History Department
History Department

Chris Babits

Ph.D., 2019, The University of Texas at Austin

Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellow and Health Humanities Graduate Scholar
Chris Babits



U.S. religion, gender, and sexuality; the global history of psychology; conservative politics; education history, policy, and reform; historical teaching methods


Chris is one of the University's Andrew W. Mellon Engaged Scholar Initiative Fellows and he successfully defended his dissertation in April 2019. His work examines the intersection of religion, medicine, gender, and sexuality in the modern United States. 

Chris' dissertation, "To Cure a Sinful Nation: Conversion Therapy in the United States," is an ambitious work on the nation's history of sexual orientation and gender identity therapies. In addition to support from UT's Department of History, "To Cure a Sinful Nation" has received generous external funding from seventeen grants/fellowships.

Chris has over ten years of experience as an academic advisor and educator. He has served as a museum educator, high school teacher, undergraduate teaching assistant, and graduate-level instructor. Chris' dedication to effective history pedagogy stems from his desire to make the study of the past more engaging, accessible, and lively. History, in his mind, is much more than memorizing important names, dates, and events. Rather, history, as an argumentative and interpretative discipline, is the cornerstone to developing an active citizenry in the twenty-first century.

Learn more about Chris and his work (academic and professional) on his website: www.chrisbabits.com.


HIS S315L • The United States Since 1865

83320 • Summer 2017
Meets MTWTHF 1:00PM-2:30PM CLA 0.112

This course surveys American history from the Civil War to the present day. Through a combination of lectures, readings, and in-class discussions and activities, students will learn about some of the significant intellectual, political, social, cultural, and economic aspects of America’s recent past. Prominent themes include the fight for civil rights and the United States’ expanding role in international affairs. By the end of the semester, you'll have a deeper understanding of racial ideology, gender, LGBTQ rights, and U.S. foreign policy.

Daily readings come in the form of primary sources and academic articles. Assignments include primary source analyses, evaluations of academic articles, attendance/participation, and a final paper. At various points in class, we will focus on refining the skills necessary for you to do well on each of these assignments.

This class won't stress the memorization of names and dates. Instead, our goal is for you to think critically about why or how people and events influenced the past. Over the course of the semester, students will ask the question historians ask themselves: so what? Why must we know about a certain person, place, or event? What makes something historically significant? And can we foster the lessons of the past to create a better future?


A            92.50-100
A-          89.50-92.49
B+         86.50-89.49
B           83.50-86.49
B-          79.50-83.49
C+         76.50-79.49
C           72.50-76.49
C-          69.50-72.49
D+         66.50-69.49
D           60-66.49
F            Below 60 points


Foner, Eric. Voices of Freedom: A Documentary History, Volume II. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2013. Fourth edition.


Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History, Volume II. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2013. Fourth edition.


Ongoing - Attendance and Class Participation - 20%
Monday, July 17 - Primary Source Analysis #1 - 10%
Monday, July 24 - Article Analysis #1 - 10%
Monday, July 31 - Primary Source Analysis #2 - 15%
Monday, August 7 - Article Analysis #2 - 15%
Saturday, August 12 - Final Paper - 30%

Your course grade will be based on four criteria: attendance and class participation; two primary source analyses; two article analyses; and a final paper. To keep things simple (for both you and us), written assignments will always be due on Mondays. The final paper is the only exception to this. This assignment will be due on Saturday, August 12.

Attendance and Participation (20%).
Ongoing throughout Summer II

Each student will be allowed two unexcused absences. We’ll keep track of attendance throughout the semester. It’s your responsibility to check in with me or your TA right before (or after) class.

We understand that participation means something different for each of you. We want to see effort that you're engaging with the course materials, whether it's by asking or answering questions, taking charge during pair or small group work, or coming to office hours to talk about what you've learned. Chris and the TAs will keep a running Google Doc with information about your class participation, including making notes of who came to office hours.

Important Note: These should not be interpreted as “free” points. Coming to every class session and only participating once or twice won't earn you full credit for this part of the grading criteria. If you're worried about your participation grade, see Chris and he can give you an estimate of how he would grade you at that point in the term.

Primary Source Analyses (PSA) (25%).
Monday, July 17 by 5 pm: PSA #1 (10%)
Monday, July 31 by 5 pm: PSA #2 (15%)

Historians work with primary sources. These are the speeches, newspaper articles, government documents, music, cartoons, oral histories, etc. that tell us about the past. Without primary sources, historians wouldn’t be able to do their work.

We’ve picked a fair number of primary sources from Foner’s Voices of Freedom for you to read. Over the course of the summer session, you’ll complete a reading grid that will help you analyze two different primary sources. The reading grid, along with a sample of what's expected, is attached to the syllabus. The template is also posted on Canvas under “Resources.”

You’ll submit your primary source analyses through Canvas.

Article Analyses (25%).
Monday, July 24 by 5 pm: Analysis #1 (10%)
Monday, August 7 by 5 pm: Analysis #2 (15%)

The discipline of history is an argumentative one. Even though something might have happened in the past, historians often disagree about why it happened and its implications for the events that followed. Academic articles, of which we’ve picked out three or four for each week, are usually where historians first make novel arguments about their research topics.

We’re requiring you to write an analysis of two articles. You may picked from any of the required articles as well as any optional article that is twelve pages or more in length. The article analyses are a modified version of the primary source reading grid. This document is posted on Canvas under “Resources,” but we’ll be reviewing it in depth at some point during the second week of the summer session.

You can submit your first article analysis at any point in the semester as long as it’s by 5 pm on Monday, July 24. So, if you read an article you like in the first or second week, you can write your article analysis up and have it done ahead of time. The second article analysis is due by 5 pm on Monday, August 7.

You’ll submit your article analyses through Canvas.

Final Paper (30%).
Saturday, August 12 by 5 pm

Your final will consist of writing a 7-to-10 page essay answering one of the following questions:

Economics and labor: Evaluate the way the American economy has changed over the past 150 years. How did “big business” alter the landscape of U.S. industry? Why did Progressive Era and New Deal reformers pass the reforms they did? Have Americans found a way to balance economic growth and workers’ rights in the post-World War II period?

Women and gender: Analyze the political and economic fight for women’s equality. To what extent has the role of status of women changed over the past 150 years? What have been landmark victories for women’s rights? Why have various political factions opposed women’s and feminist groups? Is there work left to be done?

America’s role in the world. Determine how the United States’ foreign policy changed and/or remain consistent from the Spanish American War through the Cold War. How did the U.S. confront the challenges it faced around the globe? Are there core tenets (or beliefs) that have guided American foreign policy? If so, what are they? If not, how do different foreign policy conflicts differ from each other?

Civil rights. The continued fight for equality has, in many ways, defined the American experience. Compare and contrast the struggle for civil rights that two of the following segments of the population experienced: 1) African Americans; 2) women; 3) Mexican Americans; 4) Asian Americans; and/or 5) LGBTQ individuals. Are there commonalities that you see in the political rhetoric and tactics of these two groups? How would you describe the unique challenges these two segments of the population faced? What are the arguments, agendas, challenges, etc. that have made coalitions difficult to form, both within and between different rights movements?

We’re challenging you to come up with your own interpretation of, or your own take on, these questions. This means that we want to see a cogent (i.e., clear, logical, convincing) thesis, a host of evidence to back up your argument, and a decent command of grammar and writing conventions.

If you plan well, you’ll be able to use your primary source analyses and your article analyses to help you write your essay. But, you'll have to incorporate more than these sources if you want to earn a good mark on your essay.

There will be more details about the paper, including a rubric, by the end of the second week of class. In addition, one class session (Friday, August 4) is devoted to the final paper. On top of this, Chris will hold an optional peer review session on Friday, August 11 where you’ll be able to help each other improve your essays. Depending on how many students show up, Chris should be able to skim what you have written and provide preliminary feedback.

You’ll submit your final papers through Canvas.

History Graduate Council

I served as one of the co-leaders of the History Graduate Council for the 2015-2016 school year. The Council provides history graduate students a voice for their educational and professional experiences at the University of Texas.