Departmental Events

In addition to the many history lectures, seminars, and workshops listed on the Berkeley Events Calendar, the Department of History hosts the following events catered to students, faculty, and alumni.

History Colloquia | Fall & Spring Semesters 2023-24

The Department of History hosts two to three colloquia each fall and spring semester featuring recent work by faculty members, emeriti, or doctoral candidates. All affiliates of the Department are welcome to attend. For more information, view the internal events calendar or email


October 18, 2023

Victoria Frede, Department of History, “Friendship under Autocracy: The Ideology of the Russian State, 1750-1840”

Abstract: “Friendship under Autocracy” analyzes the structures of allegiance that bound Russian noblemen and noblewomen to one another and to the state in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by investigating the ideal of friendship. According to that ideal, adults who shared the same moral dispositions could cooperate to refurbish the state from within, creating a flourishing society. Paradoxically, the compelling power of friendship as a civic virtue helps explain why highly educated, westernized elites voluntarily dedicated their lives to an autocratic system. Only at the turn of the nineteenth century did some few decide to abandon it, refurbishing the ideal of friendship to encompass opposition to autocracy and the state.

November 1, 2023

Bruce Hall, Department of History, “Finding Islamic Law in trans-Saharan Trade: towards an unlikely history of capitalism in nineteenth-century Timbuktu”

Abstract: It is almost a cliché to connect the development of trans-Saharan trade with the spread of Islam.
Muslim commercial culture, literacy and law did spread into and across the Sahara over time and
there is plenty of textual and archeological evidence of intensified commercial exchange in
certain places and times. But what we do not have is very much evidence for the role played by
literacy in Arabic and Islamic legal institutions in this trade. We might make a logical
supposition that the spread of Islamic institutions led to improved commercial efficiency over
time, but such a claim is not very well supported with evidence. In this paper, I seek to revise
accepted frameworks for the working of trans-Saharan trade on the basis of an extensive corpus
of commercial letters exchanged along an axis connecting the Niger River Valley, in what is
today Mali, with the Mediterranean coast at Tripoli, in what is today Libya. The paper argues
that a boom in demand for ostrich feathers in the second half of the 19th century in Europe and
North America had a significant impact on the institutions employed in the Sahara used to
facilitate credit and debt arrangements necessary for trade. As more and more commercial capital
flowed across the Sahara, merchants began to deploy a series of institutional changes in how
partnerships were designed, ostensibly in the terms of classical `Islamic commercial law, and
distinct from commercial mechanisms used earlier and on shorter circuits of trade. This allows us
to historicize economic history in ‘pre-colonial’ Africa and better understand the history of
global capitalism in the nineteenth century.

PhAT-Faculty Dinner| TBD

Cal Day | TBD 

Cal Day, UC Berkeley's annual open house, features hundreds of events across campus. The Department of History hosts an info session for prospective majors (Don't Know Much About History?) and a faculty panel on a rotating theme.

The 101 Circus | Date TBD

The 101 Circus is the Department's undergraduate research showcase, when history majors have an opportunity to present their capstone projects and answer questions about the research process. Topics cover a wide range of geographic and chronological fields, so there's something for everyone to enjoy.

History CommencementTuesday, May 14 at 9am

Click here to learn more