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HISTORY 1EE3 Hist Of Contemporary Issues

Academic Year: Fall 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Michael Egan

Email: egan@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 610

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24134


Office Hours: By appointment

Course Objectives:

Preliminary background in modern history Students will read and research history topics that examine key facets of the modern world. In so doing, they will receive a preliminary introduction to historical events and ideas, while also acquiring the intellectual tools to conduct research and analyze and interpret the past

Introduction to thematic history Students will receive an introduction to the history of the modern world, with a particular focus on the history “isms” that have shaped the contemporary moment. Concentration on a theme forces students to engage with history differently than they might when studying a particular nation-state. A more thematic study of the past invites students to think laterally and to learn how to make connections between different events over time and space.

University life 101 In addition to course content, HIST 1EE3 will promote good reading, writing, and organizing habits through a series of mindfulness exercises and methods of effective note-taking that are essential to a successful undergraduate experience.

Development of digital analytical skills Some class time will be spent introducing specific types of software and teaching students how to “see” history through a series of novel perspectives. This is a hands-on experience. Students should plan to bring their laptops to class in order to conduct in-class work. Much of this will take place in groups, where students can help and learn from each other. Students are expected to further hone their skills outside the classroom.

Development of communication skills Effective communications skills will be stressed and developed in HIST 1EE3. Students will engage in a series of writing and non-writing methods of communicating their research findings over the course of the semester.

Basic historical research & analysis In HIST 1EE3, students are producers, rather than consumers, of knowledge. Research and discovery constitute the lynchpin of course aims.

Emphasis on the value of collaborative work Shared efforts produce superior results. The culminating project for this course will task students to work in teams.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present

Christian Parenti, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence

Kate Evans, Threads From the Refugee Crisis


XMind 8 (be sure to purchase the Academia Discount)

Students should also register for a Google Account in order to facilitate some of the collaborative work we will be doing.

Method of Assessment:

Participation: 8%

Reading Quizzes: 12%

In-Class Collaborative Exercises: 10%

Close Reading Mind Map: 5%

Annotated Reading: 5%

Course Wiki Contributions: 20%

Essay Question & Hypothesis: 5%

Essay Bibliography: 5%

Essay Mind Map: 10%

Final Exam: 20%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignment Policy:

Deadlines are firm. Because computers and printers and bandwidth connections invariably tend to crash at exactly the point when assignments are due, students are strongly encouraged to avoid waiting until the last minute. Technology glitches do not constitute a satisfactory excuse for late submission. The same applies for the reading quizzes. Since the syllabus and course schedule are available to students in advance, I recommend that you begin readings early in order to avoid any untimely illnesses or other misadventures. A 10% per day penalty (to a maximum of 20%) will be levied against late assignments. Late assignments will only be accepted within two weeks of the stated deadline. Late assignments will be graded without comment.

Course Evaluation:

I intend to make every effort to ensure that student work is graded in a fair and timely manner, and that students receive the kind of feedback on their work that justifies the grade assigned and helps them to understand how to improve for the next assignment. Every now and then, something slips through the cracks. Students wishing to appeal a grade should start by contacting the TA responsible for grading the assignment. No appeals will be accepted within 24 hours of the assignment being returned. In an e-mail to the TA, students should reflect on the comments and feedback they received on the assignment, indicating that they understand the TA’s evaluation, before suggesting why they disagree with the grade they received.

The end of the semester is not the right time to seek help with your coursework or to appeal grades submitted earlier in the semester. If you are struggling with the course, make a point of meeting with your TA during her/his office hours for assistance. Do this early in the semester and frequently.

HIST 1EE3 also works on a firm policy that no bonus work for credit will be offered. Students should endeavour to do the best work they can from the beginning of the semester.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Note that readings should be completed before the first class of the week during which they are listed.


Tuesday, 5 September

Introduction & Welcome to HIST 1EE3

Thursday, 7 September

What is History? | What are the problems of the present?




Mishra, “1. Prologue: Forgotten Conjectures,” 1-35.

Tuesday, 12 September

The World in 1917 | How to Read Good

Thursday, 14 September

What is Progress? | Intro to Timeline JS 


Topics for next week’s collaborative assignment will be assigned

Reading Mind Map submitted to Avenue DropBox by noon on Tuesday, 19 September 2017




Mishra, “2. Clearing a Space: History’s Winners and Their Illusions,” 36-81.

Tuesday, 19 September

How to Write Good

Thursday, 21 September

In-Class Collaborative Exercise I


Annotated Reading submitted to Avenue DropBox by noon on Tuesday, 26 September 2017




Mishra, “3. Loving Oneself Through Others: Progress and Its Contradictions,” 82-113.

Tuesday, 26 September

What is Ressentiment? | How to Ask Historical Questions

Thursday, 28 September

In-Class Collaborative Exercise II


Essay question & hypothesis submitted to Avenue DropBox by noon on Monday, 2 October 2017




Mishra, “4. Losing My Religion: Islam, Secularism, and Revolution,” 114-159.

Tuesday, 3 October

Secularism & Messianism Collide | What is Empathy?

Thursday, 5 October

What is the State?


Biographical Sketch submitted to Avenue DropBox by noon on Monday, 16 October 2017



Midterm Recess




Mishra, “5. Regaining My Religion: I. Nationalism Unbound; II. Messianic Visions,” 160-274.

Tuesday, 17 October

Reflections on Charisma in History | What is Fascism?

Thursday, 19 October

Revisiting the Problems of the Present


Essay bibliography submitted to Avenue DropBox by noon on Monday, 23 October 2017




Mishra, “6. Finding True Freedom and Equality: The Heritage of Nihilism,” 275-320.

Tuesday, 24 October

Accidents in History

Thursday, 26 October

What is Nihilism?




Mishra, “7. Epilogue: Finding Reality,” 321-346.

Tuesday, 31 October

Catastrophic History

Thursday, 2 November

In-Class Collaborative Exercise III


Historical “ism” summary submitted to Avenue DropBox by noon on Monday, 6 November 2017




Parenti, “PART I: Last Call for Illusions,” 3-38.

Tuesday, 7 November

The Catastrophic Convergence

Thursday, 11 November

What is Violence? | Insurgencies & Counterinsurgencies




Parenti, “PART II: Africa,” 39-96.

Tuesday, 14 November

The Climate of History | The Anthropocene & its Histories

Thursday, 16 November

What is Power? | Life on a Changing Planet




Parenti, “PART III: Asia,” 97-156.

Tuesday, 21 November

Mind-Mapping Asia’s Catastrophic Convergence

Thursday, 23 November

Cosmos & Hearth Revisited


Essay Mind Map submitted to Avenue DropBox by noon on Monday, 27 November 2017




Parenti, “PART IV: Latin America,” 157-242.

Tuesday, 28 November

History’s Vocabulary

Thursday, 30 November

In-Class Collaborative Exercise IV




Evans, Threads from the Refugee Crisis*

Tuesday, 5 December

The Rules of History

Other Course Information:



Rather than structuring the course around lectures, an emphasis will be put on developing in-class research skills and techniques in order to facilitate student inquiry (there will also be some lecturing—though I promise to keep it limited and upbeat). This means that attendance is more or less mandatory.

Participation is just that. While there will be opportunities to engage in classroom and small group discussion, participation also implies the deliberate investment in active learning. Class activities require student buy-in in order to realize success and self-discovery. This component of the overall grade evaluates student attendance and assumes that students will come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings and to take on the outlined tasks. 

Participation also insists that we will all respect each other, even when we disagree. (I will not tolerate aggressive contributions that discourage others from participating; such behaviour will be reflected in a low grade). In addition, participation assumes that we will bring our knowledge, ideas, and commitment to class, including ideas from lectures and the readings. Think about counter-arguments and questions to ask.

Participation does not mean perpetual contributions. It also involves cooperation and listening. And it demands active attention in the class and to its discussion. When giving a participation grade, I consider the relevance of students’ remarks to the readings, critical skills, depth of analysis, understanding of material, amount of participation, and clarity of thought and expression. Often, the best participation grades are awarded to students who ask questions that take us beyond the immediate scope of the readings and/or connect their thoughts to other topics previously raised. I do not mark simply on quantity. Nor do I expect students to agree with me. I do expect that we will engage in thoughtful, sometimes robust, debate and discussion. These are the criteria for marking class participation. Finding it difficult to speak in class is not an acceptable excuse for lack of participation; students are encouraged to integrate themselves into the culture of the class and find ways to contribute in smaller group settings.

Reading Quizzes: 

A series of reading-related, multiple choice questions are posted on the course Avenue to Learn site. The relevant readings are marked in the schedule below with an asterisk. The quizzes are designed to demonstrate comprehension of course readings. These must be completed prior to the class in which the readings are listed in the syllabus.

In-Class Collaborative Exercises:

More heads work better than one. As we develop various reading and analysis skills, these will be reinforced through a series of collaborative exercises. Over the course of the semester, students will engage in graded group work in the classroom. In two instances, students will produce a short “group-write” summary statement of an assigned topic, designed to demonstrate a shared understanding of the topic in question. These should be ~300 words in length. Student groups will submit their statement as a group by the end of the class session. These short writing statements will be assessed not just on their intellectual strengths, but also on their writing quality and clarity. The group should work together to exhaustively proofread and tighten the prose.

On another occasion, groups will collaborate to annotate a chapter from Pankaj Mishra’s book. Finally, groups will also work together to develop data for timelines. This will likely involve doing some modest preparatory work ahead of class time. In class, the groups will discuss and prepare the timelines using Timeline JS. Each student is required to submit their own version of the timeline to the appropriate Avenue to Learn Dropbox within 24 hours of the end of the class time.

Close & Annotated Reading:

Reading involves not just careful attention to detail, but also reflecting on the author’s intent and interpreting inferences in the text. Two short exercises will help students to develop their capacity to read deeply and efficiently. The first will rely on XMind to plot themes and trajectory in Pankaj Mishra’s Chapter 2 (due by noon on Tuesday, 19 September), while the second will involve collecting information from external sources on topics relating to Mishra’s Chapter 3 (due by noon on Tuesday, 26 September). Both reading assignments should be submitted to the appropriate Dropbox in Avenue to Learn.

Course Wiki:

In preparation for the final exam, students will produce content for the course blog, “Cosmos & Hearth.” Each student will be assigned an historical figure and be required to write a ~500-word biographical sketch, which concentrates on that figures contributions to history as they relate to course themes. Each piece should also include a photograph of the subject and at least six keywords drawn from a pre-circulated list. The biographical sketch is due at noon on Monday, 16 October. Students will also be provided an historical “ism,” and must submit a ~400-word explication of that ism, situating it in its historical context. The “ism” submissions should also include a brief bibliography for further reading and a list of at least five keywords. The “ism” essay is due at noon on Monday, 6 November. For both writing assignments, students are encouraged to strive for clarity and efficiency in their prose. Research and intellectual vigour will also be assessed. Their finished work will be posted on the course blog. This will make up the study guide for the final exam. Each assignment will make up 10% of the course final grade. Both should be submitted to the appropriate Dropbox on Avenue to Learn.

Individual Essay (sort of)

Over the course of the semester, students will engage in course-related research project. This will involve multiple steps. The first consists of submitting a short (200-word, max) statement, outlining your interest and posing a question that will direct your subsequent research and analysis (due on Avenue by noon on Monday, 2 October). The second component is a bibliography of relevant readings, drawn primarily from scholarly sources. The bibliography should consist of at least 12 sources that will help to inform your topic. The bibliography should be preceded by a short statement that justifies why you selected the sources you did. It is due on Avenue before noon on Monday, 23 October). Finally, students will not actually write their research paper. They will, however, map it using XMind, outlining the key elements of the essay and organizing their evidence and examples into a coherent visual presentation.

The mind map should include a ~250-word introduction and overview of the topic. It should also state the intended argument. The exercise is designed to gauge how students organize their ideas and work when constructing a traditional essay. Note that students are not required to write the finished piece, but the structure should be consistent with a formal essay. The mind maps should be posted to the appropriate Avenue to Learn DropBox no later than noon on Monday, 27 November.

Final Exam:

HIST 1EE3 will have a final exam during the December exam period. More information on the exam’s structure and focus will follow.