A brand new course being taught this semester, History 425: Beer in World History, had brewed for a few years before finally being offered by history professor of Europe in the Middle Ages, David Bachrach, and history professor of 17th century Atlantic world history, Cynthia Van Zandt.
In an email regarding the topic of the course, Professors Bachrach and Van Zandt said that felt they could provide students a “richer experience” with their diverse fields of study covering very different fields of academic expertise if the course was taught by both professors.
“Both of us were really interested in doing it, so we designed the course together. We meet regularly to discuss themes, topics and how to draw connections between lectures,” the email said.
Because the course covers thousands of years, the professors’ different areas of expertise are especially helpful. Professor Bachrach covers the earlier material, Professor Van Zandt covers the later material. Many of their topics and themes overlap, which allows students to look at various subjects from more than one angle.
According to the course description, History 425 covers the impact that beer has had on civilization’s social, religious, political and economic practices over the last 5,000 years across the map. Some of the topics they discuss in the course are the origin of beer, beer’s impact on identity in a social and personal sense, as well as “how beer spurred industrialization, labor specialization, the history of markets and globalization,” as the course description reads.
“In the past we’ve discussed many different kinds of topics in our classes, such as political, cultural and religious history. We bring those interests to the Beer In World History course, but we have had to learn a lot of new things for this course as well. We were intrigued by the challenge and opportunity to expand our knowledge while offering an entirely new subject area for our students,” the email said.
The email also stated that uncovering the immense impact beer has had all over the world had been the most interesting part of teaching this class for the two professors.
Unfortunately for any upper or lower classman trying to wrap their lips around some unique ale, there are no beer tastings in this 400-level course. However, Bachrach and Van Zandt claim to enjoy drinking an occasional beer, and so have wondered about the history of beer for a long time.
“As historians who do research in European archives, we both have had the opportunity to travel to Europe and sample local beers, many with long historical traditions,” the email said. “We were both always interested in learning about those traditions and how they connect to some of the larger historical themes and events everyone is always taught.”
Through their research becoming subtle beer connoisseurs, Professor Bachrach is partial to pilsners because of their connection to medieval military history while professor Van Zandt prefers IPA’s because of their link to British colonial expansion.
History 435 combines years of history with a favorite game-day drink and is likely to be popular amongst lower and upperclassmen alike.