My students grapple with historical events and processes to become perceptive readers, confident speakers, and skillful writers. In one-on-one and group settings as well as in large lecture courses, my teaching focuses on these goals. As they become familiar with the early modern world from the Americas to Asia, students realize that people who lived centuries ago tried to make sense of the same challenges (such as travel, risk, and identity) that we still confront today. Encountering their stories and analyzing their lives, my students become equipped with the skills essential for careers in and beyond the humanities.
Course Descriptions and Syllabi
HIS 6934-8 Early Modern Europe (Graduate Colloquium): This graduate historiography seminar offers an introduction to the main themes and methods in early modern European historiography through readings in both classic works and recent scholarship to cover as much as we can of a field that has existed for half a millennium (we’ll spotlight the last fifty years). This term, we’ll focus on “borders and orders,” or how early modern Europeans constructed and reconfigured their world. Legal and political borders transformed rapidly during this era: along confessional lines, incorporating non-European subjects under empires, etc. Encountering new peoples and places, Europeans faced epistemological quandaries and capitalized (perhaps?) upon economic opportunities as they emerged—and often failed spectacularly at both kinds of challenges. Articulating and interrogating these patterns can also lend helpful language and analytical tools for understanding current European crises, such as migration (e.g. from North Africa across the Mediterranean), political unity/disunity (e.g. Brexit), and economic transformation (again, Brexit, migration, relative EU member economic status, etc.).
Students select and pursue one of these themes in a research prospectus. It is designed to allow students to connect readings with an original project, like a dissertation. This draft can later be revised into a grant proposal or dissertation prospectus.
WOH 3930-1 Patriots and Pirates: Law in the Atlantic World: The pirate is one of the quintessential characters in early modern Atlantic history: notorious for his violence and defiance of law and order. Yet the Atlantic world was not a lawless void. During the early modern era, Atlantic participants collaborated to forge civil societies based on new understandings of law and society, like colonial governments. European empires established law courts for use by indigenous and Europeans as they expanded their territorial reach. Law was also a tool for the oppressed: throughout the Atlantic world, enslaved people used law to petition for emancipation and contest mistreatment. How were global legal regimes created and contested? What are the origins of modern international law?
HIS 4935 Patriots and Pirates: Law in the Atlantic World: As Senior Seminar capstone research course.
WOH 3930-1 Monsoon Empires: The Indian Ocean, 800-1800: How did vanilla, once one of the rarest and most expensive spices, become just “plain”? Why do we follow seasonal fashion trends? Why did the dodo bird become extinct? How did Indonesia come to hold the largest number of Muslims in the world today? Why did the people of Madagascar come from Southeast Asia, not Africa? This course surveys a millennium in the history of the Indian Ocean littoral from the rise of Islam to the establishment of European empires in Asia.
HIS 6934 Early Modern Atlantic World (Graduate Colloquium): How was an Atlantic world formed in the era between the European discovery of the Americas and the Age of Atlantic Revolutions? What made the Atlantic world a unique historical time and place? This graduate historiography course examines major themes and questions in early modern Atlantic world history.
EUH 3930 From Medieval to Modern? Early Modern Europe, 1500-1800: In 1500, most Europeans lived their entire lives within a small area no more than a few miles beyond their homes, most often as farmers. By 1800, many Europeans had quick access to the entire continent and beyond with advances in transportation and communications technology. Some had even moved to new parts of European empires in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. So how exactly did medieval Europe become modern? This course explores the development of Europe from roughly the beginning of the Age of Exploration to the French Revolution.
Sample Teaching Materials
- The Historian’s Toolbox – Worksheet designed to help students analyze a primary document and brainstorm how it might be interpreted in a research paper.
- Essay Test Tips – Handout to help students prepare for timed blue book exams.
- The Art of Discussing Well – Some Tips – Guide to participating in lecture and seminar discussions.
Writing Advice – External Links
- Writing Advice by Genre at Duke – Academic emails, annotated bibliographies, cover letters, essay exams, literature reviews, memos, personal statements, resumes/c.v.s, etc.
– Free West Indian Dominicans, Agostino Bruinas (1728 – 1796), circa 1770