Graduate Courses

Sample Course Offerings

HIS 500 Doing History

This course is intended to introduce incoming MA students to the study and practice of history. Some of the questions we examine will be theoretical: the nature of historical knowledge, the kinds of topics that historians address, the meaning of truth itself. Others, such as the way in which the orthodoxies of professional historians have changed over time, will be more historiographical. And still other questions will be methodological. We’ll engage the ways historians read for argument; we will consider how to find historical sources, as well as the kinds of inference different sources permit; and we will analyze the ways historians balance a desire to write for narrative with a need to write for argument. This course’s fundamental goal is to introduce MA students to the skills they will need in both their research and course work.

HIS 501 Historical Inquiry

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 502 US Core 1

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 504 Early Modern Europe Core

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 507 Asian History

The Asian Core seminar is designed to introduce key themes and works in Asian history and give students the opportunity to explore and write about the literature on Asian historical issues that most interest them. It seeks to meet the needs of those who are preparing a major or minor field in these areas, those who are focusing on other world regions but realize they need to know something about Asia, those who are preparing to teach Asian or other world history in primary and secondary schools, and/or those who are working on Asia in other disciplines and who need to deepen their understanding of the history of the region. It also provides an introduction to the historical profession in the U.S. and around the world and how Asianists fit into it.

HIS 526 The Role of the City in American History

This readings course will introduce students to the major themes and historiography in American Urban History from the eighteenth century to the present. We will examine some of the theoretical underpinnings of urban history and view American cities in their global context. Topics will include the political economy of cities, race relations, gender and sexuality, immigration, and environmental history.

HIS 550 “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”: "Home” and the Politics of Place in the African Diaspora

This course explores place-making and place-taking as forms of resistance among Afro-descendants in the Americas from the 1500s to the present. People of African descent resisted forced displacement, enslavement, dehumanization, exploitation, discrimination and exclusion through flight, as well as through diverse forms of radical stasis. But to “stay” or to “go” was in many senses a false choice, as peoples of African descent found themselves besieged regardless of their decision to move or to stay put. Freedom, dignity and equality remained (and to a degree continue to be) elusive.  

In this class, we will explore examples of flight (including marronage, migration and repatriation), and examples of staying-in-place (such as affirmations of citizenship/belonging, rights-claiming and strategic assimilation). However, we will also explore examples of responses that map less neatly onto a resistance/assimilation continuum, or that reject the continuum altogether. Faced with the choice to stay or go, some afro-descendants chose something akin to “hovering.” That is, they chose to stay but refused the demands and the terms of assimilation. In this class, we will examine “hovering” as a form of resistance and radical politics that has not been adequately explored by historians of the African diaspora and that has the potential to reveal to us elements of Afro-Diasporic liberatory thought that have yet to be recognized. 

This is a research-intensive course that is framed around one central project to which all students will contribute. Each student will be responsible for a major research contribution in the form of a 25-page paper, which will be subjected to peer critique. All papers will then be brought together in the form of a “book.” Class members will work together to title and organize the volume, as well as to write an introduction to the collected works. This course is appropriate for graduate students and advanced undergraduates, especially those writing or preparing to write senior theses on related topics. However, all students excited about the subject matter and eager to participate in a rigorous course are welcome!

HIS 552 Advanced Reading

This course is intended to provide the graduate student with the opportunity to develop, with a faculty member, an intensive reading program in a specialized subject. Courses may be taken more than once; be mindful that it is not in your best interest to more than 25% of your total credits in independent study—see the director of Graduate Studies for guidance. Variable credit to be recommended by instructor.

HIS 568 Women, Illness, Health

This course explores how women’s illnesses have been experienced, understood, and treated from the 18th through the 20th centuries (primarily in North America).  We will examine a variety of perspectives, from the women who experienced illness; to the female family members and healers who historically have treated them; and then to the male-dominated medical profession which rose to prominence by specializing, initially, in treating female maladies.  Other healing professions, such as nursing and psychotherapy, are included as well.  We will look at how the very nature of what constitutes “illness” itself has changed over time; for example, is pregnancy a natural part of the life course or an illness?  In analyzing illness and health, the course integrates perspectives from disability history into more traditional histories of medicine. While historically based, the course also draws upon interdisciplinary sources such as memoir, fiction, and anthropological and sociological studies.

HIS 571 20th Century German Readings

What constitutes German history in the twentieth century? Did Germany follow a “special path” into modernity? Why did the Weimar Republic generate so much cultural creativity—and failed politically? How did the National Socialist society look like? How can we understand the development, under the Nazi regime, from discriminatory practices to a genocidal war and the Holocaust? How did the Germans after 1945 deal with the Nazi past? Why was the “German Question” central to the Cold War and its end? And what made the two German societies distinct (and, at times, comparable) during the Cold War?

These are some of the questions that we will address in this seminar. It will introduce participants to the long-term developments as well as the dramatic ruptures—and frequent political regime changes—in German history. This seminar will explicitly deal with historiographical questions: How have historians interpreted the twisted history of twentieth-century Germany? What methodologies and sources have they used? Why do historians of Germany disagree so often in their interpretations?  What do their controversies tell us about our society as well as the historical issues that still impact us today? In responding to these questions we will be reading secondary and exploiting contemporary films, autobiographical accounts, journalistic, literary and visual sources.

HIS 575 Problems in French History-Paris Capital of Modernity

With the French Revolution, the subsequent revolutions of 1830 and 1848, and the Commune of 1871, Paris in the nineteenth century was a hotbed of radicalism, welcoming (but then also at times expelling) nationalist rebels from other countries. This intellectual and social ferment is supplemented in the twentieth century by arrivals of colonial subjects who furthered their education in France and created their liberation movements there. Similarly African Americans came to Paris for the personal and creative freedom it offered.

Paris was also an architectural marvel, completely rebuilt from 1850s-1870s under Napoleon III and Baron Hausmann, with new streets, boulevards, parks, and a model sewer system, all of which erased the inner city slums. Urbanism had developed around the notions of circulation and perspectives: new building regulations required windows that let in air and sunshine; boulevards led to the great buildings of the past, which were carefully preserved. This transformation was admired and copied throughout the world. It also nurtured nostalgia in painters and poets for a less “readable” city. France showed off its urban, technological, and artistic prowess in a series of world fairs in 1867, 1889 (when the Eiffel Tower was erected), and 1900.

Paris became a magnet for French and foreign artists who came from the four corners of the world to learn but also to push the boundaries of modern art. They introduced new ways of seeing the world in their paintings, their writings and their music. Paris was a cultural hub that can be explored on so many levels. It was the capital of Bohemia, of the cancan, popular dance-halls, and modern advertisement.

We will look at all three aspects: Paris as a model of urban renewal, Paris as the capital of radicalism, and Paris as a cultural center. We will read monographs and articles; watch films; look at art. The assignments will include a historiographical essay, a short and then a longer research paper on topics of your choice related to modern Paris.

HIS 598 Project for MA Students

A department requirement is the completion of a special project by each person wishing to complete the MA program. This requirement consists of a written essay of graduate-level quality, representing the equivalent of the work of a one-semester course (3 credits). This essay may be a project based on primary source materials. The project affords the student an opportunity to read and write extensively on a narrowed topic of special interest to him/her. The essay will be written under the supervision and with the approval of an advisor appointed by the Director of Graduate studies. This project may be carried out in a 600-level seminar, with the consent of the instructor, but often it will be done independently under the number 598 or 612, with the guidance of the assigned advisor. Register with Graduate Program Assistant – Park 543.

HIS 599 Departmental Colloquia

Please see director of Graduate Studies for information

HIS 600 General Exam Readings

This course is intended to prepare graduate students to take their PhD qualifying/general exams. This is an intensive reading program in a specialized subject with a faculty member. Variable credit to be recommended by instructor; may be taken more than once.



HIS 605 Research Seminar on Imperialism and Colonialism

The main purpose of this class is to guide students in the preparation of a substantial essay of original research. To this end, each student will write a seminar paper of between 7,000 and 8,000 words (inclusive of notes) that is based on primary sources and engages the relevant historiographical and methodological debates in the scholarly literature. When devising a paper topic, students should feel free to interpret "imperialism and colonialism" broadly to include formal and informal imperialism, colonialism, post-imperialism, post-colonialism, neo-imperialism, etc.

HIS 606 Research Transnationalism

The main purpose of this class is to guide students in the preparation of a substantial essay reflecting original research. To this end, each student will write a seminar paper of between 7,000 and 8,000 words (inclusive of notes) that is based on primary sources and engages the relevant historiographical and methodological debates in the scholarly literature. Some class sessions will be devoted to detailed analysis of articles written by people near the beginning of their scholarly careers, some for discussion of techniques related to research and analysis, some for workshopping of research proposals and rough drafts, and some for formal presentation of advanced projects. Participants are free to choose topics of interest to them and are encouraged to draw on the expertise of faculty across the department and beyond for advice on research and historiography. This course is intended primarily for students in the second year of their History graduate program; first-semester students may be admitted with the approval of their advisers and the DGS.

HIS 612 Advanced Research

This course is designed to allow a graduate student to receive training in advanced research in history under the tutelage of a member of the History Department. See the Director of Graduate Studies for guidance. Variable credit to be recommended by instructor.

HIS 680SP Health, Medicine, Disability and the Body

In this research seminar, graduate students will be encouraged to pursue research topics related to the history of medicine, health, illness, disability, and the body in any time period. Special attention will be given to the methodological and theoretical approaches historians employ in researching and writing about these specific topics. Students will be expected to use both primary documents and secondary research to write a publishable length term paper–(8000-10,000 words) and will engage in other skill building exercises throughout the semester.

HIS 700 Thesis Guidance

Writing and submission of dissertation chapters under the supervision of your major professor/committee chairperson. Variable credit. YOU MUST BE A.B.D. TO REGISTER. PERMISSION OF INSTRUCTOR REQUIRED.

HIS 701 Proseminar on History Teaching

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.