Schedule of Readings + Assignments
Decoding the syllabus
- Regular bullet points listed under each day is what you need to READ BEFORE CLASS.
- Usually there are one or two items; occasionally there are three, like when we have short book chapters.
These indicate something you have to DO/POST BEFORE CLASS, usually by 9am.
These indicate what we’ll be discussing in class, usually with additional links for reference. If there is no blue box for one of our meeting days, there’s just a usual class discussion and no need for a special box.
These indicate something should note to make life easier, but aren’t anything you need to turn in.
23: Syllabus, Expectations, Introductions
- Introduction to the course: historiography, history, and the past. Also, the syllabus.
- Introduction to Zotero, which is how you will access all readings (minus the actual book we’re using and readings that aren’t already online).
After class, but TODAY
- Follow the Connecting to Zotero instructions on the syllabus home page.
- Make sure you can access the Southgate reading (a PDF) for next Monday.
25: MetaHistory and course tools
- Browse MetaHistory generally to get a sense of the entire site, and read through at least two essays carefully. For our discussion, be prepared to report on your impression of this resource.
- What seemed useful and/or interesting?
- What seemed a bit off?
- What were the strengths and weaknesses of the essays you read?
- What questions do you have that weren’t answered?
30: What is History For?
- Beverly Southgate, What is History For?, 31–58.
- Reminder: Reading reflections should be committed to our GitHub Repository (where you will post all work for the course) by 10AM before class.
- Please note that Beverly is a HE for your responses.
- What has intrigued you about history? Think carefully and avoid the trite ‘i dunno i’ve just always liked it’ kind of response.
- Which “professed purposes” resonated most with you? And least? In both cases, EXPLAIN WHY.
- Southgate discussion on uses of history.
1: Greek and Roman and Medieval Histories
- M. C. Lemon, Philosophy of History, 28–44 (Chapter 3: Greek and Roman Speculations on History).
- M. C. Lemon, Philosophy of History, 45–56 (read up to the last paragraph); 61–73 (Chapter 4: The Christian Challenge…).
- Reminder: Reading reflections should be committed to our GitHub Repository
- How are conceptions of time and progress important to the meaning of history (even today)?
- Does studying history imply it is to facilitate some kind of human “progress”?
- Why should we care about Augustine in a historiography course?
- How does Lemon think we should compare Greco-Roman vs. Christian histories?
- What other ideas were especially interesting?
- Don’t forget your 1-2 INFORMED questions!
6: NO CLASS (Labor Day)
8: Early Modern History
- Read through the Metahistory essays on Early Modern historiography. There is a little overlap with the Cheng reading, but mostly they cover and emphasize quite different aspects of Renaissance historiography.
- Eileen Ka-May Cheng, Historiography, 4–28 (Chap 1: Art and Science in Renaissance Historical Writing). Click the “View eBook” link to get to the actual online text.
- Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince, 5-19. (These are really small pages.)
- How would you characterize history writing during the Renaissance?
- As part of your essay, be sure to mention what you consider to be the key developments in Renaissance history writing?
- How does the excerpt from The Prince illustrate what’s changing in terms of how history is being used in Renaissance Europe (esp Florence)?
- Early Modern History Reflection discussion
- How can we compare and contrast Cheng’s chapter with the Metahistory essays? Why are they so different?
13 : Enlightenment History
- Read the one Metahistory essay on Enlightenment historiography. This is particularly useful for understanding the broader historical context and legacy of historiographical change.
- Eileen Ka-May Cheng, Historiography, 29–60 (Chap 2: Enlightenment and Philosophical History).
- What was new about Enlightenment thinking in general?
- In broad terms, how did Enlightenment thinking get applied to History?
- What were the commonalities and differences between the approaches to History described in the chapter?
15: Romantic and Critical History
- Eileen Ka-May Cheng, Historiography, 61–90 (Chap 3: Romantic and Critical History).
- Wilhelm von Humboldt, “On the Historian’s Task” (1821). Read for the general characterization of history and what historians should be doing. There are some long sentences here that can be hard to follow, but just keep reading!
- What would you say are the key differences between Romantic and Critical history?
- Give a few examples from von Humboldt’s article that illustrate characterizations of history that appear in Cheng’s chapter. What’s most interesting to you about this description of a historian’s task?
20: Review so far
- No new reading for today. Instead, you need to do one, longer synthetic reflection on what we’ve covered so far as a way of tying everything together and preparing for the Wednesday reading and reflection.
Write a ~1000 word reflection on the continuities and discontinuities in historical thinking and writing so far. Be sure to provide some SPECIFIC examples that are representative of the point you are trying to make. Also, include 1-2 big picture questions that we should address in class. These are due by 10am like all other reflections, and we’ll be discussing everyone’s thoughts and questions in class.
- Be careful of using words like truth, objective, fact, progress, better, etc. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t use them, but that they should be used deliberately and carefully and with nuance that our readings have collectively given us.
- You know all those posts in our GitHub Repository? They are a great way to review the material, especially since y’all tend to have great ideas and different perspectives.
- This review is a great time to do some thinking about what you’d like to write about for Metahistory. Keep an eye out for people, topics, themes, ideas, etc, that you might want to learn more about and explain to a general audience.
22: Postmodern History
- Eileen Ka-May Cheng, Historiography, 112–132 (Chap 5: Social History, Fragmentation, and the Revival of Narrative).
- Skim super fast: Michel Foucault, Archeology of Knowledge, 3-17; 21-30; 31-39. What’s the main point here? How does it illustrate what Cheng is talking about?
Two rather contradictory questions for today that I hope encourage you to think about BOTH continuities and discontinuities, as you did for the review assignment.
- How does postmodern history constitute a fundamental historiographical paradigm shift?
- Why should we see postmodern changes in historical practice as more evolutionary than revolutionary?
27: Gender Histories
- Joan Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis”, 1053-1075.
This is a classic article, meaning it is recognized has having helped make a real difference in the practice of history (and frequently read in classes like ours). Precisely because of its success, it seems a bit dated now. But it still makes a number of useful points that are still relevant, and it is a perfect example of how historians can directly shape the way history is written.
Many students assume this article is trying to argue that historians should pay more attention to the role women in history. The article agrees, but the main point is actually much more interesting and nuanced. What is it?
29: Postcolonial Histories
- Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Postcoloniality and the Artifice of History: Who Speaks for ‘Indian’ Pasts?”, 1-27. Skim (but don’t skip) section IV (11–17).
This is another classic article that can also feel a bit out of date, yet another example of how historians can directly shape historiography by asking profound questions and offering new perspectives that were too easily unnoticed or ignored.
What is the premise of postcoloniality as described here? What are the main challenges to a postcolonial history?
4: Archival Power
- Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook, “Archives, Records and Power: The Making of Modern Memory,” 1–19. This article is a little repetitive at times, but in a good way, as it makes it easy to understand the main points. It is shorter than it looks in terms of page count because many pages are almost entirely footnotes (which you can peruse if you’re interested).
- We’ve talked about the difficulties of objectivity and truth in history, and this article explains how archives are far from a neutral site of data-gathering. How and why are archives distorted?
- Given that they are the basis for history, is it possible for a historian using archives to be accurate in terms of reporting about the past?
- We typically think of archives as in the background, but why should they be considered active shapers of society?
6: Archival Silence
- Rodney G. S. Carter, “Of Things Said and Unsaid: Power, Archival Silences, and Power in Silence” Archivaria, September 25, 2006, 215–33.
- Softball question as we wind up the first half: What ideas in the article were most and least interesting to you?
11 & 13: NO CLASS: Enjoy Fall Break!!!
Everyone has done a great job posting thoughtful reflections and contributing to invigorating discussions for this first half. The course is infinitely more interesting when everyone is putting in the work and sharing their perspectives, and that’s clearly the case this semester. Thank you for your effort over the first half and I look forward to y’all keeping the bar high for the second half. You’ve earned a real fall break and a chance to recharge before diving into our Historical Theory book. Have a great break and good luck with everything in the meantime.
It’s a busy and tiring week (although not for this class), but the long weekend is a great time to get a jump on our book and reduce what you have to do on Sunday night (when you won’t want to do anything). Obviously there is a chunk of reading for Monday, but any additional reading you can do before the semester resumes will make life much easier once it does.
This week we’re starting our one book for the course. It’s can be a bit theoretical and abstract at times (much of the time, TBH), but that challenge for us is by design. There will be paragraphs where you will be confused about what the author is trying to say. It’s true for me, too! Don’t be discouraged if you feel you’re not “getting it”. It’s not easy and it’s not meant to be. There are many names of historians that appear—some we’ve read about, some were merely mentioned, and some are totally new. Don’t worry about specific names, but do understand the historiographical perspective they are meant to represent.
We’ll work through the main points in our discussion. I think you’ll agree that once we do, you’ll have powerful new tools for interpreting not only history, but any kind of text (and everything is a text, as we now know). One of the aims of the course is that you can think abstractly about key issues in history and broaden your ability to think abstractly about ANYthing. That’s what senior-level capstone seminars should do, in my opinion.
18: Historical Theory I
- Historical Theory, 3–11 (Ch. 1: Introduction).
- Historical Theory, 12–30 (Ch. 2: The Contested Nature of Historical Knowledge).
- Historical Theory, 31–50 (Ch. 3: Historical Paradigms and Theoretical Traditions).
Since we’re reading distinct chapters and more pages than usual per meeting, it may be easier to have specific goals in mind for each chapter rather than as a whole. I’m trying to balance specific and general prompts per our last discussion, so here are some questions to keep in mind, but feel free to go off script as long as you’re still showing me the engagement with the chapters.
1: There’s a lot of postmodernism summary from the last few weeks here. What have we seen before that was useful to have recapped? Did it clarify anything that was still a bit murky in your mind? What in this chapter was new from what we’ve covered so far?
2: What is an “empirical” approach to history, and what does it presuppose about historical knowledge (and method)? What is the “postmodernist challenge” (as Fulbrook puts it) to history? How have postmodern critics and proponents alike failed to reconcile these (there is a distinct answer for each group)?
3: What is a paradigm as far as historians are concerned? Briefly (but not too briefly) summarize the different kinds of paradigms Fulbrook identifies (Implicit, Perspectival, Proper, Pidgin). Most importantly: why are paradigms so important for Fulbrook?
20: Historical Theory II
- Historical Theory, 53–73 (Ch. 4: Beyond Metanarrative: Plots, Puzzles, and Plausibility).
- Regarding the “death of metanarrative”: What does Fulbrook mean by metanarrative? Why is it dead? Why does it matter?
- Why does Fulbrook disagree with Jenkins? How does she refute his claim that history is essentially fiction?
- Fulbrook says that historians are really just trying to solve puzzles. What puzzle is she trying to solve?
25: Historical Theory III
- Historical Theory, 74–89; 94–97 (Ch. 5: Labelling the Parts: Categories and Concepts). We’re skipping the section on Ideal Types because I find it unnecessarily confusing and not essential to the rest of the chapter.
- Historical Theory, 98–121 (Ch. 6: Looking for Clues).
For EACH chapter (so your reflection will have 2 distinct parts, and multiple paragraphs within each part), restate and “essentialize” what Fulbrook is arguing without cutting out all the nuance. In other words, the challenge here is to generalize without over generalizing. Describe theoretical problem she presents, the different sides of the debate, and her resolution of the problem.
** Make sure you are paraphrasing rather than quoting! **
Your reflection will be a little longer than normal to do this effectively, but as consolation there is no reflection due for Wednesday.
Work assured that based on these difficult chapters, there is a LOT of room for interpretation, so there is no “correct” way of describing what she’s saying.
27: Historical Theory IV
- Historical Theory, 122–140 (Ch. 7: Satisfying Curiosity).
No reading reflection due today! Instead, we’re going to have a reading quiz IN CLASS. With real paper. It’s going to be fun. Study up!
1: Historical Theory V
- Historical Theory, 143–163 (Ch. 8: Representing the Past).
- Historical Theory, 164–184 (Ch. 9: History and Partisanship).
As we’ve done a few times before, you’ll have two separate sections in your reflection. Fill in the dots!
FRIEND: How is historiography going?
YOU: Awesome! It’s my favorite class.
FRIEND: What are you learning about?
YOU: (big sigh) Well…today we read about the idea of representation in history.
FRIEND: What a coincidence. I just ran into a postmodern critic of history who shouted two things at me and wandered off.
YOU: Yeah postmodernists are weird. What did he/she/they say?
FRIEND: 1) historians assume they can represent the past more than they really can; 2) historians necessarily impose too much on their accounts of the past.
YOU: My new hero Mary Fulbrook says that’s not true.
FRIEND: But they both seem pretty reasonable critiques. How do we really know what happened in the past? How can anyone possibly portray it accurately? And don’t historians have to use a lot of imagination to tell a good story?
[FRIEND is asking about two specific critiques and a few other pointed questions that are clearly at the heart of Chapter 8. Answer these as Fulbrook would (showing off your knowledge of the chapter) and highlight what you see as key issues about historical representation in general.]
FRIEND: Ah, I see how Fulbrook’s theoretical approach is powerful. What else are you reading?
YOU: (big sigh) Well…we also read about objectivity in history.
FRIEND: Oh, do you have a quiz on it? I hear they’re confusing.
YOU: The professor thinks that true learning happens only when we try to resolve confusion, so we get a lot of practice.
FRIEND: Are you actually learning anything?
YOU: I think about history totally differently now! I know I’m missing a lot, too, but that’s how the class goes—it’s OK if people learn different things.
FRIEND: What did you learn about objectivity? I’ve read some history books that seem pretty objective and some that are obviously pretty biased. It seems like the more footnotes a book has, the more objective it is. Is that right?
[Notice FRIEND is employing the common “appeal to evidence” fallacy that Fulbrook is trying to put to bed in her book. Explain in lay (non-technical) terms how an interested reader of history (like FRIEND) should think about the question of historical objectivity (based on Fulbrook’s Chapter 9, of course) and why thinking in terms of numbers of sources or citations and the like is misguided.]
3: Historical Theory VI
- Historical Theory, 185–196 (Ch. 10: Conclusion).
- Peruse Metahistory again to remind yourself of the essays, their style, strengths, weaknesses. Pick an essay you want to REVISE according to the Metahistory guide, which is a guide to WRITING essays that you will use for your own, but also tells you what to look for when revising. Note that revising here means making discrete and obvious improvements like fixing typos, standardizing citations, rewording overly-clunky sentences. You’re not doing any research or extensive revisions.
Another two part reflection for today.
Describe Fulbrook’s main point in ONE WORD. Really, just ONE WORD. But then write a short paragraph that describes what you mean and why you think that word is so central. Obviously no book can be adequately summarized in a single word, so let’s all embrace the absurdity of this task as a fun way of highlighting and comparing in class the key theme/idea you found most compelling.
For lots of karma points, write a short letter to a future student of this class. What should they know before diving into Historical Theory? How can they approach it to get the most out of it? How was it most useful? Where was it too confusing? What questions did it leave unanswered?
- Historical Theory Wrap up discussion: In defense of history.
- Metahistory revision assignments and editing instructions
8: Metahistory Revisions
The original assignment for today was to post your revisions, but we had so much fun (according to me) wrapping up with Fulbrook, that we didn’t have enough time to cover all the directions. And more people than usual weren’t able to be in class. So we’re shifting work forward a little bit. You should do as much revision as you can on your essay for Monday following directions below. We’ll talk on Monday about how to officially publish your changes for Wednesday.
Make progress with your essay revisions
- Become very familiar with the Metahistory guide. This is mostly for writing your essay, but it gives you a good idea what to be thinking about when you revise as well.
- In order to begin editing, you’ll need to get the essay from Github. To do that,
- Go to the Metahistory repository. You can view all the files, but you don’t have permissions to edit anything directly.
- Find your essay in the
essays folder (note the essays are sorted by chronological period and you can also figure this out from the URL of the actual essay).
- Click on the filename of your essay (like how you read other people’s reflections [or your own] for class).
- Click the
Raw button to bring up the raw “code” for your essay. You have to get the code instead of just copying the text from the actual webpage where we read the essays online!
- Copy and paste THE WHOLE ESSAY into a text editor (or even [shudder] MS Word)—however you create your reading reflections is fine. Getting the WHOLE essay is crucial since it saves a lot of confusion later on.
- Revise! Revise! Revise! PRO TIP: Revising is much more effective if done in several small chunks rather than one long session.
- We will talk about how to publish your revisions in class on Monday. Just focus on the actual revisions over the weekend.
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the essay you edited?
- Especially for your essay, but even for the site as a whole, what concepts should we be better explaining to make Metahistory most usable for students learning the basics of historiography?
- You’ve been editing “offline”. We’ll cover how to publish your revisions to the actual Metahistory site.
- You need to have settled on a topic for Wednesday
10: Historiographical Research
- Address any technical issues with publishing your revisions
- Finalize Metahistory topic assignments
- Go over the basic research process that you should use for your essays. This ensures you will be selecting appropriate sources, and using and citing them appropriately.
- How to use Zotero to keep organized
- Note that your annotated early bibliographies are due next Wednesday; an extended version is due the following Monday. Research takes time! Stay on schedule!!
As you begin research, stay organized and keep track of everything from the get go. Keep track of what you’ve looked at, what you need to, what you won’t use, pages of specific texts you want to come back to, etc. Zotero is a great, if not the best, tool for this.
When you find a quote or passage you want to use later, make sure to make note of it. You will feel you can easily come back to it, but in reality you will forget where it was. And then eventually you’ll end up WASTING TIME looking for stuff you already found. As someone who has wasted considerable time on just that, please learn from my own mistakes: take time to make accurate references AS YOU RESEARCH AND WRITE.
15: (digital) Public History
- Thomas Cauvin, “New Field, Old Practices: Promises and Challenges of Public History”, Magazén, 1 (2021). This is in our ZOTERO library (and be sure you log in to access the PDF or it will look like it’s not there)! Note there is a fair amount of detail in terms of the history of public history that we can ignore. Specific names and places are not important, but stay tuned into the larger point the author is trying to make in sketching out the history.
- What are the tensions and challenges of doing public history?
- Is international public history either desirable or possible?
- It’s easy to see how Fulbrook’s advice may useful for public history practitioners, but what are the challenges of implementing what she’s arguing in public history contexts? What are potential solutions?
Your early annotated bibliographies are DUE WEDNESDAY. Make sure you are doing research to get these done.
17: History as Data
- Is quantitative history fundamentally different from ‘regular’ history?
- How does this suggestion problem solving through history conflict with uses of history as we’ve seen them so far in the course?
Early Bibliographies due
- Post to GitHub your annotated bibliography. You need to have 3 sources that are KEY to your essay that have been published recently. You will incorporate more sources as you do more research, but we just want to make sure we have a good core to build from. Each source should have a ~150-word paragraph explaining how it is and isn’t useful for your essay. The work you do for these annotations will be directly applicable to your Metahistory essays.
- History as Data discussion
- Ongoing research questions
22: Bibliography Review
No new reading for today, but please review your reflection from last Wednesday on quantitative history in preparation for discussion.
Extended Bibliographies Due
For this assignment, your bibliographies should grow to include a minimum of 8 sources (all with ~150-word annotations) relevant to your topic. You should aim for a range of both very specific and broader sources. They should be published in the last 20 years, unless you are citing a “classic” work that you are directly engaging with.
ALSO, you need to add an additional ~250 words (~2–3 small paragraphs) explaining how sources from the course are relevant to your topic. Use our course repository to remind yourself of what we’ve covered! Again, this work will funnel directly into your essays.
- History as data discussion
- Bibliography and research questions
- NEW ESSAYS: Overview of the process for making and revising new essays in your repository! « don’t miss this
- We’ll be going over the essay addition guide.
- You need to have your essay publicly accessible to participate in the peer review process!
- IMAGES: Overview of the process for gathering, uploading, captioning, adding to your essays « don’t miss this
24: NO CLASS: Happy Thanksgiving!
Work on your drafts
No class today, but you must post by MONDAY MORNING (~10am as usual) a COMPLETE draft for your essay, which should be around at least 2000 words (with the final being 2500). Follow the writing guide, DO IT WELL, and save everyone (especially your future self) headaches later.
Be sure your draft is a complete and coherent essay! Obviously you will do more work on your essays, lots of schematic notes or underdeveloped sections make effective critique impossible.
If your essay is late (emergencies excepted), you will miss out on peer review, including my own comments, and this almost guarantees that your final essay grade will be lower than it would otherwise be.
29: Draft reviews and review assignments
- Today we’re going to look at how to do the peer review assignment efficiently and effectively. Remember that your review work is part of your participation grade.
COMPLETE Drafts Due
By 10am, like usual, post a COMPLETE draft for your essay, which should be around at least 2000 words (with the final being 2500) and 3 images (you’ll need 3–5 for the final). Follow the writing guide, DO IT WELL, and save everyone (including your future self) headaches later. If your essay is late, you will miss out on peer review, including my own comments, and this almost guarantees that your final essay grade will be lower.
1: Reader Reports
Today you’ll read through your reader reports and ask questions of your reviewers. We’ll also go over general revision strategies.
Reader Reports Due
Follow the review guide. And remember to focus on the big picture: framing, historiographical significance, and accessibility for the intended audience. As you did for the previous critique, be sure you are thinking about and addressing what’s in the writing guide.
THESE MUST BE POSTED BEFORE CLASS ON WEDNESDAY!
Final Questions + Answers
In the style of the deliberately ambiguous T/F questions we’ve discussed this semester, post a T/F question (in this folder) that that suggests through its ambiguity a key concept/issue that you found especially interesting/helpful/useful from the course. To refresh your memory, you can review our earlier quiz questions and answers.
The point is to generate a list of key topics/issues to discuss in preparation for your final course reflection. Needless to say, your question should be both true and false to some extent, even if you think one answer is more appropriate.
- Metahistory revision highlights, mostly from the Metahistory writing guide and final checklist.
- Final course reflection advice
- Review the steps necessary to publish your essay on the official Metahistory site. This process is basically the same as when you committed your revisions a few weeks ago.
- Your final version must be pull requested by December 13. You are free to submit pull requests for minor changes (if you notice a typo or something), but I will ignore large changes for evaluation purposes.
8: NO CLASS! REVISE! REVISE!! REVISE!!!
Nothing is due on Wednesday the 8th!!!
13: OFFICIAL COURSE DEADLINE
- Make sure to post your final course reflections in our repository folder.
- Make sure you are following the Metahistory writing guide and final checklist. Big picture: focus on the narrative thread and the so what question.
- Once you are completely done with your essay, make a pull request just like you did for your revision assignment. These steps are described at the bottom of the Metahistory revisions guide.
- I will take your pull request to be your signal that your essay is ready for final evaluation. If you make any subsequent commits to your repository after your make the pull request, they will also automatically be included in your pull request, but let me know if they are major changes in case I have already looked at your essay.
- All work is technically due DEC 13, but let me know if you need more time. You don’t need to ASK for an extension—just let me know what your plan is!