Department of History

Historical Perspectives (HIST 199)

This is our department’s signature contribution to the Core Curriculum at Xavier. It introduces students to the study of history through a particular topic in global history, and we encourage you to look for the topics that most interest and excite you. Whatever class you choose, you will develop historical skills through analytical reading and writing, and you will interpret a variety of texts, images, and/or artifacts within their historical context. By analyzing the complicated process of change over time and grappling with historical questions and arguments, you will be better able to navigate the diverse, complex and interdependent modern world. 

As of Spring 2021, all Historical Perspectives courses are numbered HIST 199.  Historical Perspectives courses that we have offered recently and expect to offer again soon include:

Africa’s Past, Our Future

Human history in Africa is longer than in any other part of the world.  Yet, few people know much about the continent’s history.  The aim of this course is to introduce you to the peoples of Africa and their history from human evolution through today.  Because of the sources available to us, African history is written much differently than any other history you have been exposed to.  For this reason, it is also more easily integrated with the study of environment and ecology.  This course will have a heavy emphasis on the ways in which peoples have shaped and been shaped by their environment.

Africans in the Americas

From the early 1500s through the 1860s, more than 12 million Africans—almost all of them enslaved—crossed the Atlantic Ocean. In the plantation societies, port cites, and mining centers of the Americas, Africans and their descendants struggled to survive under brutal conditions, negotiated new relationships with one another and with their enslavers, and reconfigured African cultural practices. This course will examine the everyday lives, cultures, and survival strategies of these African and African-descended people, with an emphasis on plantation societies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

American Revolution 1763-1812

This course explores key events and themes in the history of the American Revolution. History helps us to identify the ways in which societies differ and change, as well as how the past still affects the present. Students will develop historical skills through analytical reading and writing to interpret a variety of texts, images, and/or artifacts within their historical context. By analyzing the complicated process of change over time and grappling with historical questions and arguments, students will be better able to navigate the diverse, complex and interdependent modern world.

American Roots 1400-1700

This course examines the history of North America during the early period of colonization. We will study Native American societies on the eve of contact; the cultural encounter between peoples of the Old and New Worlds; the ecological transformation of the continent; and the creation and development of key European colonies. We will also reflect on how patterns established hundreds of years ago continue to influence life in North America today.

Appalachia and the Upland South

History of Appalachia and the Upland South examines the overlapping but distinct histories of these two regions. While we will discuss the long history of these places from the 1700s to the present, we will pay special attention to the era of industrialization (1870s to the 1970s) that came to define these two regions as distinct from, but also interconnected to, the rest of the nation.

Britain: Sherlock to Britpop

This class will explore the social, political, and cultural history of Britain from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. Analyzing primary sources from popular culture, we will focus on three themes: class and national identities in modern Britain, the emergence of mass culture, and the relationship between citizens and the state.

Disability History

History of Disability Since the Middle Ages
It is a common mistake to assume that people in the past always coded disability negatively. This course explores the conflicting histories and changing definitions of disability and disabled people and since the Middle Ages. Course materials cover North America and Europe with a focus on religion, law, medicine, technology, and culture.

Europe at War, 1914-1945

This course examines the history of Europe during and between the twin military conflicts that devastated the continent.

Francis: The Making of a Saint

St. Francis of Assisi is the most famous Catholic saint of all time. Why is St. Francis historically important? How can we know anything about him now, hundreds of years after his death? Why do historians, and others, find Francis interesting and relevant? This course examines St. Francis in the time, place, and culture that gave rise to his own piety and his reputation of sanctity: medieval Europe.

Global Environmental History

What is the role of “nature” in human history? The answer to this inquiry can be straightforward, like hurricanes and agriculture, but also complex, and often vexing, like climate change. Over the course of fifteen weeks, we will explore nature as a historical actor, but also how humans’ ideas about nature have shaped history. Because natural processes often play out over great distances and long periods of time, this class will be global in scope, and cover the period from 1500 to the present. Students will become thoroughly engaged with the concepts, core themes and questions raised by the field of environmental history; understand how they relate to some of the major world historical themes of the modern period; and begin thinking about how you could use those concepts when studying other historical periods and attempting to address contemporary environmental dilemmas.

Immigration to America

This course examines the impact of immigration and ethnicity on American culture. It covers both the immigrant experience as well as the emergence of ethnic identities, communities, and customs. The course also analyzes the politics of immigration, nativist backlash to immigration, and the ways in which ethnicity has transformed notions of class, gender, nationalism, popular culture, and race. We will study the global economics of immigration, the politics of identity, and the impact that multiculturalism has had on American ethnicity.

Jewish Theo and Ideology

During the second half of the tenth century, under the influence of the Muslim philosophers, we first encounter Jewish literature that interprets tradition through philosophic (“Athens”) lenses. In this course we will read from the works of Saadya Gaon, Yehuda Halevi, Maimonides, Jewish mystics, and Spinoza and examine them in their historical context as well as by focusing on major theological – ideological questions such as: What is the relation between reason and revelation? How do we know that God exists and if the world was created by Him?

Latin America: Cortes to Castro

This course will examine the development of Latin American societies over more than five hundred years of history. A primary goal of the course will be to understand continuity and change in a complex range of social, economic, and cultural structures. The course will explore topics such as the impact of religion, colonialism, and movements for social change on the long-term development of Latin American societies, and the rise of cities, from the first urban settlements to the “mega-cities” of the 21stcentury.

Latin America-US Relations

This course examines the evolution of Latin American relations with the United States from the late 18th century to the present, using a wide variety of political, economic, military, and cultural sources. Although the examination of diplomacy and U.S. policy will serve as a foundation for our study, a major goal of the course will be to understand how multiple forms of Latin American agency have shaped inter American relations over almost two centuries.

Law & Order in 19th-century US West

This course examines contact, conflict, and conflict resolution in the 19th-century American West. It studies encounters between/among Native Americans, Spanish/Mexicans, Americans, and other peoples in a variety of contexts, including the fur trade, settlement, mining and industrialization.

Native American Health

This course will examine the health-related impact of European contact and colonization on Native peoples in North America since 1600. The course will blend elements of history, anthropology, and public health in studying the effects of disease, forced acculturation, and mental and physical health issues (including those linked to poverty and substance abuse), and the effects of resource extraction on Native American communities, as well as those communities’ responses to those problems.

Papyrus, Parchment, and Paper

For most of history, only the tiniest proportions of human beings were capable of reading and writing. Written texts nevertheless played a central role in most pre-modern civilizations, and ancient texts passed down across thousands of years continue to shape our world today. This course focuses on the diffusion of writing before the industrial age, especially around the Mediterranean basin, with special attention to the preservation of lightweight, portable texts, and to their modern discovery.

Rulers of China

This course is about how leadership emerged in China and how it changed over time throughout the imperial period (from about 200 BCE to 1911). During the imperial era, it was believed that the ruler was chosen by the heaven – whatever the heaven means here – and the righteousness and legitimacy of his rulership depended on how much he followed to the heaven’s will. This notion of leadership was immensely affected by historical contexts of various sates-building efforts, wars, domestic and international politics. In this course, we will study several emperors and their role in the rise and fall of various states in China, and how this notion of rulership was challenged and abandoned in the 20th century.

Second World War

This course has a dual purpose: first, to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the events of the Second World War and second, to introduce the historian’s process to students. We will examine the Second World War from a multitude of perspectives. The primary focus will be on the diplomatic and military events on the war. This will be supplemented by looking at how these high-level political and military events affected individuals, ranging from civilians to soldiers.

Women in the American West

This course examines the history of women in what would become the American West from 1500 to the present. It will examine the roles of women in various societies and cultures in the West, and the ways in which women shaped (and were shaped by) the history of the region.

Women & Civil Rights Era

This course examines the Civil Rights Era (1945-1975) in the United States. It is designed to give a broad overview of the Civil Rights Movement and to encourage active documentation and participation in current struggles for social justice. This course presents African American history and Women’s history, generally, and the Civil Rights Movement, specifically, both as integral parts of United States history, and as unique subjects of historical investigation.