HST 109 with Professor Jonathan Barth

This is one of the two general education subjects that I took to fulfil the requirements that ASU has set in order to graduate. I don’t quite remember why or who influenced my decision to settle on this History course but I think it was because the timing was right.

If you don’t like History, this course might be just the thing to change your mind about history. Personally, I don’t like history in the past because it was always complicated and the tests are honestly hard as you had to remember all these dates, who did what with who and so on.

This is not your typical history teacher (p.s. Professor Barth doesn’t like people calling him ‘teacher’) as he designs the class to be more of a story telling experience than an actual theory class. He understands us the most mainly because he is a pretty young Professor thus he knows what we are going through.

At a glance


As the name suggests, the course is primarily about US history and spans a timeline of nearly 2 centuries. It starts with the emigration of the British to the present day North America all the way to the end of the Civil War. It is definitely an exciting journey for me as I know nothing about American History.

Notice that I used the word ‘Journey’. I am not sure if it a mere coincidence or just careful planning of the course but everything seems to gel with each other. Truth be told, I never like History before but how Professor Barth presents the class with minimalist slides containing pictures that he found on Google coupled with his awesome presentation skills make the class an experience unlike no other.

The weekly lectures are the basis of the quizzes which happen very frequently but the good thing is that they are all multiple choice quizzes. You will need to bring your own scantron sheet and Professor Barth is actually kind enough to send out a review guide for each quiz and if your class is lucky enough, he might even have a review session. Don’t worry too much about the quizzes, if you pay attention in class and remember to take notes, you will have no problems with the quizzes because they are directly from the review guide.

Oh yeah, there’s something you need to know about Professor Barth’s class. Unlike other Professor’s he does care if the class pays attention or not and that is why he forbids the use of any electronic devices such a laptops and phones even to take notes. So, you’ll have to do it manually with a pencil and paper.

Honestly, I do feel a little restricted with this as I have invested quite a lot of effort to digitize my notes on OneNote for easier referencing. But I do get where he comes from. Sometimes I do end up straying away from the lecture when taking notes with the computer and end up missing out on some points. On the bright side, this technology restriction helps me revise on the lectures as I am typing my handwritten notes into OneNote after every class.

The other half (in terms of marks) of the course is actually not directly linked to the lectures but it is in a way related. Throughout the semester there will be two papers that need to be written, each about 5 pages long. One of the papers that we did this semester is a book review which needed us to critically assess what’s good and bad about the book and the other paper is a more abstract one which required us to argue on an issue.

I won’t lie but I did have some nightmares writing these two papers mainly because the readings that we were supposed to go through before writing the papers were challenging texts. They were challenging in the sense that the language is hard to understand. These people from the 16-17 century sure know how to write a lot of long winded stories.

But I did eventually pull through and I am pretty amazed at what I managed to come up with. The readings for the two papers are a little hard but they are quite interesting. Somewhat like an extension of the lectures themselves.

What have I learnt?

This is an obvious answer but I did end up learning a lot of American history. I couldn’t have chosen a better Professor to get me up to speed with the early history of this country. This is one of those cases where the ratemyprofessor rating is spot on.

Professor Barth did teach me a lot of history in this class but as odd as it sounds, that isn’t my biggest takeaway from this class. Through his lectures, he not only talks about the content of the course, he also inserts quite a number of personal stories that round up the whole experience. Somehow, he manages to link life lessons with the course content which is a pretty amazing thing.



I still remember the last day of class where we had to gather as a class for one last time to submit the final paper. Professor Barth did something truly different, he presented his last lecture by putting up this picture (above) on the screen. He briefly went through the history of the Tianmen Massacre and concluded the semester as if we were about to graduate. He gave us some advice to life that relates to the history lessons that we have learnt throughout the semester. 


This class in particular made me realize that my choice to further my education in the United States is the right one. Professor Barth is full of enthusiasm and I believe that he genuinely wants each and every student to understand history. I can’t fully explain how good his teaching is, you have just got to believe me that his lectures are just as amazing as I depict them to be.

As an international student, I would definitely recommend any new international student to take this course as it gives you a context to the American culture. The knowledge that I have gained in this class will be a good conversation starter. I would definitely consider taking another one of Professor Barth’s classes if I had the chance.

Here’s what you need to know about HST 109 with Professor Barth:

  1. Lectures are very interesting
  2. Lots of extra credit opportunities
  3. Learn to accept the 17th century language
  4. Main textbook is not required
  5. Quizzes are (for the most part) simple

Insider talk

My course reviews for Spring 2016

  • FSE 100 with Professor Yinong Chen — An introductory engineering course that revolves around projects. Read this review
  • ENG 101 with Professor Ivan Wolfe — The first of two fresman level english courses that is required by ASU. Read this review
  • PHI 101 with Professor Douglas Portmore —  This is my first time learning about philosophy, it’s quite an interesting course I would say. Read this review
  • HST 109 with Professor Jonathan Barth — American history from the start till the end of the civil war. Read this review
  • CSE 120 with Professor Martin Reisslein — The basics of digital logic with both theoretical and practical work. Read this review
  • IEE 380 with Professor Linda Chattin — More statistical formulas and concepts than you can imagine. Read this review

I would  value your feedback on things that I may have missed in my review(s) and I would gladly update the review to include that information provided that your request is not too much in the future that I forget about the deep details about my experience in that course. Just hit me a comment below and I’ll gladly answer your question.



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