HIST 398 Fall 2023
History majors are required to take an Undergraduate Seminar in History/HIST 398. Fall registration is therefore restricted to History Majors only through the first two weeks of registration before opening to all students on Monday, April 10, so register early!
HIST 398.001: Seeing the Past
Days & Times: TTh 2:00 PM – 3:15 PM
Instructor: Marcus Bull
The value that we attach to seeing something for ourselves, and then being able to describe what we have seen to others, is central to our culture. Seeing is the privileged form of sensory perception and consequently a common metaphor for understanding itself: “I see what you mean,” we say, or “My view on this has changed.” In the criminal legal process, great weight is attached to eyewitness testimony, whereas convictions based only on hearsay are rightly considered unsound. Eyewitness is also a key criterion for how historians evaluate their primary sources and arrange them in hierarchies of importance: in the history books and articles that you have read, you will doubtless have come across numerous comments to the effect that such-and-such a source is reliable because its author was present at the events recorded in it, while another source is of lesser significance because it is second hand. This course seeks to unpick the idea of eyewitnessing in order, ultimately, to think about how historians go about their research, and how they evaluate their sources. What is an eyewitness? What is an eyewitness source? And what exactly is an eyewitness source a source for? The examination of key theoretical issues will be complemented by the in-depth study of a number of primary texts that have an eyewitness or autobiographical component. These texts cover a diverse chronological and geographical range, from the central medieval period to the early twentieth century, and from Europe, Asia and America. These in-class set texts have been chosen as illustrative samples of the many more “ego texts,” as they are sometimes called, that are available to you for further study. They provide opportunities for practising skills of close reading and the framing of questions that can then be transferred to other sources. There are no chronological or geographical limitations to students’ choice of the ego text or texts on which they should base their research project.
HIST 398.002: Encounters in Early America
Days & Times: TTh 3:35 PM – 6:05 PM
Instructor: Kathleen DuVal
This seminar will consider the early interactions among Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans on the North American continent. Why did these peoples come together? How did they make sense of one another? How did they change one another’s lives, religions, political and economic systems, social structures, and assumptions about themselves, others, and their places in the world? In this course, you will write a major research paper on one aspect of cultural interactions in colonial North America.
HIST 398.003: Leisure-Time and the Making of Modern America, 1800-1945
Days & Times: T 2:00 PM – 4:30 PM (Remote Synchronous)
Instructor: Jerma Jackson
Today Americans are deeply invested in leisure. It assumes an almost sacred significance in our personal lives and is widely acknowledged as an indicator of the economic health of the nation itself. Yet leisure has not always enjoyed such widespread consensus. In this course we will turn our attention to a moment when rancor about leisure permeated American communities, homes and especially the pages of newspapers and magazines.
This is a research seminar that uses leisure to explore American life between 1880 and 1945. It was precisely in this moment that working Americans began to enjoy increasing amounts of spare time. Leisure itself changed, too, in this period. Commercial forces overhauled the kinds of leisure activities that were available. By the early twentieth century new kinds of amusements such as movie theaters and dance halls enjoyed increasing appeal in towns and cities throughout the country. These spaces nurtured a set of outlooks, identities and modes of social interaction we have come to associate with modern life.
We will use the array of activities and entertainments Americans pursued beyond the workplace to explore the social, cultural and economic dimensions of leisure. With this focus, we will consider how leisure-time fostered modern outlooks and habits. Our engagement will grow out of historical research and analysis that you will hone with guidance from me. Each of you will write a 20-25-page research paper on some aspect of leisure. You will have an opportunity to choose your topic and conduct original research using primary and secondary sources. We will spend a good deal of time throughout the semester learning how to research, write and revise a paper of this length.
HIST 398.004: Global Cities and Boom Towns
Days & Times: TR 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM
Instructor: Chad Bryant
“Global Cities and Boom Towns” is the capstone course for History majors, but it is open to other students, space permitting. The first part of the course entails a number of readings in modern urban history as well as methodological approaches to assessing primary sources. The remaining portion of the course is dedicated to guiding students toward the completion of a 20-25 page paper, of their own design, based on primary sources. At the end of the class, students will have the option of publishing their work on the class’s website.
Past projects have focused on an American-American jazz club owner in Paris after World War I; the rise of an anti-Chinese political party in San Francisco in the mid-19th century; the cultural wonderings of a US diplomat in early 20th century Seoul; the racial politics of “slum” clearance that preceded the construction of New York’s Central Park; and the local racial and class dynamics in Tuskegee, Alabama that informed white supremacist gerrymandering efforts there in the 1950s.
HIST 398.005: South Africa’s Freedom Struggle
Days & Times: MW 2:30 PM – 3:45 PM
Instructor: Lauren Jarvis
The end of apartheid in South Africa stands out as one of the most stunning events of the twentieth century. This class investigates how it happened. Potential research topics might include (but are not limited to) the experiences of South African liberation leaders in exile, the role of institutions such as the United Nations, the significance of international sports boycotts against South Africa, and the activism of US university students pushing for divestment from apartheid South Africa. A remarkable set of digital archives will make this research possible.
HIST 398.007: Travel Writing
Days & Times: M 2:30 PM – 5:00 PM
Instructor: Michelle King
Imagine you are a British gentleman of the 19th century. You have just settled into your comfy club chair at home with a pipe in hand, ready to digest the latest edition of travel reports from Borneo. Or perhaps you are a schoolchild in America in the 1950s. The latest National Geographic has just arrived in your mailbox, and you eagerly pore over its glossy pages. In either instance, you are probably reading travel writing in order to learn more about foreign lands and peoples, whether to be entertained, edified, informed, titillated or transported.
In this historical research seminar, we will be turning the tables on these scenarios. Instead of reading travel writing at its most obvious level to learn more about foreign lands and peoples, we will be analyzing these works to discover more about the concerns and preoccupations of their 19th and 20th century American and European authors and readers, by asking a series of questions: How, why and in what modes have Westerners written about foreign lands and cultures? How does one’s situation and motivation for travel influence what one sees or records? Do accounts written by Western missionaries, adventurers, scientists or traders differ from each other? What about accounts written by women travelers? How have travel writings by Westerners shaped historical understandings of foreign people and places? Though our examples will be drawn primarily from American and British travel writing on the Middle East, Asia and Africa in the 19th – 20th centuries, the ideas we will explore in this seminar have a relevance and resonance with intercultural dynamics in the present. You will develop your own ideas about historical travel writing by completing an original research paper of 20-25 pages. Each stage of the research and writing process will be guided, so that if you work steadily you will achieve a successful outcome.