HST6604: Approaches to the American Past
30 credits (semester 1)
2012-13 Module Leader: Dr Simon Middleton.
2012-13 Module Team: Dr Mike Foley.
This core module explores key themes in American history from the colonial through to the modern eras, introducing students to important debates in historical scholarship and giving them an awareness not only of the principal historiographical schools but also of the critical interrelationship between historical trends and events and scholarly interpretations of the past. Classes will be organised chronologically and thematically and will be taught through a series of case studies covering topics such as Native American history, consumption, gender, class, slavery, immigration and ethnicity, the New Deal, revisionism and the Cold War, and the New Left.
This module aims to introduce students to the most important issues and debates in American history. Organised chronologically and thematically, it will present a series of case studies relating to, for example, early European-Amerindian contact, class and gender relations, slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the New Deal, and the 1960s and contemporary American culture. It will give students an awareness of not only of the principal historiographical schools in the United States but also of the critical interrelationship between historical trends and events and scholarly interpretations of the past. The module will also give students a more profound understanding of American history, introducing them to different modes of historical writing and so providing them with a context from which to engage in independent research. To this end, the module examines the ways in which historians have explored their material and written about the past. We will look at examples of historical writing, and the approach taken by individual historians and historiographical schools. This will enable students to explore historians´ use of concepts and categories and how individual methods and sources have shaped the subject matter of history and the ways in which historians have written. The module will thus inform students´ understanding in their choice of a research topic and enhance their ability to recognise any methodological problems inherent in their chosen area of specialism.
The principal mode of contact will be ten two-hour seminar classes. Within this standard format, students will be offered
- a series of content-specific seminars, looking at a range of historical topics, issues, and problems that take the student through particular historical periods, providing both an introduction to the advanced study of the period and the historical and historiographical context from which to undertake practice-based research.
- a series of methodological seminars examining different approaches to the research and writing of American history. Some seminars will look at specific problems, such as how archives store and structure knowledge, others will focus on a particular methodological debate, such as oral history or ‘public history’ in the form of readily accessible electronic archives. Students will thus have a forum in which to explore problems and methods in the advanced study of American history.
Students will be set preparatory reading in advance for all seminars. They will be expected to share their knowledge of historiographical developments, debate controversial topics and listen and respond to the views of others in a structured environment. Students will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss their written work for this module.
Students will complete one written paper of 6,000 words. The paper will engage with one or more of the topics or themes of the module through a case-study/case-studies. It should demonstrate an advanced understanding of and critical engagement with current historiography, and advanced skills in the use of sources.
Intended Learning Outcomes