Courses on Offer

Courses on Offer in Sem 1

HIST1017.      Modern Hong Kong (6 credits)

Dr. Tim Yung

This course explores the history of Hong Kong since the early 1800s from several angles: British imperial history, Chinese history, world history, and as a place with its own identity. Topics include: the opium wars, law and the administration of justice, gender and colonialism, Hong Kong and Chinese nationalism, the Japanese occupation, the 1967 disturbances, Hong Kong identity, the fight against corruption, the Sino-British negotiations and the retrocession to Chinese sovereignty, and developments since 1997. The goals of the course are to familiarize students with the history of Hong Kong, introduce the ways in which historians have approached this history, explore how Hong Kong’s past has shaped its present, and help students learn to read and write analytically. No previous knowledge of history or Hong Kong is required.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2021.      Nineteenth century Russia, 1800-1905 (6 credits)

Dr. Adam Sacks

This course surveys developments within the Russian Empire from the duel between Alexander I and Napoleon through the Revolution of 1905, the dress rehearsal for the Revolution of 1917 which destroyed Tsarism. This course focuses on internal developments, rather than on foreign policy; and thus includes topics such as Slavophilism vs. Westernizers, the tsarist reaction, and then reform under Nicholas I and Alexander II, the revolutionary movement from the Decembrists to the Bolsheviks, industrialisation, the Nationalities Question, and the peasantry before and after Emancipation.  This course requires no prior knowledge of European history.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2031.      History through film (6 credits)

Dr. Staci Ford

This course looks at the manner in which film has portrayed events in history, considering the degree to which film can enhance or be detrimental to our understanding of history.  Students may expect to gain some appreciation, not just of the films themselves, but of the degree to which any movie is the product of a certain historical period and reflect its values and preoccupations.  This course should be particularly enlightening to students who are taking other United States history courses and American Studies majors.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2091.      The British Empire (6 credits)

Dr. Uther Charlton-Stevens

This course examines the history of the British Empire from the late eighteenth century to the end of the twentieth century. The British Empire once spanned so much of the globe that it is impossible to understand the history of the modern world (including Hong Kong) without considering the role of British colonialism and imperialism. Topics include: the cultural and material foundations and the economic, political, and social consequences of empire; the relationship between metropole and periphery; collaboration and resistance; the dynamics of race, gender, and class; the relationship between empire and art; new national and local identities; decolonization, and independence; and the legacies of empire. The goals of the course are to familiarize students with the history of the British Empire; introduce them to the ways in which historians have approached this history; and help them learn to read and write analytically.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2013. Twentieth-century Europe, Part I: The European Civil War, 1914-1945 (6 credits)

Dr. Adam Sacks

This period can be seen as a Thirty Years’ War fought over the problem of Germany, beginning with the First World War, 1914-18, and climaxing with the total defeat of Germany at the end of the Second World War, 1939-45. Tensions between the Great Powers were exacerbated by new ideologies such as Fascism, Nazism and Communism, which appeared in Europe as part of a general crisis in Western Civilisation after the First World War. An attempt will be made to evaluate the debate between different schools of historians on what Fascism, Nazism and Communism signified. Finally, one of the main aims of the course is to describe, and explain, the mass murders involving the deaths of millions carried out by a new breed of leaders such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2144. History of the Second World War in the West, 1939-1945 (6 credits)

Dr. Uther Charlton-Stevens

This course will examine the Second World War in Europe and the Mediterranean. In exploring its significance the focus will be on international relations and military affairs.


Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2158.      Women in Hong Kong history: Private lives and public voices (6 credits)

Dr. Alison So

This course revisits Hong Kong’s multifaceted history from a thematic approach with women as the focus of inquiry.  Embedded in the very fabric of Hong Kong society, women’s narratives, though often being left out in history writing, have documented the encounters of cultures, the politics of patriarchy and colonial rule, and the construction of class differences, gender inequality and cultural identities in social, political and economic changes.

Drawing from a wide range of sources, this course examines women’s lives and experiences in colonial Hong Kong under the themes of sex, marriage and family; female education; women at work; and philanthropy and social activism. The course also discusses the role of narrative in historical understanding, the use of gender as a category of historical analysis, and the link of the personal to social change in writing Hong Kong’s history.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2161.      Making race (6 credits)

Dr. Michael Rivera

This course examines the history of race and race-making in a global context. We begin by framing theories of race, examining race as a social construct and understanding how race intersects with other structures of social difference such as gender and class. We then examine histories of race-making at several sites: race and the body (scientific racism, reproduction, and slavery), race and “civilization” (colonialism and orientalism), race and culture (identity and consumables), race and space (borders and segregation), and race and forgetting (privilege and memory). We may consider how race takes root in hair and ramen, soap and tap dancing, sex and policing. By the end of the course, students will understand how race travels across oceans and borders, but also how race is made every day, close to home.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2192.      Introduction to modern Southeast Asian history (6 credits)

Dr. Nicolo Ludovice

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most diverse and multifaceted regions. Bounded by India to the west, China to the east, and Australasia to the south, and some of the world’s largest oceans and most contested waterways, it has long been a region in flux. This course aims to introduce students to the Southeast Asian world and its past, from the early modern period through to the end of the twentieth century. Specifically, this course will focus on both mainland and maritime Southeast Asia, examining countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Myanmar, amongst others, and their historical antecedents. Similarly, it will focus on the region’s transnational connections, stepping beyond orthodox national boundaries. The course charts the rise and fall of local polities and Western empires, the transnational and transregional movement of peoples, commodities and ideas, and the evolving impact of Southeast Asia’s geographies, economies and environments. Students will be introduced to areas of Southeast Asia that are seldom studied, and will be challenged to investigate issues of historical significance, contemporary relevance and continuing social and cultural interest. This course will encourage students to question how Southeast Asia shaped—and was shaped by—the world around it, and how it has in turn impacted key issues in our contemporary society. Students will be introduced to basic themes in historiography, and will be encouraged to evaluate source materials and historical literature for bias and significance. Finally, this course will demonstrate why Southeast Asia is such an important region worthy of historical investigation.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2204.      Technology and society: A modern history (6 credits)

Prof. Ghassan Moazzin

This class introduces students to the history of technology since the late 18th century. We will cover both the major tenets of the development of technology during the past two centuries and major debates among historians of technology. The course will not only cover major technologies that have influenced and changed modern society, such as the steam engine, railways or the computer, but also explore how new technologies and modern society influenced each other. The scope of the course is global, but it will particularly focus on developments in Europe, North America and East Asia. By the end of the course, students will have developed a better understanding of the historical development of technology in the modern period, which, in turn, will give them a new perspective on the role technology plays in society today.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2205.      Digital history: From concordances to big data (6 credits)

Prof. Javier Cha

This course investigates how the advent of computing and society’s ongoing digital transformation have influenced historical practice. Students will be introduced to the major topics and debates in digital history, including the fragility of new media, the creation of biographical databases, data analytics, and computer-assisted interpretations of the past. Hands-on lab sessions will teach computational methods tailored to historical inquiry, such as digital forensics, text mining, geographic information systems, network analysis, and machine learning. On this foundation, students will develop their own digital history project, which will either apply a computational approach to a traditional historical research topic or reimagine how historical research should be conducted in an age of big data. No background in programming is assumed.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST3075.      Directed reading (6 credits)

The aim of this intensive reading course is to provide an opportunity for students to pursue a specialized topic of study with a faculty member.  Throughout the semester, the student and teacher will consult regularly on the direction of the readings and on the paper or papers (not to exceed 5,000 words) that will demonstrate the student’s understanding of the material.  This course cannot normally be taken before the fifth semester of candidature and is subject to approval. Students wishing to take this course should consult with a teacher who is willing to supervise the reading project before enrolling. Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST3082.      Birth counts: The politics of reproduction in the modern world (6 credits)

Dr. Carol Tsang

This seminar course explores the history of human reproduction from the early nineteenth century to the late twentieth century. Over time, human ability to reproduce and control fertility led to the rise and fall of civilizations across the globe. Using case studies from various national contexts, the course inspects how the state, medical professionals and social activists strove to encourage births and regulate fertility. It demonstrates the interactive influence of political, social and cultural factors on pregnancy, childbirth, birth control and infertility treatments. Through small group discussion, it also provides an opportunity for students to explore different ways of tackling existing and future population problems.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST4015.      The theory and practice of history (capstone experience) (6 credits)

Dr. Nicolo Ludovice

This course aims to acquaint students with some of the theoretical and practical considerations which underlie the study and writing of history by considering the development of the discipline of history from its beginnings in the ancient world through to the postmodernist critique.  The course is especially recommended to those who wish to pursue history at the postgraduate level. All students taking HIST4017. Dissertation elective (capstone experience) are required to take The theory and practice of history (capstone experience).

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST4017.      Dissertation elective (capstone experience) (12 credits)

This is a research course which requires submission of an extended written dissertation.  All students taking the Dissertation elective are required to take HIST4015. The theory and practice of history (capstone experience).

Co-requisite/Prerequisite: HIST4015.

Note: For History majors only; a whole-year course. Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST4023.      History research project (capstone experience) (6 credits)

Students who wish to undertake a research project on a specialized historical topic in either semester of their final year of study may enroll in this course with the approval of the Head of the School of Humanities on the recommendation of the departmental Undergraduate Coordinator.  The course aims at providing an opportunity for intensive research leading to the production of a long essay (not exceeding 7,000 words) which will be supervised by a faculty member with expertise in the chosen area of study.

Note: For History majors and minors only. Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST4028. History without borders: Special field project (capstone experience) (6 credits)

Enrolment in this special course is extended to students majoring in History by invitation, and on a performance-related basis. For those students invited to apply for enrolment this exclusive capstone course will provide an opportunity to design their own field project in a subject related to the History discipline. It will also provide funding to support field work undertaken across geographical, political and cultural borders, in Hong Kong and/or overseas. The course thus provides History majors with a unique, funded opportunity to design, plan and make their own creative contribution to historical knowledge. Students invited to submit a project proposal must do so by the specified deadline. The department panel will then notify applicants of approval or non-approval within the period specified. Those students eligible to enroll in the course who are interested in taking up the Department’s invitation and whose project proposals are successful will be provided with financial support to be used for the purpose agreed. A range of innovative activities may be designed by students, including, for example, travel overseas to conduct field research, the editing and publication of a special online journal, attendance or organisation of a conference, workshop, or specialist history summer course. Each student will be supervised by a staff member working in a related field.

Note: For History majors only, and by invitation. Assessment: 100% coursework.

Courses on Offer in Sem 2

HIST1016.      The modern world (6 credits)

Prof. Devika Shankar

This course offers a broad historical survey which aims at introducing students to the major developments in world history, in a period from the late eighteenth century to the present during which the world became increasingly interdependent. The course will adopt a comparative approach where possible and will be particularly concerned with the theme of globalisation. This course does not aim to be a comprehensive survey of all aspects of the history of the modern world, but its range allows students to acquaint themselves with important developments in the areas of culture, religion, politics, society and the world economy.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST1018.      Europe in the long nineteenth century, 1789-1914 (6 credits)

Mr. Pavel Krejci

This course introduces students to the development of European nation states from the French Revolution to the outbreak of the First World War. It focuses on political, economic and social structures, on important historical events, and on various ideologies and national identities of the European powers. It will also deal with the histories of smaller countries.  The course will adopt a comparative approach where possible and will be particularly concerned with presenting similarities and differences in the historical development of European nation states in the long nineteenth century.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2014. Twentieth-century Europe, Part II: Europe divided and undivided, 1945-1991 (6 credits)

Dr. Adam Sacks

After the Second World War, Europe was divided into two camps, with Germany itself split into Western and Communist portions. The survey of the Western camp will focus on British, French and West German politics, social change, student revolts, and the growth of the consumer society and mass culture. In studying the ‘Other Europe’, the course will concentrate on the way Communism evolved and changed in the Soviet Union and its Eastern European empires, concluding with the dramatic popular revolutions that so suddenly toppled the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the even more momentous collapse of Communism in the former Soviet Union in 1991. As the pace of change in the whole of Europe increased so dramatically in 1989, the course ends with a series of questions. What are the prospects for European unity, economically and politically? What role will the new unified Germany have in Europe? What are the prospects for Russia and the other republics that have emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Empire?

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2070.      Stories of self: History through autobiography (6 credits)

Dr. Staci Ford

Who has felt authorised to narrate their life history and what has compelled them to tell explanatory stories that make sense of their lives? How accurate is it to call autobiography the history of the self? Do we encounter other histories or selves in autobiography? What is the history of autobiography and how do we read it? Historians reading autobiography for documentary evidence of the past and endeavouring to write about it objectively will find that their task is complicated by the autobiographer’s subjective and often highly creative engagement with memory, experience, identity, embodiment, and agency. This course is intended for students who wish to explore the interdisciplinary links between autobiography, history, literature, and personal narrative, and to acquire strategic theories and cultural understanding for reading these texts.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2107.      The Second World War in Asia and the Pacific, 1931-1952 (6 credits)

Prof Charles Schenking

Few events in the modern history of Asia and the Pacific have been as important or as transformative as the Second World War. This course explores the far-reaching effects that this conflict had on the state, society, and individuals in, and between Japan, China, the United States, the Soviet Union, and the British and French Empires. Importantly, this course will examine how this conflict helped change war—conceptually and in real terms—from a narrowly defined engagement between military forces to one that encompassed a ‘total experience’ involving the mobilization of virtually all segments of society. In this course we will also trace the interconnectedness between the transformation of war and the development of new technology, changed concepts of morality, ‘just war,’ and altered perceptions concerning the relationship between the state and society, the soldier and the civilian. Finally, this course will help students understand more fully how and why this war, and the numerous acts of barbarism that defined it, still influence relations today on personal, national, and international levels in Asia and the Pacific.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2178.      Trials of history: The courtroom from historical perspective (6 credits)

Prof. Alastair McClure

The courtroom is a physical location where judges and juries sit to hear cases and deliver justice. It is also a site of intrigue, drama and controversy, and as this course will examine, a tremendously rich and important source of history. Taking a transnational and comparative perspective, this course will examine how the trial came into being in its modern form. The course will first examine how various components of the trial developed over time. Comparing these developments in different places and at different times, case-studies will include the history of the judge, the jury, the professional lawyer, and the expert witness. The course will then move through a series of courtroom trials that range from everyday cases that received almost no attention in their time, to high-profile cases involving political leaders and internationally famous celebrities. Placing these trials in their wider political, social and cultural context, the course will encourage students to consider the place of law in history, and history in law.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2186.      Death and destruction from above: A history of aerial bombing, from zeppelins to drones (6 credits)

Prof Charles Schenking

Since World War I, millions of soldiers, civilians, and suspected terrorists have died as a result of aerial bombing. Conventional and atomic bombings, moreover, have resulted in the destruction of countless military targets and the incineration of vast square kilometres of urban landscapes. What factors have made this possible, accepted, and “legal”? Throughout this course, students will explore the technological and military developments that have made such killing and wanton destruction possible. Moreover, students will examine the ideological, political, and doctrinal thought from Douhet to Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) that has not only attempted to legitimate, but advocate, the targeting of civilians from above. Students will also be asked to investigate why legal proscriptions or conventions against aerial bombing never materialized in the pre-World War II era and examine why many nations have still refused to adhere to any restrictions on aerial warfare. Upon completion of this course, students will have a better understanding of how airpower, whether in the form of bombers, ICBMs, or unpiloted drones, has revolutionized warfare and changed the way strategists have conceptualized targets. Students will also gain a better understanding of how the indiscriminate yet effective employment of air power has often obliterated any distinction between combatants and civilians in today’s world.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2198.      World prehistory (6 credits)

Rebecca Hopkins

The main goal of this course is to imbue students with a sense of what experts know about the ancient world thus far, based on a reading of archaeological material culture and human remains. The methods used and archaeology’s multidisciplinary approach to the study of the human past give us a range of clues through which we may investigate what we used to do as a species, and the reasons why certain technologies and cultural behaviors have persisted until contemporary times. Through lecture activities and tutorial discussions, students will regularly encounter ongoing debates currently being held regarding the study of prehistory: What meanings and values may we attribute to ancient objects, and how can we be sure we are not imparting our modern-day assumptions on to prehistoric finds? Should artefacts in museums be repatriated and returned to where they were found? What should specialists do, if anything, about the use of cultural heritage (or its destruction) in the name of political agendas and ideologies? Archaeologists around the world are working hard at refining their methods and substantiating their claims about humanity. Ultimately, students will discover where we came from, and how we may all engage in conversations about our evolution and development since that point of origin.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2199.      The Mongol empire in world history (6 credits)

Dr. Francesco Calzolaio

In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Mongols established the largest continuous empire in world history, stretching over most of the Eurasian landmass from Korea to Hungary and from the Persian Gulf and Burma to Siberia. This course explores the history of this empire from a world-historic perspective, with attention to the deep transformations in political, cultural, and intellectual history brought forth by its establishment. Thus, we will learn more about the fundamental structure of the Mongol nomadic empire and how it interacted with the various settled peoples it came to incorporate. But we will also investigate the impact of the Mongol conquests on trade, technology, and culture, and their heritage in the early modern world.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST2203.      The Philippines and the Asia-Pacific world (6 credits)

Claudia Montero

The course examines the development of Philippine society from the precolonial beginnings and the onset of Spanish colonization (mid-1500s) to the second EDSA People Power Revolution in 2002.  By situating the Philippines within the connections and movements of Asia and the trans-Pacific world, this course investigates Philippine culture and society as a product of internal and external contexts, contestations, and transformations. Significant topics include: colonization, ilustrado nationalism, modernization and urbanization, reform and resistance, migrant diaspora, neocolonialism, and conjugal dictatorship. The course also seeks to compare and contrast the Philippines with the development of colonial Hong Kong to demonstrate similarities and differences of colonial rule, the connections between them, and the trajectories of these relationships.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST3078.      Cold War science fiction (6 credits)

Prof. Oscar Sanchez-Sibony

Science Fiction as a genre was established at the turn of the 20th century, partly, as a medium through which to envision a future beyond capitalism, in other words, as a means to envision socialism. Some of the genre’s foundational tracks in both the United States and Russia made for important discussions on this question. With the advent of the Cold War, science fiction continued to provide an important venue in both the East and the West for imagining liberal and socialist futures and for making critiques of liberal and socialist presents. Historians of the Cold War routinely invoke an almost existential battle between capitalism and socialism as the core of the object of their study: the Cold War.  But they rarely show much understanding or interest in what these two systems were historically. This course follows science fiction writing in both East and West to develop a more grounded understanding of the Cold War as a battle between two systems than that provided by Cold War historians. It will provide a schematic history of the Cold War, while fronting questions of historiography as well as those of social thought arising from science fiction texts.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST4033.      Museums and history (capstone experience) (6 credits)

Prof John Carroll

Museums have become one of the most popular ways of telling history. Many scholars argue that museums are not neutral places; rather, they are often used for a wide range of strategic purposes: regulating social behavior, building citizenship and national identity, and expanding state power. But museums also face a variety of constraints and challenges: culture, money, politics, physical space, locating and selecting appropriate artifacts, and forming narratives. This course considers these issues by looking at history museums and heritage preservation in Hong Kong. The goals of the course are to familiarize students with a range of theoretical approaches to museum studies; explore the ways in which museums and heritage preservation can be used to further certain political, cultural, and commercial agendas; and help students learn to write an analytical research essay based on readings and museum fieldwork.

Non-permissible combination: HIST2094.

Assessment: 100% coursework.

HIST4036.      World War III: A history? (capstone experience) (6 credits)

Prof Charles Schencking

In 1949 Albert Einstein purportedly told chemist Alfred Werner, “I don’t know [what weapons will be used in World War III], but I can tell you what they’ll use in the fourth – rocks!” This course explores the weapons that convinced Einstein and others that WWIII would be a civilization-as-we-know-it ending event. What were those weapons and the technologies behind them? How, where and why were they developed, tested, deployed, used, stolen and reproduced? Why were these weapons almost used in 1962 and 1983 and what kept humanity from crossing the Rubicon of annihilation then, and at other times? When has the limitation of such weapons proven effective or failed and why? Seminar participants will explore these questions as well as examine the history of post-nuclear apocalypse imaginary as expressed through film and writings to better understand how technological developments and more accurate assessments of “the end” and “the aftermath” shaped popular culture and society.

Assessment: 100% coursework.