Readings in American Historiography
Office: 722 Administration Bldg.
Office Hours: Wednesday, 2:30pm-3:30pm, 6:00pm-7:00pm and Friday by appointment
NOTE: It is always best to email before you plan to come to office hours so that I can block out time for you. (I typically schedule meetings with students and advisees during office hours, so it's best to contact me before you plan to arrive to make certain I'm available).
Course Webpage: http://research.umbc.edu/~bouton/HIST702/HIST702.13.htm
Course Meeting Place: Admin 711 (The large seminar room in the History Department)
Campus Map: http://www.umbc.edu/aboutumbc/campusmap/map_flash.html
Course Meeting Time: Wednesday 7:10pm-9:40pm
This is a demanding course that provides a window into American historiography. Since we can only scratch the surface of the existing scholarship, my objective is to expose you to numerous historical approaches over a variety of subjects and time periods. The goal is not to master a particular topic. Rather, it is to understand the questions that different kinds of historians ask and the diverse methodologies they use to get at their subjects. The readings cover a mix of older and newer scholarship, with a particular emphasis on more recent works. That focus will allow us to hone in on the topics, themes, and questions that have occupied the last several generations of historians as we get a sense of the current state of the profession. Consequently, we’ll pay particular attention to developments over the last thirty years such as: the emergence of social history and its explosion into myriad sub-fields; the rise of what has been called the cultural and literary turn; and the rise of history from the “bottom up” and its new focus on the “agency” of ordinary Americans in shaping historical events.
with the main readings, each week several students will give reports on the
specific historiographies touched upon by that week’s book. The reports will
discuss the current state of the field and how scholarship on a particular
field or topic has changed over time. They will help students track trends like
the emergence of environmental history or the scholarship focusing on concepts
such as masculinity or “whiteness.” The reports will assist in understanding
what is new about the “new Indian history,” or the “new political history,” or
the “new labor history.” And they will reveal the tensions and tradeoffs of
attempts to redefine a category like “women’s history” as “gender history.”
Your grade in the course will depend on diligent reading, active participation in class discussion, and strong writing in the form of weekly essays, two historiography reviews, and a final reflective essay.
The break down for grading is as follows:
Weekly Short Essays:
120 points (12 essays, 10 points each)
50 points (2 Reviews, 25 points each)
Final Reflective Essay:
At the end of the semester:
225-250 points will be an A
points will be a B
175-199 points will be a C
150-174 points will be a D
Lower than 150 points will be an F
NOTE: I will NOT give incompletes because students fall behind on work. I will only give incompletes in the most extreme of emergencies and for short term reasons (if it is a long-term issue, you can withdraw from the course). VERY FEW situations qualify. If you do not complete coursework on time or fail to submit assignments by the end of the course, you will suffer the penalties, including possibly failing the course.
The reading load is heavy: a book a week with an average page length of about 350 pages. You will be expected to have given each book a quality read (not just the first and last chapters and a skim of chapter introductions and conclusions). I expect you to provide specific examples from the interior text to support whatever point you’re trying to make both in the classroom and your written work.
Class Participation (60 points):
The success of this class will require active participation by every student. Effective participation starts with preparation: reading the books, understanding them, and thinking through the issues they raise—before you step into the classroom. Participation also means engaging in the class discussion. This doesn’t mean answering one question and sitting quietly for the rest of class. It means participating throughout the evening and speaking up when you have something to add to the discussion. I understand that some people are shy and feel awkward participating. But you are going to need to work through your reticence and speak up if you want a good participation grade. I can’t read minds and won’t be able to give you credit for ideas you have while sitting in class if you don’t share them with the group.
To help start discussion and move it along, I’ll appoint several weekly discussion leaders, who will devise questions to spur conversation and debate. Everyone will serve as a discussion leader twice. I’ll pass around a signup sheet on the first night of class. You must sign up to lead discussion on different days from the ones on which you’ll be giving your historiography reviews.
Finally, it should go without saying, participation means attendance. We only meet once a week, which means ever class period is critical. If you miss classes, your participation grade will suffer. If you’re not in class, you cannot participate and you will receive a zero as participation for that day. Start accumulating zeros and watch your grade plummet.
Weekly Short Essays (120 points (12 essays, each worth 10 points)):
are thirteen books for the course, so that means thirteen essays. Each essay
will be graded on a ten-point scale. At the end of the semester, I will drop the
lowest essay grade.
Each posting is a short analytical essay (about 3 pages) that you will submit to the Blackboard discussion board. The essays analyze each week’s book as an example of a particular kind of history. I don’t want a “book report” where you parrot back the author’s main points and repeat the book’s narrative. Your job is NOT to describe the book. Instead you are ANALYZING it. You will be writing a critical essay that assesses the book as an example of a particular type of history. I’ll provide a specific set of questions for each book to help guide your essays. Nevertheless, the format will remain largely the same. Each week your objective is to focus on: 1) the general approach to the subject (How did the author frame their topic? What kinds of questions did they ask? What perspective did they take? What historical debates were they engaging with? What arguments or theories were they advocating?); and 2) their methodology (How did the author try to get at the topic? What kinds of sources did they use? How did they employ those sources?). In the methodology section, I’d like you to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the book’s arguments and evidence. You should end each essay with an assessment of the book’s overall approach.
For both approach and methodology, you should provide specific examples and quotations from the book. While you may get most of your examples and quotes for part 1 (the approach) from the introduction and conclusion of a book, I expect your analysis of part 2 (the methodology) to include examples and quotes from throughout the book’s interior chapters. If you do not include specific examples and quotations (with page numbers included), I will assume that you didn’t read the book and relied instead on published book reviews and will grade you accordingly.
Note: As far as citations go, for the weekly discussion essays, where every citation will be from the same book, you can simply use parenthetical citations, putting the page number in parenthesis at the end of the sentence where you reference the example or quotation.
To receive full credit, you must make each posting by 5:00pm on the Wednesday
on which we have class. If you do not finish your posting by class time
(7:10pm), do not cut class to submit a postings; simply submit it after
class. I will deduct DOUBLE the number of late points for any posting
submitted during the time that the class meets (all your submissions to
Blackboard are date and time stamped, so I will know when you wrote and submitted
IMPORTANT: I require everyone to save a personal copy of all of their course submissions on their home computer, thumb drive, cd, or whatever storage device they choose.
IMPORTANT: Blackboard is occasionally buggy. I HIGHLY suggest that you type out your response with a word processing program and then cut and paste it into Blackboard rather than the other way around. If you have a problem with Blackboard, it is your responsibility to ensure that I receive a copy of your posting by the deadline. DO NOT automatically email me a copy of every posting. ONLY email postings in the event of a Blackboard emergency.
During the semester, each student will write two historiography reviews (7-9 pages) that they will submit to the Blackboard discussion board. The objective of these essays is to put each week’s book within its wider historiographic context. This means placing that book within the history of its sub-field and its debates, theoretical innovations, generational pre-occupations, and changing methodologies. Most books touch upon numerous themes and sub-fields. And many of the fields (like early American slavery, for example) have long and complex historiographies that are difficult to capture in a short review. Thus we’ll find ways to break down the fields and assign different parts of the reviews to different students to expand and deepen our coverage. Your job is to give your fellow students the background they need to understand the larger fields into which we can fit the week’s reading and to see where that book is situated in the historiographies it addresses. For example, Pekka Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire is an example of the “new Indian history” as well as the history of the Spanish borderlands. Consequently, one of the essays for that week would explore the “old Indian history” and compare it to the “new,” another would trace the emergence of the Spanish borderlands as a field and inform of us the outlines of the field, it’s main issues and debates, and help us understand where Hamalainen’s book fits. Likewise, on the week we read the essays in Ray Raphael, et al. eds., Revolutionary Founders, we’ll explore the various historiographies into which the book fits. Hence, one essay will focus on the book as an example of the “new political history.” Someone else will look at the Raphael book as an example of “bottom up” history of the Revolution and try to place his book within that historiography. Someone else will examine the tensions and debates between those who engage in “top down” founding father centered histories of the Revolution and those who explore it from the “bottom up” through the lives of ordinary folk.
Whatever your particular focus, your job is to track down historiographic articles, critical literature reviews, roundtables, reflective “think pieces,” and state of the field essays to use as the basis of your review. These are often difficult to find. In fact, the difficulty is a large part of the value of this assignment. Figuring out how to get your hands on scholarship that addresses historiography will help you in other graduate classes and prove to be a crucial skill as you try to find a thesis topic and write your thesis. To do this assignment, you’ll have to be something of a detective. You’ll have to hunt through a variety of sources: articles in academic journals, extended reviews (and roundtables) of major works in the field, introductions for essay collections, the introductions of recent books in the field. You’ll have to be creative with database search engines and the web (for example, you’ll have luck with resources like the online H-Net Discussion boards and academic websites like Common-Place (for early American history topics) as well as online college syllabi, which often include such essays as reading assignments).
The objective of your essay (and the report you will give to the class) is to reveal the larger history of the field(s) from which that week’s book emerged. Your analysis should be focused on helping us place the book in context. You should pay particular attention to the question of origins of the field and major shifts in the historiography in terms of approaches, questions, and methodologies. While you should identify some of the major works, don’t turn the essay into a list of books and historians. There is a tendency in these kinds of essays to make each paragraph a description of a particular (and sometimes random) book in the field. That’s not what I want. While it’s fine to cite some of the key works or players in the field, I don’t want the essays to become a description of a bunch of individual books. Your focus is on the BIG PICTURE: the origins of the field, the big questions asked by people in that field, the major debates among historians in that area, the major shifts in the field over time, and/or the current state of the field. Individual works play into this, but they do so as EXAMPLES of the larger TRENDS in the field. It’s your job reveal those trends.
Your essay should include footnoted citations and a bibliography of the sources that you used, including links to any online material (including journal articles). Please put footnotes and bibliography in Chicago style format. If you don't already have a copy of Kate A. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Seventh Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, you should pick one up soon. It will be invaluable for your theses. In the meantime, you can follow the citation guidelines on the History Department webpage which provide a brief version of Chicago style. Here's a link:
Each student will also report back to the class about their historiography reviews. These reports will be short (5 minutes) and informal and will take the form of a question and answer between me, the class, and the person who conducted the review. Your reports should not recount all of the ground you covered in your paper. Rather, you should just touch on the big picture highlights—the headline-worthy news that you discovered in your search.
Final Reflective Essay:
This is an opened-ended 5-7 page essay for which the main requirement is summarizing some of the conclusions you’ve drawn about American historiography in a way that references the books we’ve read as well as the historiography reviews. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how to frame your response. Here are some questions that may help: Have you noticed some larger trend(s) within the historiography that we touched upon but didn’t really discuss? Was there a discussion that you want to add to? Was there a theme(s) that we addressed several different times that you’d like to single out for analysis? How has this course changed your ideas of history? What kinds of history (trends in the historiography) have you found most and/or least compelling and why? Were there areas where you saw (or discovered from your historiography reviews) questions that remained unasked (perhaps a question or topic you might make the focus your masters thesis)? Has the profession focused too much on certain kinds of questions and topics to the exclusion of others?
More specifically, students might want to discuss the question of agency: How effective have historians been in focusing on the agency of ordinary historical actors? Have they given too much agency to Indians, slaves, women, workers, yeomen farmers, etc.? Has the focus on agency obscured the constraints under which people lived? What is gained and lost by the “bottom up” approach? Alternately, students may want to assess the cultural and literary turn: What are the possibilities and limits of the kinds of questions and methodologies used by these historians? How useful are they in understanding the past? Are the concepts too abstract or fungible? Is the methodology too limited in focusing on a handful of literary sources? Or is it too much like cherry picking evidence that fits a preconceived thesis? Whatever the focus, the idea is not simply to blithely praise or slam a field. Instead, your job is to note the strengths and weaknesses of some larger trends and to try to understand the possibilities and limits of particular ways of doing a particular kind of history. And whatever your view, you need to dramatize and support your case with SPECIFIC EXAMPLES from throughout the semester.
All of these books are (or will be) available at the campus bookstore.
I have also put a copy of each book on 3-day reserve at the library.
IMPORTANT: The campus bookstore usually
only keeps books in stock for the first half of the semester. Consequently, you
need to purchase your books early in the semester and, preferably, at the start
of the course. I will not accept “the
bookstore ran out” as an excuse for missed reading assignments.
Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North
America (Paperback), Belknap Press, ISBN-13: 978-0674002111
Ray Raphael (Author), Alfred F. Young (Editor), Gary Nash (Editor), Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, and Reformers in the Making of the Nation (Vintage) [Paperback] ISBN-10: 0307455998 | ISBN-13: 978-0307455994
Seth Rockman, Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore (Studies in Early American Economy and Society from the Library Company of Philadelphia), (Paperback), Johns Hopkins, ISBN-13: 978-0801890079
Pekka Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire (The Lamar Series in Western History), (Paperback), Yale University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0300151176
Megan Kate Nelson, Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Uncivil Wars) [Paperback], University of Georgia Press, ISBN-13: 978-0820342511
David R. Roediger, Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs, Basic Books, ISBN-13: 978-0465070749
Elliott J. Gorn, Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One, (Hardback), Oxford University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0195304831
Marguerite Shaffer, See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1880-1940, [Paperback], Smithsonian Institution Press, ISBN-13: 978-1560989769
Laura A Belmonte, Selling the American Way: U.S. Propaganda and the Cold War [Paperback], University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN-13: 978-0812221190
Danielle L. McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (Vintage) [Paperback] ISBN-13: 978-0307389244
Julian E. Zelizer, Taxing America: Wilbur D. Mills, Congress, and the State, 1945-1975 [Bargain Price] [Paperback], Cambridge University Press, ISBN-10: 0521795443
Harry S. Jaffe and Tom Sherwood, Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline of Washington, D.C., Simon & Schuster [I WILL DISTRIBUTE PDFs OF THIS BOOK]
Adam Rome, The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism (Studies in Environment and History), Cambridge University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0521804905
Blackboard: This course relies heavily on Blackboard online software. Students enrolled in this course must have an active email account and access to the internet. Through Blackboard, you will have online access to course materials 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. ALL of the assignments will be submitted online at the Blackboard course website. As a UMBC student, you have a personal email account and access to the internet and through the many on-campus (locations, hours, etc.). You can also access Blackboard off campus through a personal account or from the UMBC dial-up.
Getting started on Blackboard: Your registration with the UMBC Registrar for HIST 702 will make you eligible to enroll in Blackboard. To gain entrance to discussion boards and course material, you MUST enroll in the online version of HIST 702 on the course Blackboard site to have full access. BEFORE you do anything else, enroll in the course online at: http://blackboard.umbc.edu.
I will send all email messages to your UMBC email account (email@example.com). If you do not usually check this account, have messages forwarded to your preferred email address (such as aol, hotmail, etc.). There are several ways to have your email forwarded. The best way is to use the forwarding function in myUMBC, this will ensure that users receive ALL UMBC related email—not just email sent from within Blackboard. Here's how to do it: After logging into myUMBC, move the cursor over your name and, when the drop down menu appears, click on “Profile.” When you do, one of the options will be “Create a Mail Forwarding Address.” For help with this procedure, or if you have other questions about email, contact UMBC's Office of Information Technology services or visit the OIT helpsite at . Helpdesk personnel in the on-campus computer labs can usually answer most questions. The helpdesk phone number is 410-455-3838.
I expect students enrolled in this course to abide by the UMBC Code of Student Conduct for Academic Integrity (http://www.umbc.edu/sjp/articles/articleALL.html). If you are unclear about what plagiarism is, take a look at the Indiana University website: Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Recognize and Avoid It (http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/plagiarism.shtml).
By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC's scholarly community in which everyone's academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong. Academic misconduct could result in disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited to, suspension or dismissal. To read the full Student Academic Conduct Policy, consult the UMBC Student Handbook, the Faculty Handbook, or the UMBC Policies section of the UMBC Directory.
To ensure authenticity, I will
also periodically submit the submissions of each and every student to
turnitin.com, a resource that allows me to compare student work against
everything on the internet as well as resources in the turnitin.com database.
This is a powerful resource that will undoubtedly catch you if you plagiarize
some or all of an assignment.
I show no mercy toward cheaters. If you are caught cheating on any assignment, you will receive a zero for that grade and I will submit your name to the proper disciplinary authority. Rest assured that I will do all I can to see that those disciplinary bodies take the strongest possible action against anyone who cheats. At the very least, you will probably fail the course. Egregious cases of plagiarism will result in dismissal from UMBC. Potential cheaters: you have been warned.
Class Schedule with Reading Assignments:
Jan. 30: Introduction: Administrative issues and an introduction to some of the larger themes we’ll be tracking this semester.
Feb. 6: Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America
Question: Many Thousands Gone is a synthesis of the last 20 years of new research on colonial slavery. Based on the emphasis Berlin has placed on certain topics, what subjects have recent scholars of slavery tended to stress and how have they approached those topics? Did you notice aspects of slavery that received less attention or were excluded? What generalizations can you make about this generation of scholars of colonial American slavery?
Historiography Reviews: 1) Colonial slavery as a distinct field of study within the study of American slavery (when did it develop as a field? How is it different?); 2) Debates over the nature of the slave/master relationship (models of slavery); 3) comparative colonial slavery (British North America, the Caribbean, South America, Africa) (How does the study of colonial American slavery fit into the broader contours of “new world” slavery?)
Feb. 13: Ray Raphael, et al. eds., Revolutionary Founders: Rebels, Radicals, and Reformers in the Making of the Nation
Question: The essays in this book are examples of "history from the bottom up" interpretations of the American Revolution that examines how ordinary people factored into the founding drama. This book also represents the “new political history” in that it examines politics outside of elections and legislative halls. This new way of thinking about politics was pioneered by scholars studying people typically shut out of the formal political system and explores how they nonetheless had ideologies, expressed political views, and engaged in activism to obtain power and bring change. What are the benefits and shortcomings of his approach and methodology to studying the American Revolution and politics?
Historiography Reviews: 1) The rise of “bottom up” histories of the Revolution; 2) the tensions between “top down” and “bottom up” histories of the Revolution; 3) old vs. new political history
Feb. 20: Seth Rockman, Scraping By: Wage Labor, Slavery, and Survival in Early Baltimore
Question: Scraping By is an example of what has been called the "new labor history." It is also an attempt to use the methodology and approach of the new labor history to examine the old debates over the "class consciousness" of American workers and the question of who benefited and lost from capitalism in the early 19th century. Assess Rockman's approach and methodology as an example of the new labor history?
Historiography Reviews: 1) The “old labor history” vs. the “new labor history”; 2) class and the winners/losers of capitalism (or the “market revolution”) in the early 19th century; 3) middle class reformers and welfare in the early 19th century; 4) Debates over the relationship between slavery and capitalism
Feb. 27: Pekka Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire
Question: The Comanche Empire is an example of the “new Indian history.” Based on your reading of The Comanche Empire, what is the "new Indian history"? What are its strengths and weaknesses in terms of approach and methodology? How effective is this book as an example?
Historiography Reviews: 1) The “old” vs. “new” Indian history; 2) varieties of the “new” Indian history (across time and place); 3) Spanish Borderlands; 4) the “new western history”
Mar. 6: Megan Kate Nelson, Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War
Question: Ruin Nation is an example of cultural history in that it tries to understand a society by examining how it dealt with an abstract concept like “ruin.” Use Nelson’s books to assess the strengths and weaknesses of using an analytical category like ruin as a prism to study the Civil War. Reflect as well on the methodology she uses to explore ruin and its cultural relevance.
Historiography Reviews: 1) The rise of cultural history (the history of culture); 2) how the study of the Civil War has changed over time; 3) the study of death
Mar. 13: David R. Roediger, Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs
Question: Working Toward Whiteness uses race and, in particular, the category of “whiteness” to reinterpret US immigration history. How does Roediger demonstrate his arguments about whiteness? What are the strengths and weakness of using whiteness to explain the experiences of eastern European immigrants in America?
Historiography Reviews: 1) Immigration history; 2) “Whiteness Studies”; 3) the social construction of race
Mar. 20: SPRING BREAK
Mar. 27: Elliott J. Gorn, Dillinger's Wild Ride: The Year That Made America's Public Enemy Number One
Question: Dillinger's Wild Ride can be read both as a biography of Dillinger and an attempt to explore the public views and memories of a particular historical character and event. Assess Gorn's book as an example of both biography and a study of public memory in terms of the strengths and weaknesses of those historical approaches and methodologies.
Historiography Reviews: 1) biography as history; 2) Mass Culture/Popular Culture of the 1930s; 3) history and public memory
Apr. 3: Marguerite Shaffer, See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1880-1940
Question: See America First uses tourism as a lens to examine changing conceptions of national identity and the role that different actors, including the government and corporations, played in shaping those identities. How does Shaffer use tourism to get at questions of national identity? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach in understanding national identity?
Historiography Reviews: 1) the study of tourism; 2) the study of nationalism; 3) history of consumerism
Apr. 10: Laura A Belmonte, Selling the American Way: U.S. Propaganda and the Cold War
Question: Selling the American Way is newer variety of the history of foreign relations that uses a cultural history—in this case propaganda—to examine American diplomacy in a way that expands the field of vision beyond the range of subjects that traditionally fall under the realm of “diplomatic history.” What are the benefits and limitations of this kind of approach to studying foreign relations?
Historiography Reviews: 1) diplomatic/foreign relations history; 2) new trends in the history of foreign relations; 3) history or propaganda
17: Danielle L. McGuire, At the Dark
End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the
Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power
Question: At the Dark End of the Street uses women and gender as a lens through which to reexamine the Civil Rights Movement. What does this add to our vision of the Civil Rights Movement? What are its limitations?
Historiography Reviews: 1) women’s history; 2) African American women’s history; 3) gender history; 4) the Civil Rights Movement
Apr. 24: Julian E. Zelizer, Taxing America: Wilbur D. Mills, Congress, and the State, 1945-1975
Question: Taxing America is a top-down political and policy history (the study of various government policies and their implementation) that looks at how one powerful Congressman shaped several of the most important government policies of the last fifty years. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this approach and methodology as a way of understanding the past?
Historiography Reviews: 1) Policy history; 2) History of US Taxation; 3) History of the welfare state
1: Harry S. Jaffe and Tom Sherwood, Dream City: Race, Power, and the Decline
of Washington, D.C.
Question: This is a book by two journalists who use history to explain the (then) current decline of Washington DC (they wrote in 1994). What are the benefits and downsides of journalists as historians? What were the primary (positive and negative) differences you noted between this book and the works we read this semester by academic historians?
Historiography Reviews: 1) Urban History; 2) Urban Decline; 3) History by Journalists
May 8: Adam Rome, The Bulldozer in the Countryside: Suburban Sprawl and the Rise of American Environmentalism
Question: The Bulldozer in the Countryside is an example of environmental history. Use Adam Rome’s book to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches and methodologies of environmental history as a way of understanding the past.
Historiography Reviews: 1) The emergence of environmental history; 2) the varieties of environmental history; 3) history of the suburbs