History is the study of people who are often no longer with us, yet it is also one of the most powerful ways of understanding the present. Historians range across culture, society, economics, art, religion, and politics, and consider everything from the most ancient civilization to yesterday’s Presidential tweet. No dimension of human interaction, including social life, the economy, culture, religion, arts, and politics, is beyond its scope of investigation. Studying history, you will learn to analyze past societies critically while cultivating advanced skills of empathy, imagination, interpretation, and argumentation. You will explore cultures both familiar and alien to your own, coming face to face with what humans have chosen to remember and, just as importantly, what they have chosen to forget. By balancing sophisticated analysis of evidence with a mastery of narrative, you will also be uniquely positioned to make sense of the complexities of an emerging globalized world.
History is for students who appreciate that acting boldly in the present means respecting and learning from the past. Like a detective, you will be able to reconstruct events from a scattering of existing evidence, distinguishing facts from myths, realities from fantasies, and truths from “fake news.” Asking probing questions about the most seminal events in human history, from the French Revolution to the Second World War, you will argue with great historical minds (dead and alive), uncovering truths about the past that have otherwise remained in shadow. Moving outside of the comfort zone of your own regional, national, or religious beliefs, in the process you will acquire some of the essential foundations for being a true global citizen of the twenty-first century.
Studying History at SAS will give you the opportunity to work with a faculty trained at some of the world’s leading institutions. The professional study of History has been advancing rapidly in recent years, and our historians are all closely involved with the latest methods and debates in the field. But what truly makes History at SAS unique is the faculty’s broad interdisciplinary focus and expertise.
As well as introducing an expansive scope of issues, SAS’s undergraduate curriculum will equip students with a range of analytical skills, methodologies, and theoretical foundations, allowing them to put their historical knowledge into dialogue with all of the other branches of the humanities.
Although SAS’s History faculty has a breadth of expertise, we are particularly strong in: Medieval, Early Modern and Modern European History (including Russia and the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe, Germany, and Great Britain), American History, the History of Economic Thought, Visual History (including art, photography, and propaganda), Intellectual History, the History of Religion, and the History of Material Culture.
Studying History at SAS will prepare students for a first class graduate education in diverse fields in the humanities and social sciences. The successful History student’s ability to efficiently process vast amounts of contradictory information, to form complex explanations, and to produce persuasive arguments will make them an attractive candidate for a great many MA and PhD programs. With our faculty’s international connections, we are also particularly well prepared to place students in graduate programs at the top universities in Russia, as well as in other countries.
A History major also provides an ideal preparation for domestic and international careers in media, business, and public institutions. At the core of the History major are a series of skills — searching for and analyzing evidence, identifying and exploring connections and patterns, developing advanced writing skills, communicating interpretations eloquently and effectively — that will be crucial assets in a great range of careers and enterprises.
Core courses (taken in the 1st and 2nd Years) that contribute to the major:
History is closely linked to a number of core courses that SAS students complete in their first two years of study. In the History Lecture Series, you will receive an introductory overview of the most crucial issues and events of Western civilization, from the political revolutions of Ancient Greece to the digital culture of the twenty-first century. In Great Books: Philosophy and Social Thought, you will study some of the most groundbreaking and hotly debated ideas in Western intellectual history, getting a historical grounding in the works of Machiavelli, Rousseau, Nietzsche, and Freud. Similarly, Introduction to Art History builds skills in visual analysis of primary sources and critical understanding of the historical study of cultural objects. Through these core courses, you will acquire an expansive interdisciplinary foundation in approaches to three thousand years of human history.
Global History introduces students to the major events, individuals, civilizations, cultures, and processes in eight distinct historical periods and societies, from the birth of human civilization to the present. Students in this course will begin to develop and apply skills, methods and tools employed by professional historians. They will read primary and secondary sources and, mostly importantly, get to know what a historical argument is and how to construct it. The diverse topical structure of the course is unified by several underlying themes that students explore throughout the course: 1) human beings in their natural and built environment; 2) evolution of cultures and intercultural encounters; 3) state-building, expansion, conflict and decay; 4) technological and economic progress; 5) social structures and their transformations.
Historians commonly distinguish between primary sources and secondary sources. A primary source is a source created at the time of the event a student examines. For instance, an eyewitness testimony, a newspaper article, a piece of correspondence, memoirs, photographs, a physical artifact of artistic or functional value, or an intelligence report, to name just a few. A secondary source is an account or interpretation of the event which is based, in turn, on primary sources. This course will equip students with skills helping them to read, understand, analyze and evaluate primary sources, while placing the source within the wider social, cultural, or political contexts necessary for understanding its meaning, message and significance.
Although many historical facts have been known for a long time, historians continue to disagree about how to interpret them. Which interpretation seems the most convincing, and why? What, if anything, drives history forward? Does history actually progress, or does it just move in circles? What matters the most: great individuals or large collective forces, culture or economics, emotions or rational calculations, low or elite culture, governments or societies? These and others pivotal questions will be discussed in this course. Students will also be introduced to classical historiographical debates and controversies, as well as a wide range of different schools of history and research methodologies.
This course surveys 500 years of world history through the prism of eight encounters between “the West” and “the Rest,” beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese explorer Fernão Peres de Andrade in Ming China in 1517 and ending with US-China trade conflicts in 2018. The overarching theme of the course may appear to be the rise and fall of European empires between the fifteenth and twentieth centuries. However, this is only one of many possible narratives; civilizations mingled as much as they clashed, and only a minority of people saw their own lives as a subplot in this story. This course is not a comprehensive survey of modern world history. Rather, it is an introduction to historical method. How do historical events and processes appear from different geographical or cultural vantage points? How does one relate macro- and micro-narratives of the same event? And how exactly do historians go about reconstituting past experiences from often fragmentary and conflicting viewpoints?
This course situates the entity traditionally referred to as Russia (Rus’-Muscovy-Russian Empire-Soviet Union) in a wider context of world history, from the foundation of the Kievan Rus’ in the tenth century until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The main purpose of the course is to question the familiar framework of national historical narrative, taking a fresh look at the seemingly well-known facts and events of Russian history. In this class we will closely investigate domestic and foreign historical sources, as well as facilitating a comparative analysis of historical narratives around the globe.
This course will help students to become historical scholars of the twenty-first century, a period in which the fundamental problem is not the scarcity of sources, but their overabundance and, occasionally, authenticity and provenance. Students will learn to both discover and produce historical knowledge, using the most advanced digital tools available at the moment of their study. They will also learn how to communicate their historical expertise to audiences that rely on smartphones and e-readers to search and absorb information.
This team-taught colloquium will develop the student’s understanding of historical research methodologies. There are two components to the colloquium. First, individual faculty members will lead a series of seminars in which they present case studies from their own research. While exploring the major discoveries of their research, the seminar will examine such issues as how they employ research methods, how they use source materials, and how they have carved their own space within the relevant fields of historiography. Building on these case studies, History students will work on developing their own independent research topics, identifying possible sources, considering relevant areas of historiography, and clarifying their research methods and tools.
As a students in the History major you will not be passive consumers of historical knowledge; you will create original works of history for yourself. You will write two BA theses (a Junior Thesis in your third year, and a Senior Thesis in your fourth year) on topics that you encountered throughout the wide range of your History major. Thesis topics will be developed within the context of the History Colloquium, and writing will be completed in third and fourth modules with the guidance of a faculty advisor.
SAS provides you with an opportunity to undergo practical training related to the discipline of History. You will be able to work at local and national archives, museums and repositories, participating in international research projects and conferences, and assisting SAS faculty with their research projects. Through these initiatives, our faculty will not only teach you the discipline of History but also introduce you to the world of professional historians and how they pursue their craft.
You will complete eight History electives across your four years. The present options for History elective courses include:
- A History of Love
- Bible and Contexts I: Introduction to the Old Testament
- Bible and Contexts II: Introduction to the New Testament
- Economic History, 1492 to the Present
- Europe in the World: Conquest, Colonization, Empire and the Aftermath
- German History, 1870-1990
- History of Capitalism
- History of Energy
- History of Photography: Technology, Document, Art
- History of Russian Religions
- Implications of Non-Polar World
- Key Problems of Russian History
- Landscape and Desire in the Premodern World
- Microhistory as a Genre and Method
- Nations and Nationalism
- Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil and the Death of God
- Politics of Revolution
- Rise and Fall of Complex Societies
- The Making of Europe: Medieval Civilization, c.500-1500
- The Russian Empire
- The Seven Deadly Sins
- Totalitarian Art: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union
- Twentieth-Century Conflict