Graduate Courses

Spring 2020

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History 706: Cold War Asia

Cold War Asia

This seminar examines how recent scholarship has challenged or expanded foundational narratives about the Cold War through a focus on Asia. As much of Asia underwent an important transition from colonial empires to nation-states in the twentieth century, we will ask:  To what extent “Cold War Asia” serves as a useful periodization and regionalization for the writing of history? What was the Cold War’s relationship with the eras supposedly coming before and after it? How did the Cold War help remake the political and social geographies in Asia? How did events and processes in Asia influence the global Cold War?  What kind of phenomena, actors, and ideas can be illuminated through such a lens?

To explore these questions, the seminar will discuss recent works along the themes of war and diplomacy, nationalism and internationalism, social movements and protests, migration and diaspora, culture and media, memory and healing, etc.

R 3:30-5:25 PM | 5257 Humanities Bldg. | Instructors: Shelly Chan and Charles Kim

History 707: The Old Regime and the French Revolution

The Old Regime and the French Revolution

This course will focus on the social, cultural, and political history of France from the seventeenth century through the French Revolution and Napoleon.   Crucial questions for the Old Regime include:  how have historians interpreted the ordinary lives and aspirations of peasants, artisans, workers, and colonized peoples?  How did politics and state-building function under the “absolutist monarchy” and how did attitudes toward monarchy and politics evolve in the years leading up to the Revolution?  How did France become engaged in global commerce, colonization, and the slave plantation system, and how did these elements shape both the Old Regime and the revolutionary era? What role did the Enlightenment play in transforming the culture of Old Regime France?   The second half of the course focuses on the French Revolution.  In addition to exploring work on revolutionary politics, grassroots activism, gender, and political culture, we will look at recent attempts to situate the French Revolution within a transnational dynamic that includes the Haitian Revolution and other upheavals in Europe and the Atlantic world.  Throughout the course, we will pay particular attention to historiographical debates over method and interpretation.

Students interested in taking the course should talk to Susan Desan at office hours (Mondays and Wednesdays 4-5pm), or if necessary, by email at

W 9:50 – 11:45 AM | 5245 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Suzanne Desan

History 710: Writing for the Academy and Beyond

Writing for the Academy and Beyond

Writing can be a daunting undertaking. This workshop-style seminar hopes to add a few writing skills to your toolkit, create community among graduate students, and provide you with a space to ask questions that you might not feel comfortable asking elsewhere. It also pushes you to think critically about the public humanities in the 21st century, and help you become more confident and adept in the art of writing for the academy and beyond.

We will follow a common curriculum for the first four weeks of the class. Then there will be a fork in the road, and students will take one of two paths. Some will decide to focus on academic writing, using the remainder of the semester to complete one major academic writing task (e.g., a chapter, article, or MA thesis). Another batch of students will go a different route: they’ll focus on translating the skills they have learned in grad school beyond the academy, for instance by developing ties to local organizations in Madison. Our aim will be to break out of the service-learning model and develop resources for creating a deep and mutually reinforcing relationship between town and gown. Students in this group will also work on a short piece of writing that engages key themes in the public humanities, and has a print or digital audience.

W 11:00 AM-12:55 PM | 5255 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Giuliana Chamedes

History 725-002: Postimperial Japan and Asia

Postimperial Japan and Asia

This course has been created as a forum for all EAH students to engage each other across the stages of graduate school.  We hope everyone will sign up, from first year students to those in the final year of dissertation write up. To facilitate participation, it is offered for variable credit (1-3 credits) and written requirements will be worked out on an individual basis.  If you have concerns about time and other commitments, please speak to me:  I would like to make it possible for everyone to participate, even if on a limited basis.  This is an opportunity to build our intellectual community and to share knowledge and wisdom.

The content of the course will include seven sessions designed to help you develop your professional toolkit:  public speaking (15 minute conference presentations and classroom lectures); facilitating seminars and classroom discussion; academic documents (grant proposal, cover letter, curriculum vita); course design (syllabus); and peer review to workshop dissertation chapters, masters’ essays and seminar papers (presenting constructive criticism, hearing criticism constructively). We will decide which activities to focus on during our first class session.

The course will also include five sessions focusing on the theme of Postimperial Japan and Asia, following a conventional reading seminar format. Assigned readings for discussion are listed under the class schedule. We explore (1) the implications of Japanese rearmament; (2) remaking the China-Japan relationship; (3) competing versions of Asianism; (4) the political-economy and geo-politics of regionalism; and (5) the Japanese cultural export market and the nature of “soft power.”

T 3:30-5:25 PM | 5245 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Louise Young

History 730: Cold War Latin America

Cold War Latin America

This course will provide a forum for learning and discussing the history of Cold War Latin America. Central themes include political violence, economic inequality, and social revolution. The class will feature a range of geographically and methodologically diverse readings that highlight recent changes to our understanding of the region in this period.  Broad interpretations will be put in conversation with specialized monographs. Readings include books that foreground political, cultural, social, and economic approaches, as well as insights from the history of gender, digital history, and transnational history. The course is open to all M.A. and Ph.D. students, including those whose primary area of study is not Latin America but who would benefit from the comparative analysis. The final project will be a historiographical paper on a topic chosen by the student.

M 1:20-3:15 PM | 5257 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Patrick Iber

History 755: U.S. & European Colonial Rule in Southeast Asia

U.S. & European Colonial Rule in Southeast Asia

The course explores the nature of “empire” in an age of America’s global dominion, starting with the rise of European empires during the “high colonialism” in the late 19th century and ending with U.S. global hegemony in the early 21st century. After reviewing the literature on the rise of modern empires, the course will explore both the expansion of European colonialism into Southeast Asia and the region’s response. With the world’s most diverse array of imperial powers and a history of intense colonization, Southeast Asia is the ideal region for a close, comparative study of imperialism.

In this survey of European empires, the seminar will focus closely on U.S. colonial rule in the Philippines from 1898-1946, an important but forgotten chapter in American history. Indeed, in two centuries of American history, the U.S. conquest and colonization of the Philippines is the only experience comparable to our current involvement in Afghanistan. By exploring this juxtaposition of past and present in the history of America’s foreign adventures, the seminar will, in its opening and closing sessions, explore the way the past bears upon the present.

More broadly, the course will explore issues central to the character of global empires—including, the causes of imperial expansion, the drive for military security, the psychology of colonial dominion, ecological and economic transformations, the rise of nationalist resistance, and the dynamics of imperial decline. In its closing sessions, the seminar will apply these historical lessons to analyzing the future course of U.S. global power.

Instead of transferring a fund of facts about European empires and anti-colonial revolutions, the seminar seeks to understand the dynamics of global dominion. Hopefully, students will emerge from the course with a better understanding of the nature of empire, the lasting legacy of colonialism, and the dynamics driving the decline of U.S. global power.

Learning Outcomes:  Students should emerge from the course with (a.) improved writings skills; (b.) practice in formal oral presentations; (c.) a strategy for making a clear, convincing arguments; and (d.) ability to conduct research.

Application: Student interested in taking the seminar should send a short email with their (a.) campus ID (for registration); (b.) student status (senior/junior/grad student); (c.) major; (d.) GPA; and (e.) reasons for their interest in the class to Alfred McCoy at

Grading: Students shall be marked on their weekly participation, writing assignments, and oral presentations.

Class Presentations: Each student shall serve as the lead “discussant” twice during the semester by presenting a 15-minute summary of the readings. Students are also responsible for reviewing and discussing the weekly reading assignments, usually totaling about 100 pages.

Final Paper: In the last weeks of the semester, students shall submit a 15-page paper on one of the topics they presented during the semester. About three weeks before the paper is due, students shall meet with the instructor during office hours to discuss their progress.

T 11:00 AM-12:55 PM | 5255 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Alfred McCoy

History 804: Culture in 20th-Century Berlin

Culture in 20th-Century Berlin

Starting as a drab garrison city in a landscape devoid of natural beauty, Berlin’s growth as a political and industrial center came in fits and starts with little regard for systematic urban planning, but somehow it grew to become one of the most vibrant cultural centers in Europe if not the world. Yet from the time that it became the capital of the Prussian kingdom, a succession of rulers found it difficult to embrace this city as a site worthy of cultural patronage: even as the rulers of Prussia and later the German empire invested in their capital city’s cultural portfolio by commissioning museums and universities, such advances were overshadowed by its rapid commercial and industrial expansion, its working class activism, and the proliferation of sex tourism and popular entertainment in operetta houses, cabarets, and amusement parks amidst the disorientating maelstrom of an urban space. World wars and consequent regime changes posed even more setbacks for Berlin in achieving a high cultural profile. In a highly symbolic move following the First World War, the new democratic republic was named not after its capital but after Weimar, a city with a more respectable cultural pedigree. Even Nazi leaders disdained Berlin for what they regarded as its degenerate “asphalt culture.” With massive destruction by Allied bombs and its eventual dissection into East and West Berlin, the project of rebuilding its cultural renown in the impoverished East and the geographically insulated West seemed impossible to achieve.  Despite all these odds, Berlin culture has managed to maintain a world-class reputation as a center for artistic achievement and a mecca for alternative culture.

In the twentieth century, Berlin has functioned as the seat of government and as a showcase for conflicting ideologies during the Cold War, and it now faces the challenge of returning to its function as reunified Germany’s capital without ignoring its past.  This course will examine the arts, literature, and entertainment in Berlin from the turn of the century through the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, the Cold War, and the reunification, in an effort to determine how politics, economics, ideology, and demographics have come together to shape a unique culture that has been able
to withstand a perpetual cycle of construction, destruction, and renewal.

T 4:00-6:30 PM | 399 Van Hise Hall | Instructor: Pamela Potter

History 850: History of the Soviet Union

History of the Soviet Union

This course will introduce graduate students to the history of the USSR, 1927-1991. Each week we will explore different topics in Soviet history, including the 1917 revolutions, Stalinism, the formation of the USSR, and the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. We will discuss the events themselves and how interpretations of those events have changed over time (with the beginning of the Cold War, the collapse of the USSR, the opening of archives, and so on.

F 11:00 AM-12:55 PM | 5255 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Francine Hirsch

History 861: Africa and Diaspora, 1441-1804

Africa and Diaspora, 1441-1804

Between 1492 and 1808, Africans represented the largest immigrant stream to the Americas, outnumbering European migrants by a ratio of 3:1.  During this same period, Africans also traveled to Europe, India, and Asia.  The purpose of this course is to introduce students to some of the major themes in the study of the African diaspora, from 1441, when the first Africans arrived into Europe via the Atlantic, until the end of the Haitian Revolution in 1804.  Slavery, the slave trade, and memories of the slave trade figure prominently in the readings, but we will also examine the development of diasporic identities, religions, kinship structures, gender constructions, political expressions, and so on.  The impacts of Africa on the Atlantic world, though often muted in the historical literature, were at least as profound as European influences.  We will explore how and why.

Possible readings include:

  • Jessica Krug, Fugitive Modernities: Kisama and the Politics of Freedom
  • Herman Bennett, African Kings and Black Slaves: Sovereignty and Dispossession in the Early Modern Atlantic
  • Julius Scott, A Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution
  • Zora Hurston, Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo
  • Linda Heywood, Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen
  • Walter Rucker, Gold Coast Diasporas: Identity, Culture, and Power
  • Catarina Madeira Santos, Slavery in African Languages
  • Daina Berry, The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved from Womb to Grave
  • Vincent Brown, Tacky’s Revolt: The Story of an Atlantic Slave War
  • Alejandro de la Fuente and Ariela J. Gross, Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Virginia, and Louisiana
  • Sasha Turner, Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica
  • Kevin Dawson, Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the African Diaspora

W 7:45-9:40 AM | 5255 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: James Sweet

History 891: The Rise and Fall of the Domestic System: Women and Gender in Modern Europe

The Rise and Fall of the Domestic System: Women and Gender in Modern Europe

This seminar explores the rise and fall of the “domestic system” — the set of cultural norms confining women to the domestic home, which were interpellated across class and race to form a complex social system.   The success of the domestic system demonstrates how 19th c. cultural norms were generated, deployed, and reiterated in particular lives.   Its instability and decline reveals how such norms were undermined by uneven development, feminism, urbanization and world war.   Authorized by the liberal fiction of “nature,” the belief that a woman’s primary role was domestic and maternal arose in the late 18th century, particularly in the discourses of science and Jacobin politics.  Female domesticity, and the associated belief in women as passionlessness and sexually pure, were primarily white, middle-class ideals.  But they profoundly affected the cultural practices of the working-class, as well as non-European peoples both at home and in colonial societies.

T 3:30-5:25 PM | 5257 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Mary Lou Roberts

History 901-001: Immigration and Displacement in 20th Century U.S.

Immigration and Displacement in 20th Century U.S.

No description.

T 11:00 AM-12:55 PM | 5257 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Cindy  I-Fen Cheng

History 901-002: History Takes Place

History Takes Place

How might the setting of your research feature in your project? Thanks to cross-disciplinary work of the past fifty years it can be a truism to say that a place is neither a blank slate nor simply the background for human action. Rather, place matters. This seminar will offer different methods, questions, and avenues for exploring the myriad ways place constitutes and is constituted by change over time. One of the advantages to approaching the study of history through place is exposure to different historical subfields and themes. Participants will spend the semester studying a single place utilizing a different approach each week. This long case study will enable us to layer understandings of place, whether through the history of education or medicine, environmental or cultural history, deeply accessible public history or seemingly mystifying theory. The focus of this seminar will be on usefulness and multiplicity of method. To this end we will also spend time discussing primary sources, including works of fiction, visual sources, and government documents. Though intended for all historians regardless of specialty, the content will focus on nineteenth and twentieth century U.S. history.

T 8:50-10:45 AM | 5255 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Paige Glotzer

History 901-003: Modern Jewish History in Comparative Perspective: Russia and the United States

Modern Jewish History in Comparative Perspective:  Russia and the United States

This seminar adopts a comparative approach to the study of Jews in Russia and the United States.  During the 19th and 20th centuries, these countries—both destined to become world superpowers—became home to the two largest Jewish communities in the world, connected by myriad ties.  Because Russian Jews and American Jews lived under very different political systems, historians have tended to regard them as too distinct to warrant comparison.  The seminar adopts a different perspective by asking how and when Russian Jews and American Jews embarked on parallel and divergent experiences.  It investigates subjects such as emancipation, migration, and revolution in order to probe the meaning of modernity in a diasporic frame.

R 3:30-5:25 PM | 5255 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Tony Michels

History 901-004: Citizenship, Belonging, and the United States

Citizenship, Belonging, and the United States

Who can be a member of the national community? Where are the borders between inclusion and exclusion, and between the citizen and his or her antitheses—among them savage, slave, dependent, and alien? A thematic journey through the history of the United States and its empire, territories, and neighbors.

R 8:50-10:45 AM | 5255 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Stephen Kantrowitz

History 906: History of Education: History of Childhood and Adolescence

History of Education: History of Childhood and Adolescence

Studying children and youth in the past offers a unique and fascinating way to view historical development. For centuries, philosophers, educators, and political and religious leaders—as well as ordinary parents—have asked basic questions about the nature of young people and how to raise them. Concerning children, they have asked: “What is a child?” “How are children best prepared for adulthood?” “Who should make decisions about the care, rearing, and education of children?” Every society has answered these questions differently. And children and adolescents have often confounded the efforts of adults to answer these questions and implement policies accordingly.

Since the early 1960s, scholars in numerous academic disciplines have tried to understand the nature of childhood and youth in the past. They have drawn upon many kinds of historical sources: art, literature, religious tracts, memoirs, movies, biographies, and so on. The same is true of this course. Most of the class will focus on childhood and adolescence in Western European and then American history, starting with the ancient world and ending in the recent past.

The core of the class will be discussion of common readings, plus the occasional use of images, films, music, and dramatic readings. Students will complete one 15-20 page research paper.

T 2:25-5:25 PM | 151 Education Bldg. | Instructor: William Reese

History 907: Cities, Schools, and the “Urban Crisis”

Cities, Schools, and the “Urban Crisis”

Recent events in cities such as Ferguson, Baltimore, and Madison have painfully exposed the racial and class disparities that plague the modern American metropolis. This seminar explores the history of those disparities with an emphasis urban and suburban public schools. To that end, students will examine the relationship between metropolitan change and the construction of race, how those processes affected schools and school systems, and how schools and school policies in turn shaped the modern American metropolis and meaning of race.

The course is structured to provide students with an opportunity to explore the intersections and gaps between urban/metropolitan history, the history of education, and the history of race in order to identify new directions for research on the history of metropolitan opportunity and inequality in general and metropolitan schooling in particular. While the idea of an “urban crisis” figures prominently in the literature on twentieth-century and particularly postwar metropolitan change, course readings and discussions will allow students to question the utility of this concept and to consider alternative models for understanding the origins of the modern American metropolis.

M 2:25-5:25 PM | 151 Education Bldg. | Instructor: Walter Stern

History 943: Race & Nationalism: Comparative & Theoretical Perspectives

Race & Nationalism: Comparative & Theoretical Perspectives

This seminar cultivates a nuanced understanding of how race and nationalism have not only been “factors” in national histories, but also how they have shaped the past in the societies we will study.  Our readings and discussions will prompt us to probe how race and nationalism inflect colonialism, racial orders, gender, cultural politics, and foreign relations.  Most of our authors are historians but we will also sample selected work in other humanities and social science fields to enhance our understanding of the ways that scholars have studied the race and nationalisms nexus.

There are five broad and overlapping themes in the course: 1) racial formation; 2) power; 3) diaspora; 4) gendered nationalism; 5) culture.  These themes are approximate categories; there are good reasons for classifying many of these works in several of them.  The themes anchor discussion for the readings which, except for the more theoretical, are organized in rough chronological order.

Requirements are two seminar papers, one shorter than the other; regular attendance and participation; and moderating at least one seminar meeting.

R 1:20-3:15PM | 5257 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Brenda Gayle Plummer

History 983: Race, Embodiment, and Value

Race, Embodiment, and Value

The idea of racial embodiment has powerfully informed the modern valuation of African and global-black cultural expression. Less understood, though, is what this “value” really is. Typically, observers perceive the embodied qualities of black creativity as a good thing, that “embodiment” marks a positive, aesthetic value. Yet embodied blackness has also historically carried a negative status, seeming tarnished in some quarters by its basis in the legacies of slavery and colonialism. Making matters more complicated, the signs of positive and negative valuation have typically worked together, their doubled, interwoven relation extending into the present day. If what early European ethnologists called “primitive” identified something negative, how and why did it also take positive meaning, orienting the “primitivist” cultural productions first celebrated in Europe, and later informing works of literature, film (black science fiction) and music (Nigerian Afrobeat, UK jungle, global-black hip hop)? Finally, how do we separate body-centered aesthetic measures from other value regimes? For example, how does the conspicuous presence of black embodied forms in global capitalism affect their aesthetic valuation?

The seminar will face these matters head on, seeking to unravel some of the complex ways in which African and African-diasporic cultural forms obtain value in the modern, global economy. Over the course of the term, we will analyze the strange dynamic of positive/negative valuation as it repeatedly plays out in various arenas. Topics will include the African concept of the fetish and the fetish-character of the commodity-form; the racial-economic status of the black body as abject/superfluous labor and the rise of positive, “soulful” black forms; the extraction and exhibition of Africa’s cultural resources in European public museums and their re-valuation in postcolonial art. Seminar readings will develop from historical, critical, and theoretical literatures representing multiple disciplines. These may include works by W.E.B. Du Bois, Karl Marx, Frantz Fanon, John and Jean Comaroff, Paul Gilroy, Achille Mbembe, Megan Vaughan, J. Lorand Matory, William Pietz, David Graeber, Patricia Hayes, Andrew Zimmerman, and Alice Conklin.

W 1:20-3:15 PM |474 Van Hise Hall | Instructor: Ronald Radano

History of Science 909: History of Modern Biology in National and Transnational Perspective

History of Modern Biology in National and Transnational Perspective

This graduate reading seminar will explore leading themes in and approaches to nationalism and transnationalism as these impinge on the history of modern (post-1789) science, both as historical phenomena and as historiographic approaches. We will begin with some general historiographic considerations on the idea of the “transnational,” and its relations to national (and “international”) studies in history of science. We will then use diverse episodes in the history of biology (broadly understood) as our main lens for seeing how these historical and historiographic issues play out in practice, using a combination of preset and student-set topics. Geographical emphasis will range the globe but will focus primarily on “Western” science. Preset topics will include (at least) national/transnational perspectives on the history of: classification, evolution, eugenics, paleoanthropology, and fisheries science.

Requirements: This is primarily a reading seminar. We will read a book or 4-5 articles or book sections per week; you should come to each week’s meeting prepared to discuss them.

Informal writing: Each student will write 3 discussion-launching “think-pieces” about the readings over the course of the semester, to be circulated by noon the day before the seminar.

Formal writing: A paper of approximately 15-20 pages (double-spaced) will be due at the end of the course. Each student will choose a form suited to their interests and stage of graduate career. Generally this would be either a) a historiographic essay that develops a theme of interest to you, covering a body of work that includes readings from within and beyond the reading list; or b) a detailed proposal for a research project using primary and secondary sources related to the history of nationalism or transnationalism in the history of biology. Students who wish instead to write a research paper using primary sources (e.g. to fulfill a requirement) should consult me early in the course.

R 12:30-3:30 PM | 5245 Humanities Bldg. | Instructor: Lynn Nyhart

Syllabi Library

Current and past syllabi, arranged by course number, can be found in the History Syllabi Library.

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Course Guide

Graduate courses at UW-Madison are numbered 700 and above, and History graduate students typically take courses at the 700 or higher level. Subject to program restrictions and by prior arrangement with the instructor, however, students may take 300-600 level course that carry the graduate attribute for graduate credit. For details, see the Graduate Program Handbook – Registration – Level of Course Credits.

The Course Guide lists all courses offered at UW-Madison. It is an online, searchable catalog that provides a broad spectrum of course information and enables browsing the course sections offered each term. It is updated six times per day. You may reach the Course Guide in two ways:

  • Public version of the Course Guide
  • Version for UW students available through My UW (requires UW NetID login)

For graduate students, there is no practical difference between the two points of entry. (The only difference that the My UW version enables undergraduates to use the Degree Planner tool.)