History | Visions of the Future
E104 | 3299 | Pace

When I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s, I was fascinated
by two very different visions of the future.  On the one hand, I was
transfixed by the powerful language and vivid imagery of the Book of
Revelation in the Christian Bible. At the same time I was entranced
by the promises of a world of flying cars, trips to the moon, and
universal prosperity that appeared regularly in the magazine section
of the Sunday newspaper. As time passed new futures appeared in the
culture around me -- the horror of a future devastated by nuclear
war, the hope for a world of racial and cultural tolerance, to
mention but two of them. When years later I encountered the work of
historians who sought to trace the development of different visions
of the future as a means of determining the ideas and values of past
eras, my old fascination with such futures returned, and I
eventually decided to use the "history of the future" as an
organizing concept around which to build a course.

In this course we will explore such issues as hopes that science and
technology could produce a new and better life for humanity,
encounters with other cultures, space exploration, concerns about
economic, racial, and gender equality in the world of the future,
changing expectations for cuture wars, fears of nuclear or
environmental disaster, and the conceptualization of the future in
terms of the acquisition of consumer goods.  Grades be based on
weekly web assignments, two 5-page essays, in-class team exercises.
You can find more information about this course at