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Students in History 328, “The United States and Mexico: A Two Hundred Year History,” visit the Detroit Institute of Arts to view the mural of the River Rouge plant painted by the Mexican artist Diego Rivera in 1932. (Photo: Sophie Hunt)

History Courses

Each year U-M History offers hundreds of undergraduate courses taught by award-winning faculty spanning every region of the globe from ancient times to the present. Topics cover the highest reaches of power, the everyday lives of marginalized groups, politics, war, religion, race, gender, sexuality, and almost everything else imaginable. Many offer the opportunity to engage in original research.

In some courses, students and faculty collaborate in projects that put history to work in the public service. Past examples have included conducting legal aid research on Latin American immigration, investigating cold civil rights cases in Detroit, or assisting with archival digitization projects in Uganda.

Students may take courses at any level without prerequisites, but course numbering reflects levels of difficulty and workload. Students, particularly first-year students interested in exploring college-level history, should consider taking one of our fun and engaging 100-level gateway survey courses or first-year seminars. Browse a list of fall 2018 History courses or explore the LSA Course Guide.

Course Numbering

In the History Department, all but a few specialty seminars are open to all students. History courses do not have prerequisites and do not neatly build on each. In other words, students do NOT have to take lower-level courses before registering for 300- or 400-level courses. Nor does a particular level number indicate that the topic of the class is more or less broad—it is possible to have an advanced class on a long time span and an introductory course dealing with one historical episode.

What differentiates our classes is the level of difficulty and the work load demanded of the students. Broadly speaking, those differences are as follows:

  • 100-level courses are designed as general introductions to the discipline. They cannot be applied towards a concentration or a minor in history, so they are targeted at the broadest possible audience. With this in mind, the workload is relatively light. They usually involve two lectures and a discussion section each week; assessment is typically based on in-class exams. Research papers are not usually assigned, though there might be some short writing assignments.
  • 200-level courses are introductory classes for history concentrators, and they come in two varieties. Some 200-level classes are large surveys covering major world regions or countries, and the workload in these classes would be only slightly heavier than a 100-level class. The others are seminars for concentrators, emphasizing historical methods and writing skills.
  • 300- and 400-level courses have a greater reading load than lower-level courses, and include substantial writing assignments.  Some instructors assign a formal research paper; others require a series of shorter projects. Although 300- and 400-level courses are harder than those at lower levels, they do not usually require any previous familiarity with the subject matter.

Selected Courses for Fall 2018

What Is History?
History 101.001 (HU, RE)
Instructor: Paulina Alberto

You might think you know what history is: it’s what happened in the past—the names, dates, and events that fill textbooks. But think again. History is not about memorizing facts. It’s about asking questions about the past, finding clues, and using our imaginations to piece those clues together into stories. This course will teach you new ways of thinking critically and internationally about the world you live in—its past, present, and future. Learn more!

Introduction to Religion: From Rastafari to the Sun Dance
History 105.001 (ID, RE)
Instructor: Paul Johnson

This class aims to show that religions are sets of ideas, discourses, and practices that take on a defined, systematic shape in specific historic contexts of comparison and challenge. It focuses on marginal and often misunderstood traditions of the Americas, giving particular attention to religious phenomena in the African diasporic and indigenous worlds at specific critical junctures in which “religion” acquired a defined profile and played an important role. Learn more!

East Asia: Early Transformations
History 204.001 (HU, RE)
Instructor: Christian de Pee

This course offers an overview of more than three thousand years of East Asian history, from ca. 1600 BCE through ca. 1800 CE, emphasizing political, social, and cultural transformations. We will inquire into the nature of political power, the succession of dynasties and military regimes, the growth and spread of religions, and the transformation of family structures, economies, and diplomatic relations. Learn more!

Minds and Brains in America
History 265.001 (HU)
Instructor: Henry Cowles

What is the mind? And how does it relate to the brain? These are old, even ancient questions, but it is only in the last two centuries that specific scientific fields have arisen to answer them. This course explores the history of those fields (psychology, psychiatry, and cognitive science) and their impact on American politics, popular culture, and private life. Learn more!


The Modern Civil Rights Movement
History 272.001 (RE)
Instructor: Matthew Countryman

This course traces the history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States from World War II through the 1960s and 1970s. Students will work in small groups on organizing and/or research projects in collaboration with one of five local racial justice organizations. Learn more!

Women in the Ancient Mediterranean
History 303.001 (HU)
Instructor: Anna Bonnell Freidin

Women make up half the population, and yet we have little evidence of their experiences in their own words for most of human history. This course engages creatively and deeply with the limits of historical knowledge by exploring the lives of women in antiquity. Learn more!