History 101.003

Fall 2007
Instructor (text): 
104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
TuTh 11-12:30
Daniel Ussishkin has completed his PhD at UC Berkeley. His teaching and research interests include British and European history, war and society, gender and masculinity, history of science and medicine, and social theory and historiography. He has taught several courses at UC Berkeley at all undergraduate level.

";When a man is tired of London,"; Boswell told Dr. Johnson in 1777, ";he is tired of life."; Boswell was only one of the many who were attracted by the opportunities offered by the modern city, and the French philosopher Voltaire was only one of the many who envied London as the site of the rise of commercial culture and civil society. London represented something more than merely a place. It was one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, and the political, financial, and cultural capital of the British Empire and of global markets. It was regarded as a source of pleasure, as a serious threat, and usually as a little bit of both. Whereas some saw London as affording opportunities for sociability, pleasure, anonymity, or an escape from the constraints of home, others saw vice, degeneration, decay, and collapse of the social fabric. While some were allured by its increasingly cosmopolitan or multi-cultural nature, others saw it as a threat to what they regarded as the fundamental aspects of Britishness. For better or worse, modern meant urban, and urban meant London.

This seminar invites students to write original research papers on London as a lived and imagined place. We will begin by reading select articles that cover the period that spans the Great Stench of 1858, when Houses of Parliament were covered with blankets to eliminate the odors that emanated from the Thames and signaled a serious public health crisis, and the construction of the Millennium Dome as an attempt to signal a new turn in the history of both London and Britain (students who wish to write on earlier periods are most welcome to do so). These readings will help us to discuss methodological and historiographical questions: How to write a history of a 'place'? How did historians respond to the 'spatial turn' in cultural studies? What is the relation between the City and the modern experience? What can studying London tell us about other capital cities or other British cities? We will read about diverse topics such as high art, shopping, mass culture, Jack the Ripper, sexuality and its policing, public health, imperial culture, maps, riots, festivals, and slums. The readings will specifically address the tensions between the 'democratic' nature of city life and the continuously reconstituted boundaries of exclusion and division along lines of ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality.

An early identification of a paper topic is key to writing a successful paper. Possibilities are numerous, and so are the available primary sources: newspapers, journals, guide books, memoirs, catalogues, government papers, film, novels, sociological and anthropological literature, paintings... Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the broad outlines of Londonâ€_Äôs history and geography prior to class (glancing at a guidebook in your local bookstore is a good place to start; it is also really fun).

Course structure: After three weeks of reading secondary sources we will meet every other week to listen to progress reports and discuss the papers with the group in a collegial spirit. First draft is due in November; final draft in December. Grade is based on two drafts and active class participation.

For questions, please do not hesitate to contact the instructor at ussishkin@berkeley.edu.