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History 500
The Art & Craft of History
Spring 2016

Professor: Steve Estes
Class Meets: Tuesdays 5-8:40
Office Hours: M/W: 9:45-10:30; 1:30-3:00
Office: Stevenson 2070 D
Phone: 707.664.2424

Course Objectives:
This graduate seminar explores the philosophical underpinnings and methodological tools of modern historical scholarship. We begin with the broad questions of why historians study the past and the current state of American historiography. Then we look at the methods employed by different historical sub-disciplines in studying regions around the world. Finally, we discuss the uses of history: museum exhibitions, historic sites, scholarly publishing, and commercial enterprises.  By the end of this course, graduate students will have a solid foundation for conducting original research in a range of historical fields and periods. I view history as straddling the divide between social sciences and the humanities, and so I hope that students will come to see that good historical scholarship marries the craft of research with the art of writing.    

Stephen V. Bittner, The Many Lives of Khrushchev’s Thaw
Eric Foner and Lisa McGirr, eds., American History Now
Trevor R. Getz and Liz Clarke, Abina and the Important Men
Stephen Greenblatt, The Swerve
Martha Hodes, The Sea Captain’s Wife
Amy Kittelstrom, The Religion of Democracy
Donald Ritchie, Doing Oral History
Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
… and additional articles

Course Requirements:
Classroom Participation & Reading: As a graduate history seminar, meeting once a week, students must keep up with the reading and participate in class discussions. (Participation is 10% of the final grade.)

Discussion Leading: At the beginning of the term students will choose one week to lead half of the discussion. You must come to consult with me the week before you lead the discussion. On the day of class, you will turn in a 1-2 page discussion outline with questions and activities for that day. (Leading the discussion is 10% of your final grade.)

Weekly Essays: There is a written assignment due almost every week in this class. For some weeks, this is simply a one page, single-spaced book review in the style of the American Historical Review or the Journal of American History.  In other weeks there is a particular research question or methodological exercise. You may choose not to turn in two of the written assignments (except for the mystery artifact assessment). If you do them all, I will drop the lowest two weekly assignment grades. (Each assignment is worth 5% of the grade for a total of 55%.)

Oral History Assignment: Each member of the class will conduct an approximately one-hour oral history interview with someone intimately involved in the Sonoma State University Nature Preserves or another aspect of university history. Each student will transcribe the oral history interview. The transcript is due on the last regular class meeting. (The oral history interview transcript is worth 10% of your final grade.)

Public History Assignment: Throughout this course, you will be working on a public history project. This is a service learning assignment. In other words, you will be learning the skills of a public historian as you provide a service to a local community or historical institution. Internships are available at museums or historical societies in Napa and Sonoma Counties. You are also free to set up your own public history project individually or with a local institution or group (e.g. Petaluma Historical Museum, Sonoma County Museum, etc.). Each project will require 20-30 hours of work over the course of the semester (e.g. six to eight visits to the historical society). At the end of the semester, you will turn in a 5-7 page paper that explains the work you did, the relevant historical scholarship, and (if possible) the reception to your work by the public. I will also ask for a written evaluation (one-page) of your work by the supervisor or director of the historical site.  (This project is 15% of your final grade.)

Course Schedule

Week I: Introduction 1.26
Required Reading: None
Part 1: Student Introductions & Discussion of Reviews
Part 2: View Africa Before the Europeans (1985) and The Roosevelts (2014); Discuss Documentary Film Methods

Week II: Literature and History 2.02
Required Reading: Greenblatt, The Swerve (Skip chapters 7 and 11)
Required Writing: What research methods and sources did Poggio Bracciolini use to find Luretius’ manuscript in the 1400s? What research methods and sources did Stephen Greenblatt use in the 2000s to argue that Poggio’s discovery helped inspire the Renaissance? Should we consider Poggio and Greenblatt historians? Why or why not? (1 page, single-spaced)
Part 1: Defining and Discussing New Historicism
Part 2: Debates: Literature as Primary Sources, Literary Critics as Historians

Week III: American Historiography (I) 2.09
Required Reading: Foner & McGirr, eds., American History Now (Intro, Part I: Chs. 1-8)
Required Writing: Based on this chronological arrangement of historiographical essays, which eras of American history seem to be especially applicable to the present and which seem to be addressing more esoteric questions of pure research? How much do varying historical methods define different eras’ historiographies? What eras/events are left out of these historiographies? Why? (1 page, single-spaced)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion
Part 2: How does methodology influence the historiography of different eras?

Week IV: American Historiography (II) 2.16
Required Reading: Foner and McGirr, eds., American History Now (Part II: Chs. 9-18)
Required Presentation: Favorite History Book
Required Writing: Which subfields of American history seem to have the most rigorous methodologies? How do you know? Which are most and least attractive to you as a scholar? Why? (1 page single-spaced)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion
Part 2: Favorite History Book (and relation to a historiographical school)

Week V: The (Re)Discovered Continent 2.23
Required Reading: Joseph C. Miller, "History and Africa/Africa and History," American Historical Review February, 1999 104(1): 1-32; and Getz & Clarke, Abina and the Important Men
Required Writing: How do Getz and Clarke use a graphic format to tell the story of Abina? How do they use the primary documents to tell this story? What can historians of other regions learn from Africanists methods? (1 page, single-spaced)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion
Part 2: The Future of Africa and African History Discussion

Week VI: Religious and Intellectual History (Part I) 3.01
Required Reading: Kittelstrom, Religion of Democracy (Introduction through Ch. 3)
Required Internship: By this week, you must have started your public history internship.
Required Writing: How does Kittelstrom choose the thinkers who are the focus of each chapter in the first half of her book? How do these thinkers connect religious faith and liberal political/social views? What sources and methods does Kittelstrom use to support her discussion of an “American Reformation.” (1 page, single-spaced)
Part 1: Fieldtrip to SSU Special Collections
Part 2: Student-led Discussion of Reading & Reviews

Week VII Oral History 3.08
Required Reading: Ritchie, Doing Oral History
Required Writing: How does the methodology of oral history compare to archival historical research? What are the advantages and disadvantages of oral history methods? If you received a grant from the National Endowment for Humanities to conduct an oral history project, what would be your focus? Who would you interview? What would you ask them? (1 page, single-spaced)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion
Part 2: Brainstorm Oral History Questions & Practice Oral History Interviews

Week VIII Spring Break 3.15
No Class

Week IX: Social History and the Atlantic World 3.22
Required Reading: Martha Hodes, The Sea Captain’s Wife
Required Writing: What methods and sources do social historians like Martha Hodes use to write the histories (and even biographies) of everyday people from the 19th century? How successful is Hodes at depicting the worlds that her characters inhabit? How successful is she at capturing the characters themselves? (1 page, single-spaced)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion of Reading & Reviews
Part 2: Comparison of Hodes’ sources to those in Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale

Week X: Internship/Oral History Week 3.29
No Class

Week XI: Religious and Intellectual History (Part II) 4.05
Required Reading: Kittelstrom, Religion of Democracy (Ch. 4-Conclusion)
Required Writing: How does Kittelstrom challenge popular assumptions about connections between faith and modern liberalism in America? How might a social historian critique this book? Compare and contrast the sources and methods of intellectual and social history? (1 page, single-spaced) [Also, come to class with two questions for Kitt about her research methods and the content/analysis of the book.]
Part 1: Interview the Author
Part 2: Student-led Discussion of Reading & Reviews

Week XII: Science and History 4.12
Required Reading: Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Required Writing: The history of science is often seen as one of constant progress; how does Skloot use Lacks’ story to show how the history of scientific progress is not a linear narrative? What methods and sources are unique to the history of science? How does Skloot use journalistic methods to tell a historical tale? What can academic historians learn from journalists? What can academic historians teach our journalist peers? (1 page, single-spaced)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion of Reading & Reviews
Part 2: Pros and Cons of Popular History Discussion

Week XIII: Culture and History 4.19
Required Reading: Steve Bittner, The Many Lives of Khrushchev’s Thaw (Intro, Chs. 1, 2, & 5). On-line access through SSU Library
Required Writing: How does Steve Bittner use cultural sources to reconsider the effect of the Thaw on Soviet history? What are the pros and cons of focusing on one urban neighborhood to understand this period of the Soviet past? What are the methodological challenges of researching and writing about Soviet history? Are these challenges greater for an American scholar given the tension between the US and USSR during (and after) the Cold War? (1 page, single-spaced) [Also, come to class with two questions for Steve about his research methods and the content/analysis of the book.]
Part 1: Interview the Author
Part 2: Student-led Discussion of Reading & Reviews

Week XIV: Public History (I) 4.26
Required Reading: Leon & Rosenzweig, History Museums in the U.S. (Intro and Chapter 1—On-reserve at the library); Paula Findlen, "Possessing the Past: The Material World of the Italian Renaissance." The American Historical Review, 103.1 (1998): 83-114; and Randolph Starn, “A Historian’s Brief Guide to New Museum Studies” American Historical Review February 2005, 110(1): 68-98 (Available in on-line library databases)
Required Writing: What is the role of museums in educating the public about the past? How do museums balance education and entertainment? What is the relationship between academic scholarship and public history? (1 page, single-spaced)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion of Reading & Reviews
Part 2: Internship Update

Week XV: Public History (Part II) 5.02
Required Reading: Karin Bijsterveld, "Ears-on Exhibitions: Sound in the History Museum." The Public Historian, 37.4 (2015): 73-90; Andrea L. Smith, "Settler Historical Consciousness in the Local History Museum." Museum Anthropology, 34.2 (2011): 156-172; and Don Romesburg, "Presenting the Queer Past a Case for the GLBT History Museum." Radical History Review, 2014.120 (2014): 131-144.
Required Writing: Museum Exhibit Review (1 page, single spaced)
Visit a museum in the Wine Country or the Bay Area and pick a historical exhibit in the museum on which you will write a review.  How does the exhibit use historical research, sources, and material culture? How does it engage viewers from different age groups, education levels, and cultural backgrounds? Be prepared to present your exhibit critique to the class.
Part 1: Student-led Discussion of the Readings
Part 2: Presentation of Museum Exhibit Critiques

Week XVI: Material Culture & Historical Sleuthing 5.09
Required Research: Determine the provenance of your mystery artifact. When was it made, by whom, and for what purpose? What does it tell us about the society and era in which it was made? In other words, what is its historical significance?
Required Writing: Artifact Research Report (1 page, single-spaced)
Required Writing: Oral History Transcript
Part 1: Student-led Discussion of Reading
Part 2: Oral History Interview Presentations
Part 3: Student Presentations of Artifacts and Their Historical Significance

Final Exam (TBA)