Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College


History 298. Experimental Courses

History of Japan

This course provides a survey of Japanese history from the origins of prehistoric “Japan” to the present. Beginning with the birth of the Yamato state, the course explores the politics and culture of the courtly age, the rise of samurai rule, and consolidation of powers in the context of regional conflicts and transnational encounters. The course then shifts focus to modern Japan’s emergence and transformations by examining Tokugawa shogunate, the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese Empire, postwar U.S.-occupation, economic and environmental developments, and contemporary life. During the semester, we will look at fiction, manga, objects, films, essays, and texts together to understand the dynamic nature of Japanese history.


The Vietnam Experience

This course will focus on one of the most important events of 20th-century American history, the Vietnam War. There are many who argue that the Vietnam War experience not only changed the direction of American life and the attitudes of the American people, but that its influence continues long after the fighting ceased and the troops came home. We will investigate that experience, both during the war and after. We will look at the history of the conflict, the antiwar struggle on the home front, the situation of soldiers and veterans, the way artists depicted the experience, and how Vietnam remains alive in the American mind.


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 and 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.’


Medicine and Imperialism: A Global History

From smallpox to syphilis, disease lurked in the shadows of European empire. Wherever these scourges appeared, so too did medical practitioners. This class provides an introduction to the history of modern medicine by surveying its colonial career. We will consider the ways in which medicine served empire—both in practical terms and as part of the “civilizing mission”—as well as the ways in which modern medicine itself evolved in response to the peculiar problems and challenges of empire. We will also attend to the global emissaries of Western medicine, including missionary-physicians and colonial bureaucrats, and their interactions with local populations. What happened when Western medicine came across competing notions of disease, wellness, and care? In our travels across the globe and through the historical era of European imperialism, we will explore confrontations between Western medical practitioners and local populations with their own medical traditions. Finally, we will consider evidence of the legacies of imperial medicine in our own lives.


Modern China

Surveys China’s modern history from Qing rule and the “century of shame,” to civil war and everyday life in the “People’s Republic,” up to its re-emergence as a global political and economic power. Through lectures, readings, and discussion, students will gain a command of the historical landscape and formulate their own arguments about the relations between China’s past and present.


U.S. Environmental History

Focuses on relationship between peoples and “nature” in North America from 1500 to today by exploring cultural differences regarding how humans should relate to “nature,” industrialization and urbanization, rise of conservation and environmental movements, environmental racism, and US global environmental footprint.