course
Britain since 1867

May 2013

Susan Pedersen is a knowledgeable, interesting and very nice professor, whom I had the privilege of studying under for both second-semester CC and for the British history class. Regarding CC, there isn't much to say: Prof. Pedersen is excellent at getting students to participate, and there was always an engaging discussion going. She also enjoyed adding a lot of historical background, especially for the British philosophers. She didn't have that much to add herself about the philosophers' worldviews, besides stressing some general points, so mostly you get your classmates' ideas (which is what CC is all about, right?). A couple of points you should know: 1) Her midterms have short answer questions, not IDs, and these can be a little tricky, because they might pertain to a particular part of the works or class discussion. So you need to study harder for tests than usual. 2) She has pop quizzes (seven per semester), so you can't just not do the reading or even sparknote it if you want a solid participation grade. For British History, this wasn't for me the best history class I've been to (that would be Prof. Janaki Bakhle's "Gandhi's India"), but it's a very solid class. A lot of emphasis on the party politics, rather little on foreign policy. But the lectures are engaging and interesting, and the workload typical for a history class. The one thing I really didn't like is that the textbook for the class, Pugh's "State and Society", is kind of rambling and all over the place; I hardly ever really used it. If you want to do well, GO TO LECTURE AND TAKE GOOD NOTES, and read the primary sources. The essays for the class are interesting and challenging, but they can be rather difficult. The idea is to give students first-hand experience in historical research. Basically you're prompted to sift through databases. This is really great for history majors and people who just like to see how it's done, but it can be hard to come up with a good argument if the material you looked through just didn't give you what you wanted. So I'd give a word of caution to those who might have trouble with that kind of work, but history majors should have a lot of fun. Do not take this as an easy A class, it isn't one, though if you do well in history classes you should do well here.

Jul 2010

Fantastic class. Professor Pedersen is probably the best lecturer I've ever had. I had very little interest in British history but i took the class for my distributional requirement. The syllabus is very well put together and between the readings and lectures, you cover a huge amount. Professor Pedersen lectures as if it were a conversation. She has a bare-bones outline of the lecture (which students also get a copy of) but she knows the material so well that she can give a full lecture without any additional notes or slides. The only downside to this is that there's a LOT of reading. If you do all of it, it's generally 175+ pages a week. You can get by not doing all of it but you should do most of it. Some of the fiction, which are quicker reads, obviously. The midterm and final both have a pretty tough ID section (answering very specific questions about names of people and policies). Outside of reading the workload isn't too bad though. If you have any interest in British history, modern Europe or world history, I would recommend this class. It's not easy, but you get a ton out of it. Also, she's the director of undergrad studies so if you're a history major, you can go talk to her outside of class and she's really nice and helpful there too.

Jan 2008

Megan is a sharp, knowledgeable TA. She is happy to answer questions and went out of our way in our section to clarify things with our teacher and forward questions and messages along. Her section is also pretty good. That being said, she is a pretty hard grader. Her comments on papers are insightful, though perhaps her expectations are a bit lofty. A good TA, but if you get her section, expect to work VERY hard for your grade.

Dec 2007

This was a very good class. Professor Pedersen, while not necessarily an inspiring lecturer, is one of the best I've ever had at conveying a huge amount of information and making it interesting. She also does a good job of managing various strains of British history (political-domestic and imperial, economic, social, etc.) across her lectures. The reading for the course is mostly very good, although I could have done with a few more nonfiction books. There is also a good film component of the course.

May 2004

Britain since 1987 is by far the most challenging and rewarding class I've taken at Columbia in my three years here. I walked into class not knowing a thing about British history and walked out with a good grasp on the happenings of this time period. Susan Pedersen is new at Columbia, but you wouldn't know that if she didn't tell you. She did amazing work at Harvard (google her) and the CU history department is very lucky to have snatched her. She teaches history from three frameworks: the political, economic and social/cultural. Her strongest point is by far the political aspect. She knows party politics like it's no one else's business. Her lectures are comprehensive, organized and always on-topic. She is also an excellent lecturer. Don't worry if you know nothing about British history. You'll learn if you don't mind hard work. There is a substantial amount of reading from primary sources to secondary texts. Read them. If you don't, it'll come back and bite you in the ass come end of semester. There are also mandatory film viewings. Section (if run well, which mine was) is extremely helpful; I would highly recommend you attend on a regular basis. Pedersen is also highly accessible to her students; she will do anything she can to help you out. I love Susan Pedersen. If you like the way Mark Carnes (one of my all-time favorite professors), you will adore Susan Pedersen. They both teach history with passion and a desire for recounting not only the narrative, but telling it in such a way as to challenge your own ways of thinking about the happenings of that time.

Mar 2004

OH. MY. LORD. This woman is so incredibly amazing. The entire class sits riveted, fascinated, for all 75 minutes of each lecture. Professor Pedersen knows every second of British history as if she lived through it. She is new at Columbia (it's Harvard's loss for giving her up after 26 years) but extremely experienced -- practically at home at the front of a classroom. This was my ultimate FAVORITE class so far at Columbia, and Pedersen is a gem of a professor. She could teach the history of fruitflies and make it exciting.