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

American Revolution 101

HIST 1776 The American Revolution
Jane Kamensky
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: Has the American Revolution ended?

This course examines the bloody conflict that gave rise to the United States, among its many results. How, why, by whom, and for what was the United States created? How do the nation’s origins—in a civil war, and with a politics marked by both soaring promises and glaring faults—shape America today?

This class is about the future as well as the past. Course labs and projects connect your learning to places where the American Revolution lives today, from high school classrooms to the stage to monuments to museum exhibitions

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

British Empire 101

HIST 1024: The British Empire
Maya Jasanoff
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

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.

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

China 101

GENED 1136 Power and Civilization: China
William Kirby & Peter K. Bol
This course's listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: How has the world’s most populous country dealt with enduring economic and political problems for 3,600 years?

China is a new country built on the bedrock of an ancient civilization. China is in the midst of the most extraordinary economic transformation the world has seen. Students in this course will debate 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. How are political systems supported or undermined by cultural, economic, and ecological challenges? Lectures are on-line with “field trips” to sites in China. Class time is focused on active, participant-centered learning around major texts, works of art, and contemporary case studies.

This class fulfills the General Education requirement in Histories, Societies, Individuals.

Colonial Latin America 101

HIST 1520  Colonial Latin America
Tamar Herzog
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: What is it like to live in a colonial 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).

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

Crusades 101

GENED 1088 The Crusades and the Making of East and West
Dimiter Angelov
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: How did the Crusades—this clash of East and West—leave its mark  on the world we live in today?

Marked by warfare and intense cross-cultural encounter, the Crusades solidified religious identities across the Mediterranean, drove the economic rise of the West, and were a dress rehearsal for European colonization in the Age of Discovery. In this class, we will trace the origins of the crusading movement, the course of the most important crusades, the interactions among different cultures, and the expansion of the Crusades toward new regions. The class explores the Crusades both in history and in memory. Special attention is paid to non-Western (Byzantine and Islamic) perspectives and the role of the Crusades for the historical formation of the present-day Middle East. Readings will include primary sources written by Byzantines, westerners, and Arabic speakers, and assignments will culminate in in-class presentations and a research project.

This class fulfills the General Education requirement in Histories, Societies, Individuals.

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 here.

The Big Question: How did France go from being an authoritarian imperial power to a multiethnic European republic?

Modern France is an ongoing experiment in democracy. Out of the ashes of revolution and war, the French founded one of the world’s most enduring democracies. But like every democracy, there were debates about who belonged. Who could vote? What role would religion play? Was it possible to be simultaneously a democracy and an imperial power? Which immigrants would be allowed in? And, as France’s collaboration with Nazi Germany during World War II would tragically show, democracy was fragile. How could it be reconstructed? Beginning with the founding of France’s Third Republic, this course traces the history of the French republic from 1870 to the present day via topics such as imperialism, immigration, anti-Semitism, war, collaboration, resistance, decolonization, religion, gender, and terrorism.

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

German Empires 101

HIST 1265 German Empires, 1848-1948
Alison Frank Johnson
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: Where is Germany and who are Germans?

Where is Germany? What are its borders? Who are Germans? These three questions were hotly debated between the popular revolutions of 1848 and the separation of Austria, West Germany, and East Germany following the Second World War. This course examines the history of Germans in Europe and elsewhere. We will consider multiple different visions of what “Germany” should be, what borders it should have, and who should be considered “German.”

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

Greeks & Romans 101

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

The Big Question: How does Greek and Roman philosophy affect the way we think today?

The Greeks and Romans had a major impact on how we build important buildings and rule ourselves. But they also were 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.

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

Harvard 101

HIST 1636 Intro to Harvard History: Beyond the Three Lies
Zachary Nowak
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

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 exclusion. Some Harvard stories have been told; others have been forgotten. In this class, we will uncover those lost legacies/histories/stories. There will be several field trips to Harvard’s archives, 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. This class was designed for first-year students.

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

Japan 101

HIST 1623 Japan in Asia and the World 
Andrew Gordon & David Howell
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: How did Japan go from a defenseless feudal country in 1868 to a world power less than a century later?

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 unfold through continuous interaction with the wider world. 

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 nineteenth century through the present and explore how people in Japan have dealt with the dilemmas of modernity that challenge us all.

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

Middle East 101

HIST 1009 The Making of the Modern Middle East
Rosie Bsheer
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: What was, and what is today, “the Middle East”?

How did a part of the world become “the Middle East”?  What were the major local, regional, and global events that have most profoundly affected the realities of the region since the mid-eighteenth century? Throughout the semester, we will draw on interdisciplinary readings to think about the challenges of studying the modern Middle East. We will discuss the reforms of the Ottoman Empire, the formation of modern nation states, the impact of colonialism and imperialism, social and intellectual movements, petro-states in global perspective, and Islam and politics.

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

Modern Europe 101

HIST 1004  Modern Europe, 1789 to the Present
Brandon Bloch
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: How did Europe become modern?

Did the Europeans leap to follow behind their flags, as this painting depicts? This survey course explores the political, social, economic, and cultural history of Europe from the French Revolution to the present. This period contains the keys to understanding the emergence of our contemporary world. It saw the rapid expansion of capitalism; rise of mass politics; recasting of gender roles and family structures; proliferation of industrial warfare; and creation of modern ideologies such as liberalism, nationalism, socialism, communism, and fascism. Europe was deeply intertwined with the wider world throughout our period, first through colonialism and imperialism, and since the post-1945 era of decolonization, through ongoing ties with its former colonies.

This course is also, necessarily, a world history.

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

Science of the Human Past 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 here.

The Big Question: How can DNA, ice cores, and ancient skeletons help us recreate history?

Science is powering History into a revolutionary age of discovery through archaeology. 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 sixteenth-century Mexico; how paleoclimate science reconstructs ancient environments from ice cores and tree rings; and how IT changes everything from shipwrecks to Roman coins, via medieval manuscripts. We will explore new archaeoscience discoveries by reading, discussing, and doing—from ancient genomes to drilling tree rings, from Roman coins to making ancient pots, and more.

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

Texts 101

GENED 1034  Texts in Transition
Ann Blair & Leah Whittington
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: How good is the written word for capturing, transmitting, and preserving human experience? 

The way we communicate is more digital than ever. This means it can last much longer—or disappear in a second. The main tool we have for preserving our culture, text, seems more complex than in the past. This course focuses on the preservation and transmission of culture today and during the European Renaissance, another culture dealing with anxiety over preservation and loss. The Renaissance is also the source of many of our current attitudes about text. Each week you will observe or apply methods of preservation, restoration, commentary, and transmission, in class and on field trips, and in curating a text of your choice for your personal project.

We expect that through this course you will gain an appreciation of the importance and the challenges of transmitting texts in both traditional and digital media.

This class fulfills the General Education requirement in Histories, Societies, Individuals OR in Aesthetics & Culture.

The American Century 101

HIST 1002   The 20th Century United States: Politics, Society, Culture
Lisa McGirr
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

The Big Question: What happened in the twentieth century to make the US the most powerful—and feared—country in the world?

This course examines the century in which the US went from by-planes to moon landings, legalized racial segregation to affirmative action, and from a deeply economically stratified society to… a deeply economically stratified society. What did Americans—politicians, activists, and everyday people—do to change their country and to change the world between 1900 and 2000?

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.

US & World Order 101

HIST 1465 The United States and World Order since 1900
Erez Manela
This course’s listing in the my.harvard course catalog is here.

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.

This course fulfills the Distribution requirement in Social Sciences.


Click the image below to be redirected to a PDF file. All of the course names within the PDF are clickable links.

History Courses - Map Format Picture (Fall 2019)


Click the image below to be redirected to a PDF file. All of the course names within the PDF are clickable links.History Courses - Grid Format Picture (Fall 2019)

Director

DUS 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