H501 Historical Methodology (Section 20532)

H501 Historical Methodology (Section 20532)


Spring 2008

H501 Historical Methodology (Section 20532)

Indiana University Graduate School

Department of History, IUPUI

Time: Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m.--8:40 p.m.

Place: IUPUI, CA 537

Faculty: Dr. Kevin C. Robbins

Associate Professor of History

Office: CA 503Q

Office Phone: 317-274-5819

Office Fax: 317-278-7800


Office Hours: T/Th. Noon to 1:00 p.m. (and by Appointment).

H501 is here conceived as a course on historical research methods requiring students to familiarize themselves with the techniques professional historians now successfully employ in selecting and framing historical problems. Students will also work individually and together at the identification, collection, and analysis of prime, previously unexploited sources. All students will apply themselves to the cogent development of significant, publishable arguments or presentations explaining change in human behavior over time. The course has two main practical objectives: 1) to present students with required readings in recent masterworks of historical writing enabling sustained analysis of how professional historians now work, especially in European and American cultural history, to document and decipher prior eras, communities, and habits of human comportment—corporal, intellectual, collective, and institutional; and 2) to enable each student to plan, to contextualize richly, and to launch his or her own graduate level research project—ideally related directly to their M.A. thesis or Public History paper plans (or, for non-degree students, toward a significant subject or historical problem of appeal to them and for which they might undertake later sustained research). The instructor regards both objectives as eminently practical and mutually capable of helping students to organize and apply their own research talents. Progress toward these objectives should help students to appreciate historical investigation as essentially a very labor-intensive craft most reliant upon practitioners’ empirical skills of source location, source analysis, and source interpretation based upon common sense. High theory or the theoretical implications of specific research methods in history and the social sciences are thus not considered by the instructor as relevant to this course of training in analysis and practice of creative, resourceful, and effective research methods.

Students for whom the assigned readings fall outside of their areas or eras of research specialization should not worry over this matter. Please recall that we are reading these works for their methodological insights. This investigation does not require students to have extensive background information on the cultures, eras, or problems addressed. It is more what these authors do with the sources at their disposal rather than what they argue through or about these sources that matters for us.

This course will run as a graduate seminar. All students will complete all assigned class readings and come to all class sessions fully prepared to discuss at length the texts assigned. The instructor may provide brief introductory lectures prior to discussion informing students of relevant biographical or cultural factors shaping the work of the author or authors read. Student participants will also take an active assigned class role in presenting and commenting upon the texts read and the research designs presented. Each student will be responsible for initially presenting one or part of the assigned readings to the class. This work will come at the start of class and should run approximately 20 minutes in length. This work will involve a brief biographical profile of the author or authors, references to the career and publications of the author or authors, and some general overview of the assigned text's prime arguments and relationship to the author's prior course of research and writing. Student reviewers will give specific commentary on the sources utilized in the assigned text--especially by close study and reference to the notes and supporting bibliographies if any. All students will conclude their assigned presentations with commentary or critique on the specific research/analytical methods employed by authors to exploit key sources for gain in power of argumentation and interpretation. Students are encouraged to offer their classmates print copies or printed illustrations of their text presentations as they deem appropriate. Presentations must be well organized, cogent, to the point, and comprehensive, covering the points outlined above. Students are welcome to consult with the instructor over the content of their introductions prior to delivering them.

Written work for this class over the semester will include two brief critical review essays focused on masterworks read. The format and content of these essays will be discussed in class and via handouts. Students are encouraged to use these review essays to assess whether and how methods of historical work in the assigned readings may beneficially inform, reshape, and improve their own research designs. The main written component of the course will be a thorough research project design. This organized research plan will include: a project statement, an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources highly relevant to the projected inquiry, a bibliographical essay on this relevant historical literature, and a final research design. All students are encouraged to discuss their research project extensively with the instructor. The instructor will also be happy to collaborate as needed with the student’s main thesis advisor(s) and other members of the university faculty engaged in the project so as to produce (with the student’s active assistance, the most efficient, innovative, and insightful project design possible.

Required readings for this edition of H501 are listed below in order of use. Students will note several unifying themes central to some of the very latest and most influential Euro-American historical scholarship interconnect these assigned works: comparative analysis of historical research methods, the transdisciplinary history of art and aesthetics, the history of holidays and popular memory, the history and material culture of science and its popularization, architectural history, regional history and regional identity, urban and environmental history, and the history of modern cultural movements.

Howell, Martha and W. Prevenier. From Reliable Sources: An Introduction to Historical Methods.

Cornell Univ. Press, 2001.

Pleij, Herman. Colors Demonic and Divine: Shades of Meaning in the Middle Ages. Columbia Univ.

Press, 2004.

Sharpe, James. Remember, remember: A Cultural History of Guy Fawkes Day. Harvard Univ.

Press, 2005.

Fyfe, Aileen and B. Lightmen (eds.). Science and the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century Sites and

Experiences. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2007.

Sandoval-Strausz, A.K. Hotel: An American History. Yale Univ. Press, 2007.

Cayton, Andrew and S. Gray (eds.). The Identity of the American Midwest: Essays on Regional

History. Indiana Univ. Press, 2001.

Klingle, Matthew. Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle. Yale Univ. Press, 2007.

Gay, Peter. Modernism: The Lure of Heresy. W.W. Norton, 2008.

All texts are for sale in the IUPUI Bookstore, New Student Center, History Section, and can also be found (often at a great discount) via various online book dealers (try Amazon.com first). Books have also been ordered by Indy’s College Bookstore, 11th St., north of Indiana Ave. All students should have their own copies of these required readings well before they are to be discussed.

The following written assignments integral to the research design will be due according to the weekly class schedule given below.

Project Statement: 2-3 pages. Give the title of your proposed thesis or research project and briefly discuss its significance. What historical problem(s) will you address? What specific research questions will you ask? Why is it or why are they important? What sources in general will you use to get at and explore this subject? Where are they and on what scale will you work? How many sources do you think you need? What do you hope your work will contribute to the existing literature in the area you have selected and how will your work differ from that of other historians? Have you come up with a preliminary working hypothesis about your subject/problem? What is it? What will be the size or scale of the finished written product that will come out of this research? If it is a thesis, how many chapters will it have, what will its prime parts be? If a research paper, what will its component parts be?

Annotated Bibliography. This is a list to include approximately 20 primary and secondary sources, if both are available. Secondary sources should include books and articles and may also incorporate images, websites, maps, and other media of all kinds relevant to the project. Each entry should have a complete bibliographical citation (single-spaced) according to accepted format (Chicago Manual of Style is best). This entry should be followed by a double-spaced paragraph (no more) describing the source and its most important contributions to your own project in terms of content, methods of investigation, or research questions presented. Primary sources should be listed first, followed by secondary materials, all arranged alphabetically.

Bibliographical Essay: approximately 20 pages. This assignment will be due toward the end of the semester and should reflect closer scrutiny of the most vital sources listed in the annotated bibliography as well as of any additional material found over the course of the semester and deemed highly valuable to the research project. This essay should accomplish the following objectives: 1) revise the project statement based on the instructor's comments and additional research by the student; 2) lay out precisely the revised set of specific, cogent research questions the student will work to answer through the research project; 3) connect the project thickly and informatively to the secondary literature included in the bibliography; and 4) tie the project to wider issues of methodological investigation, source interpretation, and revision of existing historical arguments about the subject and the research fields or sub-fields in which it lies.

Research Design: in an essay of 7-10 pages cogently describe your project, the historical research questions it addresses, and how it complements, expands, or revises existing historical literature in the field or sub-field to which the project belongs. In addition, describe carefully your proposed new plan of research, anticipate the research problems you may encounter, and explain briefly your anticipated strategies for coping with or surmounting such problems. What sources will you use and what difficulties may the sources themselves pose in terms of availability, reliability, and interpretation. State clearly, how, if at all, your key research questions or hypotheses about your project have changed over the course of your preliminary project readings and contextualizations.

Grading for this course will be determined as follows:

Review Essays 15%

Project Statement and Annotated Bibliography 20%

Bibliographic Essay 30%

Research Design 15%

Class Participation (including text presentation) 20%

Course Outline and Reading Assignments

(Readings to Be Done By the Date On Which They Appear)

Wed. Jan. 9 Course Introduction, Distribution of Syllabus, Explanation of Course

Content and Objectives. Brief Description of Main Course Readings.

Sign-UP Sheet Circulated for In-Class Text Presentations.

Wed. Jan. 16 Discussion: Historical Sources: Their Nature, Analysis, and Interpretation.

Readings: Howell, Prevenier, From Reliable Sources, Introduction and Chapters

I-III, pp. 1-87.

Wed. Jan. 23 Discussion: New Methods of Historical Interpretation, the Nature of

Historical Knowledge, and the False Problem of “Objectivity.”

Readings: Howell, Prevenier, From Reliable Sources, Chapters IV-V, pp.


Typed Research Project Statement Due in Class From All Students.

Wed. Jan. 30 Discussion: History in Color and Colorful History. Methods for the

Cultural History of Medieval Values and Aesthetics.

Readings: Pleij, Colors Demonic and Divine, Introduction and Chapters 1-7,

pp. 1-98.

First Brief Critical Review Essay Distributed in Class

Wed. Feb. 6 Discussion: What are the Methods for the New Cultural History of

Holidays? Popular Rituals and Popular Memory Over Time.

Readings: Sharpe, Remember, Remember, Chapters 1-3, pp.1-106.

First Brief Critical Review Essay Due Back in Class.

Wed. Feb. 13 Discussion: How and Why Do Holidays Change in Significance Over

Time? What Challenges and Opportunities Does This Process Offer

the Historian? Readings: Sharpe, Remember, Remember, Chapters 4-6,

pp. 107-200.

Wed. Feb. 20 Discussion: Methods for Studying the Social Topography and Cultural

Development of Nineteenth-Century Popular Science.

Readings: Fyfe and Lightman, Science in the Marketplace, Chapters 1, 4, 5, and

7, pp. 1-19, 97-132, 135-168, and 196-230.

Wed. Feb. 27Discussion: Methods for the Cultural History of Power Sources Material and

Rhetorical. Displays, Displaying, and the Historical Impact of Museums.

Readings: Fyfe and Lightman, Science in the Marketpalce, Chapters 8, 10, 11,

and 12, pp. 231-268, 301-335, 336-370, and 371-403.

Second Brief Critical Review Essay Distributed in Class.

Wed. Mar. 5 Discussion: What are the Methods by Which One Writes the Cultural

History of a Building Type? The Hotel as History.

Readings: Sandoval, Hotel: An American History, Introduction and Chapters

1-4, pp. 1-135.

Second Brief Critical Review Essay Due in Class.


Wed. Mar. 19 Discussion: What are the Methods by Which One Writes the Structural,

Spatial, and Cultural History of Hospitality?

Readings: Sandoval, Hotel, Chapters 5-10 and Conclusion, pp. 137-316.

Preliminary Annotated Bibliography Due in Class.

Wed. Mar. 26 Discussion: What are the Methods by Which One Writes the

Environmental and Cultural History of A City?

Readings: Klingle, Emerald City, Prologue and Chapters 1-4, pp. 1-153.

Wed. April 2 Discussion: What are the Real Dimensions of Ecological History and

the Methods for Communication of Its Lessons?

Readings: Klingle, Emerald City, Chapts 5-8 and Epilogue, pp. 154-280.

Wed. April 9 Discussion: What are the Methods by Which One Writes the Cultural

History of a Region? Methods for Commemorating Regional Identity.

Readings: Cayton and Gray, Identity of the American Midwest, Introduction

and Chapters 2-5, pp. 1-26 and 48-110.

Bibliographical Essay Due in Class.

Wed. April 16 Discussion: Historical Methods for the Documentation and Analysis of

Multi-ethnic American Regions. How Diverse is Historical Method and

Writing? Readings: Cayton and Gray, Identity of the American Midwest, Chapters

7-9, pp. 123-180.

Wed. April 23 Discussion: What are the Methods by Which One Writes the Comprehensive

Cultural History of a Modern Aesthetic Movement?

Readings: Gay, Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, Preface, “A Climate for

Modernism,” and Chapters 3-5, and 7, pp. 1-68, 103-280, and 335-391.

Wed. April 30Final Research Designs and Final Annotated Bibliographies due in

Instructor’s Mailbox, CA 504M by 5:00 p.m. NO EXCEPTIONS!