History 600 Seminars

Below you will find a list of History 600 seminars that will be offered by the Department of History in spring semester of 2020. Please read the course descriptions carefully, and begin contacting faculty as soon as possible once you have found the seminar that you would like to take. Once the instructor has given you permission, they will forward this information on to Sophie Olson, (Undergraduate Program Coordinator), who will enter this into the online system and send you an email confirmation so that you can enroll when your enrollment appointment arrives.

In your emails to professors, please include the following information:

  • Subject line: History 600 Seminar
    • Emails titled in this way are more likely to receive a timely response
  • 10-Digit Campus ID#
    • This is very important, as the permission to enroll will not be able to be entered without the 10-digit campus ID number of the student, so any delay in getting this information could delay your enrollment for the course
  • Why you are interested in the course

In the descriptions below, some professors have more-specific instructions and ask for additional information, so be sure to address those items as well.

IMPORTANT: History 600 seminars are open to History majors who have completed a History 201 course. If you have not declared History as your major, you must do so before you will be authorized to enroll in a seminar.


Spring 2020 – History 600 Seminar Topics

History 600

* Hours/days subject to change; please consult timetable.

History 600 Descriptions

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History 600-001: Global History of Non-violence

Instructor: Professor Mou Banerjee


Students interested in this course should email Professor Mou Banerjee at mbanerjee4@wisc.edu, with their campus ID number, their major, their year in college, and a brief description of their interest in the course.

This course is a historical introduction to the idea and practice of non-violence as a viable method of political resistance and protest. We shall study the evolution of the politics of non-violence in the 20th century globally. Some of the ways to do this fruitfully is to compare the evolution of different strategies of non-violent political protests as these emerged in political regimes in the regions of South Asia, South Africa and the USA through the inspired political leadership of transformative leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

We will aim to do is recognize key features of nonviolent action or civil resistance. We shall also meditate on whether nonviolence is an outdated mode of public protest in the 20th and 21st century, a weapon of the weak, or if it still holds within itself the transformative power of morally destabilizing authoritarian regimes.

ONLINE - History 600-003: The Age of Jefferson and Jackson, 1789-1848

Instructor: Professor April Haynes


SPECIAL NOTE This course is a pilot project: the first History 600 offered by the History Department 100% online. The purpose for this format is to accommodate practical and urgent student needs. As a pilot, the enrollment will be capped at 10. Preference in admissions will be given to graduating seniors who are history majors and cannot attend a face-to-face version of History 600 during spring 2020.

Students interested in this course should email Professor April Haynes at april.haynes@wisc.edu, with their campus ID number, their major, their year in college, and a brief description of their interest in the course and reason for taking a History 600 online. Students are also welcome to attend Prof. Haynes’ office hours on Wednesdays from 10:30-11:30am and on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00pm to explain their interest in the course.

Why do some presidents seem to personify an entire era? “The Age of Jefferson and Jackson” has become synonymous with the expansion of democratic participation by white men of all classes. Yet the same period saw a contraction of rights and powers that had previously been exercised by African Americans, American Indians, and white women. To what extent did the populism of the early republic compare to that of the so-called “Trump era”? How have the elections of 1800 and 1828 come to crystallize guiding assumptions about politics in the US? As consequential as key elections have been, presidential periodization can also conceal more than it reveals. What did “Jeffersonian” and “Jacksonian” themes mean beyond electoral politics? What did they have to do with the world historical context of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries?

In this capstone seminar for history majors, students will conduct archival research to draw original conclusions related to one or more of the themes that defined the early republic:

  • The construction of formal and informal capitalist economies;
  • The rapid expansion of slavery and abolitionism;
  • Social and cultural demands for democratization, which disenfranchised people voiced in spaces larger than a ballot box;
  • The transformation of North America through settler colonialism, territorial expansion, indigenous sovereignty movements, and the Mexican American War; and
  • The place of the United States in the wider Atlantic world, including a second war with England, near war with France, colonization of Liberia, and relations with other republics, such as Haiti, Venezuela, and Colombia.

History 600-004: Empire & Revolution – U.S. & European Colonial Rule in Southeast Asia

Instructor: Professor Alfred McCoy


Students interested in this course should send a short email to Professor Alfred McCoy at awmccoy@wisc.edu, with: a) campus ID number (for enrollment); b) student status (senior/junior); c) major; d) GPA (overall and in the major); and e) reasons for their interest in the class.

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.

Class Meetings: The seminar is scheduled to meet on Tuesdays, 11:00 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. in seminar room 5255 in the Humanities Building.

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.

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.

History 600-005: Baseball & Society Since WWII

Instructor: Professor David McDonald


Students interested in this course should email Professor David McDonald, dmmcdon1@wisc.edu, with: 1) a statement outlining what they hope to learn or explore at greater length through a reading and research seminar, and 2) a list of all courses they have taken to date that would provide them with background for this seminar. Students will receive priority for admission in accordance with their stage in the major and their relative preparation.

This seminar will involve participants in a semester-long discussion of the ways in which Major League Baseball both reflected and shaped broader currents of social, cultural, political and economic change in American society following World War II. Thus, rather than understand baseball’s history in terms of pennant races, players’ statistics or the other considerations that often arise in the daily press, this seminar asks students to understand baseball—and, by extension, sport in general—in the contexts that have shaped it throughout its development. Seminar participants will benefit in particular from the perspectives of Allan H. Selig, who recently completed the longest tenure of any commissioner in baseball’s history.

The seminar will consist of weekly discussions of pivotal topics or moments in post-war baseball history. These subjects will run a gamut of such likely topics as the role of race/ethnicity, a changing media landscape, the game’s geographical expansion, labor relations, baseball’s economic footprint on the nation and in localities, shifting relations between the sport and government, as well as prominent controversies over the course of the last seven decades. As preparation for discussion, students will read a set of sources, assigned by the instructors. Participation in discussion of the weekly readings accounts for a large part of the final grade. The other major component in the seminar will be a research paper of 20-25 pages on a topic of the student’s choice, using the abundant primary and secondary resources available in the Wisconsin Historical Society holdings, as well as other sources that students identify.

History 600-006: Immigration & The U.S.-Mexican Border

Instructor: Professor Marla Ramírez


Students interested in this course should contact Professor Marla Ramírez, ramireztahua@wisc.edu, with their campus ID number, their major, their year in college, and a brief description of their interest in the course.

This course examines the history of Mexican immigration to the United States and the legal, social, and political history of the U.S.-Mexico border. While Mexican immigration is central to political debates today, the history of Mexican immigration to the United States dates back to the 1800s. To better understand this history, we will focus in the analysis of three central questions: How was the U.S.-Mexico border created? How does immigration alter family formations? How do working class Mexican immigrants navigate the restrictions imposed by immigration laws and policies? The topic of immigration is difficult, contentious, personal to some, and often-times painful. Thus, be prepare to learn from each other as we engage in informed and respectful discussions around primary sources and assigned readings.

The course is divided into two sections. During the first part of the course, we will read and closely examine the literature, including books and articles, that have documented the history of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Students will also be introduced to the methodology of archival research during the first half of the course. Students will have the opportunity to lead discussion throughout the first part of the semester. The second part of the course shifts to a writing focus where students will develop their own research papers. The course is designed to allow students to draft their research papers step by step during the second half of the course by engaging in peer review, with comments and guidance by the professor.

History 600-007: Global Religious Revivals

Instructor: Professor Aaron Rock-Singer


Students interested in this course should email Professor Aaron Rock-Singer at rocksinger@wisc.edu with their campus ID number, their major, their year in college, and a brief description of their interest in the course.

In the 1960s, religiosity was said to be a mere byproduct of tradition, increasingly marginalized by modernization. Yet, in an unexpected turn, the 1970s saw religious revival swept across the globe as societies from the Middle East to Latin America to the United States turned to their divine texts. In the four decades since, religious movements across the world have gained increasingly prominent positions in society and government. How do these mass movements happen? What exactly is the relation between specific revivals, their holy texts and the societies in which they arise? How do they affect politics? Are contemporary religious revivals broadly similar or do they contain geographical or religious particularities? In this seminar, we will begin to examine these questions, covering the linked rise of Jimmy Carter and the “Moral Majority” in the United States, Post-1967 Messianic Zionism in Israel, Islamic Revivals in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the rise of varied forms of Christianity in Latin America, and Islamic and Pentecostal revivals in Nigeria. In doing so, we will explore how and why men and women turned to religion since the 1970s and how the practices of individual believers have shaped the relationship between religion and politics globally. Courses in varied religious traditions would be helpful, but are not a requirement, to succeed in this seminar.

History 600-008: Citizens and Slaves in the Ancient Greek World

Instructor: Professor Claire Taylor


Students interested in this course should contact Professor Claire Taylor at claire.taylor@wisc.edu with their campus ID number, their major, their year in college, and a brief description of their interest in the course. Students are also welcome to drop in to Professor Taylor’s office hours (Monday 2:00-4:00pm) if they would like to discuss their interest in the course.

Citizenship was a key feature of ancient Greek political life, but even in the most democratic cities (that is, those with the least restrictive definition of citizenship) only about a third to a half of the population were actually citizens. The rest of the population was made up of slaves, foreigners, and Greeks from other cities. This course explores the social history of the fifth and fourth-century BCE Greek world through the prism of citizenship and non-citizenship. Who were the other groups in Greek cities, what did they do, and how do we know about them? How did citizens define themselves in relation to non-citizens (and vice versa) and what duties and responsibilities did they have? How did these groups interact with one another and what measures were used to define, or blur, status? Was the interaction between citizens and non-citizens antagonistic or hospitable? In exploring questions like these students will develop their knowledge of the ancient world in addition to refining their historical and analytical skills.

Students will engage in active discussion each week, perform various source analysis exercises, and write a research paper.