Foundations Courses

Welcome to Harvard University. All History courses—both lectures and seminars—are open to first-year students; none have prerequisites. This page lists a subset of the Fall courses. These “101” courses are those that the History Department considers particularly appropriate for first-year students. All of them will give you 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 (already filtered) 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, and seminars) 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.

101 Courses

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/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.

Texts 101

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.

China 101

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
Philip Deloria
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
Maya Jasanoff
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
Walter Johnson
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
Sugata Bose
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
Michael McCormick
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
Tamar Herzog
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
Mary Lewis
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
Erez Manela
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
Zachary Nowak
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.



Click the image below to be redirected to a PDF file, or click the following link: https://bit.ly/3ksQxQi
All of the course names within the PDF are clickable links.

Fall 2020 History Department Course Map



Click the image below to be redirected to a PDF file, or click the following link: https://bit.ly/30FaD1S
All of the course names within the PDF are clickable links.

Fall 2020 History Department Course Grid

Director

 DUS Remote Office Hours sign up:
Prof. Lisa McGirr, DUS Robinson Hall 208

Assistant Director

Carla heelan

Carla Heelan

Lecturer on History
Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies