Greatest Hits of the Humanities, Part I: Anthropology and History

Painted portrait of a man in dress military clothing, holding some papers in one hand.

Général François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture, a leader in the Haitian Revolution who helped to overthrow the institution of slavery and turn Haiti into an independent state. Learn more in 21H.001 How to Stage a Revolution (This image is public domain. Source: NYPL Digital Gallery.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Most OCW fans are familiar with our list of most visited courses.  We update this list every month, but the courses on it typically don’t change very much. Given MIT’s reputation as a premiere engineering institution, it should come as no surprise that the list is dominated by Mathematics and Computer Science courses. Introductory courses are especially well-represented.

This led us to wonder: What are the most visited OCW courses in MIT departments not included in this list? In a series of posts, we’ll present the top five most visited courses in Humanities departments, starting here with Anthropology and History.


Photo of four young children in Halloween costumes.

Children show off their costumes during a Halloween Parade in Tokyo. In 21A.01 How Culture Works, students complete an ethnographic study on Halloween. (Image courtesy of Buz Carter on flickr. License CC BY-NC-SA.)


  • 21A.00 Introduction to Anthropology taught by Professor Graham Jones
    “…anthropology…seeks to understand how culture both shapes societies…and affects the way institutions work…This course will provide a framework for analyzing diverse facets of human experience such as gender, ethnicity, language, politics, economics, and art.”
  • 21A.211 Magic, Witchcraft, and the Spirit World taught by Professor James Howe
    “This class is concerned with the boundaries between everyday life and another order of reality, the world of spirits, powers, and mystical dangers, and with what happens when those barriers ease or break apart.”
  • 21A.265 Food and Culture taught by Professor Heather Paxon
    “…in eating, humans incorporate into our very bodies the products of nature transformed into culture. This course explores connections between what we eat and who we are through cross-cultural study of how personal identities and social groups are formed via food production, preparation, and consumption.”
  • 21A.01 How Culture Works taught by Professor Manduhai Buyandelger
    “This course explores the diverse meanings, uses, and abuses of the concept of culture using historical materials and contemporary examples from around the globe. The word ‘culture’ is used liberally to indicate practices, symbols and representations ranging from a piece of clothing to elusive claims concerning the environment.”
  • 21A.219 Law and Society taught by Professor Susan S. Silbey
    “This course examines the central features of law as a social institution and as a feature of popular culture. We will explore the nature of law as a set of social systems, central actors in the systems, legal reasoning, and the relationship of the legal form and reasoning to social change…We will explore the range of experiences of law for its ministers (lawyers, judges, law enforcement agents and administrators) as well as for its supplicants (citizens, plaintiffs, defendants).” 

See all Anthropology courses on OCW >

Black-and-white photo of the Rome Colosseum in its landscape, highlighting the partially collapsed walls.

The Colosseum. Rome, Italy. (Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number, LC-USZ62-104882 (b&w film copy neg.)]


  • 21H.101 American History to 1865 taught by Professor Pauline Maier
    “This course…examines the colonial heritages of Spanish and British America; the American Revolution and its impact; the establishment and growth of the new nation; and the Civil War, its background, character, and impact.”
  • 21H.001 How to Stage a Revolution taught by Professors Malick Ghachem, Jeffrey S. Ravel, and Craig Wilder
    “This course explores fundamental questions about the causes and nature of revolutions by looking at how people overthrow their rulers and establish new governments…Examines how revolutionaries have attempted to establish their ideals and realize their goals. Asks whether radical upheavals require bloodshed, violence, or even terror.”
  • 21H.301 The Ancient World: Greece taught by Professor William Broadhead
    “This course elaborates the history of Ancient Greece from the Bronze Age to the death of Alexander…includes discussions on Homer, heroism, and the Greek identity; the hoplite revolution and the rise of the city-state; Herodotus, Persia, and the (re)birth of history; Empire, Thucydidean rationalism, and the Peloponnesian War; Platonic constructs; Aristotle, Macedonia, and Hellenism. Emphasis is on use of primary sources in translation.”
  • 21H.302 The Ancient World: Rome taught by Professor William Broadhead
    “This course elaborates the history of Rome from its humble beginnings to the fifth century A.D. The first half of the course covers Kingship to Republican form; the conquest of Italy; Roman expansion: Pyrrhus, Punic Wars and provinces; classes, courts, and the Roman revolution; Augustus and the formation of empire. The second half of the course covers Virgil to the Vandals; major social, economic, political and religious trends at Rome and in the provinces. Emphasis is placed on the use of primary sources in translation.” 
  • 21H.931 Seminar in Historical Methods taught by Professor Anne McCants
    “We examine how historians conceive of their object of study, how they use primary sources as a basis for their accounts, how they structure the narrative and analytic discussion of their topic, and what are the advantages and drawbacks of their various approaches.”

See all History courses on OCW >

One thought on “Greatest Hits of the Humanities, Part I: Anthropology and History

  1. Pingback: Greatest Hits of the Humanities, Part II: Literature and Writing | Open Matters

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