At the end of the nineteenth century, the United States did something it had never done before: it claimed territory overseas. Usually this is treated as just a short episode in U.S. history. But the United States held onto its empire—the fifth largest in the world—for decades. In this seminar we will probe the history of the United States’ overseas territories. How and why were they acquired...
The contemporary American landscape of cities, suburbs, and malls; highways, rails, and controlled rivers; fields and fences; and factories, mines, and ports, is the product of a long process of extraction, production, and exchange of natural resources: their transformation into commodities.
Most Americans think of the civil rights movement as a southern phenomenon, aimed at toppling the legal system of segregation that stripped African Americans of the rights the Constitution guaranteed them.
Between 1776 and 1824, every major nation in the Americas except for Cuba declared independence from their colonial masters, but was Mexico’s long struggle for revolution from 1810 to 1821 a response to the European crisis, or did it have more domestic origins?
The tumult of the French Revolution brought fundamental shifts in notions of authority and belonging. When a supposedly divinely ordained king could be deposed and executed, what became the new basis of governmental authority? Without their king, what now bound the French together? As “subjects” become “citizens,” what was their relationship to one another and the state?
This seminar explores the meaning of the American Revolution in its own time and over time, both at home and abroad, from the abolitionists to the Tea Party and from the French Revolution to the Arab Spring.
The problem of the state is a central one for a nation defined by its revolution against the powerful, centralized government of the British Empire.
Debates about immigration policy and the boundaries of citizenship are a mainstay in American political and popular culture. National mythologies celebrate the United States as a “nation of immigrants” or as a “melting pot” of various races and cultures, but these myths often obscure disagreements and controversies about the boundaries of national belonging.
In the age of the Tea Party and Occupying Wall Street, dissent in the United States seems to be back in the headlines. This seminar will examine the basic contours of dissent from just before the Civil War to the present, discussing debates about the power (or lack thereof) of dissent in the American past. We will also explore specific case studies of dissent, with many focused on Chicago....
Espionage, subversion, and surveillance took many forms during the Cold War. In 1953, when the federal government executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg for spying for the Soviet Union during World War II, very few Americans knew how much espionage the Soviet Union had carried out inside the United States.
Anticipating the approaching sesquicentennial of the American Civil War and slave emancipation, this course will explore the cause and consequences of the Civil War in light of recent scholarship. Among the questions addressed will be: How did the war’s purpose shift from “saving the union” to destroying slavery? What roles did slaves themselves play in changing the course of the war?
This seminar explores the crusades in their historical setting—the causes, motives, and impacts on relations between medieval Christians and Muslims—and as they shape discourse today.
By abolishing slavery, the Civil War settled one question only to raise a series of new ones. This seminar will explore the most deceptively simple of those questions: what did “freedom” mean to former slaveholders and the newly freed? How would freedom be defined, protected, and contested by both Northerners and Southerners?
The Newberry Library’s collection contains a wealth of visual materials depicting the indigenous peoples of North America from the early periods of contact and conquest through the nineteenth century, when artists such as Catlin and Burbank produced their famous portraits. Artists, anthropologists, soldiers, and travelers produced these representations in media ranging from singular drawi
The “New World” was not new for either the Indigenous peoples who already lived in the Americas or the European merchants and explorers who thought these continents were islands en route to the Orient. Rather, the New World emerged from the respective “Old Worlds” of Europe and the pre-contact Americas.
We are accustomed to thinking of maps as simple tools that tell us how to get from one place to another or where some distant country or mountain range is. It is true that on the simplest level maps depict the geography-the general physical description and spatial organization-of our planet. But the content of maps is as much determined by culture, historical circumstances, and the