NOTE: Print this out for use in class. However, the official syllabus for this course is the website, NOT any printed version. Students are responsible for checking the website regularly for updates and other information

Locator Information



  • Semester/Year: Fall, 2001
  • Semester Hours of Credit: 3
  • Section: 01
  • Class Meeting Days and Time: T 6:00-8:50 p.m.
  • Class Location: JKSA 207
  • Instructor: Dr. Theron E. Corse
  • Office Location: JKSA 206A
  • Office Phone: 672-1044
  • Alternate Phone (Dept.): 672-1573
  • E-Mail:
  • Office Hours: W 9-11, 2-3; T, R 1:30-4:00; T 5:30-6:00; or by appointment

Course Description

This course introduces students to fundamental questions about the nature of history and to the varieties of history that different answers to these questions have inspired.  Students will investigate the kinds of questions historians ask about the past, the relationship between theory and evidence in historical writing, and the varieties of evidence historians use to reconstruct the past.


At the end of this course, successful students will have the following knowledge and skills:

  • Knowledge:
    • philosophical issues related to the nature of history
    • contemporary approaches to history
    • recent historiographical controversies
  • Skills:
    • ability to write a critical review
    • ability to research and discuss historiographical issues
    • ability to use the Internet to research historiographical debates

Teaching Strategies

This class is taught as a seminar. Students should be prepared to discuss assigned readings weekly, to lead discussions as assigned, and to present the results of their own research in class.  Students should also be prepared to discuss the works and presentations of guest speakers.

Schedule of Assignments and Due Dates

No. Assignment Weight Due Date
01 First presentation 5% See Outline and Guidelines for specific assignments and due dates.
02 First critique essay 10%
03 Second presentation 5%
04 Second critique essay 10%
05 Book critique 10% Nov. 20
06 Historiographic paper 35% Dec. 18
07 Project presentation 5%  
08 Participation 20%  


Grades and their numerical equivalents are as follows:

Numeric Score Letter Grade
90 or above A
80-91 B
70-79 C
69 or below F


Incompletes are granted only if the student is unable to complete specific course requirements for reasons beyond his or her control. Incompletes are granted only if the student contacts the instructor before the end of the term, and then only if the instructor agrees that the circumstances merit an incomplete. The student and the instructor must complete an Incomplete Grade Form. Students who do not contact the instructor before the end of the term will receive a grade of F (0) on all missing work.

Course Policies

Late Work

Students are responsible for all work assigned in this class, whether or not they are present. Assignments must be completed on time. Late work will be penalized one letter grade unless you have a good excuse, and no assignments will be accepted more than one week late.

Students may rewrite their essays. Rewrites are due one week after the instructor hands graded assignments back to the class, whether or not you attend class that day.

Make-ups for missed examinations and quizzes are given at the discretion of the instructor. The absence must be excused under the same conditions as absence from class. In general, make-ups must be taken within one week of the original date of the exam.


Attendance is required. Excessive absence (more than 2 absences for weekly classes) can affect the participation grade.

Tardiness disrupts the class and is also discouraged. Any student arriving after the instructor has finished calling the roll may be considered tardy, and two incidents of unexcused tardiness count as one unexcused absence. Students who arrive late should check with the instructor at the end of class to make sure they are not marked absent.

Students are expected to remain in class until they are dismissed, unless they have received prior permission from the instructor to leave early. Early departure from class will be treated the same as tardiness--two such occurrences will constitute an unexcused absence.

Excuses for tardiness and absence will be accepted at the discretion of the instructor. Written documentation may be required, especially for lengthy or repeated problems. Students should bring excuses to the instructor's attention as soon as possible--before the event if it is foreseeable, immediately after if not. Excuses for tardiness should be discussed with the instructor immediately after the class for which the student is tardy; excuses for absence should be discussed the first day the student returns to class. With rare exceptions, excuses will not be accepted after these dates.


All students are expected to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned material. This implies that students should read the material before class. Perfect comprehension is not expected at the beginning of class, but students should be familiar with the topic and the major points, and they should have identified areas they do not understand well enough to ask focused, intelligent questions about them. The instructor reserves the right to give unannounced quizzes or other assignments to check students' preparation.

There are three principal ways students can participate:

  1. by asking and answering questions in class,
  2. by contributing to team projects
  3. by discussing courses material with the instructor during office hours.

Students are expected to observe normal courtesy in class. They are expected to pay attention to the instructor, to take detailed notes, to refrain from personal conversation, and to avoid any other behavior that disturbs others. A student who does not observe these courtesies may be asked to leave the room.

Academic Honesty

Students should be aware that a university is a community of scholars committed to the discovery and dissemination of knowledge and truth. Without freedom to investigate all materials, scrupulous honesty in reporting findings, and proper acknowledgment of credit, such a community can not survive. Students are expected to adhere to the highest traditions of scholarship. Infractions of these traditions, such as plagiarism (cheating), are not tolerated. Misrepresenting someone else's words or ideas as one's own constitutes plagiarism. In cases where plagiarism occurs, the instructor has the right to penalize the student(s) as he or she thinks appropriate. One guideline holds that the first offence results in failure of the assignment, the second offence in failure of the course.


Readings for specific dates may vary slightly from the following table as the pace of the class dictates. Students are responsible for keeping up with any such changes, which will also be posted on this web site.

Underlined readings are links to web sites. Students are responsible for learning how to use the World Wide Web to get readings. Students should print out copies of the readings to bring to class. Plan ahead--the Web is a great learning resource, but glitch happens. Do not tell me you could not get the reading because the server went down ten minutes before class.

Readings marked "reserve" are available from the circulation desk of Chesnutt Library. Students should also make copies to bring to class.

Assignments for presentations and critiques are indicated by the student's initials in the right-hand columns. See Requirements for more information.

Unit Date Topic: Reading Assignments


Aug 28 Introduction Pres. Crit.


Sep 4 Problems of Textbook History: An Exercise in Historiography - Selection of readings from textbooks - available from Dr. Corse.  Group  


Sep 11 An Example of Historical Debate: Daniel Goldhagen, "Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust"; Recent Writings by Daniel Goldhagen, esp. "The New Discourse of Avoidance"; Norman Finkelstein, "Articles and Reviews relating to the Goldhagen Thesis" (see esp. Finkelstein's Response To Goldhagen); Blumenthal, "A Scholarly Dispute on the Cause of the Holocaust"; H-Net Discussion Log--keyword search on "Goldhagen" and "Finkelstein"    



Sep 18 Problems of Historical Knowledge: Wilson, chs. 1-2; Thucydides: On Inventing Speeches, from History of the Peloponnesian War; Lord Acton: Inaugural Lecture on the Study of History; Gerald W. Schlabach: A Sense of History: Some Components; James H. Robinson: Why Study History Through Primary Sources; The Need for Source Criticism: A Letter from Alexander to Aristotle?    


Sep 25 History and Theory--Interpretations of Andrew Jackson:  Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History"; Alexis de Tocqueville, Principal Causes Which Tend to Maintain the Democratic Republic in the United States; Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (1950). Read the "Prologue and Chapter XI.


Oct 2 Social History and Visual Evidence: Wilson, ch 4; Riis, How the Other Half Lives;      


Oct 9 Actors--Gender: Wilson, ch. 5; "The Sexual Solipsism of Freud"; Solange Alberdo "Beatriz de Padilla: Mistress and Mother" (Handout from Dr. Corse)    


Oct 16 History and the Human Sciences: Wilson, ch. 3; Geertz, Thick Description    


Oct 21 Intellectual History: Modern European Intellectual History: An Introduction; Stephen E. Lucas, "The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence"; The Declaration of Independence    


Oct 30 Rational Actor Theory and Public Policy--The Decision to Drop the Atomic Bomb: The Last Act - The Enola Gay and the Atomic Bomb (A comparison of the texts of the cancelled and final versions); H-Asia Smithsonian Enola Gay Exhibit Controversy    


Nov 6 Social History and Oral Evidence: Wilson, ch 4; American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology    


Nov 13 Postmodernism and History: Wilson 6; Foucault, "What Is an Author?"; Mary Klages, Summary and Analysis of "What is an Author?"; John R. Durant, Summary and Analysis of "What is an Author?" Tim Spurgin, "Readers Guide to 'What is an Author?'" Jean Baudrillard,  DisneyWorld Company     


Nov 20 Problems of Textbook History Revisited: Forum on textbooks.    


Nov 27 History and the Future: Wilson, review; TBA    


Dec 4 Virtual Discussion--History and Quantification: Wilson, ch. 3; Dowdle, "The Protomodern Presidency" (reserve);     


Dec 11 Student Presentations    


Dec 18 Student Presentations    


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  • Rampolla, Mary Lynn.  A Pocket Guide to Writing in History. 2d ed.  New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1998.
  • Wilson, Norman J. History in Crisis? Recent Directions in Historiography. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1998.

Reserve (Chesnutt Library)

  • Dowdle, Andrew J. "The Protomodern Presidency." Unpublished paper. 1999.

Web Resources