world map scaled by population

UCSB Hist 2c, Lecture 1:
lecture on Apr. 4, 2006 (prev, next)

by Professor Harold Marcuse
(Prof.'s homepage)
created Apr. 12, 2006, updated 4/17/06

Course Overview
Professor's Background
2006 course syllabus
Lecture 2:
Theory and Change

Course Overview (back to top)

  • I began the first day of class by going over my 4-page Hist 2c course syllabus. Most of it is self-explanatory, but I did go into greater detail about each of the 4 required course books, the two required papers, and the midterm and final exams.Learning as planting a seed
  • I also talked about how students who didn't find space to enroll before the quarter started might try to crash.
    • About 25-30 students of the 200 present (I guestimated about 50 empty seats in the 254-seat lecture hall) raised their hands that they were not yet enrolled. Since there are 234 spaces in the course, about 60 enrolled students did not attend the first lecture.
    • See the Feb. 22 announcement on the course homepage for the policy on crashing.
  • I also talked about how I conceive of teaching. piggy bankSome teachers think of it as cumulatively adding bits of knowledge to someone's mind, like putting coins into a piggy bank. While that model may be suitable to hierarchical disciplines like mathematics, I don't think that it is a very interesting or useful way of teaching history. Instead, I like to think of teaching as more like planting a seed. Plant one good idea in the "soil" of a mind, add the "water" of additional information and examples, and let the light of the university environment shine on it, and you might get a big yield of meaningful understanding.
    Frazz comic: questioning teaching
  • I briefly addressed the question "What is world history about?" The subject is so vast that we have to make some kind of selection that can be covered in 10 weeks.
    • Should we study only those countries that made major contributions to our own culture? I was personally involved in changing UCSB's General Education "area E-1" from "Western Civilization" to "World Cultures" in 2005. (See my UCSB GE reform website, which is aimed at faculty, but may be of interest.) Many faculty colleagues were adamant that all UCSB students MUST learn "Western Civ." first and foremost--as this Nov. 2003 History department discussion of Western Civ shows. See also this history of the Western Civ. requirement at UCSB.
    • From that discussion it should be obvious that I personally don't think that only manifestly dominant topics/culture/developments are worth studying, but alternatives as well.
    • But: which to choose?world map, scaled by population Using the course homepage logo, a world map scaled by population, I tried to illustrate that there are various ways of determining importance (like number of population, or geographic size, or wealth, or military might).
    • In the end, I've chosen topics that I know the most about (which unfortunately, is biased towards Europe), and have invited some faculty colleagues to guest lecture about their specialties (Prof. Roberts on Japan and Prof. Miescher on Africa) to keep a better balance between my own specialty, European history, and the rest of the world.
  • Finally, I gave the results of my course evaluations from the last time I taught this course (which was also the first time I taught it, after having taught Western Civ. for 10 years):
    • 85 of 110 total students filled out evaluations
    • 19 of the 20 who wrote general comments were positive, 1 negative
    • 6 found me/the course boring
    • 12 wanted "more content," or found the course too vague or too broad
    • 13 commented that it was too Eurocentric (!)
    • 5 explicitly liked the multimedia (powerpoint & videos), 2 wanted even more
    • 5 explicitly liked the readings (wow--to like them enough to comment!)
    • 2 remarked that they didn't like that I sometimes went over 75 minutes.
  • An online introductory survey is available, which asks about your goals, and will enable me to compile a profile of the class as a whole. Please take it--I'll report the results next time. (See survey results in lecture 2.) Here's a quiz that underscores how meaningful data can be generated by short surveys ;-):
    philosophy quiz comic

The Professor's background (back to top)

Marcuse's arrest at Seabrook, 1977
arrest at Seabrook occupation, May 1977

After the general introduction about course policies, requirements and content, I went on to tell about my own background in history, under the motto: "who will be teaching you this quarter?".

  • I started out as a physics major at a small liberal arts college in Connecticut (Wesleyan). I was pretty naive, chose my major because I was really good at physics and enjoyed it. I took a lot of survey courses, in just about every field EXCEPT history. (I tried one course, but found it deadly boring--it just didn't mean anything to me.)
  • I was very interested in energy production, especially in alternative energy sources. Knowing how utterly dangerous, stupid and energy inefficient nuclear power is, at the end of my junior year I participated in the May 1977 occupation of the Seabrook, New Hampshire nuclear power plant construction site. I was arrested (along with about 2000 other people), and happened to be one of the few who was put on trial. As a consequence, I missed my final exams and was not allowed to make them up. I then went on my planned senior year abroad in Germany, and (with a few twists and turns) ended up staying there and ended up getting a Master's degree in history of art, with a thesis about the monuments and memorials that had been established to commemorate the civilian, military and Holocaust victims of the Nazi era. That turned into a traveling exhibition with a brochure "Stones of Contention". I showed a map with icons of many of the monuments we interpreted in that exhibition:
    map with icons of Nazi-era monuments
  • Finally, Legacies of Dachau book coverI talked about the research project about the history of the former Dachau concentration camp (that is, its history since 1945) that became my Ph.D. dissertation in history and was ultimately published in 2001 as a book, Legacies of Dachau: The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp, 1933-2001. (See my Legacies of Dachau book page for more information.)
    • Long after visiting the site (and being basically overwhelmed by the scope of it and all the information) I saw an artwork that prompted me to remember a church I had seen there. I asked myself: Why is there a church in Dachau? And the rest is, well, history.
      The artworks that reminded me of the church in Dachau: reliefs with attributes of St. Dorothy, St. Barbara (tower), and St. Catherine (wheel)
      The Catholic "Church of the Mortal Agony of Christ" in the Dachau memorial site, 1960
  • For more background on the history of Dachau after 1945, see my 2002 Hist 33D lecture 15 with lots of illustrations. (L14 covers Dachau 1933-45, but doesn't include images)

Lecture 2: Theory and Change (back to top)

prepared for web by Harold Marcuse, April. 12, 2006, updated: see header
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