About the Department

Established as one of the founding departments at the University, the Department of History has developed into a leader in cultural and intellectual history, integrative and comparative history, and international history. Traditional fields of study are enriched by an emphasis on interdisciplinary workshops and special conferences that bring together students and faculty from throughout the University for intellectual exchange. The Department strives to sustain research by supporting diverse student cohorts in as many historical fields as possible, and aims to welcome students who bring a variety of perspectives to the program—especially those from outside the United States. The Department’s distinguished faculty (which includes five MacArthur Foundation Fellows and three past presidents of the American Historical Association) , works closely with students in the graduate seminars, colloquia, and tutorials that form the core of advanced training at Chicago. As in any history program, students are expected to learn to read critically, to search out and analyze primary materials with skill, and to write with rigor and depth.

MAPSS Support for History

The study of History has a central place in the intellectual life of MAPSS. Approximately 40 MAPSS students concentrate in History or in close-related disciplines each year. Preceptors provide advice on course selections, faculty advisors, and thesis projects. Dr. Heuring, our Associate Director of MAPSS and a Lecturer in History, has expertise on the British Empire, the Anglo-Caribbean world, the history of medicine, and women’s and gender history. She offers graduate seminars in Historical Methods, and in imperial and colonial history. Professor Dain Borges, the Faculty Director of MAPSS, is an expert on the intellectual and cultural history of modern Brazil, and teaches our core course, “Perspectives in Social Science Analysis.” Recent MAPSS graduates have gone on for the PhD in History at Stanford, University of Chicago, Duke, NYU, Columbia, and Princeton, to name a few.

Sample Courses

HIST 39661. Colloquium: Digital Humanities/Digital History. (J. Sparrow, R. Morrissey, C. Gladstone) This course will be an interdisciplinary introduction to digital humanities broadly writ with an emphasis on literary and historical developments over long periods of time (longue durée), and across large textual, cultural, and archival databases. Questions we will address include how do we constitute and navigate these collections? How do we conceive of digital tools in ways that speak to humanists and humanistic social scientists? How do we incorporate these tools and approaches into discursive argumentation and other traditional humanistic and historical modes of inquiry. No technical background is required, but basic computer skills and reading knowledge of French would be welcome.

HIST 62703. Black Lives Matter? Critical and Disciplinary Inquiries. (A. Green) The intent of this course would be to draw together historical scholarship that represents and analyses African American historical experience with an eye toward enduring contradictions of civil legitimation, social function, and human regard, which have persisted through slavery emancipation and successive generations of modernization and reform. It would start after 1865, although analyses that at least engage slavery as a context might be included. It would remain focused on scholarly works of history, and potentially historicist works drawn from other disciplines. While it would seek to immerse students within leading and largely current works of scholarship, it pursues a core thematic question: how effectively can academic historical scholarship reckon with the persistent problem of the structural and social devaluation of Black life, and how effectively has it?

HIST 43203. Colloquium: Capitalism and Climate Change—History, Society, Literature. (F. Albritton Jonsson) The concept of the Anthropocene introduces the idea of the human species as a geological agent, capable of altering the life supporting system of the whole planet through anthropogenic climate change. Paradoxically, the bad news of the Anthropocene is also a moment of intellectual exhilaration for the social sciences and humanities. The Anthropocene forces us to rethink some of the most fundamental concepts in scholarship, such as modernity, growth, justice, and scale in light of new pressing problems of carbon emissions, mitigation, and adaptation. We will approach these questions from a variety of perspectives, including ethics, history, science, and literature.

HIST 52903. Colloquium: Nation and Empire—Europe and Beyond. (T. Zahra) This graduate course will examine the relationship between nation and empire in Europe and beyond from the eighteenth century to the present. Topics may include nationalism and indifference to nationalism; the construction of borders and borderlands; the relationship between language, culture, and nation-building; transimperial and transnational mobility, including the movement of refugees and ethnic cleansing; the transition from multilingual and multinational empires to self-declared nation-states; empire and nation in the context of Total War, the Cold War, and post-Socialist transition; gender, nation, and empire, and the relationship between nation-states and new international and intergovernmental organizations, including the League of Nations, the United Nations, and the European Union. The focus on the course will be on Central and Eastern Europe and the relationship of Central and Eastern Europe to Europe and the rest of the world, but students interested in other parts of the world are welcome to enroll.

HIST 56800. Colloquium: Introduction to Science Studies. (A. Johns & J. Evans) This course explores the interdisciplinary study of science as an enterprise. During the twentieth century, sociologists, historians, philosophers, and anthropologists all raised interesting and consequential questions about the sciences. Taken together their various approaches came to constitute a field, “science studies.” The course provides an introduction to this field. Students will not only investigate how the field coalesced and why, but will also apply science-studies perspectives in a fieldwork project focused on a science or science-policy setting. Among the topics we may examine are the sociology of scientific knowledge and its applications, actor-network theories of science, constructivism and the history of science, images of normal and revolutionary science, accounts of research in the commercial university, and the examined links between science and policy.

HIST 74605. Seminar: Religion, Society, and Politics in Modern Europe, 1740–Present. (J. Boyer & J. Goldstein) A two-quarter research seminar; the first quarter may be taken separately as a colloquium (register for HIST 53003). The longstanding idea of the progressive secularization of modern society—an idea germinated during the Enlightenment and made more explicit by such nineteenth-century social theorists as Comte, Weber, and Durkheim—no longer commands much assent today, though western Europe seems a better instantiation of it than anywhere else. Starting with an examination of the so-called secularization thesis, this seminar will examine such topics as divergent interpretations of the Enlightenment view of religion; the religious impact of the French Revolution; the shifting patterns of religious practice that evolved during the nineteenth century; the role of religiously based, mass political movements in the crisis of the liberal state in the late nineteenth-century; the nineteenth-century transformation of religion into an object of scientific study (philology, sociology of religion); Marian apparitions and miraculous cures in the nineteenth century (Lourdes, Marpingen); Jewish emancipation; the European encounter with Islam; and the opposition to organized religion and the churches offered by the Left and the Right, as part of the larger debate about the extent to which (private) corporate norms and values should be able to influence civic life in the modern liberal or modern authoritarian state.

HIST 55001. Colloquium: Christian Politics in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. (C. Fasolt) Is there such a thing as a Christian politics, or does all politics in this world take place—as Augustine put it—under the sign of Cain? If there is a this-worldly Christian politics, what should it look like? What are its ends? Where are its borders? Who is sovereign within those borders, and what are the limits of that sovereignty? These and similar questions were asked by the earliest Christian communities and continue to be asked today. This course will focus on how they were answered in the five hundred years stretching from the Investiture Controversy and the emergence of “Christendom” in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries, continuing with the reintroduction of Aristotelian political theory in Latin Europe, and concluding with Luther and Calvin’s reformation of the Christian polity in the sixteenth century.

Workshops

Transnational Approaches to Modern Europe Workshop
The Modern European Workshop at the University of Chicago is a forum for presenting graduate student work from all areas and specializations in modern and contemporary European history. Its main purpose is to facilitate discussion on issues related to research and teaching in modern and contemporary European history, broadly understood. We welcome participants from other disciplines with a historical interest. The main constituency consists of PhD students in the Department of History specializing in late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian/Soviet, Central and Eastern European, and French history, but the workshop is open to all students.

Human Rights Workshop
The Human Rights Workshop provides an interdisciplinary forum for faculty and graduate students to engage in serious discussions of new human rights scholarship.

East Asia Transregional Histories
We invite students, faculty, and scholars from other academic communities to present creative and original work that speaks across the national lines of East Asia as well as the disciplinary lines of the academic community. Presentations that incorporate multidisciplinary and/or transregional historical perspectives are especially encouraged. While recognizing the continuing importance of the nation-state in historical understanding, we believe that it is just as important to give exposure to themes of a transnational and regional or global nature that have been obscured by the national paradigm. Such approaches can prove particularly fruitful when undertaken at a level of understanding beyond traditional departmental and specialty boundaries.

Central Europe Workshop
This workshop focuses on multidisciplinary approaches to the Central European region, broadly considered. The forum offers the space for discussion of Central Europe, from its origins to the present, for students from all disciplines, from history to literature, from religious studies to linguistics.

Early Modern Workshop
An interdisciplinary workshop that focuses on every aspect of the early modern experience, circa 1400 – 1800. It encompasses the European and Mediterranean worlds, the Middle East including the Ottoman Empire, and New World colonial societies and their governments, including colonial North America.

Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Cultures
The Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Atlantic Cultures Workshop fosters communication, research, and professional growth among multidisciplinary scholars of the Atlantic world. We hope to open our group to conversations with literary scholars, historians, and others who view the cultural interactions and cycles of economic production that took place there over the course of several centuries as formative of modernity. The Atlantic region’s most radical period of historical change occurred contemporaneously with the rise of the British Empire to global hegemony, with important shifts in political and economic organization, and with modernizing transformations of literary forms in Britain and on the continent. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is much to be learned from regarding these parallel events as interconnected.

Medieval Studies Workshop
Our members — either medievalists or those with an interest in the medieval period — come from a wide variety of disciplines including Art History, English, Divinity, History, Music, Linguistics, Romance and Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC). While workshop sessions tend to focus on the European Middle Ages, c. 500-1500, we have sponsored speakers on related areas such as Islamic and Byzantine studies.

Social History Workshop
The Social History Workshop provides a forum to discuss and develop work that takes seriously social history methodology – the history of everyday life and people who have been excluded from dominant historical narratives. The workshop focuses primarily on the United States, but also examines issues that transcend U.S. boundaries, such as race, class, gender, and sexuality. Presentations by visitors are interspersed with those of regular participants, and frequently include dissertation proposals, chapters in progress, seminar papers, and forthcoming work by faculty. Occasional sessions are devoted to discussion on methodological and theoretical issues in historical research. Participants include graduate students and faculty in social, cultural, and intellectual history and related disciplines.

Centers and Institutes

The Pozen Family Center for Human Rights

The Franke Institute for the Humanities

The Nicholson Center for British Studies

Center for East Asian Studies

Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies

Center for Jewish Studies

Center for Latin American Studies

Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Center for the Study of Ancient Religions

Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality

Center for the Study of Politics and Society

Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture

Morris Fishbein Center for the History of Science and Medicine

Southern Asia at Chicago

Related Departments of Interest to MAPSS Students

AnthropologyArt HistoryComparative Human DevelopmentDivinity School,  East Asian Languages and CivilizationsEnglishthe Human Rights ProgramLawLinguisticsNear Eastern Languages and CivilizationsPolitical ScienceSociologySouth Asian Languages and Civilizations