Welcome to the History Department! On this page, you'll find a subset of our Spring 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 Spring 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 1014: Ancestry: Where do we come from and why do we care?
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/2XfUE7L
The Big Question: What do our DNA, genealogy, and family stories tell us about who we are as a species, as a social group, or as an individual?
Everyone comes from somewhere. This course looks at ancestry from a range of perspectives: biology, anthropology, genealogy, history, law, and memory—from the origins of human populations to the origins of you. By the end of the semester, you will have a sharper sense of the role played by ancestry in the terms we routinely use to describe ourselves, as well as in policies and practices shaping everything from citizenship law to college admissions. We will pay close attention to different kinds of evidence (particularly genetic and genealogical), the kinds of questions they answer or raise, and what happens when they collide. We will also explore in depth the implications of genetic ancestry testing for concepts of race, ethnicity, and nationality. You will leave this course better able to uncover implicit assumptions in qualitative and quantitative data alike. Most of all, this course will prepare you to reconsider your ideas about ancestry and identity in your life outside the classroom and beyond Harvard.
Deep History 101
GENED 1044: Deep History
Daniel Smail/Matthew Liebmann
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/2L8a5MR
The Big Question: When does history begin, and how do we understand the entirety of the human past?
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. The material presented through lectures, discussions, and activities will not only guide you through a collaborative exploration of human experience, but will also encourage you 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.
US & China 101
GENED 1068: The United States and China
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/3ohRY5B
The Big Question: What can we learn about the present and future of U.S.-China relations in light of their past?
The United States and China are global economic and military powers. They have a rich history of commerce, friendship, alliance, and antagonism, and both countries have been shaped and re-shaped by the nature of their mutual relations. Their relationship, however, is in crisis, the outcome of which will do much to define the world of the 21st century. In this course, you will explore a series of critical questions about U.S.-China relations: What are the enduring patterns and issues in China’s relations with the United States? How have these two countries perceived each other over time? How has trade defined the relationship from the Opium War to Huawei? How has war shaped experiences in the United States and China, and what are the risks of military confrontation today? What are the prospects for cooperation on global crises such as climate change? What is the role of American and Chinese universities, such as Harvard and Tsinghua, in shaping mutual relations in a time of global pandemic? By the end of the semester, students will apply their new expertise on this subject to propose a solution to a central challenge in the Chinese-American relationship.
GENED 1095: Is War Inevitable?
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/3oj3VrL
The Big Question: Why is there war, and what can we learn from wars throughout history?
What is war, and why has it been nearly constant throughout history? Why do wars start, how can they be stopped, and what can be done to prevent them? Ranging from antiquity to the present, this course seeks to answer these questions. Beginning with the socio-biological roots of human aggression and altruism, we will focus on selected wars as case studies of different types of conflict. We distinguish wars fought within and between states, within a single region or spread across the globe. We compare wars fought to advance or crush revolutions and those that spread colonial power or liberated a colonized people. We examine wars’ effects on fighters and non-combatants, the role of morale in sustaining wars once undertaken, and the possibilities for post-war reconciliation between adversaries. We measure the effectiveness of international humanitarian law, organizations like the League of Nations and United Nations, and anti-war protest movements. By studying why wars start, what it takes to end them, and what measures have worked better than others to restrain or prevent conflict, we will better understand ourselves, our societies, our current crisis, and the prospects for humanity’s future.
GENED 1117: Nature
This course's listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/3njleHG
The Big Question: What is nature, and how should we respond to urgent environmental crisis?
The planet is in crisis; we live in a state of emergency. Our emergency circumstances encompass a range of daunting environmental problems that make inaction simply not an option. We need to think clearly and calmly about this crisis to craft the best possible solutions. But the kind of clear, calm thought we will need to use requires two kinds of understanding. First, we must think with precision about what nature is, especially in its ethical dimensions. Second, we will need to understand how to deal with the inevitable tradeoffs any solutions to our environmental crises will bring with them. How, in short, is it possible to craft solutions that will be as just as possible, to as many people as possible? And if that justice should extend beyond the human community, to include the nonhuman parts of nature, how will this be accomplished? This class is designed to give you an intellectual, verbal, and ethical toolkit for dealing with the important debates over imperiled natural resources and competing human needs that will only become more urgent as the years go by.
GENED 1159: American Capitalism
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/393mBFw
The Big Question: How did capitalism emerge, expand and transform daily life in North America over the past 500 years?
In this course, you will gain an in-depth understanding of how North America turned from a minor outpost of the Atlantic economy into the powerhouse of the world economy; how Americans built a capitalist economy; and how that capitalism, in turn, changed every aspect of their lives. In the process, you will come to understand how contemporary capitalism is the result of centuries of human engagement, struggle, and aspirations. Topics range from the structure of Native-American economies to the economic consequences of the Civil War; from the impact of capitalism on gender relations to the changing structures of American businesses; and from the position of the United States in the world economy to the role of the government in channeling economic development. Boston merchants and Georgia sharecroppers, enslaved cotton growers and reforming statesmen, workers at the Ford assembly line and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs will all appear in the story. The course will put particular emphasis on the global context of American economic development and situate it deeply in political and social changes. By the end of the semester, you will understand how the contemporary capitalism that so powerfully shapes all of our lives has emerged over the course of several centuries, and how the tools to understand the history of American capitalism can be applied to understanding our contemporary situation.
Vietnam War 101
HIST 1001: The War in Vietnam
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/3hMT8U1
The Big Question: Why did the Vietnam War begin, and what does its outcome mean for us today?
The struggle for Vietnam occupies a central place in the history of the 20th century. How did it happen? Why did first France and then the United States wage large-scale war there, and why did both powers fail in their effort to subdue the revolutionary Vietnamese forces? And what is the legacy of the struggle for our world and for U.S. foreign policy today? This course examines these and related questions, with particular attention to the long period of direct American involvement. The events will be considered in their relationship to Vietnam's history, to American politics and society, and to the concurrent Cold War.
The American Century 101
HIST 1002: The 20th-Century United States: Politics, Society, Culture
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/3ojhtDD
The Big Question: How did the US become the most powerful country in the world during the twentieth century?
This course charts key developments in the history of the 20th century United States beginning with United States emergence as a leader of global capitalism. Topics include World War I, twenties culture wars, the New Deal, World War II, the Cold War, sixties social movements, neo-liberalism, and the rise of mass incarceration. The contest over the meaning of American freedom at all levels of American society—from Congressional debates to the picket line—forms a central theme. The course includes discussion of high and low politics, political economy, and shifting patterns of culture. The course has two goals: First, to provide you with the foundational knowledge about past political struggles that will help students understand the roots of issues still wrestled with today; and second to introduce you to historical thinking and interpretation through the analysis of primary and secondary sources.
Modern Europe 101
HIST 1004: Modern Europe, 1789 to the present
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/35fghtv
The Big Question: What is so “modern” about Europe between 1789 and the present, and how does this affect our own understanding of the world in which we live?
To many Europeans over the past two centuries, their modernity was evident in every aspect of their lives, from musical innovation to industrial development, from expanding educational opportunities to new technologies of warfare. Yet how exactly did Europeans understand modernity—and, for that matter, how do we—and how does the period from the French revolution to the present cohere? Many, in fact, experienced these two hundred-odd years as arguably a time of conflict and rupture rather than coherence. Yet historians nonetheless describe the many changes of these centuries—urbanization; nationalism; mass migration; political transformation; war; imperial expansion; cultural turmoil—as various aspects of the modern experience. In class you will engage with written records, and visual and aural sources, in order to make your own claims about European modernity and its lasting influence on our world today.
Japan in the World 101
HIST 1023: Japan in Asia and the World
Andrew Gordon/David Howell
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/3njLKRc
The Big Question: How did a collection of islands in the Pacific Ocean become an Asian empire in the twentieth century and a global cultural powerhouse in the twenty-first?
Japan is a collection of islands, but its past and present unfolds through continuous interaction with wider worlds. This course places Japan in contexts of Asian and global history. It begins with the people, institutions, and ideas of premodern Japan, from the emergence of a court-centered state 1500 years ago to a warrior-dominated society centuries later. We then examine the tumultuous process of change from the 19th century through the present and explore how people in Japan have dealt with the dilemmas of modernity that challenge us all.
HIST 1035: Byzantine Civilization
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/3hJuxjf
The Big Question: How did the eastern Roman empire develop its own culture and civilization between 400 and 1453 C.E.?
The Byzantine—Eastern Roman—Empire outlived the fall of Rome by a thousand years. In this course, you will explore how Byzantium preserved the institutions and politics of imperial Rome even as it became a different entity as a medieval civilization. Key to this development were the professional armies, able diplomats, and brilliant intellectuals of Byzantium, who ensured its survival and renewed expansion, and whose stories we will discover throughout this semester as we trace the history of the Byzantine Empire between c. 600 and 1453, and contextualize it in terms of medieval and world history.
American Populisms 101
History 1433: History of American Populisms
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/393D1h8
The Big Question: Everyone uses the term ‘populist’—but what does it really mean?
This course studies the American Populist tradition that defines the common “people” as the foundation of American economic and political life and thrives on opposition between the people and “elite“ interests. The class places the formal Populist movement of the late nineteenth century in broader context, from Jeffersonian tradition through the rise of anti-elitist and anti-government movements characterized by George Wallace, Sarah Palin, the Tea Parties, and the political rise of Donald Trump.
East Asian Environments 101
HIST 1610: Environments: China, Japan, Korea
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/3nqhwwh
The Big Question: How have the countries of East Asia—China, Japan, the Koreas—transformed the natural world and how do they understand their role in the global environmental future?
The future is not what it used to be. Nowhere is this more evident than in the natural world, where climate change and fading biodiversity, energy anxieties and environmental disasters have undermined the bedrock of history: the assumption of a stable continuity between past, present, and future. This class visits East Asia—China, Japan, and the Koreas, vibrant economies and agents of historical change—to explore the transformation of the natural world in modern times. We will analyze nuclear power plants and cruise rivers, explore industrial ruins and debate public policy as we define Asia’s role in the global environmental future.
HIST 1636: Intro to Harvard History: Beyond the Three Lies
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is located here: http://bit.ly/2MFBcQ5
The Big Question: Who made Harvard what it is today?
Harvard’s history is a story of professors, students, courses, and research that has led to world-changing innovations. But it is also a story of student unrest, gender unease, and the exclusion of women and minorities, enslaved people, Native Americans, and working-class people. All of them made Harvard and left traces in its archives, libraries, and museums, its buildings, and even in its soil. Some Harvard stories have been told; others have been forgotten. In this class, we will uncover Harvard’s past. There will be several field trips to Harvard’s archives and museums and other places on campus most students will never visit. If you wish, the University Archives will preserve your final paper on Harvard history for perpetuity.
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.
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