University of Wisconsin–Madison

History 600 Seminars

The registration period for the Spring 2019 History 600 Seminars begins Friday, October 19th (regular enrollment begins for seniors on Tuesday, November 13th). Consult the list below for descriptions of seminars and contact information for the seminar instructors and please begin contacting faculty as soon as possible. Once you receive permission to enroll in a seminar, the professor will forward that information to Sophie Olson. You will receive registration information from Sophie no later than Friday, November 9th. General registration/enrollment will begin November 13th and in order to keep your seminar seat, you must enroll in the course no later than Friday, November 30th. If you are unable to register by that date, please contact Sophie Olson (solson25@wisc.edu) to hold your seat.

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**)
  • Student ID#
  • 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.

History 600 Seminars are open to both junior and senior 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 2019 – History 600 Seminar Topics

History 600

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

History 600 Descriptions

  • History 600-001: Autobiography & Identity in 18th-Century Europe – Prof. Suzanne Desan

    Students interested in this course must talk in person with Professor Desan.

    How did various Europeans conceptualize their personal identities in the eighteenth century? How did they imagine and write about their life trajectories? Some historians have argued that modern European notions of “selfhood” and “individual identity” emerged in this era. To debate and explore these questions, we will read autobiographies and letters by diverse individuals from Europe and its colonies. These men and women will come from widely different walks of life, most likely including a glass-blower artisan, a political philosopher, a former slave, a female novelist, and a fictive autobiography by a writer/Peruvian princess. At the outset of the course, we will also delve into historical interpretations of the evolution of the self, as well as theoretical work on writing diaries and autobiography. Students’ paper topics can range widely, but they will probably focus on a single eighteenth-century individual (or possibly two individuals) who left behind a life narrative or set of letters that facilitates exploring the writer’s identity, self-presentation, and relationships to other people and issues of the time period.

    The second half of the course will focus on researching and writing seminar papers (roughly 20-25 pages in length) and on discussing each other’s work. All of the earlier assignments of the course will be oriented toward the final research paper. These smaller assignments include a short 5-6 pp. paper on an early primary source; a 2-3 page proposal of topic; a bibliography; and an extended paper outline. Then the rough drafts will be due in Week 12. Students will read and critique each other’s drafts of the final paper and complete final drafts by Tuesday, April 30.

    I need to meet and talk with you if you want to take the course. I have office hours in 5120 Humanities on Mondays and Wednesdays 1:00-2:00. I can also be contacted at smdesan@wisc.edu, but I would like to talk with you in person to admit you to the course, so it’s best to come to my office hours in 5120 Humanities.

  • History 600-002: Labworlds: Past and Present – Prof. Catherine Jackson

    Students interested in this course should email Professor Jackson at cjackson8@wisc.edu

    It’s an interesting word, laboratory. But what does it mean? Associated with many sites of manipulative labor in the pre-modern period, the nineteenth century laboratory was made exclusively scientific – and predominantly chemical.  Today, the tables have turned once more and labs are everywhere, not just in university science departments and research institutes.  Look around and you’ll see the UW-Madison campus is littered with laboratories: the Art Department has its Glass Lab, and even History has a History Lab.  Beyond campus, labs are pervasive elements of popular culture, from TV crime shows populated by improbably glamorous wo/men in white coats to coffee-making equipment that wouldn’t look out of place in a science lab.

    So, what are labs? What are they for? And why do they capture the mood of the present so well? Join this class to learn how historians and scholars in related fields understand the lab, today and in the past.  And take this opportunity to have your say by writing your own lab history or contribution to lab studies.

    This class serves as the capstone undergraduate research seminar in history of science but is open to any undergraduate interested in the subject matter provided they have taken at least one previous history class at UW-Madison, subject to the consent of the instructor.

  • History 600-004: Baseball and Society Since WWII – Prof. David McDonald & Commissioner Emeritus Allan Selig

    (If you are interested in applying for this seminar, please send a statement outlining what you hope to learn or explore at greater length through a reading- and research seminar. In addition, please list all courses you have taken to date that would provide you with background for this seminar. Students will receive priority for admission in accordance with their stage in the major and their relative preparation. Submit these materials to Prof. McDonald by email: dmmcdon1@wisc.edu )

    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 pennantraces, 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 localities, the 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 in the first part of the course, and later combining readings chosen by the instructors and individual students. 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 600-005: Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Crusader States – Prof. Elizabeth Lapina

    Students interested in this course should email Professor Lapina at lapina@wisc.edu

    The seminar will focus on relations between Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and other states established as a consequence of the First Crusade in the late eleventh century. The seminar will begin by discussing the establishment of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the wake of the conquest of the city and a massacre of its inhabitants in 1099. It will continue by examining the experiences of representatives of different religious and cultural groups inhabiting the Kingdom in the twelfth century. In part depending on the students’ interests, the topics might include warfare (including such subtopics as castle-building and captivity), law, diplomacy, religious worship, conversion, art, medicine, kingship and queenship, and the city of Jerusalem and its significance in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. We will spend about half of the seminars discussing secondary sources and another half analyzing primary sources, written by Christians, Muslims and Jews.

  • History 600-007: London: Imperial Metropolis – Prof. Daniel Ussishkin

    Students interested in this course should contact Professor Ussishkin by email at ussishkin@wisc.edu (see additional instructions below).

    This subject of this seminar is London, as a lived and imagined place: for a long time the largest city in Europe; the first modern metropolis; the center of a thriving commercial culture; a global capital of finance; the heart of modern imperial Britain. The English writer James Boswell notoriously thought that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” The French philosopher Voltaire was one of the many who envied it as an exemplary site of modern civil society. London was seen as a source of pleasure, but quite often, as representing, and harboring, all the threats and maladies of modernity. Whereas some saw London as affording opportunities for sociability, pleasure, anonymity, or an escape from the constraints of home, others saw vice, degeneration, decay, and collapse of the social fabric. While some were allured by its increasingly cosmopolitan or multi-cultural nature, others saw it as a threat to what they regarded as the fundamental aspects of Britishness. For better or worse, for the past two centuries, modern meant urban, and urban meant London.

    The first half of the seminar will be devoted readings and discussions that will direct us to grappling with the questions and problems that animate historical research on London. We will read on diverse topics such as Jack the Ripper, sexuality, slums, politics, shopping, public health, mapping, markets, riots, race, and immigration. The second part of the seminar will be devoted to writing an original 20-25pp. original research paper based on primary sources (numerous such sources are available). Course assignments include shorter written responses (1-2pp.), oral presentations, peer criticism and collegiality.

    Students who wish to take the seminar must contact the instructor via email. Your email should include your name, student ID#, major, year in the program, expected graduation date, relevant courses taken (such as in European or British history), and a short paragraph on why you wish to participate in the course.

  • History 600-008: Byzantine Empresses & their Men – Prof. Leonora Neville

    Students interested in this course should contact Professor Neville by email at leonora.neville@wisc.edu

    This 600 Seminar will explore conceptions of gender in the Medieval Roman Empire from the 6th to the 12th centuries.  Medieval ideas about proper behavior for men and women differed significantly from those of our society.  Understanding the constructions of gender in the Byzantine world therefore can provide a highly illuminating contrast. Byzantine constructions of gender are particularly interesting because of the lasting influence of ancient Greek culture on medieval thought and society.  Medieval authors interacted constantly and unpredictably with their classical heritage, particularly when attempting to valorize or castigate the behavior of contemporary women and men.  The practice of creating eunuchs further complicates Byzantine conceptions of gender.  Scholarly opinion is divided about whether eunuchs constituted a third gender or were a special case of maleness in Byzantium.  What is clear is that correct performance of gender roles was considered as a key indicator of an individual’s virtue in Byzantine society.  Therefore understanding Byzantine conceptions of gender is integral to understanding that society.

    Students will learn about the process of conducting academic research in history and writing original research papers.  They will complete several short writing assignments and a 17-20 page research paper.

    Class Activities:

    • Class discussion 10%
    • 2 Article Reviews, 10% each (3-4 pages each)
    • Research Paper Project 70%:
    • Research topic and question, 5%
    • Secondary Source Bibliography 5%
    • Primary Source Bibliography 5%
    • Source Analysis Essay 5%
    • Bibliographic Essay 5%
    • Draft Paper 10%
    • Presentation of Research results 5%
    • Final Research paper, 30%
  • History 600-009: The Age of Jefferson and Jackson, 1789-1848 – Prof. April Haynes

    Students interested in this course should contact Professor Haynes by email (april.haynes@wisc.edu), or come to her Tuesday office hours from 4-6pm.

    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 outside of electoral politics? How did they affect world history?

    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 indigenous sovereignty movements, the Louisiana Purchase, the US discourse of manifest destiny, policies encouraging settler colonialism, 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.

    Presently, the only course expectations are archival research, original conclusions, and willingness to work within the parameters of course themes. I will develop the details of these expectations in the syllabus, which is not yet finished.