History 103 Seminars

What is History 103?

The History 103 course is a proseminar on historiography involving close reading and critical discussion. Every history major is required to take at least one History 103, though taking more than one is highly recommended. Multiple 103s are offered each fall and spring term, and the topics are almost never repeated.

Taking more than one 103 in the same semester is not highly recommended, but it is possible. Priority enrollment can only assign one seat, however. Transfer students in their first semester should certainly try out a 103 if the topic is of particular interest. Students at all levels are welcome, but some lower division experience in history is expected.

History 103 is likely to include some research work which can be used later toward a 101 topic.


Enrollment after the priority enrollment process:

After the initial round of course assignments, most History 103 sections will have open seats. All enrollment restrictions will be lifted as soon as the priority assignments are made on October 16th.

If a section you want is full, please add yourself to the wait list and attend the first day, as others may not. It is sometimes impossible to add History 103 after missing the first class meeting.

103 Courses

103F.001: Revolutionary Nationalism and “Terrorism” in India and Abroad: Is Fundamentalism its Inevitable Telos?

In the early years of the twentieth century, British colonial rule in India faced a powerful new threat to its authority. All through the previous century colonial rule had been resisted mainly by peasants and landed gentry whose concerns had to do with the effects of colonial reformulations of land tenure. Colonial efforts in India of the previous fifty years had been aimed at producing the loyal educated, Indian native. But in the twentieth century, with the educated native emerging as the dangerous individual in need of surveillance, the fundamental incompatibility between colonial occupation and liberal ideology could no longer be hidden.

As early as 1835, in his Educational Minute, Lord Macaulay had made clear that the aim of English education was to "raise up an English-educated middle class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern - a class of persons Indian in colour and blood, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” There were certainly many among the first generation of English-educated Indians who acknowledged some of the benefits of English rule. Even so, Dadabhai Naoroji, the father of Indian economic nationalism, castigated colonial rulers for behaving in “unBritish” ways in India. But the criticism was less directed at colonial rule per se than at unfair colonial practices. This was to change. Within one generation, gratitude was replaced by anger. Born in India, often of first generation Western educated fathers, second generation educated Indians too went to England, and read English law, history, and philosophy. But they came back with radical politics.

In this course, we will read some of the primary texts that so inspired these young nationalists, primary texts written by Indian nationalists, as well as secondary works dealing with Indian, Irish, Turkish, Israeli, Palestinian, Mexican and Russian political thought, Irish revolutionary nationalism. The aim of the course is to think through some of the issues confronted by scholars attempting to write an “Indian intellectual history” that incorporates some of the thinkers who were on the “wrong” side of Indian nationalism. The aim of the course is also to situate Indian nationalism in an international milieu and to examine the particular manifestation of it as revolutionary “terrorism” and whether that inexorably leads to political fundamentalism.

Janaki Bakhle
2231 Dwinelle
Tu 2-4
Class #: 24989
103F.002: The Chinese Earth – Resources and Ecology

This course addresses, a historian's and a cultural geographer's perspective, the use of natural resources, including energy, in Chinese history, from imperial times until today. It offers insights into three different, but interrelated and interdependent processes of those periods: a) the agricultural traditions, water management and industrial production technologies; b) aspects of historical earth sciences, including early mapping and modern cartographic knowledge; c) the application of empirical knowledge to resource distribution and Chinese environmental ethics.

The course is designed to provide students with these basics tools: familiarity with the sources and tools that constitute this field of inquiry; introduction to (and the appropriation of) a terminology that allows for cross-references and comparisons with other civilizations and cultures; ability to question and critique the ideological and ethical framework governing western and Chinese concepts of “nature,” and the political dimensions of ecological management.

NO Chinese language is required to take the course, and the distinctively Chinese perspective will be developed through cross-cultural concerns.


Michael Nylan
2303 Dwinelle
W 12-2
Class #: 33095
103B.004: New Media in Britain from the Print Revolution to the Digital Age

This course explores the relationship between communication technologies and the long transformation of British society from medieval to modern. From the arrival of the printing press in the 15th century to the proliferation of mass media in the 20th, we will ask how historians approach the study of a medium as both an agent of change and as a product of existing cultures and institutions. How did the increasingly broad and dynamic distribution of texts, speech, and images affect participation in the public sphere, the relationship between popular and elite culture, the rise of an imperial state, and the foundations of modern science? We will also consider the enduring significance of questions that people who lived through these changes asked themselves as they adapted to new communication technologies: How do we deal with information overload? How should we react to fake news? What does it mean for speech to be free? 

Ivana Mirkovic
3104 Dwinelle
F 9-11am
Class #: 32380
103U.001: Refugee Law, Policy, and Experience

Refugees are the frequent subject of news coverage today, where they are often presented in urgent, immediate, and overwhelming terms: “crisis,” “emergency,” “flood.” These are indeed urgent times for what are, in fact, unprecedented numbers of people forcibly displaced due to persecution and violence. But such conditions and responses to them are the product of longer processes; they - and their effects - can be understood only by tracing them through time. This seminar aims to do that by examining the treatment and experiences of refugees in history. Analyzing the actions and perspectives of governmental, intergovernmental, and nongovernmental entities and refugees themselves, the seminar is meant to achieve two objectives. First, in the areas of law and policy, students will learn what existing scholarship can tell us about why and how present-day legal frameworks and forms of assistance were created, by whom, and how they have impacted refugees’ lives. Attention also will be paid to the effects of refugee policy on domestic and international political conditions, especially those conditions that may influence the chances of future forced displacement. Second, students will get a sense of the diversity of refugees’ lives and strategies, including in the areas of law, policy, and politics. The course will center on events in the twentieth century to the present, when modern international and regional refugee regimes were developed, tested, and strained. The geographic scope will be global, with case studies drawn from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Lynsay Skiba
2303 Dwinelle
Th 3-5
Class #: 24991
103B.001: Food in Europe, 1500-1950

The history of food as a recognized subfield is relatively young. Sociologists and anthropologists discovered it well before historians did. And yet, food lies at the basis, not only of human survival, but of all political, social, economic and cultural systems. The viability of every state rests on the adequate provisioning of subjects, particularly in the urban metropolis, but also in the military. Grain supplies have always been one of the most basic tests of the mobilizing capacity of the state. Management of dearth in staple goods is no less important in maintaining social cohesion. But luxury goods and the drive to command their production and exchange have been no less important as a motor of historical change. Trade in spices and sugar was an early causal factor in colonization among early modern European states. Both also played a role in the conspicuous consumption that played a role in the maintenance of political and social hierarchies.

This course will provide students with an opportunity to read across the disciplines—social, economic, intellectual, and military, not to mention cultural and intellectual. Most particularly, this seminar will train students how to analyze secondary sources, to distill a research question and an argument. These skills will prove useful to history majors when they come to write a senior thesis. At the end of the semester, they will have the choice between writing a 10-12 page synthetic essay or a thesis prospectus.

Victoria Frede
3104 Dwinelle
Tu 12-2
Class #: 24984
103B.002: The Caucasus in the Modern Era: "Ethnicities, Empires, and Nations"

This seminar is a historical survey of the Caucasus from the end of the eighteenth century to the present. A number of features characterize this region, three of which deserve some attention. First, the ethnoreligious diversity of its population is remarkable, for many small ethnies have been able to survive there for centuries in often adverse conditions. Second, the region is also best understood as a corridor through which numerous invasions have passed, often leaving behind them masses of settlers. Third, the Caucasus has been, and still is, a zone of contact among various imperial or regional powers and their civilizations.

The seminar will focus on the experiences of the three main nationalities (the Armenians, the Azerbaijanis, and the Georgians), without neglecting those of smaller ethnic groups. It will cover the post-Soviet period quite thoroughly. Some of the themes to be discussed include: the rise of nationalism among the Armenians and Georgians and of national consciousness among the future Azerbaijanis; the creation of Soviet socialist republics and “nation-making”; imperial disintegrations (the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union) and their consequences; and various ethnic and ethnoterritorial conflicts.

Stephan H. Astourian
3104 Dwinelle
Th 2-4
Class #: 24985
103B.003: A History of Nature: From the Lisbon Earthquake to “Lucifer’s Heatwave"

Since the early days of modernity, nature has been an object of competing visions over humanity, society, politics, religion, law, and culture. As a concept, nature has been continually configured and reconfigured to support myriad philosophies and ideologies. As a physical space, it has been used, manipulated, shaped and protected in various ways by powerful forces, from kings and empires to global corporations. In this course, we will ask how and why have we moderns come to think about and appropriate nature in the ways we do today? What do different practices and ideas concerning nature reveal about our culture? Why do ostensibly similar natural disasters ignite contrasting political and philosophical debates across different periods? Why do we view certain things as “natural” and others as “unnatural”? Although the course will follow a chronological framework, spanning roughly from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the present day, its main focus will be thematic. Thus, we will examine issues such as environmentalism, natural history, natural rights, nature and empire, nature and the state, nature and religion, human-animal relations, and the nexus of race, gender and nature.

Yotam A Tsal
3205 Dwinelle
F 12-2
Class #: 24986
Latin America
103E.001: Haiti and the Age of Revolutions

The Haitian Revolution has been called the most radical and therefore important assertion of the right to have rights in human history. Though it was intertwined with the American and French Revolutions, it went much further. Between 1791 and 1804, enslaved Africans in the richest colony in the Western hemisphere redefined themselves as persons not property, ended colonial rule, and established a black republic that sought to abolish racial hierarchy. How did this come to be, and why have your teachers taught you so little about it?

This class will examine the relationship between slavery, race, and revolution in the interconnected struggles that broke out in North and South America and the Caribbean in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, what historians call the Age of Revolutions.  We will examine the world that produced these movements, their ambitions, failures, and interconnections, and the legacies of all this in the present day.  A major emphasis of the course will be methodological: we will interrogate the role of power in the production of history and the process of remembering and forgetting the past.  Readings include the work of historians, documents produced by those who lived this history, and fiction, and they draw from U.S., Latin American, and Caribbean history.  Students have the option of writing a thesis prospectus as the final paper.

Elena A. Schneider
3104 Dwinelle
Th 10-12
Class #: 24988
103S.001: From Tasting Urine to Biotech: Exploring the History of Medicine

Today, medicine and medical understandings of health and disease permeate our daily lives. We debate access to health care and the ethical limits of biomedicine, adhere to ‘No Smoking’ rules, define diets in terms of health, and buy products that kill 99% of all germs. But how has this medicalization of our daily lives and ideas emerged throughout the twentieth century? Where and to whom did people turn when they got sick in the nineteenth century? How did patients and healers then define sickness and health? How and when did the medical system that we know today emerge? How do definitions of “normal” organize medical thinking and medical training? How do new technologies relate to ideas about race and gender?

This course explores topics in the history of medicine. We will examine the ways historians have studied the historical practice of medicine and changing definition of health and disease. The course will address themes such as the emergence of a medical profession, popular understandings and experience of health and illness, the rise of the hospital, the relationship between medicine, science and politics, and the way culture frames medical definitions and interpretation of bodies, health, and disease. In examining these issues, the class will pay particular attention to how people are affected differently by medical practices and technologies depending on their race, gender, and class. While the course focuses on the history of American medicine, it acknowledges that changes in the practice, theory, and education of medicine often do not occur in isolation but are part of transnational developments.

Sandra Eder
3104 Dwinelle
Tu 2-4
Class #: 24990
United States
103D.001: Culture and Politics in the 1970s

Since about 2000, a growing number of historians have turned to the 1970s, claiming to reinterpret a misunderstood, and as some had even described it, “eminently forgettable” decade. The 1970s was more than the ten years between the 60s and the 80s. In this seminar, we will examine the major historical processes of this period with an emphasis on connections to contemporary politics, economics, and culture. Broadly understood as an era of national decline, economic recession, degradation of the nuclear family, and the end of moral consensus, recent scholars have argued for the importance of the so-called “me decade” in terms of labor, urban change, finance, identity, culture, and social and political movements. We will also consider the works in this course in light of the methodology and approaches of recent scholarship, especially in terms of histories of mass media and finance. The course will culminate with either a research paper based on a key question addressed throughout the seminar or the option to develop a prospectus for a thesis to be completed in the department.

Sarah Selvidge
2303 Dwinelle
M 10-12
Class #: 24987
103D.002: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Rise of Terrorism

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush asked: “Why do they hate us?” His answer was “they hate our freedoms.” Some scholars agreed, arguing that Osama bin Laden and his ideological predecessors hated secular, democratic, materialist Western culture. Other scholars have argued that bin Laden, while a security threat, was also a rational actor waging an insurgency against specific U.S. policies in the Middle East that bin Laden repeatedly condemned. In this course we will ask: Why did bin Laden perpetrate the September 11th attacks? How did his views emerge? How have American foreign policy makers applied U.S. power in the past, both in North America and around the world? How have ideas about the application of U.S. power changed over time? How have people resisted U.S. power? What effect has that resistance had on them, U.S. policy, and world history? To investigate these questions we will read primary and secondary sources focused on twenty- and twenty-first century issues, but also studying American power since the colonial period.

Daniel M Robert
2303 Dwinelle
F 10-12
Class #: 32980
103D.003: The University: Its History and Future

This seminar will focus on the “modern” university, especially as it developed in the United States during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Beginning as colleges to prepare young men for the ministry, colleges expanded their mission, and in many cases evolved into universities, in the nineteenth century. The nineteenth century also saw the emergence of the “public” university, first in Virginia, then Michigan, and then in many more states after the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. Universities expanded their role in comprehensive research in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and then, after the end of World War II and the passage of the G.I. bill, began to pursue the goal of universal education. In the 1960s universities became politicized around the wars in Southeast Asia and their role in the military-industrial complex. And by the end of the century, public universities began to suffer from growing disinvestment on the part of state governments. With escalating attacks on the relevance of the university, its relationship to objective knowledge, expertise, and “elitism,” and concerns about commitments to diversity and access, the university has more recently become highly politicized once again, this time with serious questions about its future in American society. This moment of crisis coincides with a time of massive investment in higher education across Asia and many other parts of the world. The seminar will conclude by evaluating current critiques, and speculations about the future of the knowledge industries, in which universities hope to play a major role. 

Nicholas Dirks
2231 Dwinelle
M 2-4
Class #: 42191