Junior and Senior Elective

This course examines several historical events through the conspiracy theories that developed around them, with a goal of training students to understand and critique the conspiracy theories of our current political moment. Its purpose is not to teach students to believe in conspiracy theory, but rather to encourage them to consider how conspiracy theory can help us to understand the anxieties that tend to surround rapid social and cultural changes.

During the first half of the semester, topics will include conspiracy theories about about Britain during the American Revolution, the Illuminati in the time of the French Revolution, the development of early twentieth century anti-Semitism, mid-twentieth century anti-Communism, and the rise of conspiracy theories about U.S. government involvement in the Kennedy Assassination and September 11th attacks. The second half of the semester will focus especially on how conspiracy theorists’ ideas about the “New World Order” have informed climate change denial, the movement against gun control, and the rise of the QAnon conspiracy theory. Students will discover broad themes that run through and connect each of these conspiracy theories. Student learning will be assessed through Canvas posts and discussions, primary source analyses, a midterm analytical essay, and an independent final project.