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Upcoming History, Genealogy, and Social Science Seminars

This list is of upcoming seminars only. Since most seminars meet more than once in a term, if a class has already met at least once, it will no longer show up on this list. To find a seminar that has already started or has finished, use the calendar and set the date range to include the seminar's starting date.

Starting: Thursday, April 17, 2014
Thursdays, April 17 – May 15 (Class will not meet April 24th)
Note: The schedule for this class has changed.
The Irrepressible Conflict: The Slavery Debate in Antebellum America
Led by Joseph Harrington

How could a nation “conceived in liberty” advance human slavery as the country expanded? Why were calls to abolish the “peculiar institution” considered so extreme, repugnant, and immoral in themselves? We will discuss the arguments used to attack and defend slavery as the United States moved inexorably toward bloody conflict over the issue. Please read pages 3-80 of ...


Starting: Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Tuesdays, June 10 – July 29
Looking for Mr. Lincoln: Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America
Led by John Drodow

Historians have written more about Abraham Lincoln than any other American. We will look for Lincoln, the man considered by many to be our greatest national leader, both in the scholarship of distinguished American historians and in Lincoln’s own writings and speeches. Focusing on the period from 1854 until his assassination in 1865, we will explore the meaning of Lincoln’s remarkable...


Starting: Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Wednesdays, June 11 – July 30
From Caravaggio to Bernini: Italian Baroque Art, 1600-1700
Led by Jeffrey Nigro

The very term used to describe seventeenth-century art—baroque—has acquired pejorative meanings, associated with excess, bombast, and theatricality. We will attempt to understand the essence of seventeenth-century Italian art by approaching it on its own terms, and by appreciating the goals and values of its artists, patrons, and original audiences. Sessions will include visual analysis,...


Starting: Thursday, June 12, 2014
Thursdays, June 12 – July 31
Over Here: World War I in the Western Hemisphere
Led by Joseph Harrington

Although there was little combat in the Western Hemisphere during World War I, the war had a profound impact on domestic and international politics in the Americas. This seminar will cover the diplomacy of the Mexican Revolution, including the famous Zimmerman Telegram, the Anglo-German rivalry in South America, the beginnings of an independent Canadian foreign policy, and the rise of the US...


Starting: Saturday, June 14, 2014
Saturdays, June 14 - July 19 (class will not meet July 5)
The Book of Kells: Its History and Art
Led by Francis Crowley

More than 1000 years ago, Vikings raided a church in the Irish town of Kells and discovered a book of Gospels with covers decorated in precious jewels and gold. The invaders took the covers and tore out the pages. Recovered months later, these pages have become acknowledged as Ireland’s greatest national treasure. We will study the book’s history, methods of production, and magnificent...


Starting: Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Wednesdays, June 18 – July 23
The City That Drinks: The Chicago Saloon in History, Film, and Literature
Led by Bill Savage

Bars, taverns, and saloons have long been central to Chicago culture. From the city’s first election—held in the Sauganash Tavern—through the opulent saloons of the Gilded Age and Prohibition-era speakeasies, to generations of ethnically-identified bars, such venues have provided a “third place” where people create community and negotiate identity. We will discuss how writers and film-makers...


Starting: Thursday, June 19, 2014
Thursdays, June 19 – August 7 (class will not meet July 17 and 24)
The Age of the Renaissance
Led by Charles Keenan

For centuries, the Renaissance has been seen as the birth of the modern world. We will explore the social and cultural history of this era. Our discussions will revolve around primary texts written by different Renaissance characters to investigate how artists, merchants, princes, women, religious leaders, and navigators experienced this period of dynamic social change. Please read pages 120-...


Starting: Saturday, June 21, 2014
Saturdays, June 21 – August 2 (class will not meet July 5)
Tudor and Stuart London, 1485-1714
Led by Frank Biletz

We will consider the rise of London during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and its transformation into the greatest economic and cultural center in Europe. Among the topics to be treated will be the city’s roles as royal capital and thriving commercial center; cultural life during the era of Shakespeare; the social conditions of its people; the Great Plague of 1665 and Great Fire...


Starting: Saturday, June 21, 2014
Sixty Minutes to Better Genealogy: Day 1
Led by Marsha Peterson-Maass

These focused, sixty-minute sessions are designed to help illuminate important topics for your genealogical project and help push you through a particular question in your research. Take all twelve sessions over three Saturdays (June 21, June 28 and July 12), or simply those that most appeal to you.

Make sure to check out the full listings for Day 2 (Saturday,...


Saturday, June 21, 2014
Writing Family Stories
Led by Carol LaChapelle

This workshop is offered for those interested in writing family stories—those real-life accounts of the important people, places, and events in our lives. These stories of loss and triumph, love and regret, and of lessons learned may be recorded as letters, diary entries, short remembrances, character sketches, even eulogies. We will discuss the merits of each of these forms and practice...


Starting: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Tuesdays, June 24 – August 5
Origins of the Great War: European Rivalries, 1871-1914
Led by Frank Biletz

We will explore both the long and short-term causes of the First World War. Among the topics to be treated will be the emergence of rival alliance blocs; the naval arms race between Britain and Germany; imperial rivalries in Africa and Asia; the gradual disintegration of such multi-ethnic states as Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire; the growth of nationalism, especially in the Balkans;...


Starting: Saturday, June 28, 2014
Sixty Minutes to Better Genealogy: Day 2
Led by Caron Primas Brennan

These focused, sixty-minute sessions are designed to help illuminate important topics for your genealogical project and help push you through a particular question in your research. Take all twelve sessions over three Saturdays (June 21, June 28 and July 12), or simply those that most appeal to you.

Make sure to check out the full listing for Day 1 (Saturday,...


Starting: Saturday, July 12, 2014
Saturdays, July 12 – 19
Ellis Island: The Immigrant's Experience
Led by Bill Cellini, Jr.

Sixty percent of Americans are descendants of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island, including multitudes of Chicagoans. This seminar explores the iconic status of this island as seen through popular culture and national history. Using architectural drawings, government immigration statistics, and ship manifests, we will learn about the history and social importance of Ellis Island and its...


Starting: Saturday, July 12, 2014
Sixty Minutes to Better Genealogy: Day 3
Led by Grace Dumelle and Matt Rutherford

These focused, sixty-minute sessions are designed to help illuminate important topics for your genealogical project and help push you through a particular question in your research. Take all twelve sessions over three Saturdays (June 21, June 28 and July 12), or simply those that most appeal to you.

Make sure to check out the full listings for Day 1 (Saturday,...


Saturday, July 19, 2014
Twilight of the Habsburgs, 1848-1918
Led by Joseph Harrington

The immediate cause of the First World War was action undertaken to preserve the Habsburg monarchy, which had maintained political stability among diverse subject peoples of Central Europe for nearly 400 years. We will discuss several internal and international crises that tested the surprisingly resilient monarchy during the reign of Emperor Franz Josef. We will also discuss American...