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 2023. 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 2023 – History 600 Seminar Topics

History 600

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

History 600 Descriptions

Spring 2023 History 600 Seminar Information Sheet (pdf)

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History 600-001: Genocide, War Crimes Trials & Human Rights in the 20th Century

Why do genocides happen, and how should the international community respond? What motivates the states that target minority or indigenous groups for annihilation, and the perpetrators who carry out genocidal policies? What should happen to the perpetrators in the aftermath of genocide—should they be summarily executed? Put on trial (by whom)? Allowed to reintegrate into society? Why are certain acts of state violence defined as “genocide” or “crimes against humanity,” and others as legitimate military operations? How can egregious violations of international law be prosecuted given the unequal distribution of power in the international state system?

This seminar explores these questions, and many others, by examining the international tribunals created in response to five twentieth-century genocides: the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, the Rwanda genocide, and the mass killings during the Yugoslav wars. We will investigate how these tribunals shaped ideas about human rights and humanitarian intervention, and why they so often proved controversial. The focus of the course is on the trials themselves—their origins, operations, and legacies—but we will also seek to understand the underlying causes of genocide. In addition to analyzing historical works and first-person accounts of war crimes tribunals, there will be numerous chances to work with trial documents. During the second part of the course, students will write an original research paper of approximately fifteen pages on one of the cases studied in class. We will devote significant class time to discussing possible topics and primary sources, and to practicing the research and writing skills necessary to succeed on the final paper.

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

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-002: European Populism

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

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

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-004: Indian Removal

On 26 May 1830, Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law, fulfilling a campaign pledge and providing the legal pretext for the greatest forced relocation in American history.  By the mid-1840s, the United States had removed approximately 50,000 Native Americans to marginal lands in the west, where they were reduced to economic dependency and threatened with cultural extinction.  In broad terms, most Americans are familiar with the Cherokee “Trail of Tears” and acknowledge this indelible stain on Jackson’s historical legacy.  Yet Americans—Native or otherwise—have remembered the tragedy of removal in socially useful manners that essentialize the participants along strictly racial lines as victims or aggressors.   This course will reexamine one of the most regrettable chapters of American history in the light of primary documents, oral traditions, and recent scholarship to reveal a more complex conflict over the locus of sovereignty, the meaning of national honor, the sources of republican virtue, and the currency of class and race as measures of human worth.

Students interested in this course should contact Professor John Hall via email (jwhall3@wisc.edu) with their campus ID number, major, year in college, and a brief description of their interest in the course.

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-005: Health & Healing in Modern Africa

This seminar will examine the reach, effect, and historical lineages of global health interventions in Africa. Drawing on both historical and anthropological studies, we will explore the history of medical and scientific research in Africa, raising questions about the shifting intellectual and ethical underpinnings of various undertakings in the twentieth and twenty-first century. We will also examine the ways in which different historical perspectives inform and transform our understanding of more contemporary developments, such as the emergence of medical humanitarianism and the flourishing of health-related non-governmental organizations in the Global South.  As part of the course, students will produce a research paper based on primary sources on a topic developed in consultation with Professor Kodesh.

For permission to enroll in the course, please send an email to Professor Neil Kodesh (kodesh@wisc.edu) with your campus ID number, major, year in college, and a brief description of your interest in the course.

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-006: 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 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 more recent 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 an approach, the course will give students sharpened analytical abilities, refined research tactics, improved oral presentations, and better writing skills.

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

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.

Students interested in enrolling should send Professor Alfred McCoy (awmccoy@wisc.edu) a short email with the following information: (a.) their status (Junior, Senior); (b.) major (History or other); (c.) past courses with this instructor, if any; (d.) GPA (overall and in major); (e.) campus ID (to facilitate registration); and (e.) a sentence about the reasons for their interest in the course.

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.

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

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-008: Global Religious Revivals

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.

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

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll

History 600-009: Baseball & Society Since WWII

For one final time, during the spring semester of 2023, Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig and I will be offering HIS 600, Major League Baseball and American Society since 1945, a senior seminar that meets the capstone requirement for the History major. 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 – within the contexts that have shaped it throughout its long career as Americans’ “national pastime.” Seminar discussion will benefit particularly from Selig’s perspective on the sport and its development over the last three-quarters of a century, informed by his experience as an owner, then, for 27 years, the 9th Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

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. Given its capstone status for the History, seniors majoring or seeking a certificate in the subject will automatically qualify for admission, if they apply in a timely manner.

For more information, visit Course Search & Enroll