HIST 225 Historiography (Fall 2018)


History is all around us, whether in statues and street names in our local communities, epic debates in the United States and around the world about topics of enduring importance, or through popular culture. As an academic pursuit, however, “history” is a field in which scholars focus on key questions to try to understand the past, to interpret it, to place people, events, cultural trends, and so on in context.

This course is an introduction to that discipline and serves as the introduction to the major. We will focus during the semester on how historians practice the work of history, how they ask questions, and how they argue for their positions.

Theme: A Revolutionary Republic?

History is an enormous field; there is no time or place in which humans have lived that historians have not shown an interest in understanding. We will therefore tailor our efforts this semester  by focusing on historical debates about the American Revolution and the creation of the United States. Over the past hundred years, scholars have devoted millions of pages to defining the scope of the American Revolution, determining the impact it had on various groups, and exploring how the Revolution led to the founding of the United States. We will explore these questions as a means to understand more generally how historians ask questions and how they approach their answers.

Course Schedule


Course Blog

Guide to Library Resources (via Whittemore Library)



Required Text

Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (New York: Random House, 2016). ISBN: 978-0812981209

Learning Objectives

The history department has developed a set of common learning objectives for this course. The goal of Historiography is to introduce students to the nature of history as a discipline and to the approaches, methods, and interpretations of historians. By the conclusion of the course, the student should be able to:

  • Identify the main argument and/or thesis statement of secondary sources.
  • Analyze and critically evaluate a variety of secondary sources, with particular attention to argument and use of evidence.
  • Use bibliographic resources to identify and locate relevant scholarly sources.
  • Situate scholarly sources within the wider historiography to which they contribute and assess these sources in relation to other scholarly works.
  • Understand methodologies of historical research.
  • Understand theories and trends of historical interpretation.
  • Display knowledge and evaluation of a particular historiography through composition of assignments such as review essays.
  • Format citations of scholarly sources according to the Chicago Manual of Style.

We will work on some of these objectives in great detail and others we will only introduce. It is important to remember that you will continue to develop these skills as you advance through the major and take HIST 250, 300-level courses, and HIST 450.

Catalog Description

An introduction to the nature of history as a discipline through analysis of the approaches, methods, and interpretations of historians. NOTE: Required of all history majors. Students should plan to take this course no later than the first semester of their sophomore year or in their first semester as a history major, if entering the major with sophomore standing or above.