Undergraduate Courses

For course times, locations, and syllabi for the current academic year, ** please see OCI (Online Course Information). **

Also note that some graduate courses may also be open to undergraduates with permission of the instructor.

For the short list of current HSHM courses – including pathway assignments – please:

>> Click HERE to download the 2020–2021 HSHM pathway spreadsheet <<

New Courses Fall 2020

Histories of Confinement: From Atlantic Slavery to Social Distancing
HSHM 220/HIST 417/AFST 220
Nana Quarshie

This course looks closely at the history of asylums, hospitals, prisons, and schools. It seeks to understand their workings and the interplay between bureaucratic forms, spatial and material organization, and modes of discipline, control, and remediation. It asks, how is institutional power organized, displayed, deployed, and disputed, and what are the limits and contradictions inherent in these efforts? Our readings draw from a range of contexts and disciplines to consider the relationship between the built environment and institutional life.

African Systems of Thought
HSHM 486/HIST 374J/AFST 486
Nana Quarshie

This seminar explores the effects of colonialism and post-colonial power relations on the production of scientific, medical, and embodied knowledge about Africa. The course focuses on three broad themes covered across four units. First, we read debates over the nature and definition of science and tradition. How have colonialism and post-colonial power relations defined the tasks of an African science? What does it mean to decolonize African thought or culture? Second, we examine the nature of rationality. Is reason singular or plural? Culturally-bound or universal? To what extent are witchcraft, African healing practices, and ancestor veneration rational practices? Is there a “traditional” rationality? Third, we explore the relationship between scientific representations, social practices, and local culture. What relationship exists between social practices and culturally shared categories of knowledge? Lastly, we examine the intersection of capital and medical expertise. How have shifting conceptions of value and capital, reshaped scientific and medical authority in Africa?

First-Year Seminars

Not offered Fall 2020

Lecture Courses

History of Reproductive Health and Medicine in the U.S.
HSHM 206/HIST 114
Miriam Rich

This course surveys the history of reproductive health and medicine in the United States from the late eighteenth century to the present. The course emphasizes the cultural and historical contexts of reproductive health; the significance of reproduction within the broader social, cultural, and political history of the United States; and the entanglements of reproductive medicine with social and political categories of race, gender, disability, nation, and kinship. Topics include the management of reproduction in U.S. slavery and empire, reproductive medicine and concepts of race, practitioners and professional authority over childbearing and pregnancy, eugenics and sterilization, movements for reproductive rights and healthcare, reproductive biotechnology, and present-day disparities in access to and quality of reproductive care. 

Global Catastrophe since 1750
HSHM 211/HIST 416/EVST 211/G&G 211
Bill Rankin

A history of the geological, atmospheric, and environmental sciences, with a focus on predictions of global catastrophe. Topics range from headline catastrophes such as global warming, ozone depletion, and nuclear winter to historical debates about the age of the Earth, the nature of fossils, and the management of natural resources. Tensions between science and religion; the role of science in government; environmental economics; the politics of prediction, modeling, and incomplete evidence.

Historical Perspectives on Global Health
HSHM 212/HIST 146/ER&M 214/HLTH 280
Joanna Radin

In the 21st century “global health” is recognized as an influential framework for orienting action among a huge range of groups including public health workers, activists, philanthropists, economists, political leaders, and students. How did this come to pass? This survey class introduces you to the historical circumstances that have contributed to the contemporary landscape of global health. We travel through several centuries to examine how ideas about disease, colonialism, race, gender, science, diplomacy, security, economy, and humanitarianism have shaped and been shaped by attempts to negotiate problems of health that transcend geopolitical borders.

Histories of Confinement: From Atlantic Slavery to Social Distancing
HSHM 220/HIST 417/AFST 220
Nana Quarshie

This course looks closely at the history of asylums, hospitals, prisons, and schools. It seeks to understand their workings and the interplay between bureaucratic forms, spatial and material organization, and modes of discipline, control, and remediation. It asks, how is institutional power organized, displayed, deployed, and disputed, and what are the limits and contradictions inherent in these efforts? Our readings draw from a range of contexts and disciplines to consider the relationship between the built environment and institutional life.

The Scientific Revolution
HSHM 226/HIST 236
Ivano Dal Prete

The changing relationship between the natural world and the arts from Leonardo to Newton. Topics include Renaissance anatomy and astronomy, alchemy, and natural history.

The Cultures of Western Medicine: A Historical Introduction
HSHM 321/HIST 244
John Warner

A survey of Western medicine and its global encounters, encompassing medical theory, practice, institutions, and healers from antiquity to the present.  Changing concepts of health, disease, and the body in Europe and America explored in their social, cultural, economic, scientific, technological, and ethical contexts.

Undergraduate Seminars

Heathcare for the Urban Poor
HSHM 406/HIST 150J
Sakena Abedin

Exploration of the institutions, movements, and policies that have attempted to provide healthcare for the urban poor in America from the late nineteenth century to the present, with emphasis on the ideas (about health, cities, neighborhoods, poverty, race, gender, difference, etc) that shaped them. Topics include hospitals, health centers, public health programs, the medical civil rights movement, the women’s health movement, and national healthcare policies such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Collecting Nature and Art in the Preindustrial World
HSHM 407/HIST 176J
Paola Bertucci

A history of museums before the emergence of the modern museum. Focus on: cabinets of curiosities and Wunderkammern, anatomical theaters and apothecaries’ shops, alchemical workshops and theaters of machines, collections of monsters, rarities, and exotic specimens.

Historical Perspectives on Science and Religion
HSHM 415/HIST 179J
Ivano Dal Prete

The engagement between science and religion from a historical standpoint and a multicultural perspective. The Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, and Christian traditions; the roots of modern creationism; salvation expectations and the rise of modern science and technology. General knowledge of western and world history is expected.

Cartography, Territory and Identity
HSHM 422/HIST 440J
William Rankin

Exploration of how maps shape assumptions about territory, land, sovereignty, and identity. The relationship between scientific cartography and conquest, the geography of statecraft, religious cartographies, encounters between Western and non-Western cultures, and reactions to cartographic objectivity. Students make their own maps. No previous experience in cartography or graphic design required.

Citizenship, Race, and Public Health in U.S. History
HSHM 424/HIST 194J
Miriam Rich

This seminar examines the history of citizenship, race, and public health in the modern United States. The course explores how public health practices structured shifting boundaries of social and political inclusion, focusing particularly on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. How did public health interventions serve to affirm, regulate, or deny the citizenship of different groups? How have public health issues both shaped and been shaped by systems of racial inequality? Topics include the history of public health and immigration, surveillance and regulation of racialized and gendered subjects, eugenics and racial hygiene, health activism and reform, and ethics of public health powers.

Health and Incarceration in U.S. History
HSHM 436/HIST 195J
Miriam Rich

This course examines the U.S. history of incarceration through the lens of health and medicine, covering the late eighteenth century to the present. Across this period, incarcerated populations have been subject to extensive health risks and harms; since 1976, they also comprise the only group in the U.S. with a recognized constitutional right to health care. In this seminar, we explore how medical practices and institutions have been involved in establishing, structuring, and challenging historical systems of incarceration. In the modern United States, incarceration has played a major role in the formation of racial disparities, the regulation and surveillance of marginalized communities, and the delineation of the state’s relationship to its subjects. Within this history, health and medicine have been central to debates over the harms of the prison system, the extent of institutional authority over vulnerable bodies, and the state’s obligations to provide care.

Critical Data Visualization: History, Theory, and Practice
HSHM 449
Bill Rankin

Critical analysis of the creation, use, and cultural meanings of data visualization, with emphasis on both the theory and the politics of visual communication. Seminar discussions include close readings of historical data graphics since the late eighteenth century and conceptual engagement with graphic semiology, ideals of objectivity and honesty, and recent approaches of feminist and participatory data design. Course assignments focus on the research, production, and workshopping of students’ own data graphics; topics include both historical and contemporary material. No prior software experience is required; tutorials are integrated into weekly meetings. Basic proficiency in standard graphics software is expected by the end of the term, with optional support for more advanced programming and mapping software.

Pharmaceuticals in Medicine and Health Care, 1900-Present
HSHM 462
Jason Schwartz

The history of pharmaceuticals and their role in medicine and health care from 1900 to the present. This seminar examines how pharmaceuticals have shaped the practice of medicine and delivery of health care, approaches to prevention and treatment, medical knowledge and disease definitions, and related topics. It looks broadly at pharmaceuticals in the United States and globally as well as deeply at specific classes of products that have raised particular questions and considerations throughout their histories. Additional topics include pharmaceutical regulation and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, pricing and financial issues, marketing and direct-to-consumer advertising, research and development, and safety controversies.

Reproductive Health, Gender and Power in the U.S.
HSHM 465/HIST 176J/WGSS 457
Ziv Eisenberg

This seminar examines women’s and men’s reproductive health in the United States from the 19th century to the present. How have gender norms and social power structures shaped medical knowledge, scientific investigation, political regulation, and private reproductive experiences? What do the lessons of the history of reproductive health tell us about contemporary policy, legal and economic debates? Topics include abortion, activism, childbirth, contraceptives, eugenics, feminism, fertility, medicalization, pregnancy, reproductive science and technology, sexual health, social justice, and sterilization.

Sex, Life, and Generation
HSHM 468 / HIST 455J
Ivano Dal Prete

Theories and practices of life, sex and generation in history perspective. From the social control of abortion and infanticide in early-modern societies, to the changing status of the embryo, to the lure of artificial life.

Race and Disease in American Medicine
HSHM 475/HIST 128J
Sakena Abedin

An exploration of the history of race and disease in American medicine from the late 19th century to the present, focusing on clinical practice and clinical research. We discuss cancer, psychiatric disease, sickle cell disease, and infectious diseases including tuberculosis and HIV. We examine the role of race in the construction of disease and the role of disease in generating and supporting racial hierarchies, with special attention to the role of visibility and the visual in these processes. We also consider the history of race and clinical research, and the implications of racialized disease construction for the production of medical knowledge.

African Systems of Thought
HSHM 486/HIST 374J/AFST 486
Nana Quarshie

This seminar explores the effects of colonialism and post-colonial power relations on the production of scientific, medical, and embodied knowledge about Africa. The course focuses on three broad themes covered across four units. First, we read debates over the nature and definition of science and tradition. How have colonialism and post-colonial power relations defined the tasks of an African science? What does it mean to decolonize African thought or culture? Second, we examine the nature of rationality. Is reason singular or plural? Culturally-bound or universal? To what extent are witchcraft, African healing practices, and ancestor veneration rational practices? Is there a “traditional” rationality? Third, we explore the relationship between scientific representations, social practices, and local culture. What relationship exists between social practices and culturally shared categories of knowledge? Lastly, we examine the intersection of capital and medical expertise. How have shifting conceptions of value and capital, reshaped scientific and medical authority in Africa?

The History of Drugs and Addiction in Twentieth Century America
HSHM 488
Marco Ramos

Virtually every American today “does” drugs. As a nation, our drug use ranges from everyday activities, such as drinking coffee or beer, to combating illnesses with prescription medications, to using illegal drugs for recreation. This course follows a loose chronology beginning in the early twentieth century and ending in the present day. Instead of focusing on the biography of a single drug, or class of drugs, this course incorporates a wide range of substances, including alcohol, cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, and narcotics. For each session, students read a selection of essays, book chapters, and primary source material. Through these readings, we discuss how certain ways of using and selling drugs have been sanctioned and encouraged, while others have been pathologized as addiction or criminalized. We explore how drug definitions are constructed, how they shift over time, how they affect (and are affected by) people who use, sell, and regulate drugs. We also trace how the medicalized concept of “addiction” emerged in the twentieth century and how this concept intersected with societal anxieties about race, immigration, indigeneity, and gender. Throughout the course, films, images, music, and television episodes are presented as objects of analysis to provide insight into the cultural lives of drugs. As a group, we discuss how historians have approached this subject, assess their sources and assumptions, and consider the choices they have made in researching and writing. Students are expected to apply these lessons and demonstrate the ability to think and write critically about the history of drugs.

Childbirth in America, 1650-2000
HSHM 496/HIST 110J
Rebecca Tannenbaum

This course considers the ways childbirth has been conducted in the United states over three centuries.  Topics include the connections between childbirth and historical constructions of gender, race, and motherhood, as well as changes in the medical understanding and management of childbirth.