Thematic History

History Majors: If this is one of your four areas of study, complete one course from the selection below. See Undergraduate Degree Requirements for more details.

Why should we study women's work? Is work the key to women's power or to their continuing subordination? What defines "women's work" and do only women do it? Are gendered divisions of labor an inescapable fact of nature, or can we discover their origin? What types of work have women performed from society to society, across time and space? How have historical and cultural contexts affected women's work? In this course we will examine women's work in a variety of geographical regions in the past and the present, asking how women's lives were shaped by their work, and how their work in turn made a difference in shaping their societies. We will also attempt better to understand what features and meanings may be common to women and their work in different places and times, and how to account for the many differences.
This course examines the history of the great diversity of beliefs, practices, ways of life, and forms of authority among Christians, and especially conflicts about these. Not narrowly theological, the course construes Christianity broadly, treating, for example, society, culture, and art.
This course examines the difficulties and promises of bringing history into the courtroom and the way historians have informed public policy and jurisprudence. Students will identify and assess the major problems of the "historian as expert witness" phenomenon by exploring broad case studies such as: 1) cultural heritage issues such as the Nazi theft of artwork during World War II and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in the United States; 2) big tobacco and public health in the United States and Canada; 3) historical memory and reconciliation in the post-dictatorship political and social contexts of Spain, Argentina, and Chile; and 4) the living legacies of Spanish and Mexican natural resource law in the United States.
The modern bicycle has been present in human lives for less than a century and a half. Yet in that brief period of time it has spread throughout the world and its popularity is near-universal. In this course we will trace the evolution of the bicycle in four distinct ways: as a transportation device, with a gendered component; as a site for the development of human technology; as a commodity for economic development; and as a device for human pleasure, leisure time, and exercise. We will explore its invention, growth, and development from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries in societies around the world. We will survey important developments in the history of the bicycle from approximately 1850 to the present.
In this course we start with an exploration of some of the formal prohibitions of "subversive" texts, images, and sounds. We then move on to identify multiple types of censorship aimed at controlling the circulation of information within different societies. We compare changing historical contexts in which political or religious leaders banned information or activities of individuals and groups and examine the usefulness of dichotomies that juxtapose censorship and freedom. How can the lens of censorship help us explore constructions of political power? What were some of the changing political interest or fears that triggered acts of censorship? What were different forms of violence that accompanied such acts? How can we identify the gendered aspect of censorship, and in what way was censorship shaped by such categories as race, ethnicity, class, geography, age, and experience? Under what circumstances were people prepared to resist censorship, either individually or collectively? Themes include censorship and self-censorship in people's religious practices, politics, and corporate censorship. We will examine evidence from the worlds of art, humor, public rituals, mass media, and education.
A lecture course focusing on Europe in the age of bubonic plague (from 1348 to 1720), with emphasis on changes in climate, food supplies, public health, epidemic disease, demography, and economy. The last third of the course will be devoted to the religious and artistic responses to disaster.
In the 14th century, an infectious disease that came to be known as the Black Death emerged in Asia and spread along trade routes to Europe, killing an estimated 60% of the population in about a year. Using the Black Death as a starting point, this course will examine the history of epidemics across the globe from 1350 to the present day using five case studies: Black Death (14th century); Smallpox (1775-82); Cholera (mid 19th century); Spanish Influenza (1918); and HIV/AIDS (1980s to the present). We will spend a significant amount of the course analyzing primary sources from those who witnessed epidemics, treated the sick, and lived and died during various epidemic outbreaks and attempted to understand them from a range of personal, literary, film, medical, media, museum, and public health perspectives. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze how epidemic and infectious diseases created historical watersheds that have shaped our world history socially, politically, environmentally, and economically to the present day. We will also examine human responses to epidemics in artistic, cultural, and intellectual realms, and the ways in which politicians, medical doctors, national and international bureaucracies, religious personnel, scholars, and everyday women and men debated their philosophical and moral implications. The final weeks of the course analyze contemporary "pandemic preparedness" policy and responses to health threats including vaccine controversies, ebola, and H1N1.
Compares historical narratives about economic theories in their contexts.
From the time of our stone-age ancestors, violence has been a common feature of human societies. Variously expressed as the organized violence of warfare, the smaller-scale conflict of tribes or clans, or the actions of lone individuals, violence is a depressingly-common feature of the human experience. This course analyzes the impact and function of violence from the late-Neolithic onwards, culminating with the more-complex state structures, legal systems, and military bureaucracies that have emerged in the modern age. Topics of particular focus will include the role and function of technology; the impact of warfare on civilian populations; the effect of violence on individuals; legal efforts to frame and define "legitimate" violence; and the mythologizing of violence in historical memory. Students will gain a broad understanding of warfare and violence as expressed in a variety of Western and non-Western contexts including Europe, Africa, the Near East and the Americas. By taking this course, students will develop a greater understanding of the concept of violence as a historical phenomenon, and be better prepared to analyze the place and function of modern/contemporary expressions of violence, both between and within human societies.
Physically, culturally, and socially, humans live through food and drink. Spanning the globe, as nearly limitless omnivores, humans have developed myriad ways of collecting and cultivating food and taking advantage of local environments. We also put food to work socially by creating cuisine. Through cuisine, humans have forged and nourished relationships, communed with deities, and through luxury choices, demonstrated "taste" and laid claim to status. Through the cultural practices of production and consumption of food and drink, individuals and groups have wielded power locally and globally. Food and drink consumption patterns have sustained slavery, poverty, malnutrition, and migration, and have laid waste to the environment. In this global history of food and cuisine, we will explore the physical, cultural, social, political, and economic dimensions of consumption and production and become more aware of how private, intimate acts connect us to the rest of humanity.
This one-semester, 3-unit World History survey introduces History and Education majors to concepts, topics, and methods for teaching World and Comparative history at the appropriate level for K-12 students. The class covers the entire span of human history, from pre-history and antiquity to the medieval and early modern periods to the industrial revolution and the contemporary world. Topics include: the origins of complex human social and political organization; the history of transcontinental and transoceanic migrations; the development of agriculture and early city-states; regional histories and global economies; religion and the rise of early empires; modern state formation; and the cultural impact of technological innovation.
This course will examine the ways in which different societies have defined, understood, valued, mapped, and made their livings in their environment. Also, it will explore how societies and environments mutually transform one another.
This one-semester, 3-unit undergraduate course examines the history of natural disasters. Earthquakes, storms, floods, fires, and droughts have all disrupted and transformed lives, environments, and societies. What defines a "natural" disaster? How have individuals, groups and nations understood and responded to these events? How have ideas about natural disasters changed over time? What are human responsibilities for natural disasters? Taking an environmental history approach, this course offers broadly based coverage of major topics in disaster studies, including cultural and political responses; disaster narratives and representations; changing scientific, technological and cultural interpretations of nature; memory and remembrances; impact of disasters on policy, economy, planning and society. We will explore and compare case studies through time and space. Throughout we will examine disasters as social, cultural and environmental phenomena, develop skills in analysis and interpretation, and consider the changing meanings of disasters.
This course will examine modern histories of memories in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through the institutions and technologies that facilitate recall, such as museums, photography and film, print media and visual culture. We will focus on the moments of tension where history and memory appear to be at odds, where competing interests in the meanings of the past have created social conflict. Topics may include the aftermath of collective traumas (such as Sept. 11, 2001), genocide or war; the role of photographs, television and film in creating visually based memories of others¿ historical experiences; how institutions such as schools and museums, as well as memorial sites, contribute to the social construction of historical memories; or the course may focus on a single historical moment of memory crisis.
This course will examine histories of memories during the “long” nineteenth century (1789-1918) through the institutions and technologies that facilitate recall: museums, photography and cinema, print media and visual culture, as well as academic disciplines which emerged in western civilizations to study memory phenomena, such as history, psychology, archaeology, paleontology and more – many of which were created in the 19th century.  The emergence of modern notions of time and its rapid pace of change will be considered alongside practices of preservation, conservation and the creation of memorials and monuments. Topics may include: the human body as a site of memory (tattoos, funerary practices); Napoleonic and Civil War memorials; theories of extinction; the first public museums; time capsules; tourism and souvenirs; the foundations of the modern university.
The course will examine a range of instances of slavery, including in ancient and medieval Europe, in medieval and modern South Asia, in Africa, the Caribbean world, and in North and South America. The emphasis will be on historicizing individual instances of the phenomenon, that is, understanding why particular forms of the institution appeared in certain contexts, and other forms in other contexts.
This course is designed to introduce students to the theoretical and practical dimensions of public history. Public history is history written primarily for the public and not an academic audience. We will study the work of historians within and outside of the academy who are engaged in educating the public in the places where the majority of people learn history: universities, museums, zoos, YouTube, archives, libraries, film, Wikipedia, social media and on tours. We will also study the ways in which the public is questioning the authority and ownership of history through the creation of their own historical projects.
Food and cuisine are foundational to knowledge of the human past and link the past with the present. In this course we explore the importance of food in its various roles (alimentary, cultural, economic, environmental, religious, social, political, etc.) in shaping the history of the late antique, medieval, and early modern world (ca. 300 to 1700).
In this course we will trace the evolution of sexualities in historical context and the way human societies around the World construct their notions of sexualities over time. We will survey important developments in the history of sexuality from approximately 5000 B.C.E. to the present. We will concentrate on human beings' changing perceptions of the meaning of sexualities and how they relate to the dynamics of the political, cultural, and social movements that dominated World history throughout this period. In the modern period, people have attached meanings to sexualities that reflect deep social divisions between states and societies about the assignment of sexual and gender norms, regulation, criminalization, and sexual politics. We will try to ascertain the historical development of these contested meanings.
Examines how twentieth-century writers debated the role of the intellectual: whether to be politically committed in order to advocate positive change, or to remain ¿above the fray¿ and strive for objectivity? Considers how historical context (war and genocide, social transformations) shaped the role of the intellectual in European societies. Readings may include Woolf, Sartre, De Beauvoir, Arendt, Havel, Said.
History of work, cross-culturally and over time, including slavery, agricultural, artisanal, and industrial work, unions and workers' political movements, and labor market segmentation by gender and race, sweatshops and migration.
Does food have a history? While seemingly a mundane aspect of everyday life, food has been central to cultural meaning, political conflict, religious life, and economic and social systems. Food has also been closely connected, both materially and in the realm of ideas, to bodily health and the natural environment, which will be the key themes of this course. Topics may include: the creation of the modern food system, the relationship between food production and landscape change, the shift from local to long-distance food procurement, the transformation of diet, the industrialization of agriculture, farm labor, the history of nutritional science and expert advice about what kinds of foods to eat, the development of global commodity chains, the environmental consequences of changes in the food system, the origins of public policy initiatives such as the school lunch and farm programs, and the rise of movements to challenge the conventional food system, such as vegetarianism, organic agriculture, and the local food movement. We will focus on historical experiences in their global and comparative context. Through this course, we will explore how a historical perspective can be insightful in understanding the food system.
Why should we study women's work? Is work the key to women's power or to their continuing subordination? What defines "women's work" and do only women do it? Are gendered divisions of labor an inescapable fact of nature, or do they have a history? What types of work have women performed from society to society, across time and space? How have historical and cultural contexts affected women's work? In this course we will examine women's work in a variety of societies in the past and present, asking how women's lives were shaped by their work, and how their work in turn made a difference in shaping their societies. We will also attempt better to understand what may be common to women and their work in different places and times, and how to account for the many differences. Like other upper-division history courses, this one demands substantial reading and writing
International history of a topic of the instructor's choice.
Daily we watch, seemingly helplessly, as people are displaced from their communities, homelands, and countries and subsequently seek asylum around the world, sometimes within our own local southwest communities; is this new, or is there a history to mobility and suffering? Key causes of displacement, such as war, violence, persecution, and modes of terror, and the ensuing consequences of violent displacement, such as poverty, disease, physical and psychological trauma, and vulnerability to human rights abuses, all have historical antecedents. In this course, we explore history of human rights, citizenship and refugee by exploring their relationship with nationalism, imperialism, war and displacement. We consider various local and global schemes to safeguard the dignity of human populations with domestic, regional, and international law, policy, and humanitarian action. A focus on the historical evolution of citizenship law and the nation state will provide clues as to the historical practices of displacement and resettlement.
This course examines the historical context against the theoretical, cultural, political, social, and economic elements of sudden revolutionary upheaval. Revolutions from the French Revolution of 1789 to the Cuban Revolution of 1959 will be studied.
This course addresses the larger chronological and spatial framework around the year 1968. We explore the evolution of political ideas from decolonization to urban renewal, from labor to civil rights. We look at the formation of new categories, new political subjects like student organizations, gender and ethnic-based groups. We follow the effects that the political upheaval of the 1960s had on intellectuals and on political theories. Finally, we investigate the exhaustion and consumption of this global political event in memory and popular culture. The course also questions whether there is a global historical sense to "the sixties." What links these events besides the fact that they are happening in the same decade?
This interdisciplinary one-semester, 3-unit, readings and discussions seminar is designed for upper division undergraduate students with interests in history, geography and cartography. It offers broadly-based coverage of major topics in the history of cartography, including the theoretical turn in the "new cartography," the cultural history of cartography, and the role of GIS. Using case studies from the Anglo-European world, we will examine the role of maps in exploration, colonization, and imperialism; cartographic representation of the New World from European and indigenous perspectives; Humboldtian traditions in the Americas; nation-state border projects; and various genres of mapping. Throughout we will examine maps as evidence, develop skills in spatial analysis and interpretation, and consider how maps can be used by historians and other scholars.
Introduction to historical thinking from antiquity to the present, with emphasis on ideas in European and North American historical writings during the modern and contemporary eras.
A colloquium or small lecture class intended for majors and upperclassmen; topics vary by instructor.