Sanya Nijhawan

Next semester’s selection of history seminars will feature several new and updated courses — including a dive into The Troubles conflict in Northern Ireland and a detailed look at the history of the U.S.-Mexican border.

According to History Director of Undergraduate Studies Edward Rugemer, the undergraduate seminars — marked in the University catalogue by the letter “J” after the course number — are offered only by the professors who want to teach them. Moreover, professors can decide the topic and theme of their choosing. With recent changes in history faculty, more courses for majors and non-majors will be offered, along with the department’s staple courses.

“Professors just tell us what they want to teach,” he said. “That’s the way it’s always been … The professors get to be creative with the courses that they put together.”

Declared history majors can apply to preregister for their preferred course until 4 p.m. on
Nov. 15.

Professor Bonnie Weir last offered her seminar on The Troubles — a violent struggle for Irish independence from the United Kingdom in the late 20th century — two years ago. Now, after changing the course’s name and rethinking its syllabus, Weir said that she’s excited to teach the class again this coming spring — especially given the context of Brexit.

“I think it’s a really interesting time to study this,” she explained.

Cross-listed in the History, Political Science and Global Affairs Departments, her course will include weekly guests from several corners of the conflict. Weir said that these discussions will try to emulate her own experience as a historian, in which she relied heavily on field interviews to conduct her own research on Northern Ireland. When the discussion centers around paramilitary groups, she said she could even invite someone who fought for one of the groups to the class.

“It’s a fun class,” she added. “Hopefully … there’ll be a fair amount of interest.”

New seminars are also coming to the History Department.

Doctoral candidate Justin Randolph GRD ’20, who has assisted with several American history courses, will teach his own seminar next spring, according to CourseTable. Named “Old Jim Crow, New Jim Crow,” the course is slated to introduce students to the history of the American South through the lens of racial discrimination. Randolph was not immediately available for comment.

Other new courses include “History of Cuba,” taught by visiting professor Reinaldo Funes Monzote, and “A History of the Border Wall: Frontiers and Borders in U.S. History,” offered by history professor Greg Grandin, according to the list of history seminars. It will be his second undergraduate seminar at Yale as a professor, he said.

Grandin, who joined the Yale faculty this semester, said that his course will focus on understanding the border wall from a variety of primary and secondary sources. But the syllabus has not been put to paper yet, he added, so the exact readings he will assign could change before 2020. Grandin plans to have students in the new seminar debate the moral issues surrounding family separation and other facets of migrant policy.

“I think it’ll be an interesting experience,” he said.

Unlike history lecture classes, seminars usually feature a high level of discussion between students and the professor, Rugemer said. Students who take history seminars can expect to read roughly 200 pages per week, and many courses assign a 20- to 25-page research paper at the end of the semester. Since every history major is required to take two departmental seminars to earn their degree, Rugemer explained that the preregistration process helps students fulfill this requirement. But it can only be used twice, he said. Any more “would be unwieldy.”

“Look at any one of these departmental seminars and you can see the creativity of the scholar at work,” he added.

The Department of History was founded in 1919.


Matt Kristoffersen |