History 600 Seminars

On this page you will find a list of History 600 seminars that will be offered by the Department of History in fall semester of 2022. All History 600 seminars require instructor permission in order to enroll. 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. We do not allow students to request permission from multiple instructors at the same time, so please make your choice early and only contact another instructor if you are unable to get a seat in your first-choice course. When an instructor gives their permission to have you in the course, you can be sure that your seat is reserved. You will also receive a confirmation email from Sophie Olson (Undergraduate Program Coordinator) letting you know that instructor permission has been entered into the enrollment system. Then, you should be set to enroll when your appointment time 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 permission to enroll cannot be entered without your 10- digit campus ID number, so any delay in getting this information could delay your enrollment in 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 and History certificate students who have completed a History 201 course. If you have not declared the History major or the History certificate, you must do so before you will be authorized to enroll in a seminar. See the History Advising page for information about who to contact to declare the major and certificate.


Fall 2022 – History 600 Seminar Topics

History 600

* Hours/days subject to change; please consult Course Search & Enroll.

History 600 Descriptions

Fall 2022 History 600 Seminar Information Sheet (pdf)

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History 600-001: History, Sport, and Film

For nearly a century, stories “ripped from the headlines” of America’s sports pages have made their way onto the silver screen as Hollywood has turned to sports—the Olympics, the world of heavyweight boxing, and the integration of U.S. sports, to name only a few examples—for source material to attract moviegoers and make money. Reasons abound to be both excited about and skeptical of any work that claims to be “based on a true story” or “inspired by real events,” including when sports history is the subject. What do historians and primary sources tell us about what happened, the people featured in the film, including their opinions and perspectives, and the social and cultural conditions and dynamics—race, gender, class, economics, region, and politics—of the era? How are these topics covered within the film? What factors, including contemporary ones, might have influenced the filmmakers’ decisions? What is the film’s thesis about the sports history that it seeks to tell? How is that thesis in dialogue with the era in which the film was made? What feelings do the filmmakers seek to evoke through their sports history story and why?

This class gives students the opportunity to explore these and related questions through historical research and film analysis. We will begin the semester by reading about the history of sport on film in the United States. By the third class, each student will select a film that purports to be based on a real-life event or the lives of real people in American sports history. Students should choose a film whose subject matter—sports figure(s), event(s), and era of production and content—genuinely fascinates them. For the rest of the semester, that film will be the center of the student’s work. Students will analyze the film and conduct in-depth research on the history and context related to the people, places, and happenings that are featured on screen. Research entails identifying and examining primary and secondary sources that the student will use in their final project—a 6,000-word research paper—to support their original argument about the film’s portrayal of the historical event(s) or figure(s) that form its focus. Research papers are not summaries of the film or simple comparisons of the film and the history that students uncover. Instead, the papers are to present students’ original ideas and arguments. Throughout the semester, students will give three to four oral presentations in front of their classmates. These presentations will serve as updates on their research and the evolution of their ideas. To support each student’s work, we will watch two to three films early in the semester and read appropriate sources. We will also schedule screenings of students’ chosen films to facilitate dialogue.

Students who seek permission to enroll in History 600: History, Sport, and Film should email Professor Brown (abrown62@wisc.edu) to state their interest in the course. The statement should include: the student’s major, identification number, a persuasive description of the student’s dedicated engagements with history and film, and the name(s) and date(s) of any History 201 or History 600 course that the student has taken. Students should also name four to five films whose portrayal of historical events in American sports they would be interested in studying and explain why.

Instructor: Ashley Brown

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-005: Empire & Revolution: U.S. & European Colonial Rule in Southeast Asia

Course Description: 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. The course concludes by applying insights gained from exploring the end of European empires to the ongoing decline of U.S. global power.

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 recent 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, construction of race and gender, the rise of nationalist resistance, and the dynamics of imperial decline.

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/discipline; (d.) GPA; and; (e.) reasons for their interest in the class to awmccoy@wisc.edu.

Grading: Students shall be marked on their weekly participation, writing assignments, and oral presentations. Each student shall serve as the lead “discussant” twice during the semester by presenting a 10-minute summary of the readings. Students are also responsible for reviewing and discussing the weekly reading assignments, usually totaling about 100 pages. In the last weeks of the semester, students shall submit a 15-page paper based on one of the topics they presented during the semester.

Instructor: Alfred McCoy

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-006: Baseball & Society Since WWII

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.

Students interested in this course should contact Professor David McDonald via email (dmmcdon1@wisc.edu) with their campus ID number, major, year in college, and a brief description of their interest in the course.

Instructor: David McDonald

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-007: Race and Nation in U.S. History

This course examines the role that race has historically played in the formation of the United States as a nation. We begin with the colonial period and, over the course of a semester, finish by probing the late twentieth century. The course focuses substantially but not exclusively on the foundational impact of a black and white dynamic in shaping race in the United States. The critical events studied include war, slavery, western expansion, and the development of an urban industrial society. Students will further develop their analytical skills as they familiarize themselves with this history, a powerful tool for understanding the totality of American life. The objective of the course is to strengthen our knowledge of how critical aspects of today’s complex society developed. The readings, discussions, and assignments provide a safe and respectful space to study race systematically and thoughtfully.

Learning goals and outcomes include: Enhancing students’ understanding of the role race has played in the creation of contemporary U. S. society; strengthening students’ ability to critically assess cultural and historical information; augmenting critical reading, writing, speaking and thinking skills; contributing to the further development of an informed, educated, and pro-active citizenry.

Students interested in this course should contact Professor Brenda Gayle Plummer via email (bplummer@wisc.edu) with their campus ID number, major, year in college, and a brief description of their interest in the course.

Instructor: Brenda Gayle Plummer

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-008: History and Film

In this class we shall be pursuing two interconnected lines of inquiry. First, we shall learn how to evaluate any film for its historical accuracy. In so doing, we shall also be exploring the very question of accuracy: do costumes, lighting, architecture ground it? Can a modern medium represent the past? Second, we shall learn to attend to the ways films shape our sense of the past. This question extends beyond questions of “costume”—or dress—or historically correct lighting and furniture, to the ways that seeing moments enacted come to inform our thinking about past events.

Each student is to choose one film to analyze over the course of the semester. We shall talk about those choices in the third class meeting. Each will then research that choice for historical accuracy in terms that will differ from film to film: each student will present a brief summary of the historiography for the film. Each student will present historical analysis as a 20-minute oral report in class. Each will then consider how that film has shaped his/her/their understanding of the moment in history the film depicts, which will form the second 20-minute oral report in class. For the oral reports, each student should be prepared to present clips of the film and have comments organized in an outline to lead the class through the analysis of the film and its representative segments. Each student will write a 6000-word research paper, due the last day of class.

Students interested in this course should contact Professor Lee Wandel via email (lpwandel@wisc.edu) with their campus ID number, major, year in college, and a brief description of their interest in the course.

Instructor: Lee Wandel

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll