Overview of Courses

A Brief Guide to History Courses 

Do you want to take a history course but don’t know exactly where to begin?  The history department offers a number of different options for all Brown undergraduate students, whether they are interested in exploring beyond their usual comfort zone or are potential concentrators.  This page provides you with a brief guide to some of the history department’s course offerings for the Spring 2015 semester.  For a full list of our courses for this year, see Courses.


Over the past year, the History Department has begun to introduce a series of lecture courses numbered HISTORY 0150.  These are thematic courses on topics that cut across time and space and are open to all Brown undergraduates.  They introduce students to methods of historical analysis, interpretation, and argument.  We offer two in the spring:

HIST 0150B:  The Philosophers' Stone: Alchemy From Antiquity to Harry Potter, Professor Tara Nummedal. M/W/F 1:00-1:50

The history of alchemy offers a point of entry into science, magic, medicine, gender, religion, and cultural images of the sage, fool, and fraud. From late antiquity to the present, alchemists have transformed matter in order to understand nature, make things (including elixirs and gold), and explore connections between the natural and the supernatural.  This course explores alchemy as a set of ideas and practices from China, Roman Egypt, the Middle East, and Europe to the current U.S.

HIST 0150D: Refugees: A Twentieth-Century History, Professor Vazira Zamindar. M/W/F 12:00-12:50.

Refugees are arguably the most important social, political and legal category of the twentieth century. This introductory lecture course locates the emergence of the figure of the refugee in histories of border-making, nation-state formation and political conflicts across the twentieth century to understand how displacement and humanitarianism came to be organized as international responses to forms of exclusion, war, disaster and inequality.


History Department first-year seminars (FYS) and sophomore seminars (SYS) (restricted to first-years and sophomores) provide freshmen and sophomores an introduction to a topic and to historical methods in a small class setting.  In Spring 2015 we are offering One First-Year Seminar and Two Sophomore Seminars:

HIST 0971J (FYS): Athens, Jerusalem, and Baghdad, Professor Ken Sacks, Monday, 3:00-5:30

HIST 0980C (SYS): Culture Wars in American Schools, Professor Tracy Steffes, Thursday, 4:00-6:30

HIST 0980J (SYS): Welfare States, Professor Robert Self, Monday 3:00-5:20


History lecture courses address topics of broad interest chronologically, geographically and thematically defined. These courses are designed for History concentrators and non-concentrators alike.  Please see courses for a complete list of our courses for Spring 2015.


Courses numbered from 1970 to 1979 are capstone seminars that provide students with an opportunity to delve deeply into a historical problem and to write a major research and/or analytical paper. These seminars are designed to serve as an intellectual culmination of the concentration.   First-Year students are not advised to take these courses and only rarely are sophomores allowed to enroll.


Students seeking to graduate with honors must complete three additional courses. These are:

History Honors Workshop for Prospective Thesis Writers (HIST 1992). Offered in fall and spring semesters. Recommended for juniors, although open to seniors who have been away during their junior year.

History Honors Workshop for Thesis Writers (HIST 1993/94). Offered in fall and spring semesters. Limited to seniors and juniors who have been admitted to the History Honors Program. All students admitted to Program must enroll in in HIST 1993 for one semester and then HIST 1994 in the subsequent semester.