By far one of the best professors I've ever had, met, or heard of. He's brilliant, funny, and very, very nice. He teaches the years the years 1500-2000, and does them all well. His breadth AND depth of knowledge are incredible, but, as previous reviewers have pointed out, he's not at all arrogant. His lectures are fun, his discussions are engaging, and he asks really good questions -- discussion questions that could be essay questions, rather than the all-too-common "guess what word I'm thinking of" strategy that so many professors employ. I would recommend him more strongly than any other professor I've had -- to history majors and non-history majors alike. To anyone who likes nice, smart people. P.S. Poverty and the Social Order in Early Modern Europe is possibly one of the potentially most boring subjects in history, but the class was great, anyway. Now that's saying something. Anyone can make the French Revolution interesting, but to make 16th century poor relief interesting!! Brilliance.
Highly recommended course. While many will assert (rightfully) that Professor Carnes (America Since 1945) is more "entertaining" given his nonesuch ability to tirelessly expound delectable witticisms (you will find yourself laughing every class, sometimes even uproariously...his personality more than compensates for the mordacious, I-was,-like-a- loser,-at-the-West-End-until-5 a.m. eye-stinging that the 11 a.m. start time will probably bring about), Dr. Plaa's course is the (emphasis on the) history course at Barnard that you will enjoy due to the actual content of the course and not, say, your professor's affected erudition or ability to constantly titillate your fancy (like a personal minstrel!). Do not be mistaken: Plaa is an excellent, knowledgable professor (you will be in awe about how much he knows about the time period and European history on the whole) who is blesed with the ability to relay his knowledge in a perspicuous and engaging manner. While he does lecture with a certain degree of "note-taking unfriendly" celerity, one becomes inured to this after two weeks so do not fret; moreover, forasmuch as Plaa uses a great deal of statistical substantiation for nearly every assertion (for an instance, he evinced the Cold War economic strength of the USA/Western Europe vis-a-vis the U.S.S.R. with consumer data such as television sets per household in each respective country, etc.), you can generally ignore about 1/3 of the things that he will say about what he posits insofar as such statistics are not (as far as tests are concerned) pertinent. I should add that you still ought to listen, though: Plaa is truly a fascinating lecturer and what he has to say is always interesting. The salient feature of Plaa's character, however, has to be his affability, this in and of itself serving as an incentive to enroll in his course. While I obviously have not met every professor at Columbia, I cannot imagine that there is another knowledgable, PhD- holding historical or otherwise savant who is more or even as likeably pleasant as Plaa: he really has no ego or, if he does, dissembles such narcissism impeccably well as he does not interminably prattle on about himself and/or his accomplishments/publications, is readily avaliable for discussion outside of class (more or less) and is exceedingly genial (he actually greets you if you have his discussion section!) If you're a history-loving frosh who is also a sap for personalities, make Plaa's course your first history one because such a) will benefit you inasmuch as Eurpe Since 1789 is an intro course b) will allow you to lead a decadent lifestyle with impunity (it starts in the afternoon in the Spring) and c) will allow you to enjoy the class to the fullest and not be afflicted with an anticlimax malaise due to a previous entertainment of Carnes' "America Since 1945" (a mistake I made... but Dr. Plaa also has the right to be full of himself but admirably chooses not to be...he is certainly on that Foner-Carnes level). In short, do not graduate without having taken this course if you have even a modicum of interest in history.
I absolutely loved this class. Prof. Plaa alone made me happy that I was a history major. His breadth of knowledge is beyond anything I could have imagined; Prof. Plaa is understanding, fair, and easy to approach. I highly enjoyed his lectures (although they tended to move at an extremely fast pace) and he prepares his students very well for the midterm and final. He is one of those few Ph.D's that does not live to hear the sound of his own voice (quite the opposite...one of the nicest professors I've had) and communicates extremely well with his students. Although I'm a psych major now, Prof. Plaa made me almost regret leaving the history department. I highly recommend his class to anyone looking for a clear, concise, and sometimes humorous overview of European history.
While this course was not fabulous (the reading left a lot to be desired), Professor Plaa is amazing. He is one of the nicest professors I've ever had. He is quite knowledgeable about the subject-matter and was a wonderful help in suggesting valuable resources for our research paper. He also cares about his students; who else brings 3 boxes of Krispy Kremes on the last day of class?
Professor Plaa is amazing. He is perhaps the nicest Professor I have ever had, completely devoid of a bad attitude and limitlessly available to help. He passes out detailed outlines which he sticks to, making sure to incorporate the topic headings into his lecture, so you leave the class with impeccable notes. He will read your papers before handing them in if you ask and he is a fair and kind grader. His lectures are exciting and animated. Fantastic class. Fantastic Prof.
Plaa is a frequently visiting professor from NYU. He really prepares for his lectures, and crams them with as many facts as possible. He is a big fan of using statistical data to show historical trends, and will suddenly start zipping through the factory output in several different cities in northern Belgium to show how it was slowly becoming industrialized. Despite all the details, the course covers too much material too quickly to give him time to truly go into depth about any one topic. Outside of class, he is highly approachable and interesting to talk to. Overall recommended for an easy, enjoyable overview of modern European history.
This was a survey course, which makes it easy to just skim over topics, but Prof. Plaa was engaging throughout the course. He packed a lot into his lectures, which were helped by the outlines he gives out at the beginning of class. Reading the textbook isn't absolutely necessary to understand the lectures, but it will definitely help on the exams, and one of the papers is entirely about the supplemental texts. Grading is fair, but the TAs optional discussion sections are pretty much a waste except for right before tests and papers. This class was a great introduction to a history that affects us every day, and Prof. Plaa made it seem that way, that it applied to current affairs and politics.