Syllabus Autumn 2008

History 240: The Historians Craft

TR 12:30-1:45


William Caraher

Phone: 777-6379

Office Hours: 3:30-5:00 Tuesday and by appointment

william.caraher (at)





Hello! Welcome back, and I hope you had a good summer break.  The following syllabus outlines the philosophy, procedures, and standards for this class.  Most of the course material will be posted on the class web site on Blackboard including readings, assignments, and general news and notes that will keep you up to date on the progress of the class. 


The class itself will be organized as a seminar where we will discuss common readings and our progress toward the completion of a term paper.  While the classroom setting may initially appear informal, it is actually more important in a seminar setting that we all keep up on the reading, engage it thoughtfully, and be open to a wide variety of opinions.  Weekly reading assignments in addition to a research paper will make this a busy semester! In the end though, you will have acquired a whole array of basic research skills and knowledge.


This course will reward in equal measure creativity and discipline. 


Course Goals:

The primary goal of this class is to teach you the basics of historical research.  This is a broad task with many components ranging from improving your library skills, to fine tuning your writing ability, to developing a greater sense of self-awareness as a young scholar.  At times these diverse goals will seem to run counter to one another, but we will strive as a class to demonstrate how historical research, writing, and study are fundamentally interrelated. To summarize, then, the goals of the class:


1.  To develop your research skills.

2.  To develop your ability to analyze primary and secondary sources and express your analysis and interpretation in writing.

3.  To develop a sense of self awareness as historians and recognize how your approach to historical problems fits into broader patterns and traditions of historical inquiry. 

Assignments and Grading:

       This class will have two courses.  One course will focus on the intellectual and academic traditions of the field of history.  In order to understand the ideas central to the discipline of history it will be necessary for you to complete the weekly readings and participate in classroom discussions.  This course will be assessed through a series of in-class discussions and writing assignments.  The final evaluation, however, will come in a final paper that demonstrates an awareness of history as a discipline rather than simply events which have taken place the past. 

The second course will focus on the production of a piece of original research.  This paper will require you to analyze and interpret primary sources as well as to demonstrate a familiarity with secondary literature.  The paper is expected to be well-written and to be accompanied by a professional, oral presentation.  Over the course of your progress toward this goal, it will be necessary for you to share your ideas, problems, and successes with your classmates.


20% Short Book Review

       This will be the first major assignment of the semester and will emphasize your ability to critique the thesis of a published academic work.  It will also introduce you to my grading criteria for written work. 


20% Prospectus and Thesis

       This will be the second major assignment of the semester and will involve a short summary of the thesis statement, historiography, and primary source evidence for your final paper.     


20% Short Assignments

       These assignments will generally build toward the final paper and will range from one page “reaction” papers to in-class writing to bibliographic work and peer review exercises.


40% Final Paper (10% presentation/30% paper)

The paper will be both written and presented. 

The presentations will take place over the last two weeks of the semester and be 15 minutes each.   The paper cannot run over its allotted time or it will be cut off.  You should plan to spend 5 minutes answering questions after your paper.

The text of the paper should be 10 pages in length double-spaced in Times New Roman 12 point font with 1.25 inch margins left and right and 1 inch margins on top and bottom.  In addition to the 10 pages of text, your paper should include in this order: a title page, an abstract, an outline, a proper bibliography, and proper footnotes.  The paper is due Friday, December 8th, by noon.  I cannot accept late papers.


Each of these assignments are expected to be clean, neat, grammatically correct, and well-organized.  These assignments will have a cumulative effect.  Over the course of the semester, I will expect you to learn from the assignments and develop a more refined mode of expression and avoid mistakes identified in earlier work. 

Weekly Readings:


The readings in this class will be challenging!  I do not expect you to understand every word of every reading.  (Sometimes I won’t!)  I do, however, expect you to read each assignment carefully and do your best to extract meaning from each assignment.  To do this, it is important that you do not “give up”.  The only way to improve your reading skills is to read challenging books and understand them the best you can. 


This class requires four books and recommends one:


J. Tosh with S. Land, The Pursuit of History. 4th edition.  (Harlow, U.K. 2006) = Tosh, Pursuit.

K. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.  6th ed. Chicago 1996.

W. Strunk et al., Elements of Style. 4th ed. New York 2000.

Jenny L. Presnell, The Information-Literate Historian: A Guide to Research for History Students.  Oxford 2006.


In addition to these books, there will be regular online readings.  In general, I will post these readings on the Blackboard page as Adobe PDF files.  You can then either read them on your computer screen or print them out and take them to class.  I would generally recommend that you take notes on all the readings and bring them to class for discussion.


Week 1: Introduction to History

Tuesday, August 26th


Thursday, August 28th

       Herodotus and Thucydides – available on Blackboard.

Tosh, Pursuit, Chapter 1


Week 2: Getting Started in Research

Tuesday, September 2nd 

       Tosh, Pursuit, Chapter 2


Thursday, September 4th 

Barzun and Graff, The Modern Researcher. 4. ed. San Diego 1985. 17-39

K. L Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.  6th ed.


Assignment: What is History? Why Study History (500 words)

Week 3: Basic Research

Tuesday, September 9th  

Jenny L. Presnell, The Information-Literate Historian: A Guide to Research for History Students.  Oxford 2006.

Thursday September 11th

Jenny L. Presnell, The Information-Literate Historian: A Guide to Research for History Students.  (Oxford 2006), 136-159.


K. Schrum, “Surfing for the Past: How to Separate the Good from the Bad”

Roy Rosenzweig, "Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era"

David A. Bell, "The Bookless Future: What the Internet is Doing to Scholarship"


Assignment: Starter Bibliography: 3 Monographs and 3 Articles.


Week 4: Primary Sources

Tuesday, September 16th Meet at Archives

Tosh, Pursuit, Chapter 3.

Thursday, September 18th Meet at Archives

Tosh, Pursuit, Chapter 4.


Week 5: The Historical Method

Tuesday, September 23rd

W. V. Harris, “On War and Greed in the 2nd C. BC,” American Historical Review 76 (1971), 1371-1385.

R. MacMullen, “Social Mobility and the Theodosian Code,” Journal of Roman Studies 54 (1964), 49-53.

Thursday, September 25th

W. Strunk et al., Elements of Style. 4th ed. New York 2000.


Assignment: Short Book Review (3-5 Pages)


Week 6 The Historical Method

Tuesday, September 30th

Tosh, Pursuit, Chapter 5 and 7.

Thursday, October 2nd

Historiography Monograph Review

J. L. Gaddis, The Landscape of History.  Oxford 2002.

E. H. Carr, What is History? (London 1961)

B. Southgate, History: What and Why? (London 2004)


Assignment: Annotated Bibliography


Week 7 The Style of History

Tuesday, October 7th 

       Tosh, Pursuit, Chapter 6

Thursday, October 9th 

       Midterm Report on Papers


Assignment: Prospectus and Thesis (3-5 pages)


Week 8 Scale and Scope of History

Tuesday, October 14th 

       Tosh, Pursuits, Chapter 8

E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class.  New York 1963.  Introduction.

Thursday, October 16th

C. Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms. Trans. By J. Tedeschi.  Baltimore 1980. introduction.

P. Horden and N. Purcell, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History.  Oxford 2000. 26-49.


Assignment: Outline


Week 9 Contested Histories

Tuesday, October 21st

E. Said, Orientalism. New York 1978. 1-27.

T. Mathews, The Clash of Gods. rev. ed. Princeton 1999. 3-22.

Thursday, October 23rd

       Writing the First Draft


Week 10 Material Culture and History

Tuesday, October 28th

K. Verdery, “The restless bones of Bishop Inochentie Micu” in The Political Lives of Dead Bodies. New York 1999.

E. F. Athanassopoulos, “Historical Archaeology of Mediterranean Landscapes,” from Mediterranean Archaeological Landscapes: Current Issues.  Ed. by E. Athanassopoulos and L. Wandsnider. Philadelphia 2004. 81-98.

Thursday, October 30th : Writing Day


Assignment: First Draft Due


Week 11 The Profession of History

Tuesday, November 4th

Read from

Andrew Dickson White, “On Studies of General History and the History of Civilization” (1884)

Charles K. Adams, “Recent Historical Work in the Colleges and Universities of Europe and America.” (1889)

Arthur S. Link, “The American Historical Association, 1884-1984: Retrospect and Prospect” (1984)

William E. Leuchtenburg, “The Historian and the Public Realm” (1991)

Thursday, November 6th

P. Novick, That Noble Dream: the "objectivity question" and the American historical profession. Cambridge 1998. chapter 2.

Week 12 History in the Public Eye

Tuesday, November 11th: Veterans’ Day

Thursday, November 13th: Teaching History

Various Authors, “Textbooks and Teaching” JAH 78 (1992), 1337-1400.

G. Kornblith and C. Lasser, “Teaching the American History Survey at the Opening of the Twenty-First Century: A Round Table Discussion” JAH 87 (2001), 1409-1440.


Week 13: History and Professional Responsibility

Tuesday, November 18th Public History

E. Foner, “Ken Burns and the Romance of Reunion” in Who Owns History? New York 2002. 189-204.

T. Cripps, “Historical Truth: An Interview with Ken Burns,” American Historical Review 100 (1995), 741-764.

Thursday, November 20th 

Various authors, “What We See and Can't See in the Past,” Journal of American History 83 (1997), 1217-1281.


Week 14: Peer Reviews

Tuesday, November 25th

       Peer Reviews

Thursday, November 27th: Thanksgiving


Assignment: Second Drafts due on Tuesday; Peer reviews due on Thursday.


Week 15

Tuesday, December 2nd: Presentations

Thursday, December 4th: Presentations


Week 16

Tuesday, December 9th: Presentations

Thursday December 11th: Presentations