HIST 301 Fall 2014 Approaching the Past: History, Theory, Practice

This course will explore how the discipline of 'History' has come to assume its present form and how a number of historians since the 1820s have understood their craft. We will begin by discussing the work of three great nineteenth-century historians (Macaulay, Marx, and Ranke) who believed that historical "truth" existed and could, with skill, be deciphered. Next we will explore the philosophy and practice of the cultural and social historians of the 1960s/1970s, comparing and contrasting it with that of their nineteenth-century predecessors. We will then consider the work of those recent theorists who have tried to refute historians' claims to be able to capture the "truth" of the past, focusing on the state of the field in the wake of challenges posed to its epistemological foundations by "post-modernism." We will conclude with an assessment of the state of the discipline today. In general, we will be less concerned with "the past" than with what historians do with "the past." Consequently, we will focus primarily on those abstract, philosophical assumptions that have informed the practice of history.
Class Format: discussion
Requirements/Evaluation: evaluation will be based on class participation, a 250-word position statement ("What is History?"), two 9- to 11-page interpretive essays, and a take-home final exam
Additional Info: not available for the Gaudino option
Additional Info2:
Prerequisites: restricted to History majors and sophomores planning to major in History
Enrollment Preference: senior, then junior, History majors
Department Notes:
Material and Lab Fees:
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Divisional Attributes: Division II
Other Attributes:
Enrollment Limit: 19
Expected Enrollment: 15-19
Class Number: 1183
HIST 301 - A1 (F) SEM History, Theory, Practice Division 2: Social Studies Chris Waters
MR 1:10 PM-2:25 PM Schapiro Hall 141 1183
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