Historical Immersion

Historical Immersion courses investigate, study, and explore aspects of the past and pose the question of how we know what we know. This series of courses stands in contrast with the rest of the Common Curriculum, which ranges widely across space and times. Historical Immersion courses focus on a particular historical moment, event, or individual and allow students to dive deep into what was happening in the period being explored. Courses deal with such topics as the age of the emperor Nero in ancient Rome, Zheng He’s voyages during the Ming Dynasty, the emergence of Tokyo as a modern city, geometry and the use of perspective in Renaissance art, and the life and writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. Ultimately, to study the past is to dialogue with it; and, in the process, one learns more not only about the past, but also about oneself.


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Illustrative courses

The Age of Augustus

This course examines a watershed moment in Roman history: the fall of the republic and the emergence of a monarchy under the first emperor, Augustus. We assess the self-destructive civil wars that led to Augustus’s rise as warlord, and his consolidation of power over the Roman city-state and empire. Our investigation engages primary sources including archaeological and textual materials: public and private inscriptions, visual arts and architecture, and poetic and historiographical texts. These sources help us understand how Romans redefined their sense of society and history during Augustus’ reign and how Augustus’s Roman Revolution might be relevant to a Singaporean sense of history.

Nietzsche and his Times

In the 1880s, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God and called for a new life-affirming philosophy to combat the rise of nihilism. Nietzsche, one of the most provocative thinkers of his age, lived at a time of cultural tumult and intellectual transformation, of ideas and ideologies that continue to shape our understanding of the world. The course offers a window into this period through a close engagement with Nietzsche’s writings, including his philosophical works, personal correspondence, and highly idiosyncratic autobiography, Ecce Homo.

Student Voices

Nietzsche: An Untimely Thinker and His Times is a course about the life of a figure who was deeply concerned about how to live. Oftentimes, we forget that greater minds than ours have grappled with the same existential questions that bother us in quiet moments. We also forget that they were only human too. Tracing the development of Nietzsche’s thought, I have learnt not only about its content, but also about how it had evolved over time. Ironically, while this course appeared as though it would have obliterated all entrenched values and banal platitudes, it circled back to one: the true value of an education was not to teach one what to think, but how to think. To me, this was the most useful course in my time here.

Chong Ren Jie, Class of 2019
Double Degree Programme with Law & Philosophy Minor

Teaching Faculty