HST 483, section 2 Peter Vinten-Johansen


Seminar in Modern European History

The unifying historical problem for this research seminar is the following: Was the Beagle voyage a seed-bed for Darwin's concept of evolution by natural selection?

We'll begin by reading extensive selections from On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man in order (1) to understand Darwin's mature thinking on evolution by natural selection and (2) identify possible research topics. Then we shift to the "Diary" that Darwin wrote in 1831-36 during the circum-global voyage of H. M. S. Beagle. Each student will make a final research topic selection, choosing a theme from Origin and/or Descent that is also found in the "Diary." The remainder of the semester will be spent exploring the themes selected by seminar participants; undertaking collateral reading in additional primary sources (including Darwin's Correspondence) and relevant secondary sources (some in common, others on an individual basis); and writing, discussing, and revising our research papers.

This is a research seminar that meets part of the Tier 2 writing requirement for History majors. There will be weekly critical reading worksheets, various writing exercises, and preliminary drafts connected to preparing two complete drafts of a research essay. Regular class attendance and timely preparation of reading worksheets, writing exercises, and essay drafts are expected of all course participants. As in any senior seminar, considerable out-of-class preparation time will be required.

Common Reading

The following texts are available in paperback editions at local bookstores:

Janet Browne, Charles Darwin: Voyaging (Princeton, 1995).

Charles Darwin, Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871. Reprint, Princeton, 1981).

----. On the Origin of Species (1st ed. 1859. Reprint, Harvard, 1964).

Diana Hacker, Pocket Style Manual (3rd ed.; St. Martin's, 2000).

Keynes, R. D., ed. Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary (Cambridge, 2001). [SBS only]

Michael Ruse, The Darwinian Revolution (2nd ed.; Chicago, 1999).

Sometimes bookstores substitute other editions (often without informing the instructor) if they have used copies on hand. In a research seminar involving considerable group work, we must use the editions listed above to avoid misunderstandings and so I am able to check your source citations.

I requested library copies of all common readings be made available at the Reserve Reading desk (2nd floor, west wing of the Main Library). Once they are available, I will check to see that the editions I requested were actually put on the shelf. If there is a problem, please wait until it is sorted out before requesting that book. Consult the Reserve Notebook that includes "Vinten-Johansen" for the appropriate reserve number before asking for it at the desk. The reserve time limit is 2 hours, with no overnight loan possible, so that everyone has access to them if they wish. If a book you desire is already checked out, be sure to reserve it; otherwise the person who has it out may re-check it for an additional two hours, unaware that someone else wants it.

Reading Worksheets

Critical reading is the basis of informed, productive discussion. I believe critical reading involves three interrelated steps, each of which has an associated exercise:

-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;

-extracting evidence from the text on specific topics via Thematic Clustering (TC) worksheets.

We will use class time during the opening weeks of the semester to orient everyone to worksheet expectations; that is, we will prepare worksheets together on the day a particular reading assignment is due. After the orientation period, worksheets are due on the date listed in the Schedule of Assignments. I will mark reading worksheets on a /-minus system:

A means that, in my judgment, the exercise reflects sufficient preparation of the assignment for you to make constructive contributions to class discussion.

A -minus means either that the preparation seems inadequate for constructive contributions, or that you misunderstood what was expected.

You should redo, within one week, all exercise sheets on which you received a -minus. Please hand in revised worksheets, with the -minus version attached.

Research Process and Products

The preliminary stage involves scan/reading of Darwin's Origin, Descent, and "Diary" in order to select a research topic and write a short prospectus. For the "Diary," you will have access (beyond Keynes' edition) to an electronic version that I prepared (with considerable assistance from several students) from an earlier edition prepared by Keynes's godmother, Nora Barlow. The prospectus should contain an explanation of the topic that is clear to other seminar participants and a brief justification that there is sufficient material in the "core" primary sources (those just listed) to warrant a substantial research project.

After preparing the prospectus, we move to the intermediate research phase. First, the seminar will be re-organized into new basic groups and research groups: the latter will reflect participants undertaking contiguous topics; the former will contain participants who have a variety of topics. As we proceed through the common reading, there will be some chapters that everyone reads with care and some division of labor (via basic groups) for other chapters. Periodically, the research groups will meet to discuss the relevance of what we've covered to date for your individual research topics. Throughout this phase you will prepare reading worksheets and complete various writing exercises-plus preliminary drafts of the research essay, as follows:

-the "To" section of your argument (Darwin's treatment of your topic in the Origin and Descent);

-a complete first draft-introduction, substantiation, and conclusion as outlined at the top of the sheet describing the grading criteria. The substantiation should include the "From" section of (Darwin's treatment of your topic in the "Diary"), a revised "To" section, and preliminary analysis of the connections between Darwin's early and later thinking on the topic- "How" he got "From" "To";

The final research and writing stage involves a thorough revision of the first draft in tandem with re-reading some material, reading other things for the first time, and re-writing in response to instructor and peer criticism of the first draft.

Keep a log of all research and writing activities from the date your prospectus is approved through the end of the semester. I will review them on 12 October along with the draft of the "To" section. Hand in completed logs with your final draft on 5 December.


You are expected to keep a double-sided folder of your seminar work in process. Place all reading worksheets in the right side. Organize sheets by authors, not the type of exercise. Append any additional reading notes, too, if you prepared them. On the left side, place the research and writing exercises, as well as drafts of the research essay, in the order you prepared them. Be sure to bring your processfolio with you to all class meetings and to my office hours if you decide to come. I will review processfolios in class around mid-semester and collect them for evaluation at the final examination period.

Figuring the Course Mark

40% 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; you cannot participate unless you are present. Every student has one personal-business "cut" without penalty. Every absence beyond one reduces the P&P mark by 0.3, each. Three tardies/early departures equal one absence.

2. Receive s on all reading worksheets and writing exercises (that is, any -minus is cleared within a week from when that worksheet was returned to the class by the instructor). Each late worksheet or writing exercise that receives a reduces the P&P mark by 0.1; missing and uncleared -minuses reduce the P&P mark by 0.2 each.

3. Maintain a complete and properly organized processfolio. During the final review of the processfolios and after figuring a preliminary P&P mark (using 1 and 2 above), the instructor will review the reading worksheets and assign a quality adjustment (between minus 1.0 and plus 1.0) to the preliminary P&P mark.

30% for the Research Process:

1. Quality and completeness of the research and writing log. It should be a spiral notebook with your name, course number, and research topic on the first page. Thereafter, on the right-side sheets note the date, brief description of the research/writing activities, and how long you spent; use the opposite, left sheet for a journal-style self-assessment entries (feelings and thoughts) about what you did/did not accomplish and what line of research & writing to do next. Always start a new right-side sheet for each day you spend in research & writing.

2. Quality and completeness of materials produced during the topic selection/prospectus phase.

3. Quality and completeness of all research and writing exercises, as well as preliminary drafts of the research essay.

30% for the final Research Paper, based on grading criteria attached to the syllabus.

Extra Credit or Honors Option

Read Roger McDonald, Mr. Darwin's Shooter (Penguin). Prepare S and SoA reading worksheets and a TC that includes specific comparisons with parallel passages in Darwin's "Beagle Diary." Write an interpretive essay that answers the question, "Is McDonald's book history, a novel, or some other genre/discipline?"

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.

Office Hours

Mondays, 4:30 - 5:45

Tuesdays, 4:00 - 5:00 (except 28 August)

and by appointment

328 Morrill Hall

353-9417 (answering machine)


Home telephone number: 332-3316 (no answering machine)

Grading Criteria for the Research Paper

The first and final drafts of the research paper should contain an introduction (the topic presented as an historical question/problem, a thesis statement that presents your interpretation-"From," "To," and "How"), and a comparison of your interpretation with selected secondary sources ("Why" your findings are significant); substantiation of the entire thesis statement via a logical progression of paragraphs and full analysis of the relevant evidence; and a conclusion in which you recapitulate your thesis statement and the significance of your findings. For source citations use endnotes that conform to the CMoS format in Hacker. Attach a bibliographical list of all works cited, also according to the CMoS format 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 your interpretation. Proper use of syntax, grammar, and diction throughout the essay. Follows CMoS format from Hacker. 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 CMoS format from Hacker.

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 CMoS format from Hacker. 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.

2.0 A complete research paper, but there are major problems in the introduction, substantiation, and conclusion. Substantiation dominated by assertions, although there is use of some primary source evidence. Inconsistent use of CMoS format from 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 CMoS format from Hacker; no apparent proofreading.