601 Syllabus: Fall 2010
Thomas Humphrey
TTH: 6:00 to 7:40
Fall 2010


Course Description: This is a course on historical methods. We will work from a basic understanding that all historical methods depend on an historical approach. All historians derive their research strategies, their goals, their subjects, and their conclusions from a framework whether they acknowledge their perspective openly or not. We will look at the development of history as a discipline in the United States, and we will examine it as an academic discipline. From there, we will examine the various schools and approaches to history through the present. We will also pay particular attention to how history shapes cultural traditions and influences a sense of heritage in various arenas including schools, museums, and popular media. The underlying theme of the course is that historians approach their subjects self-consciously, questioning their approach and methods. Not all historians, however, question either their theoretical framework or their political orientation.

We will investigate these issues by reading a combination of theoretical pieces and historical essays that put those theories into practice. The material you will read will cover a spectrum of historical analysis but will focus somewhat more heavily on American and Western European History becuase I know the literature for those fields better than for other fields. While the content of the history is important, in this class, it takes a back seat to how historians frame their arguments, what questions they ask, and what theories or schools of thought they invoke to shape their interpretations. For the purposes of this class, I am far less interested in whether or not students agree with a particular school of historians or with any specific historian. All of the people you will read have succeeded at their craft, and all are quite accomplished. All are good historians. I am far more interested in students' ability to outline arguments, and in students' ability to distinguish one argument from another. These abilities are the critical skills we will hone during the semester.

To do so, students need to attend class. Students' success in class will depend on attendance and participation. Although there is no attendance policy, I expect graduate students to attend class except in extreme circumstances. And I expect students to come to class prepared to discuss the material.


1. Each week students will write a 350 to 500 word (1 to 2 pages) synopsis/review of the required readings. Students should focus on the arguments. These reviews are due each Tuesday for the coming week, except when there is no class on Tuesday in which case they will be due on Thursday. In other words, your reviews are due before we start discussing the material on Tuesday. Each is worth 10 points.

2. Each student will also read an additional five books, approved by the professor, that fit with one of the categories outlined in the course. This will give the students a deeper understanding of the historiography of one topic. Students will incorporate the arguments made in these books into their final papers.

3. Final papers: 15 to 20 page historiographic essay in which students fit the five books, and other materials read for class, in their proper theoretical framework, and unpack how the authors they read utilized theory, and how theory shaped the work they read. We will discuss this throughout the course.

A. Green and K. Troup, eds., The Houses of History.
Gary Nash, History on Trial.
Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.
Douglas Egerton, Death or Liberty.
Joseph Ellis, American Sphinx.
Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic.
Joseph Moreau, Schoolbook Nation.
Gary Nash, The Unknown American Revolution.
Simon Newman, Parades and Politics of the Street.
Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh, The Many-Headed Hydra.

Alan Taylor, The Divided Ground.

Alfred F. Young, The Shoemaker and the Tea Party.


Nash, History on Trial, ch. 1.


WEEK 2: Whose History is it? The Great Awakening as a Test Case.

WEEK 3: Politics Abounds!

WEEK 4: Political History for the Ages: A Contemporary Example.

á          Green and Troup, ch. 1.

á          Joseph Ellis, American Sphinx.


WEEK 5: The Profession Disagrees with Itself.


WEEK 6: History from the Bottom.


WEEK 7: The Long Duration.

á          Green and Troup, chs. 4, 5.

á          Rediker and Linebaugh, The Many-Headed Hydra.


WEEK 8: Quantitative Analysis, or Social History.


WEEK 9: Race and Revolution.


WEEK 10: Ethnicity and Revolution.

á          Green and Troup, ch. 7.


WEEK 11: Gender and Revolution.


WEEK 12: Neo-Progressives.

á          Nash, The Unknown American Revolution.


WEEK 13: Post-modernism and Revolution.


WEEK 14: The Meaning of History

á          Nash, History on Trial, all. Be prepared to discuss the entire book.

á          Moreau, Schoolbook Nation.


WEEK 15: Review