HIST 5930, History of Historical Writing
Class Meets: W 6:00-10:00PM, L 262
Office: C 118; Phone: 209-667-3153
Department Phone: 209-667-3238
Textbook: Ernst Breisach, Historiography (Chicago, 1994)
This course covers the major approaches to studying and writing history in
Western culture from Egyptians to postmodernists. As the calendar below
indicates, we move rather rapidly to the modern era, and then we spend
about half the course examining modern historians. As time allows, we will
discuss the questions included in most calendar entries. Each week I will
provide a list of historians, and you will be able to chose one who will be
the subject of your paper.
Each week prepare a paper on your selected historian(s) (or thinker who has
influenced approaches to history). Make a duplicate of the paper, and be
prepared to present your ideas in class, where we will discuss the
historian and your work. Your paper should be about five to six pages long
and should describe the author and his or her work. Try to read enough of
the author's own writing to get a feel for the historical approach which is
employed. Several items will help make the description complete: the
author's sources and approach to those sources; the author's writing style;
any ultimate meaning the author attributes to history. If you are up to
it, write a brief evaluation of the historian.
Your grade will be based on your papers and your contributions to the
seminar. Fractional grading will be used.
Sept. 13: Introduction; Course Requirements (Briesach, pp. 1-4, 404-410)
What produces opposing approaches to history?
Sept. 20: Mythopoeic histories
What is an historical fact?
Sept 27: Classical ideals (Breisach, pp. 5-40)
What shapes historical thought?
Oct. 4: Christian views of history (Breisach, pp. 77-106)
Should an historian have a religion?
Oct. 11: Medieval chronicle and history (Breisach, pp. 107-152)
Is chronicle history?
Oct. 18: Renaissance and Reformation and the "pure past" (Breisach, pp. 153-198)
Is there a correct approach to the sources?
Oct. 22: Enlightenment uses for history (Breisach, pp. 199-227)
Should history confuse its students?
Oct. 25: History as science and politics ((Breisach, pp. 228-267)
Are you a Rankean?
Nov. 1: Social Science and History (Breisach, pp. 338-377)
Should history be a tool of social science?
Nov. 8: New historicism (Breisach, pp. 303-337)
Is there history or just thought about what someone else was thinking?
Nov. 15: Twentieth-century varieties (Breisach, pp. 338-377)
Why such confusion?
Nov. 22: No Class Meeting
Nov. 29: Postmodernism versus traditions (Breisach, pp. 377-403)
Is relativity relative?
Dec. 6: Student's Choice
The ideal historian.
By Dec. 13 please give me all the graded papers you have written
course. The papers will be available in the History Department office
during Winter Term.