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Historical Approaches to Diversity: Racism in Historical Perspective




Admissions requirements

Birth of the Modern World


This course offers students an introduction to historical thinking and scholarship on racism. Although the term itself did not come into common usage until 1920s and 1930s, as a set of ideas (and as a social practice), racism has a much longer history. But how far back does it go? One of our core goals in this course will be to examine how (and when) (and where) ideas about “race” and “races” came into being, how they circulated and changed over time, and how they related to (and often served to justify) social processes such as colonial conquest, slavery, migration restriction, labor regimentation, state formation, war, and genocide. In addition to tracing the development of racism in history, we will also study its counterpart: anti-racism. How have anti-racist ideas and resistance movements evolved over time and across space—and to what effect?

Without a doubt, these are big questions to address in just 7 weeks. To lend our project coherence, we will pay particular attention to the ways that ideas about race, racism, and anti-racism travel. In this respect, our learning will build upon the skills and insights of global and transnational history as developed in the 100-level course, Birth of the Modern World—which is a pre-requisite for ours. How have “racisms” and “anti-racisms” in different historical and geographic settings compared with and/or influenced one another? How have ideas and practices been translated from one location to next? And, crucially: how might a historical understanding of these experiences inform our engagement in transnational debates about racism in our own day and age? Perhaps the ultimate goal of this course is to prepare you to enter into those debates in an informed, curious, and empathetic way.

Course objectives

Overall, this course will help you develop 1) content knowledge about the evolution of racisms in global history, and 2) practical skills in historiographical analysis: summarizing, comparing, analyzing, and evaluating the way scholars have asked and attempted to answer historical questions about this perennially vexing topic.

Upon successful completion of the course, you should be able to:

  • understand how the concept of “race” emerged in history and how its uses have evolved over time and varied across space;

  • identify and compare different historical approaches to the study of racism;

  • reflect critically and empathetically on the ways that racism has shaped different societies, including our own; and,

  • write a clearly reasoned historiographical essay.


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

This course will proceed primarily as a seminar, meeting for two 2-hour sessions per week. On some days, I will open with a brief presentation that contextualizes or expands upon the content in the assigned readings. On others, we will jump right into an analysis of the readings—often beginning with small-group discussion. The most important thing to keep in mind is that in order to get something out of this course, you need to keep up with the reading material for every session. If you are not keen on doing some serious reading—and coming prepared to discuss it in depth at every session—this is not the course for you.


  • class participation (15%)

  • web posts – part 1 (15%)

  • web posts, part 2 - including final synthetic post and annotations of all of the posts in one portfolio - (30%)

  • final synthetic essay (40%)


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Readings will be made available on Blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Ann Marie Wilson