The History Department supports the mission of the university by providing education in history, a discipline which is a core component of the liberal arts. As such, it seeks to instill in students a thirst for lifelong learning; a commitment to participation in the civic culture of a democratic society; an appreciation for context and contingency; an inclination towards critical thinking and an appreciation for evidence in making judgments; and the ability to communicate those judgments and other ideas.
The department seeks to enhance the personal and professional lives of students who major or minor in history or take history courses as part of the general education program. Through a study of the past, students develop an understanding of the national and global societies of which they are members. The goal is that students, for example, come to understand the forces which mold the institutions of their own society and of the global community. The department also hopes that students discover where their generation fits in the historical development of the human race, and come to an appreciation of what is of value and therefore to be preserved.
History and History/Social Studies majors develop not only knowledge of the past, but also a variety of skills, including the ability to analyze and explain complex issues, the ability to research and present new information, and the ability to effectively communicate research and analysis in written and oral form.
Through the Social Studies Education major, the history faculty as scholar-teachers and in cooperation with the Education Department contribute to the formation of elementary and secondary school teachers through the instruction of history content and academic advising.
General Department Goals
Students demonstrate a strong foundation in historical thinking by successfully completing the History or History/Social Studies majors whose goals are:
- To develop students’ ability to think historically, that is, to use historical methods in analyzing problems;
- To develop students’ ability to critically read and analyze historical works (secondary sources);
- To develop students’ ability to find and interpret historical evidence (primary sources);
- To develop students’ ability to construct an evidence-based interpretation of the past and communicate it effectively both in writing and orally; and
- To develop students’ ability to navigate from the academic world of the university to the world of work, professional development, and lifelong learning.
History majors are strongly encouraged to study abroad for a semester, preferably during the junior year. Advanced consultation with one’s academic advisor relative to major requirements is recommended.
The History Department encourages all students to study foreign languages. Students who are planning to attend graduate school are strongly advised to pursue language study.
History Department Distinction & Awards
The History Department grants departmental distinction to graduating seniors who have earned a department GPA of 3.700 or higher, a cumulative GPA of 3.300 or higher, and at least an A/B in H461 Historical Research and Writing II. Departmental distinction is reserved for students majoring in History, History/Social Studies, or Social Studies Education who perform academically at the top level of all graduates from the department.
The History Department sponsors the Lambda-Lambda Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society. It also sponsors a student-funded Historical Society. Both the department and the society are active in inviting speakers to campus to discuss topics of interest and use to both majors and the entire university community. The Brother J. Robert Lane Historical Essay Prize is awarded to students for excellence in historical research and writing whenever applicable. The History Department book prizes are awarded each semester to outstanding students in each history class.
The History Department also supports and staffs the minor.
Click on courses below for descriptions
This course is an introduction to world history from the origins of civilization to 1500. The course focuses on the societies and cultures of Eurasia: Southwest Asia (the Middle East), India, Persia, China, Greece and Rome, Europe, and Africa, and the Americas. Major themes include the founding and development of the world's great religions; political ideas, institutions and practices; law and legal institutions; society and economy; war, conquest and empire; the encounters between cultures; and the richness and diversity of human experience and aspiration in the foundational eras of the world's civilizations. The course also is an introduction to the discipline of history and to the skills of critical reading, critical analysis, and effective communication.
This course is an introduction to global history since 1500. It focuses on the development of the major societies of Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia and also on the interactions between these societies, including trade, colonization, biological exchange, migration, the spread of technology, world war and genocide. The course also is an introduction to the discipline of history and to the skills of critical reading, critical analysis, and effective communication.
This course offers an introductory survey of the multi-cultural history of the United States from the earliest human settlement around 13,000 B.C. to the end of the Civil War in 1865. It introduces students to the diversity of peoples that came to inhabit North America, such as Native Americans, early colonizers from a variety of European nations, slaves from Africa, and the various waves of immigrants that enriched the American population prior to the Civil War. It introduces students to the various historical periods historians recognize, such as the pre-Columbian era, the Colonial period, the era of the American Revolution, the Early Republic, antebellum America, and the era of sectional conflict and the Civil War. The course also introduces students to many of the people, voices, ideas, beliefs, events, and larger historical developments that shaped American history. And it emphasizes the tension that has existed throughout American history between, on the one hand, the forces that work to create a single, unified country out this multiplicity of cultures, and, on the other hand, the forces that threaten to undermine and tear apart the great republican experiment that is the United States.
This course is the second half of the American history survey from the Civil War through the early 21st Century. Lectures, readings and class activities will supply both a broad pattern of change over time as well as specific analyses of significant events and people. In class discussions and writing analysis student will be encouraged to think critically about the history of the United States in terms of nationhood and peoples' experiences.
This course serves as an overview of American history for elementary education majors. It is organized around the social studies standard defined by the Minnesota Department of Education, and as such stresses, in the context of United States and Minnesota history, (1) concepts of the ways human beings view themselves in and over time, and (2) concepts of people, places, and environments. The course pays special attention to the various periods into which historians divide American history; the racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity that has marked American society throughout its history; the creation and development of the United States’ political and economic institutions; the role the United States has played in the world; and the ways in which changing interpretations of their own history has shaped Americans’ understanding of their identity.
Offered spring semester. Class is available only for elementary education.
AC223 Financial Accounting Principles
This is a sophomore level course for students intending to major in history or history/social science, or those interested in exploring these majors. It is also recommended but not required for history minors. The course introduces students to the discipline of history, and in particular to the skills of thinking historically, of collecting and analyzing historical evidence, of critically reading the work of historians. The course also focuses on close readings of one or more major historical works which make large claims about the human experience by integrating approaches from several disciplines, and also on critical evaluation of the debates generated by these works. The course encourages students to broadly synthesize their learning and to deeply reflect on the nature of the historical discipline.
There are no prerequisites for this course, but completion of a college level history course is recommended.
This course is a supervised, practical application of historical concepts and techniques at institutions such as historic sites, museums and local and state historical societies.
This course is designed to not only give students an overview of the history of Colonial America and the America Revolution, but also to introduce students to the larger historical events in which they took shape: the Atlantic World. The course covers a diversity of social, political, cultural, intellectual, and economic topics such as Native American societies, European empires in the Americas, European settlement in the southern, middle and northern colonies, family and community structure, class issues, the development of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, the events leading to the American Revolution and their relation to other revolutions in the Atlantic World, the Columbian Exchange between Europe, Africa and the Americas, and the subsequent transformation of European, African and American societies around the Atlantic basin. In addition to an understanding of the major topics, students gain insight into both the methods historians use to interpret the past and the historiography of colonial and revolutionary America.
All upper division history courses (300+) are closed to freshmen except where specific exception is made by the instructor.
The writing and ratification of the Constitution are among the United States’ proudest historical achievements, while the American Civil War was the Constitution’s greatest test. The purpose of this course is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of the developments and debates that led to the writing and ratification of the Constitution, the developments of the early national and antebellum periods that fostered greater unity among Americans, and the divisive issues and developments of the 1850s and 1860s that tore the nation apart yet ultimately affirmed the national unity envisioned by the Constitution. The course covers a diversity of social, political, cultural, intellectual and economic topics from the period between 1783 and 1865, such as the development of state constitutions, the development and spread of slavery, the market revolution, the growth of democracy, westward expansion and the removal of Native Americans, early reform movements, growing sectional conflict, and the Civil War. In addition to a broad understanding of the major topics of this period, students gain insight into both the methods historians use to interpret the past and the historiography that surrounds this vital period.
All upper division history courses (300+) are closed to freshmen except where specific exception is made by the instructor.
A general introduction to the history of American foreign policy in the 20th century, the course seeks to increase students’ awareness of the relationship of the U.S. to important issues of war and peace as they unfold in the world. It also pays attention to the linkage between the domestic political environment and its impact on foreign relations. Furthermore, it looks at important events and crises in U.S. foreign relations as well as some theories and practices of U.S. foreign policies. Students acquire a good set of tools to carry on their exploration of the impact of U.S. foreign policy on the rest of the world.
All upper division history courses (300+) are closed to freshmen except where specific exception is made by the instructor.
The aim of this course is to do three things: provide a general introduction to the history of relations between the United States and the major countries of the East Asian cultural sphere (China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam); explore the changing images Americans have had of the peoples of these nations, the Chinese and Japanese in particular; and draw connections between both these themes and the experiences of Asian-American during the last century-and-a-half of American history. Special attention is paid to crisis in American-East Asian relations, such as: the Boxer Uprising and the 1900 siege of Beijing, World War II and the Occupation of Japan that followed, the Vietnam War, and contemporary disputes over issues of human rights in China (stemming from the June 4th Massacre of 1989). Through classroom lectures, course readings, and a critical viewing of a variety of visual materials (including excerpts from newsreels, newscasts, and feature films) students look at the process by which crisis involving American interests alter or give new life to enduring Western stereotypes concerning East Asia. A major goal of the course is to provide students with the analytical tools and historical background necessary to put future crises in U.S.-East Asian relations, as well as the American media’s coverage of these crises, in perspective.
The first half of a two-semester course that covers the period of history from approximately 100 to approximately 1400, the time of the Middle Ages. This course examines the period from approximately 100 to approximately 800. The purpose of the course is to identify and explore the concept of the Middle Ages by means of both primary and secondary sources. It is a fundamental presupposition that "Western civilization" came into being during the early Middle Ages out of a unique combination of Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian, and Germanic elements. In this sense, then, the Middle Ages represent not a “middle,” but the beginning of a new civilization. The essentials of this civilization will be explored. These include the decline of the Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity and monasticism, the Barbarian Invasions, Charlemagne, the Vikings, and the development of a feudal society.
The second half of a two-semester course that covers the period of history from approximately 100 to approximately 1400, the time of the Middle Ages. This course examines the period from approximately 1000 to approximately 1400. The purpose of the course is to identify and explore the concept of the Middle Ages by means of both primary and secondary sources. Out of the chaos of the tenth century emerged a mature medieval civilization that is the focus of this course. It reached its apogee in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries with the great conflict between church and state, the Crusades, the revival of learning, feudal monarchy, chivalry, and high medieval Christianity, before experiencing the disasters of the fourteenth century and the breakdown of the medieval synthesis.
This course proceeds from the assumption that the Renaissance refers to a particular and creative cultural movement in Western history from the middle of the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries. Students explore traditional notions of the Renaissance such as: the revival of antiquity, humanism, innovations in art, and the Church. Non-traditional approaches such as the role of women in the Renaissance, are also discussed. The reading of primary texts by Petrarch, Castiglione, Machiavelli, Erasmus, and Thomas More is emphasized. Italian history is stressed but the Northern Renaissance is studied as well.
In traditional terms the Reformation refers to the sixteenth-century religious movement that culminated in both the reforms of the Church and its division. The course balances a study of the theological issues that defined the magisterial Protestant Reformation and its Catholic counterpart with an exploration of popular religion and the everyday religious experience of sixteenth-century men and women.
The course introduces students to environmental history as an academic discipline and teaches American history through the lens of that discipline. It emphasizes the reciprocal and symbiotic relationship between human beings that historically have occupied North America and their surroundings - the natural environment as these human beings encountered and transformed them. As such, the course introduces students to the various strands in environmental thought, environmental science, environmental practices, religious belief as it pertains to the relationship between human beings and the environment, and environmental politics that have shaped the history of North America and the United States. The course also familiarizes students with the practices of historiography and the specific historiography of environmental history.
Selected topics in history may be offered depending on student and faculty interest.
This course is an examination of the image, roles, status, and activities of American women. In addition, gender issues are explored within their socio-political, cultural, and historical contexts. Special emphasis is be placed on a comparative approach to the study of women’s lives as they interact with race, class, and ethnicity.
This course analyzes the rise, development, and socio-cultural impact of rock and roll, broadly defined to include soul, rhythm and blues, punk, reggae, country, hip hop, heavy metal, and other genres that have become essential parts of American popular culture. Through critical analysis of the texts, images, sounds, business practices, and media machinery of rock culture, as well as of rock and roll’s profound impact on television, fashion, race relations, gender relations, advertising, and politics students gain an understanding of the functions of popular art and culture in the political, social, and economic life of the United States. The course challenges students to critically examine primary source materials and secondary readings about topic such as the southern roots of rock music, postwar youth culture, race and racism, class, gender and sexuality, technology and mass media, the culture wars, and rock music as an American export, and thereby come to a greater understanding of the development and interaction of modern and postmodern culture.
The early modern period is one of the most tumultuous in Western history. Religious division, state building, war, and intellectual revolution are some distinctive features. Students have an opportunity to investigate selected topics and historical methods including the development of absolutism, the Scientific Revolution, popular culture, and the Enlightenment. Topics may be added or deleted from time to time.
This course is an introduction to the history of Europe during its explosive period of modernization, beginning with two concurrent world-changing events – the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution. Using a variety of sources, including works by historians but also primary sources ranging from manifestos and letters to plays and novels, students investigate the ideas and movements which emerged from this “dual revolution” to change the world, including imperialism, liberalism, socialism, feminism, and nationalism.
This course is an introduction to Europe’s “thirty year crisis,” from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 to the end of World War II in 1945. Europe’s period of progress and optimism was shattered by the “Great War” in 1914. Four years of violence created the crucible out of which the monster of fascism arose. This led to an even larger war only twenty years later. During WWII, mass slaughter became commonplace, from the Nazi Holocaust to the Allies’ strategic bombing campaigns, which targeted civilian populations. Using a variety of sources, the course examines the big picture of great power confrontations, but also how the wars were experienced by individuals.
This course is an introduction to the history of both Western and Eastern Europe since 1945, starting with the post-war recovery, and ending with the paradox of Europe in recent years, during which Europeans have been moving toward integration (the European Union) while at the same time experiencing inter-ethnic warfare (the Balkan wars). The course studies such major trends as the Cold War, decolonization, and the collapse of communism. Among a variety of primary sources, the course uses some of the popular culture of post-war Europe, especially film and rock music.
This is a junior-level course required for those intending to major in history or history/social science. It is also recommended but not required for those intending to minor in history, and for those who are social science education majors. It serves as an introduction to the critical thinking skills and dispositions used by historians as well as some of the basic research techniques employed by historians in research papers. The course requires students engage in their own research and writing, but focus on a broad topic of the instructor’s choosing that will enable the instructor to introduce students to various source bases, research methods, argument strategies, and theories/epistemologies that may inform their senior theses. Students are encouraged to start developing their senior thesis projects, especially as a way of transferring the knowledge gained from studying the course’s topic to a topic of their own choosing so it can dovetail with the senior thesis course.
This course is an introduction to the political, social, economic and cultural history of the Russian Empire from its origins to the fall of the Romanovs. The course emphasizes the crisis of the old regime between the period of the Great Reforms of the 1860s and the revolution of 1917. In addition to works by historians, this course uses a variety of primary sources, including memoirs, manifestos, letters, and also works of literature by such authors as Aksakov, Turgenev and Tolstoy. The course seeks to lay a basis for understanding the Bolshevik experiment of the 20th century, as well as Russia’s contemporary struggle to define its identity after the collapse of the Soviet state.
The Soviet Union disintegrated into 15 new states, the largest of which is Russia, in 1991. This event was widely heralded in the West as a turn to democratic capitalism; a decade later this was no longer so clear. This course lays the basis for an informed understanding of today’s Russia by introducing its history in this century. The course highlights the revolutionary period including the Bolshevik seizure of power and Stalin’s “second revolution,” and also the recent past, including the periods dominated by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. In addition to works by historians, the course uses a variety of primary sources, including speeches, manifestos, eyewitness accounts, novels, and a series of influential Soviet films.
This is a survey of Chinese history from the rise of the Qing Dynasty in the mid-17th century to the protest and repression of 1989. It discusses some of the main social, economic, cultural, political, and intellectual features of the “traditional” Chinese world the first Qing emperors ruled. It also covers the way this world changed as China experienced a series of convulsive events, including both threats from abroad and domestic rebellions and revolutions.
This is designed to assist students to gain a general knowledge of Chinese history from the feudal dynasties to the present, to stimulate students in thinking clearly and critically about Chinese cultural values, to provide students with fundamental facts and documents of the development of Chinese society through the eyes of several Chinese movie directors, and to develop students’ oral and writing communication skills. Specifically, this course investigates how films by such directors as Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige, and stars such as Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li have shaped Western perceptions of China as well as encoded Chinese culture and history. Beginning with a comparison of The Emperor and the Assassin and Hero, students study how Chinese history is interpreted from two divergent points of view and representative of key Confucian and Daoism concepts. A study of Ang Lee’s films offer the opportunity to investigate how a Taiwan-born, American director has been able to reshape and recondition both Chinese and American cultural icons.
All upper division history courses (300+) are closed to freshmen except where specific exception is made by the instructor. Prerequisite: H390.
H390 Modern China
This course guides history and history/social science majors through the research and writing of their senior theses. It builds on H270 and H370 as it guides students through the finalization of their research topic, the formulation of an argumentative thesis, the identification of relevant primary sources and secondary literature, the proper application of relevant research methods, the proper usage of Chicago Manual of Style annotation and bibliography, and the writing and organization of a thirty-page research paper.
All upper division history courses (300+) are closed to freshmen except where specific exception is made by the instructor. Prerequisites: H270, H370, and senior history or history/social science majors; co-requisite: H471.
Students who take this course work closely and individually with their senior thesis project director while simultaneously taking H470 with their fellow history and history/social science majors. Together with the project director, students will finalize their research topic, formulate an argumentative thesis, identify relevant primary sources and secondary literature, apply relevant research methods, properly use Chicago Manual of Style annotation and bibliography, and write a thirty-page research paper.
All upper division history courses (300+) are closed to freshmen except where specific exception is made by the instructor. Prerequisites: H270, H370, and senior history or history/social science majors; co-requisite: H470.
This course prepares graduating history and history/social science seniors for presenting their senior theses at the annual Student History Research Symposium (required) and any other symposia or conferences at which they seek to present their work; improving their senior theses should they wish to do so, especially if they seek to publish it; writing a resume and developing job interview skills that properly reflect the skills and accomplishments particular to a history or history/social science major; understanding the various career paths history and history/social science majors can take.
All upper division history courses (300+) are closed to freshmen except where specific exception is made by the instructor. This course prepares graduating history and history/social science seniors for presenting their senior theses at the annual Student History Research Symposium (required) and any other symposia or conferences at which they seek to present their work; improving their senior theses should they wish to do so, especially if they seek to publish it; writing a resume and developing job interview skills that properly reflect the skills and accomplishments particular to a history or history/social science major; understanding the various career paths history and history/social science majors can take. Prerequisites: H270, H370, H470, H471, and senior history or history/social science majors.
This course provides supervised “hands on” work experiences at institutions such as historic sites, museums, and state or national historical societies.
Richard Tristano, Ph.D.
Chair, History Department
Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
700 Terrace Heights #1505
Winona, MN 55987-1399
(800) 635-5987, Ext. 1734