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HIST 150 — Historical Inquiry I

Dr. Steven Isaac taught Historical Inquiry I: The Early History of Faith. Through our copious readings, we studied how faith played a role in history, starting with the Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamian civilizations and moving through to the Reformation.

Our course texts were as follows:

  • Herodotus, On the Greek War for Freedom
  • Tim Whitmarsh, Battling the Gods
  • Keith Hopkins, A World Full of Gods: the Strange Triumph of Christianity
  • Régine Pernoud, Joan of Arc by Herself and her Witnesses
  • Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms
  • Various excerpts from published, peer-reviewed documents


Each class period, Dr. Isaac lectured on the different historical events that surrounded our readings, then we discussed our readings. One key aspect of the readings that we looked for was the arguments and the supporting evidence. Based on our readings, we had five pop quizzes and four short response pages throughout the semester. In addition to the response pages, we had three longer essay exams, and one final paper. The final paper was the most exciting to me. We were tasked with creating a historically accurate, cited with primary sources, time travel paper.

Dr. Isaac’s class was one of the hardest for me, as there was so much reading involved, and he had very high standards for our papers. However, my final essay exam was the best of the semester. I had fun writing it, as I knew a lot more about my subject for that paper than any others in the semester.

(Individualism and Spiritual Individuality, Kyra Valovick, 12.9.2019)

For this paper, I was tasked with writing about when spiritual individuality really began. When I was brainstorming for this topic, I remembered all of the different people groups that we had talked about throughout the semester, and it seemed that many people had stepped out against the main religion of the time, but Martin Luther really brought that individualism out for everyone. The Reformation and the Renaissance pushed towards freedom and individualism, and I argued that that was the time that spiritual individuality really started.

For this paper, I spent quite a bit of time in the library researching and double checking all my facts about the different figures I included in my paper. For my other essays, I had not used many other sources, aside from our course textbooks. I put quite a bit of effort into this paper, and it definitely showed.

While I may not need to remember who Akhenaten was, I can certainly take the big themes that we talked about away with me. Faith is an ever-present aspect throughout history, and even if some of the faiths do not match our own, it is still important to study and understand them.