Preview of Courses

The following are courses that have been offered or are usually offered in the Department of History. For a comprehensive list of courses, please refer to the current Schedule of Classes or Course Catalog

Introductory Courses

The History Department has two kinds of introductory courses.  History 101: Introduction to World History is offered in the spring semester each year, and is required of all history majors.  All 200-level courses are introductions to various world areas, and are prerequisites for advanced work in upper division courses.

History 101. Introduction to World History
This course familiarizes students with a global, non-Eurocentric approach to history.  The course examines world history since the fifteenth century, de-centering the West in the process. Its basic question is why and how Europeans came to dominate the world, and its main goal is to offer a non-Eurocentric answer to that question, looking at the ways in which the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America had a hand in the making of the modern world. Given the geographical and chronological scope of the course, its intent is not to “cover the facts,” but rather to introduce students to the key themes of world history and help them employ these themes as tools with which to answer the question of why the modern world looks the way it does. It is a course, furthermore, that relies heavily upon the idea of contingency, overturning the familiar assumption that the West “rose” because its success and eventual power were inevitable. Students are introduced to the idea that there is nothing inevitable about the world as it is today, that the world is the product of individual decisions that could have been made differently with different consequences. Team-taught by two members of the department each spring.

History 206 & 207.  Introductions to the History of the United States
Our introductory U.S. history courses are not simply a review of what you learned in high school.  We tackle big questions about the formation and solidification of a U.S. national identity while at the same time focus on the day-to-day lives of people, goods, and ideas. Too often, American history is taught as a survey of presidents and congressional policies. These are important topics, and they deserve space in any introductory course. However, it is essential to meet the ordinary people who also made history—slaves, industrial workers, native peoples, soldiers, and reformers, to name only a few. Together, we will try to understand how they experienced and shaped everyday life from the colonial era to the present.  Professors Zappia (206) and McEnaney (207)

Core Seminars

The history major at Whittier College is constructed around three core seminars, one each taken in the sophomore, junior, and senior years, and building upon each other.

History 280. History and Theory — Sophomore seminar
According to historian John Tosh, “the word history carries two meanings in common parlance.  It refers both to what actually happened in the past and to the representation of that past in the work of historians.”*  History and Theory will introduce students to the second of Tosh’s definitions; it will introduce students to historiography – the body of techniques, theories, assumptions, and principles of historical research and writing – particularly as it has taken shape in the last fifty years.  It will explore the wide array of approaches that historians have taken toward their discipline, some of the theoretical foundations historians have employed, and some of the questions that historians have asked (and re-asked) about their discipline.  Recently, students in History and Theory have read and written about Natalie Zemon Davis’ The Return of Martin Guerre, an effort to study people who left few written records; Marcus Rediker’s The Slave Ship: A Human History, a Marxist-inspired study of the ships that transported millions of enslaved people to the New World; Simon Schama’s Dead Certainties, a radical experiment with historical narrative; and Richard Evans’ Lying About Hitler, an investigation of the limits of historical relativism. Professors Sage and Orozco. XJohn Tosh, The Pursuit of History (London: Longman Press, 1999), viii.)

History 380. Historical Methods — Junior Seminar
Historical Methods introduces students to the multi-faceted approaches to historical research and writing. Our primary goal is to help you produce an extensive research paper based on primary and secondary sources. It is both an independent study course and a collaborative seminar that requires extensive discussion, presentations, writing workshops, weekly library “lab” visits, and field trips to an archive.   By the end of the semester, you will obtain the language of historians—including how to read, write, and speak history. Professors McEnaney and Zappia.

History 480. Capstone Seminar—Senior Seminar
The History Department intends the Capstone Senior Seminar—taken in the senior year—to be the culmination of the Whittier College undergraduate history major.  As such, it is designed to be synthetic, integrative, and challenging, and to call upon everything students have learned in the history major—not just the “what” of history, but how historians think, research, write, and know historical truths.  In short, Capstone is a test of everything students should have learned about what it means to be a historian. The topic changes each year. Past topics have included “Global Environmental History,” “The Twentieth Century in Global, Environmental, and Historical Perspective,” and “The Early Modern World. Professor Marks.

Upper Division Courses

History 345. Modern Cuba
An introduction to the study of Cuban history, culture, and politics, from the sixteenth century to the present. The course examines the development of the island along a series of overlapping, open-ended, and inconclusive historical processes. These developments transpired in the context of five hundred years of colonialism, a century of independence, and fifty years of Caribbean socialism.   The course evaluates and analyzes several themes including, indigenous-European contacts, the role of Cuba in international trade, the expansion of the sugar industrial complex, voluntary migrations, slavery and abolition, gender and sexuality, race, class, ecology and environment, ideology, revolt, and revolution. Professor Ortega.

History 362. The European City
The modern city has often been seen as emblematic both of possibility and danger, a dichotomy that persists in our own cities.  As the site of opportunity, creativity, and transformation as well as moral decay, pathology, and exploitation, the modern European city became an arena for the discussion of a variety of nineteenth- and twentieth century issues, problems, and debates.  In fact, the city has often been understood and studied as the quintessential site of modernity itself.  Since cities and city life are often taken for granted, this course will ask students to problematize and historicize those aspects of urban life sometimes overlooked because of their familiarity.  This course is designed to introduce students to European cities in the modern era: the way they were envisioned, the problems they were thought to cause, the virtues and behaviors they were thought to encourage, how they were built and rebuilt, how they were represented and described, and how people lived in them and moved through them. Professor Sage.