Overview

This course is an introduction to the methods and practice of the study of history. Students will learn to understand how historians construct and write about the past and will be introduced to the history of the writing of history. Students will also learn to critically evaluate historical arguments and the material used to produce those arguments, to develop research skills, and to produce written work in accordance with disciplinary conventions.

The description above is the official verbiage. Now for the Isaac spin. This course has a twofold purpose: to introduce historians-in-the-making to both the practical and philosophical “Whys” and “Hows” of our craft. Because of this approach, the course is going to have a lot of both reading and writing. We will be absorbing the mentorship of leading historians and then writing so as to test that mentoring and our mastery of the skills involved. Why should young historians subject themselves to this gauntlet? For the simple reason that, if they invest themselves at this time and level in these questions and skills, they will profit therefrom in every following history course they take. So...

Course Objectives

Through this course, students will:

Grading and Assignments

Readings:  There is an abundance of reading ahead, but a steady pace will keep your head afloat. Please take this counsel to heart, and do not skip assignments. Doing so will eventually catch up with you in unpleasant ways. In addition, do not put the reading off until the last moment; much of the material will be complex and require an investment of your brain, not just your time. Nonetheless, you will need time to digest it properly. Some of the readings will overlap a bit; trust me: the repetition will only help you.

Participation:   This course will operate primarily as a seminar, not as a lecture. This means that student participation is of the utmost importance. This category can include things like attendance, academic courtesy, diligence in completing assignments, and still other intangibles. Primarily it will focus on classroom contributions to discussions. Just in case you haven't seen the point here: this will be the primary way in which the professor evaluates your reading habits. Be prepared for an intensely Socratic approach! If the professor believes people are treating readings lightly, pop quizzes will occur as a consequence. (15% of course grade)

Writing Exercises: Throughout the semester, there are a number of writing assignments, usually tied directly to that week’s readings. The nature of these assignments will vary as different skills are being emphasized, so pay attention to directions/announcements in Canvas. Assignments are due at the start of class, unless otherwise stipulated. In other cases, or for late work, they may be either placed in my campus mailbox, or slid under my office door. (15% of course grade)

Primary Document Analysis: Early on in the semester, we will analyze a set of primary documents.  The analysis will include short answers to basic questions about the selected document (authorship, intended audience, etc.) as well as a four-page (+/- ½ page) argumentative essay regarding what the documents reveal about the society and period it pertains to.  This argumentative essay must be double-spaced, stapled, typed in a 12-point font, and conform stylistically to the Dept. Style Guide or Chicago Manual of Style. (15% of course grade)

Historiographical Essay: An 8-10 page historiographical essay on the topic of your choice is required. (20% of course grade) Details will be available in Canvas.

Final Exam: (15% of course grade)

Book/article Review:  Guidelines to this assignment are located here, but further counsel on book reviews is also tucked away in each of our course textbooks. (10% each of course grade)

Lecture and Reading Schedule


We have four required texts, plus numerous on-line readings, for this course. Be sure you have:

Come to class having already digested the day’s reading. I have some of the earlier web-based readings directly linked. Later on, as you get used to databases like J-Stor, I've not always linked the reading, anticipating that you'll know by then how to find the articles yourself.

Date

Topic

Readings and Assignments

18 Jan Introduction to Course; Begin Shooting the Past
  • Go over syllabus
  • Cullen, 1–4
  • 20 Jan Continue with Shooting the Past
  • Rampolla, 1–7
  • Cullen, 7–13
  • General “Mad Dog” Mattis
  • 23 Jan Continue with Shooting the Past
    Assignment Due
  • Cullen, 30–36
  • Writing: “History is...”
  • 25 Jan Conclude Shooting the Past; discussion Cullen, 63-71
    27 Jan History: Why? What's it Good For?
  • Wineburg, “Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts”
  • 30Jan Argument & Evidence: Evaluating Sources
  • Cullen, 47–54
  • Rampolla, 8-21,
  • Rael, “How to Read a Secondary Source
  • 1 Feb Words: In the Library/Primary v. Secondary
    Assignment Due
  • Rampolla, 82–102
  • Cullen, 37–46
  • Writing: Worksheet #1
  • 3 Feb Argument & Evidence: Thesis-Hunting
  • Rampolla, 24–35
  • Cullen, 54–61
  • Rael, “Predatory Reading
  • 6 Feb Close-Reading Davis, vii–x, 1–34
    8 Feb Still close... Davis, 35–61
    10 Feb Closer... Davis, 62–93
    13 Feb Closer still... Davis, 94–125
    15 Feb Martin Guerre: the Debate Finlay versus Davis
    17 Feb History& Historiography: Introductions
  • Burke, “Overture”
  • Cullen, 14–20
  • Writing: Outllines and Primary Doc. Analysis to be handed out in class (due 24 Feb)
  • 20 Feb History in the Ancient World
  • Porter, “Politics and Public Relations Campaigns in Ancient Assyria”
  • I Chronicles 11–15 (pay attention to Intro and explanatory notes!)
  • 22 Feb History in the Ancient World (cont.) M.I. Finley, “Myth, Memory, and History”
    24 Feb Assignment Due Writing: Outline exercises & essay on German Letters (Prim. Doc. Analysis)
    27 Feb Paper-Writing: the Research Question Cullen, 72–91
    1 March Medieval Historical Writing
    Assignment Due
  • Collingwood excerpt
  • Research Question/Proposal Due
  • 3 March Medieval Primary Source
  • Jordan Fantosme: pp. 1-27
  • Roger of Howden, “The Revolt of 1173–1174”
  • 6-10 March Spring Break  
    13 March Von Ranke
  • Overview and all 3 Links under “Miscellany”
  • Gilbert, “Historiography: What Ranke Meant”(find in JStor)
  • 15 March The Modern Turn Hamerow, “The Professionalization of Historical Learning”
    17 March Paper-Writing: Building your Argument
  • Cullen, 92–119
  • 20 March Marx and History
    Assignment Due
  • “Dialectical Materialism” at the Unnameable Site (Read Secs. 1-5)
  • Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 21, Chapters 1 and 2
  • Article Review Due
  • 22 March Workshop: Citations
  • Bring several of your sources to class.
  • Rampolla, 111–125
  • 24 March Workshop: Plagiarism
    Assignment Due
  • Rampolla, 103–110
  • Isaac, “Plagiarism
  • Preliminary Bibliography Due
  • 27 March Paper-Writing: Revising
  • Rampolla, 69–81
  • Cullen, 132–139
  • Isaac, “Writing Guide
  • 29 March Annales : Macrohistory & longue durée
  • Harsgor, “Total History: the Annales School”
  • Braudel Excerpt (esp. pp. 118–129)
  • 31 March Microhistory
  • Ginzburg, “Microhistory: Two or Three Things that I Know about It” (in JStor)
  • 3 Apr New Social History / Geertz
  • Levi, “On Microhistory”
  • 5 Apr Letting the Internet back in...
  • Rampolla, 23
  • Evaluating Web Pages (at UC-Berkeley)
  • Last date to confirm 2nd Book Review Choice
  • 7 Apr Assignment Due
  • Rampolla, 51–81
  • Writing: Revision of German Student Letters Papers
  • 10 Apr Other Disciplinary Toolboxes Sharpe, “History from Below”
    12 Apr Non-textual Sources
  • Ivan Gaskell, “Visual History”
  • 14 Apr Workshop: Outfoxing Search Engines
    Assignment Due
    Writing: Revision of Bibliographies (due in class)
    17 Apr History & Gender
  • Scott, “Women’s History”
  • Porter, “History of the Body Reconsidered”
  • 19 Apr Oral History
  • Prins, “Oral History”
  • 21 Apr Public History “Defining Public History”
    24 Apr Environmental History
  • Grove, “ Environmental History”
  • 28 Apr Assignment Due Historiography Paper Due by 5pm
    1 May History & Postmodernism
  • Carr, “Narrative and the Real World”
  • 5 May The Historical Future Burke, “History of Events and the Revival of Narrative”
      FINAL EXAM Per University Schedule

    Your Professor

    Dr. Steven Isaac
    Office: Ruffner 226A
    Office Phone: 395-2225
    Office Hours: 1:00 MWF

    Web Resources/Links

    This is hardly a comprehensive list below of all the available sites, but over the years I have found these folks typically to be the most helpful and consistently reliable.

  • Patrick Rael's Website at Bowdoin College