WiSe 18/19: Empire and Humanity: The Spanish-American-Philippine War, 1898-1902
Module Format: This seminar constitutes the second part (Hauptseminar) of Module A (History of North America in the World). While the first part of the module (Seminar: “The United States and Other ... read more
Module Format: This seminar constitutes the second part (Hauptseminar) of Module A (History of North America in the World). While the first part of the module (Seminar: “The United States and Other Empires in World History”) is designed as a broad introduction to the period by looking at a general theme, the second part zooms in on a specific topic, offering students the opportunity to do in-depth reading, primary source research and write a paper. Both parts are scheduled back to back (Wed., 8:30-10am, 10-12pm). Students are required to complete the full module are encouraged to register for both courses simultaneously. Students wishing to compose a full research paper (Hausarbeit) at the end of the term are strongly encouraged to sign up for this second part (Hauptseminar) of Module A.
Theme: 2018 marks the 120th anniversary of the Spanish-American-Cuban-Philippine War, a conflict alternately labelled a “splendid little war” or one of most decisive military conflict in U.S. history. What is more, historians have pointed to the war’s key significance in the context of U.S. race relations, gender and diplomacy, as well as a marker in the history of humanitarian intervention. This course seeks to study the nexus between empire and visions of humanity in U.S. history by considering – yet not exclusively – on particular military conflict in the history of the United States. Since 1895, the Cuban island had seen a number of armed conflicts between Spanish governmental troops and local insurgents. The latter demanded autonomy from Spain. Spanish troops abused, shot and interned civilians in “reconcentrados”, concentration camps. At least 150.000 people died in concentration camps from starvation and diseases. The U. S. population sympathized with the insurgents, and sent along massive humanitarian assistance: medication, food, and relief workers. In the end, the U.S. invaded and occupied Cuba while Spain lost the last of her major colonies. Cuba is a turning point for our understanding of humanity because policymakers, media, eye witnesses and even opponents of the war interspersed their deliberations with notions of “humanity”.
Course Structure: This is a research-oriented learning course, designed to encourage students to explore a specific field and topic from an inquisitive, problem-oriented and critical perspective. For the most part, students will work in teams practically, autonomously and creatively to research a specific theme related to the historical nexus between empire and humanity with a particular eye on the United States. How do empire and humanity relate to one another? How did protagonists understand “humanity”? How have visions of humanity been used to promote empire – and vice versa? And what does all of this mean to us today? To this end, we shall look at both state and non-state activities, read some of the most recent research pertaining to the War of 1898, empire and the invention of humanity in the United States. For introductory reading, I recommend Siep Sturman, The Invention of Humanity: Equality and Difference in World History, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 2017); Louis Perez, The War of 1898: The United States and Cuba in History and Historiography (Chapel Hill: University of Carolina Press, 18908); John Darwin, After Tamerlane: The Rise and Fall of Global Empires, 1400-2000 (London: Penguin Press, 2007).