21H.931 | Spring 2002 | Undergraduate

Seminar in Historical Methods


1 Introduction - The Meanings of History    
2 Words, The Building Blocks

Williams, Raymond. Keywords. Introduction (26 pp.) and 15 entries (especially recommended: history, culture, art, industry, democracy, civilization, class, educated, work).

Hunt, Lynn. “The Rhetoric of Revolution.” In Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution, pp. 19-51.

Fraser, Nancy, and Linda Gordon. “A Genealogy of Dependency: Tracing a Keyword of the U.S. Welfare State.” Signs 19 (2): (1994).

Thinking and writing assignment: What pattern can you see in the words Williams has chosen to analyze? What order would you recommend that they be read in if not alphabetical? Can you think of meanings and usages that he has not addressed? Is there anything historical about your experience of these words in the early 21st century?

Go to the web site of the Oxford English Dictionary (http://dictionary.oed.com/entrance.dtl) and investigate one or more words of your own choosing. Can you think of words that do not appear in the OED because they are too modern? Can you think of words whose meanings have changed in your lifetime? Can you think of words that have had particular currency this fall with all the international developments? Have any of their meanings changed? Alternatively, are there words from a particular historical period you are interested in that you would want to comment on?

3 The Historian’s Voice

White, Hayden. “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality.” In The Content of the Form. Pp. 1-25.

Fitzpatrick, Sheila. “The October Revolution of 1917 in Russia.” Excerpts from The Russian Revolution. Pp. 40-67.

Trotsky, Leon. The Russian Revolution. Pp. 304-335.

Brower, Daniel, ed. The Russian Revolution. Pp. 40-48, 57-81. (Selections by John Keep, “Revolution in the Factories”; Marc Ferro, “Citizen-Soldiers in the Revolutionary Struggle”; I. I. Mints, “Lenin’s Revolutionary Leadership”; Robert Daniels, “The Unpredictable Revolution”)

Pipes, Richard. Three Why’s of the Russian Revolution. Pp. 31-62 [t=146].

Thinking and writing: Think about the different narratives that these historians have created about the Russian revolutions of 1917, keeping in mind that these are only excerpts and do not necessarily reveal all their evidence and/or thinking. What are their arguments? What are their sources? What do think is the relationship between their evidence and their arguments? Can you hypothesize which is the driving force in each case: the evidence or the arguments or a combination of the two? What can you say about their styles and the ways they narrate their accounts?
4 Interrogating Evidence

Ginzburg, Carlo. “The Inquisitor as Anthropologist.” 
“Witchcraft and Popular Piety: Notes on a Modenese Trial of 1519.” In Clues, Myths, and The Historical Method. Baltimore, 1992, pp. 
1-16, 156-164.

Davis, Natalie Zemon. Fiction in the Archives. Pp. 1-114, 141-42 [t=140].

Thinking and writing: In these two works Ginzburg and Davis consider the particular problem of evidence extracted in “trials.” Why do you think they have focused on these problems? What do you think of their arguments? What are their methods? How do they analyze their evidence?
5 Evidence From The Physical World Cronon, William. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England. Pp. vii-x, 3-156.

Thinking and writing: How does Cronon’s evidence impact his argument? What kinds of written and non-written evidence does he use? What difference does the type of evidence make?

Also due: A one-page preliminary research proposal. What kinds of sources do you plan to use? What kinds of questions do you think you’ll ask? Do you have any working hypotheses as to what you may or may not find?

6 Voice and Historical Subject Demos, John. Unredeemed Captive. Preface, pp. 3-198, 237-41. Thinking and writing: John Demos writes extensively about his methods in trying to recapture the voices and experiences of his historical subjects. What do you think he is trying to say? How would you characterize his methods? How well do his methods work?
7 Oral History Appy, Christian. Working-Class War. Pp. 1-85, 117-44, 206-49, 298-321.

Thinking questions: How does Appy gather his evidence? What does he consider authoritative evidence? How does he convey his subjects’ voices? How does the “authority” of their experience influence us as readers? Compare and contrast Demos and Appy. What aspects of their subjects’s voices are fairly easy to recover? What kinds of creative moves do you see them having to make?

Written assignment: list of sources due. You are to bring in a complete or nearly complete list of primary sources that you intend to use for your paper (and where you have found them).

8 Macro-Historical Structures Thompson, E. P. The Making of the English Working Class. Pp. 9-13 (Preface), 17-76, 102-85, 269-314 (“The Weavers”), 711-46.

Thinking questions: What is E. P. Thompson’s principal question and what kinds of evidence does he bring to bear? Who is he arguing against? Of all the different kinds of evidence he brings to bear, what do you find the most compelling?

Written assignment (2-3 pp.): Discuss your sources in detail and the argument that you think you will make in your longer paper. You can write this paper in an informal style if you like. Imagine that you are conversing with a favorite relative or friend. Tell them the pros and cons of the evidence you have and what you’d like to do with it. If you are finding that you are short on a particular kind of evidence, discuss what you wish you could know and how it might be possible to find it.

9 Drama in History (Guest Speaker: Jeff Ravel)

Maza, Sara. Private Lives and Public Affairs. Pp. 1-17, 167-211 (“Diamond Necklace Affair”) [60] [t=122]

Darnton, Robert. “The Great Cat Massacre.” Pp. 76-104 [28].

Mah, Harold. “Suppressing the Text: The Metaphysics of Ethnographic History in Darnton’s Great Cat Massacre.” History Workshop 31 (Spring 1991): 1-20 [20].

Chartier, Roger. “Text, Symbols, and Frenchness.” Journal of Modern History 57 (1985): 682-95 [13].

LeCapra, Dominick. “Chartier, Darnton, and The Great Symbol Massacre.” Journal of Modern History 60 (1988): 95-112 [17].

Thinking and writing: Historians sometimes have huge debates over what they call “theory” and what they call “method.” To what extent do you think the two can be separated? How does reading the criticisms of Darnton affect your understanding of what Maza is doing?
10 Comparative History Kolchin, Peter. Unfree Labor. Pp. ix-xiii, 1-102. Plus one further chapter (to be divided among the class). Thinking and writing: Consider carefully the evidence that Kolchin uses in his comparison of American slavery and Russian serfdom. What examples work most effectively to draw comparisons and contrasts between the two systems? Do you find his arguments compelling? In what ways (if any) does his use of comparative history sharpen his work? In what ways (if any) does it make the work more difficult or less compelling?
11 “Truth” and “Falsehood” - Narratives and Counter-narratives

Wood, Elizabeth A. “The Trial of Lenin: Legitimating the Revolution Through Political Theater, 1920-1923.” Russian Review (April 2002): 1-15.

Tucker, Robert C. “Stalin, Bukharin, and History as Conspiracy.” In The Great Purge Trial. Edited by Tucker. New York, 1965, pp. ix-xlviii

Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. 1990, pp. 341-98.

Cohen, Stephen F. Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution. Pp. 372-81 [t=120].

Thinking and writing: The “show trials” of the 1920s and ’30s raise important question of truth and falsehood in one’s sources. How do you evaluate the “truth” and “falsehood” of Soviet claims concerning these events?
12 Class Presentations   Written assignment: Your research papers are due in fully documented form on this date. No late papers will be accepted without valid excuse. You will also give a 15-minute presentation so everyone can hear each other’s work.
13 Memory and History, Part I Trouillot, Michel-Rolph. Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History. Beacon Press, 1995, entire. Thinking and writing: Trouillot is making some pretty strong arguments about the nature of history and how it is written. How do they sound now that you have a read a number of different historians who are using different kinds of evidence and writing different kinds of history? (You may want to use specific examples from various readings you have done this semester.)
14 Memory, Part II    

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2002
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments