The academic catalog is currently being updated for the 2020-21 year. View the Catalog Archive to access the 2019-20 catalog as well as catalogs from previous years.
Brian Caton (department head)
The objectives of the history program at Luther College derive from our understanding of the discipline of history as defined by the American Historical Association, the largest professional organization for historians in the United States:
History is an encompassing discipline. Its essence is in the connectedness of historical events and human experiences. By examining the causes, contexts, and chronologies of events, one gains an understanding of the nature of continuity and change in human experiences. Contemporary issues, ideas, and relationships take on new meaning when they are explored from historical perspectives.
Thus as historians, we can investigate any element of the past we choose, but we are guided in our study by a set of questions that are applicable across time and place: why and how does change occur over time? How do the local, national, and global contexts affect particular groups of people and influence events? What causes specific events to occur (and when does something that happens prior to such an event have no causal link to it)? The ability to research and answer such questions imparts vital skills for career paths both in teaching (Plan II) and in the broad spectrum of occupations our graduates have undertaken.
Required for a major:
Plan I (non-teaching). The major normally consists of nine courses (36 hours, excluding senior project) of history, including at least one course in three of the following areas of history: African, Asian, European, U.S., and transregional/comparative (at least one of these courses must be in African or Asian History). Each student must complete one course in historical methods (HIST 298), two courses at the 300 level, a research seminar (HIST 485), and senior project. Writing requirement completed with HIST 485. Double majors may elect to complete their senior project in another discipline. Students select remaining history courses based on their interests with the approval of and consultation with history faculty.
Plan II (teaching in U.S. and/or world history). Same as Plan I requirements. Students planning to teach in secondary education must also complete at least one certification area (U.S. history, world history, or both) for teaching history in the state of Iowa; a minimum of four courses in U.S. history (for certification in U.S. history) and/or four courses in African, Asian, European, or transregional/comparative history (for certification in world history). Writing requirement completed with HIST 485. See education department for secondary education minor requirements.
Required for the history minor: The minor normally consists of five courses. Students must have at least one course in three of the following areas of history: African, Asian, European, U.S., and transregional/comparative (at least one of these courses must be African or Asian history). One of the five courses must be at the 300 level or above. Students select other history courses based on their interests with the approval of and consultation with the history faculty.
View program learning goals for an explanation of learning outcomes in History.
Courses where region is dependent upon instructor (not tracked in Program Evaluation: History Department will communicate appropriate designation to the Registrar’s Office)
HIST 226 History and Material Culture
HIST 227 Public History
HIST 290 Gender and Women's History
HIST 171 History of Africa to 1880
HIST 172 History of Modern Africa
HIST 371 Topics in African History
HIST 161 East Asian History
HIST 162 South Asian History
HIST 163 Modern Middle East History
HIST 262 Everybody Loves Gandhi
HIST 361 Topics in Asian History
HIST 149 Europe to 1648
HIST 150 Europe, 1648 to the Present
HIST 241 Rome: Republic and Empire
HIST 242 Medieval History
HIST 248 The Viking Age: Then and Now
HIST 250 Rulers, Reform, and Revolution: The History of Early Modern Britain
HIST 254 Russian History
HIST 351 Topics in European History
HIST 355 The Reformation in Renaissance Europe
HIST 111 Survey of US History to 1877
HIST 112 Survey of US History Since 1877
HIST 135 African-American History
HIST 235 The Long Civil Rights Era: Black Nationalism to Black Power
HIST 256 Scandinavian Immigration History
HIST 321 Topics in U.S. History
HIST 331 Topics in African American History
Transregional/Comparative: Classes that cover more than one region
HIST 126 Human Geography
HIST 243 Christianity and Islam: Encounters and Perceptions, 632-1683
HIST 271 African Diaspora
HIST 291 Environmental History
HIST 391 Topics in Africana History
This course surveys American history from the early colonial period to the end of Reconstruction in 1877. Topics are wide-ranging and include the geographic and social evolution of the New England colonies, the Middle Colonies, the Chesapeake, and the Lower South into coherent regions with different economies, social structures and cultural attributes. The course then explores how these various regions successfully cooperated politically with one another long enough to engage in an independence movement that separated them from Great Britain and created the United States. But political, economic and social differences lived on into the nineteenth century, however, and became the basis for the geographic and sectional conflict which erupted into Civil War in 1861. The course closes with the political and economic successes and failures of Reconstruction policy as a bridge to later American history.
This course surveys American history since Reconstruction, exploring transformations in American geography, politics, economics, society, and culture. The course has, as a unifying theme the question of how and why people have defined the American nation in different ways, and how those ideas have related to race and gender. Topics covered include the end of the westward expansion after the Civil War, Indian resistance, industrialization, the Populist political movement, immigration, the successes and failures of the Progressive movement, the First World War, African American migration and cultural innovation, the cultural turmoil of the 1920s, the Depression and New Deal, the Second World War at home and abroad, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, feminism, other social movements, the Vietnam war and the anti-war movement, cultural politics in the 1970s, the Reagan Revolution and the 1980s culture wars, Republican and Democratic party battles of the 1990s, 9/11 and its aftermath, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
A survey of world geography combining the regional and topical approaches, the natural factors which shape the environment, such as climate, landforms and resources, will be considered, along with their impact on people, as studied in the fields of political, economic, and cultural geography. The primary focus of the course will be on basic concepts in cultural geography that will be of greatest use for students preparing to teach middle school and high school social studies.
This course is a survey of African-American history from the 15th century to the present. Eras and topics include the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery in the Americas, the Civil War and Emancipation, segregation, the Great Migration, the Great Depression and World War II, the modern black freedom struggle, and the post-civil rights era. The class emphasizes how African Americans constructed individual and collective selves, created livelihoods, formed families, communities, and institutions, fashioned cultures, defined citizenship, and consistently defied notions of a monolithic "black community." Centering African Americans' words, actions, and artistic creations and the ways they interacted with other cultures and peoples within the Americas and abroad, this course investigates how African Americans shaped and were shaped by the many worlds they traversed. (Same as AFRS 135)
An introductory survey of European history from ancient Greece to the end of the "Religious Wars" (and the Peace of Westphalia) in 1648. Topics will include: Greece from the Bronze Age to the Hellenistic Empires, Ancient Rome (Republic and Empire), Medieval Europe, the Renaissance, and the Reformation and the Age of Religious Wars.
An introductory survey of European history from the end of the wars of religion in the seventeenth century to the present. Topics will include: the Scientific Revolution: the Enlightenment; Absolutism and the Emergence of the Parliamentary Government; the French Revolution and Napoleon; Reaction and Revolution in the early nineteenth century; The Industrial Revolution; Nationalism and Unification; the "New Imperialism" and the Coming of World War I: the "Thirty Years War of the Twentieth Century"; Postwar Europe: Cold War and Integration.
An introduction to the basic themes and content of East Asian history, from the earlist times to the present. Students will explore the lives of both great and ordinary people who lived in what are now China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Students will consider how empire, international trade, relations of production, and ideologies affected the construction and reproduction of social and cultural groups. Offered alternate years.
An introduction to the basic themes and content of South Asian history from the earliest times to the present. Students will explore the lives of both great and ordinary people who lived in what are now Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal. Students will consider how empire, international trade, relations of production, and ideologies affected the construction and reproduction of social and cultural groups. Offered alternate years.
Students in this course investigate the history of the Middle East, including Iran, Turkey, and northern Africa. The course begins with the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258, but its focus on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries allows students to understand the cultural and material processes that inform current events. The course provides important historical context for intellectual discussion among the Abrahamic traditions and requires students to consider social, economic, and cultural factors that may find expression in religious canon and practice.
Survey of African history from the earliest times to roughly about 1880. The course begins with the historical development of Africa's still-vital cultural, linguistic, social, and economic systems and moves on to examine the Islamic and Christian impact on these systems through the era of the Atlantic slave trade. The course concludes by discussing the ways in which early European colonialism affected the African past. (Same as AFRS 171)
This course surveys the history of sub-Saharan Africa from the 1880s to the present. The course examines African life under European colonial domination (from about 1880 to about 1960) and under independent states which succeeded colonial governments after 1960. A primary aim of this course is to explore the diversity of human experience in Africa during the colonial and post-colonial periods. The course makes use of several primary documents to portray ways in which men and women have dealt with the challenges of living in 20th- and 21st-century Africa. (Same as AFRS 172)
This course explores how the study of material culture- objects made or modified by human beings - can inform us about how people thought,lived, and behaved in the past. The course draws upon the multi-disciplinary nature of material culture studies to offer as a fresh approach to history by using insights from folk art, anthropology, and the decorative arts to augment and broaden what historians have learned through the use of written records. Significant attention is given to the ways in which museums contribute to the study of material culture by collecting, preserving, identifying, exhibiting, and interpreting these objects. Offered alternate years.
This course explores the various ways in which history is created, incorporated into and presented in popular culture. This course will combine hands on work with local historical societies, museums, and other public history venues with academic study of public history techniques and ethical challenges. Topics may include the ways in which historical road markers, entertainment corporations (such as the History Channel and Disney), local and regional history associations present history to the public and how the public interacts with these discourses on history. A comparison of the differences in purpose and audience between public and scholarly presentations of history is a central theme of the course. Offered alternate years.
In the mid-twentieth century, black and white Americans fought (and many died) for greater rights and freedoms denied by a justice system enmeshed in Jim Crow inequality. For the past twenty-five years or so, most American schools taught the Civil Rights Movement as an unparalleled success, but in the 21st century, more and more people are asking why there is racial violence and economic inequality if the Civil Rights Movement accomplished what the high school textbooks say it did. In this class, we will examine the legal, political, economic, and social reforms that the activists of the Civil Rights Movement demanded, along with the pervasive backlash that limited their successes. We will use the scholarship from history and Africana Studies to investigate these questions, in addition to a range of primary sources including speeches, music, film, television, memoirs, oral histories, and photography.(same as AFRS 235)
A survey of the Roman Republic and Empire, concentrating on the social and economic background of Romes's rise and fall as well as on the military and political aspects of expansion and decline. Special emphasis on the Punic and Mecedonian Wars, civil war and the end of Republic, Roman influence on France and Britian, Christianity in the imperial period, and Roman interaction with the Germans. Offered alternate years.
An introduction to medieval European history from the dissolution of the Roman Empire to the end of the Great Schism. The class focuses on western Europe, but pays close attention to its encounters with the Muslim east and the Viking north. Special emphasis is given to the flowering of medieval culture (monasteries, mystics, villages, and universities) as well as the crises of the period (crusades, heresy, and inquisition, Hundred Years' War, and the Black Death). Offered alternate years.
This course will investigate the many varied contacts between Christians and Muslims, as well as the changing perceptions and attitudes each group had of the other, from the death of Muhammad (632) to the Battle of Vienna (1683). Analysis of these interactions will focus on distinct epochs and events including: immediate Christian responses to the rise of Islam; the relationships among the Carolingians, Umayyads, and Abbasids; convivencia on the Iberian Peninsula in the 9th-11th centuries; the Crusades; intellectual and commercial interaction in the 12th century; Europe and the rise of the Ottoman Empire; and Renaissance and Reformation perceptions of Islam. This course will demonstrate how specific historical contexts influenced religious interactions, military encounters, and economic and cultural exchanges, as well as perceptions of the other.
Our image of the Vikings is based both on historical realities and more modern constructs. This course will investigate both. The first half of the course will focus on "The Viking Era," c. 780-1070 CE, beginning with the pre-history of Scandinavia and then moving to the origins of Viking society and culture and the technological advancements that allowed for its dissemination. It will follow Viking expansion via trade, invasion, and settlement into areas from the North Atlantic to the Mediterranean, with particular attention paid to Viking expeditions to North America. Along the way, students will achieve a deeper understanding of Viking society, religion and mythology, and other aspects of Viking culture. In the second half of the course, students will investigate the origins of the modern understanding of the Vikings, from the Victorians' rediscovery of the Vikings to present day preoccupations. We will discuss how, why, and when people remembered and portrayed the Vikings as brutal warriors compared to adventuresome traders and settlers, and the various impacts this had on cultural, social and political developments. This discussion of the history and memory of the Vikings will intersect with topics such as race and ethnicity, nationalism, politics, and gender.
This class covers two centuries of dramatic change in Tudor-Stuart England. Encompassing the period from 1485 to 1689, the course considers the political, social, and religious history of Great Britain, during a period in which the monarchs in the south attempted to expand their control over the entire territory; the official religion of the land changed with surprising frequency; and the country eventually fell into civil war and revolution. In this survey course, students will be introduced to the major trends, characters and events of this period, examining them in depth via a variety of primary sources, such as letters, journals, and legal documents.
A general survey of Russian-Soviet history from the founding of Kievan Rus in 862 to the present day. Special emphasis given to the topic of empire, including interactions between people on the periphery and the core, the methods Russian/Soviet rulers used to expand and control territories and peoples, and how this changed over time.
A study of the history of immigrants to the United States from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland, and their descendants. Drawing on the rich ethnic resources of Luther College and Vesterheim museums, this course examines the nature of the immigration experience and the development within immigrant communities of a sense of old world ethnicity combined with a rising U.S. nationalism. Offered alternate years.
M. K. Gandhi remains the Indian most indelibly associated with India, one of the most frequently-quoted thinkers of all time, and one of the most important figures in developing the theory and practice of non-violent resistance. However, Gandhi's ideas and philosophy have managed to become detached from the historical context in which they were created, and indeed from the human being who created them. This course examines Gandhi's life, political positions, and political legacies in India and globally, in an effort to re-evaluate his achievements and failures, to place his life within the broader historical context of India in the early twentieth century, and to consider the reasons why some people, since his death, have variously beatified and demonized the man and his ideas.
This course explores the global experiences of people of African descent. Students will study the human experiences of Africans in the Indian Ocean world, the trans-Saharan trade and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Geographical areas include Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Particular attention will be given to the web of interrelated histories, social dynamics, political, and economic processes affecting and reflecting world cultures and histories. (Same as AFRS 271)
Faculty teaching this course will focus on the history of gender within their own period of expertise. The course will examine such gender questions as: Why and how should we study the history of gender? What do gender roles from the past tell us about our own gender experience? How do the histories of men and women as gendered persons intersect? The course will focus on these questions as they are related to the history of work, family, politics, and social behavior for the particular period and nation the instructor selects. (Same as WGST 290)
This course introduces students to the field of environmental history. Students will examine the ways in which humans, plants, animals, and microbiota have acted as agents in the history of the world. The course emphasizes historical developments after 1300 and especially investigates the roles of science, colonialism, capitalism, and the state in changing the physical state of the environment and the ways humans understand their surroundings.
This course introduces students to the history of medicine in a global context. We will consider the construction of medical knowledge in ancient times in different locations; the sharing of medical knowledge and materia medica between cultures; and the development of a global medical community through the context of colonial administration. Students will also investigate the extent to which human medicine depends upon the study of animals and the manner in which veterinary knowledge became separate from human medicine. The course concludes with an examination of the ways in which states combined medicine and public works to produce public health and, later, "tropical medicine" and global health.
This class introduces students to the study of history as an academic discipline. During the semester, students will become familiar with historiography; the scholarly techniques, theories, and principles of historical research. Among other issues, we will consider how historians formulate and compose their accounts of the past. What factors affect the composition of history? What sources do historians use? How do they select, analyze, and present those sources to their readers? Who are those readers, and to what extent do they determine the stories historians tell? What methodologies do historians commonly use in writing historical accounts, and which ones are most effective? Students will find this historiographic knowledge beneficial to junior and senior-level research projects.
In-depth study of selected topics in history, taught during January term as part of Luther's study abroad offerings. Individual subjects will vary depending on faculty member and location. Possible subjects include: Viking life in Scandinavia and Ireland; reading local history in India; the Holocaust; and the Reformations in Europe.
In-depth study of a selected topic in U.S. history. Introduction in this course will require students to read and assess monographs written by prominent historians related to the topic. Students will write an eight-to-ten-page research paper on a subject linked to the selected topic. Topics may include but are not limited to: Revolutionary America, disease in the American past, history of the American family, U.S. immigration history, the Vietnam War.
In-depth study of a selected topic in African American history. Instruction in this course will require students to read and access monographs written by prominent historians related to the topic. This course will require intensive engagement with primary and secondary sources in writing. Topics may include but are not limited to: Black Family History; Black Urban History; The Hip Hop Generation, 1975-2015.
In-depth study of selected topics in European history, covering such themes as economic, social, political, intellectual, and military history. Possible subjects include: the Carolingians; medieval mystics; the Black Death; the Dutch Golden Age; Islam and Christianity: historical encounters; the history of Spain; the Age of Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment; the French Revolution and Napoleon; British History (different periods depending on instructor); Hitler and Nazi Germany.
A survey of Scandinavian and Baltic history (including Finland and Iceland), beginning with the Viking age and ending with the current status of the welfare state in the relevant countries. Special emphasis on the Great Power periods of Denmark and Sweden in the 16th and the 17th centuries, and on the emergence of Norwegian and Finnish national movements in the 18th and 19th centuries. Discussion as well of current political and economic issues in Scandinavia. Offered alternate years.
An in-depth analysis of the various elements of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations in the context of Renaissance Europe. The focus is on the traditions, beliefs, values and theologies of the Christian religious reformation and the influences on that reformation from the many cross-cultural currents in the sixteenth century, in particular the ideas and methods promoted by the Renaissance thinkers. The course will also include various aspects of social, economic, and political history, as part of the effort to contextualize the reformers' ideas, as well as their impact across society. Offered alternate years.
In-depth study of a selected topic in Asian history. Topics may cover the whole history of a particular country or may focus on a more limited time period in that country's history. Topics may also investigate diplomatic, economic, or cultural interactions between countries or explore themes commmon to multiple Asian states.
In-depth study of a selected topic in African history. Instruction in this course will require students to read and assess monographs by African historians on the topic. Topics may include but are not limited to apartheid in South Africa and Zimbabwe, decolonization, nationalism, environmental history of sub-Saharan Africa. (Same as AFRS 371)
In-depth study of a selected topic in Africana history, emphasizing links between the African continent and the African diaspora. Instruction in the course will require students to read and assess monographs written by prominent historians related to the topic. This course will require intensive engagement with primary and secondary sources in writing. AFRS 391/HIST 391 explores how people of African descent on the continent and in the diaspora interacted with each other and with European colonial powers. The course explores interactions across empire and national boundaries as well as between different cultural groups. Topics may include but are not limited to: Comparative Slavery, Pan-Africanism, Black Internationalism.
A detailed study of specialized topics in African, Asian, European or U.S. history depending on the instructor. Selections of topics may also focus on themes and ideas that transcend national boundaries. Students will engage in original research; case studies have a strong emphasis on historical writings.
Projects build upon students' previous experience with scholarly research and include both a substantial piece of writing as well as an oral presentation of the findings. Senior projects will be written under the direction of the faculty member most appropriate to the research topic. Each student will make individual arrangements with that professor.