Social History

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Until the twentieth century, historians focused mainly on elites: those with the means to record their own experiences in publications, letters, diaries, and official documents. This method tended to produce historical narratives in which change was understood to come from those in positions of political, economic, and social power. Social history, in contrast, seeks to understand change from the bottom up—by focusing on the lived experiences of many types of people in the past, with special attention to those who found themselves in oppressive situations. Social historians often focus on class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, geography, and other categories which have constrained and shaped human experience. Social historians at Harvard work across a wide variety of time periods, populations, methods, and sources, but their work seeks to answer the same basic question:  what did people do with the resources, material, symbolic, cultural, legal (etc.)  that they had in order to advance their interests or achieve their goals within the constraints imposed on them by their context? 

Spring 2019:

Past Course Offerings in Social History:

American Immigration (Nichols, HIST 13N)

The Medieval Mediterranean: Conflict and Unity, Tradition and Innovation (Adem, HIST 14A)

Cities and Urban Life in Latin American History (Siwi, HIST 14F)

Race and Nation in Latin America (Siwi, HIST 14G)

Feminisms and Pornography, c. 1975-1995 (Kamensky/Halley, HIST 1900)

From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock: Indigenous Political Struggle Since 1890 (Clements, HIST 1943)

Gender, Violence, and Power (Akhtar, WOMGEN 1270)

A History of Brazil, from Independence to the Present (Chalhoub, HIST 1032)

Histories of Racial Capitalism (Jenkins, AFRAMER 103Y)

The History of African-Americans from the Slave Trade to the Civil War (Brown, AFRAMER 118)

Human Rights and the Global South (Elkins/Bhabha, HIST 43C)

Hysterical Women: A History (Bhattacharyya, WOMGEN 1281)

Japan in the Modern World (Gordon, HIST 1623)

The Northern Side of the Civil Rights Movement (Higginbotham, HIST 84H)

Power and Protest: The United States in the World of the 1960s (McGirr, US-WORLD 41)

Race and Nation in Latin America (Siwi, HIST 14G)

Religion and Society in Edo and Meiji Japan (Hardacre, JAPNHIST 115)

Sex and the Citizen: Race, Gender, and Belonging in the US (Light, USW 26)

Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Atlantic World (Ruderman, HIST 1050)

Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History (Ulrich, US-WORLD 30)

African American Lives in the Law (Higginbotham, AFRAMER 191X)

Germans and Jews (Penslar, HIST 1907)

Democracy and Social Movements in East Asia (Chang, SOCIOL 189)

Harlots, Dandies, Bluestockings: Sexuality, Gender, and Feminism in the 18th and 19th Centuries (Schlossberg, WOMGEN 1407)

Iran's Revolutions (Najmabadi, HIST 13D)

Tell Old Pharoah: Histories of "Contraband Camps" and Self-Emancipation in the Civil War Era (Conner, HIST 14C)

Modern Latin America, 1800-Present (Siwi, HIST 1034)

Islamicate Societies to 1500 (Adem, HIST 1046)

Race, Indigeneity, and Empire in the Asia/Pacific Wars, 1898-Present (Nebolon, HIST 1944)

Syria: History, Politics, and Religion (Adem, HIST 1946)

The Sexual Life of Colonialism (Mitra, WOMGEN 1441)

Society and Culture of Late Imperial China (Szonyi, CHNSHIS 113)

Slavery, Disease and Race: A View from Brazil (Chalhoub, HIST 1931)

Tell Old Pharaoh: Histories of “Contraband Camps” and Self-Emancipation in the Civil War Era (Conner, HIST 14C)

“What Is Social History?” (Chalhoub, HIST 97K)

The World of the Three Kingdoms (Tian, EASTD 129)