University of Wisconsin–Madison

History 600 Seminars

History 600 seminars are advanced-level seminars, designed to test and refine the research and writing skills gained through the study of history. A History 600 is required for all History majors and should be taken in sequence after the completion of a History 201(Comm B). The capstone of the History major, 600 seminars meet once a week for two hours of discussion, and are generally organized around the production of a research paper of substantial length. Multiple sections of History 600 are offered every fall and spring semester, each with its own unique topic led by an expert in that particular subject. Every History 600 requires the consent of the instructor to enroll. Below you will find enrollment instructions for gaining admission into a 600 seminar.

History 600 Enrollment Instructions: The enrollment process for History 600 seminars being offered during the upcoming semester begins the week prior to release of that semester’s online Course Guide. Registering early for your History 600 will allow you to plan the rest of your semester schedule around your History 600 seminar and balance your workload accordingly. Majors will receive an email containing a list of the seminar topics being offered along with descriptions of each topic and instructions from each instructor on seeking enrollment. As soon as these topics are released, students can begin contacting instructors to seek enrollment permission. Declared majors have priority for enrollment, with deference to graduating seniors. After choosing a topic, follow the seminar-specific instructions for obtaining permission to enroll. Many instructors prefer that you contact them over email. Email messages should include “History 600” in the subject line. The body of the email should include grade level, major(s), as well as a few sentences explaining your interest in a particular seminar. It can also be helpful to note any previous courses you’ve taken with the instructor and explain what you hope to gain from the class.

Once you obtain permission from an instructor, Isaac Lee will email you to confirm your authorization and explain how to enroll for the course.

Fall 2017 – History 600 Seminar Topics

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

History 600 Descriptions

  • Seminar 001 - Politics & Film, 1930-2016

    Students interested in this course should arrange to talk with Professor Sharpless in person. He can be reached via e-mail at His office hour is on Wednesdays from 11:00am-12:00pm & by appointment.)

    This seminar will explore the subgenera of American motion pictures – the “political movie” and how it relates to trends in American politics over time. We will cover the period roughly from 1930 to the present. Hollywood writers, directors and producers have, over the decades, produce films that represent American politics in various ways (often in not very flattering terms). Such films as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Citizen Cane,” “The Last Harrah,” “The Candidate,” “Wagging the Dog” and “Ides of March,” have generally portrayed politicians as self-centered, deceptive and manipulative. The citizenry is portrayed as gullible and easily manipulated.

    Is Hollywood really that cynical? Or, is it simply that a “bad guys” versus “good guys” story makes for a more interesting movie? Are there changes that have occurred over time as Hollywood elites become more alienated from the American political mainstream? What, for example, was the effect of the anti-communist movement (1950s) or the anti-Vietnam War movement (1960s) on the political content of American film? The “public image” of Hollywood is now that it is decidedly “liberal” (and Democrat) but has that always been the case?

    This seminar will focus series of Hollywood-produced motion pictures with plots set in the context of American politics. We will examine them as historical documents that – in some symbolic way – represent contemporary attitudes about the success and failure of the American democracy.

    W 8:50 AM | Instructor: John Sharpless

  • Seminar 002 - Weimar Culture & the Rise of Hitler

    Students interested in the course should contact Professor Koshar at to discuss their interest in the course. In the e-mail, please include brief information on the courses you’ve taken in European history.)

    Did Weimar fail? The answer to this question was once thought to be a classic no-brainer. Historians uniformly praised the innovativeness and vibrancy of Weimar art, literature, architecture, city planning, cinema, and popular culture. But in political histories of the era from 1918 to 1933, the Weimar Republic stood both as the symbol of a failed democracy and as a prelude to Nazism, war, and genocide. Weimar’s association with liberal collapse and the rise of authoritarianism has been enduring. As recently as 2013, an American political commentator in The New Republic warned that a stalemated “Weimar America” faced some of the same challenges that pre-fascist Germany faced.

    Over the past two decades, an interdisciplinary scholarship has re-examined Weimar politics by focusing not just on elections and parties but also on the symbols and discourses of political culture. This scholarship has uncovered new realms of previously unexplored social and political experience and thereby re-opened the question of Weimar’s failure. In this seminar we study some of the new research themes: gender, body politics, citizenship, empire and borderlands, visual culture, popular culture, and consumption. We’ll use a broad array of primary sources, including films, memoirs, novels, autobiographies, official documents, and more. It is hoped that at the end of the seminar students will have developed their own responses to the important question of whether Weimar failed.

    The pedagogical goals of the course are: to deepen your knowledge of a fascinating moment of modern European cultural and social history in all its drama and many-sidedness; to build your expository and critical skills through writing and discussion; to advance your abilities to analyze primary sources with reference to larger historical narratives and problems; and to relate past and present (e.g., is America experiencing a “Weimar moment”?) through rigorous comparison and analogy.

    T 11:00 PM | Instructor: Rudy Koshar

  • Seminar 003 - Crusader States: the Governing Elites

    Students interested in the seminar should email Professor Lapina at

    In the seminar, we will discuss the elites, composed of both men and women, who governed the Kingdom of Jerusalem and other crusader states established as a consequence of the First Crusade in the late 11th century. We will begin by discussing the founding of crusader states and the processes by which some of the leaders of the First Crusade managed to become their rulers. Warfare dominated the life of crusader states, and we will study some of the military campaigns that these rulers waged against Muslim neighbors, including the experiences of captivity and liberation. Diplomacy – and even alliance with – Muslims was an important activity that could be both concomitant with or alternative to warfare. Despite the importance of warfare in crusader states, in which women could only play a secondary role, a series of ambitious women succeeded in attaining and wielding power. Another important topic of the seminar will be the military orders, Templar and Hospitaller knights, and the roles that they played in defending crusader states, as well as in the states’ political life. In the seminar, we will read both primary and secondary sources

    T 11:00 AM | Instructor: Elizabeth Lapina

  • Seminar 005 - Baseball & Society Since WWII

    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:

    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 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.

    T 1:20 PM | Instructor: David McDonald & Commissioner Emeritus Allan Selig

  • Seminar 008 - Empire & Revolution: U.S. & European Colonial Rule in Southeast Asia

    Students interested in taking this seminar, should send me a short email at, stating: (a.) their status (Junior, Senior); (b.) major (History or other); (c.) past courses with this instructor; (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.

    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 its 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 and Iraq. 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.

    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.

    T 11:00 AM | Instructor: Alfred McCoy

  • Seminar 009 - Living in Pompeii: Economy and Society

    Students interested in the seminar should email Professor Kleijwegt at

    Pompeii is like a diorama frozen in time. In 1748, the city was found under tons of rubble at the time it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. The archaeological excavations of the site have revealed the living conditions of its citizens, their daily activities, the political slogans used in the elections, the stores, bakeries and workshops, the religious centers and the various avenues for entertainment. There is no city in the ancient world about which we know so much as Pompeii. This undergraduate seminar will familiarize students with the material and literary evidence on the city and will discuss many of the aspects of the daily life and activities of its citizens. The core of the seminar is a hands-on training in how to do research.

    W 11:00 AM | Instructor: Marc Kleijwegt

  • Seminar 012 - Recovering America's World War II MIAs

    Students interested in the seminar should email Professor Hall at

    During the Second World War, some 16 million Americans served in uniform. More than 400,000 of them died in the service, and approximately 79,000 were declared missing. More than 73,000 of them retain that status today. In this course, students will contribute to ongoing efforts to find, identify, and repatriate the remains of America’s missing service members from World War II. Working from official case files and in coordination with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), students will learn and apply the skills of investigatory research to clarify the circumstances of each loss, locate likely sites of interment, and potentially identify next of kin. The reports that result from this research will contribute directly to DPAA’s ongoing mission to “Provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation.” Over the course of the semester, students will also study the strategic and operational context of the campaigns and battles in which these service members participated and fought.

    W 1:20 PM | Instructor: John Hall

  • Seminar 014 - Slavery & Freedom in Early America

    Students interested in the seminar should email Professor Whiting at

    This course will analyze the emergence and institutionalization of slavery in the mainland North American colonies, placing the study of slavery alongside the study of freedom. In the nineteenth century, slavery would become an issue of national contention, leading to the Civil War, but that was not the case in the early period of American history; during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, every mainland American colony practiced slavery, and for much of that period there was little criticism of the institution (though some criticism nearly always existed). In this course, we will consider together a variety of intersecting themes and processes, such as how early Euro-Americans came to embrace bound labor; how freedom for some came to depend on slavery for others; how systems of bondage varied over time and space; how the institution of slavery influenced the lives of Africans and Native Americans in the mainland North American colonies; how, in turn, those in bondage shaped the institution of slavery; and how anti-slavery thought developed in early America.

    By the semester’s end, each student will have produced an original piece of historical scholarship: an extended research paper that uses both primary and secondary sources to make an argument about some aspect of slavery or freedom in early America. Throughout the semester, students will complete assignments to help them succeed on this final paper: a written analysis of a primary source; a proposal of their final paper topic; a bibliography; an outline; and a rough draft. Each student will also have the opportunity to facilitate one of our seminar discussions.

    R 8:50 AM | Instructor: Gloria Whiting