How did the diverse peoples who inhabited early North America communicate with each other, across profound linguistic, cultural, social, and religious differences? This course examines histories of communication in early America and the technologies that communities developed across landscapes of coexistence and also contestation. We will study Indigenous oral traditions, traditional ecological knowledge, and wampum belts as signifiers of identity, meaning, and diplomacy for Native American nations and peoples; artistic and scientific paintings, engravings, and visual culture that moved around the Atlantic World; political orations, newspapers, and pamphlets that galvanized public opinion in the “Age of Revolutions”; stone memorials and monuments that connected communities to ancestral pasts; and the powerful poetry of African American writer Phillis Wheatley along with the orations of Pequot intellectual William Apess. Together we will raise new questions about the meanings and ongoing legacies of early American histories, and grapple with diverse approaches to understanding the past. Additionally, this course provides an opportunity to engage with original materials pertaining to early American histories in the Williams College Archives/Special Collections and Art Museum.
Format: seminar; discussion
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
active participation in class discussion, several short essays based on readings and discussion topics, museum/archives exercise, final essay
limited to first- and second-year students who have not yet taken a 100-level course in History; juniors and seniors only with the permission of the instructor
Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
Short essays (3-5 pages) spaced throughout the semester with instructor feedback on writing skills as well as historical content; written reflection and analysis related to museum/archives visit with original materials; final essay (8-10 pages) due at end of semester that synthesizes findings from across the whole semester and allows students to closely examine primary/secondary sources; regular opportunities to conference with instructor about writing ideas and drafts.
This course delves into histories and experiences of diverse early Americans, including substantial focus on Native American/Indigenous and African/African American peoples. It introduces students to foundational methods for historical study, including decolonizing methodologies from Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS) and African American histories, along with critical vantages on Euro-American settler colonialism and the complex entanglements that arose in multiracial communities.
HIST Group F Electives - U.S. + Canada
HIST Group P Electives - Premodern