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.

Week 1

23: Syllabus, Expectations, Introductions

  • No reading for today

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?

Week 2

30: What is History For?

  • Beverly Southgate, What is History For?, 31–58.

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…).

Week 3

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.)

Week 4

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).

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!

Week 5

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.

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?

Week 6

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.

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.

Week 7

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).

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.

Week 8

11 & 13: NO CLASS: Enjoy Fall Break!!!

Week 9

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).

20: Historical Theory II

  • Historical Theory, 53–73 (Ch. 4: Beyond Metanarrative: Plots, Puzzles, and Plausibility).

Week 10

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).

27: Historical Theory IV

  • Historical Theory, 122–140 (Ch. 7: Satisfying Curiosity).

Week 11

1: Historical Theory V

  • Historical Theory, 143–163 (Ch. 8: Representing the Past).
  • Historical Theory, 164–184 (Ch. 9: History and Partisanship).

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.

Week 12

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.

10: Historiographical Research

  • No new reading.

Week 13

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.

17: History as Data

Week 14

22: Bibliography Review

No new reading for today, but please review your reflection from last Wednesday on quantitative history in preparation for discussion.

24: NO CLASS: Happy Thanksgiving!

Week 15

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.

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.

Week 16

6: Last questions/comments and course wrap up


Nothing is due on Wednesday the 8th!!!