HIST 301
Approaching the Past: Contemplating American Power Spring 2023
Division II
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Historians have long debated how best to approach the study of U.S. “diplomatic history,” which is now often subsumed under the more capacious descriptor “The United States and the World.” In the 1960s, prevailing orthodox interpretations of American power–often patriotic and elitist–gave way to challenges from New Left revisionist historians who focused largely on economic motives for American imperialism. By the 1970s, however, the once dominant historical field of diplomatic history was beset by a sense of crisis; its practitioners consumed with anxiety over their marginalization in a discipline that embraced social and cultural theories that that seemed to render the narrow study of Western white men in power increasingly obsolete. For the past half-century, historians of American foreign relations have engaged in a sustained and ever-shifting debate, not only about the nature of American power, but over what can and should be included within the field’s parameters. Today, annual meetings of the Society for American Foreign Relation–and its marquee journal, Diplomatic History–feature scholarship ranging from “traditional” approaches to those centered on gender, sexuality, race, cultural exchange, emotion, environmental studies, sports, music, and more. Yet, debates still rage about whether this broadening has enriched the study of American power, or diluted it to the point of meaninglessness while discouraging young scholars from pursuing critical research on high-level diplomacy. In this course, we will grapple with key historiographical schools and critical debates, and assess the current state-of-the-field of diplomatic history.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 12
Class#: 3397
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Participation, short papers, presentations, and a longer final paper
Prerequisites: Restricted to History majors and sophomores planning to major in History
Enrollment Preferences: This course is designed for junior and senior History majors; sophomores may enroll with instructor consent
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: HIST Group F Electives - U.S. + Canada

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