You might think you know what history is: it’s what happened in the past—the names, dates, and events that fill textbooks. But think again. History is not about memorizing facts. It’s about asking questions about the past, finding clues, and using our imaginations to piece those clues together into stories.
Does this mean history is fiction?
- Who gets to do history — whose stories should we accept as true?
- How is history different in different parts of the world?
- How do political struggles, in the U.S. and around the globe, shape the way people see the past and use it in their everyday lives?
- Can history predict or improve the future, and if not, what is history for?
- Must histories only be written in books, or can pilgrimages, spirit possession, myths, or museums fulfill a similar purpose?
This course will introduce you to various approaches to history, drawing examples from across the globe and throughout the centuries. But above all, it will teach you new ways of thinking critically and internationally about the world you live in — its past, present, and future.
Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Harvard U. Press, 1983).
Requirements for this course include participation in lecture and sections, 3 short essays (2-3 pages), a mid-term and a final.
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Two lectures and one discussion section per week.