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Take a look at the upper-level courses being taught by our great professors for Fall! If you have questions about them, please contact Dr. Jeanne Petit (

History 210-01 The Greek World
T 6:30-9:20 pm
Albert Bell

The ancient Greeks created many elements of our cultural heritage—philosophy, drama, democracy, to name a few. But contradictions, such as a democracy based on slave labor and ruled by a “first citizen,” lie behind the beautiful buildings and the dramatic victories over larger forces. This course explores the rise of Greek culture to its height in the fifth century B.C. and its evolution into the Hellenistic world that prepared the way for the Roman Empire. Flagged for global learning international.

History 221 01: Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa:
African Perspectives on Colonialism
TR 1:30-2:50 pm
Lauren Janes

This course explores the colonial experiences of Africans as well as the legacies of European colonial rule in Africa. We will examine the different ways Africans responded to European military conquest and political domination from the mid -1850s to the 1960s and the ways Africans struggled for independence. We will take an especially close look at Kenya and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The course is flagged for cultural diversity and Global Learning (International).

History 256 01: Recent America: From World War II to 9-11
MWF 12:00-12:50 pm
Jeanne Petit

This course will focus on the ways the United States changed in the years between World War II and the attacks of September 11.  Key question of this class revolve around the changing power dynamics of the last half of the 20th Century: How did the government and military respond to the fact that the United States had become the major world power? How did American economic dominance and economic struggles shape the ways Americans saw themselves and their role in the world?  How did American men and women of different races, classes, regions, ethnicities and religions understand and shape the meaning of social power?  Major topics include: the Cold War; the economic and cultural changes of the 1950s; Vietnam and the rise of protest in the 1960s; the economic and foreign policy challenges of the 1970s; the rise of conservatism in the 1980s, and the challenges of diversity and globalization in the 1990s. This course is flagged for global learning domestic.

NOTE: Instead of a traditional research paper, students will complete research and build websites in an effort to use the past to explore and analyze present-day issues.

History 295 01: The Age of Exploration in Global History
MWF 11:00-11:50 am
Wayne Tan

The world that we live in today continues to be shaped by the legacies of past empires. From commerce to cultural activities and diplomacy, societies between the East and West were interconnected in more ways than can be imagined since European and non-European explorers took to the seas on a global scale. This exciting period of exchanges and conflicts, known as the age of exploration, roughly spanned the late 14th through the early 18th centuries. This course will probe the context of exploration with focused discussions of topics like the rise of the Portuguese and Spanish kingdoms, the Atlantic slave trade, the international networks of Jesuit missionaries, the spread of Christianity and Islam, the discoveries of India and the Spice Islands, and the silver trade in East Asia, among others. This course fulfills the global/international component of the History major and meets the Global Learning International requirement.

History 361 01: U.S. Military History
MW 3:00-4:20 PM
Fred Johnson

The United States’ military shaped and defined its character, culture, and politics and, ultimately, catapulted the nation into superpower status. This course examines America’s rise into becoming the world’s most potent warrior democracy, tracing the history of the U.S. military from its establishment to present day. Along with investigating the purpose and performance of the military during time of conflict, its role as a political and socioeconomic institution will also be examined, especially with regard to its power and limitations within America’s constitutional system.

History 372 01: The Social History of Early Modern Europe:
Wanderers, Warriors, and Witches
MWF 3:00-4:20 PM
Janis Gibbs

Are you interested in how people lived their lives in the past?  Consider early modern Europe—the period between about 1450 and about 1800.  This period saw significant changes—the expansion of Europeans beyond their continent to the New World and Asia, the fragmentation of the Christian church in Western Europe, the evolution of warfare and the beginnings of the change from feudal or mercenary armies to standing armies.  People’s beliefs were challenged by all this change, and some people reacted to change by accusing people they distrusted of witchcraft.  How did women and men navigate the changes of this dynamic period?  Come and find out.  Students will read both primary and secondary sources, and will write a significant research paper on a topic of their choice.



Student Feature: Avery Lowe

Dr. Fred Johnson and Avery Lowe

Anger and guilt are left at the doorway. Class begins with a prayer, and then for an hour and twenty minutes, my classmates and I listen attentively as Dr. Johnson enlightens us in his 300 level history course- the History of Slavery & Race in America. We are different races, we have different political affiliations, and our religious ties vary, but for that set amount of time, we come together to discuss the history of race and slavery in this nation.

Most of us have been exposed to at least some prior knowledge about the history of slavery. I personally remember learning about the Underground Railroad for the first time in second grade and driving to the Civil War’s many battles in high school. However, the issue of racism and the problems that come with it are not always so open. For many, racism is an uncomfortable topic, better left undiscussed so as not to offend or be misunderstood. But after just a few weeks in this course, I believe quite the opposite. All of us have been impacted by racism in one way or another. Taking the time to study this allows us to better understand ourselves and the history behind this nation.

As a history major I’ve been asked the same prompts over and over: “Was the [insert time period] a period of social progress or regression for the U.S?” What this class has taught me is that it depends on who you’re asking. The U.S was forged from a society that operated under systemic racism. Even our constitution was written to be ambiguous enough to deny rights to certain people. I shouldn’t have to go into great detail to describe America’s racial issues today. They’re prevalent in our society, and we can either look the other way or try to do something about them, and that’s where the importance of history comes in.

We have made a great deal of progress since the first African American slaves were brought to the United States in 1619, but racism still affects our society even today. Racism is a result of willful ignorance and ethnocentrism, and this combination was the beginning of a long road of race relations in our country.  Slavery, the Civil War, Social Darwinism, Jim Crow, eugenics, immigration laws, segregation, deportation- it’s all a part of our nation’s history of slavery & race. It’s imperative we are able to sit down and discuss these topics openly and honestly.

As I’m finishing up my history major, I’ve had a good deal of exposure to different historical periods throughout the world. Having a greater understanding of history, specifically America’s history has allowed me to see the progress we have made as a nation, but it also highlights the issues our country still faces. It is one thing to talk about the past, but our discussions are surprisingly relevant to the present.

I would recommend everyone take this class, regardless of one’s major. It offers invaluable insight into the past and present, allows for incredible introspection, teaches empathy, and for myself, has inspired a desire for great change.  If there is just one person denied the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” then there is still room for improvement in this country. As British philosopher Thomas Reid once declared, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Faculty Feature: Pliny was the Answer

Hope College Professor Albert Bell

Coming out of a class one evening I got a text from my wife: “Guess what the answer was on Final Jeopardy.” I replied, “Since I don’t know what the question was, I can’t know the answer.” She couldn’t remember the exact wording but it had to do with letters written by a Roman and it mentioned the death of his uncle, so the answer had to be Pliny the Younger.

She knew this because she’s heard me talk about Pliny for years. He wrote almost 250 letters, including two famous ones that describe the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, which covered Pompeii and Herculaneum. Pliny’s uncle, Pliny the Elder, died in that eruption. A later letter tells the emperor Trajan how Pliny dealt with Christians in the province of Bithynia (part of modern Turkey) in the year 112. It’s the earliest non-Christian source we have about the Christians.

I became interested in Pliny in seminary and graduate school, more years ago than I care to recall. I have used his letters extensively in my research and academic writing, especially in my book, Exploring the New Testament World. Somewhere along the way, I began playing with the idea of writing a historical mystery set in ancient Rome. The main question was who would be my detective. Several writers—Lindsey Davis, Steven Saylor, John Maddox Roberts and others—write Roman mystery series that use fictional characters as their investigators. The more I read Pliny, though, the more I realized he had the skeptical, analytical mind that would make a good detective.

So, just as in Final Jeopardy, Pliny was the answer for me.

I like punny titles. The phrase “All Roads Lead to Murder” struck me as appropriate for a Roman mystery novel. That meant I would need to set my first novel at a time in Pliny’s life when he was traveling. In the spring of 81 AD he was returning from a year of government service in Syria. I found a small publisher that was interested, and off we went. That publisher put out three Pliny novels before the owner died. I was fortunate to find another small publisher right away, and the series now runs to six books, with a seventh due out this year.

I’ve been gratified by critical comments about the books. Library Journal said the second in the series, The Blood of Caesar, was one of the 5 Best Mysteries of 2008, “a masterpiece of the historical mystery genre.” One reviewer of the sixth book, Fortune’s Fool, said, “Bell reinforces his place among those who are pushing the mystery beyond genre, toward the literary.” I thought I was just telling stories.

All of the Pliny books are available online, along with my contemporary fiction and a couple of non-fiction books.