Student Research

Research guides and other resources compiled by students:

Guided History


CAS CC 112 Religion and the Roots of Community  (course coordinator)

Social scientists often root contemporary inquiries into the form, organization, and function of human societies in the Enlightenment, arguing that its twin legacies of secularism and empiricism are preconditions for any scientific approach to society. With a focus on religion, this course seeks to trace some of the major leitmotifs of what we now call “social science,” including the relationships between empirical data and knowledge, narrative and history, discourse and practice, and human sameness and difference. We will look at foundational texts which consider questions of religion, culture, and “otherness” overall. Basic questions will include: what is religion? How do societies use their vision of other cultures to give identity to their own? What role does personal viewpoint play in considering issues that concern society? How do religion and political authority interact? What is the basis of cultural identity?


CAS CC 201 Religion and Secularism

Examines the nature of religion and its place in human society, moving from the classic works of social and political thought to the modern philosophical foundations of religious pluralism, the limits of religious toleration and the origin of the idea of a secular realm independent of religion.  Works and historical moments studied include 16th century colonial Spain and the Americas, Hobbes, Locke, Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life and modern case studies.

CAS HI102 The Emergence of Modern Europe: Renaissance to the Present

The goal of this introductory survey is to give students a strong understanding of the broader trends of modern European history and to prepare them for further study in European history, and history in general. As such, we will focus on a few important themes of European history – such as the growth of the modern state and economy – and also develop some crucial skills for historical research and analysis. The class is particularly oriented toward understanding European thought and culture. In each class we will discuss one chapter from the textbook as well as some texts, art, music, or film.


CAS HI200 The Historian’s Craft

Required introductory course for concentrators, normally taken in their sophomore year. The goal of The Historian’s Craft is to develop the reading, writing, analytical, and research skills necessary for a successful career as a history major (and beyond!). To that end, we will read books from a variety of fields using a variety of historical methodologies. The idea is to learn how to think critically about sources and arguments and to hone your analytical skills in our seminars and your weekly assignments. Along the way we’ll read some great books and learn about a lot of different historical fields too!

You can learn more about the purpose of HI 200 here.


CAS HI219 Jews in the Modern World

This course is a survey of the history of the Jews in the modern world, with an emphasis on European Jewry. We will examine Jewish interaction with non-Jewish society from medieval Spain to Europe, Israel, and the United States today and explore this relationship’s creative and destructive products. We will focus in particular on how Jewish society, culture, religious practice, and political definition changed in relation to how Europe, and the world, became modern. European states and societies changed through a variety of processes we now associate with modernity such as urbanization, industrialization, state centralization, and the development nationalism and secularism. Many of the key issues we discuss in this course therefore stem from the bigger question of how changes in European society over the past 250-300 years affected the Jews.


CAS HI273 Russia and Its Empires since 1900/History of the Soviet Union

An new look at Russia in the twentieth century. Focusing on empires and revolutions, this class examines the Russian Empire’s dissolution, the creation of the Soviet Union, Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe and Asia, the breakup of the Soviet Union, and Russian efforts to maintain influence in the post-Soviet space. We will discuss the changing definitions of the Russian imperium, and with it, what it means to be Russian.


CAS HI275 History of the Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe

This course is a comprehensive survey of the history of the Jewish communities of Russia and Eastern Europe from the middle of the eighteenth century until today. Economic, social, religious, cultural and political developments contributing to the course of Jewish history in Eastern Europe will all be examined in detail.


CAS HI276 Jewish Culture

This course uses culture to examine the Jewish experience in the modern world and look at how key processes in modern Jewish and European history such as secularization, urbanization, Jewish assimilation, and Jewish nationalism can be seen in music, art, literature, theater etc.  It is the ambiguity of what is “Jewish,” or not, about both “Jewish culture” and cultural creativity by Jews that is the course’s major theme. In the first section we discuss the potential and limits of culture – Jewish and non-Jewish – to integrate the Jews into European society, from the late-eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. In the second section we examine specific kinds of culture more specifically: music, the visual arts, literature, and theater. Students will, read, listen, and view their way to a better understanding of how the cultural exchange between Jews and non-Jews helped shape our world today.

CAS HI295 Religious Controversies and the Law 

When public debates occur about religious questions – if circumcision is cruel to children, kosher slaughtering is sufficiently hygienic, or a civil servant has a right to wear a religious symbol to work – courts and legislatures often take up a role in regulating religion. This course explores religious controversies in the public sphere and their historical context, focusing on Europe, North America, Israel, and Turkey. We will examine a series of religious controversies where rights claimed by individuals, religious groups, and the state conflicted and how they were resolved (or remain contentious). In doing so we will consider how governments have weighed individual rights against collective rights, and religious freedom against other social and legal values, rights, and needs.


CAS HI 341 Political and Cultural Revolutions

This course examines and compares cases where a central political power was removed against its will and replaced with a different form of government; what we now call a revolution. Our world looks the way it does today in no small part due to the political revolutions that dramatically upended the society and governing structure of countries that would become powerful global powers—for example England, France, the United States, Russia, and China—and much of global diplomacy today is focused on countries that still see themselves embodying certain revolutionary principles, such as Cuba and Iran. Finally, the idea of revolution (and, for that matter, counter-revolution) persists as a powerful model for change, as we can see in recent years in the Middle East and Latin America. To better understand what factors can propel a revolution we will look at several major theories of revolution and consider the influence of Enlightenment thought, nationalism, imperialism, liberalism, socialism, violence, leadership, and religion on revolutionaries and revolutionary movements.


CAS HI388/RN332 Foundations of Modern Jewish Politics

This course is intended as a foundational course for the study of Jewish political history. From biblical times until today – in Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East – we will seek to gain a broad understanding of the central aspects of the “Jewish political tradition.” The most important objective guiding the course is to understand how Jewish political strategies, self-definition, power, and sovereignty changed over the course of Jewish history depending upon the particular circumstances in which Jews found themselves. With this course students will gain the necessary historical context to understand the Jewish political developments of the 20th century, in particular the creation of distinctly Jewish political ideologies and the founding of Israel.

CAS HI446 Revolutionary Russia

This seminar examines how the Russian state transformed from an autocratic empire into a radical socialist federation in the early twentieth century. We will focus on what was revolutionary in this process and question the different meanings of revolution in the Russian context. In particular, how did various radicals, revolutionaries, and ultimately the Bolshevik controlled government use the idea of revolution to construct a new revolutionary Russian society? To answer this question, we will explore aspects of nationalism, political violence, high and popular culture, utopianism, and interpretations and reinterpretations of the revolution’s narrative and significance after 1917. Each week we will discuss one significant book as well as some primary sources and, whenever possible, literature, film, music, and art.


Class website

CAS HI450 Topics in Popular Culture: Ritual Murder and Other Myths of Jewish Conspiracy

This seminar explores rumors and theories about Jewish plotting, ritual murder, and other malfeasance from 12th-century England to the present day. The seminar’s purpose is to explore how myths and conspiracies—however implausible—develop and gain traction in societies. In considering ritual murder and other conspiratorial accusations against Jews we will seek to shed light on the origins, manifestations, and persistence of antisemitism over the past millennium.


CAS HI510 Topics in Legal History

The goal of the course Topics in Legal History is to provide an opportunity for advanced undergraduate and graduate students in history to study together with law students in a weekly seminar devoted to a compelling topic of interest in the field of legal history. In the fall of 2016 this course will focus on the topic of religious tolerance: its historical origins and evolution as a legal concept, recent legal theories with tolerance at their center, and the practical ramifications of religious tolerance in different state systems.

Syllabus (Fall 2016)

CAS HI552 Topics in Modern Jewish History

This seminar is intended for upper-level undergraduate history majors and graduate students. In it we take an in-depth look at one topic, issue, or question in modern Jewish history. Previous topics include Jews, Empires, and Nation States (spring 2010) and Modern Jewish Politics (spring 2011).

CAS HI719 Readings in European History

This seminar is intended for graduate students looking to expand their knowledge of European history and is particularly useful as preparation for comprehensive examinations. The seminar is organized around a topic and I welcome input from interested graduate students regarding desired topic. Last taught spring 2011, the seminar focused on nationalism. Readings included some theories of nationalism and extensive comparison of the development of nations and national movements in Europe. We examined many possible answers to the following two questions: what is nationalism and why does it develop.