HON150: History and the Construction of the Other (Spring 2004)

Jeffrey Matthews
McIntyre 108b
Office Hours: MWF 8-8:50 a.m., MW 3-4 p.m. with special appointments always available.

Douglas Sackman
Wyatt 138
Office Hours: 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m., F 11-11:50 a.m.

David Smith
Wyatt 132
Office Hours: MF 3-4 p.m.

Honors 150: History and the Construction of the Other is a course designed specifically for the Honors Program to fulfill the university's Scholarly and Creative Inquiry core requirement. As the course title suggests, the subject of our inquiry will be both "history" and "the construction of the other." Both terms require some initial explication. "The construction of the other" refers to the way one group of people defines another group of people. Whenever a group "constructs the other" it is also defining itself, implicitly or explicitly expressing how its community's character and values differ from those of another. There are many examples from history when the group doing the defining thinks of itself as virtuous and civilized while it defines "the other" as aberrant, weird, depraved, uncivilized, barbaric, cannibalistic, and so on. We will be especially concerned with the way this process of constructing of the other and defining the self has played a central role in the formation of nations and empires.

Nationalism involves defining the boundaries of community-deciding who is part of the nation and who is not. Imperialism involves expansion of one polity into the territory of another. In becoming empires, we will investigate how nations have defined the people they sought to conquer and colonize. We will explore these issues in a number of times and places, including the ancient worlds of the Greeks and Romans, the rise of the British empire, and the ascent of the United States to world power in the 20th century. We will also explore the impact of imperialism from the perspective of the colonized "others," especially when we look at how Indians confronted Westward Expansion in the 19th century.

"History" also requires some explication, for the term is not as straightforward as it sounds. History is not just "what happened in the past," or the litany of names and dates that form the core of so many history classes. In this course, we will look beneath the historical façade of names and dates to see how history, at a deeper level, is a way of "representing" the past. It is not the past itself, for to write history is to leave some things out. From the infinite amount of things that happened, historians select a few and link them into a coherent narrative. Looking at history this way raises a number of questions. Is history just bias dressed up as fact, something that the victors write to justify their conquests? Is it possible to write history that can be considered truthful, accurate, and fair? The course is designed in part to develop your abilities to probe such open questions in a sophisticated manner. We will interpret and evaluate the ways a number of historians, separated by centuries and continents, have gone about representing the past. We will also have a chance to consider the relationship between the writing of history and nationalism and imperialism. How has history served as a tool of nationalism and imperialism? Conversely, how has it been used as a tool for anti-imperialists? Can history serve as a means of getting to the truth, and adjudicating between the competing claims of peoples standing on opposite sides of a national border?

Format & Objectives
Required Books:
John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837
James Welch, Fools Crow
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities
William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy
Reading Packet prepared for Honors 150

Our class will be divided into three sub-sections. For most classes throughout the semester you will meet in a specific classroom with your sub-section peers and your primary professor. Your assigned professor will evaluate your course-work. Dr. Smith's section will meet in Wyatt 101. Dr. Sackman's section will meet in Wyatt 109. Dr. Matthews' section will meet in Wyatt 304. There will be some classes (marked on the syllabus schedule) when all three sub-sections will meet together in Wyatt 109. Sometimes we will meet as a full class. Those meetings are indicated by an ** on the syllabus beside the date of the meeting.


  • 20% Participation in class and for preparation sheets on the readings
  • 15% First paper
  • 20% Second paper
  • 20% Third paper
  • 25% Final paper

Assignments for class preparation sheets on the readings are indicated on the syllabus and correlate with the class lists at the end of the syllabus.

Weekly Schedule
Week 1 Introduction
1.21: **Introduction & Overview
1.23: (A) Gaddis, Landscape of History, Chapters 1-2

Week 2
1.26: (B) Gaddis, Chapters 3-4
1.28: (C) Gaddis, 5-6
1.30: (A): **Anderson, Part 1

Week 3
2.2: (B) Anderson, Part 2
2.4: (C) Anderson, Part 3
2.6 (A) The Classical World (selections from Reading Packet)

Week 4
2.9: (B) 135 The Classical World (selections from Reading Packet)
First paper due Tuesday 2.10 at 2 p.m. in the History Office in Wyatt 135

2.11: (C) Machiavelli, Discourses (selections from Readings Packet)
2.13: Visiting lecture: Mark Phillips "Picturing History in 18th and 19th Century Britain"

Week 5
2.16: (A) **Britons, Chapters 1-2
2.18: (B) Britons, Chapters 3
2.20: (C) Britons, Chapters 4

Week 6
2.24: (A) Britons, Chapters 5-6
2.26: (B) Britons, Chapter 7
2.28: (C) Britons, Chapter 8 and Conclusion

Week 7
3.1: (A) **Gibbon, Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire (Reading Packet)
3.3: (B) Gibbon continued
3.5: ** Marshal Sahlins, "Captain James Cook; or the Dying God" (Reading Packet)
Gananath Obeyeskere, "The Apotheosis of Captain Cook" (Reading Packet)

Week 8
3.8: (C) James Clifford, "Fort Ross Meditations" (Reading Packet)
3.10: (A) Phil Deloria, "Playing Indian" (Reading Packet)
Second paper due Thurs 3.11 at 2 p.m. at the History Office, Wyatt 135

3.12: (B) Patricia Limerick, "Haunted America" (Reading Packet)

Spring Break: March 15-19

Week 9
3.22: (C) **John O'Sullivan, "The Great Nation of Futurity" (Reading Packet)
Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" (Reading Packet)
Begin Fools Crow

3.24: (A) James Welch, Fools Crow, 3-125
3.26: ** Film: Last Stand at Little Bighorn

Week 10
3.29: (B) Welch, 129-202
3.31: (C) Welch, 207-284
4.2: (A) Shepard Krech III, "Buffalo" (Reading Packet)
Peter Nabokov, "Within Reach of Memory" (Reading Packet)
Winona LaDuke, "Buffalo Nations" (Reading Packet)

Week 11
4.5: (B) Welch, 289-391
4.7: (C) Peter Nabokov, "A Forest of Time" (Reading Packet)
Colin Calloway, "The Kiowa Calendar" (Reading Packet)

4.9: (A) Gerstle, "Teddy Roosevelt and Racial Nationalism" (Reading Packet)

Week 12
4.12: (B) **Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, Intro and Ch. 1 (pp. 1-57)
Third paper due 4.13 at 2 p.m. in the History Office Wyatt 135

4.14: (C) Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, Ch. 2 & 3 (pp. 58-107)
4.16: (A) Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, Ch. 3 & 4 (pp. 108-161)

Week 13
4.19: (B) Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, Ch. 5 (pp. 162-201)
4.21: (C) Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, Ch. 6 (pp. 202-258)
4.23: (A) Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, Ch. 6, 7, 8, & conclusion (pp. 258-312)

Week 14
4.26: (B) Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (313-330), and bring to class three critical book reviews of The Tragedy

4.28: (C) Reading Packet: "The Vietnam War" (441-478)
4.30: (A) Reading Packet: "The Cold War Ends and the Post-Cold War Era Begins" (591-636)

Week 15
5.3: (B) Reading Packet: Niall Ferguson, Empire (Introduction & Conclusion)
"The Talk Show" BBC Interview with Niall Ferguson
"US 'is an empire in denial'" The Guardian
"America as Empire, Now and in the Future," In The National Interest
"When They Were Kings," MSNBC/Newsweek
"Hegemony or Empire?," Foreign Affairs

5.5: (C) Gaddis, Chapter 8
5.13: Final paper due at 2 p.m. in the History Office, Wyatt 135