His 398 Introduction to Historical Thought and Methods The Ohio State University Description

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Instructor: Alexandre Papas

367 Dulles Hall

Day and Time: M W 10:30-12:18

Spring Quarter 2008

HIS 398

Introduction to Historical Thought and Methods
The Ohio State University


This course is designed to introduce students to cotemporary historical methodology. More particularly, it is intended to give students the intellectual tools to analyze historical sources and practice in doing so, placing great emphasis upon logic and clarity in written and oral exercises. At all times the course will emphasize and depend upon student participation. The ultimate success of the class depends upon the willingness of the students to participate actively in the discussions that will occupy most of the meetings during the quarter.

The course grade will be determined primarily by the quality of the written assignments, although 10% of the final grade will be based upon contributions that students make to class discussions. It will be virtually impossible for students to receive an A if they do not come prepared for each class and participate in class discussions. The major written assignments will be: a) four precis of chapters in Bloch’s The Historian’s Craft – 20% of grade; b) a book review – 10%; c) an analysis of a scholarly journal – 15%; and d) a bibliographical essay – 20%. There will be also be analysis of Tey’s The Daughter of Time – 5% and a quiz on both Bloch’s The Historian’s Craft and Cantor & Schneider’s How to Study History – 10% and a second quiz on readings from Davidson & Lytle’s After the Fact – 10%. A description of all those assignments is included below.

Assigned Readings:

  1. Marc Bloch, The Historian’s Craft

  2. Norman Cantor and Richard Schneider, How to Study History

  3. James Davidson and Mark Lytle, After the Fact…

  4. Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time


A 200-word Essay, four 200-word Precis, Critical Book Review, Academic Journal Analysis, Bibliographic Essay.

1. March 24

Introduction and Film: Richard the Third.

Read The Daughter of Time (entire book) and write a one page (200 words) essay stating what you believe to be the most important lessons for historical research in Tey’s book (10% of total grade), due on April 7.

2. March 26

Discussion: Film

Introduction to Bloch and the Annales School. For March 31 read Bloch, xii-xviii and Chapter 1, and Cantor & Schneider, 1-38; 106-129. Prepare a one page precis on Bloch (5% of total grade)
3. March 31

Discussion: Bloch, Chapter 1, and Cantor & Schneider. For April 2 read Bloch, Chapter 2-3, and prepare a one page precis of both chapters (10% of grade). Read Cantor and Schneider, Chapters 4-5.

4. April 2

Discussion: Bloch, Chapter 2-3, and Cantor & Schneider. For April 7 read Bloch, Chapter 4. Prepare a one page precis of Ch. 4 (5% of grade). Read Cantor & Schneider, 161-65.

5. April 7

Discussion: Bloch, Chapter 4, and Cantor & Schneider. Introduction to book review.

Essay on The Daughter of Time due.

Be prepared for Quiz on Bloch, and Cantor & Schneider on April 9.

For April 9 prepare a one page introduction to a review of Bloch’s The Historian Craft.
6. April 9

Quiz on Bloch, and Cantor & Schneider (10% of grade) and discussion on The Daughter of Time.

7. April 14

Student presentations: book reviews (10% of grade).

8. April 16

Student presentations: book reviews. For April 21 read Davidson & Lytle, Introduction and Chapter 1-2.

9. April 21

Discussion: Davidson & Lytle. Introduction to journal analyses. For April 23 read Davidson & Lytle, Chapters 3-4.

10. April 23

Discussion: journal analyses and Davidson & Lytle. Prepare journal analyses.

11. April 28

Student presentations: journal analyses (15% of grade).

12. April 30

Student presentations: journal analyses. For May 5 read Davidson & Lytle, Chapters 5-6.

13. May 5

Discussion: Davidson & Lytle, Chapters 5-6. Introduction to bibliographic essay. For May 7 read Davidson & Lytle, Chapters 7-8.

14. May 7

Discussion: bibliographic essays and Davidson & Lytle, Chapters 7-8.

Be prepared for a Quiz on Davidson & Lytle, Chapters 1-8, on May 12.
15. May 12

Quiz on Davidson & Lytle (10% of grade) and discussion on bibliographic essay.

Prepare bibliographic essay.
16. May 14

Student presentations: bibliographic essays (20% of grade).

17. May 19

Student presentations: bibliographic essays.

18. May 21

Student presentations: bibliographic essays.

19. May 28

Discussion of historical thought and methods.

Assignment 1:

After you have read Tey’s The Daughter of Time write a one page essay (200 words) on what rules or lessons for historical analysis you have derived from this book.

Assignment 2: The Precis

You will be expected to complete a precis of each of Bloch’s first four chapters. The due class are indicated in the syllabus. In each case, the precis is not to exceed one double spaced type page or 200 words. It if is handwritten it shoul be legible with large margins on both sides of the page. N.B. On the back of your precis or on a second sheet of paper list and identify any proper name mentioned in the text of that chapter.

The purpose of a precis is to summarize the author’s writing in your own words. Quotations of a sentence or more is not acceptable. However, it is quite accessible and sometimes necessary to quote one or two of the author’s terms in order to convey his meaning. It is also essential in your precis to show the logical connection between the author’s ideas. That is, if you merely string together a group of unconnected sentences, however accurate in themselves, you cannot expect more than a C grade. It is difficult to write a good precis. It cannot be done quickly.
Assignment 3: Critical Book Review

  1. The review may be of any historical or social science work relevant to the course. It is not permissible to use a work of historical fiction. Remember always to consider the identity and bias of the author when reviewing the book, i.e. What is the person’s profession, what other books has he/she written. In other words, what motives or biases might the author have in writing.

  2. The review must be critical. That is, it much discuss both the positive and negative aspects of the book. Under no circumstances may it be merely a summary of the contents. This is a book review and not a book report.

  3. If you are not well read in the subject of the book, go to the internet and look up reviews of the book and discuss these as well as your own conclusions. However, if you use such reviews you must indicate this in a brief bibliography and footnote any quotations or paraphrases.

  4. Every review should contain introduction and conclusion, and quotations must be noted with accurate page references. These can most easily done by giving the reference in a parenthesis i.e. (Bloch, 8).

4-5 pages typed and double spaced or maximum 1250 words.

Assignment 4: Academic Journal Analysis

  1. In this paper you are to discuss and analyze the contents of an academic journal. You should examine issues from an early year of the journal’s publication and those issues from a recent year. Back issues of most journals are kept bound by the year and shelved in the stacks of the main library, while more recent issues are kept in the periodical room of the library or in special collections – English, History, Middle East, Medical Library, etc.

  2. As in the case of the book review this analysis should be a critical investigation of the nature and bias of the journal. Basically you are to treat the journal as a potential source and try to give the reader as accurate and complete as possible an idea of the journal. Some of the questions that you should consider are given below, but you are not limited to these only.a) Who edits the journal? Is there a clearly stated editorial policy or other more subtle indication of the rationale that is used for choosing articles. b) What types of articles appear? Is there any discernible pattern in the type of articles i.e. social or political history; conservative or radical bias. c) Who writes the articles and reviews, if any? Is there any discernible pattern of authorship? The patern might be one of rank, speciality, academic location. If there are reviews are they critical or just notices.

  3. In this, as in all papers, it is essential to have a clearly defined introduction and conclusion. In the conclusion you may deal with any issue but you should, at the very least, consider the usefulness of the journal for the historian.

4-5 pages typed or equivalent.

Assignment 5: Bibliographic Essay

  1. This paper is to be a type of analysis in which you are to discuss and compare sources that are available for a particular topic or problem. That is, you are not to write a term paper; you are instead to evaluate and compare the raw materials that you would use if you were eventually to write such a paper. Specifically you are to describe, critique and compare five complementary sources that you would use as sources for your particular topic. Please keep in mind the following guidelines:

a) Define your topic narrowly – i.e. not the Civil War, but its origins or the Emancipation Proclamation.

b) Reread the section in Cantor & Schneider “How to Read a History Book”, and refresh your memory of the terms primary and secondary, intentional and unintentional sources. In this essay you are expected to demonstrate that you have mastered these concepts and others that have been discussed earlier in the course by using them as the tools for your analysis. This exercise is, in fact, a kind of final examination, so before writing review all of your earlier work for the course.

c) In choosing sources be sure to use both primary and secondary, and both intentional and unintentional sources. That is, choose sources that provide different kinds of information or different perspectives on the problem that you have choosen. The use of five secondary sources in not acceptable.
8-10 pages or quivalent or maximum 5000 words.

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