The members of the seminar will try to come to terms with the historical validity of narratives, confessions, and biographies of the accused produces under duress. The class will analyze both police, and court documents, censored diaries, pseudo-autobiographies, but also attempts that try to interpret, make use and sense of the confessions and the self-accusations. The majority of the documents come from secret police archives of the Cold War, while the theories discussed range from theological tracts and philosophical explanations to historiographical and literary analysis. As Arthur Koestler wrote in his autobiography, reflecting on Darkness at Noon: “To the Western mind, unacquainted with system and the rules, the confessions in the Trials appeared as one of the great enigmas of our time”. Besides archival documents and theoretical works, members of the class will analyze documentary and experimental films; documents and reflections on forced self-accusation. The seminar probes the limits of making good use of fabrications in historical analysis. Members of the class are expected to write one-page positional papers for the classes, and produce a short research paper – experimenting with theories and methodologies discussed in class – by the end of the semester.


This Topical Survey course offers an overview of the development of towns in Europe from  Late Antiquity to the twenty-first century, in other words from their post-Roman origins through their medieval and Early Modern transformations to industrialization and the contemporary urbanism. The course will primarily focus on European urban development, but following the recent broadening of the field, this will be placed in a global perspective. The sessions and the readings will discuss aspects of social, economic and cultural life, from families and households through fraternities, corporations, and urban communities to commercial and industrial enterprises, municipal governments and urban planning initiatives. The course will also analyze the spatial development, physical and social topography of cities and towns in the context of their natural environment, geographical locations, statehood, politics, and culture.