The Information State from Alexandria to Snowden

History R1B.001

Spring 2017
31 Evans
Day & Time: 
MWF 1-2
Class Number: 
  • This course satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement.
  • This course does not count for credit toward the History Major but may fulfill other requirements.
  • What is the information state, where did it come from and where is headed? This is a course dedicated to evaluating and improving your writing, but these are the fundamental thematic questions we will be engaging. In discussions, we will be constantly moving back and forth between the present and the past to look at different encounters between information (data, documents, knowledge, books, encyclopedias, etc.) and political power. Information overload, media transformation, piracy, authenticity, privacy fears, and surveillance – which seem to have been born of the twenty-first century – in fact have parallels dating back hundreds and thousands of years. The transition from analog to digital information we are currently experiencing has precedents as well, such as the “birth of the codex” (the transition from scrolls to books) almost two thousand years ago – a transition which may have seen more than 90% of human knowledge lost forever. We will work tirelessly at improving your writing while, in parallel, examining the prose of professional historians, and contemplating some of the reasons why writing itself is powerful.

    Ron Makleff is a student of late medieval and early modern Europe (c.1350-1850) who insists on using history as a tool to think about the struggles and predicaments of the present. The focus of his research is on the ways archives help rulers build sovereignty and the changes in the culture of documents that this process precipitated.