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Department of History

What are Hist 300 and 586?

HIST 300, our "gateway class," provides history majors beginning their study with an introduction to the ideas, concepts, and skills required to earn a history degree. More specifically, we have designed the class to achieve the following:

  1. Convey a sense of "what it means to be a historian." 
  2. Explain how a major in history is different from other majors.
  3. Introduce the concept of "historical thought," emphasizing the importance of perspective, complexity, and ambiguity in the historian's work.
  4. Provide instruction and exercises in the essential skills required of a history major. These include: 
    • Locating and researching online databases. 
    • Locating and researching manuscript collections.
    • Learning Chicago Manual of Style citation style. 
    • Applying the fundamentals required to prepare research papers, book reviews, critical essays and case studies.
    • Locating and using reviews in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. 
    • Locating and assessing "academic" websites.
    • Preparing and delivering oral presentations.
    • Conducting oral interviews and presenting the results.
    • Mastering the basics of library use. 
    • Preparing and delivering critiques.

HIST 586 focuses on developing the skills, techniques, and methods required to research and complete a major research project (what in former times would have been called your college "thesis"). Please note that 586s have broad organizing topics, e.g., Nineteenth-Century America or Imperialism. You will research a subject consistent with the broader topic of your particular 586.

The exact form of the final product varies by professor, but a 25-page research paper is typical. Your research paper will not merely offer a narrative history or explanation of your topic but instead will present and support a new perspective and argument that differs significantly from currently existing scholarship. First, you will be adding to historical knowledge through a new interpretation of your topic. Second, the sources you employ in preparing your paper will be mainly primary sources - documents produced by the historical actors involved. Third, you will drive much of the class's content and discussion. For example, in many 586s you will prepare a PowerPoint presentation of your penultimate draft and will be responsible for formal critiques of your classmates' work.

For Spring 2018, the topics for HIST 586 are:
HIST 586 Advanced Seminar in History, Sec. A #13776  Prof. Louise Breen

T 12:30 - 3:20 p.m.  Calvin 308

Topic: This section will focus on the American Revolution, which affords a broad array of topics that students can work on, including military experiences; impacts on civilian populations; the rationale and fate of loyalists; the role of and impact of the Revolution on women, blacks and Indians; the treatment of prisoners of war; ideology; the complications of negotiating peace and demobilizing, etc. We will read an overview of the Revolution to help students develop topics, and then they will work on producing several drafts of the paper, providing peer criticisms for classmates along the way. Instruction on writing, footnoting, interpreting sources, and constructing an original argument, is provided.

HIST 586 Advanced Seminar in History, Sec. B #13777  Prof. David Defries

M 12:30 - 3:20 p.m.   Calvin 308 

Topic: This section is an undergraduate research seminar on the Middle Ages and Medievalism (the concept of the Middle Ages in modern culture). Students will produce an original historical argument. Most will probably produce a research paper, though alternate projects such as museum exhibitions are welcome.