Instructor: Prof. J. L. Caradonna

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Hist 290 Introduction to Historiography

(History as a Discipline)

Instructor: Prof. J.L.Caradonna


Office: Tory 2-69

Office hours: Wednesday 1-3 and by appointment

Meeting time: T/R 11:00 - 12:20

Meeting place: T 1 104


Welcome to History 290! This course is meant to introduce history majors to some of the central methods, theories, practices, and dilemmas of the historical discipline. There are at least three main goals for the course. The first is to understand the idea of ‘historiography’—that is, questions about how history should be approached, discussed, analyzed, and written. Central to historiography is the different theories (borrowed from across the humanities) that inform contemporary historical practice. This course will provide a basic introduction to these theories, with an emphasis of how they are useful for the practicing historian. Second, this course is meant to provide students with a basic understanding of how to go about conducting historical research, writing essays and book reviews, and formulating written and verbal arguments. Third, the course will consider the role of the historian (as teacher, writer, museum curator, etc.) in modern society. We will ask the question, what is the social utility of the historian?


We will meet twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The course will include a mixture of lecturing and seminar-style discussion (based on assigned readings). Please read the works carefully and come to class prepared to discuss the arguments, theories, and implications of the texts. ALWAYS bring the texts to class. Failure to do so, will adversely affect participation grades. Ordinarily, we will discuss one chapter or essay per meeting.

Logistical Notes:

Students who require accommodations in this course due to a disability affecting mobility, vision, hearing, learning or mental or physical health are advised to discuss their needs with Specialized Support and Disability Services, 2-800 Students' Union Building, 492-3381 (phone) or 492-7269 (TTY).

Students whose writing skills are not adequate for university-level work are advised to seek help immediately from the Effective Writing Resources programme in the Academic Support Centre (492-2682). The letters "EWR" on any assignment constitute a strong suggestion that you need help in this area.

Plagiarism (copying without giving credit), even of one sentence or paragraph, is grounds for action against a student and can lead to expulsion from the university. Be very careful of what you use and how you use it, esp. material from websites. It is your responsibility to review the rules regarding plagiarism in the Calendar; see also the regulations at
Students are expected to attend every class and participate in all discussions. Planned absences should be announced to the instructor in advance. Absences due to illness must be justified by a physician’s note to avoid a mark penalty. Students are responsible for material covered in classes which they miss, for whatever reason. Assignments handed in late shall be assessed a late penalty of 5% per day. Assignments should be typed and use the standard essay style detailed in the pamphlet “Writing History Essays”, which is available from the main office, Department of History and Classics (Tory 2-28). All assignments must include on the last page a list of works cited. Spelling, grammar and style all count and marks shall be deducted for egregious errors. Very badly written papers shall be handed back unmarked for revision without late penalties.

Active participation (attendance, listening, preparation, discussion): 25%

Book review (on a secondary source of your choice): 20%

Short essay on textbooks 7-8 pages: 25%

Final essay of 12 pages: 30%

Grade break down

A: 94-100

A-: 90-93

B+: 87-89

B: 84-86

B-: 80-83

C+: 77-79

C: 74-76

C-: 70-73

D+: 67-69

D: 64-66

D-: 60-63

F: 59 and below

There are two ideas to choose from for the final project:

1. Canadian history has become increasingly politicized in recent years with the Federal Government’s publication of an historical and cultural guidebook for immigrants: Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship. It is the study guide for the exam that immigrants seeking citizenship must take. Recently, a group of scholars have created a kind 0f counter-guidebook called People’s Citizenship Guide: A Response to Conservative Canada. The assignment would be to read these two works, compare them, discuss the politicization of Canadian history, and the potential problems that arise when governments write their own official histories. [Recommended source: Adam Chapnick, “A ‘Conservative’ National Story? The Evolution of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Discover Canada”, American Review of Canadian Studies, vol 1.41 (2011)]

2. Compare an historical novel with an historical narrative of the same subject. Drawing on the readings from the course, you can ask whether there is a practical difference between the two modes of writing. Are history books merely novels that claims to be ‘true’ or ‘real’ or ‘objective’? How do we differentiate between these two modes of story-telling, and, in the end, what is the epistemological status of history vis-à-vis ‘creative’ writing? [Recommended: Georg Lukács, The Historical Novel]

Books for sale in bookstore

Eclass readings (Use CCID and log in to Eclass)

Green & Troup, eds., The Houses of History: A Critical Reader in Twentieth-

Century History and Theory

Peter Burke, What is Cultural History?

Edward Said, Orientalism

Simon Schama, Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations

Jones & Perry, People’s Citizenship Guide: A Response to Conservative Canada


September 5

Topic: Introduction to the course

September 10

Topic: The Legacy of Empiricism

Readings: Green & Troup, “The Empiricists,” The Houses of History, pp.1-32

Replace with Claus and Marriott?
September 12

Topic: How to write a book review

Assignment: Locate two book reviews, read them, print them out, and bring

them to class to present and discuss. Book reviews can be found at the end of most historical journals (the American Historical Review, the Journal of Modern History, French History, etc.) as well as online. There are numerous online journals and historical communities who publish peer-reviewed book reviews. A good place to look is on (which hosts many different “H” (history) communities. Note that H-France has broken off from H-Net). On these websites, you can browse for recent book reviews.

September 17

Topic: Whig History and Its Consequences

Reading: Herbert Butterfield, The Whig Interpretation of History, Introduction-

Chapter 4 (about 30 pages) [eclass]

September 19

Topic: The Many Faces of Social History

Readings: Hoefferle, The Essential Historiography Reader, pp. 172-208 [eclass]

Replace with Claus and Marriott?
September 24

Topic: Geertz, Anthropology, and the Theory of Culture, Part 1

Readings: Clifford Geertz, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” pp.3-32 [eclass]
September 26

Topic: Geertz, Anthropology, and the Theory of Culture, Part 1

Readings: Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight,” pp.412-454 in The Interpretation of Cultures [eclass].

Due: Book review

Next Assignment:

Write a critical analysis of a history textbook used in primary school, middle school, high school, or university. Drawing on the theoretical readings from the course, especially White, Loewen, and Clarke, you can deconstruct the textbook’s (and its author’s) perspective. Some questions to keep in mind include the following: How is history conceived? Who is the ‘ideal’ reader? How is the ‘nation’ treated (whether it’s an American or Canadian textbook)? Is it Whiggish in orientation? What kind of narrative techniques does the author adopt, and why are these significant? What does it include and what does it leave out? Who is presented favorably or negatively?

October 1

Topic: The Rise of Cultural History

Reading: Burke, What is Cultural History?, Chs. 4 and 5.
October 3

Topic: Applying the Anthropological Conception of Culture to History: Darnton’s

Cultural History In the 1980s

Reading: Robert Darnton, “Workers Revolt: The Great Cat Massacre of the Rue

Saint-Séverin,” pp.74-104 in The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History [eclass]
October 8

Topic: Hayden White and the Problem with ‘Facts’ and Narrative History; or,

What is History Without a Stable Historical Object?

Reading: Hayden White, Introduction to Metahistory [eclass] Strongly Recommended: Green & Troup, “The Question of Narrative,” in The Houses of History, pp.204-229

October 10

Topic: Foucault, Subjectivity, and the Concept of Discourse

Reading: Foucault, “What is an Author?,” pp.113-138 in Language, Counter-

Memory, Practice [eclass]; Todd May, The Philosophy of Foucault, pp.44-63 [eclass]
October 15

Topic: The Tyranny of the Textbook

Reading: James Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me, pp.1-65 [reserve]

October 17

Topic: Politics, Power, and Ethnicity in Canadian Textbooks: The Question of Aboriginals

Reading: Penney Clark, “Representations of Aboriginal People in English

Canadian History Textbooks: Toward Reconciliation” in E.A. Cole, ed., Teaching the Violent Past, ch.3 [eclass]

October 22

Topic: How Can One Write History Without a Single Narrative Plot, Without

Sovereign Facts, Without Reference to a Stable Historical Object, and Without an Identifiable Truth?

Reading: Simon Schama, Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations, pp.3-72,

October 24 Due: Essay on textbooks

Topic: Archives and Epistemology; Discussion of Michel de Certeau and the

Creation of ‘Sources’

Reading: Natalie Zemon Davies, Fiction in the Archives, Intro and Ch.1

October 29

Topic: The Challenges of Oral History

Reading: Green & Troup, “Oral History,” in The Houses of History, pp.230-252
October 31

Topic: The Problem with Memory

Reading: Graham Carr, “War, History, and the Education of (Canadian) Memory,”

pp.57-78 in Memory, History, Nation: Contested Pasts, ed. K. Hodgkin & S. Radstone (eclass)

November 5

Topic: The Emergence and Importance of Gender History

Readings: Green & Troup, Houses of History, “Gender History,” pp.253-259;

Joan W. Scott, “Preface to the Revised Edition,” pp.ix-xiii, “Introduction,” pp.1-11, and “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” pp.28-50 all in Gender and the Politics of History: Revised Edition (1999) [eclass].

November 7

Topic: Gender History and the French Revolution

Readings: Lynn Hunt, “The Bad Mother,” pp.89-123 in The Family Romance of

the French Revolution [eclass]
November 12

No Class
November 14

Topic: Orientalism and the Advent of Post-Colonial Studies

Reading: Edward Said, Orientalism, Intro and Part 1

Add Claus and Marriott?
November 19

Topic: Historical Sociology and the History of Science

Reading: Steven Shapin, A Social History of Truth, ch.3 [eclass]
November 21

Topic: Semiotics and Interpretation of Visual Sources

Reading: Gillian Rose, Visual Methodologies, pp. 1-26 [eclass]
November 26

Topic: The Importance of the Historian in the Public Sphere

Reading: Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice, ch.6 [eclass]; Beverley Southgate, Why Bother with History?, ch. 4 [eclass]
November 28

Topic: Historical Controversy

Reading: Michael P. Johnson, “Denmark Vesey and His Co-Conspirators” [eclass]

See, also, this short newspaper article on the controversy:

December 3

Topic: Conservative Criticism of Cultural History, Post-Structuralism, the Decline of Political

History, and Any Approach to History that Isn’t Concerned with Forging a Unified Canadian Nation

Reading: J.L. Granatstein, Who Killed Canadian History?, pp. ix-xvii, 55-81 [eclass]

If we have time:

1. Discover Canada (located online at:

2. People’s Citizenship Guide: A Response to Conservative Canada [purchase]

Final paper due December 10th to the my EMAIL INBOX by 4:30 pm. Please do NOT drop off a hard copy in the office. Please indicate in the email if you want comments back on your paper, and I will return them via email.

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