HIST2809 The Historian’s Craft

page_1 How do historians know what they know? What is it that historians do? And how do they do what they do? This course is an introduction to the way that historians work. We will look at everything from hand-written documents, to photographs, to material culture: the course will be a practical, hands-on course that will encourage students to explore and experience the actual methods of analysis used by historians. Those taking this course will leave with a good understanding of the ways in which historians explore history through a wide variety of sources, the methods that historians have used to examine them and the various ways in which history is presented to specialists and to the wider public.

Outcomes: My philosophy of teaching can be summed up as: ‘hacking as a way of knowing’. Every exercise in this course, whether in tutorials or as assignments, builds upon every other. The course objectives therefore are to

  • build facility with ‘reading’ texts of whatever kind
  • understand how one’s own worldview affects the kind of history one writes
  • explore how to create a historical argument from data

Organization of the Course:
Please examine the cuLearn course website carefully. Lecture topics, readings, discussion group exercises, supplementary materials and assignment instructions are arranged into weekly blocks. You will submit course work through this site, in the relevant block. Assignment 1 will involve transcribing and analyzing a handwritten document. Assignment 2 will involve analyzing photographic or visual evidence, or material culture. In Assignment 3, you will be considering digital and public history.

Assignment 1 is due January 28.

Assignment 2 is due February 25.

Assignment 3 is due March 25.

Discussion Groups

Each week you will be meeting in discussion groups of approximately 25 people. This will be an opportunity for you to explore the materials covered in the lecture in greater depth. As part of the discussion groups, you will read and discuss important primary and secondary texts, as well as complete various other activities and exercises.  Should you miss tutorial, there will not be the opportunity to make up the missing exercises.

Grades: Grades will be assigned as percentages and alphabetical final grades will be assigned following the percentage equivalents described in the Undergraduate Calendar. Marks for all grade components will be posted on the course cuLearn site. Standing in a course is determined by the course instructor subject to the approval of the Faculty Dean. This means that grades submitted by the instructor may be subject to revision. No grades are final until they have been approved by the Dean.


Assignment 1: 20%

Assignment 2: 20%

Assignment 3: 20%

Discussion Groups:     Attendance & Performance in Group, workbook: 20%

Take Home Exam: 20%

Rubrics for the assignments will be posted on the course website. Please do consult them *before* you submit your work. The Take Home exam will draw from the readings, tutorial exercises, and all assignments.

Preferred Citation Style

Please use the Chicago Style. See http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/resdoc5e/RES5e_ch05_o.html for examples of proper use. Footnotes & bibliography, please, on all assignments. Please also note that you can set the free Zotero bibliographic management tool to automatically format all citations to Chicago style. There is a plugin for Word that will insert references from your Zotero library, correctly formatted, into a document – see http://www.zotero.org for more details.

Late Work: In order to receive full value, assignments must be handed in before midnight on the due date. Work should be submitted through the cuLearn website.

Late work may be handed in until the last day of class, with 10% being deducted each day for lateness, to a maximum of 50%.

The final exam cannot be submitted late.

Accommodations, Plagiarism and Cheating

Please see your original handout.

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