History Courses

Find the Saint Louis University Department of History’s course offerings for fall 2017 below. See SLU’s Banner course catalog for the most current information.

Undergraduate Course Descriptions

HIST 1110: Origins of the Modern World to 1500
A historical approach to understanding the development of the modern world to 1500. The course will examine ancient civilizations, the Hebrews, Greece, Rome, Christianity, Islam, Byzantium, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and encounters between cultures and regions of the globe.

HIST 1120: Origins of the Modern World, 1500 to Present
A historical approach to understanding the development of the modern world from 1500 to the present. The course will examine the cross-cultural impact of European expansion, the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, the Scientific Revolution, absolutism, the Enlightenment, the French and Industrial Revolutions, 19th and 20th century though the World Wars, totalitarian and liberation movements, and the challenges of the new global age.

HIST 2600: U.S History to 1865
This course covers American history from the period of contact through the Civil War. Topics include the collision of European, African and Native American cultures in the age of contact and settlement; colonial British North America; the American Revolution and the Constitution; westward expansion; social, economic, and cultural change in the Jacksonian era; slavery and the sectional conflict; and the Civil War.

HIST 2600: U.S. History 1865 to present
This course will survey the major historical development in American history as the United States emerged as a major world power. The course will examine such issues as the shift from a rural agrarian to an urban industrial nation, the shifting view of the role of government in society and the economy, and the evolution of foreign policy from 19th century isolation to world superpower in the years after World War II. The format of the course will be lecture and discussion.

HIST 2710: China and Japan Since 1600: Samurai, Revolutionaries, and Entrepreneurs
This course follows the political, cultural, and social histories of China and Japan from the 17h century (roughly the age of the Ming-Qing transition and of the inception of the Togukawa shogunate) to the present. It concentrates on the interaction of China and Japan as well as on their respective roles in international exchanges and conflicts. It devotes special attention to the themes of the impact of Confucianism, Buddhism, Shintoism and Christianity on institutions and society, of organized violence (e.g. warfare, violent uprisings and samurai ideology) and of gender relations. Through a close analysis of historical documents, as well as fiction and graphic novels (manga), students will learn how to approach both elite and popular traditions, while developing a critical perspective on the ways cross-cultural encounters, exchanges, and representations shape individual and collective identities.

HIST 2730: Crossroads of the World: The Middle East and North Africa Through History
A sweeping tour of Middle Eastern history from the emergence of Islam to the present, introducing the many peoples, religions, languages, and states that have competed and cooperated during that era, from Morocco to Iran. We will investigate how Islam has related to politics, how ethnic and national identities were forged and forgotten, and how empires like the Abbasids and Ottomans ruled for so long. Above all, we will discover how the history of the Middle East is retold and reused today. Intended for students with no background in the subject.

HIST 2800: The Historian's Craft
This course is to equip students to do the work of historians and to prepare them for a successful career as a history major (and a vocation after college, no matter what that job might be). To that end, we will read books from a variety of fields using a variety of historical methodologies and address different career paths that employ disciplined historical thinking. The idea is to learn how to think critically about sources and arguments and to hone your analytical skills in our seminars and your weekly assignments. Along the way we'll read some great books and learn about a lot of different historical fields, too.

HIST 3030: The Byzantine World: Power and Faith in a 1,000-Year Empire
We will survey the history and civilization of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire from its first separation from the Western Roman Empire in AD 285 to the fall of the last Byzantine successor state, the Empire of Trebizond, in 1461. The long-lasting Byzantine Empire was a strange mixture of the vigorous and the decadent, the religious and the pragmatic, and the exotic and the familiar. Besides lectures, a midterm, a final examination and a term paper on a topic of your choice, there will be discussions of several of the great works of Byzantine literature, including St. Athanasius' supernatural Life of St. Anthony, Procopius' scandalous Secret History, the heroic epic Digenes Acrites, and Michael Psellus' brilliant Fourteen Byzantine Rulers.

HIST 3100: Catholics, Protestants and Jews: 500 Years of War and Peace
Taking place on the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation of 1517, this course will examine the religious tensions that through the late 1950s often characterized relations between Catholics, Jews and Protestants in Western Europe and North America. It will focus on the major movements for religious reform and the wars that almost immediately ensued. How did European and North American states respond to the challenge of Catholics and different Protestant groups living side by side? Why did religious tensions increase again in the mid-to-late 19th century and subside in the last third of the 20th century?

HIST 3640: American West: Of Atom Bombs and Rodeos
This course will take students through the Mexican-American War, the California Gold Rush, the Plains Wars, the making of the U.S.'s first National Parks, the drawing of the U.S.-Mexico border, the creation and testing of the world's first atom bomb, and the blossoming of an urban left coast. Along the way, we'll explore the art, architecture, literature, film and TV that makes the West, the West.

HIST 3740: The Sun Never Sets on Britannia: History of the British Empire
The British Empire brought under one government a quarter of the earth and its inhabitants. In Britannia, the Sun Never Set. How was this possible? Did it just happen? This course explores the British Empire with specific reference to her rise and evolution from the 1750s through the 20th century. It goes beyond imperial acquisitions to include changing components and transformations in the Empire's ideologies and practices, the relationship between the metropole and its periphery, as well as how the political, economic and cultural exchanges emanating from the encounter enriched both spheres. In addition to selected readings, both primary and secondary, a wide array of films and pictures will be used to navigate the complexity of the British Empire and its legacy in the contemporary world, especially notions of governance and law, race, gender and national identity.

HIST 4900: Autobiography: History through Those Who Lived It
How and why do people write their own stories? How did they make history? How did history make them? How valid are autobiographies as historical sources? Read and discuss the autobiographies of such figures as Leo Tolstoy, Nien Cheng, Czesław Miłosz, Sayyib Qutb and Madame de la Tour du Pin, then each student will prepare a research paper, putting a particular autobiography in the broader historical context.

Graduate History Courses

HIST 5000: Theory and Practice of History
This course will examine some of the most influential theories of today's intellectual marketplace that affect the study of history. From historical materialism, through structuralism, semiotics, post-structuralism, postmodernism and critical theory, to gender and narrative history, we will discuss their intellectual essence as well as their usefulness in terms of the insights they offer to the historian. Apart from reviewing various theoretical approaches, we will also discuss their applications by closely examining selected cases of scholarship on American history, which employ them as tools of interpretation and as forms of writing about the past.

HIST 5210: Seminar on Procopius' Secret History
We will read parts of the Greek text of Procopius' Secret History, with the reading assignments adjusted to each student's knowledge of Greek. You will also read the whole text in English translation and deliver a short seminar paper on some aspect of it. The Secret History is one of the most interesting and problematic Byzantine histories, composed around AD 550 by Byzantium's greatest historian in a skillful adaptation of Attic Greek. Students with the equivalent of two semesters of Greek (or more) are encouraged to take the course.

HIST 5310: Cities from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages
This graduate seminar is a survey of the development of cities from the later Roman Empire to the early Middle Ages. Covering archaeological research from the Roman and post-Roman Mediterranean to the Persian Empire and beyond, it also provides an introduction to other methodologies useful in the study of social history of urban spaces such as identity, agency, landscape, memory and religion. In whole, the class will explore the kaleidoscopic ways urban space shaped ancient daily life from the third through eighth century CE.

HIST 5410: The Reformation and its Legacy
This graduate seminar will examine the contested legacy of the Reformation. It will begin by examining recent scholarship on the Reformation's impact during the confessional age of the 16th and 17th centuries. It will then examine the renewal of confessional conflicts in North America and Europe in the 19th and 20th century and their easing in the last third of the 20th century.

HIST 5610/5710: Nature, Landscape, Place and Power: Environmental History
This course places at center stage plants, animals, diseases and natural resources that we tend to overlook in the narratives that we tell about the early modern and modern world and, particularly, about North America. Our readings are organized according to the themes of exploration, disease, resources and landscape and will establish familiarity with theories of place and definitions of wilderness. The class will invite, challenge, and prepare students to construct narratives of the past that incorporate both human beings and the natural world.

HIST 5610: Readings in Writing American History
Students will interrogate the writing of American history as a craft with varying approaches, audiences and publication venues. We'll read and discuss a rich diversity of historical writing: dissertations turned into monographs; Jill Lepore's efforts to revive the essay; synthetic overviews by field-defining senior scholars; the University of Virginia's early and transformative digital humanities projects; conference papers, journal articles, op-ed pieces, encyclopedia entries, websites and experimental narratives. The class also offers practical guidance about how to write to build a vita and get published. Students will write scholarly reviews, design a thematic annotated syllabus, and complete a 3,000-word end-of-term essay. Course readings center principally on American history, ranging from the 17th century to 21st. But students working in other geographic areas curious about an analytical exploration of writing history with practical professional outcomes are heartily welcome to enroll.

HIST 6810: Seminar in Medieval History: The Crusades
Students will undertake advanced directed research on a topic within the area of Crusade Studies, broadly defined. In addition, students will be exposed to various methodologies and skill sets necessary substantive research into the medieval period. Course requirements include weekly discussions, a survey of primary sources, and a final paper, which will be an original piece of scholarship. Many previous students have published their final projects in leading scholarly journals.