Welcome to the History Department! On this page, you'll find a subset of our fall semester lecture courses, nicknamed the "101s," which are particularly welcoming to non-concentrators. None of them have any prerequisites, and all of them will provide you with the tools you need for other History courses, introduce you to basic historical research, and improve your writing ability. You can see the full list of 101 courses in the my.harvard course catalog and in map view (all the course names are clickable links). You can also see a pre-filtered list of all Fall History Courses open to undergraduates (101s, other lectures, seminars, and conference courses) in my.harvard course catalog and on a day/time grid (all the course names are clickable links). See the bottom of the page for suggested career clusters of History courses and contacts for any questions.
GenEd 1002: The Democracy Project
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3gHsOcE
The Big Question: How does the founding of the United States help us understand contemporary challenges and threats to the democratic order?
The United States is founded on the idea of equality but equality has always been elusive and has only ever been achieved through struggle, argument, and action. This course examines American history—especially the history of race, immigration, and constitutional justice—through historical analysis, democratic deliberation, and public-minded projects. It’s a history course—but a history of the present.
GENED 1034: Texts in Transition
Ann Blair & Leah Whittington
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/2PCHZb6
The Big Question: What makes some texts long-lived while others are ephemeral, today and in the past?
We live in a new world of digital communication. This means that the written word can last much longer—or disappear in a second. Moreover, the attitudes and tools we have for preserving our culture seem more complex and fluid. This course studies how written language—text— travels through time and across media. We will ask: How well does the written word capture, transmit, and preserve human experience? How have texts come down to us from the distant past? How do we ensure that what we write today will survive into the future? As we investigate contemporary approaches to cultural preservation, we will consider how pre-modern European cultures transmitted and transformed texts, and created institutions that we still rely on today, including museums, libraries, and archives. Each week you will observe or apply methods of preservation, restoration, destruction, translation, and transmission in an attempt to preserve a personal artifact. We will also read works of literature that reflect on questions of durability, ephemerality, and written memory. Students will work through weekly assignments toward a final project focused on studying, curating, and preserving a textual source of their choice.
GENED 1136: Power and Civilization: China
William Kirby & Peter K. Bol
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/2CcdvKc
The Big Question: China was the most powerful country in the world and will be, again. What does its past mean for its (and your) future?
In China today we see a new country built on the bedrock of an ancient civilization. China’s re-emergence as a global economic power and political model has deep roots. From Rome to the Romanovs, from Byzantium to the Ottomans, on to the global empires of the West, all the great multiethnic empires of the world have come and gone, while a unitary, multi-national, Chinese empire has endured. The ancient Chinese ideal of a single, unified civilized world has had consequences. It was, and still is, a grand vision: all peoples unified under a single ruler and an integrated social order that finds a place for every person in security and harmony. It created the first centralized bureaucratic state; it institutionalized meritocracy; its economy became the world’s greatest market; its philosophies provided models of humane governance; its inventions spread across the globe. And yet in practice it has also been a story of conflict and control, of warring states and competing peoples. We will discuss how the choices China has made in the past bear on the challenges it faces today, when a modern “China model,” with ancient roots, competes with the United States for global leadership.
Indigenous Studies 101
Hist 1006: Native American and Indigenous Studies: An Introduction
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3kowx15
The Big Question: What happens to U.S. and global history when we re-center these fields on Native American and other indigenous peoples?
Though American Indian people make up 1.7% of the U.S. population, their importance outweighs the census numbers. Native American history and politics define critical issues in law, energy, land management, and government, while the culture industries inevitably confront the curious hold that indigenous people have on American culture. American conquest and colonialism invite connection and comparison across a global scale, particularly in settler states such as Canada, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand. This course offers a broad introductory survey of these and other issues as it explores the development and current state of the history-based interdisciplinary field known as Native American and indigenous Studies.
British Empire 101
Hist 1024: The British Empire
This course's listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3krg8c6
The Big Question: How did 100,000 British troops control a quarter of the world?
Less than a century ago the British Empire ruled a quarter of the world. This course surveys the empire’s extraordinary rise and fall from the American Revolution to World War II. The course presents a narrative of key events and considers the empire’s political and cultural legacies. This is not just a lecture: the class includes multimedia presentations, in-class discussions, debates, and engaging readings.
Civil War 101
Hist 1028: Race, Capitalism, and the Coming of the Civil War
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/2DmCFXb
The Big Question: How do we retell the story of the nineteenth-century United States as an imperial history?
This course treats the history of the 19th-century US and the Civil War in light of the history of US imperialism, especially the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, and the illegal invasions of Cuba and Nicaragua in the 1850s. Likewise, it relates the history of slavery in the US to the Haitian Revolution, the Louisiana Purchase, Indian removal, Atlantic cotton, land and money markets, and the hemispheric history of antislavery.
Modern South Asia 101
Hist 1036: Modern South Asia
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3gCwBbe
The Big Question: How do we understand the global role of modern South Asia?
This course provides the historical depth in which to understand modern and contemporary South Asia in broad Indian Ocean and global contexts. It explores the history, culture, and political economy of the subcontinent which provides a fascinating laboratory to study such themes as colonialism, nationalism, partition, the modern state, democracy development, religious identities, and relations between Asia and the West.
Fall of Rome 101
Hist 1040: The Fall of the Roman Empire
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/2C86Gcu
The Big Question: Why did the powerful Roman Empire collapse, and what can this story teach us about our world today?
Why did the Roman Empire fall? This simple question has generated varied and sometimes controversial answers, and History 1040 invites you to participate in this venerable debate. Drawing from the latest results of archaeology, textual interpretation, ice core analysis, DNA analysis, and mapping, we will examine the changes, violent or subtle, that transformed the Roman world to produce the European medieval world between ca. 300 and 700. Topics include the three great Roman pandemics (and cutting-edge scientific analysis of ancient plague victims); Constantine’s conversion; economic recovery, collapse and climate change; the barbarians; and women and power. To understand how Professor McCormick utilizes new scientific methods to better understand the human past, click on this link to hear him discuss ancient pandemics.
Founding Europe 101
History 1155: Early Modern Europe, 1450–1789
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/31sGSQY
The Big Question: How did Europe transform from a provincial backwater of Western Asia into a dominant global power during these three critical centuries?
This course is an introductory survey of European Early Modern history, from the fifteenth to the late eighteenth century. Organized chronologically and thematically, it examines developments from the late Middle Ages to the Age of Revolutions, including the passage from feudalism to urban institutions, the Renaissance, European Expansion overseas, the Protestant and the Catholic Reformations, the Scientific Revolution, the Rise of Absolutism, slavery, the Enlightenment, and Revolutions. Meetings will alternate between lecture and discussion of primary sources (available in English translation).
Modern France 101
Hist 1206: Empire, Nation, and Immigration in France since 1870
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/31sFjmg
The Big Question: How did modern France change from an authoritarian imperial power into a multiethnic European republic?
France as a country was as much under construction in the nineteenth century as the Eiffel Tower. This course explores the history of France from the foundation of the Third Republic to the beginning of the twenty-first century. Topics include the advent of modern left-wing, right-wing, and anti-Semitic politics; France’s empire in Asia and North Africa and its consequences; the devastating impact of the First World War; the tumultuous interwar era; the Second World War and the politics of resistance, collaboration with the Germans, and memory; decolonization; the May 1968 student revolt; and immigration from France’s former colonies and identity politics since the 1970s.
German History 101
Hist 1265: German History: A User’s Guide
Alison Frank Johnson
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3fDlJbX
The Big Question: How does German history help us better understand our world today?
German History loomed like a specter over the twentieth century. In the twenty-first century, Americans have been debating the relevance and legitimacy of comparisons between German history and our contemporary world. How useful is German history for understanding our current moment? How might our present-day concerns distort what we see in the past? This course will examine the history of Germans in Europe and elsewhere, starting with the revolutions of 1848 and ending with the separation of Austria, West Germany, and East Germany following the Second World War. Themes will be war, insurrection, and terrorism, revolution and counter-revolution, gender and sexuality, reform, violence, anti-Semitism, racial thinking and racism, and migration.
US & World Order
Hist 1465: The United States and World Order since 1900
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/30DZsGQ
The Big Question: What is America’s place in shaping world order?
Since the turn of the twentieth century, when the United States became a major economic and military power, Americans have tried to mold and manage international order. In this course, we will explore and assess these efforts through the rise of US overseas expansion, two world wars, the Cold War, and into the twenty-first century.
Modern Japan 101
Hist 1623: Modern Japan: Empires and Aftermaths
Andrew Gordon & David Howell
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3adGTfK
The Big Question: What contributed to Japan’s emergence as an imperial power, and how do we make sense of its subsequent transformations?
Between the nineteenth century and today, Japan has played many roles on the world stage: imperial power, wartime aggressor, American ally, economic powerhouse. This course places the history of Japan in the wider contexts of Asian and global history, and examines the political, social, economic and cultural aspects of the Japanese experience of modernity through World War II, before turning to the “rise and fall” of Japan’s world beating economy, and the great social and cultural transformations of the postwar decades. Studying the history of modern Japan will provide you with many insights on contemporary issues, too, ranging from economic crisis and inequality to current tensions between Japan and its Asian neighbors.
College Sports 101
Hist 1852: The Game: College Sports as History
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/30Dfj8z
The Big Question: What role have College sports played in American society and culture over the past centuries?
The old adage about sports—“It’s only a game”—just isn’t true. Athletics, especially at the collegiate level, has always been much more than just a game. College sports were responses to the grinding tedium of the colonial-era curriculum; a way to establish hierarchy among students in the nineteenth century; an important source of revenue and a powerful driver of alumni giving in the twentieth. In this class, students will use the lenses of race, class, and gender to examine events in American sports history. College gyms, fields, stadiums, and rinks have been the scenes of both delightful distraction and the battlegrounds for all sorts of controversies. College sports, in other words, are an integral part of American cultural and social history. The course uses the lens of college sports, and Harvard College athletics, in particular, to gain insights into the “Game” and the ways athletics both was impacted by and, in turn, shaped wider currents of cultural and social change in American history.
Professional Clusters of History Department Courses
Gathering data from lots of sources. Synthesizing it quickly. Making an argument about it. Communicating it in an effective way. These are the basic tasks of historians. They’re also what lawyers, businesspeople, consultants, non-profit directors, journalists, public policy leaders, government officials, and people in many other professions do. A small minority (less than 10%) of History concentrators go on to become professional historians. Most use the skills they learned in Robinson Hall—to gather evidence and make an argument about it narrative form—in other professions. Historical research skills prepare you for the job you think you want now as a first-year student, as well as the three or four jobs you will actually have during your career. We’ve drafted six clusters of History courses below. The courses listed are not a definitive list for that cluster, but rather some of the 2019-2020 History courses that would prepare you in some way for a career in that area.
Historians use fragmentary data from the past to make arguments in a format anyone can understand. The ability to parse a variety of sources—contracts, depositions, photographs, business accounts—and integrate them with a specialized body of secondary sources (case law) is important for lawyers. Think about a cluster of History courses to prepare you for a career in law.
HIST 84G: Harvard and Slavery
HIST 1005: The Earl American Republic: The United States from 1783-1837
PHIL 11: Philosophy of Law
GOV 94OF: Law and Politics in Multicultural Democracies
Business & Consulting
Historians use fragmentary data from the past to make arguments in a format anyone can understand. The ability to find a variety of sources—both quantitative data like sales numbers but also focus groups, market reports, and other incomplete information—is important in business. Think about a cluster of History courses to prepare you for a career in business.
GENED 1159: American Capitalism
HIST 1602: Modern China
ECON 10A/B: Principles of Economics
STATS 104: Introduction to Quantitative Methods for Economics
ENG-SCI 238: Introduction to Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Government & International Relations
Historians use fragmentary data from the past to make arguments in a format anyone can understand.The ability to find a variety of sources—both quantitative data like census numbers and scientific data and also social science research, and other incomplete information—is important in government. Think about a cluster of History courses to prepare you for a career in the public sector or public policy.
FRSEMR 40J: Advice to Young Leaders
FRSEMR 72G: The American Democratic Tradition: Past, Present, and Future
GENED 1136: Power and Civilization: China
HIST 82F: The Origins of the Cold War: The Yalta Conference (1945)
HIST 89J: The United States and China: Opium Wars to the Present
HIST 1036: Modern South Asia
HIST 1623: Modern Japan: Empires and AftermathsHIST 1981: The End of the Russian Empire
HIST 1980: The Soviet Empire, 1917-1991
HIST 1125: Reasoning from the Past: Applied History and Decision Making
HIST 1008: State of Israel in Comparative Perspective
HIST 1465: The U.S. and World Order Since 1900
GENED 1095: Is War Inevitable?
HIST 97E: What is Imperial History?
HIST 12H: How Empires Fall: Case Studies and Theoretical Approaches from the Bronze Age to Today
HIST 1002: The 20th Century United States: Politics, Society, Culture
HIST 1433: History of American Populisms
HIST 1937: Social Revolutions in Latin America
HIST 1982: The Nuclear Age: An International History
ECON 10A/B: Principles of Economics
MIT 15.703: Leading with Impact
Journalism & Writing
Historians use fragmentary data from the past to make arguments in a format anyone can understand. The ability to find a variety of sources—interviews, government documents, and court records but also quantitative data like the census and non-profit reports—is important in journalism as well. Think about a cluster of History courses to prepare you for a career in journalism or writing.
GENED 1034: Texts in Transition
HIST 1902: Narrative History: Art and Argument
HIST 1993: Introdiuction to Digital History
HIST 97I: What is Biography?
HIST 1919: Austrian History in Literature
HIST 1930: Literature and Social History: A View from Brazil
ENGL CIJR Introduction to Journalism
DPI 675 Digital Platforms, Journalism, and Information
Environment & Environmental Policy
Historians use fragmentary data from the past to make arguments in a format anyone can understand. The ability to find a variety of sources—both quantitative data like pollution and reforestation numbers but also non-profit reports and other incomplete information—is important in environmental policy. Think about a cluster of History courses to prepare you for a career in an environment-related field.
HIST 1973A: Rewilding Harvard
Activism, Human Rights, & Service
Historians use fragmentary data from the past to make arguments in a format anyone can understand. The ability to find a variety of sources—both quantitative data like sales numbers but also focus groups, market reports, and other incomplete information—is important in in activism and non-profit leadership. Think about a cluster of History courses to prepare you to lead the world (or your community) to a better place.
FRSEMR 43C: Human Rights and the Global South
HIST 12E Migrant Geographies: Between Asia and the United States in the Twentieth Century
HIST 12I: Statelessness
HIST 84H: The Northern Side of the Civil Rights Movement
HIST 1323: German Social Thought, Nietzsche to Habermas
HIST 1931: Slavery, Disease, and Race: Brazil in the Atlantic World
HIST 12G: Atlantic Slave Wars
HIST 12K: Arabs Jews, and “Arab Jews’ in the Modern Middle East
HIST 13C: St Louis from Lewis and Clark to Michael Brown
HIST 12L: Power and Protest: U.S. Social Movements in the 1960s and 1970s
HIST 1324: French Social Thought: Durkheim to Foucault
HIST 1937: Social Revolutions in Latin America
ECON 980DD Globalization and Inequality
MIT 15.703 Leading with Impact