Travel Through History
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Travel Through History

In total, more than 37 million soldiers were killed, wounded or missing by the end of World War I — over half of the total forces mobilized on all sides.

With casualties so high, the chances of surviving the war unscathed were slim. Men as old as 45 and boys as young as 18 were drafted — and some far younger and older lied about their age for the opportunity to serve.

But these are just numbers.

From the comforts of a modern classroom, students can study statistics, important battles, the causes and outcomes of the Great War. They can learn the names of the major players and look at photos of the weapons that took so many lives. But for even the most dedicated student, the reality behind the history can be difficult to imagine.

This fall, in honor of the centennial of WWI, Professor Eric Dorn Brose, PhD, brought the experience of war into focus for students in his History 298 course. Over the first two weeks of class, the group of 10 traveled through France, Belgium and England, beginning with the Musée d L’Armée, one of the three largest arms museums in the world, and continuing on to war museums, battlefields and reenactments, cemeteries and memorials, a WWI stage play, an art exhibit, and three classic WWI films.

“The ‘tour’ part of the course is the first step toward easing students back into the past, if you will, and helping them gain a better feel and understanding for another time,” says Brose. “This affords students an opportunity to probe much deeper into this tragic war by penetrating close to the level of the soldiers who fought it and gaining an understanding of their horrific experience.”

History 298 is part of a new wave of travel courses developed by the history department, which will also soon offer a concentration in global history. Significantly shorter than a traditional study abroad, these experiences combine international travel and cultural exposure with the opportunity to create an original research project — and they fit comfortably into the already-hectic schedules of most students.

“Travel courses offer students the opportunity to extend research projects they begin in a course on campus in the most exciting and engaging way possible — by going to a site where they can study history up close, firsthand, ” says Scott Knowles, PhD, head of the history program. “This may involve international or domestic travel — we are working to provide multiple travel courses every year for students — and since these travel experiences are one to two weeks in length, and between terms, we hope that most students will be able to fit them into their schedules.”

Other courses planned this year will bring students to Sau Paulo, Brazil, where they’ll discuss what it takes to build a 21st century urban economy, and to Milan, Italy, to explore the World’s Fair.

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