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, although taking more than one is highly recommended. Multiple 103s are offered each fall and spring term, and the topics are almost never repeated.

  • Students in all majors are welcome to enroll in History 103. Students at all levels are welcome, but some lower division experience in history is expected.
  • Taking more than one 103 in the same semester is not highly recommended, but it is possible. Note that only one seat can be assigned in priority enrollment.
  • Transfer students in their first semester should certainly try a 103 if the topic is of particular interest. Please also have a backup lecture.
  • History 103 is likely to include some research work which can be used later toward a 101 topic.

Fall 2019 Seminars

103A Proseminar: Problems in Interpretation in the Several Fields of History: Ancient

103A 001 “Ancient Empires: From Persia to Rome”

Instructor: Talia Prussin 
Time: 1-3pm
Room: Dwinelle 3205
Class #: 21979

The practice of writing Greek history begins with Herodotus recounting the origins of the Achaemenid empire. This course on ancient empires begins in the same place: considering the Achaemenid empire and how it fundamentally shaped concepts of empire in the first millennium BC. The massive, multi-ethnic Achaemenid empire, spanning from northern Greece to Afghanistan, stands in strong contrast with the Athenian empire of the fifth century, but ancient historians rarely spend much time with the Achaemenids. Rather than focusing on the Athenian and Roman empires, this course will cover a wide variety of empires in order to situate Athens and Rome within the broader context of empire and imperial praxis in the first millennium BC, including Carthage and the Seleucid empire.

We will study how ancient empires emerged, but also once established, how they survived through social, political, and economic lenses. Major themes will include ethnicity and identity among imperial elites, citizenship as power, and economic institutions as means of territorial control. Each week, we will draw on a wide variety of sources, both documentary and literary, in translation. No knowledge of any ancient language is expected.

 Talia Prussin is a historian of the Hellenistic world who focuses primarily on the Seleucid Empire. Her research interests include issues of administrative continuity in the Near East, the economy of empire, and civic institutions regulating land across the ancient world. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Ancient History and Mediterranean Archaeology at UC Berkeley.

103B Proseminar: Problems in Interpretation in the Several Fields of History: Europe

103B.001 “Corruption” 

Instructor: Raphael Murillo
Day: F
Hour: 9:00 am - 10:59 am
Location: Dwinelle 3104
Class #:24887

In recent years, corruption has been a focus of global attention and frustration from China, where a massive anti-corruption campaign has led to the punishment of over 1.5 million officials since 2013, to Brazil, where a succession of presidents have faced allegations of malfeasance, impeachment, and removal from office. But it is hardly a new phenomenon. This course explores the history of corruption from antiquity to the present. How has corruption been practiced and combatted? What are its consequences for the practice and conceptualization of governance, bureaucracy, law, and society? What has the idea of “corruption” meant and how has that idea transformed? How has corruption been studied and how will it be studied? Exploring an emerging field of historical scholarship alongside corresponding empirical studies and primary sources, we investigate these questions on a global scale over the longue durée of two millennia.


Raphael Murillo is a historian of early modern Europe whose current research focuses on state building, corruption, bureaucracy, and organization in Spain’s empire. He earned his Ph.D. in early modern European history from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 and was a Berkeley Connect Fellow in 2018-9.


103B.002 “Introduction to Oral History” 

Instructor: Isabel Richter
Day: M
Hour: 12:00 pm - 1:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 2303
Class #:24888


This seminar will explore oral history as method in 20th century German historiography. It will trace the origins of this approach in the 1970s and 1980s, including the early debates on oral history. The seminar seeks to provide an overview of central concepts (memory, experience, the contemporary witness, orality) and of the different interviewing techniques which historians have used. After an introduction to some of the oral history centers and archives in the US and Germany, we will discuss classic and recent oral history case studies before students prepare and conduct their own oral history interview with a contemporary witness.

103B.003 “The History of Utopia” 

Instructor: Christoph Hermann
Day: M
 Hour: 12:00 pm - 1:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 3205
Class #:24889

Utopia is the imagination of a highly desirable community or society. As such it has inspired social and political movements and fascinated writers and filmmakers alike. In this seminar we will explore the history and variety of utopian thinking. After clarifying the meaning of utopia, we will discuss classic utopian writers such as Thomas Moore, Edward Bellamy, and William Morris. We will then look at different visions of utopia, including anarchist, liberal, socialist, and feminist accounts. We will, furthermore, explore the relationship between utopia and technology and subsequent accounts that see the future more as dystopia than utopia. We will also discuss the role of utopia in popular culture, as well as review contemporary accounts of utopia, especially with respect to the prospect of a post-capitalist society.


103B.004 “What was Enlightenment?” 

Instructor: Jonathan Sheehan
Day: W
Hour: 10:00 am - 11:59 am
Room: Dwinelle 3205
Class #:26173

In its ten pages, Immanuel Kant’s 1784 essay “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment” built a durable framework for thinking not just about about the meaning of the eighteenth century, but also the meaning of our modern world. This class will investigate the essay's key-terms – reason, the public, the state, religion, freedom, mankind, human nature, progress – to reassess what Enlightenment was, both for Kant and for those who saw themselves involved in its intellectual, political, and religious projects. It will also consider the afterlife of the Enlightenment for contemporary issues and thinkers. Readings for the course will include key authors like Locke, Montesquieu, Hume, Diderot, Rousseau, and Kant, a range of contextual studies of eighteenth-century political and intellectual history, and a few influential contemporary perspectives on the still urgent question: what is Enlightenment?


103B.005 “Weimar Germany” 

Instructor: Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann
Day: W
Hour: 4:00 pm - 5:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 3205
Class #:26421

What can we learn from the fall of Germany’s first democracy and the rise of Nazism for our time? This question has received new urgency in a time of crisis for American democracy. Recent historiography has cast a new and different light on Weimar Germany. Instead of reading this history backwards, from its end in 1933, historians are emphasizing Weimar’s revolutionary promise after 1918. The history of interwar Germany is more than just a cautionary tale for how democracies end. It also contains a rich history of democratic experimentation—in egalitarian politics, social and legal reform or cultural expression. In this seminar, we will explore both, the potentials and shortcomings of the Weimar Republic. Our main readings will be primary sources (from the Weimar Republic Sourcebook) as well as Detlev Peukert’s The Weimar Republic. The Crisis of Classical Modernity. Weekly position papers and two short essays (or a prospectus for a possible honors thesis) constitute the principal writing assignments.



103D Proseminar: Problems in Interpretation in the Several Fields of History: United States


103D.001 “Food Systems and Agriculture in American History” 

Instructor: Kimberly Killion
Day: TH
Hour: 4:00 pm - 5:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 3104
Class #:24891

“History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive. It knows the names of the king’s bastards but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly.” Jean Henri Fabre

This course takes for its topic those fields “whereby we thrive,” examining the history of food systems and agriculture in the land that would become the United States from the Columbian Exchange to the present day. Luckily for us, times have changed since Jean Henri Fabre, and the rich field of food history is currently blossoming. As an everyday need and an everyday pleasure, as the largest global industry and a vital element of the state, and as a symbol of cultural and social identity, food provides a lens into a vast number of historical fields. This course will focus on three: First, we will examine food systems from an environmental perspective. How have food systems shaped environments locally and globally, and vice versa? What do food systems tell us about the way various Americans thought about and related to the natural world? Second, we will examine the transnational nature of food systems. How have food systems intertwined globally dispersed peoples and landscapes? Lastly, we will examine the history of capitalism and industrialization. Until around 1920, the majority of Americans lived in rural areas, and in 1933, 25% of Americans worked in agriculture.  In 2015, the farming population of the United States had dropped to a mere 2% of the overall population. Should we celebrate the ability of science and technology to allow such a small portion of the population to feed the rest of us? What have been the human and environmental costs of this industrialized food system?

We will address these questions by reading major works in American food history, from Judith Carney’s Black Rice to William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis. Students will also have the opportunity to prepare for a 101 Thesis course by writing research prospectus on any topic related to the history of food systems in North America.

Kimberly Killion is a PhD candidate in the History Department. She is broadly interested in American environmental history, history of science and medicine, and history of food and agriculture. She is currently writing her dissertation on the origins and development of the field of nutrition science in the United States between 1885 and 1930.

103D.002 “History of American Capitalism” 

Instructor: Caitlin Rosenthal
Day: W
Hour: 12:00 pm - 1:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 2303
Class #:24892

This reading seminar will explore different ways of studying the U.S. economy, drawing on diverse research from economic history, labor history, and business history. We will study topics such as finance, labor, and entrepreneurship from both above and below, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. Temporal emphasis will be on the 19th and 20th centuries.

103D.003 “Slavery and Servitude in the United States” 

Instructor: Stephanie Jones-Rogers

Day: TH
Hour: 3:00 pm - 4:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 3205
Class #:24893


This course will explore various systems of involuntary servitude that have been developed and practiced in British North America and the United States. We will read about and discuss indigenous systems of bondage, indigenous enslavement at the hands of European settlers, the transport and indentured servitude of European migrants, the British inter-colonial slave trade, and the coerced servitude of Chinese migrants and indigenous women in the 19th century. The overwhelming majority of our readings will explore the captivity and enslavement of African descended people in the New World. In this vein, a number of weeks examine the experiences of African descended people before leaving the West Coast of Africa, their passage to the New World, and their bondage, resistance and freedom after settlement. The class concludes with readings that examine the development of the penal state, and the criminalization and mass incarceration of African-Americans from Reconstruction to the present. Many of the required readings will be attentive to the role that the law (and later federal and state policy) played in constructing and maintaining systems of American bondage. Many of them will also examine the ways that gender and sexuality shaped the experiences of bound people as well.


103D.004 “Leeches, Labs, and Lobotomies. Exploring the History of Medicine” 

Instructor: Sandra Eder
Day: W
Hour: 2:00 pm - 3:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 2303
Class #:24894

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 where and to whom did people turn when they got sick in the nineteenth century? How did patients and healers define sickness and health? Why did some physicians keep leeches in their cellars? How did race and gender shape medical technologies and experiences? How and when did the laboratory become important for modern medicine? What role did bacteriology play in New York Public Health Officials’ decision to keep Mary Mallon, aka Typhoid Mary, in quarantine for over twenty years? Why did psychiatrists consider lobotomies a legitimate procedure for their patients? How did women and physicians negotiate reproductive control?


This course explores medical practice and knowledge over the last two centuries. We will examine the ways historians have studied the historical practice of medicine and changing definition of health and disease. We will also read primary sources to understand how patients experienced health and illness, how doctors practiced medicine and defined disease over time and how medical innovations were received by the public. The course will address themes such as the medical marketplace and the emergence of a medical profession, popular understandings and experience of health and illness, the rise of bacteriology and biomedicine, medical experimentation and eugenics, patient activism and the women’s health movement, 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.


103D.005 “The Tales We Tell: Narratives of American National Culture” 

Instructor: Jennifer Terry 
Day: TH
Hour: 3:00 pm - 4:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 2303
Class #:24895

What do Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump have in common? Answer: They all vowed to “make America great again” while on the presidential campaign trail. MAGA’s continued success lies in its appeal to a cultural common sense convinced of a nostalgic mythical period of national greatness. This course considers how such ideas originate and why they resonate with a wide swath of the population.

This reading seminar will explore the notion of “cultural common sense” by investigating the origins and perpetuation of certain myths, legends, and folktales that have contributed to national narratives since the late eighteenth century. We will read secondary source monographs in order to examine the ways that historians have studied the process and practice of storytelling, legend crafting, identity-building, and political spin. The class will consider the influences and consequences that myths, legends, and folktales have had on the lives of African Americans, Asian Americans, Euro Americans, Latina/os, and indigenous peoples. We will examine the ways that politicians, legislators, industry leaders, and the media have advanced agendas and shaped cultural common sense through the perpetuation of tales, and explore counter-narratives that have at times challenged and even changed mainstream national thought. It is not the intent of this course to “bust” myths, but rather to approach the study as an exercise in understanding the underlying narrative foundation that shapes the social, cultural, and political context of American society today.

Jennifer Robin Terry is a historian of 19th and 20th century social and cultural U.S. history. Her research situates the history of childhood within broader themes where children's experiences are often overlooked, such as in war, civil rights, and the labor force. Her research and teaching also focuses on interrogating foundational ideas on which culture forms and evolves.

103D.006 “Race and Sports in U.S. History”

Instructor: Natalie Novoa
Day: F
Hour: 10:00 am - 11:59 am
Room: Dwinelle 2303
Class #:26501

In May 1924, President Calvin Coolidge delivered a speech titled, “The Democracy of Sports,” at the National Conference on Outdoor Recreation in Washington D.C. His comments embodied many of the dominant discourses about recreation and sports at the time; how “clean and manly sports” developed healthy and productive citizens. Coolidge ended his speech by describing sports as a natural unifier for a diverse country and a “truly democratic force.” This course examines the intersection of race and sport and interrogates the notion of sports as a “natural unifier.” However, course readings will also push students to think beyond binary patterns of sport as either positive or negative, progressive or limiting. We will consider how race and sport contribute to our broader understanding of American history. Focusing on the United States, broadly from 1850 to the present, students will consider some of the following questions: What role has sport played in the formation of identity, community, and American culture? How have sports reinforced or created new social divisions? How do sporting events fortify a range of intended politics: community pride, symbolic warfare, the ranking of public bodies, and the exploitation of black talent by white ownership? And what are the ways sport has been used to perpetuate and exaggerate both racial difference and gendered reproductive roles?


Through a combination of primary and secondary source readings, students will consider a range of sport categories and the diversity of experience including, but not limited to, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latina/os, and indigenous peoples. Throughout the semester, we will seek to understand the interplay of race and sport, and the impact they had on American politics and culture.


Natalie Novoa is a historian of the 19th and 20th century United States, with an emphasis on post-1865 African American history. Her research and teaching interests include the social experience of African Americans in cities, sports, and recreation and leisure. Her current project, A Home Away From Home: Recreation Centers and Black Community Development in the Bay Area, 1920-1960, argues that black-run recreation centers played a pivotal role in the black community as sites of racial uplift and political activism. Creating their own agendas separate from white reformers and city officials, who believed structured recreation was a way to control and exercise surveillance over delinquent youth, black leaders viewed these recreational spaces as opportunities to provide community members with the necessary tools to challenge the racism they faced at work, school, and in the streets. Her work connects literature in urban history and African American history to demonstrate the unique circumstances that the city presented to African Americans, especially during and after World War II.



103E Proseminar: Problems in Interpretation in the Several Fields of History: Latin America

103E.002 “Slavery, Race, and Revolution in Latin America and the Caribbean”

Instructor: Elena Schneider 
Day: W
Hour: 4:00 pm - 5:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 3104
Class #:33346

This course provides an introduction to the long history of slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean and the struggle against the institution and its legacies up to the present day. We will consider both the role of slavery in the development of an international system of capitalist exchange and the impact on the lives of those caught within its bonds. Though connections will be made with the United States, the emphasis will be on Latin America and the Caribbean, where more than 10 million Africans were sold into slavery. How did this come to be? What brought human trafficking to its legal end, and how does the history of slavery continue to impact the way that race structures lives today throughout the region? Students will gain a greater understanding of the diverse histories of Africans and their descendants in American diaspora as well as the varieties of enslavement and coercive labor experienced and resisted by African, Amerindian, and Asian men, women, and children in the Americas across time. Topics include the origins of “race” and racism, slavery in Africa, indigenous slavery, the Middle Passage, gender and sexuality, African cultures in the Americas, resistance and rebellion, the Haitian Revolution, antislavery and antiracism during the Latin American independence wars, the transition to freedom, commemoration, and the transnational debate over rights and reparations 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 contemporary depictions in television and film.


103E003 “Cuba and the Cold War”

Instructor: Elizabeth Schwall
Day: W
Hour: 4:00 pm - 5:59 pm
Dwinelle 2303
Class #:33347

Cuba played an outsized role in the Cold War, a global conflict too often glossed as a standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. In this course we challenge this characterization by focusing on the 1959 Cuban Revolution to think broadly, transnationally, and critically about cold war histories. We start by examining the longer history of nationalism, social inequality, and imperialism that fed into the rebellion and ask what were Cubans fighting for? We then analyze everyday revolutionary lives and the local outcomes of the regime change, especially how ideals about racial, gendered, and class equality were unevenly implemented. Finally, we consider Cuba and geopolitics, including shifting relations with the United States, the Soviet Union, and countries in the Global South. Additionally, we discuss how the rebel island inspired revolutionary movements and counterrevolutionary reactions in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Nicaragua, the US, and several African countries. Course materials include primary sources like films, memoirs, music, dance, and oral histories, as well as a newer body of scholarship. 


Throughout the semester, we develop familiarity with key questions, themes, and approaches that can be applied to other countries in Latin America and elsewhere. Overall, we work toward achieving a nuanced understanding of Cuba, the Cold War, as well as revolution and counterrevolution, the interplay between local and global politics, the everyday lives of cold warriors, and the struggles for racial, gender, and class equality that unfolded around the world during the late twentieth century.

Elizabeth Schwall earned her Ph.D. in Latin American and Caribbean History from Columbia University in 2016. She has held fellowships at Northwestern University and New York University, and has taught at Stanford University. She is working on a book about dance and politics in twentieth-century Cuba, and her broader research interests include the impact of the Cuban Revolution in Cold War Brazil. 


103F Proseminar: Problems in Interpretation in the Several Fields of History: Asia

103F.001 “The Japanese Empire” 

Instructor: Kerry Shannon

Day: TH
Hour: 9:00 am - 10:59 am
Room: Dwinelle 3104
Class #:26224

This seminar will examine the sudden and astonishing rise of the Japanese empire (1895-1945) and its equally swift and stunning collapse. Combining excellent secondary scholarship with some primary sources in translation, the class will examine three areas of historiographical interest: the development and ideology of Japanese imperialism, the relationship between colony and metropole, and the legacy of the Japanese empire in contemporary East Asia. We will begin by studying how nation making and the consolidation of power within Japan served as a blueprint for the projection of Japanese power abroad. We will then look at what underlying ideologies, if any, informed Japan's colonization of Taiwan and Korea, its backing of the Machukuo puppet state in Northeast Asia, and its creation of a "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity sphere." The course will conclude by analyzing the complex legacies of empire and how the processes of decolonization and deimperialization continue to inform the politics of East Asia today.

Kerry Shannon is a historian of modern Japan and Korea. His research examines the role of public health in both state making and empire making in East Asia. His current book project traces the advent of public health in Japan and Korea during the late nineteenth century, and Japan's usurpation of Korea's public health system as part of Japan's colonization of the peninsula in 1910. More broadly, his research and teaching focus on the social history of science and medicine, and the environmental history of East Asia.


103F.002 “Barbarians, Savages, and Maritime Encounters in Modern Chinese History”

Instructor: Wen-hsin Yeh
Day: TU
Hour: 10:00 am - 11:59 am
Room: Dwinelle 3104
Class #:26422

Maritime encounters in the nineteenth century pitted the Qing in wars against “barbarians” as well as “savages.” This seminar offers a focused examination of two pivotal moments: the 1840s when the Qing fought against the British and the 1870s when the Qing struggled against the indigenous on the Pacific coast of Taiwan. The seminar will wrap up with an overall consideration of the rise of China as a maritime power and the call for transitional justice for the maritime indigenous in the 21st century.


103M Proseminar: Problems in Interpretation in the Several Fields of History: Middle East

103M.002 “The Post Ottoman World” 

Instructor: Christine Philliou
Day: W
Hour: 12:00 pm - 1:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 3205
Class #:33349

The Ottoman Empire was established in the fourteenth century and included most of the eastern Mediterranean region, with territories beyond the Danube to the Nile and the Euphrates, until it ceased to exist in 1923. In its wake were established over twenty new successor states, making up predominantly what we now call the Balkans and the Middle East. With very few exceptions the Ottoman past was consciously suppressed and vilified in nation-states from Egypt and Greece to Turkey itself, once the center of the Empire. In this course we will focus on two sets of issues: one, the ways that imperial past persisted despite efforts to eradicate its remnants; and two, the common issues and dilemmas among seemingly unrelated states that were all once part of the Ottoman imperium. After discussing the conflicts and dilemmas of the final years of the Ottoman Empire, we will compare a series of groups, problems, and localities across the nineteenth- and twentieth-century Balkans and the Middle East, touching on Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Greece.


103S Proseminar: Problems in Interpretation in the Several Fields of History: History of Science

103S.001  “Of Whales and Warfare: Environments, Animals, and Militarism”

Instructor: Ashton Wesner 
Day: W
Hour: 11:00 am - 12:59 pm
Room: Dwinelle 3104
Class #:24898

Warfare dramatically impacts human lives and societies, as well as landscapes, ecosystems, and the lives of animals. But our relationships with nature have also shaped the practices of war. Today, the U.S. military is the world’s biggest environmental polluter, biochemical weapons are altering human and nonhuman genetics, and the bodies and movements of bees inspire the design of military drones. How did we get here, and what is at stake? This course offers a historical examination of environments, animals, and militarism in the U.S. from the 1800s to present. We will examine the ways that environmental destruction has been weaponized in the U.S. (for example, through the extermination of food species like salmon and bison, or the contamination of fresh water and soils). In turn, we will look at how the environment itself has shaped U.S. weapons (such as in the use of mosquitos and parasites for biological warfare, or the way whale and dolphin communication contributed to sonar technology). By the end of this course, students will understand the “natural” and “nonhuman” world is not just a setting for military violence, but an active agent in shaping the production of war, occupation, and surveillance. We will also pay particular attention to the ways that the relationship between nature and militarism differently impact communities along the lines of Indigeneity, race, class, and gender.


Ashton Wesner is an interdisciplinary scholar of political ecology and feminist science and technology studies. She has two current research projects: one examines the historical relationship between technologies of occupation, visuality, and environmental culture in U.S. settler colonial Pacific Northwest. The other analyzes the feminist practices of evolutionary biologists studying spiders--in the laboratory and the field--at the U.S.-México border. She earned her Ph.D. in Society and Environment from the University of California, Berkeley in 2019. As a graduate student she was a Berkeley Connect Fellow in 2016-17, and taught four courses on Engineering, Society, & Environment, and Political Ecology.