History Classes


American Environmental History (HY 290/390)

Time: T/TH 11:00 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Instructor: Jordan Bauer

This course examines the relationship between humans and nature in the United States. We will explore how natural forces shape history, how humankind affects physical environment, and how those ecological changes in turn affect human life. Students will be introduced to the major themes in environmental history, including:

  • ecological changes brought by interactions of diverse peoples, animals, and disease
  • how technological change allowed greater environmental modification
  • industrialization and urban growth
  • science and medicine
  • conservationism
  • energy consumption
  • the rise of the modern environmental movement
  • environmental inequality
  • sustainability
  • the emergence of global ecological concerns

Students will gain environmental perspectives of large issues in American history like slavery, the Civil War, and the rise of mass suburbia and topics less well known like bison, population control, sewers, DDT, fast food, and oil, among others. By the end of the course, students will have a broader understanding of the historical roots of today’s environmental issues and problems, and the extent of humans’ impact on the environment over time.

Cartoon: The World's Constable. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Cartoon: The World's Constable. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. The US and Latin America (HY 341-2B)

Time: T/TH 9:30 - 10:45 a.m.
Instructor:Pamela S. Murray

How have cultural differences and geopolitical realities affected the US’s relations with other nations of the Western hemisphere, those of Latin America in particular? What, for example, has been the impact of the 2,000-mile border shared between the US & Mexico, our closest southern neighbor? Of the growth of US power and influence since the nineteenth century? To what extent have Latin American “Davids“ stood up to the US “Goliath”? Cooperated with it? Explore these questions as we survey the rich, complicated history of us and the Latin Americans — a vital chapter in the larger history of modern world affairs, international relations, and transnationalism. The course involves readings (4-5 books), lectures, and films along with regular classroom discussion and activities. For more info contact Prof. Pamela S. Murray, History Department, at pmurray@uab.edu or (205) 934-8695.

American Urban History (HY 435)

Time: M/W/F 11:15 a.m. - 12:05 p.m.
Instructor: Jordan Bauer

Randolph Street East, LaSalle, Chicago. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. Randolph Street East, LaSalle, Chicago. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. This course examines the historical evolution of urban areas in the United States from the colonial era to the present-day sprawling suburban nation. We will explore major transformative forces of urban change, such as immigration, industrialization, technological revolutions, and suburbanization. We will consider a wide range of topics including: the place of the horse in the city, municipal reformers, freeways, housing segregation, environmentalism, Disneyland, (un)natural disasters, gated communities, among many others.

Cities were not only places where people pursued their American Dream — the rowhouse and ranch house, flush toilets and the American lawn, and better jobs and the two-car garage. More profoundly, the metropolis represented an avenue through which social control and conflict created a spatial landscape divided by wealth and power and poverty and inequality. Thus, the rise and outward spread of cities were inextricably connected to the formation of class, racial, gender, and sexual identities and distinctions. A principal theme of the course will be studying how cities have functioned as crucibles for American culture and politics. This historical perspective will provide students with a better understanding of the major issues facing metropolitan areas today.

America and the World (HY 490-9H)

Time: T 5:00 - 7:30 p.m.
Instructor: Tennant McWilliams

Focusing on the span of US history, the course probes cultural influences behind foreign policy as well as foreign-policy influences on home-front culture. It addresses questions such as these:
  • How did Americans get addicted to “free security”?
  • How did they come to view themselves as exceptional?
  • How do American film, TV, and sports influence foreign views of the US?
  • How have individualism and community competed in US foreign relations?
  • How does America’s current polarization on home-front issues — blue state, red state, etc. — influence global perceptions of America? And is this really new?
  • On the world scene what do the following have in common? “Sweet Home, Alabama.” The Terminator. Chase-Manhattan Bank. Harvard. Silicon Valley. Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The Golden Mile.
  • What’s the historical significance of Doctors Without Borders, missionary aid workers, and other NGOs engaging US citizens?

For over 20 years Tennant McWilliams taught this course at UAB, changing it with changing times. Then he retired. Then he moved overseas. Then he flunked retirement, big-time. And now he offers “Americans and the World” this coming spring term. He will draw on different books and articles he has written, his early studies with former US Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and a PBS “American Experience” film he helped produce. Equally, he will bring lessons he has personally learned from foreign work as well as just plain daily life abroad. And he will incorporate experiences of people who know far more than he does about certain elements of America and the world.