Expanded Course Descriptions Fall 2019

The Department of History scheduled these undergraduate courses for Fall Quarter 2019. This list is subject to change, so please check back often.

picture of history course

Registration appointment times available on Schedule Builder and myucdavis.

History 1:  Introduction to History

Stimulants, Depressants, and Modern Life

Instructor: Professor Campbell

Most people’s lives are structured by a morning cup of coffee or tea, while the rush of a sugary snack keeps us going later in the day.  In moments of stress and exhaustion (or simply at the end of a working day), it’s not uncommon to hear ice cubes rattle in a cocktail glass, or a beer bottle open, with the refrain that it’s “5:00 somewhere.”

The way that we consume stimulants and depressants tells us a lot about how we live in the modern world, and how we have gotten to be where we are.  The way that these things are produced and distributed adds further complexity to the story.

So this class uses alcohol, coffee, and sugar (along with stronger substances) to introduce students to history as a method of inquiry.  In lectures, students will learn about how consumption patterns shaped modern human history – for example, the close relationship between sugar and the Industrial Revolution, or between vodka and the rise of Soviet power.  In parallel with that, they will learn different historical methodologies.  The methods of analysis they will learn are useful both in later undergraduate history classes and in the outside work.

Discussion sections will focus especially on developing the skills necessary for success as a history major or in other liberal arts disciplines:  analyzing new information, understanding historical context, using the University’s extensive research tools, comparing arguments, and formulating new arguments, among others.

The class is especially recommended for incoming students (first-year or transfer).  No prior knowledge of history is assumed.

Grading will be based on three short (500 words) response papers, participation in discussion sections, and a final exam.


History 2: Introduction to the History of Science and Technology

Instructor: 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 Energy 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. Assessment is based on exams, short essays, online quizzes and section participation. The class satisfies GE requirements for SL (Scientific Literacy) as well as AH, SS, WC, and WE.

Sample readings: Lawrence Principe, The Secrets of Alchemy; Charles Darwin, Origin of Species; Audra Wolfe, Competing with the Soviets


History 7A: Latin American History to 1700

Instructor: Professor Resendez

This is an introduction to the history of Spanish and Portuguese America from the late pre-Columbian period through the initial phase and consolidation of a colonial regime (circa 1700). The lectures, readings, and discussion sections offer a broad overview of the indigenous roots and realities of the hemisphere, the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of this region, and the emergence of colonial regimes in the 16th and 17th centuries. It will explore the contrasting experiences of Indians, Africans, and Europeans and their mixed descendants in an evolving colonial world.  Key topics will include the disruptions and continuities of the major indigenous civilizations of the continent, colonialism, racial mixture and race relations, gender, labor systems, identity, religion, and environmental transformation. This is the beginning of a three-course sequence devoted to the history of Latin America. Each course can be taken independently.

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 In-class essays (40%)


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

Instructor: 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 15A 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. We will explore African history methodologies, such as the interpretation of oral and written primary sources, scholarly debates, music, art, and other sources. What sparked the rise of kingdoms in the ancient world? What was the impact of the slave trade on Africa? How did dynamics of the nineteenth century lead to European colonization? We will tackle these and other important questions in this course.

 Readings include three required books and additional readings available on Canvas.

Course requirements include a geography quiz, two exams, two papers, and participation in discussion section.


History 16: Sex, Science, and Society: A Global History

Instructor: Professor Chiang 

This course examines how 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 explore the connection between the development of scientific ideas and its shifting social, cultural, and political contexts.  Topics include the history of homosexuality, eugenics, population control, intersexuality, transsexuality, and HIV/AIDS.   Combining lectures and 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 social controversies about cultural diversity and (2) to integrate the dynamics of power in region-specific contexts into a global synthesis by focusing on the politicized nature of scientific practice.


History 17A :  History of the United States

Instructor: Professor Downs

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 102D: Race before Race: Making Identities in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Instructor: Professor Stirling-Harris

When historians discuss modern ideas about race and racism, they tend to focus on the Atlantic slave trade and the development of “scientific racism,” a legacy of the Enlightenment and nineteenth-century physical anthropological scholarship. Yet ideas about race, ethnicity, and social difference have a much deeper history, a history connected to questions of religious and cultural difference, as well as perceived physical variations among people. Our seminar will explore this timely topic, looking at the changing ways that Europeans thought about race, both among themselves and increasingly, among the peoples of the wider world. Our readings range from classic case studies to the latest scholarship, coupled with selections from primary sources. Assignments will include weekly text markup evaluations as well as a series of short writing assignments, including a primary source analysis and an annotated bibliography, that will culminate in a term paper that explores aspects of the seminar’s topic and questions via a close analysis of an assigned primary source. Questions? Contact the instructor at akharris@ucdavis.edu


History 102E: A History of Modern Magic and Fantasy

Instructor: Professor Saler 

In 1917, the sociologist Max Weber, famously proclaimed that the modern Western world was “disenchanted”: magic had disappeared, to be replaced by scientific reason. Yet in many ways, Western thought and mass culture continues to engage with magic, fantasy and “re-enchantment” more generally. This seminar will examine the modern dialectic between disenchantment and re-enchantment, exploring the different ways that magic and fantasy thrive in an age devoted to rationality and science.

 Readings: TBA

Assignments: TBA


History 102J: The Rights of the Child: Global Histories & Local Realities

 Instructor: Professor Schlotterbeck

What kinds of rights do children have? What kinds of rights should they have? Where do ideas about children, childhood, and children’s rights come from? How have they changed over time? This course explores the historical origins of children’s rights as human rights, culminating in the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). Our examination of the history of childhood and youth—and the lived historical experiences of young people— will focus on Latin America, a region in which children have often borne the brunt of structural injustices. We will address themes such as inequality, victimization, discrimination, education, reform, activism, resilience, rights and difference. Theories of childhood and debates about rights will help us to better understand how young people are connected to political power in a region marked by vast inequality.


History 102M:  America in the 1980s

Instructor: Professor Tsu

This seminar 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 redefinitions in 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 109/SAS 109: Environmental Change, Disease and Public Health

Instructor: 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.

Fulfills the GE Science & Engineering, Social Science, Scientific Literacy requirement. 

This is a 10 Day Drop Course and is Not a writing course. 



History 131B European History During the Renaissance and Reformation

Instructor: Professor Stirling-Harris

History 131B, “European History During the Renaissance and Reformation” explores the history of western Europe between the late fifteenth and the mid-seventeenth centuries, a complex period that marked the turn from the medieval to the modern world. This course will explore this slow shift and the ideas and events which characterized it, devoting particular attention to changing concepts of community and identity and to links between religious ideas and social, political, and cultural change. Topics include humanism, European expansion in the Americas and beyond, the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, social status and gender roles, and the development of the modern state and of modern economic forms. Readings will focus in on a wide array of primary sources, coupled with several monographs and textbooks. Assignments will include two papers, a midterm, and a final exam.


History 138C:  The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, 1917-Present

Instructor: Professor Campbell

This course traces the emergence of the Soviet Union as a socialist system, its rise to global prominence, and its eventual decline and collapse.  We will pay particular attention to the multi-ethnic nature of the Soviet state – taking seriously the changing relationship of the union as a whole with its component republics.


Other key topics will include the tension between the ideals and outcomes of the October Revolution; the relationship between Leninism and Stalinism; the extent to which the USSR may be described as a “totalitarian” state; and the legacy of the Soviet era in Russia and other post-Soviet states.


  • Readings:
    • Nicholas Riasanovsky and Mark Steinberg, A History of Russia, 8th ed. (optional)
    • Ronald Suny, The Structure of Soviet History
    • Fedor Mochulsky, Gulag Boss:  A Soviet Memoir
    • Svetlana Alexievich, Zinky Boys
    • Tony Wood, Russia without Putin
    • Additional primary and secondary source readings available on Canvas


Grading/Assignments:  four short papers (2-3 pp.); map quiz; final book review (6-8 pp.); final exam.


History 164: History of Chile

Instructor: Professor Schlotterbeck

In 2011, Chilean students occupied the streets and their schools en masse. Like the nearly simultaneous Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements, the “Chilean Winter” struck a deep chord of discontent over growing inequality. What began as protests over education quickly morphed into a challenge of the dictatorship’s market-driven policies – and by extension – the legitimacy of a political system that still maintained them twenty years after General Augusto Pinochet left office. Born after the 1990 democratic transition, this so-called generation without fear has returned not just to the streets but also to politics in new and exciting ways.

This course situates contemporary student protests within the long sweep of Chilean history from the 1500s to the present. Three central questions will guide our thinking:

    1. How did everyday people experience key moments of social and political transformation?

    2. What role have young people played historically as agents of change?

   3. And finally, how does taking the historical agency of children into account challenge our larger assumptions about history?

Beginning with the construction of the Chilean nation in the 19th century, we will examine how states are formed from colonial territories and how national communities are defined and consolidated along exclusionary lines of race, class, and gender. Turning to the 20th century, we will assess competing strategies for economic development and demands by different sectors for political, social, and economic inclusion. The final unit on historical memory in the post-dictatorship era considers how the past continues to act on the present and asks what elements of this history might be of value in imagining alternatives in the present and future.


History 166B: Modern Mexico

Instructor: Professor Resendez

This course will be devoted to the political, social, and cultural history of Mexico from independence to the present.  Using journalistic accounts, videos, fiction, and scholarly works we will probe into the lives of Mexico’s diverse population and show that the country’s seemingly contemporary challenges involving migration, drug wars, insurgency, corruption, political gridlock, and others are in fact deeply rooted in the past.  This is the second part of a two-quarter sequence devoted to the history and culture of Mexico. Although the two quarters cover consecutive historical periods, either may be taken independently.


Your final grade will be determined by:

1) A midterm (35%)

2) A final exam (35%). Both exams will consist of both short I.D. and essay questions, and the final will be cumulative, that is, it will test knowledge acquired through the entire quarter.

3) An assignment (20%). I will give more details in class.

4) Attendance and doing the required reading and participating in class (10%). We will discuss the readings in class.


History 171C: Reconstruction

Instructor: Professor Downs

Why do many scholars consider the post-Civil War period a Second American Revolution, a civil rights movement full of promise to remake the nation completely?  And why did the period end in disappointment and retreat? To answer those questions, this course examines the history of the post-Civil War period known as Reconstruction to examine the re-creation of the United States in the aftermath of the nation's bloodiest conflict and the emancipation of four million formerly enslaved people. In class students will examine the social and economic changes in the South as ex-slaves tried to gain land and independence while planters fought for control; the Constitutional changes as Republicans passed three sweeping amendments that still shape contemporary rights and citizenship; political debates about the future of Reconstruction; and the role of the military in enforcing federal law. But we will also look beyond the former Confederate states to examine the transformation of labor relations, racial ideologies, and the federal government in Chicago urban struggles, in Western battles over Chinese labor, and in debates over annexing the Dominican Republic and Cuba. We close with the retreat from Reconstruction as vigilantes assumed control in the South, anti-democratic movements swept over the North and West, and freedpeople began looking for new horizons in the West and outside the United States altogether.


History 179: Asian American History

Instructor: Professor Tsu

This course surveys the historical experience of people of Asian ancestry in the United States from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. We will explore the experiences of Asian immigrants and Asian Americans within the broader context of immigration and race relations in U.S. history. Major questions framing the course will be: What are the arguments for a common Asian American experience? What are the limits of a shared Asian American experience? What does the history of Asian America tell us about America? How have Asian Americans resisted and struggled to define their identity, livelihood, and a sense of “home” in America?


History 188: America in the 1960s

Instructor: Professor Rauchway 

The 1960s saw the end of postwar liberalism and the beginnings of our own time, with the success of the movement for civil rights and the emergence of modern conservatism. At the start of the decade, the prosperous country's leaders told their citizens there was no limit to American ambition except Americans' own imagination and willpower. To a greater extent than ever before or since, the country focused on the wellbeing and concerns of young people, urging them to spread American ideals and values around the world and even beyond, into space. But the global appeal of America's culture and unprecedented power of its technology and industry could not stop the nation from getting mired in the Vietnam War. By the end of the decade, Americans increasingly questioned the legitimacy and purpose of their national ideals, facing an uncertain future of environmental degradation and racial conflict.

GE credit: ACGH, DD, SS, WE.


History 191E: The Chinese Revolution

Instructor: 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.