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Guest Post by Dr. Melissa Clark, Department of Anthropology

Spring 2023, MWF 12:25 pm – 1:15 pm

Attention all History Department Students! A new cross-disciplinary class has opened up for any and all takers! ANT 493: Topics in Anthropology is a 400-level anthropology course where students will contribute to a research project documenting and explaining causes of death in Cleveland from the years 1825-1925 using historical county death records. The only requirement for prospective students is that you be at least a sophomore at Cleveland State University.

If you still aren’t convinced, here’s a list of five reasons (plus an extra bonus) why this class could be an amazing experience for any student of history!

1. Knowing history can help us understand biological variation and answer questions about how human behavior shapes our health. For example, how did The Great Migration lead to the death of four-year-old Robert Moore of tuberculosis in 1924? What circumstances led Hannah Barry to survive the Irish Famine and travel to America only to die of cholera in 1849 at just 29-years-old?

2. Scholars of social studies and future politicians and leaders need to know how their choices about governance will affect people’s lives and deaths.

3. Historians are crucial sources of information for anthropologists hoping to interpret sources. Did people routinely die of alcoholism in the 1920s, or were medical examiners attributing death to alcoholism to show a society living during Prohibition that alcohol was indeed evil? 

4. We are fortunate in Cleveland to have an abundance of historical records, as well as one of the largest skeletal collections in the world held right here at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

5. You contribute to the writing of history every day, be it by writing a blog like this one, making a social media status, or even journaling. But people have not always had the privilege of telling their own stories. For much of our history, only society’s most elite members could read and write in the dominant language, had the time to devote to writing, or had access to writing tools. For the rest of society, their stories are written in their bodies, the biological cumulative expression of a lifetime of eating, starving, working, birthing, migrating, and more. By studying their health and death, we can uncover some of history’s stories that never got to be written.

Bonus! This course fulfills an interdisciplinary requirement for Social Studies majors.