Fall 2017


History 150: Before Germs and Genetics - Exploring Wellness, Healing, and Meaning in Early America

Before germ theory, before genetics, before x-rays -- how did various Americans experience and understand bodily change, and diagnose signs and symptoms? Historical study of the realm we now call "medicine" or "health sciences" highlights the fundamental challenge of reading evidence left by people who understood their bodies through vocabularies, categories, and modes of meaning strikingly different from our own. In this course we will consider how ideas about wellness, illness and healing varied among people of different cultures and across time in the US from the late 18th century to around 1900. Topics may include specific diseases (such as smallpox or cholera), reproductive bodies and childbirth, and meanings of classificatory systems (such as type of fever or sweat, shape of nose, bumpiness of skull). Along the way we will begin to consider how Americans came to understand and deploy (or resist) the new explanatory frames of their era, ranging from microbes and heredity to new professions and spaces of bodily examination. 

Prof. Lerman, 4 credits, TTh 10:00-11:20am


History 250: New Worlds, New Empires - North America, 1600-1800 

When British colonists arrived on the North American continent they met an array of people who made the French and the Germans look familiar, so different were their cultures, material practices, and social and political systems. Within decades people from a third continent were added to the mix, as the trade in African chattel slaves became a standard feature of trans-Atlantic commerce and colonial economies. We will explore various encounters between Europeans, Africans, and original Americans, asking how they interacted with, adapted to, and influenced each other, and compare experiences both within and between these complex groups (poorer and richer Englishmen; Catawbas and Pequots and Algonkians; people enslaved in Pennsylvania or Virginia; more). Finally, we will examine the growth, government, economy, institutions, and social structures of British North America in the 18th Century, the changes and continuities of Revolutionary America, and the making of the "new" United States, the nation emerging from this complex colonial past.

Prof. Lerman, 4 credits, MWF 9:00-9:50am

-Fulfills the department's Comparisons and Encounters requirement.


History 261: America in Vietnam 

This course will trace the path of American involvement in Vietnam from the World War II era down to the fall of Saigon in 1975 and its aftermath. American policy will be examined in the context of the United States' overall post-1945 foreign policy, looking specifically at how the United States responded to the decolonizing Third World and the perceived danger of communist expansion and control in Southeast Asia. Attention will be given to the various pressures and influences on American policymakers as well as differing interpretations of the United States' action. In addition to studying American policymaking, this course will investigate the impact of the war on American politics and society. Teaching materials will include both primary and secondary readings along with films.

Prof. Schmitz, 4 credits, MWF 1:00-1:50pm

-Fulfills the department's Comparisons and Encounters requirement.


History 370: Gendered Lens on U.S. History 

This class explores the uses and meanings of gender categories in the history of the United States. It explores how these categories have been deployed in a multicultural nation, and asks in what ways other kinds of social and geographic boundaries - for example race, class, region, ethnicity, sexuality, citizenship - have shaped gendered experience, and when. In the past half-century, constructing and rewriting the history of people called "women" led to an interrogation of gender categories and boundaries, such that understanding U.S. history now demands attention to the ongoing reconstructions of masculinities and femininities, and their intersections with other ways of delineating difference, and power. This class explores gender ideologies and gendered experience in a range of contexts from the 18th through the 20th centuries. Readings include primary and secondary sources; papers and discussion required.

Prof. Lerman, 4 credits, TTh 2:30-3:50pm

-Fulfills the College's Alternative Voices and Cultural Pluralism requirements.


History 493: The 1960s 

The 1960s was the most turbulent decade the nation experienced during the twentieth century. The decade began with the United States as the leading world power, experiencing unprecedented prosperity, and with the vast majority of the population confident concerning their future and that of the nation. By 1968, however, all of the major institutions of America were being questioned and the nation was, it appeared to many, coming apart. This seminar will examine the values and policies of America at the beginning of the decade and the challenges posed to the existing order in the areas of civil rights, foreign policy, domestic economic policy, gender relations, and culture, and some legacies of the decade. Prerequisite: consent of instructor.

Prof. Schmitz, 4 credits, TTh 2:30-3:50pm

-Fulfills the department's 400-level seminar requirement.


Spring 2018


History 213: United States and the Wars with Iraq

This course will trace the path and nature of U.S. involvement in the Middle East from World War II down to the present in order to understand the increasing involvement of America in the region and the two wars the United States has fought against Iraq. American policy will be examined in the context of post-1945 U.S. foreign policy and how America responded to the decolonizing Third World, the perceived danger of communist expansion and influence in the Middle East, the strategic and economic importance of the Middle East, and in particular the Persian Gulf, Saddam Hussein, and September 11, 2001. It will include coverage of the war in Afghanistan.

Prof. Schmitz, 4 credits, MWF 1:00-1:50pm


History 254: The Social History of Stuff - Power, Technology, and Meaning in the U.S., from Cotton Gin to the Internet

The United States is known as a nation of consumers, of people who fill their lives with lots of "stuff," and who rely on an extensive technological infrastructure in creating what they think of as a normal lifestyle. But the particular material configurations we aggregate under terms like "stuff" and "infrastructure" have intended (and unintended) uses, users, costs, origins, and histories; they carry associated meanings and embed some set of human relationships. Thinking critically about things demands thinking simultaneously about their social and cultural context, and about the ways people make (and constrain) choices about the material dimensions of their experience. Using historical examples and museum artifacts, this course will explore the relations and techniques of production and consumption; the ways physical objects and social categories like gender, race, and class are intertwined both materially and symbolically; and changing ideas about disposability, convenience, waste, work, and energy.

Prof. Lerman, 4 credits, MW 2:30-3:50pm

-Fulfills the College's Alternative Voices and Cultural Pluralism requirements.


History 290: The History and Sociology of Rock 'n' Roll

This course will examine the development and significance of the musical genre typically known as "rock 'n' roll," from its origins in the 1940s and 1950s to the present. In order to understand this important phenomenon, the course will explore the rural and urban roots of blues, jazz, and folk music from which much of rock 'n' roll is ultimately derived; the development of the Cold War culture in the post-World War II years; the social and political upheavals of the 1960s; and the cultural and political fragmentation of American society in the past three decades. Particular attention will be paid both to the development of a distinct youth/alternative culture in response to (and supportive of) the development of rock 'n' roll, as well as to the gradual acceptance and integration of various forms of rock music into conventional economic and cultural systems. The course will focus upon the distinctive historical events and trends in the United States that have shaped and been associated with this type of music through the years, and subject these events and trends to theoretical analysis from a variety of sociological perspectives. This class will combine lectures with discussion, and there will be out-of-class listening assignments, as well as papers and exams or quizzes.

Prof. Schmitz, 4 credits, MWF 10:00-10:50am

-Fulfills the College's Alternative Voices and Cultural Pluralism requirements.