The Individual and Society

Do great leaders, thinkers and artists determine the course of history? Or should we understand them instead as products of a particular time and place? In short: who shapes society? To answer these questions, this course turns to one of the most popular genres of historical writing: biography. This course studies the works and actions of prominent figures in the arts, humanities, sciences, politics and business in order to understand how people lived in the past and how societies have developed over time. Examining both the changes such people effected and the constraints they faced can offer insight into the balance between structure and agency as factors driving social change. By the end of this course, students will understand and appreciate different interpretations of the role of the individual in history.


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