History 198. Experimental Courses
Modern Southeast Asia: From Spice Islands to Tiger Economies
Southeast Asia has long been a global crossroads. Situated at the intersection of trade routes, its “Spice Islands” attracted both traders and conquerors for centuries. At the turn of the twenty-first century, rapid economic growth brought renewed attention to the region as several of its nations were celebrated as “Tiger Economies.” This course will introduce students to the rich history of the region, which consists of a diverse group of nation-states including Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines, and others. We will survey the peoples and their polities, attempting to understand how culture continues to shape social and political life in the region even as waves of foreign interest and intervention have come and gone. Through lectures, readings, and discussions, students will develop an appreciation for the incredible diversity of the region, and a sense of the shared circumstances and historical experiences that encourage greater cooperation and integration. Students will also have a chance to experience Southeast Asian culture firsthand when we pay a visit to a local Thai Buddhist temple in nearby Raynham, MA.
Religion & Rebellion in Colonial Asia
This course focuses on the history of anti-colonial rebellions in Asia—battles that pitted peasants armed with little more than farm tools against imperial armies. The rebels, however, were blessed by spiritual leaders and protected by tattoos, amulets, and incantations. Well-known examples include the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, the Boxer Rebellion (both in Imperial China), and the Saya San Rebellion in British Burma. We will investigate these and other rebellions in nineteenth and early twentieth-century Asia, asking: What motivated peasants to rebel? What kinds of tools did religion offer to people facing the overwhelming force of imperial armies, and how did religious beliefs shape their actions? Can we, as historians, hope to understand the true motivations of the peasant-as-rebel? Through lectures, readings, discussions, and a series of writing assignments, we will attempt to answer these questions. We will also consider how these events were documented, and by whom? How have politics shaped historical accounts of these rebellions? In order to get a better sense of the documents and artifacts that historians use to reconstruct the past, we will visit Wheaton’s own Marion B. Gebbie Archives. For their final project, students will adopt the role of archivist and curator, developing an imaginative (and imaginary) archival collection related to a historical ‘holy man rebellion.’