including instructor, location, day and time. This information is also available from the Office of the Registrar.
The online UC Davis General Catalog displays a comprehensive list of Department of History courses.
Expanded Course Descriptions
The Department of History scheduled these undergraduate courses for spring quarter 2016. This list is subject to change, so please check back often.
History 4B: History of Western Civilization (Renaissance to the Eighteenth Century)
We study European society, politics and culture from the late Middle Ages through the early modern centuries, from the Black Death to the eve of the French Revolution. From 1348 to 1789, Europe experienced mass pandemics, the spread of world-changing new technologies including gunpowder and the printing press, the development of the early modern state, the fracturing of the "universal Christendom," the emergence of competing religious confessions, religious wars and wars of expansion, the rise of colonial empires and international trade, the rise of science, the Age of Enlightenment and secularization. These were centuries of enormous contradiction: the "Scientific Revolution" was contemporaneous to the European witch-hunt that led to the execution of tens of thousands for the crime of "harmful magic." In 1685 the French King Louis XIV outlawed witch-hunting, and yet he continued to practice the "King's touch," a miraculous healing ritual in which French and English Kings cured people through the laying on of hands. These are just some of the crosscurrents and paradoxes of the early modern centuries that we explore in this course.
History 7B: History of Latin America, 1700-1900
This course explores the history of Spanish and Portuguese America from the apogee of the colonial regime (circa 1700) to the emergence and consolidation of independent republics during the long nineteenth century. The lectures, readings, and discussion sections will offer a broad overview of the nature of Iberian colonialism in the Americas; the causes for its decline and thus the nature of the struggles for independence; the creation of nation states; the difficulties in consolidating these nations; and the rise of liberalism and export economies in the latter part of the nineteenth century. While paying close attention to political and economic developments, our focus will be social: how did the diverse people of Latin America view, live, participate in, and benefit from or suffer these changes? Key themes of the course will resonate in contemporary Latin America: race and gender relations, economic dependency, political instability, popular protest, and environmental transformation. This is the middle course of a three-course sequence devoted to the history of Latin America. Each course can be taken independently.
-Charles F. Walker, The Tupac Amaru Rebellion
-John Lynch, Argentine Caudillo
-Sandra Lauderdale Graham, Caetana Says No
-William H. Beezley, Judas at the Jockey Club
History 8: Indian Civilization
History of Indian civilization from the rise of cities (ca. 2000 B.C.) to the 1960s, with emphasis on cultural interaction and change in social and political organization, religion, art, architecture and literature. Readings: John Keay, History of India; Karl J. Schmidt, An Atlas and Survey of South Asian History
History 9B: History of East Asian Civilization
Surveys traditional Japanese civilization and its modern transformation. Emphasis is on thought and religion, political and social life, art and literature. Perspectives on contemporary Japan are provided.
History 10C: World History 1850 – Present
Onmia El Shakry
This is a course in the history of the world since 1850 that will highlight five themes: the global formation of capitalism and industrialism; warfare and techno-politics; the rival ideologies of liberalism, fascism, and communism; anticolonial nationalism, decolonization and revolutionary struggles; and globalization. In particular, we will focus on the role of non-Europeans in the making of the modern world and will learn to think historically about global structures of inequality. Our focus will be on modernity as a process of creative destruction. We will begin with the global world of the 19th century and end by asking if we live in what the philosopher Gilles Deleuze calls a “Society of Control.” The emphasis will be on understanding comparisons and connections across multiple societies and histories rather than comprehensive coverage.
-Robert Tignor, et. al., Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World, 1750-present Volume C, Third Edition
Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz
-Domitila Barrios de Chungara with Moema Viezzer, Let me speak—Testimony of Domitila, A Woman of the Bolivian Mines Sonallah Ibrahim, The Committee
History 12: Food and History
Professor Sally McKee and Andres Resendez
This course surveys how humans have fed themselves from the time they were hunter gatherers to the present and shows how new feeding patterns have transformed cultures, economies, and societies. This historical survey traces the transformation of plants and animals into food, cooking into cuisine, ceremony into etiquette, and mother’s cooking into tradition. In short, the lectures cover the social and political implications of food and its consumption on a global scale from pre-history to the twentieth century. The first half of the quarter will follow the passage from hunter gatherers to settled agriculturalists, and long-distance traders, culminating with the Columbian and Magellan exchanges across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans respectively. The course will then examine the rise of a global economy in foodstuffs, including spices, tea, and coffee, the emergence of national cuisines, the industrialization of food in the twentieth century, and the impact of immigration on global culinary tastes.
-Wrangham, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human
-Mintz, Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History
-Zola. The Belly of Paris.
Requirements and Grading Percentages (Your final grade will be determined by):
1) Midterm Exam (20%)
2) Final Exam (20%)
3) Participation (class and section) (20%)
4) Two essays based on Wrangham and Zola (40%)
History 15: Introduction to African History: Migration, Colonialism, and Globalization
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, including pre-colonial migrations and kingdoms, the spread of world religions, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, nationalism, development interventions, and human rights campaigns. Students will examine the continent’s diverse past through oral and written primary sources, scholarly debates, music, film, art, and other sources. What sparked the rise of kingdoms in the ancient world? How did Africans benefit and suffer from the slave trade? Which of Africa’s resources made it vulnerable to conquest and exploitation? What are the historical foundations of recent wars and genocides on the continent? How does Africa continue to shape global capitalism and culture? We will tackle these and other important questions in this course.
-D.T. Niane, ed., Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali (Pearson Higher Education, 2006)
-Getz and Clarke, Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History (Oxford Univ. Press, 2011)
-Gilbert & Reynolds, Africa in World History: From Prehistory to the Present (Prentice Hall, 2012), Third Edition
Additional readings will be available on Canvas
History 17A: History of the United States
This course explores the United States from its earliest settlement to the Civil War, with special emphasis upon the development of indigenous and settler societies in the region that became the United States, the formation of a new nation through a multi-sided war, and the expansion and eventual overthrow of plantation slavery.
History 17B: History of the United States, Civil War to the Present
This course explores the making of the United States since the Civil War with special emphasis upon its expansion abroad and racial matters at home. Beginning with Reconstruction, the course traces the evolution of American industrial power in the latter-half of the nineteenth century, the challenges it posed at home, and the consequent rise of the country's foreign policy interests. The course continues its twin focus upon foreign relations and domestic diversity by looking at WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and the Vietnam conflict in tandem with such reform efforts as Progressivism, the New Deal, the civil rights movement, the social protest of the 1960s, and the conservative resurgence of the 1980s. The course concludes by studying the war on terrorism at home and abroad.
History 72A: Women and Gender in America, to 1865
History 72A is an introduction to the history of early American women—as a group, as individuals, and as members of different classes, races, and ethnic communities. Using the themes of production and reproduction, we will explore both the daily lives of women and the changing concepts of “woman” and “womanhood” over time and region. Through primary sources, scholarly literature and films, we will meet native American traders, accused witches, seduced girls, “true women,” enslaved mothers and western missionaries. The course will pay particular attention to the interactions between groups of women and the significance of gender in determining women’s experiences, using comparisons among groups, individuals, regions, and across time wherever possible.
-Melton A. McLaurin, Celia, a Slave
-Nancy Cott, Root of Bitterness
-Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple
-Elaine G. Breslaw, Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem
-Camilla Townsend, Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma
- There will also be a small packet of additional readings.
Grading: Grading is based upon paper assignments, section participation, a midterm, and a final examination.
History 102X: Science, Technology, and History
Daniel Stolzenberg (TR: 10–12:50)
Where do we locate the origins of modern science? In prehistoric times with the advent of primitive technology? In bronze-age Babylonia? In ancient Greece? With the “Scientific Revolution” of the 17th century? In nineteenth-century Europe? Arguments can—and have—been made in favor of all these answers. In this course we will examine the history of these answers as they are reflected in the development of the academic field known as the History of Science. Readings will consist of a mix of scholarly articles and examples of “grand narratives” from works of synthesis, such as textbooks and popular non-fiction. Students will learn how to conceptualize, investigate, and write an original research paper. There are no prerequisites and no prior knowledge is necessary. For history majors this class counts toward all fields of concentration and can substitute for a lecture class. Non-history majors will need to contact Professor Stolzenberg to receive permission to register.
History 102M: History of Modern Feminism in the United States
Why do many young American women favor the goals of feminism but reject the label “feminist”? Students in this course will consider this and other contemporary questions about feminism by placing the movement within its historical context. Readings cover the origins of the modern women’s liberation movement in the civil rights and student movements, the multiple forms of feminism that developed in subsequent decades, conflicts among feminists, and the recent cultural and political backlash against feminism.
Required Texts TBA
History 102N: Japan
This course examines Japanese colonialism in late 19th and 20th century. Japan was the only non-Euro-American nation-state to build a modern colonial empire, subjugating other Asian peoples and attempting to integrate them into the larger framework of a multicultural, multiethnic imperial regime. In its heyday, the Japanese empire stretched from Manchuria to the Philippines; half of what is today called the Pacific Rim Regions was under its domination. No Asian and Southeast Asian country/region today, and neither Russia nor the United States, has been free from the significant impact of the rise and fall of the Japanese empire.
Students will explore the rise and fall of the Japanese colonial empire, its global and regional economic impact and political/administrative structures, cultural clashes and patterns of assimilation operating between Japan and the colonized nations, as well as literary expressions and intellectual discourses produced by the colonization process. The course is mainly focused on the Japanese colonization of Taiwan and Korea, its two formal colonies, but will also discuss the informal colonies in Manchuria (Northeast Asia) and Southeast Asia. You will be trained to approach documents and scholarly works critically and cautiously, and also not to trust blindly what webpages and journalistic accounts tell of this complicated subject.
You are forewarned that History 102N is a very reading- and writing-heavy and competitive course. You are required to write short papers every other week at the very least, and a longer term paper. There is no examination. If you are not interested in the history of East Asia, I recommend you not to register for this course.
Although it is intended for History majors, non-majors are welcome. If you have any questions regarding these issues, consult the instructor individually. No language other than English is used for the class. However, those who can read any non-English language including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, French, Vietnamese, Dutch or others are highly recommended to write their research papers or explore supplementary materials using the source materials in these languages.
-Ming Cheng Lo. Doctors within Borders.
-Theodore Jun Yoo. Politics of Gender in the Colonial Korea.
-Prasenjit Duara. Sovereignty and Authenticity.
-Michele Mason, Helen Lee, eds. Reading Colonial Text. (main textbook)
-Other readings available through Smartsite and webpages.
Grading: There will be weekly reflection papers or graded oral presentations and a long research paper. All students are required to participate in the class discussions. Grade distribution is not based on a curve. All participants may receive A grades or, conversely, D grades, depending on how well they do.
Discussion participation: 160 points, Oral presentations/Weekly reflection papers: 160 points Preparation for final paper/Final paper: 180 points. Total: 500 points
HIS 102W/ 201W: Mediterranean Passages: The Theory and Practice of a Regional History
The Mediterranean has been called the navel of the world. Since ancient times, it has been a sea of passage, adventure, trade, and conflict. In this seminar, we shall examine the many ways in which the Mediterranean has been imagined, represented, mapped, painted, and written about from ancient times until the present. We shall explore various themes framed by the idea of the Mediterranean, beginning with the fundamental issue of the viability of the Mediterranean as an historical, geographical, and cultural unit. From there we shall move on to topical matters, such as cities and routes, war, piracy, trade, the ideas of honor and shame, gender relations, bandits and the mafia, ethnic cleansing and nationalism, migration and displacement. We shall also look at paintings and film, poetry, fiction and travel writing as exemplars of a Mediterranean consciousness. Finally, we shall consider how historical evidence has been deployed to undergird the narratives that define this region that is so elemental in world history.
Note: this is a graduate seminar open to qualified undergraduates willing to do the weekly reading assignments
History 108: Global Environmental History
This course will provide an overview of the environmental history of the world and an analysis of environmental change over time. Environmental history encompasses the history of environmental change and also the history of how human perceptions and manipulations of nature have changed over time. Environmental history is an inherently interdisciplinary topic with a complex subject matter. It differs in several ways from standard approaches to historical study and this diversity, including some basic earth science material, will be apparent from our readings and lectures. By learning how much the environment has changed due to natural and human forces over the last 10,000 years, we will be better able to understand, and hopefully help to solve, the pressing environmental problems we face today. Fulfills the GE Social Science and Arts & Humanities requirement.
History 110: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia: The Anatomy of Twin Hatreds
In this course we study the origins and evolution of two historical phobias that were initially disassociated but have in recent years become intertwined; hatred of Jews and hatred of Muslims. Both have deep historical roots in the Western psyche, and both have evolved over time, reflecting cultural trends and political crises in the wider world. Our focus is on the contemporary period and with an emphasis on those writings--- popular and highbrow-- that capture the tenor of the mounting crescendo of antipathy toward Jews and Muslims that has accompanied unending war in the Middle East. We shall expose the parallel structures in each phobia, their origins, their differences, their connection to world events, their structures, their evolving socio-historical meanings, and efforts to contain them through legislation and education. We shall also examine contemporary discourses and their penetration deep into the American consciousness via the media. We also discuss the costs and dangers that their unchecked spread could pose to our democracy.
Note: This course will be conducted as a seminare, with maximum student participation. It will require weekly preparation of the reading and 4-5 short writing assignments. There is no midterm or final exam. Students must be ready to engage with the reading and be ready and willing to discuss it. Grading will be based on performance in class and the quality and timeliness of the written work.
History 110: British Empire
History of the rise and expansion of the British Empire (18th-19th centuries CE) focused largely on India and Africa, exploring social and cultural implications of military conquest, economic exploitation, colonial rule and imperial policy.
History 111B: Ancient History (Greece)
Classical Greece and the Hellenistic World, Political, Cultural and Intellectual Developments Emphasized
-J. Boardman, Griffin and Murray, The Oxford History of Greece and the Hellenistic World
-Spyridakis and Nystrom, Ancient Greece: Documentary Perspectives
Grading: Midterm 25%; paper 25%; final 50% of course grade
History 113: History of Modern Israel
Topics include the rise and fall of utopian Zionism, the century-long struggle between Jews and Arabs, the development of modern Hebrew culture, the conflict between religious and secular Jews, and the nature of Israel’s multicultural society.
History 115B: Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean World
What are the origins of cultural and economic connections between East Africa and the Indian Ocean? When and how did Eastern Africans convert to Christianity and Islam? What the are the legacies slavery and European colonialism? This course investigates these and other questions about the history of human trafficking, Arab and European colonization, nationalism, genocide, religious missions, and human rights. We will address changing experiences of race, class, gender, sexuality, age, and ethnicity. This course includes discussion of Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, and Malawi, as well as the Arab, Persian, South Asian, European, and North American communities who have helped shape Eastern African history.
-Henri Medard and Shane Doyle, eds., Slavery in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa (Ohio University Press, 2007)
-Nega Mezlekia, Notes from the Hyena’s Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood (Picador, 2002)
-Additional readings will be available on Canvas.
History 130B: Christianity and Culture in Europe, 1450-1600
Between 1450 and 1600, Christianity in Europe underwent dramatic transformations that permanently redefined the continent's religious landscape. While most medieval Europeans had shared a common Catholic faith, by the end of the sixteenth century, uniformity of belief and identity had been permanently destroyed, replaced by a kaleidoscope of competing churches, sects, and factions. Together, we will explore the ideas and events of the European Reformations, both Protestant and Catholic, devoting particular attention to changing concepts of community and identity and the links between religious beliefs and social, political, and cultural change. Our readings and discussions will examine not only the ideas of the key thinkers of the period, such as Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Loyola, but also the effects of their ideas on Europeans of all walks of life.
-Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations
Grading: 25% paper #1, 25% paper #2, 20% midterm, 20% final exam, 10% preparation, participation, quizzes, and other assignments
History 132: Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Europe
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 prosecuted 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, 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 134A: The Age of Revolution
History 134A will examine the history of early industrialization; the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars; the Congress of Vienna and modern international system; and the legacy of the Revolution. Specific topics will include theories of representative government; the experience and tactics of Napoleonic battle; the emergent rivalry between capitalism and socialism; the revolutions of 1848; and the French Commune.
History 136: Scientific Revolution
What does it mean to understand nature in modern—and premodern—ways? Today we take for granted that science involves mathematical laws, experimentation, discovering new phenomena, and the creation of technologies that provide power over nature. None of these was true about European natural science in 1500. All had become widely accepted by 1700. This class treats the transformation of European ideas about nature, knowledge, and technology during the age of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. We will explore the intellectual culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, looking closely at source materials from this period, and examine issues such as scientific methodologies, instruments and experimentation, religion, and the control of nature. Topics include astronomy, physics, alchemy, natural magic, medicine, and natural history. The readings and lectures are designed to provide the basis for students to think critically about these issues, which will form the basis for written assignments and in-class discussion.
- Peter Dear, The Scientific Revolution and miscellaneous primary sources
History 146B: Europe in the Twentieth Century (1939 to the Present)
Lecture and discussion topics will include the European wartime struggle against fascist dictators, the legacies of the Second World War, the origins of the Cold War in Europe; the rise of the European Economic Community, decolonization and postcolonial tensions, the political and social upheavals of the 1960s, the revolutions of 1989, and the continued preoccupation with nationalism religious identity.
Readings will be drawn from:
Gilbert and Large, End of the European Era
A course reader of primary and secondary sources
History 161: Human Rights in Latin America
History of the origins, denial and protection of Human Rights in Latin America. Emphasis on dictatorships, political violence, social resistance, democracy, justice, accountability, truth commissions, memory.
History 168: History of Inter-American Relations
This course examines the relations between the United States and Latin America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as current issues. We will pay particular attention to the reasons why these relations have been characterized by misunderstanding, mistrust, and tension. While focusing on a few crucial moments such as the Guatemalan and Cuban Revolutions, we will also look at how the United States media has depicted Latin America and its people as well as the contemporary problems in U.S.-Latin American relations, particularly the border or la frontera.
-Mark Danner. The Massacre at El Mozote.
- Louis Pérez, ed. Impressions of Cuba in the Nineteenth Century.
- Sonia Nazario, Enrique's Journey
- Stephen Kinzer. Overthrow
- PLUS a reader (on-line)
Grading: Students will be asked to write two take home papers of 3 pages as well as one 5-7 page paper. There will also be two map quizzes, mid-term, and final
History 171B- Civil War and Reconstruction
This course explores the Civil War Era, both the deadliest war in American history and the explosive political fights over slavery that brought on the war and the extraordinary, if short-lived, revolutionary experiments with biracial democracy in the Reconstruction that followed. The course thus covers not just battlefield contests but also the expansion of plantation slavery and the development of a powerful pro-slavery politics in the South, and the creation of a free labor ideology in an industrializing North. The course also investigates the development of civil and political rights during Reconstruction and the centrality of the West in shaping the coming and outcome of the war that continues in many ways to shape the nation.
History 173: Becoming an American: Immigration and American Culture
History 173, Becoming an American: Immigration and American Culture An introduction to the wide range of immigrant experiences and cycles of nativism that have shaped American culture in the twentieth century. From novels, memoirs and films, students will explore how external and internal immigration has created a multicultural society. We will use a comparative framework to explore the history of immigrants and refugees from Europe, Asia, and Latin America, as well as the migration of African Americans within the United States. Themes will include debates in immigration history, community building, acculturation, racial formation, victimization vs. agency, America’s treatment of immigrants, and competing notions of citizenship.
History 174D: America in the 1980s
This course examines the political, economic, social, and cultural history of the United States during the 1980s, one of the most tumultuous and controversial decades in popular memory. Topics include the rise of a new conservative movement, the collapse of the Cold War, growing economic inequality, changing family and gender values, the impact of new influxes of immigrants and refugees, and popular culture in the era of action heroes, cable television, and MTV. We will draw on primary documents—political speeches, newspaper articles, films, song lyrics, music videos, and fiction,—and consider the ways in which scholars have analyzed this recent history. While we will devote the bulk of our attention to the 1980s, this course will also reach back to the 1960s and 1970s, as well as evaluate the continued legacy of the 1980s in contemporary America.
History 177A: History of Black People and American Race Relations, 1450-1860
This course takes us from the west coast of Africa to the battlefields of the Civil War in a survey of early African American history, from its origins until 1877. Beginning with the Atlantic slave trade and concluding with the fall of Reconstruction, slavery—and the fight to end it—is the central focus of this course. We will frame slavery as crucial to understanding U.S. history broadly, rather than a system that was confined to the South. In particular, we will explore the role of enslaved people and black abolitionists in bringing about emancipation; the importance of gender and women’s labor to the plantation economy; and the relationship between slavery and capitalism. African American history is often a story of the steady march from slavery to freedom, but we will pay as much attention to the setbacks and contradictions of this forward movement in order to tease out the promises, potential, and limitations of freedom for black people in the United States.
History 181: Religion in American History to 1890
This course explores the history of religion in America from the colonial period through the Civil War. In this course we will examine persistent themes in American religious history, such as the diversity of religious faith and practice in American history; the encounter between Protestant Christianity and native American and African religions in the Americas; Protestant evangelism and revivalism; gender and religion; religion and bigotry in American life; enduring tensions between religion and politics in American history; religious liberty; the rise of new religious traditions in nineteenth-century America; and religion in the Civil War. I hope that students taking this class will gain an understanding of the ways in which religious belief and practice have shaped American culture and society, from the first encounters between European colonizers and Native Americans through the end of the nineteenth century. The course will place particular emphasis on the diversity of religious practice in the American past as a central theme in American history.
The course also means to challenge and develop your abilities to think critically about diverse evidence and to argue persuasively in support of your conclusions. You should not undertake this course unless you are willing and able to attend lectures consistently and to perform the considerable reading and writing assignments punctually. The papers will be critically examined for style as well as content.
General Education Components: This course satisfies four General Education requirements: the Arts & Humanities and Social Science Topical Breadths, as well as the American Culture, Governance, and History and Writing Experience Core Literacies.
Readings (The bookstore carries five books for this class):
-Elizabeth Reis, Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England
-Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America
-Sylvia R. Frey and Betty Wood, Come Shouting to Zion: African-American Protestantism in the American South and British Caribbean to 1830
-Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity
-Mark Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis
History 183B: Expanding America, 1865-Present: From the Trans-Mississippi West to the World (4 units + optional 5th unit*)
* Note: students in 183B will have the option of taking one unit of extra course credit - - History198, P/NP grading - - for watching selected western movies or tv shows and writing a short (three-page) compare-and-contrast paper about them.
Up to our own day, American history has been in a large degree the history of the colonization of the Great West.” - - Frederick Jackson Turner, 1893
Why are Lakota Sioux Indians demonstrating against an oil pipeline that is outside their reservation? Why did Nevada ranchers travel to Oregon to occupy a federal wildlife refuge? Why do they have so many supporters in the West? Why do they have so many opponents? Why can’t California get more water from western rivers to slake the thirst of its rapidly growing population? Why is the new Tesla factory located in Nevada? (Hint: it’s not just the tax breaks.) Why are our movies, video games, tv shows, music, and literature full of references to the Wild West, the Old West, gunfighters, saloons, dance hall “girls,” cowboys, “the border,” Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, pioneer women, and Deputy Dawg?
This class will answer these and a great many other questions, for a whole range of American institutions and practices trace their origins to the West. Big government and giant corporations of today both had crucial origins in the Far West. The Indian Wars of the West set important precedents for America’s wars in the Pacific and Asia, from the Philippines to Japan and Afghanistan. War was also a tool for imposing Protestant Christianity on native peoples, and in other ways, too, the West--with its Mormons, Ghost Dancers, Pentecostals, and others--was a hotbed of religious dissent and conflict that foreshadows much of today’s anxiety about religion and holy war. The Old West looked surprisingly modern in some ways: western society was more than the motley farmers and cowboys seen in our movies; it was at times the most diverse of any American society of the time, composed not just of Anglo-Americans but also Indians, Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos and scores of other immigrants. It presaged our own communities and helped give rise to modern ideas of race and the social order you know (and perhaps seek to change).
Without the West of the nineteenth century, there likely would be no Indian casinos, no University of California, and no Silicon Valley. While the Old West is widely remembered as wilderness, subjugating it required the construction of modern government and modern science, and the many products extracted from it - - beef, grain, gold, silver, copper, coal, and oil, to name a few - - fueled the Industrial Revolution and left a long-term environmental quandary. The West became the home of the U.S. military, with gigantic military bases and a navy that dominated the Pacific after World War II, and the West was where the world’s first nuclear weapons were developed and tested and where the paradoxes of “nuclear security” - - of seeking to ensure peace with doomsday machines - - first appeared. The development of the West after World War II saw the birth of the modern suburb, ringed by landscapes that are among the most bitterly contested in the entire country, with fights over western forests, minerals, water, and land at the center of fierce disputes that have contributed mightily to the partisan warfare of the early twenty first century. Finally, the borders that encircle the West and separate it from Mexico and Canada paradoxically connect it to the larger world and make it central to some of the most contentious immigration debates of the age.
We will explore the history of the West since 1865 in all its complexity, seeking not just an understanding of the factual past, but insight into why western history has been consistently (and even willfully) distorted in our books, movies, and other media, and how that history can be connected to the U.S. and the world today.
Among the questions guiding our inquiry will be the following:
1) How did Indians, emigrants, and immigrants remake the environments of the West as they made homes, and with what legacies for Americans today?
2) What political struggles and economic arrangements accompanied westward expansion and annexation, and how did western settlement in turn re-shape U.S. politics, culture, and economy?
3) How and why did the West give birth to the nuclear era? What are the connections between defense spending and the rise of information technology?
4) How were frontier myths in U.S. popular culture created, and what do they tell us about American society and history?
Colin Calloway, Our Hearts Fell to the Ground: Plains Indian Views of How the West Was Lost
Mary Ann Hafen, Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer of 1860
John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux Mine Okubo, Citizen 13660
Mae Ngai, The Lucky Ones: One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America
History 190D: Middle Eastern History IV: Safavids Iran, 1300-1720
Middle Eastern history focusing on Safavid Empire (present-day Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, up to Georgia), beginning with the origins of the dynasty as a powerful religious family, to the establishment of the Empire, focusing on Social, Religious, Economic, and Political History.
History 191C: Late Imperial China
Patterns and problems of Chinese life traced through the Ming and Ch'ing dynasties (c. 1500–1800), prior to the confrontation with the West in the Opium War. Readings include primary sources and novels portraying elite ethos as well as popular culture.