Take Your Knowledge of the History of War and Foreign Relations to the Next Level
Take Upper-Level History Courses through SDSU’s Open University
In today’s political climate, history is more relevant than ever. San Diego State University’s history courses will deepen your understanding of the past and how it relates to current political issues.
These classes are accessible through SDSU’s Open University program on a space-available basis after SDSU students have registered.
Up to 24 units of Open University credit may be applied toward an SDSU undergraduate degree and no more than nine units may be applied for graduate students.
We’re offering two tracks, based on the scope of the subject matter.
History of War and Foreign Relations: Complete 4 courses (12 units). Choose all four from a single track, or mix and match from both tracks.
Track One: War and History
HIST425 — Vietnam: the Global War
The Vietnam War was the most consequential conflagration of the Cold War, a symbolic crucible for testing the staying power of the “Free [i.e., capitalist] World” against that of the “Progressive [i.e., communist] World.” It has been the most far-reaching armed conflict since World War II, impacting the world in several profound and meaningful ways. The Vietnam War defined a global period: the 1960s, the “cultural decade,” and 1970s, the “pivot decade,” would have been very different, in the United States and around the world, without the war and its effects. Thus, making sense of the Vietnam War is critical to understanding the Cold War international system and the world that system bequeathed.
HIST486 — World War II
World War II was likely the central event of the 20th century. It resulted in more than 50 million deaths, mostly civilian ones. It ended the centuries-long hegemony of the Western European powers and set the stage for the Cold War between, most prominently, the United States and the Soviet Union. It meant the effective end of 19th century-style imperialism, and introduced the world to the destructive possibilities of industrial genocide and nuclear weapons. This course examines World War II from a truly global context, giving relevant weight to the war’s many theaters. It combines traditional political, diplomatic, and military factors with the war’s effects on ordinary people. It also seeks to place the conflict within a proper historical context, not necessarily limited to the years 1939 to 1945.
HIST440 — The Holocaust and Western Civilization
This course is constructed around individualized research projects, and assists students in understanding the Holocaust within the context of larger European history of the 19th and 20th century. It introduces the regionally-based stories, histories, and perspectives of perpetrators, bystanders, and victims; and the larger debates of Holocaust history. Finally, it sets the Holocaust within a context of comparative genocide, and also discusses the current political uses and abuses of the Holocaust as a turning point of history.
HIST512A — The Great War: A Turning Point in European History
While World War I is often overshadowed by World War II in collective memory, it was a watershed moment in European history. Called the Great War by contemporaries, it was the first large-scale industrial war. It changed military concepts of warfare, discrediting offensive military tactics, and introducing new weapons technology. As an early instance of Total War, this conflict saw some of the earliest cases of genocide, such as the Armenian one, and it contributed heavily to the Russian Revolution. Culturally, the First World War changed gender roles and led to new directions in art and culture. Finally, it reshaped the European map and laid the foundation to the Second World War, which broke out only 20 years later.
HIST527 — The Holocaust in Feature Film
This course depicts the Nazi policy of destroying European Jewry; its impact on the perpetrators, bystanders, and victims; and the post-war world in feature films.
HIST534 — Civil War and Reconstruction
In 1861, the United States disunited. The war that followed devastated the population, land, and laws. It also resulted in large-scale emancipation of African American slaves. After the official war ended, the nation reconstructed its laws, economy, culture, and place in the world. This class explores why the war began, how it transformed the nation and the world, and how Americans endeavored to build a new land afterward. The class also examines the political, social, cultural, military, and environmental impacts of the war and Reconstruction.
HIST580 — Topics in the History of War and Violence (including War and the Environment; War and Gender)
How do women live during war? What does war do to gender constructions and roles? This course explores how gendered readings and gender constructions impact warfare, relationships between occupiers and those occupied, or propaganda in a 20th century European context. It also deals directly with women’s experiences in times of war, as soldiers, on the home front, as perpetrators of atrocities, or as victims of atrocities. The course will stretch over the 20th century from WWI to the Yugoslav Wars and perhaps a few more recent events. We will draw from histories, memoirs, novels, and films to get a comprehensive understanding of our topics.
HIST583 — Topics in Gender and Sexuality: Warrior Women in History
In this course, we will explore the history of women warriors from ancient times to the present. We will begin by examining theories of female masculinity, and how they relate to women who fight. We will then investigate accounts of ancient warrior women, underscoring the fact that the Amazons of antiquity were based upon a historical reality of nomadic women who fought. We will then examine the history of women generals from Cleopatra to Joan of Arc. Finally, after analyzing the reception of Amazons in Wonder Woman, we will briefly survey the status of women in the U.S. armed forces today. What might surprise a student most in this course? The revelation that the legend of the Amazons, at least in part, is proven by archaeological evidence.
Track Two: History of Foreign Relations
HIST 421 (Asian History since 1600)
This course concentrates on the history of India, China, and Japan from 1600 to the present, and includes brief studies of the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam. After gaining a foundational understanding of the geographies, religious traditions, and family and gender norms of Monsoon Asia, we will compare and contrast different Asian responses to 19th century European and American imperialism. We will then examine anti-colonial nationalism, revolutions, and wars in 20th century Asia, and conclude by exploring the diverse paths taken by Japan, India, and China between World War II and the present. By the end of the course, you should know the geography, broad chronology, major themes, and key historical figures of modern East and South Asian history. Most importantly, you should be able to connect these people, themes, places, and historical eras within a broad “story” of modern Asian history.
HIST 474 (The Middle East Since 1500)
This course explores critical themes in the history of the Middle East from the beginning of the 16th century, to important developments in the making of the contemporary Middle East. We will study major economic, social, and political processes that shaped the region in the past 500 years, and seek to find appropriate contexts for problems such as social conflict, religious activism, authoritarianism, and intermittent war. We will examine the ways in which the Middle East has adjusted to a period of rapid change, as many familiar institutions and practices in just about all spheres of life either disappeared or were significantly altered (particularly in the 19th and 20th centuries). The history of the modern Middle East is comparable to that of other regions across the globe, making it a case study in world history. The lectures and the reading material are complementary, and do not always cover the same themes and topics. However, they are integral to the overall purpose of the course and are chosen to give you a broad and critical understanding of various issues in the history of the modern Middle East.
HIST512B — Age of Dictators and Contemporary Europe
This upper-level seminar investigates some of the darkest moments of 20th century European history. We will consider the dynamic relationship between dictators, dictatorships, and the people living under these regimes — not only their victims, but the bystanders, supporters, and assistants. Topics include totalitarian societies; the functions of propaganda and media; the relationship between war, militarism, security, fear, and dictators; and the ground-level psychology of followers and citizens in dictatorships.
HIST516 — Imperialism and Colonial Experience
This is a class on European history — what the Europeans did to the rest of the world and why. First came the expansion of European (mainly Iberian) power into the New World after 1492. Then Great Britain supplanted Spain as the chief imperial nation, and by the 19th century became the first industrial and largely urban society in the world, while most of the rest of humanity was in stage two of human economic and cultural development — the 10,000-year-long agricultural phase. Then, in the second half of the 19th century, other powers joined Great Britain in modernizing, thus expanding their own empires and creating an age of imperial rivalries that led to the First World War. We’ll explore how European powers treated other societies, and to what extent European imperialism was a kind of world system, touching areas outside formal European control. We will reflect on imperialism as a continual occurrence in a globalized world divided between the economically advanced and the economically less advanced. We will also examine a variety of theoretical perspectives for understanding imperialism, which can be applied to other times and places, from Ancient Rome to Modern America.
HIST544A — Early American Foreign Relations
This course examines the history of American foreign relations from pre-colonial origins to the First World War.
HIST544B — Modern American Foreign Relations
This course surveys the history of U.S. foreign relations since 1900. It addresses a broad spectrum of foreign policy initiatives in a variety of geographical settings over time, and their impact domestically and abroad. The course also highlights the role of various elements (ideology, national security, economics, race, etc.) in shaping presidential decision-making.
HIST557 — Dictatorships and Human Rights in Latin America
Dictatorships in Latin America existed since the 19th century, but the aim of this course is to understand the dictatorships happening in the region in the 1960 to 1990 period. The course will focus on a comparison of Guatemala, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina and Chile through a transnational understanding of the Cold War era. Within this transnational perspective the bibliography and lectures will consider how the Soviet Union influenced the region and pay especial attention to the role of the United States. Discussions about what happened during the last dictatorships in Latin America are to this day one of the most contended issues for public opinion in many countries. This is why this course will not only deal with the events between 1960 and 1990 but also with the way of dealing with the legacy of the past today. This course will present a variety of ways to approach the topic at hand. Students will read original documents, such as articles from the New York Times and other newspapers, translated accounts of the victims of state terrorism, and declassified historical documents secretly issued at the time by the CIA and the US Department of State. Understanding these primary sources requires reading of the work of historians, political scientists, anthropologists, literary critics and journalists. In order to explore the memory of dictatorships a number of movies produced from 1985 to the present will be shown throughout the semester.
HIST558 — Latin America in World Affairs
This course introduces students to recent scholarship that is redefining Latin America’s international history. It offers glimpses into broader transnational developments that include the evolution of Latin America’s relations with the U.S. government and private actors; the impact of globalization on an emerging youth culture and the growth of tourism; and the formal and informal ties between military elites. Readings were chosen to reflect many genre of scholarship on Latin America, including journalistic narrative, autobiography, linguistics of memory, primary source documents, cultural history, political science, and gender history. Most raise questions and issues about the impact of the external world on Latin America and the ways that different sets of Latin American actors — official “state,” non-state, and transnational — have responded to these challenges. Readings, lectures, and discussion will focus on this more expansive definition of international history.
HIST574 — Arab-Israeli Relations: Past and Present
The course explores the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the narratives and images that are part of this history. Participants will study the timeline of the events, the facts, and the variety of ways in which the story of conflict is told. Students will be acquainted with significant events in the history of Arab-Israeli relations and other relevant regional issues, including Iran; and develop skills in the critical analysis of Arab-Israeli relations and identifying debates surrounding key events.
History for Teachers: Complete 4 courses (12 units)
HIST410 — U.S. History for Teachers
This course helps prepare future social studies teachers for service in California public schools. Projects include teaching history to yourself and others, using primary documents and secondary sources. Class discussions will tackle a variety of topics in American History, with an emphasis on how we can inspire young people to be effective readers, writers, and critical thinkers.
HIST411 — World History for Teachers
This upper-division undergraduate course examines major topics in world history from the formation of early cultures until the 18th century. This is not a survey course, therefore will explore major patterns in history. Historical events, trends, and developments not only affected a great number of the earth’s inhabitants, but also contributed to the complex and interdependent world we see today. This course will also investigate the issues that most students and educators of world history are faced with: definition, conceptualization, and how to teach world history, particularly in 6th and 7th grade.
HIST412 — Modern World History for Teachers
This upper-division course will further students' mastery of the subject matter of modern world history as well as their skills in organizing and presenting it. The course will touch on important themes, patterns, and concepts that might help future teachers, especially at the secondary school level. At the heart of this approach is an attempt to develop a truly global view of history rather than one which focuses on a particular region or cultural tradition. The course covers the period from approximately the beginning of the 16th century to the present day.
HIST413 — U.S. History for Teachers: Liberal Studies
This course is designed to provide grounding in historical study for future teachers of all subjects. It examines primary and secondary sources on a variety of topics significant to America and California. We will also consider the value of historical thinking and “habits of mind” common to the discipline. History topics will be discussed in connection with Common Core and state standards for a variety of disciplines, with consideration for how topics can be meaningful to children. Course activities will include student-led lessons using documents and artifacts from history.
HIST445 — California History
History 445 explores the economic, political and cultural history of California, from early human settlement to recent times. Topics include Native American cultures, Spanish and Mexican influences, the Gold Rush, agriculture, the growth of cities, ethnic diversity, industrial change, and political reform. We will examine California as a region of cultural and technological innovation as well as economic and environmental challenges. The course also includes a unit on California government where we will consider our state's unique structure as well as avenues for public participation on policy issues at the state and local level. Most importantly, the course encourages you to read, write, think, and discuss critical issues as a historian.