Global Nineteenth-Century Studies

The Program in Global Nineteenth-Century Studies is designed to enable students to combine courses offered in several departments/programs with independent work to explore the long nineteenth century, from the beginnings of the American Revolution to the First World War, and to consider the transformative impact of the period through a multidisciplinary lens.

Vassar Female College Color wood engraving by William Barritt and Benson J. Lossing
William Barritt (American, c. 1822–after 1869) and Benson J. Lossing (American, 1813–1891), Vassar Female College, 1867, Color wood engraving, Gift of Marion Cunningham Conger, class of 1935, 1985.14
Photo credit: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

The Program in Global Nineteenth-Century Studies offers students a multidisciplinary lens through which to approach the long nineteenth century. A time of intense globalization and modernization, the nineteenth century is marked by political, scientific, technological, and industrial revolutions, the expansion of empires, the abolition of slavery, and the struggle of women, workers, and colonized subjects for civil and political rights. It is an era of increasing interconnectedness made possible by such inventions as the railroad, the steamship, and the telegraph. The long nineteenth century shaped the world we live in now, through revolutions and imperial conflicts (such as the Haitian Revolution, the Opium Wars, the Crimean War, and the Indian Rebellion), new cultural practices (the rise of print culture, the birth of the department store, photography, and film), and scientific developments (the emergence of psychiatry, evolutionary theory, germ theory, time zones). The program’s curriculum encourages students to think globally about these transformations and to bring different disciplinary approaches to them.

Global Nineteenth-Century Studies grew out of Victorian Studies, an interdisciplinary major that examined the assumptions, ideas, ideals, institutions, society, and culture of nineteenth-century Britain. Under the inspired leadership of Betty Daniels (English), Beth Darlington (English), and Anthony Wohl (History), Vassar’s Victorian Studies program began offering degrees in the early 1970s. Vassar was one of the few undergraduate institutions in the nation that made it possible for students to major in Victorian Studies. Drawing on courses from English, History, Art, Music, and Philosophy, Victorian Studies flourished as a small but lively program, and for nearly fifty years it served as a vital intellectual community for faculty and students alike.

The faculty approved the transformation of Victorian Studies to Global Nineteenth-Century Studies in May 2021.


Past Events

Nicholas Dames standing in front of a bookcase

What is a “chapter” and what work does it perform in prose narrative? In this lecture, Dames (Theodore Kahan Professor of Humanities at Columbia University) will present work from his book-in-progress, The Chapter: A History of Segmented Life.


headshot of Dr. Jonathan Michael Square of Parsons School of Design

Dr. Square is Assistant Professor at Parsons School of Design and a fellow in the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He will speak about his present research, which explores connections between histories of enslavement and the fashion system.

Header image: Yōshū (Hashimoto) Chikanobu (Japanese, 1838–1912), Ladies of Fashion, ca. 1880s, woodblock print, Gift of Robert S. Black, in memory of Barbara Bell Black, class of 1924, 1994.13.9. Photo credit: The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center