History Courses

The History Department offers courses focussing on particular periods, figures, regions, or themes, as described below. As you plan your way through your time at John Jay be sure to speak with an advisor. Some of the courses listed here are offered every semester. Others are offered only once a year or once every two years. An advisor will be able to help you plan your way through your degree program.


HIS 100 Criminal Justice and Popular Culture
This course surveys the relationship between criminal justice and popular culture in America since 1900. The course addresses the ways in which mass media both influence and are shaped by public policy and practice, public understandings of crime and law enforcement, and public faith in institutions of justice. We will also examine the social, historical, and cultural contexts in which particular ways of thinking about crime developed. In doing so, students will develop a deeper understanding of their own relationships to significant issues of justice as potential future criminal justice professionals.

HIS 106 Historical Perspectives on Justice and Inequality
This course explores the history of justice and inequality through examination of select questions and themes. Each section will focus on a different topic or case study from global history including, for example, disparities of wealth between Western and non-Western countries, justice and identity in Latin America from pre-Columbian times to the 18th-century, and a comparative study of the status of minorities in Asian countries. Each section will situate the topic in global context and also encourage students to examine their own relationships to the topic. [Note: HIS 106 is part of the College's First Year Seminars program]

HIS 127 Microhistories: A Lens into the Past
This course will introduce students to the study of history by exploring a particular event, individual, or issue, and its legacy. Each section will focus on a different topic; examples range from Hannibal to Cesar Chavez, to the Silk Road and the War in Vietnam. Students will read both primary source documents and modern texts to examine how the topic under consideration was shaped by, and in turn shaped contemporary culture.

HIS 131 Topics in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine
This course will introduce students to the scientific world. Each section will focus on a different topic in the history of science, technology, and medicine to introduce students to the development of scientific methods, theories, and thinking. Each section will use a variety of historical case studies covering several scientific, technological, and medical disciplines to illustrate the creation of scientific ideas, inventions and cures. Students will engage both primary documents and modern texts to gain the ability to speak coherently about the basis of scientific, technological, and medical claims and, moreover, their social issues in the modern world.

HIS 144 Reacting to the Past
This course employs a historical “role playing” format to help students build communication skills and gain a better understanding of the complexities and significance of historical events. Each section will explore different historical scenarios, in which students will make speeches, engage in debates, and write position papers, both individually and collaboratively.

HIS 201 American Civilization – From Colonial Times through the Civil War
A history of the United States.  Several problems or issues are chosen each term, and the insights of various disciplines — political science, sociology, literary criticism, economics, etc. — are brought to bear on them.  Either course, HIS 201 or HIS 202, may be taken independently. Prerequisite: ENG 101

HIS 202 American Civilization – From 1865 to the Present
A history of the United States.  Several problems or issues are chosen each term, and the insights of various disciplines — political science, sociology, literary criticism, economics, etc. — are brought to bear on them.  Either course, HIS 201 or HIS 202, may be taken independently. Prerequisite: ENG 101

HIS 203 The Ancient World
This course introduces students to critical themes and events in global history that occurred before 500CE.  Students consider the major religious movements of the period, the changing meanings of civilization and empire, the emergence of evidence-based thought and systematized reason as alternatives to faith, and the defining cultural collisions and interactions of this long historical epoch. Civilizations and locations covered include Egypt, Mesopotamia, sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, and Europe. Students are examined on all readings either through quizzes or written assignments. Primary and secondary sources are assigned for class discussion, written exercises, and examinations. Prerequisite or co-requisite: ENG 101

HIS 204 The Medieval World
This course introduces students to the global events, intellectual preoccupations, and institutions that defined the historical period between 500 and 1650.  Geographic coverage includes Africa, India, China, Europe, and the Americas; topics covered include Islam, Catholicism, the Reformation, the roots of nation-states as political units, the growth of market economies, colonialism, and competing ways for making sense of the world.  Students are examined on all readings either through quizzes or written assignments.  Primary and secondary sources are assigned for class discussion, written exercises, and examinations. Prerequisite or co-requisite: ENG 101

HIS 205 The Modern World
By examining events in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, this course explores the major historical processes that shaped the modern world, including industrialization, the rise of the nation-state, war, colonialism and anti-colonialism, and accelerating global contacts among peoples.   The course considers how a globalized world dominated by a few industrialized nations arose, as well as how new and often competing ways of understanding the world took root.   Students are examined on all readings either through quizzes or written assignments.  Primary and secondary sources are assigned for class discussion, written exercises, and examinations. Prerequisite or co-requisite: ENG 101

HIS 206 Orchestral Music and the World Wars (Same course as MUS 206)
This course will explore how World Wars I and II changed the role of music and musicians in Western European society, as well as the sound of music itself.  Within the time frame of 1900 – 1945, this course will examine the effects of the World Wars on the evolution of Western European Classical Music.  By analyzing the influence of Russian and European politics on musical expression, this course raises questions: How did Stalin and Hitler influence musical style?  What is the relationship between oppression and creativity?  Further effects on music of the politics of the 1930’s and 1940’s will be considered in the stories of specific imprisonments and emigrations that resulted from the wars.  The course will use music CD’s, readings and film to study specific situations that reflect the larger picture.  All readings will be coupled with either quizzes or writing assignments. Prerequisites: ENG 201, HIS 205 or any 100-level music course or permission of the instructor

HIS 208 Exploring Global History
This course will introduce students to global history by exploring a particular theme or issue in its historical context. Sections will address a given topic in detail and consider its global legacy. Individual sections will consider themes such as revolutions in Eurasia; regional trade networks in Asia and Africa; sexuality in Early Modern Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas; and the role of technology in the growth of kingdoms and empires throughout the world. Students will read both primary source documents and modern texts to examine the political, social, and cultural factors influencing these developments in diverse civilizations. Students will leave with a firm understanding of the different ways people understood and experienced this issue, and its consequences. Prerequisite: ENG 101

HIS 210 Doing History
This course focuses on how historians think about things.  The course will examine the distinctions among various kinds of history including political history, cultural history, material culture and social history.  Each class will take advantage of the many museums, archives, monuments and memorials that New York City has to offer.   The course provides background for other history courses but it also explores how  historians look at the world and gives insight into the connections between the past and the present by examining sources, archival documents and historical objects which are available in various special collections and libraries.

HIS 217 History of New York City
As early as 1640, 18 different languages were spoken in New Amsterdam; today, Jamaica Hospital provides interpreters in 180 languages. This course tracks the ways peoples from around the planet settled in New York and how they constructed a city of spectacular diversity. New York's different nationalities, races, religions, and classes didn't always agree, but their clashing and fusing generated a cosmopolitanism that made the city a site of dramatic cultural production and political innovation. Gotham's economic arrangements became equally complex over the centuries, adding functions to its original seaport base and ultimately producing today's diverse mix of finance, media, marketing, manufacturing, entertainment and tourism, among many others. New York City is arguably the most complex human construction ever created, and students in this course will learn how it got to be that way. Prerequisite: ENG 101

HIS 219 Violence and Social Change in America
Examination of the role played by violence in American life.  Exploration of selected problems relating to the politics of war, poverty and racism. Prerequisites: ENG 101

HIS 224 A History of Crime in New York City
How criminal entrepreneurs seized the opportunities of their particular eras, from colonial days to the present.  Topics include: pirates (Captain Kidd) and smugglers; slave revolts; river and railroad gangs; gambling and prostitution; prohibition-era bootlegging and the rise of organized crime (from the Mafia to Murder Incorporated); stock market fraud; crime on the waterfront; shoplifting; labor and business racketeering; drug dealing; arson for profit; computer fraud; the savings and loan scandal; environmental crime; and street gangs, with special attention to those (Gophers, Westies) in the John Jay neighborhood. Prerequisite: ENG 101

HIS 225 American Problems of Peace, War, and Imperialism, 1840 to the Present
This course will examine the conflict in America’s foreign policy between manifest destiny and the anti-militarist tradition.  It will focus on the ideas and processes which led to war and the expansion of America’s empire, and on those ideas and movements which were anti-imperialist and anti-militarist. Prerequisite: ENG 101

HIS 240 Historiography
The study of history has changed a great deal since the mid-twentieth century, and the scholarly field currently embraces studies in intellectual, world, military, economic, social, and cultural history, as well as more narrowly identified studies in specific fields, such as the history of medicine or the history of war.  This class introduces students to the most common approaches to the study of history, including cultural, social, political, economic, gender and sexuality, and military, encouraging them to consider what kind of history each approach values and to understand its strengths and limitations.  This course acts as a bridge in the history major, moving students from simply learning history to learning the significant approaches to doing it.  By the end of the course, students will understand the plethora of approaches available to studying history, know when to use which approach and why, and be ready to begin historical investigations of their own. Prerequisite: HIS 150

HIS 242 U.S. Foreign Policy in Latin America (Same course as LLS 242 and POL 242)
U.S. economic and political relations with Latin American countries during the 19th and 20th centuries.  U.S. reactions to reform and revolutionary movements. The ideological framework of U.S. foreign policy.

Prerequisites: ENG 101 and sophomore standing or above

HIS 252 Warfare in the Ancient Near East and Egypt
This class will provide a survey of ancient warfare from 3000 B.C.E through the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C.E. focusing on Egypt, the ancient Near East, India, and China.  In addition to the technologies involved in ancient warfare and the major battles, students will be expected to consider the importance of warfare within society.  Specifically, the course will examine the role that warfare played as a governmental tool and how it affected society. When and why did the ancients engage in war? What were their weapons and their military strategies?   Was warfare an inevitable, unavoidable part of ancient society, and what did the ancients see as the ethical ramifications of it?  In studying ancient history and society through the pervasive motif of war, students will gain an understanding of the forces that shaped culture and how society responded to these forces. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 254 History of Ancient Greece and Rome
This course will examine the history of ancient Greece and Rome from the earliest Greek civilizations to Rome’s transformation into a Christian state in the 4th c CE.  Students will examine the political, social, and economic structures allowing for the growth of city-states and empires, and the implications of such transformations for the wider world.  Among the specific topics that will be discussed are the Spartan military society, the Athenian democracy, Alexander the Great’s kingdom, the cosmopolitan Roman Empire, and the development of Christianity. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 256 History of Muslim Societies and Communities
The course provides an introduction to the development of Muslim societies globally, from the early Arabian Peninsula to the Muslim kingdoms of West Africa, from the Mughal empires in the Indian sub-continent to the Iranian Islamic revolution.  The emphasis is on the historical movements of people, goods, ideas, art, technological inventions and scientific knowledge, and the ways these exchanges have and continue to shape society.  The course will frame Islam within a diversity of cultures, civilizations, and social practices rather than a theology. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 260 History of Contemporary Cuba (Same course as LLS 260)
This course will trace Cuban history from the War of Independence of 1868 through the establishment of the Republic up to and including the Revolution of 1959.  The revolutionary period will be the main focus of the course. Prerequisites: ENG 101, and sophomore standing or above

HIS 264 China to 1650
This course traces the political, social, and cultural history of China from earliest times to 1650. The course will focus on the period during which China was arguably one of the world’s most advanced societies and will seek to determine why China had fallen behind Europe by 1650. Various primary sources such as translated philosophical, religious, and literary texts as well as resources from archeology, art history, and film will assist in exploring the Chinese civilization. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 265 Class, Race and Family in Latin American History (Same course as LLS 265)
Class structure, slavery, and race relations and the organization of the family will be examined in the colonial and neocolonial eras of Latin American history.  A comparative approach, emphasizing urban and rural situations and economic change, will be stressed. Prerequisites: ENG 101, and sophomore standing or above

HIS 269 History of World Slavery (to 1650 CE)
This course will introduce students to the history of slavery from the ancient Greco-Roman world to the emergence of “New World” slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Students will examine the economic, social, and political structures allowing for the practice and growth of slavery, and the implications of such transformations.  Students will gain a firm understanding of the different ways people understood and practiced slavery (and other forms of unfreedom) in the premodern world, and the global legacy of these institutions. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 270 Marriage in Medieval Europe
This course offers an introduction to the ideas and practices of marriage as they emerged in Western Europe from antiquity to 1500. Drawing upon primary and secondary sources, the course will examine how early European societies conceived of, practiced, and regulated marriage. Topics will include monogamy and polygyny, the role of sex and gender in marriage, adultery, incest rules, divorce, spousal homicide, and remarriage. Marriage customs at all levels of society will be considered. Prerequisite: ENG 101

HIS 274 China: 1650 – Present
This course provides an introduction to Chinese history from 1650 to the present. We will sketch the major events of political history covering the rise and fall of the last imperial dynasty (Qing, 1644-1912), the first Republic (1912-1949) and the impact of foreign imperialism and communism, and the major developments in the People's Republic of China, tracing the historical roots of key issues in contemporary China. In addition, we will also take a social and cultural approach. In examining how Chinese society changed over time, we will focus on the ways in which the Chinese interacted with other societies, whether neighboring nomads or distant Europe, exploring Chinese history within a broad and comparative framework. We will also examine how traditional Chinese values were influenced by foreign ideas and technologies. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 277 American Legal History
An analysis of the forces and circumstances that have influenced the course of American civil, criminal, and Constitutional law from the 17th century to the present.  The course concentrates on the change from English-based common law through the rise of industrial capitalism in the late 19th century and the development of the modern welfare state in the 20th century and emphasizes such developments as the growth of the contract and corporate law, the use of litigation as an economic weapon, the rise of an independent judiciary and the ensuing conflict with the legislatures of both nation and state, the role of the legal profession in shaping the legal system, and the social role of law in American life. Prerequisites: ENG 101 and sophomore standing or above

HIS 281 Imperialism in Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East
This course examines the construction, operation, and dissolution of the European imperial order in the 19th and 20th centuries, with particular emphasis on its impact on Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Topics will include the causes and dynamics of expansion, formal vs. informal empires, ideologies of rule, the nature of domination and resistance, the emergence of anti-colonial nationalism and other critiques of empire, decolonization, neo-colonialism, and the links between imperialism and contemporary globalization. Prerequisite: ENG 101

HIS 300 Research Methods in History
Participating in scholarly historical research requires a set of skills that will allow students to locate, prioritize, analyze, and write about primary sources.  Students will learn how to find a variety of different kinds of sources and how to reckon with them once they have been found.  It will also expand the knowledge of historiography gained in the previous required course, Historiography, by explaining how to locate secondary sources relevant to a variety of research interests and primary sources.  Finally, it will introduce students to the process of contextualizing their research findings in secondary literature and writing a convincing historical argument. Prerequisites: ENG 201, HIS 240

HIS 320 Topics in The History of Crime and Punishment in the United States
Ways in which Americans have defined crime, explained its causes, and punished and rehabilitated criminals.  The relationships among crime, social values, and social structure.  Areas of emphasis include colonial Massachusetts and Virginia; the creation of police forces and prisons during the first half of the 19th century; criminality during the Gilded Age and Progressive Period; Prohibition; creation of the FBI; crime and the Great Depression; and some aspects of crime and punishment between 1950 and 1970. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 323 History of Lynching and Collective Violence
This course examines the history of lynching, rioting and other varieties of collective violence perpetrated by groups of people unauthorized by state or legal authority. The focus will be comparative, examining similarities and differences in the history of collective violence across world cultures and across historical eras. The patterns of lynching, rioting, and other forms of collective violence are often indicative of a culture’s underlying social structures and values, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and attitudes concerning crime and punishment. The course will also examine movements that developed to oppose and resist lynching and its violation of human rights and the rule of law. Finally, the course will consider the legacy of lynching and collective violence, and analyze the efforts that have been made in recent years across global cultures to remember and facilitate healing in the wake of these hateful and destructive acts of group violence. Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 325 Criminal Justice in European Society, 1750 to the Present
The origins of the Western system of criminal justice in early modern Europe and a comparative analysis of recent developments in Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.  Examination of the evolving definition of crime and changes in criminal law, methods of enforcement, and types of punishment in relation to the growth of urban and industrial society and the extension of state power.  Topics include witchcraft, the Inquisition, the classical and positivist schools of criminology, prostitution and homosexuality, birth and development of the prison, establishment of professional police forces, the Mafia and European terrorism. Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 340 Modern Military History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present
Emphasis on the United States, Asia, and Europe in modern times including the war in Vietnam, Korea, Cuba, and the Second World War. Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 352 History and Justice in the Wider World
This course explores the history and meaning of justice outside the United States. Each section of the course will examine different case studies from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, as well as global and/or transnational movements, ideologies and institutions. Possible topics include concepts and practices of justice in the Muslim world, colonial justice (Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East), justice in the East Asian world (China, Japan, Korea), and the global history of human rights. Special attention will be paid to the interplay between Western and non-Western conceptions of justice. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 354 Law and Society in Ancient Athens and Rome
This course will introduce students to concepts of law and legal institutions in ancient Athens and Rome.  This is not a course on the fine points of Athenian and Roman law, but rather a broader study of the place of law and legal institutions in Athenian and Roman society.  Students will examine sources including law codes, court speeches, and literature to explore law as a means of social ordering and control.  The course will also consider various social institutions tasked with creating and enforcing legal standards, including the family, the court of law, and the government.  Students should leave with a solid understanding of how Athenians and Romans understood law and its role in society. Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 356 Sexuality, Gender, and Culture in Muslim Societies (Same course as GEN 356)
This course reviews relevant concepts and analyzes various constructions of gender norms, gender roles and sexual morality in selected past and present Muslim societies.  Sexual categories (heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) are examined in a variety of contexts and through a range of sources – from Ottoman homoerotic poetry to Mughal India. Topics may include the connections between feminism and nationalism in 19th century Egypt, to transsexuality in Iran and Pakistan.  We will also consider transnational relations – how did Western colonization shape intimate relations; and how were colonial processes, in turn, impacted by gender and sexuality? Finally, how are the tensions between advocates and opponents of gender equality currently playing out Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 359 History of Islamic Law
This course surveys the history and practice of law in the Islamic World. In doing so, it explores the history and development of Islamic legal theory, particularly the complex and shifting relationship between political and religious authority in the theory and practice of Islamic law. We will conclude by looking at the current diversity of legal systems that claim affiliation with the classical Islamic tradition. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 362 History of Science and Medicine: Prehistory to 1650
This course will provide students with a background in the intellectual and cultural developments in the history of science and medicine from prehistory through 1650. Students will be introduced to the kinds of questions asked about the natural world by different cultures at different times, varying understandings of nature, the natural world, the body, and disease, and interactions among these understandings and interpretations. Primary and secondary readings will provide the basis for class discussions, written assignments, and a final research project. Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 364 History of Gender and Sexuality: Prehistory to 1650 (Same course as GEN 364)
This class will build on the introductory surveys in gender and sexuality and global history to provide students with two new lenses through which to view history. Given that gender and sexuality are cultural constructs that represent the social mores of the cultures and times in which they exist, and thus have changed throughout history, we will move from the ancient world through 1650 to provide a chronological and global perspective on the changing meanings of sex, sexuality and gender, and the ways in which their changes represent broader shifts in cultural values and emphases. The course will address the history of gender and sexuality in China, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe and India. Primary and secondary sources provide the basis for class discussion and written assignments. Prerequisites: ENG 201, and GEN 101 or any 200-level HIS course

HIS 366 Religions of the Ancient World
In antiquity, religion was a driving force that both transformed society and was transformed by society.  This course will provide a survey of early religious movements of the ancient world, showing how the myths, ritual, and sacred laws of ancient societies expressed their world views.  Religion has always been an influential factor in society, and students will learn how organized religion developed into a powerful social and political tool.  The course will focus primarily on the major religious movements of the ancient Near East: Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the early Israelite tradition; however, other ancient religions (including the Greek and Roman traditions, Hinduism, Buddhism, New World and African traditions) will also be touched on.  The course will balance an understanding of the personal practices of ancient religions with an understanding of the larger political and social role of religion. Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 370 Ancient Egypt
This course will survey Ancient Egypt, tracing the development of Egyptian society and government from its prehistoric agrarian origins (approx. 4000 B.C.E.) through the death of Cleopatra and the Roman conquest (30 C.E.).  In addition to the major political developments, students will be expected to master the major shifts in Egyptian religion and thought, the changing notion and democratization of Egyptian afterlife, and how Egypt remained insular while becoming increasingly cosmopolitan and imperialistic.  The course will also examine the role that geography played in the development of Egyptian society and will trace Egypt’s interactions with her neighbors in Africa and the greater Mediterranean world to examine how these relationships affected the Egyptian religion, culture, and economy.  Primary and secondary sources will be used to encourage class discussion and as the basis of written exercises and exams. Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 374 Premodern Punishment: Crime and Punishment Before 1700
This course will examine ideas and practices of crime and punishment found in global justice from antiquity to 1700. The relationship of crime and punishment to politics, gender, religion, and culture will be considered. The course begins by examining different theoretical approaches to the history of punishment and then considers primary and secondary work on crime and punishment in the premodern world. The analysis of ancient law will include Mesopotamia and Ancient Israel, Egypt, and Rome. This will be followed by study of Christian and Islamic countries. The course will conclude with a final section that will examine comparisons of different laws and practices found in Africa, the Middle East and Europe. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 375 Female Felons in the Premodern World
This course, one of the General Education “Justice in Global Culture” offerings, examines the complex position of women accused of crimes in the premodern world. Drawing on a mix of primary and secondary sources, with a focus on trial records, students will analyze primary legal documents using the theories and methodologies of gender studies and history. This course will help students understand the role of gender in premodern global justice, as well as the early history of criminal justice. Prerequisite: ENG 201

HIS 381 Social History of Catholicism in the Modern World
This course offers students an introduction to how Catholicism has shaped social identities and cultural practices across global cultures from the early 1500s to the present day.  Starting with the Catholic response to the Reformation in 16th Century Europe, the course then traces the complex social and cultural formations generated by an expansive Catholicism in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and the tension between Catholicism and American culture in the history of the United States.  Key topics will include the history of Catholicism and culture, syncretism, ethnicity, race, gender, and social class.  Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 383 History of Terrorism
This course explores the major ideas, facts, and problems associated with the historical study of terror and the uses of political violence on a global scale.  Course themes include the changing definitions of terrorism over time; the historical antecedents of modern terrorism; the impact of nationalism and religion on terrorism in different places and beginning in the early modern period; the historical motivations, organizations, and support networks of terrorists; the nature of crisis management; the responses of the world community to different historical acts of terrorism; the effects of terrorism on free societies in the 20th century; and the linkages between acts of terrorism and terrorist states. Prerequisites: ENG 201, any 200-level HIS course

HIS 425 Senior Seminar in History
The senior seminar, undertaken by all Global History majors, requires students to synthesize the research, historiographic, and writing skills they have acquired in the major. Drawing on students’ capabilities to engage in independent historical research, and consideration of a wide variety of historiographic approaches, the course offers students from all three chronological tracks the opportunity to engage in research on the same topic and present their work at the departmental seminar.  Individual instructors will frame the course based on their particular areas of expertise, but possible topics include slavery, magic, capitalism, and sexuality.  All students will complete the course by submitting an independent research paper and presenting their findings to the department in a colloquium. Prerequisites: ENG 201, HIS 300, senior standing




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