Expanded Course Descriptions Fall 2018

The Department of History scheduled these undergraduate courses for FALL QUARTER 2018. This list is subject to change, so please check back often.

picture of history course

Registration appointment times available on Schedule Builder and myucdavis.

HIS 2 - 17B


History 2: Introduction to History of Science 

Professor Stolzenberg

How did the modern world come to be defined by the pervasive influence of science and technology? This class explores the history of the investigation of nature and its technological manipulation, focusing on three case studies: (1) Alchemy and Chemistry from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (2) Evolution and Information in the Age of Empire (3) Science, Technology, and the Cold War. Themes include the rise of experimental methods, the relationship of theoretical knowledge to practical applications, and the interaction of scientific knowledge, cultural values, and political projects. Students will learn about the methods historians use to produce knowledge of the past and hone their critical analysis and reasoning skills. Course material is non-technical and accessible to students from all majors. The class satisfies GE requirements for SL (Scientific Literacy) as well as AH, SS, WC, and WE.


History 4A: History of Western Civilization 

Professor Campbell

This course presents an overview of the major questions of European history from the late 18th century to the present.  In the first part of the course, we will investigate the fundamental changes to European life that the French and Industrial Revolutions wrought.  In the second, focusing on the 20th century, we will turn to the problems that an increasingly mobile and diverse continent confronted in world wars hot and cold, while tracing the gradual emergence of a new European order.

Of particular importance to us will be the theme of violence as a means of both challenging and maintaining Europe’s political and economic systems.

Students will be assessed on the basis of short (one-page) weekly writing assignments, a longer final paper, an essay-based final exam, and their participation in weekly discussion.


History 9A: Chinese Civilization 

Professor Bossler

This class is a basic introduction to Chinese history and culture, from the Neolithic period down to the 21st century. We review major historical events and cultural developments across time, while focusing on several recurring themes:  the relationship between the government and the literate elite class; the relationship between elites and the majority of the population; interactions between the Chinese state and governments or people from outside China; and the changing role of family and gender relations in Chinese society. This course is open to all students without prerequisite.  It meets thrice weekly, twice a week for 80 minutes of lecture and once a week for a 50-minute discussion section. 


History 15A: Africa to 1900: States and Societies, Slavery, and the Scramble

Professor Decker

With 55 countries, over one billion people, thousands of languages, and a geographic area that surpasses the United States, China, and Europe combined, the defining characteristic of the continent of Africa is its diversity. History 15 introduces students to key shifts in African history to 1900, including major states and societies, the spread of world religions, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and the onset of European colonialism. This class introduces students to African history methodologies, such as the interpretation of oral and written primary sources, scholarly debates, music, film, art, and other sources. What sparked the rise of kingdoms in the ancient world? What was the impact of the slave trade on Africa? Which of Africa’s resources sparked conquest and economic exploitation? We will tackle these and other key questions in this course.


HIS 102D - 102X


History 102D: Witchcraft and Witch-Hunting in Early Modern Society 

Professor Stuart

This class explores practices of witch-hunting in Early Modern Europe. About 60,000 people, 85% of them women, perished in the European witch-hunt, mostly in the century between 1560 and 1660. We explore the particular set of circumstances that encouraged these “burning times” in the era of the baroque. Most victims of the witch-hunt were older, post-menopausal woman. What were the gender stereotypes that led to this particular construction of the witch?  Children played a problematic role in the witch-hunts. Witchcraft often served as an explanation for high infant mortality, and children featured prominently among the accusers of witches. But after 1680, children took on a new role: as perpetrators of witchcraft. We will explore the paradox that on the eve of the Enlightenment, the so-called “Age of the Child” that recognized childhood as a special stage of life that needed to be protected and nurtured, children were accused of—and executed—for witchcraft more than ever before.  Finally, we ask when, how, and why the witch-hunts ended. People didn’t stop believing in witchcraft—why did they stop burning witches?


102D F18 photo


HIS 109-196A


History 109: Environmental Change, Disease, and Public Health

Professor Davis 

This course analyzes environmental change at multiple scales and how these changes have influenced public health over time.  It takes as a starting point that the “environment” includes not only deserts, mountains, plains and rivers, but also slaughter houses, hospitals and our own and other animal bodies.  The changes that have taken places in these varied environments have included the obvious like deforestation and the damming of rivers and the not so obvious like creating antibiotic resistance, and creating the conditions for super contamination of large quantities of food with pathogenic organisms such as E. coli 0157:H7, Listeria, and salmonella.  Furthermore, these transformations may be changing our epigenomes with what we eat, drink and breathe in ways that induce illness.  All of these changes have had impacts on human health.  Many of these environmental changes have been driven by human action over the last several millennia.  The pace and scope of such changes have become quicker and more pervasive during our era of “globalization.”  It is critical to understand these changes in order to build a more sustainable future for people and the planet. 


History 110: Sex, Science, and Society (Themes in world History) 

Professor Chiang 

This course examines the ways in which scientists and doctors have sought to conceptualize sex, gender, and sexuality since the Enlightenment. With an emphasis on the impact and legacy of imperialism, lectures will focus on the connection between the development of scientific ideas and its shifting social, cultural, and political contexts.  This course teaches students different methods (e.g., translation studies, feminist and queer theory, etc.) to interrogate the biases informing scientific investigations about the human body and mind.  Topics include the history of homosexuality, eugenics, population control, intersexuality, transsexuality, and HIV/AIDS.   Combining lectures and seminar discussions, the course offers a historical framework for discerning a variety of disciplinary approaches to the scientific understanding of sex and sexuality, including botany, anatomy, evolutionary biology, genetics, endocrinology, anthropology, sociology, psychiatry, among others.  The course accomplishes two overarching goals: (1) to understand the role of scientific and medical expertise in pressing social issues concerning cultural diversity and (2) to integrate the dynamics of power in region-specific contexts into a larger global synthesis through the politicized nature of scientific practice.


History 110: The British Empire (Themes in world History) 

Professor Sen 

This is a seminar on the history of the rise and expansion of the British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, focusing mostly on India and Africa. It explores social and cultural implications of military conquest, economic exploitation, colonial rule and imperial policy. It begins with the establishment of British rule in India (1757-1857) leading to the establishment of the British Raj as the cornerstone of a far-flung Empire that stretched at its zenith from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Straits of Malacca. It also explores how ideas, policies and practices of imperialism were introduced into parts of the African continent in the age of European inroads, and some of their consequences for indigenous society. We shall discuss how the ideology of empire and colonial expansion was sustained over such a long period of history, what its relationship was to the notion of Englishness and the idea of a Greater Britain, and how the idea of empire was represented by rulers for themselves and to those that they sought to rule.


116: 200 Years of “Saving” Africa: The History and Politics of Development in Africa

For more than two hundred years, non-Africans have been trying to “save” Africa and Africans. Today, we call this “development,” an international program designed for LDCs (“less developed countries”) ushered in after the Second World War, but the origins of development go back to the abolitionist movement and European exploration of Africa in the 1800s. This course explores the impact of international interventions in Africa, and Africa’s premier place as a target of the development discourse, from the nineteenth century to the present. We will discuss global and local ideas of civilization as well as colonial and postcolonial interventions in agriculture, technology, industrialization, nutrition, education, and health. We will also examine the ways in which African notions of modernity and progress have both challenged and shaped international development.


History 132: Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Europe  

Professor Stuart  

In the sixteenth century, you would be executed for throwing dung at a statue of the Virgin Mary. Nowadays, this might be considered offensive, but you will no longer be put to death for the capital crime of blasphemy. In other words, the definition of crime and the classification of criminals changes over time. In this class we explore when, how, and why this happened from the fourteenth through the eighteenth centuries. We will contrast "real" crimes such as vagrancy and theft with imaginary crimes such as Jewish ritual murder and witchcraft. One segment of the course covers prostitution, infanticide and witchcraft as specifically female crimes.  We will examine to what extent it is possible to relate long-term changes in the incidence and prosecution of particular crimes to changes in economy, social structure, government, law, religion and culture.  We will discuss changes in the nature and purposes of punishment in the early modern period, as public rituals of execution and other bloody punishments to the body were replaced by the penalty of imprisonment in the eighteenth century.


History 133: European The Age of Ideas  

Professor Stolzenberg 

This course explores the the dramatic transformation of European thought and culture between 1400 and 1800— the age of the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the Enlightenment, movements that lay the intellectual foundations of the modern world. We will study the impact of  the invention of the printing press, the Protestant Reformation, exploration and empire on ideas about politics, history, science, and religion. Readings include classic texts by Machiavelli, Las Casas, Montaigne, Descartes, Hobbes, Voltaire and Rousseau. There are no prerequisites and no prior knowledge is expected. This course satisfies GE requirements for AH, SS, WC , and WE.  


History 163B: Brazil, Where to? The History of Modern Brazil from 1808 to the Present 

Professor Pérez Meléndez

As a presidential election year with no leading contender, 2018 begs the question: Where is Brazil headed to? As the world’s fourth largest nation in territorial extent, fifth in terms of population, and among the ten largest world economies based on nominal GDP, Brazil is a contemporary paradox. Its image today is one of a society steeped in crisis. How has this come about? To answer this question, this course will survey the many faces of Brazil in historical time. Lectures will trace Brazil’s dramatic iterations as the second largest slave society and only monarchy in the Americas in the 19th century, as a leading migrant-nation in the 20th, and as a fledging democracy confronted with numerous challenges from the end of the dictatorship period (1964-1985) up to the present day. Topics covered include the slave trade and the politics of abolition; public health and popular resistance; migration and the formation of regional identities; race, gender and sexuality as sites of social contestation; and the place of Brazil in the wider world. The course will use an eclectic array of viewing, listening and reading material including jongo work songs intoned by slaves, contemporary takes on bossa nova, Brazil’s first diplomatic treaties, and reports on human rights abuses during the dictatorship. Students must prepare for class discussion by completing periodic reading responses, one short writing assignment, and a longer final essay.


History 167: Modern Latin American Cultural and Intellectual History: Business, Biomes, and Knowledge in Latin American Environmental History 

Professor Pérez Meléndez

This course examines the historical development of ideas about harnessing, exploiting, claiming, and preserving natural environments throughout Latin America from late colonial times until the present. Through the innovative work of environmental and social historians, class discussions will survey the business cultures that developed around particular industries (mining, cattle ranching, rubber extraction) and the systems of knowledge that have emerged from an engagement with varied environments in Mexico, the Caribbean, Brazil, and the Andes, among other regions. How have ideas about “nature,” “property,” “development” and science shaped the relationship between different societies and non-human ecologies? In what ways have changing cultural practices and perceptions, including notions of what constitutes rightful use of the environment, historically informed policy outcomes in the region? Paying special attention to companies as increasingly problematic but central players in conflicts over the environment, this course will rely on music, documentary films, and literature to explore questions of responsibility, solidarity, and justice in the midst of environmental destruction and expropriation.


History 174D: Selected Themes in 20th Century American History 

Professor Olmstead 

This course examines the evolution of conspiracy theories in the United States since the late nineteenth century.  Students will learn how political scientists, historians, sociologists, and cultural theorists analyze conspiracy theories, and they will explore how American conspiracy theories have changed over time. We will start with nineteenth century conspiracy theories about Mormons, Catholics, and anarchists, and then proceed up to the present.  Students will look at World War I conspiracy theories (did the “merchants of death” prompt US intervention?), Pearl Harbor (what did Roosevelt know and when did he know it?), the Cold War (Reds in Hollywood and government), the JFK assassination, Watergate, Iran-contra, Roswell, 9/11, and Birtherism.  The emphasis is on why some Americans believe these theories, and the dynamic relationship between real government conspiracies and anti-government conspiracy theories.


History 187: History of US Foreign Relations in the Twentieth Century 

Professor Rauchway

History of US foreign Relations in the Twentieth Century, will cover the rise of the US to superpower standing during the twentieth century, from colonialism to the war on terror, including political, diplomatic, cultural, and economic activities of both US government and private American agencies beyond US borders. 


 History 191E: The Chinese Revolution 

Professor Chiang

This course is an introduction to the history of modern China from the mid-nineteenth century to the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.  It is structured around three chronological units: “The Fall of the Qing Empire,” “Visions of a New Society,” and “Three Chinas.”  Topics include the domestic and international causes of the Qing dynasty’s demise; the origins and transformation of Chinese nationalism; the Republican (Nationalist) regime; student activism and the role of the intelligentsia in social change; the Communist Revolution; Japanese imperialism; and the Chinese Civil War.  This course is open to all students without prerequisites and assumes no prior knowledge of Chinese history.