Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the United States in 1831-32, wrote the famous two-volume Democracy in America (1835, 1840) still avidly read today. With this book, Tocqueville contributed to the idea of America with such brilliance that he helped Americans define themselves. The young French aristocrat was the most influential theorist of the United States as a society built on voluntary associations. We will engage the American context in which Tocqueville's thoughts evolved and explore Tocqueville's critical reflections on civil society, liberty, equality, and their relevance for our own lives. His seminal book will be our starting point to write seminar papers on American democracy.
This course explores major themes relating to the American Civil War through the words of individuals who experienced it. Using wartime and postwar writings, fiction and nonfiction, as well as photography and film, students will focus on why the war came; how it evolved from a struggle for Union to one for Union and freedom; how the conflict affected civilians; why soldiers fought; and how participants on each side chose to remember the conflict. The “voices” in the course will include men and women, white and black, military and nonmilitary, and Union and Confederate. Among the writers the syllabus is likely to include are Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ambrose Bierce, Kate Stone, Robert Gould Shaw, Sam Watkins, Edward Porter Alexander, Phoebe Yates Pember, Walt Whitman, Louisa May Alcott, and African Americans engaged in the process of emancipation. The reading load is approximately 300 pages per week, and regular attendance and significant participation in class discussion are essential. Students must secure instructor’s permission to enroll.
This seminar introduces the history of Latin America as a history formed by the movement and exchange of peoples. Intended for first and second year students, this reading and writing intensive course will teach students the basics of historical inquiry while exploring the formation of Latin American nations in the context of global, regional, and local movements of peoples. Students can expect to complete a research project over the semester.
Taught by Elena McGrath
This course will explore how Americans developed and employed slavery, wage labor, technology, state power and culture to achieve this transformation in the years between 1819 and 1914. Students can expect readings on select topics, class discussions, and independent research culminating in a 20-30 page paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the instructor.
Corruption and fraud may be hard to see, but we’d like to think they are easy to identify. To organizations like the World Bank, corruption is “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” and it “thrives where temptation meets permissiveness.” But those definitions are recent inventions. They depend on our drawing clear distinctions between public and private, state and individual. They also rest on culturally specific assumptions about the “temptations” that can seduce a human being.
Drawing on history, social science, literature, and film, we will consider how ideas of corruption and fraud have changed throughout modern history. Why do different societies define certain behaviors as corrupt? Where does corruption happen? Who can be corrupted, how are they identified, and what happens to them? We’ll also inquire about corruption’s relationship to bureaucracy, to technologies of record-keeping and communication, and to forms of measurement. If we try to measure fraudulent activity, does that just invite new forms to slip through the cracks? Throughout the course, we’ll ask how we—as historians and social scientists—can we use accusations of corruption and fraud as tools to better understand institutions, individuals, societies, and cultures.
- James Astill, The Great Tamasha: Cricket, Corruption, and the Spectacular Rise of Modern India (2013).
- Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, All the President’s Men (1974).
- Mark Duggan and Steven Levitt, “Winning Isn’t Everything: Corruption in Sumo Wrestling” (The American Economic Review, 2002).
- Matthew Hull, Government of Paper: The Materiality of Bureaucracy in Urban Pakistan (2012).
- Suketu Mehta, Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found (2004).
- Eugene Soltes, Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal (2016).
- Roman Polanski, “Chinatown” (1974).
- Charles H. Ferguson, “Inside Job” (2010).
- J.C. Chandor, “Margin Call” (2011).
- Costa-Gavras, “Z” (1969).
Directed research in selected areas of American legal history.
This course is designed to introduce students to a variety of new work in legal history. Students are required to attend the legal history workshop and the legal history writing group and to write a number of short reaction papers in response to the work presented by legal historians over the course of the year. There is no final exam. Through the class, students will engage with a variety of legal history scholars.
The history and historiography of American constitutional development in the context of social, political, and cultural change in the twentieth century.
This course will examine the constitutional history of the United States from 1845 to 1877, paying attention to how the U.S. Constitution shaped the Civil War, and also to how the war left its mark on the Constitution.
This seminar explores relationships between Africa and Virginia in the very long run, from earliest arrivals of Angolans near Jamestown in 1619, through Jefferson’s view of the continent and its people, to mass emigration to Liberia after 1820, through dialogues and commerce during colonial overrule in Africa and after independence, and finally to the resurgence in trans-Atlantic families and experiences in the 21st century.
No prior experience studying Africa is expected nor is previous college-level study of History required.
As a first-year and new-student seminar, the course uses a broad topic to provide opportunities to learn and improve skills – in research, analysis, and written and oral communication – broadly applicable towards success at the University and beyond. As a course in History, it introduces learners to how people (and not just scholars) interested in the past think, and how academic historians do their work with never-straightforward sources (or “evidence”). To that end, seminar participants will learn through doing, and this may include meetings at the University’s “Special Collections Library,” where we can handle and engage primary sources (e.g., old books and private letters). Depending on student interest and practicalities, it may also include some site visits to places of significance on Grounds and nearby, as well as interaction (or “fieldwork”) with fellow UVa students whose life experiences transcend any notion of separation between “Africa” and “Virginia.”
This seminar fulfills the College’s second writing requirement through the composition (including drafting and revision) of papers written to address the major epochs in the course – altogether four essays of about five pages each, and ultimately presented at the end of the course as a polished portfolio. This course also satisfies the College’s requirements in “historical studies” and “non-Western perspectives.”