Aims of the Comparative and Global History Minor

As part of their preparation for a doctorate in history, students in the Rutgers University graduate program can elect to pursue a minor in comparative and global history. Although training in comparative methodology and global perspectives have frequently informed the research and writing of students opting for the minor, and a number of students have written comparative dissertations, most participants in the program specialize in more traditional historical fields, such as United States, Latin American or European cultural, social or diplomatic history. A key dimension of the program is the preparation of participants for teaching college courses with global and comparative breadth and themes.

Non-western expertise and specialized language training are not required for participation in the global and comparative history program. Rather, the minor is structured to introduce graduate students to the challenges and rewards of comparative and global approaches to history. Participants in the program are encouraged to think broadly and cross-culturally, and to give serious attention to the integration of relevant theory into their historical research, writing, and teaching.

Completion of the minor gives Rutgers Ph.D's the ability to teach cross-cultural courses on topics ranging from slavery and race to imperialism and social protest as well as courses that cover key regions, such as the Atlantic world or the Pacific Rim, or global developments in particular historical phases, ranging from the classical world to the twentieth century. In some cases, participants in the minor program acquire a sufficient concentration of course work in particular non-Western areas to make it possible for them to offer undergraduate courses on cross-cultural confrontations, such as those between China and the West, nomads and civilization, the Pacific century or the Vietnam wars. The additional areas of teaching competence provided by the global and comparative history minor have proved an invaluable asset for many Ph.D.s competing for academic positions defined by their major areas of graduate study, such as modern European or United States history.

Core Courses and the Minor Exam

Normally graduates participating in the program take the colloquia in comparative history and global history in addition to a seminar on a key theme in world or comparative history that make up the core of the minor. Students usually take a fourth course on a particular theme in global history or elect to do independent work on a specific non-Western area with one of the faculty associated with the program.

In consultation with two faculty advisors associated with the comparative and global history program, each minor candidate compiles a personal reading list on which questions for the minor exam are based. Students select three thematic areas in which they wish to concentrate their readings and exam preparation. Past choices have ranged from the origins of imperialism and gender in colonial societies to slave systems and modern world systems theory. Several exam formats are possible, including a week-long, take-home essay on one of the student’s areas of concentration.

Colloquium in Comparative History

This colloquium provides an introduction to the methodology and some of the key works of comparative history. The course explores different approaches to comparative history, techniques that are essential to successful comparative analysis, and the problems and rewards that historians encounter in researching and writing comparative studies. Key works in comparative history are critiqued both collectively and individually, and each participant is expected to prepare a review essay on comparative works relating to a key theme in world history and a book prospectus for a possible study on comparative history in their area of special interest.

Colloquium in Global History

Working from common readings on approaches to global history, such as the world systems framework, cross-cultural interactions or themes in world development, the colloquium focuses on key processes in global history, such as the slave trade, or pivotal historical periods when interregional and cross-civilizational contacts were particularly intense, such as the Age of Islamic and European expansion, the age of "high" imperialism or the centuries that witnessed the rise of a Pacific system of trade, war and cultural exchange.

Seminar in Comparative and Global History

Each of these one-semester seminars is organized around a critical theme or process in global history. These can range from feudalism or nomads and civilization to migration and revolution. After an orientation to the key issues and literature on the theme or process under consideration, participants write and critique papers comparing patterns in their own areas of research interest to developments in other areas and the theories or arguments advanced in the broader theoretical literature.

Independent Research in Global History

Students work independently with one or more instructors on a mutually agreed upon topic that is genuinely global in scope.