Owensby, Brian P.

The Modern World: Global History Since 1760


In 1492 the two hemispheres of the planet that had not known of each others’ existence came into mutual awareness. Half a millenium later, in the late 20th century, human beings saw for the first time a photograph of the blue marble that is the planet. Stretched between these two moments is what we might call “global history.” We will explore the flows and encounters of things, organisms and ideas—from the movement of people, plants and microbes, to the circulation of money and goods, to the interpenetration and clash of theories and systems—that have shaped human experience on multiple scales, from the planetary to the very local. Nations and empires are part of this story, but global history cannot be reduced to their interactions. By approaching primary and secondary sources in the spirit of experimentation and open-ended inquiry, we will ask whether "global" is just another buzzword, a tool for a certain kind of historical thinking—or the beginning of new a global epoch. The course will combine lecture mode, large-scale discussion and sections.

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Introductory Seminar in Latin American History


We will explore the relationship between ecology and society in Latin American history – the connections between nature, economic systems, communities and social structures. We will read about ecological practices and thought before the arrival of Europeans, about the environmental impact of sheep and the lack of a waste system in 16th century Mexico, about the effects of silver mining in 17th-century Potosí, about South American guano and British industrialization in the 19th century, about the impact of modern mining on the Amazon in the 20th century, about the melting of glaciers in Peru, in the 21st century. Broadly we will be concerned to reflect on how people in different circumstances have thought about human life in broad ecological context – and how they have so often failed to do so.

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Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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