This course aims to introduce students to the cutting-edge toolkit for historical and comparative analysis of challenging issues facing modern societies, such as poverty, gender roles, discrimination, migration, labor coercion, and armed conflict. The course will consist of three parts. In the first part, we will develop common ground by learning broadly about the application of recent methods of historical and comparative analysis and the importance of colonization, historical events, and geography. The second part will focus on the channels of transmission between the past and today. We will examine why the effects of certain historical events soon disappear but others persist over time. Using the best examples of persistent effects that have been identified in the literature, we will study the roles of biology, culture, and institutions that transmitted these effects to today. Finally, in the third part we will apply these insights to investigate the deep roots of some of the challenging issues affecting modern societies.
Each student will choose a geographic region of the world and one of the issues to be covered in the course. This choice will guide your individual research and exploration and be the basis for your paper and presentation assignments.