course
The Birth of Modernity

Feb 2015

I agree wholeheartedly with the last review (June 10, 2011). The main issue I took with the class was that I never really quite understood why we were reading what we did, which was a big issue because there was a mountain of readings every week, most of them extremely boring and some just completely inane. Prof. Mazower never once tried to explain either the historical or historiographical significance of any of what we read; at times, he would even admit that what we were studying wasn't historically significant at all. E.g. there was one class on the subject of "making money/the modern economy", and the main reading for that week had to do with Russian fur trappers in Alaska. It wasn't a terrible book and made a case for its historiographical intervention, but in the grand scheme of things--when considering the history of the "modern economy"--the case of fur trappers in Alaska is hardly significant at all! That was kind of emblematic, for me, of the nature of the class as a whole. It was a huge letdown, given the exciting course title/description. In class, he did very little to facilitate discussion, which ended up more or less monopolized by two or three students. Finally, I felt that it was unfair to have literally one assessment--the 25-30 page final paper--upon which your entire grade is based. As others have mentioned, he's a hard grader, which is fine; however, what's not fine is that there's zero feedback all semester as to what he looks for in essays, or even if he thinks you're doing well. I think that if a professor is going to evaluate essays rigorously, he/she should make it clear what those rigorous standards are. Overall a frustrating experience. I definitely regret not switching out when I had the chance.