HSTA 306: Historiography of a Field

As part of our discussions this semester, we have spent significant time discussing the evolution of the field of the history of the early American republic. Over time in every field, interests shift as historians begin to ask new questions, revisit old ones, open up new archival sources for study, and so on. For historians and history students, it is critical to be able to trace these transitions in order to better situate both the individual books and articles we are reading and figure out the contours of the field over time.

One of the best ways to understand the direction of a field is to examine its flagship journal. Fortunately, one exists for the topic of this course: the Journal of the Early Republic (JER), which began publication in 1981.

For this project, each student will be assigned six consecutive issues from JER to examine. These will be assigned at the beginning of class on April 14. For your assigned year, you should do the following:

  1. Review the articles ONLY (you are not responsible for the Book Review section, Notes & Documents features, or Editor’s Notes) for each of the six assigned issues. We will discuss how to do so in class on Friday, April 14.
  2. For each article, assign it from one to three major topical categories. There will be a pre-circulated list available, but you may also add your own categories.
  3. Maintain a bibliography in a Word document that lists the author, title, and issue of each article, as well as the topics you have assigned to it.
  4. In the joint Google Docs spreadsheet, enter your data into the established template as demonstrated by 8am on Friday, April 21
  5. Draft a reflection of 600-800 words (excluding footnotes) about your review of the assigned issues. You should consider some of the following:
  • Do you see any commonalities in the types of sources that these authors are using? The ways they frame research questions?
  • Are there any differences between what you reviewed in this journal volume and other texts you’ve read in this and your other history courses, for example, the methodology you considered in answering the above, or how they approach certain concepts, such as race, class, and gender?
  • In examining these specific issues, what surprised you?
  • How would you compare the topics covered in your issues to those found across those examined by other students in the course?

You can find the journal through the Whittemore Library website via JSTOR and Project MUSE.

In this assignment, we will work collaboratively to model the topics covered in JER going back at least twenty years. That is, you will share the results of your survey of the assigned year in a Google Docs spreadsheet so that we can compile and analyze data and discuss trends and changes. This will be our topic of study on April 21, so you must submit your topics by 8am that morning in order for us to have a successful discussion.


  • The assignment is due in two parts.
    • Part 1 (topics in Google Sheets) is due on Friday, April 21 by 8am. We must have all the data entered by then in order to discuss it as part of our class session that day.
    • Part 2 (reflection) is due via dropitto.me by 5pm on Friday, April 28 (NB: use Lastname_JER.docx as a filename template).
  • Citations should be in Chicago Manual of Style format.
  • Any reflection uploaded after 5:00pm on the due date will be assessed a late penalty of 5 points per day. No reflections will be accepted after 5:00pm on Friday, May 5.

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