Recommended Entry-Level Courses

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 skills as a writer. 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 the my.harvard course catalog and on a day/time grid (all the course names are clickable links). See the bottom of this page for suggested career clusters of History courses and also departmental contacts should you have any questions. We hope to hear from you!

101 Courses

American Food 101

GENED 1147: American Food: A Global History
Joyce Chaplin
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3jPmnHr

Big Question: If we are what we eat, what does the history of American food tell us about the past, present, and future of the United States?

Food has been central to American history, from Indigenous domestication of maize (now the world’s most common food staple) to European invasion in search of spices, and from the starving time in early Virginia to debates about fatness and health in the United States today. But what--if anything--is American about American food? What does food tell us about the American past and what might that past indicate about food today? How have food and eating changed over time? How have individual food choices and national food policies connected Americans to the larger world, both the social or political worlds of other human beings and the natural world of all other living beings? Readings will include primary (raw) and secondary (cooked) sources, and assignments will include two short papers, a mid-term exam, and either a final exam or an individual research paper or project.

Archaeoscience 101

HIST 1056: The New Science of the Human Past: Case Studies at the Cutting Edge
Michael McCormick
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3COp7gG

Big Question: How can DNA, ice cores, and ancient coins help us recreate the distant historical past?

Science is powering History into a revolutionary age of discovery through microarchaeology. We will learn how ancient DNA reveals our ancestors’ migrations out of Africa and across the globe and recovers ancient pathogens and their impact from Rome to the Black Death and 16th-century Mexico; how paleoclimate science reconstructs ancient environments from ice cores and historical records; and how IT changes everything from shipwrecks to Roman coins, via medieval manuscripts. We’ll explore the new archaeoscience as the discoveries unfold by reading, discussing, and doing—from ancient genomes to tree rings, from Roman coins to ancient pots, and more.

China 101

GENED 1136: Power and Civilization: China
William Kirby and Peter K. Bol
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3jLwMUw

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.

Colonial Latin America 101

HIST 1520: Colonial Latin America
Tamar Herzog
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here: https://bit.ly/3AKqJXf

Big Question: What was it like to live in an early modern colonial Latin American society?

What was the relationship between the colonizers and the colonized? This course is an introductory survey of colonial Latin American history, spanning the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. Organized chronologically and thematically, it will examine developments in Spanish and Portuguese America by reading both secondary and primary sources (available in English translation).

Deep History 101

GENED 1044: Deep History
Dan Smail and Matt Liebmann
This course's listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/39CkRTZ

Big Question: How can we understand the entirety of the human past, from the long ago to the present day?

When does history begin? To judge by the typical history textbook, the answer is straightforward: six thousand years ago. So what about the tens of thousands of years of human existence described by archaeology and related disciplines? Is that history too? This introduction to human history offers a framework for joining the entirety of the human past, from the long ago to the present day, in a single narrative that stretches across many disciplines. We will explore a series of interrelated themes each of which invites questions that travel across time and space. The material presented through lectures, discussions, and activities will not only guide students through a collaborative exploration of human experience, but will also encourage them to contemplate how such experiences mirror and contrast with their own. To help anchor ourselves in the timeline of past and present, we will engage with the world-class collection of artifacts in Harvard’s museums, giving students a unique, hands-on opportunity to experience human history through material remains.

Democracy 101

GENED 1002: The Democracy Project
Jill Lepore
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3jSzOX5

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.

Early Islamic History 101

HIST 1208: Introduction to Islamic History: From the Rise of Islam to the Mongol Conquests, 620-1258
Cemal Kafadar
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/2VS2oQo

Big Question: How can we best understand the rich history of the early Islamic world?

The course will examine Islamic history from the emergence of Islam in Western Arabia in the early 7th century to the Mongol conquests and the subsequent fall of Baghdad in 1258. It will introduce students to early and medieval Islam in its Near Eastern setting and explore the subsequent advent of Islam in such geographies as North Africa, Spain, India and Central Asia. Select primary sources in translation will be used to illuminate our understanding of the cultural, intellectual, and social history of Islamic societies, including relations between different ethnic and sectarian groups, the roles of women, sexuality, as well as tensions and interactions with the non-Islamic world.

Early Modern Europe 101

HIST 1155: Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789
Tamar Herzog
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3g0YewB

Big Question: How did Europe transform from a provincial backwater 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.

Global Cold War 101

HIST 1220: The Global Cold War
Johanna Folland
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/2XgJZgo

Big Question: What did the sweeping transformations of the global Cold War entail and what were their effects?

The Cold War permeated seemingly every aspect of global politics in the latter half of the twentieth century, and its legacies are still with us today. This conflict, moreover, extended far beyond the Soviet-American nuclear rivalry at its core. In this course we will examine the origins, vicissitudes, and lasting impacts of the Cold War with an emphasis on the view from the decolonizing world. Using a wide range of course materials including cutting-edge scholarly research as well as declassified documents, macroeconomic data, memoirs, films, popular music, archival radio broadcasts, and graphic novels, we’ll look at the ways in which Cold War divisions shaped – and were shaped by – the course of globalization, geopolitics, science, technology, art, diplomacy, environmental governance, and revolutionary movements around the world.

The Great Migration 101

HIST 1222: The Great Migration: The Exodus that Transformed Black America and the United States
Aaron Bekemeyer
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3xOt7dn

Big Question: What were the causes and consequences of the Great Migration?

This course explores the history of the Great Migration, in which millions of African Americans moved from the U.S. South to the urban North and West during and after World War I and World War I. You will trace the Migration from its origins to its completion and reversal in the 1970s. You will learn how it transformed not only Black life and culture but also American society and politics, from the Black Freedom Struggle to the rise of mass incarceration. Finally, you will explore the connections between the Great Migration and other forms of migration within the African diaspora.

Greco-Roman Antiquity 101

HIST 1300: Western Intellectual History: Greco-Roman Antiquity
James Hankins
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here: https://bit.ly/3sdssBf

Big Question: How does the Greco-Roman world influence the way we think today?

The impact of the Greeks and Romans is visible in our world today, from the architectural styles of federal buildings to the vocabulary of our political system. But they also remain tremendously important for how we think. This course is a survey of major themes in the intellectual history of the Greek and Roman World. We will pay special attention to metaphysics, psychology, ethics and the philosophic life. Class readings include selections from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Epictetus, Cicero, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Plotinus, Augustine, and Boethius.

Modern France 101

HIST 1206: Empire, Nation, and Immigration in France since 1870
Mary Lewis
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3jRlKwY

Big Question: How was modern French democratic culture crafted, and when and how has this culture failed?

As a nation and empire, nineteenth- and twentieth-century France was under as much construction 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.

Modern Germany 101

HIST 1265: German History from Bismarck to Hitler
Alison Frank Johnson
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3iHBovu

Big Question: How can German history help us understand both the German past and 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.

Postwar Japan 101

HIST 1026: Rise and Fall of Postwar Japan 
Andrew Gordon
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3xLBNkK

Big Question: How can we understand the history of Japan after 1945?

From the literally devastated landscape of August 1945, Japan has been likened to the mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, becoming a global economic power by the 1970s with a large and optimistic middle class. Then, from the 1990s, the stock market crashed, the economy stagnated, the population began to decline, and social inequality increased. The natural catastrophe of one of history’s largest earthquakes then brought on social and environmental disaster whose consequences are still unfolding. Yet describing this history as a rise and fall fails to capture many essential aspects of the history of postwar Japan. In this class, by contrast, we will explore the wide range of experiences and understandings held by the Japanese throughout this period, focusing, for example, on differences of city and country, and of gender and social class within Japan, and on divergent understandings of Japan’s modern past both inside and outside of Japan.

Modern South Asia 101

HIST 1036: Modern South Asia 
Sugata Bose
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/3CDQ0nA

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.

Texts 101

GENED 1034: Texts in Transition
Ann Blair
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: https://bit.ly/2Ue8oSG

Big Question: How does written language survive and change over time, 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.

U.S. Empire 101

HIST 1511: Latin America and the United States
Kirsten Weld
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here: https://bit.ly/37GHoOU

Big Question: How we can understand the complex relationship between Latin America and the United States?

Latin America and the United States have been described as “distant neighbors”: occupying the same hemisphere, but uneasily, and with a notable absence of mutual comprehension. To understand why, we will examine more than two centuries’ worth of history in the Americas, exploring the complex power dynamics at play in the relations between Latin American nations and the juggernaut to their north. We will consider inter-state diplomacy, military intervention, cultural exchange, migration, state formation, travel and tourism, images and stereotypes, and political economy. On the one hand, the two regions have had a profoundly ill-balanced relationship, with the economic and military might of the United States occupying an outsized role in Latin American affairs. But the flow of influence has been far from unidirectional. Rather, Latin America—as an imperial laboratory, a cultural producer, a concern, an attraction, and a dynamic force in its own right—has deeply shaped the U.S. experience. Indeed, the primary and secondary sources used in this course suggest that it is impossible to fully grasp the histories of either Latin America or the United States independently of one another or of the relationship between them.



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All of the course names within the PDF are clickable links.

Picture of 101 Course Map



Click the image below to be redirected to a PDF file, or click the following link: https://bit.ly/2W61H60
All of the course names within the PDF are clickable links.

Picture of 101 Course Grid

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 2020-2021 History courses that would prepare you in some way for a career in that area.

Law

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.

Fall:
GENED 1002: The Democracy Project 
FS 43C: Human Rights and the Global South
HIST 12F: Slavery in the Global Middle Ages
HIST 12Y: Capitalism, Crime, and Punishment in American History
HIST 1390: Democracy: The Long View and the Bumpy History
HIST 1405: American Legal History, 1776–1865
HIST 1776: The American Revolution

Spring:
GENED 1017: Americans as Occupiers and Nation-Builders
GENED 1140: Borders
HIST 1217: U.S. Foreign Policy in a Global Age
HIST 1921: The History of Law in Europe 

plus
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.

Fall:
GENED 1136: Power and Civilization: China
FS40J: Advice to Young Leaders
HIST 12W: The History of Energy
HIST 13T: Women in Economic Life
HIST 1056: The New Science of the Human Past: Case Studies at the Cutting Edge
HIST 1125: Reasoning from the Past: Applied History and Decision Making

Spring:
GENED 1068: The United States and China
GENED 1159: American Capitalism
HIST 12O: The Great Divergence and Convergence: Disparity in the Global Economy, 1500– Present
HIST 1067: An Introduction to the History of Economics

plus
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.

Fall:
GENED 1002: The Democracy Project
GENED 1136: Power and Civilization: China
FRSEMR 40J: Advice to Young Leaders
FRSEMR 43C: Human Rights and the Global South
HIST 12W: The History of Energy
HIST 14Y: Between East Asia and the Americas: Migration, Diaspora, Empire
HIST 1026: The Rise and Fall of Postwar Japan
HIST 1036: Modern South Asia
HIST 1125: Reasoning from the Past: Applied History and Decision Making
HIST 1220: The Global Cold War
HIST 1390: Democracy: The Long View and the Bumpy History
HIST 1405: American legal History, 1776–1865
HIST 1511: Latin America and the United States

Spring:
GENED 1017: Americans as Occupiers and Nation-Builders
GENED 1068: The United States and China
GENED 1140: Borders
HIST 12Q: U.S. Latinx History
HIST 12X: The AIDS Epidemic
HIST 12Z: The History of American Conservatism from William F. Buckley, Jr., to Donald Trump
HIST 13C: St. Louis from Lewis and Clark to Michael Brown
HIST 13E: The History of Modern Mexico
HIST 14X: Conquering Pandemics: Medicine and the State in the Effort to Control Disease
HIST 15A: The Challenge of Making America Modern
HIST 89A: British Colonial Violence in the 20th Century
HIST 97M: What is International History?
HIST 1009: The Making of the Modern Middle East
HIST 1217: U.S. Foreign Policy in a Global Age
HIST 1221: Postwar Germanies
HIST 1223: The American Century?: A History of the United States since World War II

plus
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.

Fall:
GENED 1034: Texts in Transition
HIST 1056: The New Science of the Human Past: Case Studies at the Cutting Edge
HIST 1125: Reasoning from the Past: Applied History and Decision Making
HIST 1993: Introdiuction to Digital History

Spring:
HIST 12P: The History of Emotions
HIST 12S: Biography and Autobiography in Renaissance italy
HIST 12U: Quad Lab: Histories of Technology, Society, and Place at Harvard
HIST 1947: The Imperial Map: Geographic Information in the Age of Empire

plus
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.

Fall:
GENED 1044: Deep History
GENED 1147: American Food: A Global History
HIST 12W: The History of Energy
HIST 1056: The New Science of the Human Past: Case Studies at the Cutting Edge

Spring:
HIST 1947: The Imperial Map: Geographic Information in the Age of Empire
HIST 1973: Re-Wilding Harvard

plus
ESPP 78 Environmental Politics
ESPP 77 Technology, Environment, and Society

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.

Fall:
GENED 1002: The Democracy Project
FS 40J: Advice to Young Leaders
FS 43C: Human Rights and the Global South
HIST 14Y: Between East Asia and the Americas: Migration, Diaspora, Empire
HIST 60O: American Indian History in Four Acts
HIST 1017: Jews in the Modern World
HIST 1125: Reasoning from the Past: Applied History and Decision Making
HIST 1206: Empire, Nation, and Immigration in france since 1870
HIST 1222: The Great Migration: The Exodus that Transformed Black America and the United States
HIST 1390: Democracy: The Long View and the Bumpy History
HIST 1412: The African Diaspora in the Americas
HIST 1511: Colonial Latin America
HIST 1908: Racial Capitalism and the Black Radical Tradition

Spring:
GENED 1017: Americans as Occupiers and Nation-Builders
GENED 1140: Borders
GENED 1159: American Capitalism
HIST 12Q: U.S. Latinx History
HIST 12X: The AIDS Epidemic
HIST 13C: St. Louis from Lewis and Clark to Michael Brown
HIST 13E: The History of Modern Mexico
HIST 14Z: Modern Iran: From Empires and Revolutions to the Everyday
HIST 15A: The Challenge of Making America Modern
HIST 1009: The Making of the Modern Middle East
HIST 1067: An Introduction tot he History of Economics
HIST 1217: U.S. Foreign Policy in a Global Age
HIST 1223: The American Century?: A History of the United States since World War II

plus
ECON 980DD Globalization and Inequality
MIT 15.703  Leading with Impact

Director

Ian J. Miller

Ian J. Miller

Professor of History
Director, Undergraduate Studies
Faculty Dean of Cabot House

Academic Office Hours | Thursdays, 3:00 - 5:00pm (In-person at CGIS S421, or Remote)
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Cabot Office Hours | Mondays, 4:00 - 5:00pm
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Assistant Director

Carla heelan

Carla Heelan

Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies
Lecturer on History