Undergraduate Courses

Course descriptions and links to instructors’ profile pages are listed below. Cross-listed courses offered by other departments can also be found below, with the department to contact noted beneath each course description. If you are having problems enrolling in a course, please start by contacting the Enrollment Help Desk.

  • Wait Lists – History Majors and graduating seniors have first priority on the wait lists for our courses.

Spring 2021

History Courses

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History 101: American History to the Civil War Era

History 101 will look at how United States evolved from its earliest roots through about 1860. We will cover the European background, indigenous cultures, the troubled history of enslavement, economics, immigration, politics, religion, society, culture, and precisely how thirteen diverse colonies on the margins of empire launched a revolution that transformed history. We will track the development of the new nation through the Jacksonian era and early industrialization, and will end in the 1860s when hostilities between North and South erupted into Civil War.

Instructor: TBA

History 102: American History, Civil War Era to the Present

This course provides a broad survey of United States History since 1865. We will explore the major political, economic, social, cultural, and intellectual transformations that have shaped the lives of Americans from the Civil War to the present. One of the key questions that we will grapple with concerns how different people have defined, fought over, and claimed “freedom” throughout American history. Students will practice the craft of historical analysis by evaluating primary sources, identifying historical patterns, formulating arguments, and defending their conclusions. Along the way, we will consider the ongoing legacies of the past—and the stories we tell about it—in the United States today.

The format for the course is remote synchronous, with three meetings per week. Two meetings with the professor will include short (roughly 20 minute) lectures followed by discussion, group work, and assignments. An additional discussion section led by a graduate student instructor will allow students to meet in smaller groups to discuss the readings in depth and to hone the skills of critical thinking, research, and writing necessary to do the work of history.

Instructor: Allison Powers Useche

History 104: Introduction to East Asian History: Japan

This course aims to introduce students to the culture, politics and intellectual currents in Japan from ancient times to the present. After this introduction, students should be well-equipped to form their own opinions about Japan. themes we will study include: whether we can talk about a unique Japanese culture, the influence of China on Japan and how Japan’s relation to China and East Asia changes throughout history, the emergence of a samurai/shogunal system in Japan, Zen Buddhism, Japanese Confucianism and national learning in the Edo period (1604-1868), Japanese imperialism and its legacies for the present, and the cultural, intellectual and artistic changes that took place in various periods of Japanese history.

Instructor: Viren Murthy

History 120: Europe and the Modern World, 1815 to the Present

Description: This course puts students into contact with other young adults who went before them. European history since 1800 has been dominated by alternating periods of authoritarianism and youth rebellion; by exclusion of outsiders and by their inclusion. A world falling apart because of industrial and imperial revolutions was met by creative responses for healing: nationalism, socialism, religious revivalism—sometimes for good, and sometimes for bad. Less about dates and battles, and more about how people have changed as they have lived with one another.

Whenever possible, we will listen to the voices of the marginalized: the poor, the disabled, ethnic and religious minorities, and the youth. We will hear from Asians and Africans in Europe, and from Europeans in Africa and Asia.

Format: Two synchronous lectures + one discussion section in weekly thematic modules. Weekly written exercises and open-book essays; NO timed exams.

Learning Outcomes: Develop your cross-cultural competency. Learn how to analyze published opinions for what is said—and unsaid. Learn how to constructively push back against historical claims. Learn how to make valid connections and applications to your own future career, whatever it may be.

Instructor: TBA

History 130: Introduction to World History

While world history has recently emerged as a very active field of scholarly research, it is in fact one of the oldest forms of historical writing we have. This course will explore a few of the major questions in world history: what are the major varieties of human civilization, and how and why are they different? How did these differentiated societies interact with one another? How did the modern, interconnected world emerge? Finally, how did people at different times and places answer these same questions?  In exploring these questions, this course will consider the entire sweep of human history from the upper Paleolithic to the present with special attention paid to the themes of migration and mobility. We will primarily take a bird’s eye view and occasionally dip down for perspectives ‘from the ground.’ Beginning with a broad overview of the inhabited continents and their distinguishing geographic and ecological features, we then explore the expansion of Mediterranean society through an examination of Ancient Greece and Rome. We will then look at the Islamic world and its contributions to enhancing the regional interconnectedness of Eurasia. The course will conclude by considering the modern world by analyzing the rise of the British Empire and the post-colonial period of the late twentieth century.

Instructor: TBA

History 136: Sport, Recreation & Society in the U.S.

As much as we may try to convince ourselves that sport offers an escape from the “real world,” constant news of players’ strikes, stadium financing controversies, and the lack of diversity in league management remind us that we cannot separate the games we play and watch from the political, social, and cultural contexts in which they are embedded. With this in mind, this course explores how sport has shaped and been shaped by major trends in American social, political, and economic history. Lectures and discussion sections will not focus on player stats or the morning edition of SportsCenter. Instead, students will engage with serious historical arguments and debates about sport’s relationship to American capitalism, social movements, and urban development. Readings also provide a diverse set of perspectives on the politics of race, gender, and class in American sport in the twentieth century. Non-sports fans are welcome and encouraged to enroll!

Instructor: TBA

History 200-001: Carnage in Rome

In 37 CE a twenty-four year-old young man became the third emperor of Rome. His official title was Gaius Iulius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, but he is better known under his nickname Caligula. His succession was received with enormous enthusiasm by the armies, the people in Rome, and the subjects of the Roman Empire, but eight months into his rule the emperor became seriously ill. He recovered but he was never the same again. In the next years Caligula showed himself an exceptionally cruel and paranoid ruler who had people executed on the slightest suspicion. After a reign of only four years he was assassinated.

In this seminar students will read a biography of the emperor as well as parts of Tacitus’ Annals, Suetonius’ The Twelve Caesars, and Dio Cassius’ Roman History (in translation) to explore the history of the Roman imperial family from Augustus to Caligula with a narrow focus on the reign of Tiberius, Caligula’s uncle and predecessor, and that of Caligula himself. The historical events of the years 14-37 will provide a point of departure for a detailed study of Caligula’s youth, his personality and his reign as emperor.

Instructor: Marc Kleijwegt

History 200-002: From the Ottoman Empire to Modern Turkey

The Ottoman Empire was one of history’s most enduring states. Founded in the thirteenth century, it ruled most of the Middle East and North Africa, along with much of Europe, from the sixteenth century until the dawn of the twentieth. More than just an opportunity to learn about the Middle East, therefore, Ottoman history offers a chance to study the emergence of the modern world. This course takes a thematic approach. Topics will include the Ottoman history of climate change, slavery and its abolition, sexuality, science and medicine, Islamic law and mysticism, economic globalization, nationalism and genocide, military and educational reform, and constitutionalism. The course also addresses the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the formation of the Turkish Republic, with emphasis on the remembrance of the Ottoman era in modern Turkish politics, literature, and film.

Instructor: Daniel Stolz

History 200-003: Doing Digital History: Tokyo, 1868-2021

In this course, we will use digital historical methods to study and present on the hundred-plus years that laid the foundations of the Tokyo of today, from seat of Japan’s imperial government in 1868 to host of its second Summer Olympics in 2021. Using scholarly literature alongside primary documents such as short stories, art prints, and film, students will learn the fascinating history of this global city and how people living there experienced its many and constant transformations. Rather than being evaluated on the recitation of names and dates through exams, students will have the opportunity to work on their digital communication skills, presenting what they have learned by creating works of digital history and contributing to each other’s work through small group peer review. We will begin with blogs and story maps, move on to podcasts, and conclude with a “web exhibit” that collects your work in a WordPress page.

Instructor: TBA

History 201-001: The Weimar Republic and the Rise of Nazism

The collapse of Germany’s Weimar Republic (1918-1933) is perhaps the most recognizable case of democratic failure in modern history. Recent events have sparked debate over whether the U.S. and Europe are experiencing a new “Weimar moment.” But is it fair to evaluate the Weimar Republic only in light of its disastrous endpoint? Why did the Nazis come to power in 1933, and could the Nazi rise have been prevented? This seminar explores the politics, society, and culture of this dramatic period in modern European history. We will examine not only the seedbeds of fascism, but also reform movements that sought democratic transformations in sexuality, education, and the built environment. Our sources will range widely across Weimar’s vibrant cultural landscape, including literature, film, fashion, journalism, music, photography, and propaganda. By uncovering the complex causes behind the Weimar Republic’s rise and fall, we will come to appreciate the importance of contingency in history. As a “Historian’s Craft” seminar that meets the COMM-B requirement, this course places strong emphasis on written and oral communication. Students will have numerous opportunities to receive feedback on papers and presentations.

Instructor: Brandon Bloch

History 201-002: Religion and the Enlightenment

This Historian’s Craft course explores the complicated and fascinating relationship between religion and the Enlightenment in Europe, c. 1650-1800. Today the Enlightenment is often seen as an intellectual movement that opposed religious belief and offered a secular basis for living and ordering the world. The reality, we will discover, was more complex. While some did reject all established religion, others deployed new thinking to update and revitalize their respective religious traditions—Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish—while still others embraced popular movements of renewal and revival that bore an often surprising relationship to the Enlightenment. This course will equip you to think about these developments historically as you learn and practice the skills that historians use to do their work. Our weekly seminar discussions will center on a range of key primary sources and recent scholarly writings. You will have the opportunity to compose a series of short analytical papers, make two oral presentations, contribute to lively class discussion, and write an original research paper on a topic of your choosing.

Instructor: Eric Carlsson

History 201-003: Representing History: Monuments and Films

In this course we shall investigate two different forms that shape our sense of the past, monuments and films.  The course will be divided into two, each half focused on one of the forms.  In the first half of the semester, we shall develop our ability to think analytically about monuments: statues, plaques, and other forms marking a life or an event or many lives.  In the second half, we shall turn to films to analyze how they tell the story of events in the past and how those stories then shape how we think about those events.  This is a Comm B course and therefore writing intensive.  Each student will identify, for the first half of the course, a monument they will analyze; and for the second half of the course, a film.  Writing is a process, so these research papers will be done in conversation, first, with a Trusted Writing Partner, and then with all of us. This 4-credit course meets as a group for 4 hours per week (according to UW-Madison’s credit hour policy, each lecture counts as 1.5 hours and each discussion counts as an hour).  The course also carries the expectation that you will spend an average of at least 2 hours outside of class for every hour in the classroom. In other words, in addition to class time, plan to allot an average of at least 8 hours per week for reading, writing, and preparing for discussion.

Instructor: Lee Wandel

History 201-004: History of Now

History is the study of change over time, and requires hindsight to generate insight. Most history courses stop short of the present, and historians are frequently wary of applying historical analysis to our own times, before we have access to private sources and before we have the critical distance that helps us see what matters and what is ephemeral. But recent years have given many people the sense of living through historic times, and clamoring for historical context that will help them to understand the momentous changes in politics, society and culture that they observe around them. This experimental course seeks to explore the last twenty years or so from a historical point of view, using the historian’s craft to gain perspective on the present.

The course will consider major developments—primarily but not exclusively in U.S. history—of the last twenty years, including 9/11 and the War on Terror, the financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath, social movements from the Tea Party to the Movement for Black Lives, and the political, cultural, and technological changes that have been created by and shaped by these events. This course is designed to be an introduction to historical reasoning, analysis, writing, and research. We will practice looking at current events and developing the research skills to place them in historical context. We will practice reading the world around us as a primary source. We will explore the promise and limits of historical analogy. And we will work to understand ourselves as actors in history, shaped by our own historical context. Finally, we will look forward, to try to think about what the future may find significant about our own time.

Instructor: Patrick Iber

History 201-005: Feminist Activism in the 1970s

The history of the modern women’s movement, also known as the second wave of feminism, is too often told as a story of white, upper middle class “leaders” or “stars”, who started a movement that excluded all other feminists. This narrative ignores many of the feminist and queer social justice movements to advance the rights and opportunities for working class people, non-binary people, sexual, racial, and/or other minorities, as well as disability activism that also have roots and rich histories in the 1960s and 1970s.

In this class, we broach questions about how and why we might write histories about the second wave which emphasizes the broader, more diverse range of movements that it was. We will focus on three case studies from Wisconsin but place them in the context of the rest of the US and students are welcome to work on research topics that take them outside Wisconsin to the many other exciting histories of feminist activism across North America.

Instructor: Pernille Ipsen

History 201-006: The History of Data

In science, public policy, and business, data holds enormous explanatory and argumentative power. And recent decades have witnessed significant developments in both the quantity of data generated, and growth in the kinds of demands we make of data. How did this happen? When and how did numerical information and quantitative reasoning come to play such a central role in practices of knowledge gathering and decision-making in science, statecraft, and commercial enterprise? We will seek some answers to these questions, examining along the way what differentiates between “facts” “information” and “data”, and how their character has shifted over time. Offering an introduction to the history of data and data sciences in Europe and North America from the 18th century to recent discussions of “big data,” this course provides students with the tools to write and conduct historical research on the shifting meaning of data in society.

Instructor: Devin Kennedy

History 201-007: The Violence of Mass Confinement: A Global History

A detention camp, a concentration camp, or labor camp: these “camps” of mass confinement have become a symbol of the conflicts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  This course is a critical examination of power, race, and colonialism through a close study of people’s experiences of building, living, and surviving camps throughout the twentieth century.  We will analyze the major historical shifts in the global imperial landscape from the Philippine-American Wars at the turn of the century through the “War on Terror.”  Rather than approaching the “camp” as an exception to the everyday, we will ask: How and where did people develop techniques and practices of mass confinement? When did societies perceive the need for a camp?  How have the practices of making a camp changed (or not changed) through decolonization?  How do the dynamics and workings of a particular camp shed light on the contemporaneous political landscape? And what type of role does the “camp” play in different societies’ historical memories?

Our focus will be on the historical connections between the case-study camps, as we begin with the reconcentrado policy of Spanish colonialism in Cuba in 1880s and end with reflections on the implications of Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) in Cuba alongside detention camps stateside for U.S. imperialism. This course approaches the “camp” not as a strictly defined entity, but rather as a practice mobilized by different groups for particular purposes.  Possible case studies we will consider range from German colonialism and the Herero in Namibia, the British and the Mau Mau in Kenya, to Japanese American internment camps and supermax prisons in the United States.

Readings will include both secondary sources (books and articles written by scholars) and an array of primary sources (memoirs, oral history interviews, military documents, legal cases and film).

Instructor: Monica Kim

History 201-008: Protest Movements in 1960s Europe and America

The 1960s was a pivotal decade in the history of Europe and America.  Politically speaking, it is often remembered as a period of unrest, with student protests, civil rights marches, assassinations, and Cold War tensions dominating the public consciousness.  At the same time, a decline in religious practice, the emergence of youth culture, rock music, and new sexual freedoms all signaled a disorienting shift in social norms.  This course will explore these important moments from a comparative, transnational perspective.  Using a variety of primary sources, such as memoirs, political tracts, news reels, popular music, posters, fliers, and ephemera, we will examine international developments such as the student movement and counterculture, decolonization efforts in the so-called Third World, and the emergence of the New Left, Post-modernism, and Left-wing terrorism.  Student activities will include seminar-style discussions, in-class presentations, and a chance to complete a piece of original research based on primary sources.

Instructor: TBA

History 201-009: The World of Alexander Hamilton

This course uses our collective Hamilton mania as an invitation to study the American revolutionary era. We discuss Hamilton’s biography, but we also study the American Revolution through the eyes of men and women who joined competing political causes. Course content covers transatlantic and continental developments from Pontiac’s War to the Alien and Sedition Acts. Lectures and reading assignments examine British North America through social, cultural, and political historical methods. We also apply the lenses of gender, sexuality, race, colonialism, and slavery to our historical discussions. Each student has the opportunity to design and execute a research paper using digital and/or printed sources. Examples of content covered in our weekly meetings: Biographies of Revolutionaries; Patriots and Loyalists; Liberty vs. Slavery; Founding Father Chic; The Ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights; The 1619 Project; American Finance and the Whiskey Rebellion; Political Culture in the Early Republic.

Instructor: TBA

History 220: Introduction to Modern Jewish History

This introductory course surveys the history of the Jews in the modern period (ca. 1750 onward). It begins in the present day, laying out some features of the contemporary existence of the Jews, understood as a religious collective, ethnic group, and nation. We then travel back in time to the eve of modernity in order to understand how contemporary Jewry came to be. In our study of Jewish intellectual, cultural, and religious history we will encounter the many conflicts among Jews about how Jews and Judaism were to function in modernity.  For example, we will discuss the emergence of Hasidism, the Reform movement, and Zionism. In our study of the political and social history of the Jews, we will seek to understand the major challenges imposed on Jewish life from without. These will include the rise of political antisemitism and the Holocaust. One of our main guiding themes will be the relationship between tradition and innovation and between continuity and change in modern Jewish life. We will investigate what connects modern Jews to the Jewish people and Judaism of antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Instructor: Amos Bitzan

History 221-001: History & Genealogy in the United States

Genealogy–the study of family lineage–is a popular American pursuit. But genealogy is more than a hobby! Within the United States, from the colonial era to the present, Americans have used genealogy to make specific arguments about power. Ancestral claims have helped Americans demand social, economic, or political power. Families consolidated resources when they engaged in nepotism, to give an obvious example. Yet Americans also used made genealogical claims to facilitate their inheritance of property, to support or challenge the logic of race in the United States, and to challenge their enslavement in lawsuits for freedom. Kinship patterns enabled and subverted colonization. Indigenous peoples used genealogy, or blood quantum, to set boundaries for tribal membership. Some genealogists used their ancestry to demand a higher status for themselves, claiming that they held social importance as the descendants of Mayflower colonists, American Revolutionary veterans, or old hispano families in New Mexico. Lineage matters in American history. Seminar meetings and reading assignments support our study of the power of genealogy. Our course work helps us to better understand the purposes to which genealogy has been put. Each student has the opportunity to develop a project that situates a family in their specific historical context. Examples of content covered in our weekly meetings: North American Kinship in the British and Spanish Colonies;  Kinship and Race in North America; American Indian Patterns of Kinship; Household Governance in the United States; Genealogy for Economic Betterment: Inheritance Legislation;  Slavery, Ancestry, and Freedom Suits; Fictive Kinship: Forms of Nonbiological Relationships;  Religious Interpretations of Ancestry; Immigration Strategies and Legislative Restrictions;  Genealogy within Movements for Social Justice; Research Methods for Genealogy; Conducting Interviews and Oral Histories

Instructor: TBA

History 223-001: How to Live Forever: The History of Immortality

This course explores how the quest for everlasting life and stories about life after death have shaped European history. Will we ever get the chance to conquer death? Would you even want to live forever? Do we have something like an immortal soul? These questions have a long and turbulent history: over time, different people have answered them very differently as they confronted death and sought to overcome it physically or spiritually. We will investigate how rulers and revolutionaries, theologians and philosophers, alchemists and scientists, storytellers and readers all tied their deepest dreams and fears—about body and soul, death and afterlife—to the broader historical moments in which they found themselves. We will pursue these themes all the way from medieval Europe to the world of the twenty-first century, with an emphasis on the crucial changes that occurred in the early modern period (16th-18th century). Ultimately, we will work to understand historically how culture and politics have interacted with the deep human quest to push back the boundaries of death.

Instructor: TBA

History 223-002: The Army in the W. Provinces of the Roman Empire

Instructor: Marc Kleijwegt

History 223-003: Felony and Society in Medieval England

Medieval legal practices look strange at first glance; to the people of Medieval England, however, they made perfect sense – at least most of the time. This class seeks to reorient the study of crime away from the margins, and instead center law and criminality at the core of making and unmaking of society. Laws, and the ways in which people break, circumvent, and understand them, can tell us a lot about the societies in which they were created. In this class, we will explore medieval English society by examining the legal processes and procedures surrounding felony acts and their prosecution. We will question definitions of felony to better understand the social covenants governing medieval English culture: which acts were accepted? Which acts were condemned? What do the changing circumstances surrounding the prosecution of such acts say about the society in which they existed? We will explore medieval understandings of emotion and knowledge-making, as well as the complex relationship that medieval people had with ideas like justice, mercy, and legality. We will examine the impact of the growth of law on village relationships, community creation, and notions of the “other.” Throughout, we will discover the ways that people avoided — or didn’t — punishment for their crimes, and how that affected the communities in which they lived.

Instructor: TBA

History 242: Modern Latin America

Latin America is one of the most important regions of the world. Sharing a hemisphere with the United States, our futures are interconnected. The fate of the Amazon is essential to the global environment. And high levels of inequality in Latin America shape its politics in ways that are increasingly relevant elsewhere. But how did things get there? This course will give a broad overview of Latin American history in the modern period, since the 1820s but with a particular focus on the twentieth century. We will examine key issues such as colonialism, race, nationalism, democracy, and revolution. Among the topics to be explored in detail will be the Mexican and Cuban revolutions, populism and dictatorship, socialism and neoliberalism, and drugs and migration.

Instructor: Patrick Iber

History 246: South Asian Refugees of Cold War

Between 1975 and 1995, over two million Southeast Asians fled from the three former French colonies frequently referred to collectively as Indochina: Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Over 1.3 million of these migrants came as refugees to the United States and added four new major ethnic groups to American society: Hmong, Khmer, Lao, and Vietnamese, including among them ethnic Chinese and the children of American military personnel (frequently referred to as “Amerasians”). This course is intended to provide a better understanding of the conditions that led these people, and thousands of others, to flee their homelands in Southeast Asia and eventually take refuge and start new lives in the US, as well as in the other countries that offered them asylum (including Canada, Australia, and France).

The course will be divided into four parts and will emphasize the Cold War conflicts and wars that devastated these three countries and resulted in the flight and resettlement of these refugees, especially between 1975 and 1995.

Part 1, Peoples of the Indochina Countries, will introduce the themes of the course and provide basic information on the histories, cultures, and social organizational patterns of the four ethnic groups that are the focus of the course: Hmong, Khmer, Lao, and Vietnamese.

Part 2, Colonial Origins of Conflicts in Indochina, will concentrate on the modern history and changing societies of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, with emphasis on the last decades of French colonial rule, the Japanese occupation during the Pacific War, and the nationalist, revolutionary, and global (Cold War) struggles and upheavals that took place in these three countries, especially from the 1920s through the 1950s. In addition to discussing the larger contexts of the Cold War, this section will emphasize the significant social, economic, political, and geopolitical developments that took place in French Indochina during the first half of the 20th century.

Part 3, The “Cold” Wars in Indochina, will survey the violent conflicts of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, with emphasis on the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, the political alignments (international and domestic) that these conflicts created, the traumatic aftermath of US withdrawal and Communist victories, and the post-1975 developments and continuing conflicts that further devastated all three countries.

Part 4, Disorderly Departures: Refugees and Migrants, will concentrate on the flight of thousands of people from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos from 1975 to the mid-1990s. It will attempt to describe and analyze the mass exodus of refugees and migrants and the global efforts to facilitate their survival and resettlement. Lectures and readings will concentrate on the reasons for seeking asylum (or continued resistance), the chaos and hardship of the escape, the difficult realities of camp life, and the mechanisms of resettlement in the US. This section will also explore some aspects of the early resettlement experiences of refugees and migrants in US, with particular attention to the period up to the mid-1990s.

The content of the course will be presented through lectures and discussion sections, electronically accessible readings, and film/video documentaries. All the course lectures, readings, and films, as indicated, will be available on Canvas.

Instructor: Michael Cullinane

History 270: Eastern Europe Since 1900

What happens when democracies die and authoritarianism takes root? Why are some people attracted to fascism and communism? What does it mean to join a resistance movement? How do we explain systemic racism? While we are asking these questions today with renewed urgency, they are not new. Indeed, during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, people in eastern Europe navigated a turbulent political landscape that quickly lurched between imperialism, democracy, authoritarianism, fascism, and communism. In this class, we will seek out the voices of ordinary people in countries such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Romania whose everyday actions both affected and were affected by politically turbulent events. A vast range of exciting primary sources—from movies, photographs, and maps to eyewitnesses accounts, newspaper articles, and even tweets—allow us to understand multiple perspectives, while assignments encourage students to apply what they are learning in new and original ways and to engage with the past with an eye to the present.

Instructor: Kathryn Ciancia

History 300: History at Work – Professional Skills of the Major

What can I do with a History degree? How can a History degree help me get a good job and develop a career that I love? How can I talk about my History degree so that prospective employers can understand its value and workplace relevance? How can I make the best of the opportunities I have–and create new opportunities for myself, too? Why do employers love History majors? This course will help you answer questions like these as you consider your future career options. You’ll hear from successful professionals about how they got to where they are, how History has helped them, and how you can build a successful career for yourself, too. You’ll craft a resume and cover letter, and you’ll practice simple but crucial skills for interviewing, networking, and your first year in a new job. And, for those taking the 2-credit option (with discussion section), the course will walk you through the process of researching possible career options, networking, and conducting informational interviews. In other words, this course offers you structure, advice, and insights from successful history alumni as you begin or continue your career exploration and planning.

Instructor: Sarah Thal

History 301: History at Work – History Internship Seminar

Supplements HISTORY 300 by providing an opportunity for students who are completing an internship during the time of their enrollment to discuss any issues or challenges that arose in their position. It also encourages students to identify and analyze the differences between an internship and a non-professional job, with an eye towards articulating how their History degree and the skills it confers can be valuable in professional settings. Students will share their internship experiences with their classmates through short presentations.

Instructor: Sarah Thal

History 308: Introduction to Buddhism

Historical and contemporary introduction to Buddhism and Buddhist people and communities in parts of Asia and the US, with discussion of how and why Buddhist ideas, practices and values have remained relevant and meaningful for the past 2500 years.

Instructor: Anne Hansen

History 309: Crusades: Christianity & Islam

In this class we will discuss wars fought for religion in the Middle Ages by Christians against Muslims, pagans and other Christians. We will attempt to understanding the functioning of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and other states that Crusaders established in the Middle East, which survived for nearly two hundred years, from 1099 to 1291. By close reading of both Western and Muslims sources, we will attempt to understand ideas and experiences of crusaders, their enemies and the peoples they encountered. We will finish the class with an analysis of modern cinematic representations of crusades.

Instructor: Elizabeth Lapina

History 341: History of Modern China, 1800-1949

This course examines the political, economic, social, and cultural foundations of modern China, from the 19th century to the rise of Mao Zedong and Chinese Communism.  We will begin with a focus on China in the late Qing dynasty era (1800-1911) as it grappled with domestic and foreign challenges, continue through the chaotic early years of the Republic (1911-1927) and the violence of the Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945) and end with the ultimate ascendance of Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party to power in 1949.  Equipped with this historical foundation, students will more clearly understand China’s relatively recent rise, and be able to begin making educated predictions about China’s future.

Instructor: Judd Kinzley

History 347: The Caribbean & its Diaspora

In HIST 347, the Caribbean and its diasporas we will survey the history of the Caribbean from the fifteenth century to the present. Because of its strategic commercial and military location, and the richness of its natural resources, the Caribbean has been at the center of power struggles between European empires and European and American nation-states during the past five centuries. The Caribbean has also been defined by its diasporic, cosmopolitan, and multi-ethnic nature. This course, in other words, is in close conversation with the most important social and political conversations happening in the United States right now. Those related to race, immigration, the legacy of slavery, colonialism, economic justice, and climate change.

After the disappearance of the majority of the Amerindian population in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, people from all over the globe have come to the Caribbean to take part in economic, military, and political enterprises of all sorts. Most Caribbean people, however, are descendants from Africans that Europeans kidnapped and brought to the new world. Indeed, people of African descent and their rich cultures have been the main shapers of Caribbean societies and culture during the past five centuries. The Caribbean has also spawned large diasporic communities, mainly in the United States and Canada. Throughout the semester, we will make emphasis on the importance of race, colonialism, commodity-based capitalism, globalization, and forced labor for the modeling of the region’s social, economic, cultural, and political structures. We will pay particular attention to the resilient, creative and resourceful ways in which Caribbean people have responded to these adverse conditions. I hope to see you in class in the spring!

Instructor: Pablo Gómez

History 348: France from Napoleon to the Great War, 1799-1914

This course examines the political, social, and cultural history of France from Napoleon’s coup d’état in 1799 to the outbreak of the First World War.  France was the site of three major revolutions in 1830, 1848, and 1871 and few European nations experienced such a degree of social, and political turmoil in the nineteenth century.  France was a laboratory for constitutional monarchies, enlightened dictatorships, and democracy.  Three questions are at the center of this course:  1) Why was the establishment of democracy in France such an arduous, contested, and violent process?  2) Why did the French establish a large Empire, and subjugate populations in other parts of the world, while they consolidated democracy at home?  3) And how did France make the transition from being a rural, agricultural nation to becoming a large industrial power? The class will also pay close attention to the transformations of French culture and society.

We will be reading some classic nineteenth century French novels (in translation), along with primary sources, and historical analyses.  The class will mix lecture and discussion.  The papers require no outside research and are based on the class readings.

Instructor: Laird Boswell

History 350: The First World War

The Great War has been linked to nearly every social, cultural, and political transformation that marked the short century that followed: mobilization and the experience of total war transformed the relations between governments and citizens, between men and women, and between social classes. Europeans experienced death on an unprecedented scale and came to terms with new forms of industrialized warfare, from the use of poison gas to modern practices of genocide. Europeans now learned to live with violence, both during as well as after the war, and found new ways to mourn or remember the dead.

This course will situate the upheaval of 1914-1918 within the larger framework of twentieth-century European history. Using a wide variety of sources – memoirs, essays, poems, literary and cinematic representations, among others – we will try to understand how historians have approached the cultural and political history of the war, and the problem of the relation between war and social transformation more broadly. The course is largely organized in thematic sequences that gradually expand our interpretive “toolbox” throughout the semester. The “lecture” component had been designed for as an online class before the pandemic and is composed of series of short podcasts and other visual material.

Instructor: Daniel Ussishkin

History 357: The Second World War

World War II was not only the most important global event of the twentieth century, it also marked a crucial turning point in history.  Never before had humankind experienced such a profound level of destruction, fueled by radical violence, industrial killing, and atomic weaponry.  The upheaval created by this conflict displaced millions of people and transformed the map of the world.  On an ideological level, the war marked the end of fascism as a viable political system, the beginning of the Cold War struggle between Western Liberalism and Soviet-style Communism, and a shift toward decolonization in non-European lands.  This course will explore these issues by examining World War II in the broadest context, tracing both its long-term causes and lasting effects.  It will focus on important leaders like Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt, while also emphasizing the myriad experiences of individual soldiers, civilians, and victims of wartime violence.  Through lecture, discussion, and engagement with primary source documents, students will emerge from this course with a better understanding of the political, social, and ideological aspects of the Second World War.

Instructor: TBA

History 401: Public and Digital History

Hist 401 will examine how public institutions such as museums and historical societies present, create, and mediate history. Through case studies and readings, we will investigate the theoretical, institutional, ethical, and practical underpinnings of how one ‘does’ Public and Digital History, and students will create their own digital Public History exhibit as part of course requirements.

Instructor: TBA

History 410: History of Germany, 1871-Present

This course surveys the turbulent history of modern Germany, Europe’s dominant political power and the fourth largest economy in the world today. Beginning with the formation of the German nation-state in 1871, we will examine Germany in its many guises: the empire whose global ambitions helped spark World War I; the fledgling democracy of the 1920s; the Nazi dictatorship that laid ruin to Europe; the divided nation of the Cold War; and the bedrock of today’s European Union. Three core themes will guide our journey. First, we will emphasize Germany’s connections to the wider world, exploring how Germans shaped global patterns of trade, immigration, and warfare. Second, we will investigate how diverse groups, including women, Catholics, Jews, workers, immigrants, and Black Germans experienced the transformations of dictatorship and democracy. Finally, we will ask what German history can tell us about the sources of solidarity, reconciliation, and political responsibility. How did a country that orchestrated the murder of six million Jews and millions of other victims during the Second World War attempt to come to terms with its past and make restitution for its crimes? This course is designed to provide an introduction to college-level history accessible to non-majors and first-year students, and does not presume any prior knowledge of the subject.

Instructor: Brandon Bloch

History 417: History of Russia

Who doesn’t want to learn about Vikings, Mongols, saints and heretics, Ivan the Terrible, serfs, boyars, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great? This course covers the first millennium of Russia’s history, a period that saw its transformation from a hinterland on the western edges of the Eurasian steppe into a centralized, autocratic state that would take its place among the Great Powers of Europe.  Through a combination of assigned readings from a textbook and translated primary sources, lecture and in-class discussion, students will follow the successive processes by which a modern Russia emerged by the eighteenth century.   These processes included transformations in Russian statecraft, social organization and culture, punctuated by the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century, the “rise of Moscow” as the capital of a unified Russian state by the late sixteenth century, and culminating in the career of the Romanovs and their empire, ending with the changes wrought by Peter the Great and his successors.  In many ways, the Russia that took shape by the end of our course persists in recognizable form down to the present.

Instructor: David McDonald

History 428: U.S. Military History Since 1899

History 428 broadly examines United States military history from the beginning of the 20th century through America’s ongoing conflicts in the Middle East. This course embraces the scholarship and orientation of the “New Military History,” in that it explores the relationship between war and all aspects of American society. While we will not ignore the study of strategy, campaigns, and battles, we will consider them within the broader context of the American experience. Ultimately, this course will provide an appreciation of how war has shaped the United States and helped define its interaction with the world. This course also serves to familiarize students with the historian’s craft. It exposes students to the methods historians use to analyze the past and allows them to develop their own historical interpretations.

Instructor: TBA

History 450: Making of Modern South Asia

This course is an introduction to and survey of the postcolonial history of the South Asian nation-states of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Myanmar between 1947 and 2020. We shall study the evolution of modern South Asia by tracing the complex and fluid political relationships between these neighboring sovereign postcolonial states that emerged out of the ashes of the British Empire. Using a wide lens, and by comparing the evolution of different political regimes in these regions of South Asia, we shall visualize inter-Asian narratives of diplomatic relationships, sectarian violence, terrorism and internecine war.

We shall examine how such encounters, in the context of realities of international political, ecological and economic relations, shaped a modern discourse of nationalism and its perceived “Others,” by creating categories of those who belong and those who do not in political narratives within the public sphere. We will also consider the impact these narratives of exclusion have in the present day.

Instructor: Mou Banerjee

History 458: History of Southeast Asia Since 1800

Course Description: This course explores the modern history of Southeast Asia, a region remarkable for rich cultures and deep conflicts that have shaped the modern world order. Instead of narratives individual nations, the course analyzes major changes across the whole of Southeast Asia throughout the modern period—including, the conquest of traditional kingdoms, rise of European empires, U.S. colonialism, the impact of World War II, national revolutions, the emergence of new nations, and the struggle between democracy and dictatorship. Lectures will explore global themes with case studies of individual countries–including Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Burma, and the Philippines.

As the most intensely colonized region in the world, Southeast Asia offers an ideal arena for exploring the transformative impact of U.S. and European empires upon indigenous societies worldwide. Such study will reveal imperialism as a Promethean fire that shaped the modern world, producing both independent nations and an interdependent global economy.

Starting in the era of high imperialism and moving to the present, the course will explore some fundamental historical questions, including:

–How did the U.S., British, Dutch, and French empires make Southeast Asia the world’s most thoroughly colonized region?

–What impact did Japan’s conquest have on Southeast Asia during World War II?

–How did Indonesians, Vietnamese, and Filipinos react to this colonial subjugation through nationalist resistance to European empires?

–Why Southeast Asia experience communist revolutions in Malaya, Philippines, and Vietnam?

–What role did the U.S. play in the slaughter of the Indonesian Communist Party and the mass murder of over a one million Indonesians in 1965-66?

–Why did newly independent democracies give way so quickly to brutal dictatorships in Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines?

–How did mass “People Power” revolutions overthrow these dictators, and launch Southeast Asia and much of the world on a path toward democracy?

With all the world’s major religions, an extraordinary ethnic diversity, a past with both ancient empires and colonial conquest, and a present of war and revolution, democracy and dictatorship, Southeast Asia has inspired a fascinating literature by famous scholars whose sum is nothing less than an inquiry into the making of the modern world.

Class Format: Formal instruction includes two lectures per week; Midterm and Final exam; Research Essay. There are also individual meetings with instructor, at student’s convenience, to discuss writing, analysis, and ideas.

Learning Outcomes: General skills outcomes include Improved writing; Refined research ability; Improved analytical skills; Critical thinking; and, Understanding the process of historical change. Specific historical insights will include Investigating the origins of our modern world order; Exploring key concepts of colonialism, imperialism, communism, revolution, dictatorship, and democracy; Introduction to important literature by leading scholars; and Learning about one of the world’s most dynamic and diverse regions.

Instructor: Alfred McCoy

History 490: American Indian History

Instructor: Sasha Suarez

History 500-002: Asian Intellectual History

Is there philosophy in Asia? How is it different from “Western philosophy”? This seminar introduces the fundamental texts of Asian philosophy/Intellectual history. In order to improve a historical understanding of Asian philosophy, the course will be divided into three parts. We will begin by reading texts, including Confucius’ Analects (551-479BC), the Laozi (fl. 600 BC), the Upanishads (800 BC) and the works of the Japanese Buddhist Dogen (1200-1253). Through these texts, students will become familiar with certain basic concepts, including the Way (Dao), ritual (li), benevolence (ren), Brahman and nothingness. The second section of the course turns to thinkers from the twentieth century to the present and asks how political leaders such as Mao and Gandhi can be understood in light of traditional Asian philosophies. Throughout the course, we will place emphasis on the contemporary significance of Asian philosophy.

Instructor: Viren Murthy

History 600 – ALL SECTIONS

All sections of History 600 require permission of the instructor for enrollment.  Please see the HISTORY 600 SEMINARS page for more information and course descriptions.

History 601: Historical Publishing Practicum

Hands-on instruction and experience in historical publishing. Discussion of the nature of historical research and writing.

Instructor: Sarah Thal

History 680: Honors Thesis Colloquium

Colloquium for honors thesis writers. For more information on writing a thesis in History, visit the Research in History & Senior Thesis page.

Instructor: Kathryn Ciancia

History 690: Thesis Colloquium

Colloquium for thesis writers. For more information on writing a thesis in History, visit the Research in History & Senior Thesis page.

Instructor: Kathryn Ciancia


The following are courses which are cross-listed with the Department of History, but are administered by another department on campus. For information on which department to contact with questions regarding enrollment, see the course information below.

History of Science Courses

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History of Science 133: Biology & Society, 1950-Today

Instructor: Nicole Nelson

History of Science 202: Making of Modern Science

In this course, we examine developments from the mid-seventeenth century until the beginning of the 21st that have brought about a dramatic change in the way the world is known. We explore when and under what conditions the specific human enterprise called ‘science’ came to be, and how it has changed. What historical forces form and shape it, and which continue to do so? How did science come to be a powerful agent in modern life, and what role did particular visions of science play in defining what we take the ‘modern to be in the first place? Tackling these questions is a major historical challenge, one that will take us from the familiar and the local to the furthest extent of distant empires. In endeavoring to understand the history of science, we will learn about the connections between commerce, manufacture, exploration, and war, changing conceptions of people’s place in nature, and our ability to control the world around us. In the process, we will come to a new understanding of the relationship between science, technology and society.

Instructor: Devin Kennedy

History of Science 323: Scientific Revolution: Copernicus to Newton

An investigation of renaissance and revolution in European science, beginning in 1543 with the heliocentric astronomy of Nicolaus Copernicus and ending with Isaac Newton’s death in 1727. We’ll pay particular attention to issues of tradition and novelty in natural knowledge, institutional settings for scientific activity, the multifaceted relationship between science and religion, as well as manuscript traditions and the textual/visual transition to print culture. Topics covered include the Copernican cosmology and Galileo’s trial, the mechanical philosophy, Newtonianism, the significance of new scientific organizations like the Royal Society of London and the Paris Academy of Sciences, the role of science in European exploration and expansion, public perceptions of science and its practitioners, and scientific writing and communication.

Instructors: Florence Hsia and Robin Rider

History of Science 350-002: History of Science, Technology & Medicine in China

The history of science, technology, and medicine in China goes back more than three thousand years, boasting extraordinary discoveries and inventions like gunpowder, printing, and the compass. Today, some look to China as a source of ancient wisdom, from acupuncture to fengshui; others see in it the science of the future, from cyber-weapons to human cloning. In this course, we will study Chinese science on its own terms, learning how ways of understanding and controlling the natural world have always been contested.

The course begins with the classical traditions of Chinese antiquity, proceeds through the global encounters of the late imperial period, and concludes in modern China. Topics include traditional Chinese science and medicine, the encounter with Western technology, and the relationship between science and the modern state. Readings include primary sources in English translation – such as scientific texts, philosophical dialogues, world maps, technological illustrations, and more – as well as a selection of works by classic and current historians.

Instructor: Alexander Statman

History of Science 350-003: Environment & Technology in the Middle East

From the construction of complex irrigation networks in the ancient world to contemporary debates about the relationship between climate change and the refugee crisis, environments and technologies in the Middle East and North Africa have been intertwined with questions of survival and of social order. This course provides an introduction to the environmental history of a diverse region—from Morocco in the Northwest corner of Africa to the Omani coast of the Indian Ocean. One aim of this course will be to reflect on how this region—sometimes referred to as the MENA (Middle East and North Africa)—has itself been defined and for what ends? This course will explore a diverse range of topics that connect the environmental history of the region to wider social, political, and cultural changes. How did the trans-Saharan slave trade produce new understandings of knowledge and nature? How did the colonial encounter with European empires transform local ways of navigating ecologies? How has Islamic jurisprudence approached questions of environmental preservation over time? How did the rise of new infrastructures for resource extraction, especially for fossil fuels, remake state structures and political projects? The goal of this course is to help students develop a deep historical understanding of how knowledge, nature, and technology have shaped North Africa and the Middle East as well as to reflect on the contemporary stakes of this question not only in the region but also in a broad global context.

Instructor: Daniel Williford


The following are courses which are cross-listed with the Department of History, but are administered by another department on campus. For information on which department to contact with questions regarding enrollment, see the course information below.

Undergraduate Catalog

The University of Wisconsin’s Undergraduate Guide is the central location for official information about its departments and programs. Find the Department of History’s entries here, including the official requirements of the major.

[archive of UW Undergraduate Catalogs, dating to 1995, and Graduate Catalogs from 1994]
[archive of History course catalogs, dating from 1852 to 1996]