Courses

Spring 2015

510:503 Africa in World History: Politics, Trade and Global Connections
Professor Carolyn Brown

This is a African history course that focuses on the dynamic relationship between Africa and other areas of the world. It takes the perspective of political economy, organized largely chronologically and focuses on the commercial/economic interactions between Africa and the rest of the world. The course is organized around four somewhat overlapping historical periods: (1) Pre 15th century; (2) 16-18th century; (3) the 19th century and the (4) present. The primary nature of these contacts are labor (both African and other) and trade , both of which intersect in ways that produce particular political forms and contradictions both in Africa and the contact country. The production of export commodities often require the restructuring of labor systems and political structures to redirect labor from food production to producing for the world market. Thus some of these connecting linkages are trade in specific commodities (e.g. gold, cocoa, palm oil, ivory, diamonds, rubber, uranium, oil) and forms of labor ( exported and imported) . They allow us to discuss the nature of the political change in particular periods. The course also uses a series of themes, some economic, others socio-political, that allow students of various regional fields of history (i.e. diaspora, Europe, Latin America, India, etc.) to become familiar with the historical processes in Africa and the impact of the contact between the African continent and their area. Students of various fields and disciplines will be able to use this course to ‘globalize’ their area/time period of specialization through a focus on Africa. This will serve as an example of how to integrate a continent into a global history course.

Below are examples of themes to be covered:

  • The role of the slave trade ( and struggles over it’s abolition) in stimulating state formation in Africa and accelerating the ascent of new political classes in Europe.
  • The importation of Indians as indentured labor in East and Southern Africa and the political consequences and complexities that ensue.
  • The role of African gold (from the trans Saharan trade) in Europe’s commercial revolution and the formation and destruction of African states in West and East Central Africa.
  • International commodity networks such as diamonds that link South Africa with Amsterdam
  • Indian cloth exports to West Africa during and after the slave trade; Netherlands Dutch Wax prints designed in East Indies and exported to Africa as ‘African’ cloth .
  • The creation of creole coastal cultures in West (Krio in Sierra Leone, Saro in Nigeria, Amaro in Benin) and East (Swahili) with centuries of contact with Latin America, the Middle East (e.g. Iran) and Asia (India)

Mining and conflict: oil and the Niger Delta uprising; multinational corporations (e.g. AREVA) , religious conflict (Boko Haram, El Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and uranium in the Sahel

510:535  Colloquium in the History of Technology: Early Modern Atlantic & Global Exchanges
Professor James Delbourgo

This colloquium is specially designed to serve the needs of graduate students with several different ranges of interest: early modern history; Atlantic and colonial Americas history; global and diasporic history; and history of science, technology, environment and medicine. It asks what kinds of histories can now be written that recast our understanding of the entanglements of natural and cultural actors in the age of the ‘Columbian Exchange’ and the ‘First Globalization’ of the early modern era. We will not privilege scientific knowledge but see it as bound up with a range of material encounters in natural environments that involve humans from different societies, non-human animal life-forms, and artificial entities. We will address classic imperial themes like European colonial botany, bio-prospecting, collecting and natural history, but also shift our approach to consider a variety of perspectives not centered on European actors that link human experience and knowledge with plants, non-human animals and other entities. One general question thus concerns how it is now possible to write the history of knowledge of and intervention in the natural world using some notion of entangled histories, both human and not. More specifically, we will examine how recent scholars have wrestled with questions of material practice and writing about non-human actors’ histories, without losing sight of the inevitably mediated character of all human knowledge of such actions. Likely topics include the relation between global commerce and capital, natural history, medicine, and object and visual knowledges; the production of proto-anthropological bodily and racial surveys of human societies; the question of long-distance networks, how they operate, and who or what operates through them; the role played by technologies and instruments in mediating cultural encounters between different peoples; environmental histories that integrate non-human and human animals, ranging from livestock to mosquitoes to microbes; the relationship between the Atlantic slave trade, the circulation of African botanical knowledge, healing prowess and associated spiritual practices; the distinctive politics of Creole knowledges in Spanish and British American settler societies; the careers of go-betweens and cultural intermediaries who provide access to natural knowledge and resources across radically different cultural settings; and early modern histories of energy, environment and infrastructure. We will engage with a selection of theoretical readings in conjunction with a range of empirical case histories, while keeping our focus on the practical intellectual utility of what we read for students’ own future research projects.

510:599 Readings in Modern European History  
Professor Jochen Hellbeck

Prospective students who wish to discuss any aspects of the course should contact Professor Jochen Hellbeck at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

510:631  Colloquium in Latin American History: Readings in Latin American History, 1750-2014
Professor Mark Wasserman

Tentative Topics: The Transition from Colonial Rule to Independence (Bourbon reforms, rebellions, independence); The Struggle for Stability (caudillos, civil wars, war and gender, export economies); Turn of the [20th]Century Upheavals (Populism, revolution, urbanization, industrialization, immigration, labor, modern women); Left and Right Alternatives (Populism- the sequel, democratization, the great terror, democratization -the sequel); poverty and progress; issues in economic development.

Fall 2014

510:541   Colloquium in Global History: Rethinking Modernity
                  Professors Toby Jones and Jackson Lears

In recent decades, the concept of modernity has been challenged from a variety of conceptual and ideological perspectives. But it continues to inform public discourse, perhaps more intensely than ever in an era when Western apologists for modernity are deploying doctrines of progress against Islamic enemies, actual and imagined. This seminar provides a comparative history of modernity by exploring the key narratives underlying it—rationalization, secularization, industrialization, commodification, and the like. Our task will be to understand the inner logic of these narratives, but also to probe their weaknesses and strengths. If we are lucky, we may come up with a more capacious notion of modernity--one that includes “alternative modernities,” as some contemporary theorists advocate. Or we may decide to discard the concept altogether.

Spring 2014

510:511 Colloquium in Comparative History: Latin America: Global History
Professor Grail Triner

Prospective students who wish to discuss any aspects of the course should contact Professor Gail Triner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

510:514  Aproaches to Global History
Professors Michael Adas and Benjamin Justice

The course focuses on major issues and approaches relating to teaching, writing and thinking about global history and cross-cultural comparisons of and interactions among major human societies from pre-historic times to the present.

510:534 Colloquium in Environmental History: Global
Professor  Toby Jones

Prospective students who wish to discuss any aspects of the course should contact Professor Toby Jones at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

Fall 2013

510:541   Colloquium in Global History
                  Professor Bonnie Smith

Prospective students who wish to discuss any aspects of the course should contact Professor Bonnie Smith at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

510:601    Colloquium in European History: The History of Human Rights
Professor Melissa Feinberg 

In the contemporary world, human rights are a rallying cry for a wide array of groups dedicated to ending all kinds of oppression. As historian Samuel Moyn has noted, the ideal of human rights has become "the last utopia," a new (and better) totalizing vision of a better world, to replace the problematic utopias of Marxism or nationalism. This course will critically examine the historical evolution of human rights. We will take a broad approach to the subject, considering both the intellectual history of human rights as a concept or ideology and the history of rights-based or rights-inspired activism.  While the course will include numerous examples from modern Europe, it will take a global view of the subject and a considerable number of readings will cover other parts of the world.

 

SPRING 2013

510:511 Colloquium in Comparative History
Professor Michael Adas

The Global and Comparative Colloquium will focus on the Age of Expansion and Exploration, one of the most pivotal and controversial eras in world history. In recent decades the sub-field of world history has been revived and in many ways profoundly transformed. As a result, it has emerged as one of the most dynamic, innovative, and visible arenas of research and publishing in the discipline and a core component of many university history programs both in the U.S. and internationally. Designed for both Masters’ students in the Global and Comparative Program and PhD students minoring in Global and Comparative History, the course covers themes, areas and centuries that are essential parts of post-1500 World History courses at all levels.

Through major works dealing with the Early Modern Era (roughly 1450-1750), participants in the colloquium will explore major approaches to researching, writing and teaching global and comparative history. Drawing on some of the pioneering work by Marshall Hodgson and some of his more prominent successors, we will examine in detail and seek, where appropriate, to decenter the place of Western Europe in the global processes and transformations which define the age of exploration and expansion. Participants in the seminar will consider works which approach key, non-European culture areas – in the Islamic arc, East and South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas (including the Caribbean) and the Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions – in depth and on their own terms. We will also discuss the key components of the comparative method and the challenges of cross-cultural analysis, and  the importance of in-depth case studies, the mastery of relevant theoretical works, the literature of the sub-fields chosen for comparison, and critical primary sources. Some of the key themes and topics covered will include the means and motives for expansion and exploration on the part of states and empires in various regions of the globe; the spread of plantations and chattel slavery; the “military revolution:” the impact of science, technology and medicine: shifts in gender relationships and social status; the sources and effects of racial ideologies; conquest and resistance; the expansion of commerce and the rise of capitalism; and the exchange of plants, animals, humans and diseases among the culture areas and regions of Afro-Eurasia and the Americas. Participants will read and track key debates relating to books (or selected portions of same) and articles by influential scholars in the field and their often equally prominent critics, including Sidney Mintz, Geoffrey Parker, Alfred Crosby, Igna Clendinnen, Kenneth Pomeranz, George Fredrickson, and Eric Williams.

In addition to active engagement in ongoing group deliberations, each participant will be expected to co-organize and lead at least one discussion session that focuses on areas and issues that they are particularly interested in pursuing as historians. Together with a short review of  the readings chosen by each student in the groups leading one of the weekly discussions, each participant will write a review essay on a book or essays on issues/themes that are of particular interest to her or him. The review will encompass a broader survey of the literature that results from each of the group critiques and will constitute the major written assignment for the course. We will also discuss ways of developing and teaching comparative and global courses with broad appeal.

510:222   Comparative Colonialism in Asia
Professor Chie Ikeya

This course offers a comparative study of colonial encounters in Asia, and explores various theoretical approaches used to analyze colonialism and its relationship to world history. Recent scholarship on the Japanese colonial empire has highlighted the continued failure of the Euro-American academia to make any concerted reference to Japan, the only “non-Western” colonial power, in its critique of colonialism. Challenging this systemic disavowal of comparability, this course draws scholars and critics of European, American, and Japanese colonial projects in Asia and the so-called semi-colonies of China and Siam into comparative conversations about colonialism and its role in shaping transcultural contacts and global interconnections. It considers specific and wide-ranging historical experiences of colonialism—the way particular individuals and groups negotiated the possibilities and constraints of colonial rule and shaped colonial ideologies, institutions, and practices—as well as important intersections in the goals, strategies, and outcomes of different colonial projects. It aims to problematize the dichotomy of colonizer/colonized by critically examining interactions and relations of intimacy, inequality, and contestation formed across the putative colonizer/secular/modern/West and colonized/religious/traditional/Asia divide.

 

FALL 2012

510:504 Global History: Theory, Historiography & Pedagogy
Professor Allen Howard

This course is designed to provide participants with a foundation in 1) important theoretical, comparative, and historiographical approaches to Global History, and 2) basic issues and debates in teaching Global History. The course sweeps over a long time period from pre-history to the present. It focuses on the Atlantic (West Africa, the Circum-Caribbean, and Northwest Europe), but also looks at some earlier history of Afro-Eurasia. Thus, while members of the colloquium are debating problems in Global History, they will be supporting and illustrating their analysis with local and regional histories from various places. The course is interdisciplinary and seeks to integrate social, cultural, and environmental history into global history.

510:520 South Asian in Global History
Professor Sumit Guha

This course will introduce you to the long history of South Asia with special attention to its peoples’ interaction with the wider world. We shall look at societal cultures, perceptions and political economy. We will consider the movement of ideas and institutions as well as people. It will require two significant papers in addition to the weekly response papers on the readings. The first paper will be a 10 page extended review; the final research paper will use primary and secondary sources on a select topic. This topic will be selected in consultation with the instructor and must be decided by the tenth week of the semester.

 

SPRING 2012

510:511 Colloquium in Comparative History:  Postcolonial Theory
Professor Indrani Chatterjee

Unlike directed reading courses in geographical ‘area’ specializations, this course aims at inculcating familiarity with histories of colonialism, anti-colonialism and the political thought that arose in such contexts. This is a three-part course. Part A establishes the prehistories of trade, war and knowledge networks by the late eighteenth century. Part B lays out four parallel scholarly perspectives on the political –economic arrangements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: the Liberals for and against Empire, Evangelicals, Marx and the Marxists. This section also touches briefly on the ways in which these scholarly perspectives were deployed to understand the pasts of colonized societies in South and Southeast Asian, Latin American and African contexts, and teases out the implications for the politics of the present, such as those of trans-national feminisms. Part C gestures at the continuing material implications of imperialism for the global present.  

These themes and the structure of the course attempts to meet three goals. The first is to familiarize students with regions and histories that they might be asked to teach during and after their graduation. The second is to enable students to deal confidently with the methodological aspects of their own historical craft. The third is to further each student’s analytic skills, to stimulate them to see their own areas and topics of interest in creative ways, to enhance their ability to synthesize disparate matter and to communicate such synthesis intelligibly.

510:514 Approaches to Global History
Professors Michael Adas and Benjamin Justice

The course focuses on major issues and approaches relating to teaching, writing and thinking about global history and cross-cultural comparisons of and interactions among major human societies from pre-historic times to the present.

 

FALL 2011

510:503    African in World History
Professor Barbara Cooper

This course approaches the history of Africa from the vantage point of discussions and debates in global history.  The course strives to de-center Global History by revisiting some familiar themes in global history while placing the history of Africa at the center of the discussion rather than Europe or the Americas.  Issues discussed will include the blindspots of species-centric history, the limitations of an overemphasis upon centralized states, re-conceptualizing the African Diaspora, implications of the slave trade, Africa and global flows of consumption, and the contradictory implications of technology.

Students whose primary interest is a comprehensive survey of Africa in Global History (primarily Ph.D. students and some MA students) will be expected to do more reading and to produce historiographic essays synthesizing developments in key debates.  They may be invited to offer a lecture in the class or lead the discussion where appropriate.  Students whose primary interest is in the teaching of history at the primary or secondary school (many of whom are likely to have major time commitments in teaching elsewhere while in the course) will be expected to do less reading and will produce modules integrating the themes of the course into their own teaching.

Because the continent is diverse and the temporal scope of the course potentially daunting, we will focus on a number of case studies so that students can trace an increasingly familiar set of examples over time. Cases will include the Ethiopian highlands, the forest zone of west Africa, the Congo Basin, the Swahili coast, and my own area of specialty, the central Sahel.

510:505    Islam: A Global Civilization
Professor Sandy Russell-Jones

This course explores the origins and growth of Islamic Civilization. Beginning with a look at the social, political, and religious conditions of pre-Islamic Arabia, as well as Arabia’s role as a center of trade linking the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires, we consider the impact of the life of Muhammad and the revelation of the Qur’an. We will then survey the development of the Caliphate, Islamic thought and culture, and religious institutions such as the legal schools and Sufi brotherhoods. Attention will be given to women’s role in Islamic history and the religious texts, as well as the emergence of sectarian conflict and the construction of sectarian religious narratives. 

 

 

 

 

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