Historians are the guardians of memory.

-Warren H. Carroll

This dictum of the College’s founding president Warren H. Carroll aptly indicates the spirit and the purpose of the courses offered in the History Department. Dr. Carroll reminds us that cultures, like individuals, derive their identity in large measure from their memories. Historians are a civilization’s designated rememberers, those who introduce new generations to their heritage and encourage a vision that expands one’s awareness beyond his own age, and therefore makes him aware of the fundamental issues of human life and the ways in which different societies have grappled with them.

In particular, both in the Core Curriculum and in the Advanced Courses offered to History majors and other interested students, the History faculty at Christendom College seeks to hand on a Catholic vision of the human past. It seeks to clarify the difference made by the Incarnation in time and how its successor, the Church, has influenced history both as an institution and through the actions of its members. It therefore presents a point of view informed by the Catholic orthodoxy that engages both substantive material and historical interpretation in an effort to integrate faith and reason, and also to show the relationship in time between faith and culture.

This Catholic vision of history is what makes the History Department at Christendom distinctive. Within the context of the College, however, the department seeks to serve the broader goal of educating the whole man in Christ. As every department at Christendom seeks to develop in its students the skills fundamental to a liberal education, so also the History Department labors to pass on excellence in reading, writing, and public speaking. For these reasons, and for the breadth of cultural literacy offered by historical studies, the major in History is an excellent preparation for graduate or professional studies, teaching, and work in government and commerce.

Requirements for the History Major

The history major at Christendom College requires 27 credit hours of advanced courses, including:

-Senior Seminar and Thesis (HIST 512)
-one course in European History before 1500
-one course in Early Modern European History
-one course in Modern European History
-and a required course in American Catholic History

The history minor requires 18 credit hours of advanced courses. A course grade of at least C-minus is required to fulfill the requirements of the major or minor.

Foundational Curriculum

HIST 101 History of Western Civilization I: The Ancient and Biblical World As the foundation of our core curriculum in history, this course introduces students to the study of history, in the context of an examination of the Hebrew, Greek, and Roman contributions to the formation of the West. The course traces the history of the chosen people (especially as presented in the Hebrew Scriptures), examines the rise of classical Greek and Hellenistic civilization in the Eastern Mediterranean, and follows the development of Rome from its semi-mythic origins to its position of military and political dominance in the Mediterranean world. Our Lord became incarnate as a Jew in first-century Palestine, in a world that was united by Roman statecraft and Greek culture, and this course will bring that world to life by illuminating the historical dynamics through which it came into being. Required of all students. 

HIST 102 History of Western Civilization II: The Formation of Christendom Developments in Late Antiquity gradually produced the three great “worlds” of the Middle Ages: where the Roman Empire once stood, we find the medieval West, Byzantium, and Islamic civilization. Although the principal focus of this course will be on Western Europe, the history of the medieval West is not intelligible without some understanding of the development of the Byzantine and Islamic worlds as well. Therefore, through the study of primary and secondary texts, students will be introduced to the integrated narrative of medieval history from the beginning of Late Antiquity through the fall of the crusader states in 1291. The course will pay particular attention to the fall of Rome in the West and its survival in the East, the development of the medieval ecclesiastical and political order, the Arab and Seljuk conquests, the Gregorian reform, the crusades, the intellectual and cultural movements of the Early and High Middle Ages, the rise of the medieval papacy, and the centralization of European kingdoms in the thirteenth century. Required of all students.

HIST 201 History of Western Civilization III: The Division of Christendom In this course, we will explore the dynamics of western history in the later Middle Ages and the early modern era, which witnessed a profound centralization of power in individual European kingdoms, a corresponding decline in the political authority and prestige of the papacy, a complex set of cultural and intellectual phenomena known collectively as the Renaissance, the collapse of Christian unanimity during the Protestant Reformation, and a series of deep spiritual and institutional reforms within the Catholic Church.  Other important themes will include European exploration and colonization in Asia and in the Western Hemisphere, European religious wars, and the Scientific Revolution that preceded the beginnings of the Enlightenment. Required of all students.

HIST 202 History of Western Civilization IV: Church & World in the Modern Age The course is an introductory survey of secularization and the expansion of Western European society and culture from the death of Louis XIV to the pontificate of Benedict XVI. Particular attention will be devoted to a study of the transforming effects of the Enlightenment, political revolutions, the industrial revolution, the financial and commercial revolutions, and the accompanying political ideologies of liberalism, communism, and fascism. The course will also examine the Catholic responses to the religious, cultural, political, and economic challenges posed by the emergence of global modernity. Required of all students.

Advanced Courses

HIST 301 Art & Architecture of Rome and Florence This course studies the development of architecture and the related arts from Classical Antiquity through the Age of the Baroque as exhibited in the monuments and masterpieces of Rome and Florence. Required for all Semester-in-Rome-Program students.

HIST/CECS 311 History of the Byzantine Empire This course examines the nearly 1,200-year history of the Byzantine Empire, from its foundations in Late Antiquity until its final expiration in the fifteenth century; it also introduces students to important historiographical questions in the field of Byzantine studies.  “Byzantine” is a modern term, crafted by historians to describe the long-lived Eastern Roman Empire, which emerged as a distinct political entity at the end of Rome’s third-century crisis, adopted Christianity in the fourth century, and weathered many transformations and challenges over the course of the subsequent millennium.  These included the fall of the Western Roman Empire, barbarian and Islamic invasions, and violent religious controversies, not to mention coups, usurpations, and conflicts with the resurgent Christian West.  Although long a victim of scholarly neglect, Byzantium constituted a distinct political and cultural world during the Middle Ages, and has left behind a rich legacy among the Christian peoples of Eastern Europe and the Levant.

HIST 312 The Medieval World A seminar treating community life, worship, and a variety of forms of artistic expression in the Latin West between the Carolingian Age and the early 16th century. Special attention is given to the contribution of Benedictine monasticism to the formation of Medieval Christian culture. Students read sources such as the Pilgrim’s Guide to Santiago de Compostela and the Golden Legend and works by St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Abbot Suger of St. Denis, while considering works of art ranging from icons and panel paintings to sculpture and church architecture.

HIST 321  Tudor-Stuart England  Tudor-Stuart England surveys the essential events, developments, and figures of early modern Great Britain, from 1485-1714. During this period England was transformed from a relatively minor, feudal, European state into a constitutional monarchy, dominating its neighbors in the British Isles—Ireland, Scotland, and Wales—and, by the end of the period, a force dominating in Europe and beyond, in short, the most powerful nation on earth. Particularly emphasized in the course will be the emergence of parliamentary government, the triumph of English Protestantism, Roman Catholic recusancy and missions, the changing social structure in England, and English expansion and colonization.

HIST 322  History of Modern Britain   British history from the accession of Henry VII (1485) to the present.  Focus on Tudor-Stuart absolutism and the Protestant Revolt; the rise of the British Empire and industrialism; the resurgence of the Catholic Church during the Victorian period led by John Henry Newman and other converts from the Oxford Movement; Britain’s role in World War II; and the decline and disappearance of the British empire in the second half of the twentieth century.

HIST 340  American Catholic History  An introductory course examining the relation between Catholicism and American society from the colonial period to the present.  The course will explore the theme of inculturation—the incarnation of the universal truth of the Christ in particular human cultures—through an examination of key points of cultural conflict between Catholicism and America, including democracy, education, nationalism, ethnicity and economics. It will, moreover, place particular emphasis on how the forces of immigration and industrialization facilitated the rise of a distinct urban, ethnic Catholic sub-culture and the ways in which Catholics have struggled to maintain cultural and theological integrity in a post-urban, post-industrial America.

HIST 343  History of Education in America  This course examines the history of the purposes, methods, and experience of American schooling from the Early Republic up until the early 21st Century, including public, parochial, and home education. What has it meant at different times to be a schoolchild in America? How have school and American society and politics affected each other over time? Through seminar-style discussion, research, and deep reading in the history and philosophy of education, students develop their own answers to these questions and seek to understand what the history of schooling might mean for American education today.

HIST 350 The Renaissance  This course surveys the political, intellectual, social, and cultural history of the so-called “long” Renaissance (c1275-c1600). Certain themes will be highlighted: the economic and political development of the city-state, republicanism and despotism, the revival of classical learning, developments in education, the social order, and of course art. Above all, the course will emphasize the Renaissance fascination with the past: origins, antiquity, pedigrees, ancient rights and liberties. Renaissance humanism will be closely examined through the works of Petrarch, Boccaccio, Pico della Mirandola, Erasmus, and Thomas More. Additionally, students will be introduced to the rudiments of paleography through assignments deciphering copies of early modern manuscripts.

HIST 351 Catholicism in Asia  Jesus was born in Asia, and today Asia is home to over 130 million Catholics. This course will examine the history of Catholicism in Asia, from the early Church’s growth in Persia and India, up to the present day. The geographic regions of focus will stretch from Mesopotamia and Persia in the west, to India and Southeast Asia, to China, Korea, and Japan in the north and east. We will consider the causes for greater or lesser success in the growth of Christianity in different Asian contexts: e.g., attitudes of temporal authorities, missionaries’ strategies, interactions of Christians with other religious groups, and the witness of Asian saints. Throughout the course, we will pay special attention to “inculturation,” the dynamic, creative interplay between faith and culture.

HIST/THEO 401  History of the Papacy   A survey of the development of the Papacy and its impact on history from St. Peter to the present.  Emphasis is placed on institutional growth, the advancement of papal ecclesiology, major challenges to the Papacy, and both the elements and effects of papal leadership in the Church as a whole. (Cross-listed in Theology)

HIST 409 Art and Artifact in Byzantium and the Islamic Near East This course leads students through a multidisciplinary survey of Late Antique, Byzantine, and Islamic material culture, embracing art history, architecture, archaeology, numismatics, epigraphy, sigillography, and manuscript studies.  The great civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean have left rich deposits of material for study, and this course not only introduces students to some of the physical material (buildings, coins, excavations, mosaics, etc.), but also to the disciplines and techniques used by scholars in the various fields that study material culture. Field trips to museums and galleries complement time spent in a classroom setting.

HIST 410: History of Islam This course examines the complex social, political, and religious history of Islam, acquainting students with the development of Islamic doctrine, statecraft, theology, philosophy, historiography, science, and art.  The course proceeds thematically, with units devoted to pre-Islamic Arab society, Islamic origins, approaches to the Qur’an and hadith studies, the theory and practice of the caliphate, Islamic intellectual history, the Ottoman imperial era, and over two centuries of Islamic interaction with the modern West.

HIST 411  Reconquista and Crusade   This course examines the complex interactions between the Islamic and Christian worlds, from the first Islamic century to the end of the crusading era, and pays special attention to the current state of scholarship on the crusades, on medieval Islam, and on medieval Iberia.  “Reconquista” and “Crusade” are both modern terms rather than medieval ones, and therefore their validity and precise meaning have been actively debated for generations.  Nevertheless, the terms retain wide currency and utility.  This course acquaints students with the historical realities that these terms designate, and with the prolific scholarship devoted to them.

HIST 431  Causes and Effects of the French Revolution   A study of the pivotal political event of modern Western history, with special attention to its antagonism to the Christian Faith, the Catholic Church, and Christian moral teachings.  Its causes and essential character as manifested in its principal events are carefully examined and its consequences traced in detail to the fall of Napoleon and, somewhat more briefly, to the Paris Commune in 1871, with emphasis on the causes and manner of its apparent defeat by 1815 and its subsequent revival.

HIST 432  History of Totalitarianism  This course presents the development of communist ideology by, principally, Marx and Engels, with examinations of its elaborations and modifications by the likes of Lenin. It also examines the growth, impact, and decline of communist political movements, chiefly in the early to mid-twentieth century. Topics will include the origins of these movements, the Bolshevik revolution, and the nature and effect of Stalinism. This course further examines the rise and development of fascism, especially in its National Socialist incarnation. The class will thus offer an examination of the broader phenomenon of totalitarianism in its most signal historical manifestations, while noting Catholic critiques of it by Pius XI and John Paul II.

HIST 433  The Great War  The Great War course introduces students to the monumental conflict in the second decade of the twentieth century that tore Europe apart, caused the deaths of millions, and destroyed the existing European political order. The collapse of four long-standing empires—the Hapsburg of Austria-Hungary, the Romanov of Russia, the Hohenzollern of Germany, the Ottoman of Turkey—spurred the emergence of independent nations formerly part of those empires and reshaped the map of Europe and the Middle East. The Great War facilitated the emergence of Communism in Russia and sowed seeds for the growth of Fascism in the succeeding decades elsewhere. World War I turned the United States into a major world power and gave rise to the League of Nations. Issues to be explored include: nationalism, responsibility for 1914, technology and the unprecedented destructiveness and social impact of the conflict, the notion of “total war,” and the Great War’s unintended consequences.

HIST/THEO 451  The General Councils    The history and theology of the ecumenical councils from Nicaea I to Vatican I.  A knowledge of Latin is recommended. (Cross-listed in Theology)

HIST 452:  History and Theology of Vocation  This course will examine the concept of “vocation,” in both theory and practice. We will seek to understand what Christians through the ages thought about “being called” to a state of life (especially marriage, religious life, and Holy Orders); and how social, cultural, and legal circumstances affected one’s entry into and living in a state of life. In pursuing these questions, we will explore both classic theological texts and social realities (such as coercion in marriage and religious vocations; dowries and laws of marriage; the proliferation of new religious orders; and the relationship between vocational choice and the growth of individualism). Studying vocational choices ultimately helps us to understand the nature of modernity and the embeddedness of individuals in larger communities of family, Church, and society.

HIST/ENGL 460  The Catholic Literary Revival    This course examines the revival of orthodox Catholicism in modern Britain. It treats a wide variety of genres, including realistic fiction, fantasy literature, poetry, history, and social criticism. Students discuss texts in seminar discussions and conduct original research on the work of a modern Catholic author. Among the writers studied are G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, David Jones, Christopher Dawson, J. R. R. Tolkien, and such members of high Anglo-Catholic circles as T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, and Dorothy L. Sayers.  (Cross-listed in English)

HIST/ENG 461: The Inklings  The modern West has been marked by a simultaneous steady secularization, especially among intellectuals, and a renewal of Christian faith and culture, also among leading thinkers and artists. This course explores this revival of orthodoxy during a post-Christian age by an intensive examination of one of its chief exemplars, the Oxford literary fellowship known as the Inklings. This group centered around C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, but drew from earlier figures like G. K. Chesterton and influenced peers such as Dorothy L. Sayers. The course presents the cultural context of this movement, and also explores in depth some of its leading figures’ writings, with particular concentration on how they used the modern genres, like fantasy, to communicate traditional, Christian beliefs. The class consists of close readings, discussions, and evaluations of these authors.

HIST 480 John Paul II and the Twentieth-Century Church  Pope St. John Paul II was one of the most important figures of the twentieth century, both in the Church and in the world political landscape. His life illuminates topics ranging from Polish village life to resistance to Fascism and Communism; from collegiality among bishops to the meaning and implementation of the Second Vatican Council. Through an in-depth biographical study of John Paul’s life and works in combination with developments in theology and politics, this course asks both how the century shaped the Pope and how he influenced our Church and world.

HIST 512 Senior Seminar and Thesis Senior History majors prepare their senior thesis in this course.
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