Borderlands: An International History

Draft. See course Blackboard or syllabus distributed in class for official version.


HIST 799 – Borderlands: An International History

Professor: Dr. Benjamin Bryce

Term: Fall 2019

Time: Thursdays, 3:45-5:45

Location: McCaffray Hall 3092


Telephone: (250) 960-5759

Office: McCaffray Hall 3092

Office Hours: Thursdays, 3pm to 4pm, and by appointment

Course Description: This course examines the history of borderlands in the Americas and the Europe. Focusing on migration, border making and border regulation, violence, race, and ethnicity, the course introduces students to a methodology (borderlands), which is one of several spatial approaches currently encouraging and helping scholars decentre the nation-state in the study of history.

Learning Objectives:

1) A greater understanding of borders as a topic of study.

2) A greater understanding of borderlands and transnational history and research methods.

3) A greater ability to critically discuss historiography.



  1. Participation, 25%
  2. Book review, due October 3, 10%
  3. Archival Description, due October 17, 15%
  4. Essay Proposal, due November 14, 20%
  5. Research essay, 15-20 pages, due December 12, 30%


  1. Participation. Discussion is an important part of graduate seminars. Students are expected to attend class every week and to actively participate in the discussion of the readings. Students will be required to read one book per week, and they should demonstrate a mastery of the readings and share critical thoughts about the arguments presented. Contributions to the discussion should be based on the readings.
  2. Book review. 800-1000 words. Students will be asked to write a review of an academic book, following examples of other book reviews. The book should be loosely connected to the course themes. Students are advised to review a book published since 2000 and one that they will use in assignment 5. If students choose a book published in 2018 or 2019, they can consult with Dr. Bryce about submitting a revised version of their review to an academic journal. Please submit as a PDF via e-mail.
  1. Archival description. 800 words. Students are asked to locate and describe the contents of at least one archive or collection of published sources that could be used to carry out research on one of the course themes. This archive can be online or in a physical location. For a physical archive (located anywhere in the world), students will have to consult the archive’s finding aids. If the student wants to describe a specific source (such as the annual report of a government agency), they should order some copies of the source through interlibrary loans in order to better describe the source. Please submit this in class.
  1. Bibliography and essay proposal. 200 words and ten titles. Students will have to select a topic for their research essay well in advance of the due date. For this short assignment, students are asked to write a 200-word paragraph that outlines the general thrust of their essay and that explains their research question. In addition, students are required to include a bibliography of at least ten scholarly articles, books, or chapters in an edited volume that they will use for their research essay. This bibliography does not require any annotation. Please submit as a PDF via e-mail.
  1. Essay. 15-20 pages. Students will be asked to write a historiographic research essay. Students must identify and analyze a historiographic debate found in at least fourteen publications (books or articles). Outside research is required, and at least fourteen books or articles not assigned in this course must be examined. Students can also analyze the assigned course readings when appropriate, but this must be in addition to fourteen new publications. The topic is open but it must relate to one of the main themes of the course. A list of possible topics will be circulated in class, but students are free to pick their own topic after discussing it with Dr. Bryce. Please submit as a PDF via e-mail.

Readings and course structure:

 Meeting 1 – Thursday, August 15 (special time – 10 am)

  • Jeremy Adelman and Stephen Aron, “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in between in North American History,” The American Historical Review 104, no. 3 (1999): 814–41.
  • Pekka Hämäläinen and Samuel Truett, “On Borderlands,” Journal of American History, 98, no. 2, (2011): 338–361.
  • Michiel Baud and Willem van Schendel, “Toward a Comparative History of Borderlands,” Journal of World History, 8 (1997): 211–42.

 Meeting 2 – Thursday, September 5

  • Ramón Gutiérrez and Elliott Young, “Transnationalizing Borderlands History,” The Western History Quarterly 41, no. 1 (2010): 26–53.
  • Max Bergholz, “Sudden Nationhood: The Microdynamics of Intercommunal Relations in Bosnia-Herzegovina after World War II,” American Historical Review 118, no. 3 (2013): 679-707.
  • Alejandra Boza Villarreal, “Indigenous Citizenship between Borderlands and Enclaves: Elections in Talamanca, Costa Rica, 1880–1913,” Hispanic American Historical Review 96, no. 4 (2016): 641-668.

Meeting 3 – Thursday, September 19

  • Grace Peña Delgado, Making the Chinese Mexican: Global Migration, Localism, and Exclusion in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2012).
  • John Mckiernan-González, Fevered Measures: Public Health and Race at the Texas-Mexico Border, 1848–1942 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012).
    • eBook also available.
  • Discussion of Assignments 2 and 3.

Meeting 4 – Thursday, October 24

  • Tara Zahra, Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900–1948 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008).
  • Kate Brown, A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005).
  • Discussion of Assignment 4.

Meeting 5 – Thursday, November 7

  • Eagle Glassheim, Cleansing the Czechoslovak Borderlands: Migration, Environment, and Health in the Former Sudetenland (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016).
  • Lissa K. Wadewitz, The Nature of Borders: Salmon, Boundaries, and Bandits on the Salish Sea (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015).

Meeting 6 – Thursday, November 21

  • Theodore Binnema, Common and Contested Ground: A Human and Environmental History of the Northwestern Plains (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001).
    • Two copies at UNBC library and a third copy in special collections. As a result, not placed on reserve.
  • Kornel Chang, Pacific Connections: The Making of the U.S.-Canadian Borderlands (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2012).
  • Discussion of Assignment 5

Supplementary reading:

  • Holly M. Karibo, Sin City North: Sex, Drugs, and Citizenship in the Detroit-Windsor Borderland (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).
  • Young, Elliott, Alien Nation: Chinese Migration in the Americas from the Coolie Era through World War II (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2014).
  • Alan Taylor, The Divided Ground: Indians, Settlers, and the Northern Borderland of the American Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006).
  • Pekka Hämäläinen, Comanche Empire (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008).

Definition of Grades: Papers for this course will be marked according to the scale set by the History Department. An “A” essay is an excellent piece of work, which argues a clearly developed and challenging thesis, the proof of which is grounded in an exceptional usage of relevant primary and/or secondary literature. The research should demonstrate both critical evaluation and creativity while the writing should be sophisticated, coherent, and grammatically sound. In order to receive a final grade in the range of A- to A+, students will be expected to demonstrate consistently: independence of thought; subtle and complex analysis; the ability to grasp, articulate, and respond to arguments offered by others; and an exceptional understanding of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussions.

A “B” essay demonstrates good research skills, a clearly stated thesis, and a generally successful  attempt to develop it logically, based upon secondary literature. The research should reflect an above-average development of ideas and criticism, while the writing should be clear and demonstrate a basic competence in organizational skills and grammar. As such, there should be few grammatical or structural errors. In order to receive a final grade in the range of B- to B+, students will be expected to demonstrate: the potential to engage in independent thought; an appreciation of the complexity of the issues under consideration; and a good understanding of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussions.

A “C” essay demonstrates that the author possesses a basic understanding of the material and some of the secondary literature, but has unsuccessfully endeavoured to articulate a thesis. While revealing knowledge, comprehension, and some application of information, usually the work also contains grammatical, structural, and organizational errors or flaws. Overall, the essay is adequate but uninspired. In order to receive a final grade in the range of C- to C+, students will be expected to demonstrate some awareness of the complexity of the issues under consideration and a satisfactory understanding of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussions.

A “D” essay fails to make its case or articulate a thesis. It is marked by a combination of illogical thinking, grammatical errors, flawed research, or a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the assignment. There is little application, analysis, or integration of ideas, and the essay generally fails to demonstrate a working knowledge of the topic at hand. In order to receive a final grade of D, students will be expected to demonstrate minimal competence. Although there may be evidence of an understanding of certain aspects of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussion, there is also evidence of difficulty in applying or communicating this understanding.

An “F” essay is inadequate in that it demonstrates fragmentary and often undigested information. It tends towards compiling rather than analyzing information and reveals a weakness in critical or analytical skills. The use of literature is often severely limited if not inappropriate or irrelevant. Overall, the essay is marked by a profound absence of thinking about the topic or the assignment. In order to receive a final grade of F, students will have failed to give evidence of being intellectually engaged in the subject matter of the course and will have failed to demonstrate even a minimal understanding of the interpretations and information contained in assigned readings and lectures or considered in classroom discussions.

Evaluation of Written Work: Assignments will be returned accompanied by comments noting areas that need attention. Assignments will only be returned to the writer. Questions about grades cannot be answered effectively by e-mail. Please read carefully the Definition of Grades (above) before discussing your grade on an assignment with me. If you ask for an assignment to be reconsidered, note that your grade could go either up or down.

Submission of written work and lateness penalty: Assignments are to be submitted as PDFs via e-mail. If you have extenuating circumstances that will prevent you from submitting your assignment by the due date, discuss your situation with Dr. Bryce in advance of the deadline.

Illness and absences: Notify me as soon as possible if a serious illness or other concern is affecting your ability to keep up with the course. It is also wise to contact the UNBC Wellness Centre or the Registrar’s Office if you are experiencing academic or personal difficulties. 

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism: Authors do not cite sources properly merely to avoid accusations of plagiarism but also to establish credibility, bring other work to the reader’s attention, and demonstrate competing viewpoints.

The University of Northern British Columbia takes academic honesty very seriously.  Any suspected cases of plagiarism will be investigated and academic offences could lead to permanent expulsion from UNBC. More information on the University’s procedures on academic offences can be found here:

The code of academic conduct disallows the following:

  • to represent as one’s own any idea or expression of an idea or work of another in any academic examination or term test or in connection with any other form of academic work, i.e. to commit plagiarism;
  • to submit, without the knowledge and approval of the instructor to whom it is submitted, any academic work for which credit has previously been obtained or is being sought in another course or program of study in the university or elsewhere.

Accessibility and Accommodations: Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. If you have a disability or health consideration that may require course format accommodation, please feel free to approach me to discuss your needs.  If you require accommodations for a disability or if you have accessibility concerns about the course, the classroom, or course materials, please contact the Access Resource Centre for Students with Disabilities at (

Student Conduct: The University of Northern British Columbia is an academic community whose purpose is to search for knowledge through teaching, research, and the free exchange of ideas. As such, UNBC is committed to developing among its members an enduring sense of community rooted in a working and learning environment which emphasizes mutual respect and tolerance and which is free from discrimination, harassment, disruptive behaviour, and violence. The members of the UNBC community include students, faculty, staff, administrators, governors, senators, and, in certain contexts, visitors. In order for the members of the university community to participate fully and effectively in the university’s purpose, certain standards of conduct must be recognized and respected. The university’s policy and procedures involving disruptive and/or harassing behaviour by students in academic situations is available on this website: