Was Ivan IV Really "Terrible"?

History 103B.004

Spring 2007
Instructor (text): 
104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Wed 10-12

This course explores the rich historiographical tradition regarding Tsar Ivan IV ";The Terrible"; of Muscovite Russia (ruled 1533-1584). We will utilize the essential skills of the historian: critical reading of primary and secondary sources, and persuasive presentation of analysis in discussion and writing. Throughout the course we will turn our attention to the process of history writing itself, taking time to discuss what is history, why and how one writes history, whether it is subjective or objective, how it can be written well, how to evaluate the work of a historian. Ivan IV is a perfect topic for addressing these goals, since he has been all things to all historians, variously: shrewd autocrat, psychotic tyrant, vigorous ruler, incapacitated by illness and alcoholism, ";terrible"; in his ruthlessness, etc. Given the paucity of sources from his time and the sensationalist character of much written about him, can we really know the man and his times? Every major current of modern European intellectual thought and every school of history is represented in works on Ivan, from romanticism, to Hegelianism, to positivism, to Marxism, to psychohistory, and others less easy to characterize. At one level, we will be exploring Tsar Ivan and his times in the 16th century; at a deeper level, we will be examining the topic as a way of studying modern (19th and 20th century) European and Russian intellectual thought. We will cap our studies by analyzing the two-part film, ";Ivan the Terrible,"; by Sergei Eisenstein (1944-1946; Part 2 was banned by Stalin, not released until 1958).

Course requirements:
Weekly reading and discussion assignments; attendance and participation in class; short (2-3 pages) weekly written submissions consisting of reading logs and proposed discussion questions; a paper (10-12 pages) analyzing one historian's work on Ivan.

Please contact the instructor, Jack Kollmann, at jack.kollmann@stanford.edu if you have any questions about this course.