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Fall 2019

  

Ancient ​History


HIST 70310- Thucydides, Politics, Philosophy
Monday, 6:30-8:30 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Jennifer Roberts
Crosslisted with Philosophy, Political Science and Classics
 
This interdisciplinary course will be guided in part by the particular interests of the students who choose to enroll in it: historians, classicists, archaeologists, political scientists, philosophers.  Although there will be common readings, students are encouraged to pursue their own perspectives on Thucydides while at the same time coming to appreciate his relevance to other disciplines.  The text will be read in English, but I am happy to meet separately with students who would like to read selections in the original Greek.
 
A masterpiece of both narrative and analysis, Thucydides’ account of the war between the Athenian Empire and Peloponnesian League also merits study as a work of profound philosophical import.  The work of a man filled with a plangent sense of the sorrows of the human condition, Thucydides’ history offered a non-fiction counterpart to the tragic drama of his contemporaries Sophocles and Euripides. 
 
The father of political science, Thucydides has often been labeled the father of political realism.  We will explore in what ways this is and is not accurate.  Thucydides has been co-opted by one generation after another, on one continent after another, as a spokesman for its own society and identified as the one person who best understood the problems of the day.  From monarchists to republicans in Europe to 20th and 21st century American neoconservatives, his readers have proudly cited him in defense of their ideologies. Today students of international relations wring their hands over the newly dubbed menace, “the Thucydides trap,” a concept that draws parallels between the diplomatic situation that led up to the Peloponnesian War and America’s growing tensions with China.  Both Thucydides and his legacy will be the subjects of this course.
Thucydides-syllabus



Latin American ​History


HIST 77300 - Rural History Of Latin America And The Caribbean
Thursday, 4:15-6:15 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Laid Bergad

 ​"The history of Latin America has been written on and by the land." Eric Van Young
Until the middle of the 20th century the vast majority of all peoples who lived and worked in the region we refer to as Latin America and the Caribbean lived in the countryside. Their lives were defined by agricultural or pastoral production and their varied ‘relationships’ to land, whether as owners, renters, workers, and a multiplicity of other possibilities.
 
In large part their histories are virtually unknown as the historiography of the region has focused on urban areas, political themes, or more recently something that has been referred to as ‘cultural’ although this has not generally included agriculture.
 
Overarching terminologies and labels such as ‘peasants’ ‘haciendas’ ‘plantations’ ‘estancias’ have been used as references to rural life when in most cases there is little analytical or intellectual content associated with the use of these terms from the vantage point of rural peoples themselves who have used an entirely different vocabulary to define themselves.

No auditors.
 

European ​History


HIST 72400 - The Outcome of German Classical Philosophy
Monday, 6:30-8:30 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Richard Wolin
                In 1886, Friedrich Engels wrote a perfectly mediocre book, Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy, which nevertheless managed to raise a fascinating and important question that is still being debated today: how should we go about evaluating the legacy of German Idealism following the mid-nineteenth century breakdown of the Hegelian system? For Engels, the answer was relatively simple: the rightful heir of classical German philosophy was Marx’s doctrine of historical materialism. But, in truth, Engels’ response was merely one of many possible approaches. Nor would it be much of an exaggeration to claim that, in the twentieth-century, there is hardly a philosopher worth reading who has not sought to define him or herself via a confrontation with the legacy of Kant and Hegel.
                Our approach to this very rich material will combine a reading of the canonical texts of German Idealism (e.g., Kant and Hegel) with a sustained and complementary focus on major twentieth-century thinkers who have sought to establish their originality via a critical reading of Hegel and his heirs: Alexandre Kojève, Georges Bataille, Jean Hyppolite, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Theodor Adorno, and Jürgen Habermas. But we will also seek acknowledge the importance of the contemporary North American Hegel renaissance, as exemplified by the work of philosophers such as Charles Taylor, Robert Pippin, Michael Forster, Terry Pinkard, and Allen Wood.
                In his “Discourse on Language” Foucault warns us appositely that, “Truly to escape Hegel involves an exact appreciation of the price we have to pay to detach ourselves from him. It assumes that we are aware of the extent to which Hegel, insidiously perhaps, is close to us; it implies a knowledge that permits us to think against Hegel, of that which remains Hegelian. Thus we have to determine the extent to which our anti-Hegelianism is possibly one of his tricks directed against us, at the end of which he stands, motionless, waiting for us.” Foucault’s insightful caveat will, in many respects, function as our interpretive watchword as we seek to decode and reconstruct German Idealism and its innovative contemporary legacies.
Wolin-Outcome-19-Syllabus

HIST 71600 - Nazism and Holocaust: New Directions
Tuesday, 4:15-6:15 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Dagmar Herzog
The newest scholarship on the Third Reich and the Holocaust – as well as their prehistories and aftermaths – positions these highly fraught historical topics in a variety of conceptual frameworks, both old and newly refurbished, ranging from colonialism to fascism and from eugenics to genocide. Whether antisemitism is best understood as racism or religious prejudice or cynical excuse for cruelty; whether Nazism’s ideological formations were sincerely believed or opportunistically deployed for other purposes – and if so what those purposes were; how questions of gender and sexuality were centered in Nazi policies and shaped the experiences of perpetrators, victims, bystanders, and beneficiaries; what the connections might be between the mass murder of the disabled and the Holocaust of European Jewry; how best to understand the violence of colonial encounters between Europeans and non-Europeans as either literally preparatory for the Holocaust or, together with the history of racial repression in the United States, as both inspirational for Nazi policymakers and as a comparativist resource for deeper comprehension: all of these matters have been explored in the remarkable efflorescence of brilliant historiography of the last five to ten years. Additional new “turns” in the historiography of the Holocaust in particular include the “familial” turn (especially pertinent for understanding life in hiding and in the ghettos) and the “inebriation” turn (germane above all for grasping the atmosphere and practices in the killing fields and in death factories like Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka).
Professor's permission required. Capped at 12 students.
Syallbus - Nazism-and-Holocaust

 
HIST 72600 - Global Enlightenment
Monday, 4:15-6:15 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Helena Rosenblatt
Crosslisted with MALS

The Eighteenth Century Enlightenment is widely seen as a transformative moment in Western culture, one with radical consequences for almost all aspects of Western modern thought. But recent scholarship has also exposed the sexism, racism and imperialism of Enlightenment thought. This course will explore how eighteenth century thinkers perceived of the world outside of Europe. We will consider if the very notion of an “Enlightenment” is Euro-centric and, at best, condescending idea, of little use today and that should perhaps be discarded. We will consider whether regions outside of Europe experienced an Enlightenment too—and, if so, was it different from that of Europe’s? Finally, was there a cross-fertilization between European  “enlightened” ideas and those from other countries beyond? With the help of both primary and secondary sources, we will investigate the Enlightenment from a global perspective.

 
HIST 73900 - Britain and the World
Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Tim Alborn
This course explores different channels of intercourse between Great Britain and the rest of the world between 1750 and the present. It opens with surveys of Britain’s ambivalent location between America and Europe, its status an imperial power in the nineteenth century, and its changing role in the world since then. It then discusses spaces, goods, and people that have framed, moved, and settled in and among British territories and trading partners: including colonial America and the US, India, Ireland, Jamaica, and Australia.  
 73900-F19-syllabus
 

American History


  
HIST 75400- Political Economy of Slavery and Freedom
Tuesday, 2-4 pm, 3 credits, Prof. James Oakes
For many years historians described the Civil War as a conflict between a free-labor capitalist society in the North and the slave labor society of the South.  More recently that framework has come into question by historians who see southern slavery itself as a brutally exploitative capitalist system, different in degree perhaps but not in kind from the economic system of the antebellum North.  This course will take up this issue through a close examination of the political economies of the North and South. Some of the questions we will ask include:  What is capitalism?  What is slavery?  If slavery and free labor were both “capitalist,” why did the North develop cities and industries at a much faster pace than the South?  If slavery and free labor were fundamentally different, why did the slaveholders behave like profit-maximizing rationalists?  To what degree was northern urban and industrial development depend on the profits of southern slavery rather than the dynamic relationship between the city and the countryside in the northern states?  
Fall-2019-Political-Economy-of-Slavery-and-Freedom

HIST 75300- From the Progressive Era to the New Deal: The Contours of Reform
Wednesday, 11:45 – 1:45 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Thomas Kessner
This course focuses on topics in U.S. social, political and cultural history between 1900 and 1940. In this period the United States economy took on a global aspect, foreign policy turned isolationist, roles for women expanded and the U.S. was transformed from a largely agricultural and rural nation to one that was urban and metropolitan. Northern racial ghettoes formed and erupted, immigration was restricted, radicals were deported and the capitalist market surged, only to tank into depression.  The Us responded with uncertainty toward the rise of totalitarian governments in Europe and offered no haven to those seeking refuge. At the same time the succession of progressive politics, World War, prosperity and depression shaped a reform political regime that redrew the parameters of American political thought.   
 Readings will include a sample of classic works along with a selection of more recent monographs and interpretive studies.
Syllabus Contours-of-Reform

HIST 75500- History of U.S. Labor and Capitalism ​
Thursday, 4:15-6:15 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Joshua Freeman
This course will consider the history of work, workers, and labor movements in the context of the changing capitalist economy, from the early 19th to the early 21st
centuries.  While the bulk of the course will be devoted to labor and labor relations, attention also will be paid to capitalist development more generally, including finance, commodity trade, the corporation, and globalization.  Topics will include artisan culture and craft unionism, factory production, cultural perceptions and representations of capitalism, the constitutive role of labor law, labor radicalism, the rise of industrial unionism, gender and race in labor markets and labor movements, capital mobility and deindustrialization, and global supply chains.  Readings will be in secondary works, including both recent and classic studies.  We will consider the historiography of labor and the significance of the emergence of the history of capitalism as an academic field.


HIST 75200- Warriors against Slavery: Lincoln, John Brown, and Frederick Douglass
Wednesday, 2-4 pm, 3 credits, Prof. David Reynolds

 This course examines three leading antislavery figures of the Civil War era.  The three took action against the slave power’s increasing dominance of the U. S. government--Lincoln through politics, Douglass through authorship and lecturing, and Brown through violence. Douglass’s autobiographies, which span much of the nineteenth century, provide a vivid record of slavery, abolitionism, and Reconstruction.  His speeches and journalism illustrate his unceasing commitment to the cause of African Americans. Equally devoted to that cause was John Brown, of whom Douglass said, “I could live for the slave, but he could die for him.” We will trace Brown’s evolution, from his days as an Underground Railroad operative through his antislavery battles in Kansas to his doomed raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, which he hoped would lead to the fall of slavery but which instead resulted in his martyrdom on the gallows. Lincoln worked within the political system to end slavery. His speeches, debates, and public letters stand as timeless declarations of freedom and equality. His firm leadership of the nation during its most divided time established him as American’s greatest president. Despite their different approaches to slavery, these three antislavery leaders were connected in surprising ways. This course explores both the linkages and dissimilarities between the three. It also considers them against the background of the American Revolution, the Constitution, proslavery and antislavery thought, and cultural phenomena such as religion and popular literature. We will read key primary and secondary texts related to the three, including a definitive biography of each.
Reynolds-Syllbus



HIST 75000- The Age of Empires, 1492-1750
Thursday, 2-4 pm, 3 credits, Prof. David Waldstreicher
If “colonial America” is not, or not merely, the prehistory of the United States, then what is it?  In recent decades there has been a turn away from approaching North American and Caribbean colonies as a series of emergent and distinct communities or societies, and toward seeing them first as “contacts,” “contests,” or “conquests," then as an Atlantic and/or Continental world-in-formation. Most recently, these approaches seem to meld and, interestingly, return in part  to an older approach to early American history: a notion of the period as shaped fundamentally by the creation, entanglements, and  clashes of Spanish, British, Dutch, French, and Amerindian empires. Our readings will focus on attempts to use “empire” to understand both the big picture and the local lived realities of American history before the American Revolution. Among the key questions that will occupy us: does “empire” offer something analytically valuable that “atlantic,” "continental" or “global” approaches do not? Do neo-imperial histories have a bias toward certain subjects, interpretations? Do they bring Africans and Native Americans into something like the importance they actually had? Have correctives that emphasize transatlantic or imperial economies, politics, and wars come at the cost of the advances social historians made in delineating the making (and unmaking) of communities and the local experiences of natives, of settlers, of slaves? Where does “empire” leave seemingly separate but arguably central subjects like religion and gender? Has a culturalist sensibility enabled, informed, or set appropriate limits to a revised imperial approach? 

 

History and Theory

 
 
HIST 72300- History and Theory II
Wednesday, 4:15-6:15 pm, 3 credits, Prof. Samira Haj
 
The question of the relationship of theory to history is laden with problems. The objective of the seminar is to explore more deeply the theoretical and analytical concerns that have haunted historians since History established itself as a discipline. The course is de facto thematically-organized as well as interdisciplinary, which by implication means that it will be drawing on different bodies of knowledge, including philosophy, political theory, anthropology, gender and legal studies with possibly some written narratives and accounts drawn from the field of history itself.
 
This course is a follow-up of the first History and Theory seminar and is a continuation rather than a repeat. While it might cover similar themes in more depth, it will not repeat the reading material covered in the first seminar.  The course is therefore open to students that have already taken the first and to all other students interested in the topic.
 
Tentatively, the reading list might possibly include:
Reinhart Koselleck, Sediments of Time: On Possible Histories (2018).
Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx.
Michel Foucault, The Hermeneutics of the Subject.
--------------------, On the Government of the Living.
Kerwin Lee Klein, From History to Theory, 2011.
David Scott, Refashioning Futures.
Colin Koopman, Genealogy as Critique.
Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History and Forgetting
Arnold Davidson, The Emergence of Sexuality.
 R.G. Collingwood, The Idea of History.
Colin Dayan, History, Haiti, and the Gods.
Walter Benjamin, Critique of Violence.

Interdisciplinary


HIST 72200- Mothers in Law
Monday, 11:45am – 1:45pm, 3 credits, Profs. Sara McDougall and Julie Suk
Crosslisted with MALS

This course will introduce students to central issues in the history and sociology of law, through the study of motherhood.  The lens of motherhood will open up broader themes in the study of law and society, including categories such as gender, constitutionalism, and criminal justice. Studying the socio-legal history of motherhood will enable students to learn the skills of legal reasoning, utilize methods of legal-historical research, and pursue experiential learning through field studies, panel discussions open to the public, and the authoring of publicly available teaching materials on select topics.
First, we will explore how ideas of women as mothers have been enshrined in law, from the legal definition of the mother in civil law, to the legal treatment of pregnancy.
Second, this course will study women as lawmakers, as "founding mothers" of twentieth-century constitutions, and laws more generally.  We will explore biographies of women lawyers and lawmakers.
Third, we will consider mothers as law-breakers, by engaging the history of mothers in prison, and the current legal issues arising from incarceration of mothers.  This component of the course may include field trips to engage the criminal justice system.

Research and Writing Seminars

 
HIST 84900- Seminar in American History I
Wednesday,
4:15-6:15 pm, 5 credits, Prof. Jonathan Sassi
This is the first half of a two-semester course for first-year students whose major field is the United States.  By the end of the second semester, each student will have written an article-length paper that is substantially based in primary-source research and advances the scholarly literature on its topic; toward that goal, the first semester focuses on the craft of history and the development of a research proposal.  Students will identify topics, hone their questions, explore archival and other primary sources, develop a bibliography of the relevant secondary literature, and write a historiographic essay.  They will also circulate drafts and constructively criticize one another’s work.  The course will include related topics, such as library research, ethics, and recent trends in historiography and theory.  At the end of the course, each student will present and defend before the seminar a formal proposal for a well-defined project that they can reasonably expect to complete by the end of the following semester.
  Open only to PhD Program in History students.

HIST 80010- Literature of American History I
Thursday, 2-4 pm, 5 credits, Prof. Benjamin Carp
This course introduces Ph.D. students to the historiography of the U.S. through the Civil War and is intended to prepare students for the First Written Examination.  
Open only to PhD Program in History students.


HIST 80900 - Seminar in European and non-American History I
Wednesday, 4:15-6:15 pm, 5 credits, Prof. Julia Sneeringer
  This is the first semester of the year-long seminar that will culminate in the production of a substantial, research-based first-year paper, as required by the History program.  In this course we will discuss methodology and prepare a research topic.  This will include: formulation of a research topic;  preparation of a bibliography of secondary works;  writing of a historiographical essay; and preparation of a detailed research prospectus by semester’s end.  To assist you in this process, we will discuss various examples of and approaches to historical writing, as well as the past and current state of history as a discipline.  We will also visit several research libraries.  Finally, we will workshop as a group each of your research prospectuses.  The first-year paper is a key requirement of the History program - helping you craft it is a main goal of this course.    Open only to PhD Program in History students.

HIST 80020 - Literature of European History I
Thursday, 4:15-6:15 pm, 5 credits, Prof. Sarah Covington
 This seminar will introduce students to recent and classic works of European history from the late medieval period through the early eighteenth century. In addition to focusing on schools of historiography, we will explore the ways in which various historians have practiced their craft by utilizing sources, developing different methodologies, and honing analytical and conceptual models in approaching their subjects. Intersecting with these explorations will be topics such as politics and the state; economy and class; religion and philosophy; science and medicine; technology and mentalities; and sex and gender. By the end of this reading-intensive course, students will be prepared to take the first-year qualifying exam after having laid the foundations for future teaching and research.
 Open only to PhD Program in History students.

See Also

 

IDS 81620 - Voices of the City: accessibility, reciprocity, and self-representation in place-based community research
Thursdays, 2-4pm, Profs. Prithi Kanakamedala (Bronx Community College, History) and Tarry Hum (Queens College and The Graduate Center, Environmental Psychology)

Scholars active in place-based or participatory action research are committed to documenting community narratives and neighborhoods. It is central to our work, rooted in social justice, that these communities are not just represented, but that they have equitable stake in the project. Yet practitioners across the city struggle with core issues of accessibility, reciprocity, self-representation, and equity within the communities they work with. Who do place-based researchers represent, and does our work empower communities to tell their own stories? What histories do we contest and perpetuate with this work? And, who gets to participate? This inter-disciplinary course combines best or effective practices in Public History, Oral History, and Urban Planning to consider a number of projects in New York City that seek to document communities and narratives about the city that are not traditionally represented.