History
Offered by the History department.

As our majors move through our program, they develop skills and habits that are essential in today’s professional workplace:

  • critical but empathetic thinking
  • constructing persuasive arguments
  • evaluating information
  • recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of analysis
  • communicating effectively

We invite you to take a closer look at this exciting and demanding field of study!

Major requirements

History Major Worksheet

The major program in history requires a minimum of 10 courses. These include:

Area of concentration

Five courses in an area of concentration: United States or Europe. At least two of these five courses must be at the 300 level or above. Students in the class of 2015 and beyond may propose a concentration in Asian history.

Outside the concentration

Three courses outside the area of concentration, one of which must be in each of the other two areas. The third course should normally be in Latin American, Caribbean or African history.

Junior colloquium

HIST 302 is required of all majors, and is normally taken during the junior year. Those on leave of absence (LOA) or approved study at another institution may, with instructor approval, take the course in the second semester of the sophomore year. All majors must take the course by the first semester of the senior year.

Seminar

HIST 401 is a capstone course required of all majors, and is taken during the senior year. Students will normally take the course with an instructor in their concentration. Education minors and double majors may be allowed to take a seminar that is outside their concentration.

Additional information

No more than three 100-level courses shall be counted toward the major.

The department welcomes courses taken during a semester or year abroad, and will accept a maximum of three courses toward the major, including one outside the area of concentration.

History has a unique place in the Connections program. It can be connected with another course in any other discipline. In addition, the department encourages its students to take a variety of courses in other disciplines that are related to the study of history, whether or not they are part of an official Connection.

Guidelines have been established for interdepartmental major programs combining history with art, economics, political science, philosophy or religion. The department also participates in a number of other interdepartmental or combined major programs including African, African American, Diaspora StudiesAmerican StudiesGermanInternational RelationsRussian and Russian Studies, and Women’s Studies.

History majors are eligible to pursue a high school teaching license through the Education department.

Minor

History Minor Worksheet

The history minor consists of at least five courses. Four courses must be in a single area. One course must be outside the area of concentration. At least one of the four courses of concentration must be at the 300 level or above. No more than two 100-level courses may count for the minor.

History courses are also included in the following special minor programs: Development StudiesLatin American Studies and Management.

  • History

    CONX 21001 – War and Violence

    War, colonialism, oppression, national/social humiliation are among the violent modes of human interaction. The War and Violence connected courses study them theoretically as well as historically. POLS 357 inquires about the nature of violence and asks if violence is an inherent form of human interaction. It studies the political theories of violence, non-violence, and revolutionary violence. HIST 235 studies state-organized violence and asks how it has changed over time. An answer emerges through the historical examination of military organizations as well as war dynamics in the context of the US military.

  • History

    CONX 21002 – Politics and History

    In these paired courses, students will examine both the historical development and the current organization of political structures around the world. As historians, students will study the Westphalian system of state sovereignty and the development of absolutism, Enlightenment reform and reaction, the impact of the Industrial Revolution on political theory, and reactions to modernism in the form of fascism and communism. As political scientists, students will study concepts in comparative political analysis and look at political structures in the industrialized capitalist, (former) state socialist, and low-income or developing countries. They will compare the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of political institutions (e.g., presidentialism vs. parliamentarianism in liberal democratic countries), the causes and consequences of shifts between types of political and economic systems (e.g., the collapse of state socialism); and the relationship between social, economic and political change (e.g., between social justice, economic growth and political democracy). This intro-level connection will introduce students to the history and implementation of political ideas that influence our world today.

  • History

    HIST 050 – Senior Colloquium in American Studies

    Through readings and discussion the course will seek to bring together the various disciplines and methodologies pertinent to the American Studies major.

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    HIST 099 – Selected Topics

    Offered from time to time to allow students to study a particular topic not included in regular courses.

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    HIST 110 – Ancient Western History

    Surveys Western societies from prehistory and the Neolithic Revolution (c. 3000 BCE) to spread of the Macedonian Empire and of Hellenism under Alexander the Great (d. 323 CE). Societies under study include ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Neo-Assyria, Neo-Babylonia, Hebrew, and Greece. Among the topics covered are power, gender, family, religion, war, and development of art and ideas.

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    HIST 111 – History of Europe to 1000 CE

    Surveys the history and culture of western Europe, from the foundation of Rome (c. 753 BCE), through the “Fall” of Rome, and the first half of the Middle Ages. Topics to be covered include: the expansion of Rome, the rise of the Roman Empire, the Christianization of the empire, the Germanic migrations, the rise of Germanic kingdoms, and the beginnings of feudalism. These two millennia will be examined through varied lenses including gender, power, religion, and the arts.

  • History

    HIST 112 – History of Europe, 1000-1700 CE

    A study of high medieval through early modern Europe. Among the topics examined are the agricultural revolution, feudalism, the Crusades, the Twelfth-century Renaissance, monarchy and the development of nation-states, the emergence of a capitalist economy, the Renaissance, the Reformation, overseas expansion, and the beginning of the Scientific Revolution.

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    HIST 113 – History of Europe since 1700 CE

    A study of Europe from the religious wars through the French Revolution and to the present. Topics include: the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, nationalism, romanticism, imperialism, democracy, socialism, communism and fascism; the impact of two world wars; totalitarianism; and Europe’s post-World War II renaissance.

  • History

    HIST 143 – Africans on Africa: A Survey

    Africa’s development paralleled European development up to the eve of European colonization of the continent. Whereas the African slave trade robbed the region of millions of her people, a distinctly African holocaust, the slave trade and its eventual demise in the early 19th century also set the stage for European colonization. This course is a broad survey of the history of the African continent prior to colonization, during colonization and through the postcolonial period to the present. Its perspective will be uniquely African. We will focus on the interruption of African development and the strategies of resistance and accommodation adopted by various groups through an examination of selected texts, literature and film.

  • History

    HIST 198 – Experimental Cousre

    From time to time, departments design a new course to be offered either on a one-time basis or an experimental basis before deciding whether to make it a regular part of the curriculum. Refer to the course schedule for current listings.

  • History

    HIST 199 – Selected Topics

    Offered from time to time to allow students to study a particular topic not included in regular courses.

  • History

    HIST 201 – North American Colonial History

    Provides an introduction to the colonial history of North America. Topics include: indigenous societies before contact with Europeans and Africans; European reconnaissance and colonization; the rise of indentured servitude and racial slavery; social and cultural exchange among and between native peoples, Africans, and Europeans; connections of North America to the Caribbean Basin and Atlantic world; conflicts between European colonizers for dominance of North America; and social, political and economic development of mainland British North America in the 18th century.

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    HIST 202 – America: The New Nation, 1776-1836

    Considers the process by which Americans created a new nation and forged a national identity from the period of the Revolution through the Jacksonian era. Topics include: the course of American political growth; the experiences of Native Americans, African Americans and women in the new republic; the beginnings of northern industry; and the flourishing of reform movements.

  • History

    HIST 203 – America: The Nation Divided, 1836-1876

    Explores the development of divergent patterns of life in three distinct regions of the United States (the West, North and South) in order to comprehend the emergence of sectionalism, the violent struggle of the Civil War and the readjustments of the Reconstruction years.

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    HIST 204 – Industry and Empire: The United States, 1876-1914

    Examines how industrialization in the late 19th century transformed work, home life, class dynamics, ethnic diversity, gender relations, race relations, politics and foreign policy. Such changes redefined what it meant to be American and led to the creation of the modern nation.

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    HIST 205 – America Between the Wars: 1914-1945

    The two world wars bracket a period of extremes in American history: the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression of the 1930s. This course will follow the political and social history of these years, with special attention to the lives of individual Americans, the artistic creations of the period and the diplomatic questions which begin and end the era.

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    HIST 206 – Modern America: 1945 to the Present

    Despite America’s preeminent position in the world since 1945, the anxieties of the Cold War and the nuclear age pervaded postwar life. Issues such as civil rights, McCarthyism, Vietnam, the counterculture, Watergate, economic fluctuations and political cynicism all raised particular concerns. This course will trace American history in these years–political, social and cultural.

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    HIST 208 – American Indian Histories

    Examines histories of indigenous peoples of what’s today the United States from their arrival on the continent to the present, mainly from 1600 to 1880. Topics include: settlement, pre-contact culture, interaction with colonizers, impact of US territorial expansion, assimilation and reservation life, Termination, the American Indian Movement, and recent efforts aimed at cultural revival and self-determination.

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    HIST 209 – African American History to 1877

    Examines the early history of people of African descent in North America, placing the experiences of African Americans at the center. Includes a survey of African history before European incursions and attention to enslavement, culture, women’s experiences, community and family life among both free and enslaved blacks, and the role of African Americans in the American Revolution, the Civil War and Reconstruction.

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    HIST 210 – African American History: 1877 to the Present

    This course follows the freed slaves and other African Americans from the end of Reconstruction through the institutionalization of segregation, the migrations north, life in urban America, the civil rights movement after World War II and the contemporary realities of race in the United States. Particular interest will be paid to cultural history, family life, gender roles and identity.

  • History

    HIST 213 – The History of the Civil Rights Movement

    This course will examine, through readings and films, those events that led up to and included the civil rights movement in the United States, as well as those mass movements it inspired throughout the 1960s and the 1970s. We will explore the hopes and dreams, actions and strategies of the progressive members of this movement, which began decades before sit-ins galvanized student activism. This course will center on the historical context that helped to shape the political and social reality of the times. We will examine how the basic tenets of this movement continue to influence us today.

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    HIST 214 – European Military History

    An introduction to the history of war and the armed forces in Europe. We will begin in the 1400s with the technological and tactical developments that led to “modern warfare.” We will discuss the development of 18th-century military states such as Prussia; the 19th-century “people’s army” of Napoleon; the impact of the Industrial Revolution on European warfare, and the development of new military technology. The course will end with an in-depth examination of the First and Second World Wars.

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    HIST 215 – History of Russia

    A survey of the growth and development of Russia from its medieval foundations to the recent breakup of the Soviet Union. Topics include: political, social, religious and economic developments; the conflict of Eastern and Western traditions; Russia’s emergence as a European power; 19th-century revolutionary and reform movements; the creation of the Soviet Union and its flawed drive for modernization and domination in global politics, and the collapse of the USSR and Soviet Bloc.

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    HIST 216 – Caribbean Worlds

    This course addresses history of the Greater Caribbean, which centers on islands that border the Caribbean Sea and extends to places where peoples and ideas from Caribbean have gone, such as Boston, New York, Miami, London, Paris, Africa and Brazil, since 1492. The course emphasizes the relationship between Greater Caribbean and the development of the modern world.

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    HIST 217 – Mundo Brasileiro

    Explores the construction of Brazil and its diaspora since 1500 through documents, scholarly works, fiction, music and film. Topics include: colonization and its impact on indigenous peoples, African slavery and its legacies, migration, gender norms, politics and economic development, the rise of mass culture, urbanization and industrialization, how outsiders have viewed Brazil, and the impact of all these on Brazilians’ struggle to define what is “Brazilian.”

  • History

    HIST 219 – Norte y Sur: Modern Spanish America

    Explores key themes in modern Spanish America’s history through focus on Mexico and Argentina. Topics include: nation-building and economic development in the 19th century, the decline and abolition of slavery; the experience of indigenous peoples under national rule, the roles of western Europe and the U.S. in shaping political, economic, and cultural developments, the Mexican Revolution, Cold War, and recent efforts at economic and political reform.

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    HIST 220 – Latinos in the U.S.

    Examines history of peoples who together comprise the largest “minority” in the United States, from Latino perspectives whenever possible. Focuses on experiences of four national groups–Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Dominicans–to consider how Latinos have shaped and been shaped by life in their homelands and in the U.S.

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    HIST 232 – Women in North America to 1790

    This course surveys the history of women in colonial North America. The course begins by examining interactions among indigenous inhabitants; colonizers from Spain, France and Great Britain; and enslaved Africans. The focus then narrows to the British North American colonies and the experiences of women of Native American, European and African descent through the period of the American Revolution and its immediate aftermath. Throughout the course, particular attention is paid to changing constructions of gender and race, exploring their intersections with class, religion and region.

  • History

    HIST 233 – United States Women, 1790-1890

    This course surveys the history of women in the 19th-century United States, exploring changing constructions of gender, race and class during a period of significant economic and political development. The course examines the emergence of the women’s rights movement among members of the emerging white middle class as well as the changing experiences of free and enslaved African American women. Students complete original research in diaries held in the Wheaton College Archives and Special Collections.

  • History

    HIST 234 – United States Women since 1890

    This course surveys the history of women in the United States in the 20th century. Beginning with an examination of suffrage and numerous movements for social and economic change, the course challenges students to explore the complexities of women’s experiences. Throughout the course, particular attention is paid to intersections among multiple identities grounded in social constructions of gender, race, class and sexual orientation in local, national and international contexts.

  • History

    HIST 235 – United States Military History

    Today, polls show that the U.S. military is among the most highly respected institutions in the nation. It was not always so, however. The nation’s founders mistrusted the large armies of Europe, and wanted something different. But what? Throughout America’s history, the role of the military has been a subject of debate and disagreement. This course will focus on the history of the U.S. armed forces, from a colonial militia to a small standing army, to today’s global police behemoth. We will examine the role of the U.S. armed forces in America’s conflicts from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars to the twentieth-century World Wars, to Operation Enduring Freedom/ Operation Iraqi Freedom. We will survey important elements of military affairs – tactics, strategy, doctrine, logistics, training, and more – as we investigate the changing role of the military in American society.

  • History

    HIST 236 – U.S. Environmental History

    U.S. Environmental History focuses on the relationship between people and “nature” in North America from 1500 to today. It explores cultural differences regarding how humans should relate to “nature” as well as conflicts that have often resulted from such differences, the environmental consequences of North America’s incorporation into global markets, industrialization and urbanization, the rise of conservation and environmental movements, environmental racism, and the relationship between the rise of the US and its outsized global environmental footprint.

  • History

    HIST 240 – German History: 1648-Present

    A survey of German history from the end of the Thirty Years’ War to national reunification in the 1990s. Topics include: absolutism, the unification of Germany under Bismarck, Germany and World War I, the Weimar period, the rise of National Socialism, the Holocaust and World War II, division and the problems of a newly reunited Germany.

  • History

    HIST 251 – Early Islamic Societies

    Surveys Islamic history from 600 C.E. to the end of the 18th century. Begins with the late-antique world of the Byzantine and Sasanian empires and progresses to the life of Muhammad, the establishment of the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates, political disintegration during the Crusader and Mongol invasions, and the rise of the Ottoman Empire. Explores the emergence of Islamic culture through such topics as religious practice and law, gender and minority relations, literature and art and architecture.

Connections:
Connections 20076 – Dividing East and West (CONX 20076)

  • History

    HIST 252 – The Modern Middle East

    This course will provide an essential background necessary to understand the contemporary turmoil in the modern Middle East. It will do so by exploring three key ideologies – imperialism, nationalism, and Islamism – that have shaped the region’s tumultuous history.

Imperialism: we will study European involvement and how it shaped Middle Eastern institutions, political outlooks, social and intellectual currents.

Nationalism: we will address the reactions and responses of political elites, the middle classes and the poor to new concepts of democracy, secularism and nationalism that dominated the Middle East in the 20th century.

Islamism: we will investigate the foundational ideas of Islamism, examine the life and work of key leaders, and trace the development of ideological trends in the context of the political and international developments of the late 20th century.

Although the focus of the course will be on the Middle East, students with an interest in other parts of the Muslim world are encouraged to engage with the themes raised in the course materials from a comparative perspective.

  • History

    HIST 253 – Popular Religion and Devotion in the Middle Ages

    Explores ways in which people living in medieval western Europe experienced Christianity, expressed their beliefs, and practiced their devotion. Emphasis will be on “popular religion”—how masses of people enacted their spirituality—rather than official Church doctrines. Also consider sheresy, paganism, and Judaism.

  • History

    HIST 254 – Medieval Flesh: Controversies in Religion, Sexuality and Race

    The European Middle Ages was dominated by elite, white, heterosexual Christian men – and that same group has long preoccupied modern scholarly attention. This course seeks to shed light on many peoples excluded both from medieval society itself and from traditional scholarship – people of color, Muslims, pagans, the disabled, lepers, eunuchs, and gay men and women. We will adopt the body – both as concept and as lived reality – as our lens, exploring how human flesh caused and exacerbated divisions within society and judgments about “the other.”

  • History

    HIST 298 – Experimental Course

    From time to time, departments design a new course to be offered either on a one-time basis or an experimental basis before deciding whether to make it a regular part of the curriculum. Refer to the course schedule for current listings.

  • History

    HIST 299 – Selected Topics

    Offered from time to time to allow students to study a particular topic not included in regular courses.

  • History

    HIST 302 – The Junior Colloquium

    This course introduces students to history as an academic discipline. Students will begin by examining theories of history that have been used by historians over the centuries. They will learn about the approaches and methods of professional historians, and they will begin to plan their own original research projects. Rather than dealing with a specific historical subject, the readings in this course will be chosen from different eras of history and geographical regions. Special attention will be given to more contemporary historical approaches including subaltern history, the history of identity, and postmodernism.

  • History

    HIST 314 – Renaissance, Reformation and Revolution: Europe 1350-1650

    An upper-level course exploring the dissolution of the medieval synthesis and the rise of humanism; developments in culture and thought in Italy and on the Continent; and heresy and Reformation. Includes an examination of intellectual developments of the late Middle Ages and their impact on social class, gender and popular culture.

  • History

    HIST 321 – European Imperialism, 1757-1939

    This course focuses on European imperialism from the late 18th to the early 20th century. We will consider the factors that led to imperial expansion in the late 18th century and study the colonial experience from the point of view of those who lived it. We will examine how imperialism changed colonized societies; how imperialism influenced culture in Europe; and the development of resistance and opposition in the colonies.

  • History

    HIST 327 – Europe 1914-1945

    The first World War; the peace settlements; the search for security and the impact of the Great Depression; the nature of fascism, communism and national socialism; and the course of World War II.

  • History

    HIST 331 – Social and Intellectual History of the United States to the Civil War

    The evolution of American society from the colonial period to the Civil War and how various Americans attempted to describe, explain or alter the world in which they lived. Readings will come from primary sources, such as Franklin, Paine, Douglass, Emerson and Thoreau, as well as works of contemporary social history.

  • History

    HIST 332 – Social and Intellectual History of the United States Since 1876

    The response of American intellectuals, analysts and writers to the changes accompanying the growth of modern American society from the Industrial Revolution to the present day. Readings will include William James, Emma Goldman, Henry Adams, Jane Addams and Richard Wright, as well as contemporary analysts of modern American life.

  • History

    HIST 337 – Power and Protest in the United States

    Democracy, citizenship and civil rights in the United States are not static concepts unaffected by societal change, or apt to be changed without pressure from marginalized populations. In this course, we will examine how the growing consciousness and activism of several marginalized populations during the 20th century developed into social movements that changed the meaning and the delivery of democracy, citizenship and civil rights. These changes directly affected the lives of marginalized populations in the United States, and indirectly the lives of the majority population and global communities as well.

  • History

    HIST 338 – United States Labor History

    Explores the history of work and working Americans from the colonial era to the present. Examines how race, technology, politics, gender, organizational innovations and global economic changes have shaped workers’ consciousness and their experience of work.

  • History

    HIST 339 – Slavery in the Americas

    Examines slavery and slave societies in the Americas (mainly colonial British North America and the United States, Caribbean and Brazil) from the rise of the Atlantic slave trade to abolition. Emphasizes understanding of slavery and enslavement through interpretation of primary sources.

  • History

    HIST 340 – Sex and Work

    What is work and who is a worker? Have the answers to these questions changed over time? This course examines the persistence of a gender division of labor that has differentiated women’s work from that of men; that division’s organization over time, place and occupation; and its variations by race, class and region.

  • History

    HIST 341 – Sex and Culture in the 19th Century U.S.

    Examines the history of thinking about the nature and meaning of sexuality, with particular attention to the religious, medical, psychiatric and sexological discourses in the United States and Europe; popular responses to these discourses; and the changing boundaries between “normality” and “deviance.”

  • History

    HIST 343 – Late Antiquity: Transformation and Migration

    Course explores a central question for scholars of the pre-modern West: did Rome Fall? Through in-depth readings of secondary scholarship, we will explore historiography (the study of history) and examine how, according to historians, western Europe and the Mediterranean world (c. 200-800 CE) transformed politically, culturally, socially and economically.

  • History

    HIST 344 – Sex, Gender and the Body in the Medieval World

    This class explores how historians study sex, gender, and the body in medieval Europe and Byzantium, especially in religious contexts. We will focus on historiography and methodology through topics such as the role of women, manipulation of bodies by torture and asceticism, and blurring of traditional gender lines through same-sex relations, cross-dressing and castration.

  • History

    HIST 398 – Experimental Course

    From time to time, departments design a new course to be offered either on a one-time basis or an experimental basis before deciding whether to make it a regular part of the curriculum. Refer to the course schedule for current listings.

  • History

    HIST 399 – Selected Topics

    Offered from time to time to allow students to study a particular topic not included in regular courses, or to engage in fieldwork programs for credit in conjunction with the Filene Center for Academic Advising & Career Services.

  • History

    HIST 401 – Senior Seminar

    The seminar is the department’s capstone experience for its majors. Using the skills they have developed in their previous coursework, students will conduct research using primary source documents and write an original research paper.

  • History

    HIST 499 – Independent Research

    Offered to selected majors at the invitation of the department.

  • History

    HIST 500 – Individual Research

    Selected majors are invited by the department to pursue individual research in preparation for writing an Honors Thesis.

John Bezis-Selfa

Associate Professor of History

Alexander Bloom

Professor of History

Dolita Cathcart

Associate Professor of History

Anni Cecil

Professor of History; Henrietta Jennings Faculty Chair for Outstanding Teaching (2015-2020)

Linda Eisenmann

Professor of Education, Professor of History

Scott Gelber

Associate Professor of Education; Associate Professor of History (By Courtesy)

Shenglan Li

Assistant Professor of History

Harry Merritt

Brown/Wheaton Faculty Fellow in History

Dana M. Polanichka

Associate Professor of History; Chair, History Department

Kathryn Tomasek

Associate Professor of History