The first-year seminars focus on different historical topics, but all introduce students to the interdisciplinary nature of historical inquiry and include emphasis on discussion, writing and reading a variety of primary sources. Recent seminar topics include: Americans and War, Myth, Memory and History, Declarations of Independence, Rise and Fall of the Nuclear Family and (De)Constructing Race in the U.S. HIST 197 is open only to first-year students.
Fall Semester informationBarbara Whitehead
197A: FYS: History of Happiness
Americans are committed to happiness as one of the core values on which our nation rests--as Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, we hold as inalienable rights "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." But what is happiness? How has this emotion changed over time? Can we know whether or not it has changed over time if we can't identify exactly what it is? This first-year seminar will look at how conceptions of happiness have changed over time from the ancient Greeks to the present day. We will discuss the problems of trying to study an emotion historically, the contradictions in the philosophical conceptions of happiness, and the breakthroughs in our psychological understandings of this transient emotion.
197B: FYS: Plague in the Islamic World
This course examines the history of the encounter with plague of people living in the Islamic world from 610 CE to 1600 CE. Using primary and secondary sources, we will study how these societies understood the plague (scientifically, culturally and theologically), what was the impact of plague on these societies (demographically, socially and economically), and how these societies responded to repeated bouts of plague (medically, institutionally and politically). The course will also engage with recent research in climate science and genomics to understand the rise, evolution and transmission of the plague bacillus. An important component of the course will be to understand how the new genomic science can help improve our understanding of the history of the plague pandemics, and how traditional historical methods can help improve our understanding of the new science.
197C: FYS: British Empire and Sport
Organized sports are frequently described as one of Victorian Britain's most enduring global legacies. This course will consider the historic development of organized sport in Great Britain and the British Empire through case studies analyzing rugby and cricket. Central themes will include the codification of games in the 19th century, the emergent Victorian sporting ethos, amateurism/professionalism, and debates over gender roles and social class in a sporting context.
Of particular interest are the cultural and sporting ties that spread to the Dominions and Crown Colonies of the British Empire through formal and informal means. The course will highlight the ways in which sport illuminated broader imperial developments including those that secured ties to Britain but simultaneously fostered resistance and emerging national and post-colonial identities. The geographic range of the class will include cricket in the West Indies, Australia and South Asia and rugby football in New Zealand, South Africa and the Pacific Islands.
197E: FYS: Reading and Writing the Holocaust
The Holocaust was one of the defining experiences of the 20th century and the memory of its horrors continues to haunt our imaginations. In this course we will examine the background, development, and the historical and moral impact of the Holocaust in Europe and America. We will use historical documents and historical scholarship, but also literature, autobiography, films, etc. specifically with an eye to developing our reading and writing skills.
197F: FYS: History of the Italian Renaissance
Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Lorenzo the Magnificent, Machiavelli. These individuals immediately bring to mind the Italian Renaissance, an age that saw an explosion of human ingenuity and creative expression as well as economic development and social experimentation. We will uncover the histories of Florence, Venice, Rome, Milan, Urbino, Siena, and other centers of Renaissance culture, read the works of Renaissance writers, and study the artistic achievements of this influential period. In class, we will focus on close readings in translation and hold constructive discussions of the main problems raised in the historical texts in an effort to develop critical thinking skills. The topics explored in the course include the Florentine republic; Petrarch and the development of Humanism; The Renaissance debate over the ideal form of government; Renaissance Venice; The impact of religious reformation on theology and politics; The Renaissance Papacy; Women in Renaissance Italy; Renaissance education; and the end of the Italian Renaissance, to name a few. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the principles of Renaissance humanism and an appreciation for the supreme artistic achievements of the age. No prior knowledge of Italian history or culture is required.