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Like travelers in foreign lands, students of history come face to face with the diversity of the human condition. They undergo the unsettling but salutary experience of nonrecognition and so arrive at an understanding that peoples in the past were other, that then was different from now, there different from here.

Enriched by that understanding, they are able to view their own time and place in a new light, as the outcome of local and contingent circumstances rather than as the inevitable product of human nature.

No other discipline in the humanities and the social sciences covers so wide a range of topics as history. Instead of studying just one or another segment of human activity—e.g., politics, economics, literature, art, philosophy, etc.—history integrates all of them. Located at the intersection of multiple disciplines, it is of crucial importance to all students of the humanities and the social sciences.

Finally, and most important, history teaches students how historical knowledge is constructed. Through hands-on instruction in seminars, students learn how to locate documents relevant to an historical subject and what questions to put to those documents: Where do the documents come from? Through what intermediary stages did they pass before they reached us? Who wrote them? And why?

Trained in the critical methods of historical interpretation, students of history come to understand that no document provides a transparent window onto the reality that it purports to describe. They are uniquely equipped therefore to deal critically with the unprecedented abundance of documents that circulate electronically in the information age of today.

For more information, contact History Chair: Professor Douglas Burgess.

Mission Statement

The mission of the History Department is to provide students with a better understanding of their world by examining past people and events and to instruct them in the critical examination of evidence.

Program Student Learning Goals

  1. Understand how historians gather, interpret, and analyze source material and how they construct a narrative from this material.
  2. Demonstrate their awareness of the variety of the human experience across time and space.
  3. Create and communicate their own narratives of historical analysis.

Program Information

Please see the Schedule of Classes for the current semester’s offerings. For further description of each class please go here. (PDF)

History (HIST)

Explanatory Note on History Numbering System:

Courses in history are divided into fields, defined in terms of geographic area, subject matter or historical period. Those courses numbered x1xx focus on Europe; x2xx on North America; x3xx on the Middle East; x4xx on East Asia, Africa, and Latin America; x5xx on the relations between the west and the non-western world; x6xx on legal and constitutional history; x7xx on history of science; x8xx on the ancient world; and x9xx on major historical themes that transcend the usual chronological and geographic divisions.

Courses numbered 1xxx are introductory level courses; those numbered 2xxx are electives; and those numbered 3xxx are capstone seminars intended primarily for majors. (Non-majors wishing to take one of the capstone seminars may do so only with the approval of the course instructor.) 4xxx level courses are senior theses or independent study courses.

I. Introductory Courses

  • 1101 The Emergence of Europe 3 credits
    Major themes in the cultural, political, and social evolution of the West from antiquity to the Reformation. 
  • 1102 The Transformations of Europe 3 credits
    Survey of European history from the age of absolutism to the European Union of today.
  • 1201; 1202 Survey of United States History 3 credits
    Aspects of American history that have contributed to the shaping of American culture; evaluation of political, social, and economic trends in the light of changing ideals. First semester: colonial times to 1877; second semester: 1877 to the present.
  • 1301; 1302 The Middle East I, II 3 credits
    Provides the background for understanding current Middle East politics, the relation¬ship between the West and the Middle East, and the resurgence of religion in the region. First semester: the emergence and the development of Islamic society; political, social, religious, and economic history of the Middle East from the 7th through the 17th century. Second semester: history, culture, and politics of the modern Middle East from the end of the 17th century to the present.
  • 1401 History of East Asia 3 credits
    Introduction to the history and culture of the major civilizations of East Asia, with particular focus on China and Japan. The development of traditional society and the growth and transformation of Confucian ideas and institutions. Covers the differing responses of China and Japan to the challenge of Western imperialism, impact of World War II on East Asia, and the Chinese Revolution.


II. Electives

  • 2101 Medieval Society 3 credits
    History of European politics, society, and religion in the Middle Ages, from the 5th to the 14th centuries, with particular focus on selected primary sources from the period and how historians view them today.
  • 2104 The Renaissance and Reformation 3 credits
    European thought and culture in the age of transition, from the 14th to the 17th centuries.
  • 2107 Old Regime and the French Revolution 3 credits
    History of France from the death of Louis XIV to the coup d’état of Napoleon. The first half of the course examines the social and political structures of the Old Regime, the crisis of the French monarchy, and the failure of reform; the second half focuses on the emergence of a democratic political culture during the Revolution, the process of radicalization, and the recurrent problem of how to bring the Revolution to a close
  • 2111 Eastern Europe: 1914–1989 3 credits
    Political, social, and economic development of Eastern Europe—the lands between Germany and Russia—between World War I and the East European revolutions of 1989. Emphasis on the nationalities conflict and economic backwardness.
  • 2121 Images of Empire 3 credits
    Examines the enduring power of classical models of empire in the Western tradition, particularly the influence of the Roman Empire on empires from Charlemagne to Mussolini. Explores how ancient discussions about slaves, images of rulers, and debates about female rulers such as Cleopatra and her successors affected their more modern counterparts.
  • 2124 History of the Book: From Gutenberg to Google 3 credits
    Focuses on some of the major themes in the history of the book during the age of the wooden hand press (1460 to ca. 1800): the transition from manuscript to print and the changing physical appearance of books, publishing and the book trade, copyright and censorship, and the history of reading. The final section of the course examines the world of books in the age of Google, comparing the internet revolution of today with the Gutenberg revolution of the early-modern period.
  • 2127 The European Enlightenment 3 credits
    Examines works by some of the major figures of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, such as Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Hume and Kant. Considers the institutional settings in which Enlightenment ideas took shape, the media through which they were disseminated, and the public debates that they provoked.
  • 2141 The Holocaust  3 credits (Same as JHIS 1485.)
    Fate of European Jewry between 1933 and 1945. Topics include the rise of the Jewish question in 19th Century Europe; World War I and its consequences; causes of the Weimar Republic’s collapse; Nazi seizure of power; Nazi Jewish policies; ghettoization in Nazi Europe; conception and implementation of the Nazi Final Solution; life in the ghettos; the Judenrat; and Jewish resistance.
  • 2144 Polish-Jewish Relations in Modern Times 3 credits (Same as JHIS 1454.)
    Polish-Jewish relations in the period 1764 to the present, viewed within the larger context of the disappearance of Poland from the political map of Europe in the late 18th century, the persistence of Polish statelessness throughout 19th century, and the influence of this development on the lack of Jewish social integration into Polish society. Second part of the course examines the thriving Jewish cultural and spiritual life in the independent Polish state, the Holocaust, post-World War II relations, and the current renewal of Jewish life in Poland.
  • 2149 Topics in European History 3 credits
    Topics may vary by semester.
  • 2151 Nationalism in Modern European History 3 credits
    Rise and spread of national movements in 19th century Europe. Emphasis on the transition from liberal nationalism in the first half of the 19th century to ethno¬linguistic nationalism in the final decades prior to World War I.
  • 2154 History of Modern Russia 3 credits
    History of Russia from the era of Peter the Great to the death of Stalin after World War II.
  • 2157 Modern Poland: From Subjugation to Independence, 1772–1989 3 credits
    History of Poland from the loss of sovereignty at the close of the 18th century to the East European revolutions of 1989. Topics include 19th ¬century attempts to regain independence; the Polish question during World War I; independent Poland between the two world wars; destruction of Poland in World War II; Communist Poland after World War II; and the return to freedom in the tumultuous year of 1989.
  • 2207 The New Deal and the Great Depression 3 credits
    Examination of the American economy of the 1920s and its weaknesses; the Depression and unemployment, and the measures undertaken by the New Deal to counteract their devastating impact; the emerging social forces that challenged traditional political and social structures.
  • 2225 Social Movements in American History 3 credits
    Examines social movements and protest politics of 19th and 20th centuries. The course explores the ideology, political structures, mobilization, identity, and empowerment strategies of movements such as abolitionist movement, women’s movement, populism, the KKK, movements of the era of the great Depression, movements of the 1960s, and  the New Right. A comparative survey of contemporary movements which erupted in 2011 in Europe, in the US, and the Middle East (including Israel), will conclude the survey. 
  • 2231 The History of New York City 3 credits
    New York City from colonial times to 21st century and its status as a postindustrial city. Focuses on following themes: the people of the city; its immigrants; its neighborhoods; its cultures; the post-World War II trend of urban renewal and its effects; the rise and fall and resurgence of some neighborhoods; urban politics; the status of the city facing the economic and political trends of a globalizing world. 
  • 2234 History of Women in the United States 3 credits
    Historical survey of women’s experiences in the United States from the colonial era to the present; changes in the economic role of women; family life; changing ideals of womanhood; suffrage movement; and feminism.
  • 2237 African American History 3 credits
    History of African Americans from their origins in Africa to their current situation in the United States. Focuses on the institution of slavery, showing how it changed over time and how African American culture evolved; the ways in which African Americans coped with the violence and discrimination they faced in the South after the Civil War as well as their struggle for racial equality in the 20th century; cultural achievements of African Americans in the North and the South.
  • 2240 American Jewish History 3 credits (Same as JHIS 1573.)
    Major political, economic, and cultural developments from colonial beginnings to the present; the Jewish experience in its American historical context; the Jewish labor movement, rise of American Zionism, and role of American Jewry during the Holocaust.
  • 2301 Ethnic and Religious Minorities in the Middle East 3 credits
    Examines the process of change of the Middle East from a religious and ethnic mosaic to an increasingly homogeneous region. Topics include the process of con¬version to Islam and the relationships between the Islamic regimes of the Middle East and their religious and ethnic minorities, focusing on Christians and Jews, and the effects of modernization, European colonialism, and nationalism on the minorities in the region.
  • 2303 History of Palestine 3 credits (same as JHIS 1505)
    History of modern Jewish settlement in Palestine under the Ottoman rule and the British Mandate, until the establishment of the state in 1948. Topics include: encounters and relations of the yishuv with Palestinian Arabs and the ruling powers; the social, economic and ideological factors that shaped the institutions and the national aspirations of the yishuv and of the Palestinian community.
  • 2304  Modern Israel 3 credits (same as JHIS 1511)
    Survey of Israeli society, culture and politics from 1948 to the present. Topics: Israel and the Palestinian national movement; global political factors that shaped the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the social, cultural, and political  divisions of Israeli society, and the challenges facing Israel in the twenty-first century. 
  • 2501 History and Ethnography 3 credits
    Examines the idea that historically, writers within the Western tradition have often defined themselves in relations to others. By looking at texts and images that purport to show others, the course considers what they say about Europeans’ ideas of them¬selves in their historical context, and if it is possible to write about other cultures “objectively.” Also explores how historians have used cultural difference and ethnolog¬ical description as causal forces.
  • 2520 Atlantic World 3 credits
    Before they became "the United States," the American colonies belonged to a broader, multinational and heterogeneous collection of colonies which historians term "the Atlantic World." This course will consider the transatlantic connections that defined this "world": economic, social, political, and how it transformed over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
  • 2601 Legal History 3 credits
    Law is the matrix through which society operates, from the earliest city-states to the nations of today. This course examines in broad terms the development of legal systems, the relationship of subject/citizen and the state, criminality, and domestic vs. international justice from the historical perspective.
  • 2604 Piracy and the Nation State 3 credits
    Examines the history of piracy from the perspective of states' relationships with it. From the Roman Republic to present-day Somalia, how states have dealt with pirates off their shores teaches us a great deal about them: what their priorities and values are, the centrality of trade, what they consider "criminal," and how they wish to be perceived by other states. Whether as "enemies of the human race" or useful adjutants to navies, perceptions of piracy have often defined how a state regards itself.
  • 2607 International Crimes: Atrocity and State Response in the 20th Century 3 credits
    Explores the emergence and incidence of genocide and other crimes against humanity in the 20th century. Emphasis will be placed on how the international community has responded, the use of the trial and other forms of retributive justice, and the emergence of international law after the Second World War.
  • 2613 Law and Dispute Settlement in Pre-Modern Europe 3 credits
    Examines the development of legal systems and the methods used to settle disputes in pre-modern Europe, by comparing the various ways in which laws were made in Europe from the Greeks to the sixteenth century, and reading a variety of records to see how disagreements were settled in practice in this period.
  • 2801 Greek Civilization 3 credits
    Political, social, and cultural history of Greek civilization from its origins in the second millennium BCE to the period of Roman domination. The rise and fall of nations and leaders; daily life in ancient Greece; development of Greek literature, art, and philosophy; interaction of Greeks with other peoples of the ancient Mediterranean world (especially the Phoenicians, Persians, Jews, and Romans).
  • 2811 Roman Civilization 3 credits
    Social, political, cultural, religious, and economic history of Rome from the city’s foundation in the 8th century BCE to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century CE. Particular emphasis on the late Republic and Early Empire. Examination of different types of evidence available for the study of ancient Rome (literary, archaeological, numismatic, papyrological, epigraphic, and artistic) and current resources and problems in the field of Roman history.
  • 2821 Archaeology 3 credits
    An introduction to world pre-history, with an emphasis on the rise and fall of social and political complexity. Topics range from cave paintings and early farmers to the first civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and Central and South America.
  • 2901 The Civilizing Process in the West 3 credits
    Examines the civilizing process in the West across roughly five-hundred years, from the Renaissance to the early 20th century. Topics include: shifting standards of polite behavior, especially as regards table manners; the "olfactory revolution" and the elevation of visual over other modes of sensory experience; instinctual renunciation and curbs on aggression; western critics of the civilizing process such as Rousseau and Nietzsche; and how the ideas of "civility" and "civilized" have been used as markers of social distinction, both within western societies and between western and non-western societies. 
  • 2904 Women, Culture, and Society in the Modern World 3 credits
    Interdisciplinary course examining the changing historical, cultural, and literary concepts of the subject of women, focusing on Europe and America in the 19th and 20th centuries. A topical approach is used to explore women’s lives through important literary sources, historical documents, and scholarly materials.
  • 2913 Immigrant Nations: US and Israel 3 credits
    A comparative survey of immigrant, ethnic, and racial experience in the 20th and 21st centuries with particular attention to patterns of similarities and differences of the diverse groups within each society.


III. Capstone Seminars

  • 3001 Ideas of History: Antiquity to Renaissance 3 credits
    Examines a selection of historians from antiquity to the Renaissance—such as Herodotus, Josephus, Geoffrey of Monmouth, and Machiavelli—in order to set them in their intellectual context and to ask questions about the nature of history. Prerequisite: HIST 1101 or permission of the instructor.
  • 3002 Ideas of History II: 19th Century to the Present  3 credits
    Examines works by some of the most influential historians from the early 19th century to the present-e.g. Leopold von Ranke, J. Huizingua, Fernand Braudel, E. P. Thompson, and Natalie Davis- in order to survey the range of approaches to the study of the past.


IV. Senior Thesis and Independent Study

  • 4001 Senior Thesis 3 credits
    Seniors majoring in history may opt to write a research paper on a topic of their choice to meet the exit requirement. See a faculty advisor for details.
  • 4901; 4902 Independent Study
    See Academic Information and Policies section.


History Major

Thirty-three credits: HIST 1101, 1102, either 3001 or 3002 (capstone course) plus 24 additional HIST credits, of which 6 must be in American History and 3 in non-Western history. Courses that cover both the U.S. and the non-Western world may be counted either as U.S. or as non-Western history, but not as both.

With the permission of the departmental advisor, up to 6 credits in Jewish history (in excess of those used to meet the Jewish studies requirement and distribution) may be counted toward the major.

A maximum of 6 AP History credits with a score of 4 or 5 may apply toward the major.

Majors are encouraged to master at least one language in addition to English and Hebrew. Knowledge of the relevant language is essential for M.A. and PhD programs in History.

History Minor

Eighteen credits: HIST 1101, 1102, plus 12 additional HIST credits, of which 3 credits must be in American History.

With the permission of the departmental advisor, up to 3 credits in Jewish history (in excess of those used to meet the Jewish studies requirement and distribution) may be counted toward the minor.

For more details about the History major and minor - see the factsheet at the Academic Advisement webpage.

The following list includes faculty who teach at the Beren (B) and/or Wilf (W)

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