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HSTCMP 290 A: Topics In Comparative/global History

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
RAI 109
Joint Sections: 
Oscar Aguirre Mandujano

Syllabus Description:

HSTCMP 290 The Horse in World History.jpg

The Horse in World History


TTh 10:30-12:20 RAI 109


Instructor: Oscar Aguirre-Mandujano

Office: Smith 06


Office hours: Tuesdays 09:30-10:20

                    Thursdays 09:30-10:20


            Around 8000 years ago, communities in the western part of the Eurasian steppe began to breed and ride horses. This process of domestication made horses central participants in human history. The domestication of the horse transformed military tactics, human mobility and communication, agriculture, and entertainment. Humans have transformed the horse as well, producing about 200 breeds with unique characteristics matched to human goals. This course traces the history of equine-human relations across the globe, using the horse as a focal point to think about animal-human relations in societies ranging from prehistoric Europe to the Spanish conquests of Latin America. Our inquiry will address not only the place of horses in these particular phases of world history, but also by extension the debates about human-animal relations in our society today.

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Reading Observations (10%)

Quizzes, four in total (20%)

Response papers (20%)

Class presentation (10%)

Final Paper (40%)

Reading Observations: Every week students will prepare observations for discussion based on the assigned readings for that week (50-100 words per assignment). These are due at the beginning of Tuesday, except for the 1st week due on Thursday 3/30.

Quizzes: There will be four quizzes based on the readings. Quizzes will be done at the beginning of weeks 2, 4, 9, 10. I will drop your lowest quiz grade.

Response Papers: There will be two response papers based on the required books Black Beauty and War Horse due on May 16th and May 30th respectively (1200-1500 words per paper).

Class presentation: It will be based on selected research topic. 

Research Paper: Using 2 primary sources and at least 4 secondary sources, students will write one 10-12 page research paper. Students will turn in the first draft of the research paper on Tuesday, May 2nd by 10:30 AM. We will share for peer review and editing. Peer review is due on Tuesday, May 9th by 10:30 AM. The final draft is due on Tuesday, June 6th. First draft and peer review do not count towards final grade but are required in order to receive a grade in the final assignment.

All assignments are to be handed in to the instructor in class, except for first draft of research paper and peer review to be submitted online through Canvas.


Required Readings

  1. Elaine Walker, Horse (London: Reaktion Books, 2013)
  2. Michale Morpurgo, War Horse (New Yorks: Scholatic, 2010)
  3. Anne Sewell, Black Beauty (New York: Dover Publications, 2014) 

All other items available on course pack.



The Horse and Humans

Week 1            (3/28 – 3/30) 

Animal History


Tue: Introduction

Thu: Reading Discussion


Reading: Elaine Walker, "Introduction" and " Eohippus to Eqqus" in Horse, 7-41.

David Shaw, “A Way with Animals.” History and Theory, 52 (2013): 1-12

Brett Walker, “Animals and the Intimacy of History.” History and Theory 52 (2013): 45-67.


Week 2            (4/4 – 4/6)                                                                             

Horse and the Steppe


            Tue: Ancient horses and their environment

            Thu: The horse and human technology


Reading: Walker, "The Man-Made Horse" in Horse, 65-88.

Denis Sinor, "Horse and pasture in Inner Asian history," Oriens Extremus, 19/1-2 (1972): 171-183.

Richard Bulliet "Pre-Domesticity" and "Domesticity" in Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers: The past and Future of Human-animal Relationships (New York: Columbia UP, 2005), 71-9; 101-20. 


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Week 3            (4/11 – 4/13)

Peoples of the Horse


            Tue: Riders, war, and stereotypes of the Barbarian

            Thu: Carts, saddles, and roads


Reading: Robert B. Strassler (ed.), The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories (New York: Anchor Books, 2009) 107-114, 281-338.

Catherine Johns. "Chariots and Carts" and "Horses and Heroes" in Horses 68-79

Pita Kelekna, "The Chariot in Warfare" in Horse in Human History, 95-108.


         A Horse Economy

Week 4            (4/18 – 4/20)

A Horse's Flesh and Soul


            Tue: Sacred Horses, Famous Companions

            Thu: Horse sacrifice


Reading: Walker, "Pegasus, Epona, and Demeter's Foal", 42-63

Pita Kelekna, "Nomadic Horse Culture of the Steppes" in Horse in Human History, 67-91.

Ibn Faḍlān, Aḥmad, Ibn Fadlan's Journey to Russia : A Tenth-century Traveler from Baghad to the Volga River, trans. Richard Frye (Princeton: Markus Wiener, 2005), 38-40.


Week 5            (4/25 – 4/27)

The Royal Stallion


            Tue: The Hunting Horse

            Thu: The Beautiful Horse


Reading: John Curtis and Nigel Tallis, "The Horse in the Islamic World" and "The Horse in Arabia" in The Horse, From Arabia to Royal Ascot (London: The British Museum Press, 2012), 28-53.

Moris Rossabi, "All the Khan's Horses" in Natural History, 1994. Reprinted in

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Week 6            (5/2 – 5/4)

The War Horse


            Tue: The Horse as a Weapon

            Thu: Horse Conquests

Reading: Walker, "Into the Valley of Death" in Horse, 118-142.

Pita Kelekna, "Turkic Invaders, Converts to Islam and Crusaders" in Horse in Human History, 253-272.

Eduard Alofs, "Studies on Mounted Warfare in Asia IV: The Turanian Tradition – The Horse Archers of Inner Asia, c. CE 550–1350" in War in History 22 (2015): 274-97.


First Draft due 5/2

Week 7            (5/9 – 5/11)

Horses in World Economy


            Tue: The War-Horse International Market

            Thu: The end of the War Horse (book discussion)


Reading: Walker, "Riding into History" in Horse, 89-117.

Simon Digby,"The Supply of War Horses" in Warhorse and Elephant in the Dehli Sultanate 23-49

Jos Gommans, “The Horse Trade in Eighteenth-Century South Asia.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 37, no. 3 (1994): 228-250.


Peer Review due 5/9


Week 8            (5/16 – 5/18)

Do Horses have Agency?


            Tues: Do Horses have Agency?

            Thu: Student Presentations


Reading: David Shaw, “The Torturer’s Horse: Agency and Animals in History” in History and Theory, 52 (2013): 146-67.


Response Paper due 5/16. Michale Morpurgo, War Horse.


         The Backyard Horse

Week 9            (5/23 – 5/25)

Horse and the American landscape


            Tue: Were there horses in America?

            Thu: Horses and Native American Cultures


Reading: Pekka Hämäläinen, "Children of the Sun" in The Comanche Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 239-90.

A Song for the Horse Nation, Horses in American Cultures (Washington, DC: National Museum of the American Indian, 2006), 5-17.

Bernardino de Sahagún, General history of the things of New Spain: Florentine codex

A.O. Anderson and C.E. Dibble (ed.) (Santa Fe: School of American Research; Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah, 1950), 19-20, 39-41, 71-2, 87-8, 103-5.

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Week 10          (5/30 – 6/1)

Domestic Horse


            Tue: Taking Care of Your Horse (Book Discussion)

            Thu: The Horse in World History


Reading: Walker, "From Breadwinner to Performer" and "The Redundant Horse" in Horse, 143-167, 168-193.

John Curtis and Nigel Tallis, "The Horse in Modern Britain" in The Horse, From Arabia to Royal Ascot (London: The British Museum Press, 2012), 68-77.

Richard Bulliet, "Post-Domesticity" in Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers: The past and Future of Human-animal Relationships (New York: Columbia UP, 2005), 190-204.


Response Paper due 6/1. Anne Sewell, Black Beauty.

Last quiz will be submitted online through Canvas on 6/6 by 12:20 PM

Research Paper due 6/6 by 10:30 AM


Catalog Description: 
Examines special topics in history.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:27pm