HIST 204 Global History since 1500
Summer 2015 - Session I
Hist 204: Global History since 1500
JFRC: Tu/ Th 9am-12.30pm
Course Objectives and Overview
This course provides a transnational history of America’s ascent as a world power. In contrast to popular belief, the United States did not develop in “splendid isolation.” Instead, the American nation came of age within a wider global history. Accordingly, beginning in ancient Rome, we will recover the deep, ideological soil in which the American Republic took root. We then trace the global history behind the Republic’s growth as an informal empire over the course of the nineteenth century. Reaching the late twentieth century, the course examines how the United States fashioned itself as the defender of an international order designed to protect human rights, democratic government, and the spread of economic prosperity through a global, capitalist system.
The main objective of the course is to trace how the American Republic, in the process of becoming an empire, justified its national interests as the common cause of all the world’s peoples. The class begins with a reflection on the Roman Republic and the problems it confronted through imperial expansion. Romans believed that imperial expansion secured their freedom and prosperity and spread the alleged glories of their civilization to “barbaric” peoples. At the same time, the Romans realized that imperial expansion abroad often allowed tyranny, greed, corruption, and injustice a free hand at home. Here, in ancient Rome, lay the origins of the American dilemma in world history: could the American Republic, as it became an informal empire, retain its integrity and the liberties of its own citizens? Moreover, could it truly claim to secure the freedoms of the peoples abroad that it came to dominate politically and economically?
The course traces the history of the American world dilemma as it evolved in global context from the sixteenth through twenty first centuries. Along the way, we explore topics such as the pirates who sailed under the Black Flag and how their history intersected with British imperial development, the transatlantic African slave trade, and the rise of a global economy. We move next to the global contexts of the American Revolution and the “empire of liberty” that the Revolutionary generation believed would spread peacefully across the North American continent. Crucially, the Revolutionary generation and its nineteenth century heirs were convinced that America’s westward expansion would provide a model of civilization and progress for the world’s nations. They felt that America’s “manifest destiny” to expand its national boundaries from the Atlantic to the Pacific would prove an enlightened exception to the violent conquests that made the Roman and British Empires possible. Americans believed that they were providing the world with a model for reform, and that by spreading their Christian virtues, democratic republicanism, and free enterprise system, they were bringing humanity into a new age of progress and refined civilization.
We will also explore how these progressive ideals of American expansion coexisted with a white supremacist ideology that formed as America became a competitive member of an emerging global economy, a period when American slavery was at its height and the conquest of Native Americans became crucial to the realization of America’s empire of liberty. Far from exceptional in this regard, America took its place among other Western empires which in the nineteenth century justified their imperial expansion, particularly in Africa, as a “white man’s burden”. The so-called burden called the white peoples of the world’s great empires to spread “civilization” and “progress” to the “savage” peoples and regions of the world. The course also emphasizes how white supremacism, wars of imperial conquest, and the expansion of slavery and other forms of unfree labor did not monopolize notions of progress and civility at the dawn of the modern age. African, Asian, and Latin American people resisted the violence, injustices, and ideologies of imperialism. Millions from Europe and the U.S. did as well, seeing imperial domination and the economic exploitation it bred as morally appalling violations of natural rights. Importantly, not governments, but ordinary people, and the organizations they founded, led this resistance. We will also discover that the abolition, labor, anti-imperial, and women's’ rights movements in the United States, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and Asia organized not in national isolation, but through transnational, cooperative dynamics. The U.S government and other imperial states, notably Britain, eventually came to endorse some of the reforms advocated by these international social justice movements. The relative success these movements enjoyed on the political stage ultimately fashioned a concept and discourse of human rights that became a standard component of international relations in the twentieth century.
Through its decisive interventions and ultimate victories in World Wars I and II, the United States did indeed become the galvanizing force in shaping international relations around an ideology calling for the global realization of human rights, democratic government, and material prosperity through free trade. Over the last half of the twentieth century, as it waged a “cold war” for global supremacy with the communist Soviet Union, the United States equated the spread of capitalism with the advancement of democracy, prosperity, and human rights, as free markets allegedly produced the entrepreneurial freedom and high standards of living that allowed people to enjoy the liberties of democratic government, the dignity of material security, and opportunities of free enterprise. But as the course will question in its concluding sessions, in dedicating itself to securing human freedom and progress through the proliferation of free markets, did U.S. power, when applied around the world, ultimately undermine the very human rights and democratic processes that justified its self-proclaimed status as an “empire of liberty”?
Thomas Bender, A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006) ISBN-10: 0809072351 / ISBN-13: 978-0809072354
Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007) ISBN-10: 0312427999 / ISBN-13: 978-0312427993
Michael Parenti, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome (New York: New Press, 2008) ISBN-10: 1565849426 / ISBN-13: 978-1565849426
Marcus Rediker, Villains of all Nations: Atlantic Pirates in the Golden Age (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004) ISBN-10: 0807050253 / ISBN-13: 978-0807050255
two 25 pt quizzes……….50 points
final essay exam………..100 points
class participation*…….100 points
*class participation grade based on preparation for class, focus in class, contributions to class discussion, and class attendance (absences must be excused by instructor)
A……100% - 93%
A-……90% - 92%
B+…...89% - 87%
B…….86% - 83%
B-……82% - 80%
C+…...79% - 77%
C…….76% - 73%
C-…....72% - 70%
D+…...69% - 67%
D…….66% - 60%
Course Schedule (readings are listed on the dates that they are due to be completed; reading assignments will likely be shortened at the instructors discretion)
Tuesday May 19………..Course Introduction / The Roman Republic
Thursday May 21………..The Roman Republic / The Roman Empire
Parenti, Assassination of Julius Caesar, Ch. 1-5
Tuesday May 26………..The Roman Republic / The Roman Empire
Parenti, Assassination of Julius Caesar, Ch. 6-11
Site Visit: The Roman Forum and Coliseum
Thursday May 28…………The British Empire in the Atlantic World
Bender, Nation among Nations, Ch. 1 and Ch. 2: Section entitled “Global Empires”
Tuesday June 2……………Pirates and Empires
Rediker, Villains of All Nations, Ch.1, 2, 4, 5, 7
Thursday June 4…………The American Revolution and America’s Empire of Liberty
Bender, Nation among Nations, Ch. 2 and 3
Tuesday June 9…………..The American Empire on the World Stage
Bender, Nation among Nations, Ch. 4, Ch. 5: Sections entitled “The Two Revolutions and Social Citizenship” and “Paths Away from Laissez-Faire”
Thursday June 11………..Informal Empire: The United States, Democracy, and the Expansion of Free Markets
Klein, The Shock Doctrine, Introduction, Parts 1, 2, 3
Tuesday June 13…………“America is Not an Empire”: War and Global Capitalism in ‘The American Century’
Klein, The Shock Doctrine, Parts 4, 5, 6, Conclusion
Thursday June 8………….Final Exam
Any student caught cheating will fail the quiz/exam with the possibility of failure for the course and expulsion from the JFRC program.