First-Year Seminars

HIST 7.07

From Untouchable to Dalit

This course examines the experience of discrimination and resistance among the people who were once classified at the bottom of the Indian caste hierarchy as "Untouchables" but who now usually refer to themselves increasingly as "Dalits" (the "oppressed" or "downtrodden" people). This course seeks to understand caste-based discrimination, the caste system and its transformations during the colonial period, the views of "untouchability" held by Mahatma Gandhi and other nationalist leaders, and the growing self-assertion of Dalit men and women after the 1920s. It will also explore the ideas of key Dalit leaders such as B. R. Ambedkar, Dalit conversion to Buddhism, the Dalit Panther movement, and Dalit literary expression. A primary focus of the seminar will be to understand the personal experience of untouchability and processes of self-transformation, through the reading of autobiography, poetry and short stories. Readings include The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Arundhati Roy's God of Small Things, and numerous writings by Dalit intellectuals and literary figures. Students will write and rewrite three papers from four to six pages and complete a term paper based upon library research on a topic of their choosing. Writing will be a regular topic of discussion in class sessions.

HIST 7.19

Medieval Paris

In the thirteenth century, the city of Paris was the most exciting, forward-looking, cosmopolitan city in Medieval Europe. This course looks at the politics, ideology, people, and topography, arts, university, and social life of medieval Paris in the thirteenth century. In this period Paris became the capital of the French monarchy and the most powerful kingdom in Europe, the home of the great University of Paris, and the birthplace of Gothic art and architecture. We will play particular attention to the royal court of Louis IX (1226-1270) and its relationship to culture and society.

This class is above all an introduction to scholarly investigation, writing, and research. My primary goal is for students to gain an understanding of how to read historical sources, how to ask historical questions, and how to write in scholarly dialogue within the historical discipline. We will thus read primary sources with a view of asking questions of those sources, and secondary scholarship with a view of understanding the argument, and how those arguments are in dialogue with other arguments. I also want you to fall in love with medieval Paris.

HIST 7.27

Power, Piety, and Politics in Latin America

Over the past fifty years, organized religious groups have influenced politics in both Latin America and the United States in unprecedented ways. How do we explain this religious revival of actors from across the political spectrum? This course will examine the relationships among religion, politics, economics, and shifting racial and gender configurations in the Americas. Religion's connection to the rise and persistence of the economic regime known as neoliberalism will be a central concern. Race, gender, religion and other complex social structures rarely respect national and regional boundaries, and many religious movements have built elaborate transnational networks. When the computer eclipsed the car as the paradigmatic object of labor in the late twentieth century, religious responses to the new economic order were among the most dramatic developments, and this course will zoom in on some of the most influential social movements of the past fifty years. In keeping with Dartmouth's mission as one of this country's top liberal arts colleges, we will spend considerable time improving your ability to read academic work and primary sources critically and write up your findings in clear, engaging prose. Course work consists of intensive preparation for our lively discussions; one four-page paper; two five-page papers; and two group writing projects, a manifesto and a sermon. Students will engage in intensive peer review both inside and outside of class, and will organize creative presentations that convey critical writing advice to their classmates; in past years, these ten-minute presentations have involved song, dance, theater, art, rousing manifestos against verbiage, and short videos.

HIST 7.28

Gender & Urban Transformation

This course explores urbanization as a gendered process, drawing on primary sources, historical analyses, and literary criticism to show how gender has intersected with class, race, and sexuality to shape U.S. cities and suburbs. We'll explore the effects of an increasingly urban and industrial economy on gender roles in the workplace, at home, and in the streets. We'll consider the historical gendering of urban space and the means through which cities have served as cultural touchstones: from late nineteenth century images of the metropolis as a "fallen woman" to middle-class men's projection of the city as the reprieve from stifling domesticity in the 1950s. Readings in urban, cultural, and social history, literary criticism, and more will illuminate patterns and guide our inquiry. Assignments will include: an annotated bibliography on a topic of your choice; a 5-7 page review essay of two or more texts from the bibliography; and, an 8-10 page prospectus that builds on your research. Students will also be required to present an image to their classmates and revise two assignments.

HIST 7.32

Civil War Photographs: Texts and Testimonials

Ruined cities... Bloated corpses.... Fleeing slaves... Expectant soldiers... A bearded president. Advanced photographic technology of the 1860s made possible a visual record of such iconic images, which exist alongside many, many more frozen views from America's greatest crisis. This first-year seminar focuses on the stunning camera work that would forever change how Americans experienced war, and how a conflict would be recalled once peace returned. Students in this history class will learn how to "think, research, and write" according to the conventions of the historical discipline. Through this discipline-specific approach, students will enhance their ability to scrutinize different kinds of texts and subject them to critical analysis; to locate and evaluate specific evidence located in archival settings (in this course, we will do so mainly via online sources); to marshal that evidence in the service of a nuanced argument; and to express complex ideas in clear, lively prose. Students will practice and enhance their ability to execute such tasks through class discussion and different kinds of writing assignments. Class sessions will include in-depth discussions of specific primary and secondary historical texts; we will also routinely engage in conversations about how historians use these sources to produce historical knowledge. Students will produce four different categories of historical writing: a museum caption; a descriptive contextualization of an image that moved from photographic print to woodcut circulation; a sequence of narrative commentaries meant to mimic the work of Alexander Gardner; and a final research project that will feature evidence-based argument and analysis.

HIST 7.34

Histories of Crime

Crime exerts a powerful fascination on the public imagination. The reasons for this are manifold, ranging from the lurid and sensational to the particular capacity of crime and punishment to reveal unspoken assumptions and unquestioned ideologies. This writing seminar will examine the different ways that historians, theorists, and others have written about crime and criminals. Through the study of crime, it will present students with a variety of approaches to historical writing, including cultural history, social history, microhistory, and theory. Drawing on exemplary works from within and outside the field of history, the course will also focus on what it means to write well in a variety of forms. Students will gain practical experience writing in several different formats, culminating in a research paper.

HIST 7.35

Imperialism and the War of 1898 in Cuba and Puerto Rico

The War of 1898 reshaped the international geopolitical order. It was a global phenomenon that allowed the nascent United States Empire to stretch its arms around the world and take Spain's former position as the "empire where the sun never sets." While this seminar uses a transnational lens, it focuses on the origins, developments, aftermaths of the war from the perspectives of Cubans and Puerto Ricans. It explores the ways these two Caribbean countries went from being Spain's last two colonial possessions in Latin America to attaining independence after three decades of war, in the case of Cuba, while Puerto Rico is still the world's oldest colony.

As a history seminar, this course will encourage and help you develop critical thinking skills. The historical trade is not just based on accessing the past through documents, but also on using our imaginations to craft narratives while using a wide range of sources to sustain our arguments. Since this course is also a writing seminar, we will discuss and think about strategies to write our ideas in an accessible way for our readers. To do so, students will experiment with different methods from the historians' intellectual tool kit: scrutinizing primary sources, analyzing content, and crafting narratives.

As a writing seminar, the course will be interactive, and student-scholars are expected to actively participate in the collective production of knowledge. In every class, there will be time allocated to discuss that day's topic and the assigned readings, as well as the writing process. That is, Prof. Meléndez-Badillo will not only focus on the course's topics through brief lectures but he will also help students interrogate how the readings were written, their intended audiences, and how students can critically engage with them to formulate their own arguments.

HIST 7.36

Green New Deal History

This First-year Seminar offers a historical perspective on current discussions about a "Green New Deal" - that is, on ideas about social and economic transformations in light of climate change. What is implied by the historical reference to the New Deal of the 1930s? How did FDR's New Deal work, and how can we understand the desire to connect today's problems to that earlier precedent? Writing assignments consist of an op-ed, a book review, and a profile of a historical figure. Each assignment will go through guided revision before final submission.