HIST 301
Approaching the Past: Other People's History Spring 2019
Division II
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From antiquity to the present, most historians have chosen to write about their own community, whether they have defined it by ethnicity, nationhood, language, or creed. Only a minority have chosen instead to record the history of a group of which they are not a member. This seminar asks: what does it mean to write other people’s history? We will consider, first, the motivations that might lead someone to dedicate their lives to studying a foreign culture. What practical challenges are involved? What languages, archives, and forms of knowledge does the historian have to master, and how is this achieved (or not achieved)? Further, we will inquire: what unique problems and opportunities emerge? What mental categories mediate the inevitable comparisons that arise in the study of other people’s history? What kind of histories can be written this way, and what kind cannot? Throughout, we will take seriously the ethical challenges and opportunities of this peculiar historiographic position. Finally, we will determine the lessons that can be drawn for our own practice as historians. Authors to be read will range from antiquity to the present and include Herodotus, al-Biruni, José de Acosta, and Edward Gibbon among others.
The Class: Type: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 12
Class#: 3259
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: participation, short papers, presentations, and a longer final paper
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: restricted to History majors and sophomores planning to major in History
Enrollment Preferences: seniors, then juniors, History majors
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: PHIL Related Courses

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