Illinois State University
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Detailed Course Descriptions

Spring 2015


History 300, Senior Seminar

Section 1, 11-12:15 TR, Professor R. Kennedy

"The Cold War" - This senior thesis seminar will focus on the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union from 1945 to the early 1970s. Common readings will focus on U.S. strategy, nuclear weapons, and the crises of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Students can write on any topic related to the Cold War.

Section 2, 4-5:15 MW, Professor Lessoff

The theme of this capstone seminar, comparative urban history, offers a fine vehicle for encouraging students to reflect upon and draw together the range of skills and knowledge they have developed during their time in college. The urbanization of human life - the shift in the center of gravity in most societies from the country to the town -- counts as what a pioneer of American urban studies, Adna Weber, called "the most remarkable social phenomenon" of recent centuries. By asking why cities emerge, how they operate, and how people build, live in, and perceive them, we ask questions that go to the heart of what it means to be a modern person. Moreover, urban history has geographic, economic, social, cultural, and political dimensions; it illustrates just how many other disciplines history is allied to and how many ways history can be studied and discussed.

Section 3, 10:235-11:50 MW, Professor Ciani

"Women's Activism in the Twentieth Century" - Students will learn about diverse forms of activism conducted by women in the twentieth century, including how certain actions influenced change at the personal, community, and societal level. Students will select a topic that explores a type of or incidence of activism among women. Any area of the world is acceptable; however, primary sources need to be accessible and secondary sources need to be available in both monograph and article form. A foundation in the histories of the 20th century and women's history is helpful but not necessary.

Section 4, 2-3:15 TR, Professor Winger


Section 5, 4:35-7:25 R, Professor Gifford

“The U.S. Civil War” – Focusing on the war years, 1861-1865, students will formulate a research project concerning the conflict. As background for your individual research, we will explore a variety of questions and historical arguments, including a look at the war and its effect on Bloomington, IL.


History 307, Topics in Non-Western History

Section 1, 2-3:15 TR, Professor Olsen

"Beyond 'Breaking Bad': Drug Trafficking in the Americas" - This course investigates the history of drug trafficking in the Americas, focusing on the past 40 years. Students will investigate key issues in this area, including the cultivation of marijuana and coca, the production and transshipment of drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, and the impact of such upon Latin American economies and societies, with a focus on Mexico's current "War on Drugs." Thus, we will analyze the growth of cartels in Mexico and Colombia, as well as US responses, particularly the Merida Initiative. In addition, we will study newly declassified documents n the CIA's alleged involvement in drug trafficking in Central America, and its impact in the United States. In various segments of this course we will assess the "reality" of "Breaking Bad" with other artifacts of popular culture in the US and Mexico (particularly Mexican narcocorridos, Sante Muerte, and "St." Jesus Malverde), discerning what each can teach us about these issues.

For those who have not seen "Breaking Bad," binge-watching the show over the Winter Break is strongly suggest, though not a formal course requirement.


History 309, Topics in US History

Section 1, 9:35-10:50 TR, Professor Hughes

"Thinking and Learning about the American Past" - This section of History 309 addresses key issues in twentieth century American history while also exploring explicitly how historians think, teach, and learn about history. Students will engage traditional political, social, and cultural topics such as Progressive Era reform, the culture wars of the Roaring Twenties, the impact of the Great Depression and World War II, the social activism and the African American civil rights movement, the Cold War, and the divisiveness over the American experience in Vietnam. Importantly, students will also explore the growing research in how historians and students best learn about the past and participate in provocative activities such as interviewing others about U.S. history and the design of a museum exhibit. As a result, this section of History 309, while open to all history majors, will be especially valuable for those individuals who plan on teaching history in the future.


History 417, Topics in 20th Century US History

Section 1, 6-9:50 T, Professor Hughes

As a special topics course in United States history, History 417 examines the intersection of race and geography in the twentieth century. Race has been of paramount importance in American history since the Colonial period and American race relations have varied over time and according to geographical location. This course explores African-American history since the late nineteenth century with an investigation of race relations in areas such as Harlem, NY; Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, and Hawaii. More than simply an urban history of race, the course will examine the role of race and geography in shaping American culture in ways that still shape contemporary issues such as housing, schools, poverty, labor, politics, education, demographic trends, and the role of local, state, and the federal government. History 417 is a graduate reading seminar that includes readings and culminates with a lengthy historiographical essay on a topic related to race and geography in modern American history.


History 478, Topics in Global History

Section 2, 5-8:50 M, Professor Nassar

"A subaltern history of Palestine-Israel" This is a course that will examine the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in light of a number of issues raised in the study of subaltern histories. It will also offer a substantial historical background on Palestine and the Palestinians from the late Ottoman Empire (1800’s), and on Israel and the marginalized Israelis, since the creation of the State in 1948.

Ultimately, however, and in accordance with recent trends in historiography, it will present a history of the region “from the bottom up”, that is a history of the region that brings to the center the voices of marginalized groups in the region: refugees, Arab- Israeli citizens, Palestinians residents of the occupied territories, and a number of other marginalized groups within Israel proper such as the Mizrahi Jews. This course, then, will necessarily explore issues related to regimes of control and will introduce students to scholarship critical of ethno-nationalist constructions of the past. It will also consider briefly the intricate, sometime conflicted and ambivalent, internal dynamics within each “party” to the conflict. Going beyond the dramatic aspect inherent in violent conflicts, the readings will also consider the larger ideological, social, and economic forces at work. The course will utilize new scholarship in order to rethink the history of the land and of the conflict, to assess its future prospects, and to raise broader questions about the very practice of historical research and writing.



Email History

Department of History
Normal, Il 61790-4420
Phone: (309) 438-5641
Fax: (309) 438-5607