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 2018–2019 HSHM course spreadsheet <<

New Course Fall 2018

Introduction to Surveillance Studies (undergraduate seminar)

HSHM 413/AFAM 478/WGSS 414

Simone Browne (Visiting Associate Professor)

Surveillance Studies is an exciting and interdisciplinary field of study. The questions that shape the study of surveillance center on the management of everyday and exceptional life: personal data, privacy, race, gender, security, and terrorism, for example. This course will provide students with an overview of theories and concepts in this emerging field. Importantly, students will explore the history of surveillance and the origins of key technologies (CCTV, drones, whistleblowing, resistance). Through short stories, films, visual media and scholarly texts, students will be encouraged to develop critical reading and analytical skills as they explore the social consequences of surveillance in modern life

First-Year Seminars

Medicine and Disease in the Ancient World
HSHM 002 / CLCV 034 / HIST 037
Jessica Lamont

Examination of ancient medicine considering modern fields of pathology, surgery, pharmacology, therapy, obstetrics, psychology, anatomy, medical science, ethics, and education, to gain a better understanding of the foundations of Western medicine and an appreciation for how medical terms, theories, and practices take on different meanings with changes in science and society. All readings in English.

Technology and American Medicine
HSHM 004 / HIST 062
Rachel Elder

Drawing on perspectives from history and sociology, students explore how technology transformed medical knowledge and practice during the 20th century. Consideration of how technology came to occupy a central role in defining modern medicine through focus on the rise of hospital medicine, domestic medical devices, and numerous diagnostic and information technologies.

Medicine and Society in American History
HSHM 005 / HIST 006
Rebecca Tannenbaum

Disease and healing in American history from colonial times to the present. The changing role of the physician, alternative healers and therapies, and the social impact of epidemics from smallpox to AIDS.

Revolution and Environment in Latin America
HSHM 009 / HIST tbd
Jose Ragas

An exploration of Latin American environmental history and the ways that people and nature have mutually—and radically—shaped each other, from the Enlightenment to Neoliberalism. The course covers nature, natural resources, government policies, capitalist transformations, and natural disasters in specific contexts; it also investigates how social groups and policy makers envisioned these episodes as both tragedies and as opportunities to advance political goals. By approaching the environment from the point of view of politics, the course also reinterprets major political revolutions in Bolivia, Mexico, Cuba, Chile, and Venezuela.

Lecture Courses

Media & Medicine in Modern America
HSHM 202 / AMST 247 / HIST 147 / HLTH 170
John Warner and Gretchen Berland

Relationships between medicine, health, and the media in the United States from 1870 to the present. The changing role of the media in shaping conceptions of the body, creating new diseases, influencing health and health policy, crafting the image of the medical profession, informing expectations of medicine and constructions of citizenship, and the medicalization of American life.

American Environmental History
HSHM 204 / AMST 163 / HIST 120 / EVST 120
Paul Sabin

Ways in which people have shaped and been shaped by the changing environments of North America from precolonial times to the present. Migration of species and trade in commodities; contrasting uses of land; the impact of industry and markets; the rise of modern conservation and environmental movements; the development of public policy; the global search for resources by the United States. 

Global Histories of Identification and Surveillance
HSHM 210 / HIST 443

Jose Ragas

Investigation of surveillance technologies that emerged in the last two centuries as the result of transnational cooperation between East and West and South and North. Traditional forms of identification, such as tattoos, family names, and physical features, along with sophisticated technologies, such as fingerprinting, photography, and iris recognition, and the crucial role they play in helping institutions classify, identify, and monitor populations. Consideration of how biometrics and identity cards shape the lives of millions of people worldwide, eroding or empowering them as citizens.

Global Catastrophe since 1750
not offered 2017–2018
HSHM 211 / G&G 211 / EVST 211 / HIST 143
William 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 / HLTH 280 / HIST 146
Joanna Radin

The broader historical context of contemporary practices, policies, and values associated with the concept of global health. Historical formations around ideas about disease, colonialism, race, gender, science, diplomacy, security, economy, and humanitarianism; ways in which these formations have shaped and been shaped by attempts to negotiate problems of health and well-being that transcend geopolitical borders.

Extraterrestrials in History
HSHM 214 / HIST 402
Ivano Dal Prete

The notion of extraterrestrials and “radical others” in history and culture from antiquity to the present. Topics include other worlds and their inhabitants in ancient Greece; medieval debates on the plurality of worlds; angels, freaks, native Americans, and other “aliens” of the Renaissance; comet dwellers in puritan New England; Mars as a socialist utopia in the early twentieth century; and visitors from space in American popular culture.

Public Health in America, 1793 to the Present
HSHM 215 / HIST 140
Naomi Rogers

A survey of public health in America from the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 to AIDS and breast cancer activism at the end of the past century. Focusing on medicine and the state, topics include quarantines, failures and successes of medical and social welfare, the experiences of healers and patients, and organized medicine and its critics.

The Scientific Revolution
not offered 2017–2018
HSHM 226 / HIST 236 / HUMS 342
Paola Bertucci

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

Medicine and Health in Society
HSHM 234 / HIST tbd
Rachel Elder

This course surveys the history of Western medical knowledge and practice from Antiquity to the present. Focusing on the role of medicine in daily life, it considers patients and practitioners, various approaches to healing, as well as changing understandings of health, disease, and the body in society.

Sickness and Health in African American History
HSHM 241 / AFAM 170 / HIST 479
Carolyn Roberts

A history of American medicine through the African American experience covering the period of slavery through #BlackLivesMatter.  Oriented around the complex dynamics of medical abuse and medical resistance, key themes include medicine and slavery; gender and reproduction; medical experimentation and ethics; the rise of racial science; lynching and vigilante violence; segregation and public health; African-descended approaches to health and healing; the rise of the African American medical profession; and black health activism from slavery to #BlackLivesMatter.

Undergraduate Seminars

Critical Issues in the History of Technology
HSHM 401 / HIST 412J
Jose Ragas

A historical approach to current debates on the role of technology in society and the multiple ways people have imagined, designed, and resisted technological developments since the Industrial Revolution. Topics include how technology is transforming the world; reliance on technology to connect, to combat social inequality, and to promote democracy; whether technology has created a gap between rich and developing countries and isolated users; and how people in the past engaged with technology and what we learn from those experiences.

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.

Ancient Greek Medicine and Healing
not offered 2017–2018
HSHM 414 / CLCV 134
Jessica Lamont

An introduction to Greek medicine and healing practices from the fifth century BCE to the second century CE, with attention to central concepts, methods, and theories. The relation of scientific theories to clinical practice, magic, temple medicine, and Greek philosophy are considered.

Historical Perspectives on Science and Religion
HSHM 415 / HIST tbd
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.

Engineering the Modern Body
HSHM 416 / HIST 414J
Rachel Elder

Exploring the human body in relationship to technology and the larger cultural processes of industrialization, medicalization, and most recently, the digital age. From Victorians who sought restoration from illness with electric belts, to the popularization of cosmetic surgery and gene therapy after World War II, students examine how the body became a canvas for a variety of personal, civic, and national goals.

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.

Biomedical Futures Since 1945
HSHM 423 / HIST 417J
Joanna Radin

Ideas about biomedicine’s promises and perils as they have been realized differently across place and time. Visions of the future of biomedicine that have shaped public policy, medical practice, and therapeutic innovation. Speculation about what medicine would come to look like in time. Ideas from literature, film, advertisements, policy documents, and medical texts around the world since World War II.

Gender and Science
HSHM 433 / HIST 419J / WGSS 419
Deborah Coen

Exploration of the dual potential of the sciences to reinforce received ideas about gender or to challenge existing sexual and racial hierarchies; the rise of the ideas and institutions of the modern sciences as they have reflected and shaped new notions of femininity and masculinity.

Science and Religion in Spanish Narrative, 1875–1915
not offered 2017–2018
HSHM 434 / SPAN 309
Leslie Harkema

The literary response to debates surrounding scientific advances and religious belief in Spanish novels and stories of the modernist era. Authors include Benito Pérez Galdós, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Miguel de Unamuno, and Pío Baroja.

New Approaches to Early Science, Medicine, and Technology
HSHM 435 / SPAN 438J
Ivano Dal Prete

Discussion of the history of science, medicine, and technology, from the ancient Middle East to the Early Modern period. Topics include the history of the interaction between theories of generation and social practices; politics and policies of conception and birth; social control of abortion and infanticide in western and  non-western societies; theories of life and gender; the changing status of the embryo; and the lure of artificial life.

The Neurological Condition
HSHM 438 / HIST 473J
Rachel Elder

Few aspects of our physical makeup are as closely linked to who we are as people as the nervous system.  We define our selves by our capacity to think, to react, to remember.  In large part, we believe we are our brains.  Yet such perceptions have a history far deeper than our current neuro-obsessed moment.  In this course we explore the neurological condition as the human condition: the growing sense since the nineteenth century that we are defined by our nervous systems, and the science that has fostered this vision.  From theories of diminishing “nerve force” and the electric cures of the Victorian era, to fMRIs and our current Century of the Brain, we explore how science, medicine, and technology have shaped our understanding of the brain and nervous system as the center of human identity.  Course topics include the rise of professional neurology and neuroscience, cultural meanings of nerves and the brain, and the intimate role of patients and human subjects in formulating this science from the nineteenth century to the present.

Scientific Instruments and the Making of Knowledge
HSHM 439 / HIST 444J
Charlotte Abney

A survey of the design and use of instruments for making scientific knowledge from the Renaissance to the present. Topics include visualizing the invisible; proof and credit; standardization and precision; exploration, geography, and politics; doctor-patient interaction; and science and the public. Students have weekly hands-on interactions with historical scientific instruments from the Peabody museum collections.

Women and Medicine in America from the Colonial Era to the Present
HSHM 445 / HIST tbd
Naomi Rogers

Through a study of women healers, patients, reformers and activists over the past 300 years, this seminar challenges historical stereotypes that have come to structure relations between women and the American health system. Topics will include childbirth and midwifery; witchcraft and alternative medicine; abortion, birth control and reproductive technology; female sexuality and physiology; and feminist health movements. Students will be expected to critique and discuss primary and secondary sources, and write two short papers and a research paper.

American Medicine and the Cold War
not offered 2017–2018
HSHM 448 / HIST 151J / WGSS 448
Naomi Rogers

The social, cultural, and political history of American medicine from 1945 to 1960. The defeat of national health insurance; racism in health care; patient activism; the role of gender in defining medical professionalism and family health; the rise of atomic medicine; McCarthyism in medicine; and the polio vaccine trials and the making of science journalism.

Culture and Human Evolution
HSHM 453 / HUMS 336 / E&EB 336
Gary Tomlinson

Examination of the origins of human modernity in the light of evolutionary and archaeological evidence. Understanding, through a merger of evolutionary reasoning with humanistic theory, the impact of human culture on natural selection across the last 250,000 years.

Natural History in History
HSHM 454 / HIST 445J
Paola Bertucci

The changing meaning and practice of natural history, from antiquity to the present. Topics include: technologies and epistemologies of representation, the commodification of natural specimens and bioprospecting, politics of collecting and display, colonial science and indigenous knowledge, and the emergence of ethnography and anthropology. Students work on primary sources in Yale collections.

Social Governance in Early America
HSHM 463 / AMST 418
Greta LaFleur

The management of bodies and populations in North America from c.1790 to c.1850. Focus on the creation, management, and hierarchization of populations through the science of classification, including categories such as race, nation, wealth, and work. Relations between new forms of government and emerging strategies of governance. The specific shape taken by the state’s investment in the management of birth, life, and death, and the legacies of that investment.

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.

Photography and the Sciences
offered as a graduate seminar 2017–2018
HSHM 469 / HIST 420J
Chitra Ramalingam

Does photography belong in the history of art, or does its status as an “automatic” or “scientific” recording technique and its many uses in the sciences distinguish its history from that of earlier visual media? How does photography look when we approach it from the cultural history of science? How might role in the sciences have shaped photographic aesthetics in the arts? This course will examine the making of photography’s discursive identity as an experimental and evidentiary medium in the sciences, from its announcement to the public in 1839 to the digital innovations of the present day. We take a historical and archival perspective on uses for (and debates over) photography in different fields of the natural and human sciences, grounded in visits to photographic collections at Yale.

Black Bodies and White Science in South Africa
HSHM 480 / HIST 390J
Efeoghene Igor

A historical perspective on the relationship between science, medicine, aesthetics, and racial embodiment in South Africa. Consideration of the ways in which science and aesthetics can offer news ways of thinking about citizenship in colonial and apartheid South Africa; investigation of the grammar of racialized science and its role in colonial and apartheid policies.

Medicine, Race, and the Slave Trade
HSHM 481 / HIST tbd / AFAM tbd
Carolyn Roberts

Examination of the interconnected histories of medicine and race in the slave trade.  Considers how the slave trade produced a new form of “racialized” medicine characterized by violence and terror.  Topics include the medical geography of the slave trade from slave prisons in West Africa to slave ships; slave trade drugs and forced drug consumption; mental and physical illnesses and their treatments; British and West African medicine and medical knowledge in the slave trade; eighteenth-century theories of racial difference and disease; medical violence and medical ethics.

Health, Disease, and Racial Difference in Modern America
HSHM 483 / HIST tbd
Sakena Abedin

Exploration of the meanings attributed to black–white differences in health from the late-nineteenth century to the present with an emphasis on the mutual construction of race and health/disease. Topics include specific diseases (cancer, heart disease, tuberculosis, HIV), as well as health activism, “health disparities” research, and genomics.

Health and Medicine in the Global South
HSHM 485 / HIST tbd
Jose Ragas

An exploration of the circulation, development, and resistance to medical knowledge in the Global South as part of the ongoing tension between empires and colonies from the eighteenth century to today. The course examines the role of policy makers, healers, and patients to provide a more nuanced perspective about the expansion of Western medicine. Rather than analyze national cases, the course focuses on the transnational and transimperial transfer of medical knowledge (including vaccines and health campaigns) within the complex exchange between the Atlantic North and its Southern counterpart.

Disability, Science, and Society
HSHM 487 / HIST tbd
Rachel Elder

Explores the relationship between science and disability in the United States over the last two hundred years. Course topics include the ‘invention’ of disability, medicalization, systems of quantification, rubrics of ‘normality,’ access and infrastructure, social versus medical models of disability, notions of control and able-bodiedness, and the rise of disability activism.

The History of Drugs in Twentieth Century America
HSHM 488 / HIST tbd
Tess Lanzarotta

Examination of the roles that drugs have played in shaping in American culture in the twentieth century. Considers how drug classifications are constructed, how they change over time, and how they impact people who sell, use, and prescribe drugs. Topics include the regulation of narcotics, Prohibition, addiction science, “wonder drugs,” contraceptives, psychedelics and counterculture, gender and alcoholism, recovery movements, the War on Drugs, AIDS, and drugs as agents of optimization.

Medicine and U.S. Imperialism
HSHM 495 / HIST tbd
Tess Lanzarotta

Medicine has enabled the territorial expansion of the United States and has been a crucial tool for the growth of its economic, cultural, and military power on a global scale. American medicine has also been constituted and transformed through colonial encounters. Both “U.S. Imperialism” and “medicine” are broad categories. Imperialism can include complex formations like economic domination, the waging of war, processes of cultural assimilation, or formal territorial dispossession. Medicine, on the other hand, can include sets of beliefs and interventions ranging from vaccination campaigns, to the collection of biological specimens, to humanitarian aid, to biomedical research. Throughout the class, we will question how historians have navigated these complex and shifting definitions and, in doing so, tried to make sense of the historical relationship between medicine and American empire.