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History

Division of Social Sciences

 

Janet Sorrentino, Chair

Clayton Black

Adam Goodheart

Kenneth Miller

Richard Striner

Carol Wilson

 

Through stimulating teaching of the works of historians, and also non-historians, we foster in our students a sense of the development of past societies and a curiosity about why these developments occurred. We believe that understanding the past through a maturing historical consciousness and instruction in the proficient use of primary and secondary sources can improve students’ understanding of their own time. Students at Washington College are trained as generalists, studying a variety of geographical areas and eras, and able to apply their skills of research and analytical thinking to whatever interests them.         

 

The study of history is closely related to other disciplines that inform the student’s understanding of the world. History gives a context to and a wider perspective on the approaches offered by the political scientist, the geographer, the economist, the sociologist, as well as the disciplines of art history, music, and literature. History is in many ways the broadest of the traditional disciplines. In other words, it has a great deal to contribute to the making of a cultured person. We endeavor to promote among our students an appreciation for outstanding cultural achievements, an appreciation which helps them to know who they are and who they might become.

 

Engaging in historical studies at Washington College is an excellent preparation for future careers. Our graduates have been successful in secondary school and college teaching, archival, curatorial, and museum work, law, journalism, and publishing. Many of our majors work in other areas traditionally attracting liberal arts graduates—business and government, for example.

 

The Major

Twelve courses: Students pursuing the history major must successfully complete the following requirements: HIS 111, one U.S. History survey (201 or 202), one non-U.S. History survey (203, 204, 205, or 206), HIS 399 Historical Method (Junior Seminar) History Senior Capstone Experience,  five additional department offerings at the 300 and 400 level, at least one coming from each of the following sub-categories, plus two elective 300 or 400 level history courses:

 

  1. Pre-1860 United States

313: Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century America                          

315: The Early Republic                                              

319: African-American History                                     

342: Victorian America                                    

343: History of American Women

414: Comparative Cultural Encounters

                                                           

  1. Post-1860 United States

318: Historical Film Genres

319: African-American History

334: The American Civil War

335: Reconstruction and the Gilded Age

336: Progressivism and the Twenties

337: The New Deal and World War II

342: Victorian America

343: History of American Women

344: Hollywood Films in the Depression and World War II

 

  1. Early Europe

350: Empire and Papacy: Medieval Germany and Italy

351: Ancient Rome

352: Castles, Cloisters, Cathedrals, and Mosques                                                       

353: Medieval Europe                                                 

354: Renaissance and Reformation                                        

355: Women in Medieval Europe        

 

  1. Modern Europe

360: Modern Germany

391: Russia and the Soviet Union I

392: Russia and the Soviet Union II

 

  1. Global

371: History of South Africa

381: History of Modern China

383: History of Modern Japan

357: Early Islamic Civilization

372: Colonial Latin America                            

473: Latin American Literature as History

 

Departmental special topics courses (HIS 394 or 494) offered in the above subject areas can be counted toward the requirements.

 

History majors have opportunities for internships with the George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Kent County Historical Society, the Maryland Department of Archives and History, the Maryland General Assembly, the Office of the Governor of Maryland, the Library of Congress, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Hansard Society for Parliamentary Government in London, and many others.

 

History majors are eligible to prepare for secondary school teaching certification either in history or social studies. To ensure proper scheduling of courses, interested students should consult with the chairs of the History and Education Departments as early in their college careers as possible.

 

Students who major in history may pursue a regional concentration. These concentrations are administered through the International Studies Program, but students are not required to major in International Studies. Current regions of study include African, Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, Near Eastern Studies, and Western European Studies. More information about the requirements for these concentrations can be found in the International Studies Program section in this catalog.

 

Senior Capstone Experience

The Senior Capstone Experience in history consists of studies in historiographical techniques and preparation of a substantial senior thesis. During the spring term of the junior year, history majors participate in a required course entitled Historical Method (HIS 399). In connection with this course, each student is assigned a thesis advisor under whose supervision a prospectus, preliminary bibliography and other elements are prepared. Students who wish to be considered for departmental honors, or who are preparing for graduate study in history or related fields, should request permission to attempt an honors thesis. Students who wish to be candidates for honors on the senior thesis must have a 3.5 grade point average by the start of Spring semester junior year.

 

The Minor

The history minor consists of at least six courses: HIS 111, one U.S. History survey (201 or 202), one non-U.S. History survey (203, 204, 205, or 206), and three more courses at the 300 or 400 level. At least one of the upper-level courses must be in U.S. history; at least one must be in non-U.S. history. Introductory courses must be taken at the college level; AP credits will not count toward the history minor.

 

Distribution Credit

The distribution requirement in Social Science may be satisfied by: HIS 111 paired with any other history course, or any two 200-level history courses

 

To satisfy the requirement of an unpaired third course for social science distribution, students may take HIS 111 or any 200-level history course

 

Course Descriptions

  1. Introduction to History

This course introduces students to the discipline of history by exploring compelling themes or problems in history. Through study of different topics, each section instructor will teach students the core methodological skills of historical analysis and interpretation. Students are expected to appreciate differing interpretations of the same historical questions. Students will study appropriate primary and secondary sources in the field, and learn the basic analytical and writing skills historians use to interpret the past. Topics include: The Underground Railroad, The Invention of Childhood, Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic and Medicine. No prerequisite. Offered each semester.

 

  1. History of the United States to 1865

A survey of United States history through the Civil War, this course begins with the history of the first residents of North America, Native Americans. Includes the founding and development of the various colonies that eventually joined to form a new nation, and the early history of that nation—political, economic, and social.

 

  1. History of the United States Since 1865

This survey of United States history starts with the Reconstruction era and traces the growth of the nation to the present. We will study how the nation was restored after the Civil War, how the United States industrialized, urbanized, and became a world power in the twentieth century.  Note:  HIS 201 is not a prerequisite for HIS 202

 

  1. Modern World History I

A survey of world history from the fourteenth century to the end of the eighteenth.  This course treats the increasing integration of world civilizations through commercial and cultural interactions and traces the emergence of Europe as a center of global economic and military power.  Prominent themes include the Mongol empire, Black Death, Age of Exploration, Reformation, Gunpowder empires, Enlightenment, and French revolution.

 

  1. Modern World History II

A survey of world history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The course examines the world in the age of global integration and includes such themes as the rise of republicanism and nationalism, the industrial revolution, imperialism, communism and fascism, the world wars, the Cold War, and globalization, among others.  Note:  HIS 203 is not a prerequisite for HIS 204

 

  1. Early Origins of Western Civilization I

 Focuses on ancient societies, from Sumer through imperial Rome, whose cultures contributed to the development of Western civilization. The course stresses the multiplicity of cultures that melded and conflicted in the ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean worlds, and looks to the origins of cultural symbols that appear and reappear in the emerging Western world.

 

  1. Early Origins of Western Civilization II

Studies  European society from the fall of the western Roman empire through Galileo and Newton. The course is a continuation of History 101; it builds on the assimilation of ancient culture into Roman, Germanic, Greek, Christian, Jewish, and Islamic societies. It traces the development of Europe through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, and Scientific Revolution. Note:  HIS 205 is not a prerequisite for HIS 206

 

  1. Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century America

The social, economic, and political structure of Colonial America; the background and development of the American Revolution; and the interaction of social and political life during the Confederation, Constitutional, and Federalist periods. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. The Early Republic

This course explores the history of the early American republic from the framing of the Constitution to the Civil War. The course investigates the clash between Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian visions, the development of party politics and a popular political culture, territorial expansion and the dispossession of Native Americans, the spread of King Cotton and slavery, the transportation and market revolutions, religious revival and social reform, and the sectional conflict between North and South. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Historical Film Genres

In this course, a selection of film genres will be presented for comparative analysis, including four or five genres such as gangster films, “film noir” detective films, westerns, musicals, or films that depict and characterize professions such as journalism or jurisprudence. Films will be selected within each genre that offer different commentaries on recurrent social themes in American history. This course will also incorporate a significant amount of reading and research in primary-source documents relating to the historical periods and themes represented in the films. It will also include new secondary-source and interpretive texts. The course will thus extend the students repertoire of analytical skills in the field of history to more sophisticated intellectual challenges. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. African-American History

Examines the experience of African Americans from African origins through two centuries of slavery to emancipation in 1865, through segregation, the civil rights movement, up to the present. This course explores the nature of racism and race relations as well as Black initiative. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. The American Civil War

This course encompasses the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) in all pertinent areas. In addition to military history, the course reviews significant historical interpretations of the causes and effects of the Civil War; the dimensions of social, economic, political, and diplomatic history pertaining to the war; and the evolution of war aims relating to the central issues of slavery and race relations. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Reconstruction and the Gilded Age

A study of the thirty-five years of American history that followed the Civil War, with particular emphasis given to problems of reconstruction, the achievements and costs of industrialization, the economic and social problems confronting workers and farmers, and the major intellectual and cultural cross-currents of American life during the late nineteenth century. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Progressivism and the Twenties

A study of America’s early-twentieth-century age of reform and the very different period that followed in the 1920s. Emphasis is placed on the politics and culture of reform at the local, state, and federal levels from 1900 through 1920; the presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson; the impact of World War I; and the cultural contradictions and ferment of the 1920s, culminating in the Wall Street crash of 1929. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. The New Deal and World War II

A study encompassing a period dominated by the presidential leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Emphasis is placed on the crisis and challenge of the Great Depression, the interlude of Herbert Hoover’s administration, the themes and occasional contradictions of the New Deal, the struggles for the redefinition of American society, and the challenge of totalitarian aggression in World War II. Prerequisite: Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Victorian America

Examination of American social attitudes and behavior in both the public and private spheres during the nineteenth century. Topics include marriage and the family; childhood; the individual’s role in society; entertainment; race and ethnicity; religion; migration; immigration; urbanization; and reform movements. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. History of American Women

Examines the private lives and public roles of women throughout American history, from colonial settlement to the present. Social attitudes and laws and policies affecting women are studied, as well as women’s daily lives, experiences, and accomplishments. Attention is given to women of different races, classes, and ethnic backgrounds. Topics include women’s right to vote; involvement in reform movements; family life; education; birth control and abortion; and economic activities.Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Hollywood Films in the Depression and World War II

This course uses American films of the 1930s and early-to-mid 1940s combined with appropriate readings to provide a richer understanding of the social and cultural history of the era encompassed in the regular upper-level course HIS 337 (New Deal and World War II). Films from a variety of genres—social protest/ topical exposés, melodramas, screwball comedies, musicals, historical romances, gangster films, and “film noir” detective films—will present a wide array of themes reflecting the moods and preoccupations of the era. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Empire and Papacy: Medieval Germany and Italy

Germany and Italy emerged as modern nations only in the nineteenth century. Both experienced turbulent internal divisions for centuries prior to their respective national unifications. A common thread bound their political difficulties, that is, the tension between two supranational ideas: The Roman Empire and the Roman Papacy. This course will explore the origins and development of this conflict between the Holy Roman Emperors and the Papacy and its effect on the histories of medieval Germany and medieval Italy. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history taken at the college level courses required.

 

  1. Ancient Rome

The social, cultural, and political history of ancient Rome and its dominions, from prehistory through the decline and fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century C.E. Topics will include republican and imperial government, Rome’s army and conquests, the Roman family, Roman religion, and the rise of Christianity. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Castles, Cloisters, Cathedrals, and Mosques

This course traces the history of France and Spain from the 8th to 16th centuries from the perspective of their castles, monastic cloisters, cathedrals, and mosques.  Topics include architectural structure and style; pre-modern French and Spanish history; history and regular routines of religious life; social and cultural aspects of buildings including their roles in military technology, guild organization, palatial residence, and church life. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Medieval Europe

An exploration of the cultural and political development of medieval Europe in the period 500-1500. Topics covered include the fall of Rome, kingship, feudalism, the medieval church, art and architecture, literary culture, and the realities of everyday life. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Renaissance and Reformation

A study of Europe in the period 1400-1648. Cultural developments in fifteenth-century Italy are the starting point; students then explore religious and political change, and social and economic trends throughout Europe. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Women in Medieval Europe

A seminar exploring the lives of women and their role in society from the fifth through the fifteenth centuries. Topics include legal status, economic activity, marriage and family, and women in religion. Readings include both traditional and feminist-influenced secondary works, medieval works about and for women, and the writings of medieval women themselves. Discussion is a major component of the course. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Early Islamic Civilization

Early Islamic civilization from its origins in Arabia to its expression in several imperial regimes in the sixteenth century (e.g. Ottoman, Mughal). We will examine the creation of a Muslim community, the development of a rich and dynamic civilization, the competing claims for political and religious authority, the forging of empires and their break-up, as well as contacts with the non-Muslim societies. Thus we will be studying a universal religion as it was expressed and incorporated into a variety of unique cultures that differed in ethnicity, language, geography and beliefs. Students will acquire an understanding of basic vocabulary, geography, historical sources and narrative, through directed readings, lecture and class discussion. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Modern Germany

An examination of Central Europe from the unification of the German lands in the mid-nineteenth century through the Kaiserreich, World War I, Weimar Republic, National Socialism, Cold War division, and reunification.  Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. History of South Africa

Traces the political, economic, and social history of the Republic of South Africa. Beginning with the earliest inhabitants, the course traces the diversity of African institutions, the establishment of European colonies, the policy of apartheid, and African resistance. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Colonial Latin America

This course surveys Spanish and Portuguese America from the pre-Columbian era to the present.  Topics include the origins and evolution of indigenous civilizations, the process of European conquest and colonization, the formation of mixed cultures, and the struggle for independence. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. History of Modern China

This course traces the history of China from roughly 1800 to the present. It devotes special attention to the development of nationalism and communism in China and China’s uneasy relationship with the West. Topics will include the Opium War and Taiping Rebellion, Republican era and warlordism, China in the Pacific War, Maoism and the reforms of Deng Xiaoping, among others. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. History of Modern Japan

An examination of Japan from the late Tokugawa era (ca. 1800-1868) to the present. The course looks at the causes and consequences of the Meiji Restoration, Japan’s rise as a modern industrial state, its struggle with democratic government, imperialist expansion, the impact of World War II on the country’s subsequent political, social, and economic development, the “Japanese Miracle” of the 1970s, and Japan’s current difficulties in confronting its past and defining its place in the twenty-first century. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

391, 392. Russia and the Soviet Union

Russian political, social, economic, and cultural developments from the founding of the first eastern Slavic state to the present. The first semester treats Kievan Rus, Muscovy, and the Imperial period from Peter the Great to Alexander II. The second semester deals with the final decades of the Russian autocracy, the revolutionary movement, World War I, the revolutions of 1917, the Civil War, and the history of the Soviet Union to the end of the Gorbachev era. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Historical Method

A study of history as a discipline. Classroom lecture and discussion on fundamental aspects of research and synthesis plus the history of historical writing. With the help of an assigned advisor, each student prepares first a prospectus and then a preliminary chapter of the eventual senior thesis in history. Both papers are presented to the class for comment and review in workshop format. Enrollment is limited to history majors. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Comparative Cultural Encounters

This seminar examines interactions among native, European, and African peoples during the initial centuries of North American colonization.  Situating the American colonies within a broader Atlantic World and offering a comparative approach, the course investigates processes of cultural conflict, exchange, adaptation, and transformation. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Latin American Literature as History

This seminar employs new and classic novels to investigate diverse trends in modern Latin American history, focusing on the insight each text offers into the land’s people and institutions.  Collectively, these volumes illuminate sweeping historical themes, harnessing personal stories to broad, impersonal forces and surveying a range of topics, from poverty and repression to adaptation and rebellion. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

  1. Historic Preservation and Cultural Resource Management

Provides a comprehensive overview of historic preservation and cultural resource management as practiced in the United States. Examines the history of the preservation movement, the role of preservation in American culture, and the legislative framework for historic preservation. Reviews the growing field of cultural resource management, looking at issues in architectural design, contract or “salvage” archaeology, and heritage tourism. Prerequisite: 200-level coursework in archaeology or American history, or permission of instructor.

 

190, 290, 390, 490. Internship

 

194, 294, 394, 494. Special Topics in History

Intensive study of specialized topics or limited periods in American history. Such courses will be offered occasionally and topics will vary. Prerequisite: HIS 111 or two 200-level history courses taken at the college level required.

 

195, 295, 395, 495. On-campus Research

 

196, 296, 396, 496. Off-campus Research

 

197, 297, 397, 497. Independent Study

 

SCE. Senior Capstone Experience

See page 183.

 

Courses Offered In The Washington College Abroad Programs
  1. Introduction to Latin American History

An introduction to Latin American History from the pre-conquest period until the present. Topics include regional geography, Pre-Columbian cultures, the colonial experience, independence and the problems of nation-building, economic and political trends from 1850 to the 1930s, demography and society, Latin America and international relations, Mexico since the Revolution, the Cuban Revolution and aftermath, Central America, and the future of democracy in Latin America. Offered in the Costa Rica program only, in the spring semester. (In English.) Prerequisite: May not be taken with History 209 or History 210. Three credits.

 

  1. Topics in French History

The course focuses on some aspect or period of French history. Specific topics change from year to year. Courses in the past have looked at the period from World War I to World War II, the Fourth and Fifth Republics, social developments since World War II, immigration and national identity, and the evolution of the European Union. Offered in the Paris program only, in the fall semester. (In French.) Prerequisite: Introductory sequence in history desirable and FRS 202 or equivalent required. Three credits.

 

  1. Modern Italian History

The course describes the historical evolution of Italy from its unification in 1860 to the present, with special emphasis on the connection between historical events and political and social developments. Offered in the Siena, Italy, program only, in the spring semester. Prerequisite Introductory sequence in history desirable. (In English.) Three credits.

 

  1. Topics in Modern European History: the History of Spain

This course deals with the history of Spain from its unification under Isabel and Ferdinand through the contemporary period. Topics covered include the reign of the “Reyes catolicos;” the Spanish Empire under Charles V and Philip II; the decline of the Empire under the subsequent Habsburg rulers; the Bourbon reforms; the crisis of the “ancienne regime” and the formation of the liberal state; the democratic interlude and the restoration; the failure of the restoration; the Second Republic and the Civil War; Spain under Franco; and the return of democracy since 1975. Offered in the Granada, Spain, program only, in the fall semester. (In Spanish.) Prerequisite: Introductory sequence in history and Hispanic 303 or equivalent required. Three credits.

 

  1. Topics in Modern German History

This course focuses on some aspect or period of German history. Past courses have covered German history from 1870 to 1933. Topics included the achievement of German unification, the politics of Bismarck, Wilhelm II, the First World War, and the Weimar Republic. Offered in the Bayreuth, Germany, program only, in the spring semester. (In German.) Prerequisite: Introductory sequence in history and German 202 or equivalent required. Three credits.

 

  1. Introduction to African and South African History

An introduction to broad themes, problems, and debates in South African and African history. Designed both for students who do not proceed to History second-level courses and for those who require a foundation for the most in-depth courses in South African and African history offered at the second and third levels. Note: This course may not be taken with History 371. Offered at Rhodes University, South Africa.

 

  1. South African History in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

This course surveys southern African history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The central theme of the first part of the course is the establishment of a thoroughgoing colonial system in the region during the nineteenth century. In the second half of the course the main focus is on the rise of capitalism, urbanization, cultural change, and popular resistance in twentieth-century South Africa. Note: This course may not be taken with History 371. Offered at Rhodes University, South Africa.

 

  1. Race, Class, Nationalism, and Ethnicity in Twentieth-Century South Africa

South Africa has long been a country marked by divisions of race, class, and national and ethnic affiliation. This course explores how these divisions have arisen and gained expression. It also examines how these different identities have come to be represented by different interest groups and debated by scholars. Offered at Rhodes University, South Africa.

 

  1. History of England 1715 to Present

Rise and decline of a global power, the transformation of an oligarchy into a democracy, and the consequences of industrialization and urbanization. Offered in the London program only, both fall and spring semesters. Prerequisite: One of the introductory sequence, History 261, 262 preferred. Three credits.