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 spring 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.


Spring 2022 – History 600 Seminar Topics

History 600

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

History 600 Descriptions

Spring 2022 History 600 Seminar Information Sheet (pdf)

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History 600-001: European Extreme Right

This seminar focuses on the history of populism, especially right wing populism, in Europe from the end of the Second World War to the present. The revival of a powerful radical right has been a crucial turning point in late twentieth century European politics. Over the course of the semester, we will place the movement in historical perspective and analyze its revival. What are the social and political roots of the contemporary extreme right and why has it met with success in some of the European Union’s most prosperous and stable countries? How did the extreme right reconstruct itself in the wake of fascism’s defeat in 1945? Is it best characterized as a type of neofascism or as a new form of populism? Our readings, which will introduce you to a range of interpretations, focus on France (the Front National), Belgium (the Vlaams Blok), Austria (the FPÖ), Italy (the MSI and the Lega Nord), and Holland (Pim Fortuyn). For their research papers, students are welcome to focus on other countries and can also work on the development of left wing forms of populism over the past two decades.

We will meet for the first 7-8 weeks of the semester to discuss common readings. During the second half of the semester students will research and write a 20 page research paper based on primary and secondary sources.

Instructor: Laird Boswell

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-002: 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 both 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 several 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 may 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, 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 three 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 600-003: Women and Gender During the French Revolution

When the French Revolution broke out in 1789, how did it open up space for women from all walks of life to participate in politics? We will look at how various groups of women engaged in the Revolution: Parisian women activists demanding bread and political change; Queen Marie-Antoinette as actor and symbol; early feminist authors; foreign radicals; cross-dressing women in the revolutionary armies; enslaved women in the French colonies who sought to overturn slavery; counterrevolutionary women who defended King, God, and traditional ways of life.  Second big question: How did the revolutionary era call into question gender ideology and how did gender imagery inform discussions of politics and new power dynamics in France and its colonies? We will examine how the French revolutionaries used sexualized language to attack opponents and ask why they chose female figures to represent the French Republic and political ideals, like Liberty or Equality. We will explore how the slave revolt in the French colonies influenced gender norms and racial ideology both in the colonies and the French metropole. Finally, the course also will assess historians’ debates over the impact of the Revolution on gender, domesticity, and women. During the first half of the course, we will do some background reading and sample a variety of primary sources.

The second half of the course will focus on the major purpose of the seminar: researching and writing a primary-source research paper (20-25 pages) on some aspect of women and/or gender in the French Revolution.   Primary sources for these diverse papers can include political writings; police records; revolutionary pamphlets; personal letters or memoirs; moral or medical treatises; literary works; or revolutionary imagery or caricature; etc.   All of the earlier assignments of the course will be oriented toward the final research paper. These smaller assignments include a short, 5-6 page paper on an early primary source; a 2-3 page proposal of topic; a bibliography; an extended paper outline; and an oral presentation on research projects. Then the rough drafts will be due in mid April. Students will read and critique each other’s drafts of the final paper and complete final drafts by the last class day.

Instructor: Suzanne Desan

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-004: CIA’s Covert Wars & U.S. Foreign Policy

Course Description: Designed for undergraduates and graduate students with some background in U.S. diplomatic history or international relations, the course will probe the dynamics of CIA covert wars through comparative case histories over the past 75 years. By focusing on world regions such as Europe, Latin America, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia, the seminar will explore the central role these covert wars played in international history during the Cold War and its aftermath. These clandestine interventions often succeeded brilliantly from a U.S. perspective. But they sometimes left behind ruined battlegrounds and ravaged societies that became veritable black holes of international instability.

After several sessions reviewing the origins of the CIA and its distinctive patterns of clandestine warfare, the seminar will apply a case-study approach to covert wars in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America—including, the anti-Mossadeq coup in Iran, overthrow of Sukarno in Indonesia, Lumumba’s murder in the Congo, and the protracted war in Afghanistan. Reflecting the significance of Southeast Asia to CIA operations, the seminar will devote four sessions to this region, including anti-Sukarno operations in Indonesia, anti-communist pacification in the Philippines, counter-guerilla operations in South Vietnam, and the secret war in Laos—arguing that the latter two operations are central to understanding contemporary conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.

Through the sum of such content, students should finish the seminar with knowledge about a key facet of U.S. foreign policy and a lifelong capacity for critical analysis of international relations. Beyond such data, the course will give students sharpened analytical abilities, refined research tactics, improved oral presentations, and better writing skills.

Office Hours: In Room 5131 Humanities, Thursdays 12:00 to 2:00 p.m., and other hours by appointment. To meet outside those hours via phone or Zoom, please send an email to awmccoy@wisc.edu.

Grading: In addition to participating in each class, students shall be marked on their participation in discussions and their writing assignments.

Class Attendance: Attendance is required. For an effective seminar discussion, students are expected to do the weekly readings.

Class Presentations: Starting in week one, each class meeting shall begin with every student presenting a brief, two-minute analysis of the topic based on two or more assigned readings. Then, starting in week two, several students shall offer a 15-minute discussion of most of the readings for the week, which can serve as the basis for their final essays.

Final Paper: Drawing upon both primary and secondary sources, students shall write a fifteen-page essay on a single CIA covert war or clandestine operation, usually by expanding upon one of their oral presentations.

Instructor: Alfred McCoy

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-005: 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.

Instructor: David McDonald

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-006: 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.

Instructor: Brenda Gayle Plummer

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-007: Gender & the Second World War

This is a research seminar about the Second World War in Europe and the United States. In particular, we will focus on the ways in which gender figures in the experience of war. Some questions we will ask include: How do men and women experience the Second World War differently? Why are women not allowed on the front lines? Why are men who don’t want to fight denigrated as traitors and cowards? What does it mean to be a male “warrior” or “hero”? How are violence and aggression connected to “manly” behaviors? What special vulnerabilities, such as rape, do women suffer in wartime? What special opportunities do they enjoy? In other words, how do gender identities shape war and are shaped by it? We will focus on the American and British experience, but students can pick research topics in any geographical area. Students will visit the Wisconsin Veterans Museum on State Street and the Wisconsin Historical Society in order to mine local archives on the Second World War.

Instructor: Mary Lou Roberts

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-008: Law & the Sacred in the Middle Ages

Both law and religion penetrated every part of medieval European life. Could a soldier also be a Christian? When were military invasions justified? Could prisoners of war be enslaved? Could refugees be expelled from a church? Could a priest who committed crimes be prosecuted? Could you marry your second cousin? The answers, which in many cases are rather surprising, constituted a legal landscape that was complex and affected nearly every part of life in European society. In some cases, the answers to these questions continued to shape modern American law in surprising ways.

Instructor: Karl Shoemaker

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll