The following is the collection of courses I’ve taught since 2003 as a graduate student at the University of Chicago; a Postdoctoral Fellow in Western Civilization at George Mason University; and now an Associate Professor at the University of Mary Washington. Feel free to use and adapt any of the syllabi and other materials below for your own courses.



* This was the first undergraduate course I taught in 2003, when I was finishing graduate school at the University of Chicago. The course is the latter in a two-quarter sequence in the History of European Civilization. Professors and graduate students teaching in this curriculum devised their own individual syllabi and met regularly as a group to discuss course readings and assignments. The course’s emphasis on reading and interpreting primary sources, drawn mainly from the University of Chicago’s Readings in Western Civilization series, continues to shape how I teach this course today.

Course syllabus: HIST 13002



* I taught this course as a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Western Civilization at George Mason University from 2004-2006. This unique fellowship program brought together several recently graduated PhD students for up to three years to teach in the Department of History and Art History’s Western Civilization curriculum. Most instructors used the department’s primary source reader developed specifically for this course, devised their own syllabi, and met on a regular basis to discuss course themes and topics.

Course syllabus: HIST 100 Fall 2005; I designed one version of the course around the theme of war in Western Civilization: HIST 100 WAR section 018


3. HISTORY OF THE COLD WAR (undergraduate course)

* In spring and summer 2006 at GMU, I taught this undergraduate course. While the Cold War conflict is now ancient history to undergraduate students, this course is an excellent introduction to world history in the second half of the 20th century.

Course syllabus: HIST 388 Syllabus; the summer session version of the course: Syllabus — HIST 388 Summer B

Course study questions: Cold War History Study Questions


4. HISTORY OF THE COLD WAR (graduate course)

* In summer 2006 at GMU, I also taught a graduate course on the Cold War. Luckily most of the students in this class remembered and some had participated in the Cold War. Their main assignments were a historiography paper and a review (including a class presentation) of a primary source base that could be used in research on the Cold War.

Course syllabus: Syllabus for HIST 615 — 635



* I have taught this introductory course regularly since I began teaching at UMW in 2006. The course is the second half of a two-semester sequence in the history of Western Civilization (HIST 121 and HIST 122). My version of this course (HIST 122) relies heavily on the reading and interpretation of primary sources, which students study as a lens onto the larger ideas and transformations in Western Civilization since the mid-17th century. Class discussion of primary sources is the main in-class component of the course.

Course blog: History of Western Civilization II

Sample syllabus: HIST-122-SHarris-201601


6. HISTORY OF RUSSIA, 800s-1856

* This lecture course, the first in a two-semester survey sequence, covers Russian history from the 9th c. to the mid-19th century. In addition to using the excellent primary source reader edited by Daniel Kaiser and Gary Marker, Reinterpreting Russian History: Readings, 860-1860s, I have found it useful to have students read Nikolai Karamzin’s Memoir on Ancient and Modern Russia. Along with Richard Pipes’s insightful introduction, Karamzin’s text introduces students toward the end of the semester to a Russian thinker’s own survey of the history they have just spent the semester studying.

Course syllabus: HIST 357 — HISTORY OF RUSSIA



* This lecture course is the second half of the year-long Russian history survey sequence. I’ve lately used Ana Siljak’s book, Angel of Vengeance (2009) as an effective introduction not only to Vera Zasulich’s place in Russian history, but the broader questions of the intelligentsia and the role that literature played in its self-understanding and actions. In the Soviet section of the course, Mikhail Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog has proven to be a humorous way to explore the unintended consequences of Bolshevik rule and the intelligentsia’ tortured relationship with the common folk. More recently, I’ve incorporated semester-long themes for different versions of the course including one on modern Ukrainian history and another on national anthems from the mid-19th century to the present.

HIST 358 course blog

Course syllabus: HIST-358-SHarris-201601



* I taught this new lecture course as a special topics class for the first time in Fall 2006. It examines urbanization in a comparative framework with particular attention to the development of railroads and railway travel; the restaurant; disease and health; and the department store. In this version of the course, Paris and Moscow were the two main cities examined. Students concluded the course with a viewing and discussion of Dziga Vertov’s film, Man with a Movie Camera (1929), which explores the intersection of film and the city, as one of its many themes.

Course syllabus: Urbanization and Modernity in Europe



* This course examines European history since the end of World War II, with special emphasis on the outcomes of World War II, the Cold War, the development of the European Union, postwar consumer and film cultures, decolonization, the collapse of communism, and immigration. In recent versions of the course, I’ve adopted semester-long themes such as social history and national security for students’ term paper assignments. I’ve also assigned a range of texts in different versions of the course including Jan Gross’s Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz; Vanessa Schwartz’s It’s So French! Hollywood, Paris, and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture; and Uta Poiger’s Jazz, Rock and Rebels: Cold War Politics and American Culture in a Divided Germany.

HIST 381 course blog

Course syllabus: HIST-381-SHarris-201508



* Each history professor in our department teaches individual versions of this methods course based on a common set of goals and assignments . The course takes students through all the major stages of researching and writing a term paper: a paper proposal, literature review, and the research paper. Students write first and second drafts of each assignment and deliver class presentations of their work. Students also learn about different methodologies (e.g., intellectual history, social history, gender history). This rigorous course provides students with the research and writing skill sets necessary for taking our 400-level seminars and especially for undertaking their HIST 485 thesis projects.

Course blog: http://historiography.umwblogs.org/

Course syllabi: HIST 299 syllabus — Spring 2009



* Teaching a course on conspiracy theories is a great, indirect way to teach students the basics of historical methodology. Since this way of thinking draws heavily from a distorted version of historical methodology to legitimize its claims (e.g., obsessive use of footnotes, causal arguments focused on individual agents’ actions, grand historical explanations in which all is explained, etc.), this course teaches students how to be critical of any arguments that draw from historical methodology. Much of this is accomplished in the course by de-bunking conspiracy theories. But, as scholars such as Peter Knight (see his excellent book, Conspiracy Culture: From the Kennedy Assassination to the X-Files), there is much to be learned by going beyond simple de-bunking and asking questions about why people believe in conspiracy theories, how they have shaped modern political culture, and their role in the ways that social groups and individuals make sense of the world around them and their place in it. By asking these questions, my students have researched and written excellent papers on specific conspiracy theories ranging from the US government’s cover-up of alien landings to the Doctor’s Plot in the late Stalin era.

Course blog

Course syllabi: hist-457-sharris-201201



* This lecture course examines the 19th century theories of socialism and their 20th century consequences. Students read primarily the works of Marx and Engels in the first part of the course and then shift in the second part to a comparative analysis of state socialist regimes such as the Soviet Union and China. The broader purposes of the course are an introduction to Marxist social theory and the study of how ideologies (such as Marxism) have shaped 20th century totalitarian regimes and social identities.

Course blog: http://socialism.umwblogs.org/

Course syllabus: HIST 200C7 syllabus

Study questions for primary source readings: HIST 200C7 — Study questions for readings



* This upper-level seminar examines the Stalin era in Soviet history. Students read primarily studies historians have produced since the opening of the Russian archives in the 1990s on such topics as nationalism, social history, Stalin, World War II, and Stalinist subjectivity. The main assignment for the course is an extended review of the literature on one particular topic in Soviet history during the Stalin era.

Course blog: http://stalinism.umwblogs.org/

Course syllabus: HIST 471C5 syllabus



* This course is a first-year seminar (FSEM) that explores the history of the Russian Revolution through the lens of the diaries, literature, film, and other documents of those who experienced and shaped it.

Course blog: http://russianrevolution.umwblogs.org/

Course syllabus: HIST 201 — Russian Revolution



HIST 354 syllabus



FSEM 100F5 — The Russian Novel