New Graduate Courses

Spring 2021: (HI 792) History of Leisure with Xiaolin Duan

This seminar addresses the historical development of leisure, both as individual experience and community engagement. Readings cover varying forms of leisure activities in different regions and periods—from festivals in Medieval Europe to tourism in early modern Asia, from soccer in early-20th century Africa to National Parks in today’s America. Making connections and comparisons, we will discuss the definitions, transformations, diversity, and trends of leisure. We will especially look into how leisure activities and the concept of leisure reflected and impacted society’s complexity from medieval times to modern days. This seminar posits leisure as an analytical lens through which we can investigate social-cultural history (in particular, urban history, history of mobility, and environmental history) and examine the development and expectations for public history.

Spring 2021: (HI 792) Thinking About World History in the Early-Modern Period with Keith Luria

In this class we will be talking about how to conceptualize and how to teach the history of the world in the early-modern period. World history seems an almost impossible topic to get a handle on. How can we examine the history of the entire world when so much of our research and teaching is focused on much smaller entities, such as localities, regions, or nations? Yet in recent decades, world history has gained widespread academic acceptance, as it has become the subject of new research, and it is now an important part of history department course offerings. Those of us who teach or who are headed into teaching careers can benefit from a background in world history, since history departments are more and more often looking for people who can teach it. Public historians are increasingly realizing the potential of presenting historical topics in ways that place them in wider transnational contexts. So this course will set out to think both about how we can get our minds around the topic along with how we can teach it to our students and present it to the public.  The conceptual issues we will discuss include the question of periodization.  We will be looking at the early-modern period (very loosely defined) because that is the time during which the world truly became global, the first moment when commercial, political, and cultural connections included both hemispheres. But can we apply the label “early modern,” which comes from European history to the rest of the world? Historians have split on this question. We will also discuss some of the key topics that have marked discussions of world history, such as the construction of “world systems,” “convergence” (the idea that over time the peoples of the world passed through the same stages of development), and “divergence” (the idea that they did not, which leads to the much-debated idea of the “rise of the west”).  However, we will not pass all our time in such theoretical realms. We will also look at concrete issues central to early-modern world history, such as the spread of “global religions,” or new global commodities like chocolate (because who does not want to think about chocolate), or disease (a dismal topic perhaps, but one with fascinating new research and of all too obvious current relevance). Students will be asked to produce papers – either historiographical or based on primary-source research – that connect to their dissertations, theses, or public history projects, even if that takes them out of the early-modern period. But since this also is a course about pedagogy, they will be asked to design a world-history course syllabus or a museum exhibit.