HISTORY 329 - Social Science Topics in History
Fall 2018, Section 001 - Fake News: A History
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
May be elected five times for credit.
Primary Instructor:


Over the last year, “fake news” has been one of President Donald Trump’s most oft-repeated phrases, undermining confidence in the press. In 2016, it was a term used by the media to describe deliberate misinformation spread on social media during the presidential campaign, often comprised of conspiracy theories. So what is “fake news” and how should we understand it, identify it, and make sense of how it is being used?

In this discussion-based seminar, we will analyze the historical precedents of “fake news.” Course readings will take us from Renaissance Italy, to imperial China, revolutionary France and America, colonial India, through totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century and up to the present day. Each week, we will delve into a different historical event in which rumor, conspiracy, propaganda, or satire played a central role. We will dissect the meaning of these terms across time and space and ask how and why they become meaningful in particular societies at particular moments. In the process, we will examine how historians treat deception, misinformation, and forgery in attempting to explain what happened in the past. Finally, we will ask whether “fake news” is a useful analytical category; what does it mean, how can we study it, and how can we handle it in our current society? Students will leave the course with a mastery of the historical context of fake news, an ability to identify and decode false information, and an understanding of methods for approaching a confusing and contested past. Course materials will include books, articles, podcasts, and films. Students will be evaluated primarily based on class participation, weekly discussion questions, and two essays.

Course Requirements:

Students will be evaluated primarily based on class participation, weekly discussion questions submitted before class, and two essays.

Intended Audience:

Sophomore, Junior, Senior

Class Format:



HISTORY 329 - Social Science Topics in History
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
9/4/18 - 12/11/18
002 (SEM)
 In Person
TuTh 8:30AM - 10:00AM
9/4/18 - 12/11/18

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