First Year Courses

Welcome to History...

Welcome to the past! This is where you can explore thousands of years of the human experience in all its diversity and complexity. History is endlessly provocative – but also endlessly entertaining and absorbing. Whether you’re interested in politics or people, empire or environments, war, love, capitalism, pirates or zombies, we have courses that will make you think.

Our undergraduate program is designed to give you the fundamentals of history, while allowing you to explore your own interests in the process. You’ll learn to read efficiently, think analytically, write effectively, speak with confidence – all the skills that you can take with you wherever you go. And you will better understand your world today by studying the historical events that shaped it.

While you’re with us, you can get involved with student groups. The History Society is one of Western’s oldest student groups, and organizes the annual book auction, field trip, trivia bowl, and other great events. The Mirror, Canada’s oldest undergraduate history journal, is entirely student-run – join the staff to develop skills in editing and publishing.

In Lawson Hall, the department’s home, you’ll find a lively and welcoming environment. Drop in and chat with your prof or TA. Browse through our Give-and-Take Library. Check out the historical displays, many of them created by students. Meet the amazing people in our main office. Come for one of our many guest lectures and workshops. You’ll like it here – we do!

Why take a History course in your first year?

  • you are the product of history – we’ll help you to understand how
  • it’s your ticket to any of our modules – History, International Relations, American Studies, Public History
  • because of the emphasis on skills development, it’s great preparation for whatever degree you decide to do
  • flexibility – want a deep dive into a subject? We have full-year courses. Just looking for a taste of what history is like? Try a half-year course.
  • why not???

First Year Courses

History 1402F/G Europe 1715 to 1918: An Era of Revolutionary Change
Examines central events and themes of European history from the start of the Enlightenment through the First World War, including: origins and impact of the French and industrial revolutions; selected political thinkers from Montesquieu to Nietzsche; German and Italian unification; working-class movements; women's emancipation movements; imperialism; the First World War.

History 1403F/G Twentieth-Century Europe
Do you wonder …
-how the Bolsheviks took power in Russia in 1917, and how they used this power to transform the Soviet Union at the cost of millions of lives?
-how a Hitler could become chancellor in Germany, why so many Germans supported him, and the methods he used to conquer and exploit much of Europe?
-how Putin came to power and has ruled Russia?
-how European societies changed over the past century, in the nature of class structures, the possibilities opened to women, and the treatment of immigrants and minorities?
Students will be introduced to first-hand accounts of the period, in the form of diaries and memoirs, and watch carefully chosen excerpts from a few of the many amazing documentaries that have been made on the subject covered by the class. We also focus on research and writing skills, through a series of in-class exercises and take-home writing assignments.

History 1807 The History of Business
This course examines market and economic infrastructures, institutions, and actors shaping global markets from the early Empires to today. Considering economic exchange across Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Africa, the Americas, and Europe provides a platform to probe historic business elements, with special attention given to various waves of economic globalization. 

History 1809F/G International History, 1880s-1990s: Together and Apart
Is the world more international now than 100 years ago?
The modern Olympic movement began in 1896 to use sport to promote a better and more peaceful world … but now the Games elicit a competitive national spirit and celebrate national sporting achievement.
We eat from a global garden – in 1975, only 6% of fresh vegetables and 23% of fresh fruits eaten in the United States were imported. In 2016, it was 31% and 53%. But around the world a growing local-food movement champions eating food produced nearby to recognize the importance of self-reliance and the environmental costs of a global food industry.
Seeing the world – in 1960, 25 million people traveled as international tourists, a number that skyrocketed to roughly 1.5 billion in 2018. But then the pandemic stopped tourism in its tracks and those millions stayed home.
Cooperation or competition? In the Second World War, US President Franklin Roosevelt said, “The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party, or one nation … it must be a peace which rests on the cooperative effort of the whole world.” In April 2021, President Joe Biden said, “We are in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century … We have to compete more strenuously.”

History 1810E Wars that Changed the World
Wars are fought by nations, but they are really fought by people – and so the course will introduce you to countless people, famous and little known, who shaped and were shaped by war. You’ll meet mercenaries and monarchs, pilots and submariners, spies and saboteurs, munitions workers and “soldiers of the soil”, traitors and patriots, child brides and child soldiers – as well as people who were just trying to live their lives when war rolled over them. The course covers a lot of territory – from the A-A Line to the Zulu impi – and looks at the wars you would expect to study, as well as some lesser known conflicts whose impacts were profound. A war going on right now is shaping your world, but you also live with the consequences of wars that were fought hundreds of years ago. We’ll help you to understand how.

History 1840F/G Graphic History!
History 1840G, Graphic History! examines a series of such books that cover historical events from around the world and across time. The goal is not only to learn more about the events themselves, but also to explore what the visualization of history contributes. As a medium for history, what are graphic history’s strengths and weaknesses, its genres and conventions? Does it allow better access to an individual’s thoughts and experiences – but at the expense of the broader context and circumstances? Does the interweaving of text and images help to communicate time’s passage better than text alone can? What does graphic history teach us about the nature of history itself?

History 1895F/G History for Time Travelers
Imagine you could travel back in time: to ancient China, or medieval Europe, or the Americas before Columbus. What would you see? What would you smell? How should you greet people? And what might they think of you? Historians investigate many complex questions about the past, but another, simpler, question lurks in almost all our minds: what was it like?

First Year Assignments

First-year history courses (or courses at the 1000 level) are intended to expose you to a broad range of assignment types, so you can show what you’re good at and also improve some skills that you didn’t know you had. The assignments will introduce you to the library resources, teach you how to do primary and secondary research, and help you with constructing and presenting an argument.

You might begin by writing a short reaction paper, and work your way up to an eight-page formal research essay. You might create and present a pitch for a Broadway show called Joan of Arc!: The Musical, or dive into a postcard written during the First World War. You could write a book review or make a presentation to the other students in your tutorial group.

Oh, and there are exams too – but they’re not as bad as you might imagine!

Students love our first year courses!

"One of the best courses I’ve taken in university, it made me a history major when I wasn’t planning to be."

"This was one of my favourite classes this year because of how the course is set up. I like how we get a lot of content through lectures and readings and then you are graded on assignments which are really nice because you don't have to worry about learning every detail, you can just enjoy the content. I also like all the assignments because they were interesting and not as boring as I expected coming into it."

"I really liked this course, and how it looked at war not just in the context of the battlefield, but also through music, media, and all aspects of life, which I think is super important in terms of history as it verifies the significance in our every day lives."

"Still been one of my top favourite courses at Western and I’m going into my last year. The lectures are fantastic and the assignments are usually pretty creative."

"This course has improved my interest in history, and I want to share what I learned in this course with my families and friends."

"The course is fantastic and overall very interesting."

"Awesome course. It helped me with my other classes, and I learned the most in this class out of any of my classes by far."

"I am simply amazed at both the breadth and depth of material I have learned studying this course. I am neither business student, nor a history student, but I am truly grateful for the opportunity to take this course. I know that I exit this course with a comprehensive and in–depth knowledge of not just business history, but of Western sociopolitical and cultural history. On more than one occasion have I found myself discussing things I learned in this course with friends and family, and it has truly changed my perspective of not just the past, but of the present and future."

"I loved this course. It was thought provoking and pushed me to challenge my own biases. I would highly encourage another student to take this class regardless their program."

"Interesting course and subject. Learned new things I never expected to learn or know about."