Fall: POL 270 – Developmental European Political Systems (3 credits)
Spring: HST 370 – Early Modern Europe: 1600-1800 (3 credits)
1. How would you describe the content and approach of your course?
Well, my fall semester political science course is an introduction to recent European history and politics, focusing on political history, focusing on developments which made Europe what it is today, starting with the unification of Germany and Italy and coming up to, oh, hopefully we’ll get to the Euro crisis. There’s some political science theory, essential stuff about the nature of ideologies, parliaments and political structures needed to make sense of the history, but the approach is fundamentally historical as .I’m a historian and so naturally I focus on what I do best.
My spring semester course on Early Modern European History is an upper level history course covering Europe from 1600-1800. It’s a broad survey in chronological terms too, but unlike the fall course it engages with social, religious, military, intellectual and scientific history as well as political history. It involves more analysis and discussion by the students than my fall semester course and it requires a substantial term paper from each student dealing with a subject related to the course that they find interesting.
2. What do you most enjoy about teaching UP students?
They’re usually very nice and a pleasure to teach, just good kids, if I can be ageist about this…They’re good kids. They’re friendly and usually they’re enthusiastic too. It’s a pleasure to teach students who are nice, friendly, and often very, very dedicated to their work. Here we are in the middle of Europe and they have chances to travel all over Europe, and students take advantage of that, but there have been times when I’ve told them there’s something going on in Salzburg that they might want to go to and take advantage and they said “no, no, we’ve got to work!” They’ve passed on opportunities because they wanted to study. It’s nice to have students who take that kind of thing seriously.
3. What challenges do you see students facing in their studies in Salzburg?
Well, it’s a total change in their lives, there’s all this stuff going on around them. There’s the attraction of Salzburg’s night life, such as it is.. And then the chance to visit Europe and see Europe is a wonderful opportunity but it’s got to be a distraction. And it’s surprising how good students have been about resisting those temptations at times.
4. What elements do you like to emphasize in your courses?
I try and focus on things I think will be interesting to the students and which are going to interest me too. So I do a lot on Jewish history and persecution that is in line with my book on “Salzburg and the Jews” (which they get to read), but also persecution of other groups because, well for one thing it’s a very important part of the history, especially here. When I taught American history I also focused on African-American and Indians, because looking at minorities gives you a lot of insight into the history of the country, and provides ways to see it as it really is, as opposed to the “prettified” myths that some people tend to prefer. And so, if I’m going to do that with my own country, I’m certainly going to do that when I teach European history—although it can be a bit grim at times. And then, if I can work in a good story here and there, I try to work it in like the story I told today about the Jew who survived hiding out in Berlin who was almost shot when he met Russian soldier. It makes it alive, I think.
5. In what ways do students and professor learn from each other?
I know what I learn from the students is what their interests are and what their reactions are to what I say. It’s something that can change from year to year and certainly changes over time. There was a time when I taught recent events that my students remembered and when I cover them now students say, “I wasn’t even born then.” You constantly keep in touch with students to get a sense of what they know, what is new to them, and what they want to learn.
As to what they learn from me, well, they do reasonably well on their grades so I assume they learn a fair bit. You really need to ask them!