Carnegie Mellon University
October 25, 2021

Spring Schedule Spectacular

Are you looking to explore course offerings in the History Department? Whether you are interested in one of our three great majors – Social and Political History; Global Studies; Ethics, History, and Public Policy – or just looking for a compelling course to round out your schedule, check out one of the six courses below – they are perfect for first year students or anyone else interested in checking out what History @ CMU has to offer! Our academic advisor, Andrew Ramey, would love to tell you more about these and other great courses on schedule for the Spring!

Andrew Ramey

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10:10 am – 11:30 am

Who (and what) makes history? This apparently straightforward question is at the heart of studying the past, but it is also an important question to answer if we are to understand the world around us. Being able to answer the question "Who and what caused changes to political, cultural, economic, and environmental systems?" is fundamental to thinking about the past, but it is also essential to analyzing current issues as widespread and yet connected as economic inequality, social justice, and climate change. "Making History" is an introductory course ideal for students who are curious about the past and want to learn how to become better critical thinkers by applying its lessons to the present. The course explores how history is made on two levels: both the historical events themselves and how those events are documented, interpreted, and remembered. In other words, making history is not just about understanding what happened, but what it meant to different groups of people then and what it means to different groups of people now. We'll visit some famous (and not-so-famous) historical events and actors to learn about how individual choices combine with deeper structural factors, like gender, race, environment, and class to "make history." Along the way, we'll also encounter different ways to interpret the past, drawing upon the latest scholarship to understand how historians think about the past -- and present. Students will be encouraged to synthesize what they learn in class to develop their own critical perspectives on their lives and the world around them.

Ricky Law

Mondays & Wednesdays, Lecture 1:25 pm – 2:15 pm; Friday, Recitation – times vary


Can you imagine being responsible for the deaths of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people? No? Almost everyone who ended up committing unspeakable atrocities had not been able to either. In fact, many of them still would not face their responsibility even after their complicity was proven beyond doubt. Some convinced themselves, often sincerely, that there was no choice or that someone else was actually responsible. Others found reasons that justified, in their minds at least, taking many lives. Still others managed to forget that they had blood on their hands. How could anyone do such terrible things? And more important, can you be sure that you would not act like them under the right circumstances? Through the history of genocide and weapons of mass destruction, this course will teach you to look out for factors that turn ordinary people into mass killers. You will explore why conflicts break out and potential solutions. You will also learn to see from multiple perspectives and to be humble before history. We focus on genocide and weapons of mass destruction because stopping them is a top priority in global affairs today. Our exploration will begin with the European encounter with the Western Hemisphere and continue to 19th-century imperialism, the Holocaust, the atomic bombings of Japan, the Cold War, and decolonization and independence. At the end of our journey, you will have grasped the concepts and historical facts of genocide and weapons of mass destruction. You will also come to appreciate the significance of unintended consequences and the ambiguity of human progress, a realization that will guide you in life.

Ricky Law

Mondays & Wednesdays, Lecture 12:20 pm – 1:10 pm; Friday, Recitation – times vary


Did you know that only six countries in the world do not call themselves a democracy? Just six.  Which ones they are will not surprise you, but we can easily think of more than six undemocratic regimes. How can almost all countries claim to be democracies when so many are clearly not democratic? Why do they even bother with looking and talking like a democracy? How did democracy become, in name at least, nearly a universal ideal of government? And what does it even mean to be a democracy when the label can be applied so indiscriminately? This course will train you in the skillset and mindset of a historian so you can answer these questions. You will learn to tell historical facts from opinions and to see from different perspectives. The course will also push you to think independently and critically, and to argue persuasively for your own position. These historical thinking skills are useful not just for school or work, but they are also indispensable to a democratic society. Democracy is chosen as the course theme because it is a feature that sets humans apart from other organisms. Knowing the history of democracy is thus knowing what it means to be human, which is the essence of the humanities. Our investigation will begin with ancient Rome and continue to revolutionary France, Weimar Germany, modern Japan, the Chinese nation, and the Iranian nation. At the end of our journey, you will have gained a basic appreciation of the philosophical appeal and practical challenges of democracy, so that you will be able to decide for yourself what role democracy should play in your life and vice versa.

Emanuela Grama

Mondays & Wednesdays, 3:05 pm – 4:25 pm


Anthropologist Ruth Benedict claimed that anthropology's mission is truly to "make the world safe for human difference." Cultural anthropologists "make the strange familiar and the familiar strange," attempting to understand the internal logic of cultures which might, at first glance, seem bizarre to us. At the same time, anthropologists probe those aspects of our own society which might appear equally bizarre to outsiders. Anthropologists have been at the forefront of struggles for social justice, for equity, visibility and rights. In this course, we will learn about the diversity of human practices and experiences across time and space, as well as the wide range of approaches to these practices within the field of anthropology. The goal of this course is to raise questions basic to the study of culture and social relationships in various contexts. We will also discuss the particular research methods informing anthropology, as well as anthropologists' relationship to the people they study, and the responsibilities informing those relationships. This course is structured as a combination of lectures and seminar discussions. In the first part of the course, I will give a lecture every week, followed by a class session that will focus solely on discussing the readings and key concepts. In the second part of the course, I will introduce the readings by placing them within larger debates, but the course will become more discussion oriented.

Allyson Creasman

Tuesdays & Thursdays, 3:05 pm – 4:25 pm


This course examines European history from the Black Death to the French Revolution, a period known to history as the "early modern" period. That is, it marks a period in European history that was not quite medieval, and yet not quite modern. Many features of modern society, such as the nation-state, free-trade economies, religious pluralism, scientific rationalism, and secular culture trace their origins to the early modern era, yet the period was also marked by important continuities with the Middle Ages. During this course, we will explore how Europeans re-imagined their world in its transition from the medieval to the modern. Topics to be considered will include the "renaissance" of the arts, the problems of religious reform, exploration and colonialism, the rise of science, and the expansion of the state. Through these developments, we will focus on Europeans' changing notions of the human body, the body politic, and the natural world, as well as their re-interpretations of the proper relation between the human and the divine, the individual and the community, and the present and the past.

Jay Aronson

Mondays & Wednesdays, 10:10 am – 11:30 am


This seminar will critically explore the development of the American criminal legal system from the colonial era to the present. Topics covered will include slave patrols in the antebellum south, efforts to control labor unrest in the northeast, the emergence of urban police departments, corruption, private police forces, campus police forces, surveillance, the wars on crime and drugs (and their racial implications), deaths in custody, police oversight, and the portrayal of policing in popular culture. This course will be discussion-based and require significant reading. Assignments will include reading reflections and two essays.