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Academics: Courses

The history department's curriculum revision proposal was approved in March 2015. Beginning with Fall 2015, we will be offering a revised roster of courses, including many new and revised courses.

2015-16 courses in history

Beginning survey courses

151 History of the West and the World I (4). Fall and Spring. This course examines the history of early human societies. The course begins with Paleolithic and Neolithic cultures and their transformation into ancient urban civilizations. It continues with the development of the classical civilizations and the major world religions, and the interaction of impulses from these, down to the European transoceanic voyages around the year 1500 A.D. Secondary themes include evolution of societies around the world, the contrast of urban and sedentary and nomadic strategies for societies, and the development of technology. Staff.

151H Honors Cluster West and the World I (4). Fall. This cluster of honors sections of Art History 101 and History 151 offers a broad but detailed survey of the history, art, and literature from the prehistoric period and dawn of civilizations, through the classical and medieval worlds, up to ca. 1500. Attention will be focused on the developments across the landmass of Eurasia, stretching from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, with a particular emphasis on the emergence and evolution of unique cultural traditions and the interactions that took place among the great societies of the pre-modern world. Along with lectures, classroom discussions and short papers responding to primary sources will structure weekly coursework. A larger multi-disciplinary research paper will ask students to integrate the two linked courses. Stressing the importance of primary source materials, the cluster will include a trip to Chicago to see historical artifacts firsthand – particularly the collections of the Oriental Institute and the Art Institute of Chicago. Additional trips include a Sunday worship service at a Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox church, as well as evening prayers and a lecture at Mesjid-Tawheed, a place of worship for Grand Rapids Muslims. The course fulfills the core credit requirement of History of the West and the World. Enrollment is limited to 20 students and is restricted to those who qualify for honors enrollment. Y. Kim.

152 History of the West and the World II (4). Fall and Spring. The history of modern human societies since c. 1500 is studied. The course includes coverage of the scientific revolution and the European Enlightenment tradition; key political, economic, social, and religious developments in the West, including the non- Western world’s contribution and reaction to them; and events of global significance through the latter half of the twentieth century, such as the industrial revolution, the world wars, and decolonization. Staff.

152H Honors West and the World II (4). Spring. This course is for students who are committed to doing extra reading and writing on the History of the West and World from 1500 to the present. Class lectures and discussions will focus on the major themes and periods of this history, but the over-arching theme of this course, and much of the assigned reading, is on the "meeting" of the West with the rest of the world. In addition to examinations and other smaller essays, students will write a significant (20 page) paper on a specific theme of their choice, based on secondary sources. This course fulfills the core requirement of History of the West and the World. Enrollment is limited to 20 students and is restricted to those who qualify for honors enrollment. W. Van Vugt.


Intermediate Courses

All 200-level courses require taking History 151 or 152 first or permission of the instructor.

World Regions

233 Modern Middle East (3). The subject matter of this course is the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Arab countries including Egypt, as well as Turkey, Iran, and Israel in the 20th century. Themes include colonialism and nationalism, secularism and religion, and literature and pop culture. Through this survey of Middle Eastern history the course aims to open up the American mental and emotional atlas and uncover the many meanings of the course title. Not offered 2015-16.

235 India and Its World (3). Spring. A cultural history of South Asia from the earliest times to the twentieth century. Primary emphasis will be placed on the civilization of Hindustan and the interplay of Hindu and Islamic religious and cultural forces there. Themes include the rise of the major Indian religions; the cultural synthesis of the Mughal Empire; the impact of British rule; and the rise of the modern nations of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. Economic, social, political, religious, and intellectual themes receive consideration. D. Howard.

238 Latin American History (3). A study of continuity and change in Latin America from pre-Columbian times to the present. Topics covered include the blending of peoples and cultures in the conquest era, the long-term influence of colonial institutions, the paradox of economic development and continued poverty, the Cold War struggle between forces of the Left and the Right, and the growth of Protestantism in a traditional Catholic society. Not offered 2015-16.

242 Africa and the World (3). Fall. This course covers specific themes in African history from ancient civilization to the contemporary period. Special attention will be given to Africa’s relation to the Mediterranean world, Africa’s contribution to the development of the Christian church, Islam in Africa, slavery and slave trades, the African diaspora, imperialism, colonialism, and the age of independence. This course seeks to place African within a number of global contexts asserting that far from being the “Dark Continent,” Africa was a major crossroads of civilizations throughout history. E. Washington.

245 East Asia to 1800 (3). Spring. The history of East Asian civilizations from early times until the early modern period. Emphasis is on China and Japan, but Korea is also included. Primary objectives are for students to grasp the essential patterns of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean social structures, political systems, cultural values, and religious and ethical norms as they developed from the late traditional period through to 1800, and also to appreciate the similarities and differences among these civilizations. B. Berglund

North America

229 U.S.A. (4). Fall. This survey looks at American history according to several interlocking themes: colonial roots and cultural and political divergence; the costs and benefits of expansion; industrialization and immigration; American leadership in the twentieth century; and challenges in the current century. This course is not intended for those who plan to take period courses in American history. R. Schoone-Jongen.

251 Early America (3). Fall. Study the region that became the United States, from the first European settlements through the Napoleonic wars. We will treat colonial America as a cluster of distinct socio-cultural regions: plantation Virginia, Caribbean Carolina, Puritan New England, commercial mid-Atlantic, and the Scots-Irish backcountry. These regions converged to sustain a successful war against the British, but almost fell apart again during the first decades of independence. We will pay special attention to the unexpected dynamics of the Revolutionary War and to the Constitution as establishing an arena of combat rather than a set of settled answers. S. Staggs.

252 America from Republic to Empire (3). Spring. An examination of United States history after independence as the nation expanded, industrialized, and came to dominate the Western hemisphere. Special attention is given to the nation’s foundations, western expansion, and slavery; the Civil War and Reconstruction; the Progressive response to industrialization; and the United States’ overseas expansion and participation in World War I. W. Van Vugt.

253 Recent America (3). An examination of United States history from the 1920s to the present, focusing on the ways in which recent history shapes contemporary American culture, politics, economics, and religion. Topics include the “Roaring Twenties” and the Great Depression, WWII, Cold War America and Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement and the Rights Revolution, conservative politics and religion, a post-industrial economy, and the role of the state at home and abroad. Special attention is given to changing configurations of race, religion, ethnicity, and gender in American social relations, and to the intersections of cultural history with political and economic history. Not offered 2015-16.

255 African-American History (3). A survey of African-American history from West African societies to contemporary times. Highlights include the creation of a slave society in British North America, African-American intellectual traditions, the African-American church, and social and political movements for freedom. Not offered 2015-16.

258 U.S. Military History (3). This course studies the military as an American institution from the colonial period through the "War on Terror." Though primary focus will be on the major wars fought by the United States, the course will also examine the various social, economic, and political factors influencing the development of the American military. Not offered 2015-16.

259 American Economic & Business History (3). A study of American economic history from colonial times to the present, emphasizing the foundations of the American economy, the dynamics behind American economic expansion, the history of American business, the social costs and benefits of industrialization and modernization, the impact of various economic policies, and the nature of the economic changes of the 21st century. Not offered 2015-16.


225 England (3). A survey of English history including the Anglo-Saxon background; the medieval intellectual, religious, and constitutional developments; the Tudor and Stuart religious and political revolutions; the emergence of Great Britain as a world power; and the growth of social, economic, and political institutions in the modern period. Not offered 2015-16.

261 Ancient Mediterranean (3). Spring. A study of the political, social, cultural, and economic developments of the ancient Mediterranean world, chronologically from the late Bronze Age to the beginning of Late Antiquity. Special attention is given to the formation of the Greek polis, radical democracy in Athens, the effects of Alexander's conquests, the Roman Republic, the transition to the Roman empire, and the rise and spread of Christianity, in the comparative context of concurrent developments in North Africa and the Near and Middle East. Y. Kim.

262 Early Medieval Worlds, 300-1000 (3). In the wake of the Roman Empire, three distinct political cultures emerged from the disintegration of the Roman Empire: the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic commonwealth, and Christian Western Europe. This course will study the emergence of these areas, their interactions, and the manner in which they incorporated their Hellenistic legacy. Special attention is given to the rise of Islam, the Christianization of Western Europe, the role of monasticism in East and West, and the way that all three civilizations integrated its Roman-Hellenistic heritage into its institutions and culture. Not offered 2015-16.

263 Medieval and Renaissance Europe, 1000-1500 (3). A treatment of one of the most formative periods in the development of European culture and institutions, when strong monarchies emerged out of feudalism and a new religious vitality transformed Christian spirituality. These impulses are traced through the rise of schools and universities, the Crusades, and the role of the papacy as a unifying political force in Western Christendom, concluding with the late-medieval economic and demographic crisis and the break-up of the medieval worldview in Renaissance Italy. Not offered 2015-16.

264 Reformation and Revolution: Europe 1500-1800 (3). Fall. A survey of early modern European political and social history with particular emphasis on the Protestant Reformation, its social and intellectual origins, and its political and social contexts and consequences, and on selected “revolutionary” political and intellectual movements, such as the Thirty Years’ War, the English Revolution, the emergence of modern science, the Enlightenment, and the French Revolution. K. van Liere.

267 Modern Europe (3). Spring. A survey of Europe from the Congress of Vienna (1815) to the present. Using 1945 as a pivotal year, the course examines the major social, economic, cultural, and political trends that dominated the continent and inspired the two world wars: nationalism, industrialization, militarization, secularization, protest movements, and imperialism. The balance of the course examines the changes and continuities that have characterized the post-war period: economic integration, the Cold War and its aftermath, immigration, de-colonization, the tension between European unity and national identities, as well as the burden of Europe's past. B. Berglund.

Global Histories

271 War and Society (3). This is not a military history course. Instead, the course addresses the social and cultural contexts of warfare. Case studies are drawn from different conflicts during the 20th century in different world regions, such as Austria-Hungarian World War I, Japan after World War II, post-colonial West Africa, and the recent wars of the United States. Not offered 2015-16.

274 Environmental History (3). An introduction to environmental history, the course gives particular attention to North America and in each unit makes global comparisons or examines transnational trends. Key topics include the methods of environmental history, pre-human natural history, the relationship between hunter-gatherers and the environment, the development of agriculture, the impact of European colonization globally, the consequences of the industrial revolution and urbanization, the emergence of environmental movements, changing cultural patterns in conceptualizing nature and humanity's place in it, and the relationship between religious traditions, particularly Christianity, and environmental issues. Not offered 2015-16.

Theory and Practice of History

293 Public History (3). Public history refers to historical work done outside of schools, colleges, and universities, especially work in institutions such as museums, archives, preservation offices, and cultural resource agencies. It also includes historians who do historical work in business, consulting, and the legal profession .This course surveys the major topics and helps students develop skills used in public history through readings, discussion, guest presentations, and projects. Fro example, students will learn about the history of public history, employment opportunities for public historians, and public historical issues, and they will reflect on their own career possibilities in this field. Not offered 2015-16.

294 Research Methods of History (3). Fall, Interim. An introduction to historical sources, bibliography, and research techniques, giving particular attention to the different genres of history writing, critical historical thinking and the role of perspective and worldview, the mechanics of professional notation, critical use of print and electronic research databases, organizing and writing research essays, and the vocation of the historian. Intended as preparation for 300-level courses. Staff.


Advanced Courses

Enrollment in all 300-level courses requires completing two courses in history first or permission of the instructor.

World Regions

331 Studies in Middle Eastern History (3). A study of U.S.-Middle East relations since about 1900. Under the conceptual framework of culture and imperialism, the topic is not limited to just foreign policy but the full range of economic, social, and cultural exchanges between Americans and Middle Easterners, including military alliances, commercial ties, media coverage, Christian Zionism, immigration, scholarship, and the like. This course is eligible for concurrent registration with History 394. Not offered 2015-16.

338 Mexico and the Americas (3). Spring. Mexico has two roots-Hispanic-Catholic and Amerindian. It is poised between modernity, visible throughout the country, and tradition which continues to influence the thought and behavior of individuals at all levels of society. Mexicans are torn between a fierce loyalty to their country and a profound cynicism about its institutions and leaders. Finally, Mexicans simultaneously admire and resent their rich and powerful neighbor to the north. This course examines Mexico from its pre-Columbian and Iberian origins through its recent embrace of neoliberal economics and democratic politics. It concludes with the experience of Mexican-Americans in the US. This course is eligible for concurrent registration with History 394. D. Miller.

346 Modern China (3). An in depth, comprehensive treatment of Chinese history from the Qing Dynasty, about 1650, to the present. In addition to the basics of political, social, and economic history, the course will also stress intellectual and religious currents, including the role of Christianity. Appropriate for Asian Studies or Chinese/Japanese majors, business or international relations students. Not offered 2015-16.

North America

353 Culture Wars: A Religious History (Studies in US Religious and Intellectual History) (3). Spring. This course examines the role of ideas, beliefs, and values in US history, focusing topically on dominant and dissenting systems of thought and conviction that have been particularly important in US history. The course will analyze both elite and popular materials from across the full range of public expression--from state papers to protest publications, the arts, journalism, religion, literature, and the academy--to understand how these have both shaped and responded to the key historical forces of their times. The topic for Spring 2016 is the "Culture Wars," the incresaing religious polarization within American Protestantism, and the rise of the Religious Right. This course is eligible for concurrent registration with History 394. K. Du Mez.

356 American Social and Cultural History (3). A study of the development of American society from colonial times to the present organized around the themes of power, consumption, material culture, and the social construction of space. Attention will be given to the ways in which new sources, methods, and theoretical frameworks open up new topics and questions in American history, including the changing meaning of the American landscape, the development of suburbia, the rise of consumerism and the mass media, popular religion and the creation of sacred space, and the hidden ways in which power is exercised. Class, gender, and race will be categories of inquiry and analysis. This course is eligible for concurrent registration with History 394. Not offered 2015-16.

358 Native American History (Studies in the North American West) (3). Fall. The course is national in scope, but focuses especially on the American West, with some comparisons to indigenous peoples in Mexico and Canada. Specifically, the course looks at the rise and decline of regional Native American chiefdoms and states in the centuries before European contact; the impact of horses on the Plains; trade with Europeans and Americans; Christian missions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the "Indian Wars" in the American West, 1840s-1890s; efforts to assimilate Native Americans in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century; and campaigns by Native Americans to promote their civil rights and tribal sovereignty in the twentieth century. W. Katerberg.


362 Studies in Ancient and Medieval Europe (3). Offers an in-depth analysis of a particular topic or period within ancient and/or medieval Europe. Calling upon the rich variety of sources in ancient and/or medieval European culture and society, it practices historical analysis on interdisciplinary materials. Possible topics include the Greek polis, the Roman Empire of Augustus, Late Antiquity, Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages, the Bible in the Middle Ages, and the Crusades. The topic for Fall 2015 is Sex, Gender, and Holiness in Medieval Europe. This course is eligible for concurrent registration with History 394. Not offered 2015-16.

364 Studies in Early Modern and Modern Europe (3). This course focuses on a particular period or movement in European history within either the early modern period (c. 1500-1789) or the modern period (since 1789). The specific content will vary from year to year. Past topics have included the Italian Renaissance, international Calvinism, imperial Spain, nationalism and communism in Eastern Europe, and the history of Christianity in twentieth-century Europe. Not offered 2015-16.

Global Histories

372 Russia & China: Communism, Capitalism, Empire (Studies in Modern Empires) (3). Fall. The course examines the changing nature of empires and imperialism between the 15th and 20th centuries. It considers the influence of factors such as environment, religion, demography, race, technology, economic institutions, politics, and war on the creation of empires, the conduct of those who led them and were affected by them, and on their ultimate demise. While the particular empires examined will vary from one semester to the next, the broad underlying theme will be the evolution of empires and imperialism, from the land-based and overseas "gunpowder" empires of the early modern era to the "high imperialism" of the 19th century to the Cold War and globalization in the 20th century. The topic for Fall 2015 is Soviet Russia and China. This course is eligible for concurrent registration with History 394. B. Berglund.

376 Studies in the History of Women and Gender (3). An introduction to topics in the history of women and to the use of gender as a category of historical analysis. This course examines experiences unique to women, as well as the social history of male-female interactions (in such institutions as the family, the church, and the political sphere) and the changing perceptions of masculinity and femininity in various historical contexts. This course serves as an elective in both History and Gender Studies. Not offered 2015-16.

Theory and Practice of History

359 Seminar in the Teaching Secondary Social Studies (3). Spring. This course is designed to assist student teachers in developing appropriate goals and effective methods of teaching history and social studies at the middle and high school level. The seminar also provides a forum for the discussion of problems that develop during student teaching. Prerequisites: History 375, concurrent enrollment in Education 346, and an approved history major. R. Schoone-Jongen.

IDIS 375 Methods and Pedagogies for Secondary Social Studies (3). Interim. A course in perspectives on, principles of, and practices in teaching of history, government, geography, and economics at the secondary level. Included are teaching strategies, curriculum studies, readings regarding new developments in social studies education, and an examination of these topics as they relate to a Christian view of human nature. Prerequisites: Education 302-303 or permission of the instructor. R. Schoone-Jongen.

390 Independent Study. Fall, Interim, and Spring. Talk to your advisor for more information.

390H Honors Tutorial in History (3) and 391H Honors Senior Thesis (3). A two-semester sequence designed to lead students to the writing of a more substantial seminar paper than is possible in History 394. Students spend fall term in History 390H conducting a thorough investigation of the secondary literature on and around a topic which they choose in close consultation with their advisor. They proceed in spring term to write a senior thesis upon that topic. Required for students in the department’s honors track and highly recommended for those planning to pursue graduate studies in history. Consult with your advisor for additional information.

393 History Internship (3). Spring. A specialized class in which students enrich their historical education through experiential learning at a historical institution or sites in other appropriate fields of work, as approved by the History Department. Beyond the work of the internship itself, the course includes reading and written work and class meetings. Prior to beginning the internship, students must secure a semester-long internship, normally through the CalvinLink website, and submit a detailed description of their planned activities and educational objectives for the internship. The internship should involve at least 10 hours of work weekly for the duration of the 14-week semester. Those doing internships in a museum or archive normally will have completed History 293, Public History. In order to pass the internship, students must fulfill their original educational objectives, receive a favorable review from their internship site supervisor, attend the internship seminar faithfully, and submit all required assignments. K. van Liere.

394 Research Seminar (2). Fall, Spring. An intensive study of a specific question or topic to the end of producing an article-length (20-25 pages) paper based on original sources and addressing a well-defined historiographical problem in the field. Must be taken with a concurrent 300 level course. Not open to first- or second-year students. See a listing of concurrent courses or check with the department for details. Staff.

395 Historiographical Perspectives (3). Fall, Spring. The capstone in the history major, this course examines the history of historical writing in the Western tradition with a view toward articulating a critical Christian perspective on the discipline. Emphasis is on reading and discussion of significant monuments of Western historiography. By means of persistent critical reflection on the texts and on current epistemological and methodological issues, a variety of Christian and non-Christian perspectives are engaged and evaluated, and the students challenged to articulate their own. K. van Liere, W. Katerberg.

Quick links

394 Sections for 2015-16

Beginning survey courses

Intermediate courses

Advanced courses

Course schedules

The semesters when the courses are offered and faculty teaching them are listed with each course. For days and times, go to the Registrar's web page.