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 2019–2020 HSHM pathway spreadsheet <<

New Courses Fall 2019

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.

Making Climate Knowledge
HSHM 209/HIST 465/EVST 209/F&ES 719
Deobrah Coen

This is a course about how humans have come to know what we know about our impacts on the earth’s climate and our vulnerability to climate change. When did humans first know that their actions, in the aggregate, could transform the planet? Did scientists bear responsibility to warn of these consequences? In what ways has the modern science of climate both appropriated and undermined traditional and indigenous forms of climate knowledge? Students learn to work with the methods of history of science: we analyze science as a social and material process bound to the cultural and epistemological particularities of its historical context, and we examine the political dimensions of historical narratives about the emergence of the theory of global warming. Via hands-on experience with Yale’s historical collections, students learn to analyze maps, artifacts, and instruments as historical sources. They also gain familiarity with the methods of environmental history, learning to attend to historical evidence of shifting relationships between humans and non-humans. Finally, students become more attuned to the evidence of climate change around them and more confident in their ability to make climate knowledge for themselves.

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.

Lecture Courses

American Energy History
HSHM 207/AMST 236/HIST 199/EVST 318/F&ES 583
Paul Sabin

The history of energy in the United States from early hydropower and coal to present-day hydraulic fracturing, deepwater oil, wind, and solar. Topics include energy transitions and technological change; energy and democracy; environmental justice and public health; corporate power and monopoly control; electricity and popular culture; labor struggles; the global quest for oil; changing national energy policies; the climate crisis.

Making Climate Knowledge
HSHM 209/HIST 465/EVST 209/F&ES 719
Deobrah Coen

This is a course about how humans have come to know what we know about our impacts on the earth’s climate and our vulnerability to climate change. When did humans first know that their actions, in the aggregate, could transform the planet? Did scientists bear responsibility to warn of these consequences? In what ways has the modern science of climate both appropriated and undermined traditional and indigenous forms of climate knowledge? Students learn to work with the methods of history of science: we analyze science as a social and material process bound to the cultural and epistemological particularities of its historical context, and we examine the political dimensions of historical narratives about the emergence of the theory of global warming. Via hands-on experience with Yale’s historical collections, students learn to analyze maps, artifacts, and instruments as historical sources. They also gain familiarity with the methods of environmental history, learning to attend to historical evidence of shifting relationships between humans and non-humans. Finally, students become more attuned to the evidence of climate change around them and more confident in their ability to make climate knowledge for themselves.

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.

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.

Renaissance Bodies: Art, Magic, Science
HSHM 237/HSAR 282/WGSS 282
Marisa Bass

An introduction to issues surrounding the representation of the body in both art and science, spanning from the late Middle Ages to the seventeenth century, and with a particular focus on the Northern Renaissance. Topics include medicine, reproduction, witchcraft, the gender spectrum, torture, race, disability, desire, dreams, and theories of imagination and invention. Sections and assignments will make ample use of the Yale collections. Previous experience with art history welcome but not required.

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.

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.

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

not offered 2019-2020

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.

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.

Bodies, Science, and Goods: Exchanges in the Early Modern Mediterranean
HSHM 441/ HIST tbd
Barbara DiGennaro

The Mediterranean is the liquid surface that facilitated constant exchanges of knowledge, people, and goods between Europe, Africa, and Asia and, at the same time, the sea that constituted a barrier between religions and cultures. This seminar explores the Mediterranean in the Early Modern period. We approach the Middle Sea from two main perspectives. First, through scientific knowledge about the sea itself and its inhabitants, such as cartography, medicine, and theories about human diversity. Secondly, we study the experiences of men and women moving across shores because they chose to do so or were forced to: merchants, converts, pirates, and slaves. The contradictory essence of the Mediterranean in this period (16th-18th centuries) emerges from the interplay of constraints—geographic and political boundaries, epidemics and poverty—and possibilities, such as commercial and maritime practices, or malleable religious and social identities.

Women and Medicine in America from the Colonial Era to the Present
HSHM 445 / HIST 142J/WGSS 453
Naomi Rogers

not offered 2019-2020

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.

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.

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.

Vaccination in Historical Perspective
HSHM 473/HIST 403J 
Jason Schwartz

For over two centuries, vaccination has been a prominent, effective, and at times controversial component of public health activities in the United States and around the world. Despite the novelty of many aspects of contemporary vaccines and vaccination programs, they reflect a rich and often contested history that combines questions of science, medicine, public health, global health, economics, law, and ethics, among other topics. This course examines the history of vaccines and vaccination programs, with a particular focus on the 20th and 21st centuries and on the historical roots of contemporary issues in U.S. and global vaccination policy. Students gain a thorough, historically grounded understanding of the scope and design of vaccination efforts, past and present, and the interconnected social, cultural, and political issues that vaccination has raised throughout its history and continues to raise today.

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.

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.

Critical Theories of Science and Religion
HSHM 477/HUMS 463/RLST 117
Noreen Khawaja and Joanna Radin

This course is an introduction to new thinking about the relationship of science and religion in global modernities. Drawing from work in feminist and indigenous studies, critical race theory, postcolonial studies, and multispecies thought, we explore systematic questions at the intersection of metaphysics, history of science, and politics. How can attending to the role of practice alter our understanding of how knowledge is produced across scientific and religious worlds? What is a world, and who gets to define it? How might a new contract between science and religion reveal fresh possibilities for an ethical response to late capitalism: addressing historic exclusions, structural inequalities, and human-nonhuman relations? Readings may include: Bruno Latour, Donna Haraway, Kim TallBear, Anna Tsing, Isabell Stengers, Cathy Gere, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Karen Barad, Robert Bellah, Gabriel Marcel, Elizabeth Povinelli, Nadia Abu El-Haj, Aicha Beliso-De Jesus, Marilyn Strathern, Catherine Keller, Abou Farman, Webb Keane.

The History of the Earth from Noah to Darwin
HSHM 479/HIST 491J/EVST 368/RLST 368
Ivano Dal Prete

Young earth creationism and flood geology have long been among the most divisive features of American culture and politics. Yet a basic postulate is shared across the spectrum: for better or worse, the old age of the Earth is regarded as the recent product of a secular science, consistently rejected by traditional Christianity. This seminar challenges this long-established narrative, by uncovering the surprising boldness, complexity, and societal diffusion of pre-modern debates on the history of the Earth, and of humankind itself. Students have opportunity to explore the nature, assumptions, and methods of Earth sciences before the advent of modern geology, to question ingrained assumptions about their relation to religion and society, and to place outstanding issues into historical perspective. How have the great monotheistic religions dealt with the possibility of an ancient Earth? Was a young creation always important in traditional Christianity? If not, what led to the emergence of young Earth creationism as a force to be reckoned with? What are the intellectual roots of American preadamism, which claims that the black and white races were created at different times and do not descend from the same ancestor? These and other questions are addressed not only through scholarly literature in the field, but also with the analysis of literary, visual, and material sources available on campus.

Medicine and Race in the Slave Trade
HSHM 481/HIST 383J/AFAM 213/AFST 481
Carolyn Roberts

Examination of the interconnected histories of medicine and race in the slave trade. 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; gender and the body; 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.