Topics in European History

This colloquium uses the case of Britain to examine the changing ways that historians have conceived of society (“the social”) since the mid-twentieth century. While students will become familiar with a number of major works and scholars in British historiography, the colloquium is not primarily about Britain, or about society and culture since 1960. Rather, it offers an intellectual history of theoretical and methodological developments in the humanities and social sciences during the previous half-century. From a latent social reality, to an achievement of past actors, to a political construction, to an imposition of scholars, to just one cleavage among others (including gender, nation, and race), changing conceptions of “class” provide a way of understanding such broader developments as the new social history, history from below, post-modernism, the linguistic turn, cultural history, and the new imperial history, culminating in today’s orthodoxy on the imperative of writing imperial, global, and trans-national histories. While the readings primarily draw from British historiography, the conceptual issues at stake are likely to students of any geographical area, and the final essay presents the opportunity for students to relate these developments to their own areas of specialization. The reading consists of about 2 books per week, and evaluation is based upon a combination of colloquium participation and three essays: a 1000-word book review, a 2000-word midterm essay, and a 4000-word final essay.

Course Information



4 Points

Term Section Instructor Schedule Location

Spring 2018

Guy Ortolano
W: 2:00 PM - 4:45 PM KJCC 607