HIS 376 African-American History to 1877

Instructor: J. Barclay

This course analyzes the history of African-Americans to 1877. We are interested in a number of themes including the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the development of particular notions of race in the United States, as well as the methods of slave resistance. The student will be exposed to relevant primary source documents and will be asked to assess and analyze these sources in light of the larger issues in the course. In addition, the student will be exposed to some of the major debates in African American history and will be encouraged to form opinions and convictions on these major issues. The course is interactive and will include sources from the lived experience of African Americans including songs, folktales, and visual culture. USH

HIS 386 The Great Depression and the New Deal

Instructor: C. Casteel

When the bottom dropped out of the economy and huge dust storms blew across the prairies in the 1930s, it seemed as if the social world and nature alike had turned against Americans. But the country fought back against depression and drought in this creative and conflict-filled period. In this course we will explore the ferment of experimentation in politics and culture that marked this era, when ordinary people as well as national leaders forged new directions for American life that continue to affect our lives today. We will consider the implications of the "New Deal coalition," the rise of a strong national government, the development of the Social Security system, the construction of public works, the impact of protest movements and massive strike waves, and the response of artists, writers, and the commercial entertainment industry. USH

HIS 387 Reacting to the Past

Instructor: S. Handley-Cousins

What did it feel like to sit in the Philadelphia state house during the hot, muggy summer of 1787, trying to build a new government from the ground up? How did Americans discuss the most divisive issue in the nation, slavery, in the dining clubs and debate halls of nineteenth century New York City? In this class, students will participate in three 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. USH

HIS 391 China and the World

Instructor: TBA

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. AAL, PRE

HIS 400 Varieties of Fascism

Instructor: S. Pack

Fascism was the novel political phenomenon of the twentieth-century world. It remains one of the most widely known and yet least understood terms in the modern political lexicon. This seminar will examine the origins and development of fascist ideology and practice, comparing and contrasting the various fascist movements to emerge throughout Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. At the center of the course will be the question of whether fascism is best defined as an ideology, a political culture, an ethic or morality, a historical era, or whether the term is a useful analytical device at all. Readings and seminar discussions over the course of the semester will consider diverse historical interpretations of fascism, seeking to understand the social, political, and cultural origins of fascist movements and the processes by which they led to such devastating consequences. In the final weeks of the semester, the seminar will examine fascist-like movements outside of Europe and after 1945, analyzing the similarities and differences they present relative to the classic forms of interwar European fascism. EUR

HIS 415 Topics in Renaissance History: Renaissance Rome

Instructor: J. Glodzik

This course will focus on the city of Rome in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The seminar will begin by examining the fourteenth century origins of Renaissance humanism and the development of the movement over time in the Eternal City. Students will further explore the intellectual, cultural, and social worlds; special attention will be paid to the role of the papacy and the influence of ancient Rome in the literary and artistic spheres.

HIS 418 Comparative Slavery and Abolition

Instructor: N. Mbah

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. AAL, PRE

HIS 419 Special Topics: Oral History

Instructor: K. Stapleton

This course introduces oral history principles and best practices in conducting oral history, including methods and approaches to interviewing, ethical issues, and the maintenance of oral history archives. We will also discuss the uses and limitations of oral history for various types of historical research and interpretation. Participants will design and conduct a group project: an oral history collection related to the history of the UB History Department and plans for making it public as an online exhibition or in other formats. Possible interview subjects include History alumni and emeriti professors, as well as other people with knowledge of departmental history.

HIS 420 Special Topics: Vichy France

Instructor: L. Vardi

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 Nazis and 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.

Presentations will offer supplemental information and a different angle on the issues covered in the week's common readings. These could be films or written texts and a list will be provided from which to choose.

We will watch three films: Sarah's Key, which deals with the Holocaust in France; Story of Women recounts the fate of a woman abortionist during the Occupation; and Army of Shadows describes the hardships faced by resisters. The breakthrough documentary The Sorrow and the Pity narrates political events, but especially the mix of responses to the German Occupation. We will also watch excerpts in class. EUR

HIS 450 Problems in 20th Century US History: 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. 

HIS 454 Special Topics: Latina/os in the 20th Century

Instructor: P. Mitchell

This seminar will examine the history of Latinas and Latinos in the United States (focusing on the experiences of Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, Dominican Americans, and Central Americans) from the War of 1898 through the end of the 20th century. Topics will include migration to rural and urban spaces in the US, community formation, gender and sexuality, labor movements and political organizing, Afro-Latinidad, popular culture and consumer society, and the creation of shared Latina/o identity.  In addition to the required reading, students will complete short writing assignments based on primary source research.

HIS 473 Technology in American Society

Instructor: C. 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 497 Honors Thesis I

Instructor: D. Muller

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.