Historical Methods and Skills
Modern vs. Post-modern History, and a Parliamentary Dispute
In April 1997, the Department of History approved the following as the goals for its undergraduate major:
Through the careful
assessment of a variety of texts, it [the major] teaches critical reading
with regard to authors' arguments, logic and assumptions. It promotes interpretive writing by
requiring students to produce historical essays with clear, explicit theses, unified argumentation
presented in a logical fashion, and analysis based on supporting evidence. The major
particularly teaches students to apply these transferable skills to understanding historical
context: history students are expected to demonstrate, orally and in writing, knowledge of
events, ideas and patterns of human behavior and social organization which have occurred in
discrete periods of time among clearly defined groups of people in specific locations.
HST 201 was designed as a gateway to the major in History, and the Department
That each section
[shall] have a research component; a historiographical component (which
may include the history of history as well as an introduction to the varieties of methodologies
historians use and the interpretations they produce); and a writing component (that emphasizes
analytic, interpretive skills and includes a provision for rewriting after correction of a first
Although the majority of students who have enrolled in HST 201 in recent
years are not History
majors, the curricular expectations must still conform to those outlined for the generic course, as well
as the broader goals for the major as a whole. However, it really does not matter if you already are – or
contemplate becoming – a History major since critical reading and interpretive writing are facilities
characteristic of every educated person.
To level the playing field, we’ll begin by analyzing two works of fiction
with historical dimensions. In
the introductory exercise, each of us will attempt to solve a murder described in a short story, given the
evidence available. Then we will analyze the methodology of a fictional detective in Tony Hillerman’s
mystery novel, The Dark Wind; what constitutes evidence in detective reasoning, how does the
detective resolve uncertainties in the cases he’s expected to solve, does he employ objectivity and
empathy, etc.? Next we examine the post-modern critique of what is sometimes termed “historical
objectivity,” as well as a spirited “Defense of History” that critically examines the arguments on both
sides of the issue. The historiography component also includes an essay in which you review of how
one celebrated historian, Garrett Mattingly, resolved ambiguities in evidence when constructing a
We will satisfy the required research component via a “History Workshop,”
where you apply what you
learned in the historiographical component by analyzing a common set of documents (primary sources)
and a common set of interpretive studies (secondary sources). The bulk of the primary sources is a set
of documents bearing on a parliamentary dispute shortly after James VI of Scotland (successor to
Elizabeth I) ascended the English throne in 1603 as James I. The use of the Goodwin-Fortescue dispute
for a History Workshop is not my idea. I first encountered it in a graduate historiography course
offered by J. H. Hexter at Yale University in 1970. I have modified the document packet for an
undergraduate course, and incorporated some materials collected by Professor Joseph Preston at
Saginaw Valley State University (emeritus; also a former Hexter student). In the last several years,
Damon Williams, Joshua Courtade, and Kristin Slattery (former professorial assistants from the
Honors College) transformed a costly paper-coursepack into an internet document resource. The URL
The required writing component in HST 201 is satisfied by reading worksheets
that set you up for
writing analytical, interpretive essays; the review essay described earlier; two drafts of a research essay
(in the historical narrative form); required use of a style manual in preparing these three essay; weekly
logs that track your reading and writing habits; and a Question & Answer notebook.
I asked local bookstores to order the following paperback editions.
I was guided in my selection by the
quality of the translations (when applicable), format, introductions (when applicable), and cost. I
always selected the least expensive edition that met these specifications. However, publishers do not
always stock all books listed as “in-print,” and sometimes the bookstores substitute one edition for
another, particularly when they have any used copies in stock. Consequently, we must clarify in
advance which editions you are using to be sure there are no misunderstandings about what is assigned
for each class meeting. But I strongly encourage you to select the editions listed below.
Irene Carrier, James
VI and I. King of Great Britain (Cambridge, 1998).
Richard J. Evans, In Defense of History (Norton, 1999).
Michael Graves, Elizabethan Parliaments,1559-1601 (2nd ed.; Longman,1996) – only at SBS.
Diana Hacker, A Pocket Style Manual (3rd ed.; Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000).
Tony Hillerman, The Dark Wind (Harper, 1982).
Garrett Mattingly, The Armada (Houghton Mifflin, 1959).
John McGurk, The Tudor Monarchies, 1485-1603 (Cambridge, 1999).
Keith Jenkins, Rethinking History (Routledge, 1991).
Simon Schama, Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations) (Vintage, 1992).
Critical reading is the basis of informed, productive discussion. I
teach critical reading through a
process involving three interrelated steps, each of which has an associated worksheet:
–summarizing the text by chapters and/or parts via Summation (S) worksheets;
–constructing the logic of an author's argument via Structure of Argument (SoA) worksheets;
from the text on specific topics via Thematic Clustering (TC) worksheets
for use in class discussion and interpretive writing.
We will use class time during the opening weeks of the semester to orient
everyone to worksheet
expectations; that is, we will initially prepare worksheets together on the day a particular reading
assignment is due. Thereafter, reading and worksheet assignments will often be out of sync with class
discussion. You will then be expected to hand in reading worksheets for the assigned meeting for me
to review prior to discussion at the subsequent meeting. In addition to listed assignments, I will inform
you in class of any additional worksheets you are expected to complete, especially during the research
component. If you miss class, please consult a classmate, myself, or the minutes of class meetings
posted on the course internet site so that you are aware of what is expected at the next meeting.
I will mark reading worksheets on a check/check-minus system:
A check means that, in my judgment, the exercise reflects sufficient preparation
of the assignment
for you to make constructive contributions to class discussion.
A check-minus means either that the preparation seems inadequate for constructive
or that you misunderstood what was expected.
Ideally you should redo an exercise sheet on which you received a check-minus
within one week of when
it was returned to you. Please hand in revised worksheets with the check-minus version attached.
Critical reading is preparatory to writing any historical essay, including
book reviews. Your review of
Mattingly’s The Armada should focus on his methodology, particularly how his interpretation of
ambiguous and uncertain events, behavior, and motivations positions him in the dispute about
objectivity among modern and post-modern historians. Unless you work out an alternative length in
advance, your review essay should be 1400-1600 words and should conform to the following
expectations for a “thesis-driven” essay:
(1) an opening thesis-paragraph that begins with a succinct context, in
which you summarize
the modern and post-modern perspectives on objectivity, preferably in the form of a
continuum that includes the authors we have read on the topic. The paragraph should
conclude with a thesis statement in which you interpret Mattingly’s historical
methodology with respect to the objectivity question, and then connect it to the context
(2) a logically organized argument in support of your thesis, substantiated
by the analysis of
specific evidence drawn from various readings in the historiographical portion of the
(3) a concluding paragraph in which you briefly recapitulate (not just restate) your argument.
Everyone is expected to follow the “Chicago documentation style” guidelines set forth in:
Diana Hacker, Pocket Style Manual (3rd ed.; St. Martin's, 2000).
Research Essay (Historical Narrative)
Research essays on the Goodwin-Fortescue dispute should contain an introduction,
narrative, and an afterword.
should begin with a “literature review”: what patterns exist in how historians
have explained the G-F dispute? Does it, in their minds, have any historical significance?
Organize your review thematically, not as a series of mini-book reviews of individual authors.
End the literature review with the pattern/general interpretation you consider most persuasive
or most problematical. Then establish your research task (in the form of an historical problem):
to confirm, challenge, or fill a gap in the current scholarship on that pattern. End the
introduction with a thesis statement in which you “resolve” the historical problem with your
own historical interpretation.
Part two of your
research essay is an historical narrative of the Goodwin-Fortescue dispute.
What happened? How did it happen? Your narrative should be complete in the sense that you
cover the entire dispute. But think of your narrative as an historical accordion, so to speak, in
that you expand discussion of the events and issues relevant to your thesis statement.
In part three,
recapitulate your argument, compare your interpretation with what others
written on the dispute. That is, discuss the historical significance of the dispute for the
individuals involved and/or for future developments (here you might accept, or challenge, what
other historians have concluded). Conclude the afterword with a discussion of how you
resolved ambiguities in the historical evidence – and situate your own historical methodology
with respect to the objectivity question at the heart of the modern vs. post-modern dispute.
Note: The draft due by 7 October should only include a preliminary version
of part two. The research
essay due by 25 November should contain all three parts, including a through revision of part two. No
exceptions. To be fair to everyone in the seminar (including myself, since it takes many hours to mark
research essays properly), you must turn in what you have done by the due date. You are expected to
read and follow the “Chicago documentation style” guidelines in Hacker’s Pocket Style Manual for the
draft due on 25 November.
Reading and Writing (R&W) Log
I will distribute log sheets on which you should record when you spent
time reading/researching and
writing each week. On the back of every sheet, do some stock-taking: What do you feel about what
you accomplished in the past week? How do you anticipate approaching assignments in the coming
week? These R&W logs are due at the beginning of class each Tuesday, beginning 3 September, as
well as at the beginning of the Final Examination period.
Question & Answer (Q&A) Notebook
You will need an 80-sheet, 10" x 7 7/8" Comp(osition) Book for the required
Q&A notebook. Write
your name and HST 201 on the front cover. Leave the first page blank. Thereafter, follow a double-
entry format in which you use the left-side sheets for questions you develop about the assigned texts
and research component; write the name of the author and/or title in the top left corner of the page, and
number each question. Use a new sheet for each source. On the right-side sheets, write responses to
directly opposite the questions. Bring your notebook to all class meetings, as well as when you meet
with me individually.
You are expected to maintain a folio of work in process, in which you
keep all worksheets, writing log
sheets, writing exercises, and essay drafts. Organize the worksheets by authors. Be sure to bring your
processfolio with you to all class meetings. Around mid-semester I will distribute a checklist of what
your processfolio should contain, which you will fill out and return so I can compare it with my
records. Note: The course processfolio is due by the last day of classes – 6 December 2002.
Figuring the Course Mark
50% for Preparation and Participation (P&P). Every student begins
with a P&P mark of 4.0. To
maintain this portion of the course mark you must:
1. Attend class
in a regular and timely manner; in my view, you cannot participate unless
are present. Every student has one personal/business “cut” without penalty. But each absence
beyond one reduces the P&P mark by 0.3. Three tardies/early departures equal one absence.
2. Receive ?s
on all worksheets, writing exercises, and R&W logs. Any required items
from the processfolio at the end of the semester, as well as any uncleared check-minuses, reduce
the P&P mark by 0.2 each.
3. Hand in all
assignments on time, and maintain a complete and properly organized
processfolio. During the final review of the processfolios, I will assign a quality adjustment
(between minus 1.0 and plus 1.0) to the preliminary P&P mark (using 1 and 2 above), based on
the thoroughness of the items submitted, and your timeliness, or lack thereof, in submitting
35% for the review essay and the final draft of the research essay.
Improvement factor will be used, if
possible. If not, the review essay will count 10% and the final draft of the research essay 20%.
15% for the research process: first draft of the research essay, the
Q&A notebook, and the G-F
document pack, as well as associated research notes. Bundle these items and place within the
processfolio when you hand in the latter by 6 December.
Final Examination exercises will be used after figuring the course mark,
as outlined above: ± 0.5,
University Incomplete Policy
To avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings at the end of the semester,
I have transcribed the current
University guidelines on Incompletes:
"The I-Incomplete may be given only when: the student (a) has
completed at least 12 weeks of
the semester, but is unable to complete the class work and/or take the final examination because of
illness or other compelling reason; and (b) has done satisfactory work in the course; and (c) in the
instructor's judgment can complete the required work without repeating the course" (Academic
Programs 2000-2002, 63).
I will interpret the phrase, “completed at least 12 weeks of the semester,”
to mean that you have turned
in all assigned reading worksheets, writing exercises, and essays through the 12th week of the semester.
Wednesdays, 4:00 - 5:15,
and by appointment
328 Morrill Hall
353-9417 (answering machine)
Home telephone number: 332-3316 (no answering machine)
Grading Criteria for Review Essay
The review essay of Mattingly’s book, The Armada, should be situated
in the context of the historiographical
debate on objectivity. Your review essay should contain a thesis paragraph, substantiation, and a conclusion.
The opening thesis-paragraph should begin with a succinct formulation of the positions staked out by
Schama, Jenkins, Stone, and Evans. End with a two-part thesis statement, in which you interpret Mattingly’s
historical methodology (the declarative component) and connect it to one or more of the positions set forth in
the context (the explanatory component). The substantiating paragraphs should present a logically organized
argument in support of your thesis and analysis of specific evidence drawn from the readings in this segment of
the course -- that is, a comparison (similarities and differences) of Mattingly’s methodology/perspective on
objectivity with that of the other authors. The concluding paragraph should recapitulate your argument.
Follow the “Chicago style” in Hacker for documentation notes and bibliography.
Few essays fall entirely within one grade rubric. Therefore, the
awarded essay mark usually reflects a
composite of strengths and weaknesses from several of the following rubrics.
4.0 Thesis paragraph conforms to all
expectations. Substantiating paragraphs reflect a logical progression
of the argument, including effective topic sentences. Sufficient evidence to substantiate the thesis
statement. Proper use of syntax, grammar, and diction throughout the essay. No/very few proofreading
3.5 Thesis paragraph conforms to all expectations except that one
component of the thesis statement is
slightly problematical. Substantiation falls between expectations for a 3.0 and a 4.0.
3.0 All elements of the thesis paragraph
are present. Thesis contains explicit declarative and explanatory
components, but one is either significantly incomplete or unclear. Substantiating paragraphs have topic
sentences with promising analytical potential (make connections to thesis statement). Use of short
quotations is the norm but inconsistent. Promising but incomplete analysis of quotes and paraphrases;
that is, the essay lacks some evidence to fully explain the meaning and significance of the thesis
statement. Stylistic problems, if any, do not obscure the argument. Proofreading errors, if any, are
infrequent. Follows Hacker in format of documentation and bibliography.
2.5 Thesis paragraph missing historical problem or context/definitions.
Thesis statement contains explicit
declarative and explanatory components, but both are either incomplete or unclear. Substantiating
paragraphs have topic sentences but lack explicit connections to the thesis statement. Quotations
present but sometimes unexplained.
2.0 Thesis paragraph missing historical
problem and context/definitions. Thesis statement contains
declarative and explanatory components, but both are either incomplete or unclear. Topic sentences
present, but open-ended or vague. Quotations present, but very little/no explanation. Stylistic problems
occasionally obscure intended meaning. Frequent proofreading errors. Inconsistent use of Hacker.
1.5 Thesis paragraph contains a statement of intent rather than a thesis statement. Unclear or problematical
organization of substantiating paragraphs. Majority of evidence is in the form of paraphrasing from
1.0 Paper on assigned topic and using assigned reading, but it doesn’t follow expectations for interpretive
historical essays. Summation dominates paper. Stylistic problems often obscure intended meaning, but
paper as a whole can be understood by instructor. No apparent proofreading or use of Hacker.
0.0 Paper not on assigned topic or does not draw on assigned reading. Stylistic problems prevent instructor
from understanding significant portions of the paper.
Grading Criteria for the Research Paper
Research essays on the Goodwin-Fortescue dispute should contain an introduction,
a historical narrative, and an
afterword. The introduction should begin with a review of the assigned secondary literature on the dispute;
organize this literature review thematically, not as a series of mini-book reviews. End the review with the pattern
you’ve selected to study in depth. Immediately thereafter, establish your research task as a historical problem: to
confirm, challenge, or fill a gap in the scholarship on that pattern. End the introduction with a thesis statement in
which you “resolve” the historical problem with your historical interpretation. The historical narrative of the
Goodwin-Fortescue dispute should answer the following questions: What happened? How did it happen? Your
narrative should be complete in the sense that you cover the entire dispute, although it is expected that you will
expand discussion of the specific topic on which you are focusing, and condense other aspects of the narrative.
The afterword should briefly recapitulate your argument, compare your interpretation with what others have
written on the dispute, discussion how you resolved ambiguities in the historical evidence, and conclude with a
self-assessment of your own historical methodology with respect to the objectivity question. Documentation
should conform to the “Chicago” style in Hacker. Attach a bibliographical list of all works cited, also according
to the “Chicago” style in Hacker.
4.0 A complete and well-reasoned research
paper. Thesis statement is interpretatively complete and clear.
Substantiating paragraphs reflect a logical progression of the argument, including effective topic
sentences. Thorough analysis of evidence from the primary sources. Secondary literature used to clarify
the interpretation of primary sources. Proper use of syntax, grammar, and diction throughout the essay.
Follows Hacker in all respects. No/very few proofreading errors.
3.5 A complete research paper, but
aspects of the introduction need clarification or there are minor problems
in the substantiation such as missing a little of the evidence and analysis called for by the interpretation.
Follows Hacker in all respects.
3.0 A complete research paper, but
aspects of the introduction need clarification and there are minor
problems in the substantiation (such as some quotations “tossed in” rather than explained). Stylistic
problems, if any, do not obscure the argument. Follows Hacker in most respects. Proofreading errors, if
any, are infrequent.
2.5 A complete research paper, but
aspects of the introduction need clarification and there are some major
problems in the substantiation. Conclusion present but incomplete. Citation of specific evidence from
primary sources is the norm, but most quotations are not analyzed. Inconsistent use of Hacker.
2.0 A complete research paper, but
there are major problems in the introduction, substantiation, and
afterword. Substantiation dominated by assertions, although there is use of some primary source
evidence. Inconsistent use of Hacker. Stylistic problems occasionally obscure intended meaning.
Frequent proofreading errors.
Below 2.0 One or more of the following: Partial
research paper; statement of intent rather than a thesis
statement; stylistic problems obscure the argument; substantiation diverges from the research
topic; paraphrasing and summation (as distinct from use of selected quotations) are the norm;
little or no use of Hacker; no apparent proofreading.