HomeTeachingRebellions, Revolts, and Revolutions in World History

Rebellions, Revolts, and Revolutions in World History

Rebellions, revolts, and revolutions not only mark transitions in world history, but also show continuities in histories, ideas, and national mythologies through their legacies and impact. In this seminar, we will analyze conflicts that range from the intensely local to those that had sweeping global impacts. We will attend to how historical actors mobilized or confronted categories of race, ethnicity, gender, and class. Among other questions, this course poses: How do revolutions speak to each other, both across time in the same national setting, or across national contexts? What does the act of revolt or rebellion tell us about power in a given historical moment? Finally, how does studying historical moments of transition or continuity help us understand contemporary culture and politics?

We will place moments of conflict in historical and global context by considering how participants in revolution, victims of repression, and advocates for rights drew from international precedents and shaped their narratives and legacies. Through discussions and written assignments, we will analyze primary sources and exemplary articles and monographs in anticipation of the final research paper. 

Required Texts

Required Texts Thomas Benjamin, La Revolución: Mexico’s Great Revolution as Memory, Myth, and History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000) 

Paul A. Cohen, History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience and Myth (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997)

John A. Goldstone, Ed. Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative, and Historical Studies (Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1994)

Aldo Schiavone. Spartacus. Translated by Jeremy Carden (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013)  

Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997)

Rosemarie Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007) 

All texts and media will be available through Course Reserves (CR) or linked on Blackboard (BB). Unless otherwise noted, page numbers for Goldstone’s Revolutions correspond with the second edition; several articles from the third edition will be available electronically through Course Reserves. 

Course Expectations and Assignments

Readings, Participation and Reading Responses (15%)
You must attend all class meetings and participate actively in discussions. Contact me if you anticipate an unavoidable absence, and we will develop a make-up assignment. Unexcused absences will be reflected in your final grade. To guide class discussions when no other writing is due, submit a one paragraph reading response and two discussion questions. Post the reading responses to Blackboard before 10pm, Sunday.

Short Essays (10%)
Two short essays (1-2 pages) will serve as the basis for in-class writing workshops. These essays will focus on analytical skills in preparation for your final paper.

Paper Proposal and Preliminary Bibliography (10%)
The final paper proposal (300-500 words) should identify the topic for your final paper and introduce your major research questions. It should propose a methodology for your research and analysis. It also should describe several primary sources and how you plan to locate them. The preliminary bibliography should include published monographs and peer-reviewed journal articles (8-10 sources).

Literature Review (10%)
The literature review (3-4 pages) should put your proposed project into conversation with scholarship in the field. This draft of your literature review will allow you to receive feedback before the outline and first draft are due.

Outline (10%)
You can submit a linear outline or an interconnected “mind-map.” We will explore outlining techniques and digital applications in class.

Rough Draft and Peer Review (10%)
The complete rough draft of your paper will be due at least two weeks before the final deadline, and you will exchange drafts with another student in the class. One week before the final draft is due, you will return narrative feedback to your partner (1-2 pages), and send a copy to me. You can include in-text comments for your colleague, but you do not need to edit their work.

Presentations (5%)
Presentations (5 minutes) of your research project will offer you the opportunity to receive additional feedback before your final paper is due. Your presentation should make your research accessible to your colleagues and highlight your major findings and arguments.

Final Paper (30%)
The final paper (20-25 pages) serves as the capstone assignment of this course. This paper should be well-researched and well-written. You may choose a project that exceeds the chronological or geographic scope of our readings, but your topic should relate to the central themes of the course: rebellion, revolt, and revolution. 


Unit I: Theories of Revolution and Ancient Rebellions

Week 1: Introduction to the Course

  • How does studying world history allow us to make comparisons across time and place? What do we learn from this approach? What are some of the challenges? 

Week 2: What is a Revolution?

  • READ Jack A. Goldstone, “Introduction: The Comparative and Historical Study of Revolutions,” Revolutions [1-18]
  • READ Karl Marx and Frederik Engels, “Manifesto of the Communist Party,” Revolutions [21-29]
  • READ Alexis de Tocqueville, “The French Revolution and the Growth of the State," Revolutions [30-31]
  • READ Max Weber, “Bureaucracy and Revolution,” Revolutions [31-36]
  • READ Samuel P. Harrington, “Revolution and Political Order,” Revolutions [37-45]
  • READ Charles Tilly, “Does Modernization Breed Revolutions?” Revolutions [45-54]
  • READ Eric Wolf, “Peasants and Revolutions,” Revolutions [55-62]
  • READ Theda Skocpol and Ellen Kay Trimberger, “Revolutions: A Structural Analysis,” Revolutions [64-70]
  • READ Jack A. Goldstone, “Revolutions in Modern Dictatorships,” Revolutions [70-77]
  • READ Eric Selbin, “Agency and Culture in Revolutions,” Revolutions (3rd Edition), [76-84, CR]
  • READ James C. Scott, “Introduction” in The Moral Economy of the Peasant: Rebellion and Subsistence in Southeast Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977) [1-12 CR]
  • DUE Reading Response (1 paragraph) 

Week 3: Spartacus: Slave Rebellion in Ancient Rome and its Modern Legacies 

  • READ Aldo Schiavone. Spartacus. Translated by Jeremy Carden (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013)
  • READ Allen M. Ward, “Spartacus: History and Histrionics” in Spartacus: History and Film. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007). [112-124 CR] 
  • VIEW Spartacus (1960) [CR]
  • DUE Text and Media Essay (1-2 pages). How does the film shift your analysis of the culture and identity discussed in the texts? How did you draw on the texts to analyze the film? Are the people in the film of the same class, race, age, and gender as those described in the texts? How does the film reinterpret Spartacus as myth and history within the political, social, and cultural context of the United States during the 1950s and 1960s? 

Unit II: Modern Revolutions and Republics

Week 4: From the Magna Carta to the English Revolution

  • READ James Clarke Holt, “The Charter and its History,” and “The Re-issues and the Beginning of the Myth,” in Magna Carta (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). [1-22, 378-405 CR]
  • READ Jack A. Goldstone, “The English Revolution: A Structural- Demographic Approach,” Revolutions [100-114]
  • READ Michael Walzer, “The Emergence of Radical Politics,” in The Revolution of the Saints: A Study in the Origins of Radical Politics (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965). [1-21 CR]
  • EXPLORE “Magna Carta” at the National Archives 
  • DUE Reading Response (1 paragraph) 

Week 5: The American Revolution 

  • READ Rosemarie Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007)
  • READ Gordon Wood, “The American Revolution: The Radicalism of Revolution," Revolutions (3rd Edition) [177-183 CR] 
  • EXPLORE “Liberty! The American Revolution,” PBS
  • DUE Reading Response (1 paragraph)

Week 6: From the French Revolution to The Haitian Revolution 

  • READ Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997) 
  • READ Susan Eckstein, “The Impact of Revolutions on Social Welfare in Latin America” Revolutions [263-286] 
  • READ John Markoff, “The French Revolution: The Abolition of Feudalism,” Revolutions (3rd Edition) [171-77 CR] 
  • EXPLORE “The Haitian Revolution,” Brown University
  • DUE Primary Source Essay (1-2 pages). Choose a primary source from one of the online resources explored in this unit. Analyze the text, image and/or audiovisual components of this source. Who produced the source, when did they produce it, where, and why? How did you locate the source, and how or where is it preserved? What kind of historical or cultural information do you need to contextualize the source? 

Unit III: National Revolutions of the Twentieth Century

Week 7: From the Boxer Uprising to the Cultural Revolution in China 

  • READ Paul A. Cohen, History in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event, Experience and Myth (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997) [3-173; 261-289] 
  • READ Martin King Whyte, “The Social Sources of the Student Demonstrations in China, 1989,” Revolutions [180-193]
  • EXPLORE “In the Internet Age, a New Cultural Revolution,” NPR
  • DUE Final Paper Proposal and Preliminary Bibliography 

Week 8: Russian Revolution 

  • READ Theda Skocpol, “France, Russia, China: A Structural Analysis of Social Revolutions,” Revolutions [81-99]
  • READ Theda Skocpol, “Old Regime Legacies and Communist Revolutions in Russia and China,” Revolutions [233-251] 
  • READ Timothy McDaniel, “The Russian Revolution of 1917: Autocracy and Modernization,” Revolutions (3rd Edition) [183-191 CR] 
  • READ Beryl Williams, “The Impact of the French Revolutionary Tradition on the Propaganda of the Bolshevik Revolution, 1918-1921” in Symbols, Myths and Images of the French Edited by Ian Germani and Robin Swales(Regina, Saskatchewan: University of Regina Press, 1996) [297-306 BB]
  • EXPLORE “War and Revolution in Russia,” BBC
  • DUE Reading Response (1 paragraph)

Week 9: Mexican Revolution and its Zapatista Legacies

  • READ Thomas Benjamin, La Revolución: Mexico’s Great Revolution as Memory, Myth, and History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000) 
  • READ Walter L. Goldfrank, “The Mexican Revolution,” Revolutions [115-127] 
  • READ “Plan of Ayala” in The Mexico Reader (Durham, Duke University Press, 2009). [339-343 CR] 
  • READ “ENOUGH!: The Zapatista Declaration of War” [CR] 
  • DUE Literature Review (3-4 pages)

Unit IV: Postcolonial Conflict and Cold War Revolutions

Week 10: Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya

  • READ Cora Ann Presley, “The Mau Mau rebellion, Kikuyu women, and social change,” Canadian Journal of African Studies/La Revue canadienne des études africaines 3 (1988) [502-527 BB]
  • READ Marshall S. Clough, “Mau Mau and the Contest for Memory,” in E.S Atieno Odhiambo and John Lonsdale, Eds.  Mau Mau and Nationhood (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2003) [251-267 BB]
  • READ David Anderson, “Prologue” and “The Hidden History of an Anti- Colonial Rebellion,” in Histories of the Hanged: The Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire (New York: WW Norton & Company, 2005). [1-53 CR] 
  • VIEW Something of Value (1957)
  • DUE Outline

Week 11: The Cuban Revolution  

  • READ Thomas G. Paterson, “Dependencies: Batista, Castro, and the United States,” and “A Complete Break: How Did the United States Let This One Get Away?” in Contesting Castro: The United States and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995) [15-24, 241-254 CR]
  • READ Johnetta B. Cole, “Women in Cuba: The Revolution within the Revolution,” Revolutions [299-307] 
  • READ Thomas M. Leonard, “The Cuban Revolution,” Revolutions (3rd Edition) [201-211 CR] 
  • READ Fidel Castro, “Address to the Intellectuals,” 1961 (Link on BB)
  • READ Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Writes of Passage (New York: Farber and Farber, 1995) [xi-xii; 13-19; 84-94 BB] 
  • VIEW Sabá Cabrera Infante, PM, (1961) (Link on BB) 
  • DUE First Draft

Week 12: The Iranian Revolution  

  • READ Ervand Abrahamian, “Mass Protests in the Islamic Revolution, 1977–79” in Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, Edited by Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 2009) [162– 178 CR]
  • Ervand Abrahamian, “Structural Causes of the Iranian Revolution,” Revolutions [128-136] 
  • Jerrold D. Green, “Countermobilization in the Iranian Revolution,” Revolutions [136-146] 
  • READ Valentine M. Moghadam, “Gender and Revolutions,” in Revolutions [94-107]
  • READ John Foran and Jeff Goodwin, “Dictatorship or Democracy: Outcomes of Revolution in Iran and Nicaragua,” in Revolutions [107-120]
  • EXPLORE “In Pictures: The Iranian Revolution,” BBC News
  • DUE Peer Review

Week 13: Presentations

  • In Class Presentations

Week 14: Final

  • DUE Final Paper