History: Topic Courses

2023-2024 Fall/Winter

HIS200H5F - Topics in History: History of Science and Technology (Instructor: S. Soomal)

This course introduces students to core questions taken up by historians of science and technology since the 1980s. Starting with the making of modern experimental science in the 17th century, students will be invited to think about how scholars have variably studied “science” as a historically-contingent epistemology, craft, method, apparatus, and infrastructure. Reading closely the role that science and technology has played in the global development of colonial capitalist modernity, students will be encouraged to think about technoscientific objects and methods in historical context. At the same time, students will be invited to think about how the techniques of scientific inquiry have been used by historians to read and understand the past.

HIS395H5F - Topics in History: Money and Markets in Canada (Instructor: B. Gettler)

What is money? What are markets? Together we will explore these questions through an historical lens, considering continent-spanning Indigenous trade networks, the influence of race, class, and gender on the development of property, the succession of resource-based industries that have been so central to Canada's economy, the importance of borders and migration, and the politics of taxation and inflation. While doing so, we will pay particular attention to the ways in which a wide array of people - whether economists or bankers, counterfeiters or clergymen, housewives or migrant workers - have understood, interacted with, and shaped the basic parameters of trade, politics, and community in that part of the world we now call Canada.

HIS395H5S - Topics in History: England in the Age of Reformation and Revolution (Instructor: C. Petrakos)

Between the arrival of the Spanish Armada (1588) and the Glorious Revolution (1688), England experienced invasion, religious upheaval, and revolution. Parliamentarians executed their king; radicals experimented with communism and dictatorship. They created an empire and one of the world's first constitutions. Although primarily a course on English politics, we will investigate the development of modern political ideologies and the relationship between new political ideas and the social world from which they sprang.

HIS420H5F - Topics in Medieval History: Monastic Utopias (Instructor: L. Moncion)

Most members of medieval Christian society recognized monks and nuns as leading a distinct and special type of life. When medieval monks and nuns wrote about their monasteries and the holy people who lived alongside them, they were envisioning monastic utopias, or no-places: ideals of the perfect community which never quite existed. These utopias can reveal shifting spiritual ideals, gendered double standards (or freedoms), issues with authority and power, the conflicts and comforts of daily life in community, and more. Focusing on these monastic utopias, we will examine a number of medieval texts—including monastic rules and saints’ lives—in order to analyze these ideals and practices, as well as their relationships to shifting patterns in medieval society, religion, and culture broadly understood.

HIS493H5S - Advanced Topics in Global History: Middle East: Lions and Tigris and Beers, Oh my! Exploring Ancient Mesopotamia through the Sources (Instructor: T. Spurrier)

This course will focus on the primary sources that tell us about ancient Mesopotamia, modern day Iraq, including cuneiform texts, art, architecture, and artifacts. It will cover the history and archaeology of Mesopotamia from early prehistory through the conquest of Alexander the Great covering the agricultural revolution, world’s first cities and urban development, religious beliefs, economy, the origins and development of writing, the emergence and evolution of art, architecture, and the rise and fall of empires. Furthermore, this course will include discussions about biases and propaganda in written sources, context information for findspots of artifacts, how to understand and use various texts, interpreting artifacts, problems with historiography, myth vs. history, colonialism and selective history, the lack of lower class and female voices in sources, the current situation regarding access to primary sources in museums and at archaeology sites, issues surrounding unprovenanced material, and more.

HIS494H5F - Advanced Topics in the History of the Americas: Biography: Reading and Writing about Dead People in the Americas (Instructor: K. Coleman)

The word “biography” combines the prefix “bio-,” meaning “life,” with the suffix, “-graphy,” meaning “writing.” In this course, you will read six outstanding accounts of other people’s lives. You’ll also research and write your own biography of a dead person who either made a great impact on society, or whose life helps us understand key dynamics of past societies. Our goal is to reflect on the relationship between the individual and society, between the power of a singular human will and the structuring forces of circumstances. In the process, we’ll come to better appreciate this genre and will produce an original “writing life.”

HIS494H5S - Advanced Topics in the History of the Americas: Energy, Culture, and Power (Instructor: C. Wellum)

This seminar explores the pervasive role of energy in modern history, from the eve of the industrial revolution to the post-industrial present. Together, we will consider how the production and consumption of energy has shaped American modernity, often with global consequences. Topics include capitalism, colonialism, war and geopolitics, mobility, globalization, popular culture, the economy, politics, technology, and the environment. In addition to reading and seminar discussions, students will develop an original research project on a topic of their choice. See the syllabus for further details.