Summer 2024 - HIST 468W D100

Problems in the History of Religion (4)

History of Happiness

Class Number: 3275

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    May 6 – Aug 2, 2024: Mon, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including nine units of lower division history.



An advanced examination into the concepts and methodology of the history of religion. Content may vary from offering to offering; see course outline for further information. HIST 468W may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught. Writing.


Happiness in World History

"World history is not the soil of happiness. Periods of happiness are blank pages in it." (Hegel, 1832)

            This seminar on the history of emotions looks at experiences and theories of happiness from the ancient world to the present.  Does wealth make people happy?  Does democracy?  Does religion?  Do cat videos?  Is happiness similar in various times and places, or is modern, Western happiness something essentially new?  Should policymakers take Bhutan's Gross National Happiness metric seriously?  Can studying the history of happiness ourselves happier?  Should we want to be?

            This summer I'm teaching the "Dopamine Trilogy," three courses on the global history of varied expressions of pleasure centres in the brain:  HIST 468 (happiness), HIST 472 (humour), and FASS 224 (meditation).  Each course is fully independent, but complements the others; students taking more than one will have the opportunity to explore parallel questions in greater depth, in different contexts.


  • Seminar attendance and participation 20%
  • Two research papers (4-to-7-page papers, or equivalent) 45%
  • Two research-paper proposals 25%
  • Two oral research-paper presentations 10%



Peter N. Stearns, Happiness in World History (Routledge: 2019) [available online at SFU library]

Other readings will be circulated via Canvas.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university.


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the term are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.