2020 Summer History: Topic Courses

HIS200H5F: Topics in History: Comparative Empire: From Pax Britannica to Pax Americana (M. Vallieres)

While many might well assume that empire is a thing of the past, the very “thingness” of that concept obscures that we continue to live in a world created by empires and shaped by imperial norms. Intended as an introduction to the history of empire, this course focuses on the imperial thread between the Pax Britannica and the Pax Americana, with an in-depth examination of how empire was imagined, formed, organized, maintained, felt, contested, and resisted in these two respective but overlapping contexts. Comparative in nature, it shows that while the two empires were unique, they were not exceptional: they shared an imperial imaginary, learned to adapt their imperial repertoire from one another, and reacted to challenges in strikingly similar manners.

HIS493H5F: Advanced Topics in Global History: Global Communism (S. McClellan)

In 1985, the year I was born, 38 percent of the world’s population (1.67 billion out of 4.4 billion people) lived in a communist state. Of 162 countries, 24 were communist and 35 were liberal democracies. After World War II, communism offered an alternative modernity to capitalism but ultimately capitulated to pressures of the Cold War, capitalist globalization, and popular disaffection. Today there are only 5 communist states, most of them in Asia: Cuba, China, North Korea, Laos, and Vietnam (Nepal currently has a communist-led majority government). Roughly 1.57 billion people still live under communism. Of course, there is some debate about whether these countries are still communist. Indeed, a large part of the Sino-Soviet split was over the question of which nation was following the true path toward communism. This course will trace the history of communism from its European origins in the writings of Marx; to its victory in Russia under the direction of Lenin and the Bolsheviks; its expansion as an international subsystem, otherwise known as the ‘world communist movement’; its Maoist iterations in China and beyond; its demise in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe; its perseverance as a system of government in Asia and Cuba; and the transformation of its former political parties into more social-democratic forms in places like Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. In this course we’ll ask several important historical questions: What did communist revolutions, states, and movements have in common? How did they differ? What did they hope to achieve, either domestically or internationally? What kind of societies did communists try to construct? What was it like for people who lived under communist rule? How was communism successful in some places, but not others? Why did it collapse where it did, when it did? Does communism have a future?