David Spreen



During my time at the University of Michigan, I taught close to 400 students. In Winter 2018, I taught a class I developed on political violence in the twentieth century that sought to historicize understandings of violence and its moral status into a wide variety of historical contexts. Topics included colonial violence, the Russian revolution, interwar violence, decolonization, women’s violence in the Global Seventies, and the Argentinian Dirty War among others.

The Writing of History: Political Violence in the Twentieth Century

Reports about, condemnations of, and calls for violence are ubiquitous in today’s media landscape. Images of terrorism, school shootings, militarized police, broken windows at protests, and racist attacks on university campuses ensure that anxieties over violence are part of our everyday. But the seemingly self-evident categories of terror and violence disguise the vastly different historical phenomena they are meant to capture. This class challenges students to think historically about political violence in the twentieth-century to ultimately become more critical observers of and commentators on the present.

The key goal of this course is help students to think and write historically. It is an attempt to address two aspects that are central both to my own interest in history and the way I think about teaching it. First, history as a discipline is organized around the possibility that human experience can differ vastly across time and that one cannot begin to understand given experiences without attempting to reconstruct the contexts in which they take place. Second, the writing of history as a collective undertaking depends on the ability to read, understand, critically assess, and – finally – articulate arguments about the past.

In addition, I served as a Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) for the following courses:

  • Fairy Tales (Fall 2018)
  • History of Western Medicine since the 18th Century (Winter 2015)
  • Europe in the Era of Total War (Fall 2014)
  • History of the Holocaust (Winter 2014)
  • The Arab Israeli Conflict, 1880-2012 (Fall 2013)
  • The Origins of Nazism: Culture and Politics in Germany, 1918-1945 (Winter 2013)
  • History of American Radicalism: From the Abolitionists to Occupy Wall Street (Fall 2012)