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HIST 137
Victorian Britain and the Anglo-Afghan Wars Fall 2020
Division II Writing Skills

Class Details

Long before the US and its allies fought the recent war in Afghanistan (2001; ongoing), Britain fought three Afghan Wars. Now almost forgotten, dusty reminders of Britain’s imperial past, they were crucial moments in the “Great Game”, the rivalry between the British and Russian empires for supremacy in Central Asia and control of land routes to British India. Largely disastrous for the British, the First Afghan War (1839-1842) resulted in the tragic deaths of some 16,000 individuals, the Second (1878-1881) generated considerable domestic discord, and the Third (1919) basically ended British influence in Afghan affairs. Nevertheless, they exercised the Victorian imagination and led to numerous cultural productions that will be dissected in our class: illustrated tales of British military exploits proliferated in the press; the children’s writer G.A. Henty turned the conflicts into the stuff of imperial adventure; Rudyard Kipling made the Great Game the backdrop for several works of fiction; military officers, government officials, “lady travelers”, and amateur scholars all mapped the landscape and people of Afghanistan, an endless source of fascination for the Victorians. By interpreting these various forms of documentary evidence, we will not only reconstruct the history of the wars Britain fought in Afghanistan, and the reasons for them, but dissect the stories Britons told themselves about their Empire and about Afghanistan and its people.
The Class: Format: seminar; This will hopefully be a 'hybrid' class, taught in person on campus, primarily as a discussion course with a few remote elements. After Thanksgiving, when students are researching and writing their final papers, all instruction will be remote. Depending on the numbers, if both on-campus and off-campus students enroll in the course -- or if masks and in-class social distance interfere with fruitful discussions -- instruction may shift to an all-remote format.
Limit: 12
Expected: 8-12
Class#: 2832
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Evaluation will be based on regular and continuous participation in class discussion, two document analyses (750 words each), two guided research essays (5 pages each), and various shorter exercises leading up to a final research paper (10-12 pages) due at the end of class
Prerequisites: None. First-year or sophomore standing required.
Enrollment Preferences: First-year students, and then sophomores who have not taken a 100-level seminar or tutorial in History.
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
WS Notes: Students will write two document analyses (750 words each) and two guided research essays (5 pages each), all letter-graded and returned with comments. Also, students will write a final research paper (10-12 pages) in consultation with the instructor; a working bibliography and prospectus, and a rough draft, will be required in advance of submission of the final paper. Students will learn about research and writing skills and will receive timely suggestions for improving their work.
Attributes: HIST Group C Electives - Europe and Russia

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