Next Semester’s Syllabus
As I promised below, here I share my syllabus for HIST 487. The purpose of the class is to teach sophomore, junior, and senior history majors how to conduct historical research and how to write substantial papers based on that research. I’m just about ready to call it final and order the books. I now sit back and wait for the Weekly (sub)Standard to sneer! (Please excuse the formatting; Word for Mac doesn’t seem to translate well into Blogger.)
Sex, Lies, and Depositions
(Microhistories of Virginia County Court Records)
Court records are fascinating sources for understanding the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of early Virginians. Students will read seventeenth and early eighteenth-century court records and write a research paper based on court cases they select, learning as they work the historian’s craft of researching and writing about the past.
The surviving court records of York County, Virginia are full of amazing stories of libel, slander, theft, attempted murder, fights, great escapes by servants and slaves, rape, and illicit sex. They are also full of the more mundane legalities of everyday Virginia life: petitions, suits for the collection of debt, probate of wills, and the registration of cattle brands. These seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century records are by far the best source for hearing the echoes of the voices of ordinary Virginians; no where else can historians find the words and experiences of planters, both wealthy and poor, indentured servants, African slaves, free blacks, and women, both married and unwed. In this course students will read in these records and produce a 20-25 page research paper based on a court case or set of court cases that they select, learning as they work the historians’ craft of researching and writing about the past.
? Wayne C. Booth, et al. The Craft of Research (2nd Edition) (University of Chicago Press, 2003)
? John Ruston Pagan, Anne Orthwood’s Bastard: Sex and Law in Early Virginia (Oxford University Press, 2003)
? William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students (3rd Edition) (Oxford University Press, 2006)
? Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Sixth Edition) (University of Chicago Press, 1996)
Expectations and Grading Scheme:
There are a number of writing assignments, both graded and ungraded. Every piece of writing you do in this class will help you write the final paper, so even though most writing assignments are “worth” only a small percentage of your grade, they make producing your final paper much easier. Therefore, I do not recommend skipping them. Additionally, you will have three individual conferences with me during the course of the semester. Although these are also ungraded, they are specifically designed to help you with the research and writing process. I do not recommend skipping those either.
* 1st short writing assignment 5%
* 2nd short writing assignment 5%
* annotated bibliography 5%
* proposal 5%
* narrative history assignment 5%
* comments on partner’s narrative 5%
* outline 5%
* first draft evaluation 5%
* comments on partner’s first draft 5%
* revision plan 5%
* First Draft 10%
* Final Draft 30%
You will note that there is no percentage for participation. This does not mean, however, that your presence in class and active involvement in our discussions are not expected. Many aspects of your work rely on collaboration with your classmates, and so unexcused absences harm everyone in the class, not just yourself. I take attendance at each class; after three unexcused absences your final grade, based on the percentages listed above, will fall by one letter grade. Your grade will fall by another letter grade for each unexcused absence after the third. That means even the perfect A student will fail the course after six absences. So, the moral of the story is…come to class!
If you are sick or have a personal emergency that requires your absence from class, please provide the appropriate documentation and I will excuse you. You may come to office hours or make an appointment with me to discuss material you missed.
I will NOT accept late papers. Papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date (unless otherwise noted)…not halfway through the class, not at the end of class, not slipped under my office door sometime after the start of class. Only illness and personal emergency are suitable excuses for turning in a paper late with no penalty. Papers turned in late without verification of illness or personal emergency will receive a grade of ZERO.
If you are traveling on the day a paper is due for an athletic event or other college event, you must make arrangements with me to turn in your paper before you leave. I do not accept emailed papers (as we all know, attachments sometimes get lost—there is no substitute for a hard copy!).
All assignments in this course are covered by the honor code. You may NOT work together on writing assignments or on the final paper.
Any student with a documented disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations must speak with me during the first two weeks of class. All discussions will remain confidential. Students with disabilities should also contact Disabled Student Services in the Ley Student Center.
Week 1: Introduction
Tues 9 January: Course Introduction, What is Microhistory?
* handout: “What is Microhistory?/Reading Guide to Anne Orthwood’s Bastard”
Thurs 11 January: Primary and Secondary Sources
* Pagan, Anne Orthwood’s Bastard, pps. 3-80
* receive first short writing assignment (primary and secondary sources)
Week 2: What is Microhistory?
Tues 16 January: Argument and Interpretation in Microhistory
* read Pagan, Anne Orthwood’s Bastard, 81-150
* first short writing assignment due
* receive second short writing assignment (writing about argument)
Thurs 18 January: What is Microhistory, all over again!
* Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “The Significance of Trivia” Journal of Mormon History vol. 19, no. 1 (Winter 1993), 52-66. (on reserve)
* Jill Lepore, “Historians Who Love Too Much: Reflections on Microhistory and Biography” Journal of American History vol. 88, no.1 (June 2001), 129-144. (online through the History Cooperative)
* second short writing assignment due
* receive York County Microfilm Assignments
* handout “Reading Virginia Court Hand”
Week 3: Defining a Topic
Tues 23 January: Library Scavenger Hunt
* Storey, Chapter One (Getting Started)
* handout “Generating an Annotated Bibliography”
Thurs 25 January: Topics‡Questions‡Problems
* Booth, Craft of Research, 37-89
* receive county court record presentation assignment
Week 4: Solidifying your Sources
Tues 30 January: The Parts of a County Court Record
*bring a printout of your case(s), a preliminary transcription, and Anne Orthwood’s Bastard to class with you
*receive annotated bibliography assignment
Thurs 1 February: County Court Record Presentations; Transcribing Helps/Hints
*schedule individual conferences with me (bibliographies)
Week 5: Interpretation, interpretation, interpretation
Tues 6 February: Source materials and inferences
* read Storey, Chapter Two (Interpreting Source Materials) and Chapter Four (Use Sources to Make Inferences)
* final court record selection due, bring a clean photocopy of the actual records and your transcription to class with you (note: this assignment is ungraded but still required!)
* Snyder, Brabbling Women, 3-18. 45-66, 140-144
Thurs 8 February: Taking and organizing notes; Importance of Citing Properly
* read Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graf, The Modern Researcher, Chapter Two (The ABC of Technique)
* Booth, Craft of Research, 90-108
* bring Turabian, A Manual for Writers to class with you
* Warren Billings, “The Cases of Fernando and Elizabeth Key: A Note on the Status of Blacks in Seventeenth-Century Virginia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser. vol. 30, no. 3 (July 1973), 467-474.
Week 6: From research to writing, part I
Tues 13 February: arguments and proposals
*write three-five sentences that you think represent your argument to class with you (again, not graded, but crucial!)
* receive formal proposal assignment
Thurs 15 February: Formulating arguments
*Booth, Craft of Research, 111-161
*bring your revised three-five sentence argument to class with you
Week 7: From research to writing, part II
Tues 20 February: Formal Proposal Presentations
*3-5-page formal proposal due
Thurs 22 February: Writing narrative, or, what really happened?
* read Storey, Chapter Seven (Narrative Techniques for Historians)
* receive narrative history assignment
*Meet with me, Wed-Fri to discuss proposals
Week 8: From Nothing to Something: First Drafts
Mon 26 February: Exchange narrative assignments with your partners by 5pm
Tues 27 February: Uncertainty in historical narratives
* meet with your partner, discuss narrative history assignment
* bring a clean copy of your narrative history assignment, plus your comments on your partner’s work to class with you
Thurs 1 March: To outline or not to outline, that is the question
* Storey, Chapter Five (Get Writing!) and Chapter Six (Build an Argument)
* Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graf, Modern Researcher, Chapter Nine (Organizing: Paragraph, Chapter, and Part) (on reserve)
* receive outline assignment
Week 9: SPRING BREAK! Work on your Outlines
Week 10: Outline ‡ Draft!
Mon 12 March: Exchange outlines by 5pm
Tues 13 March: Brainstorm your outlines in class
Thurs 15 March: no class; private meetings with me
Week 11: Research and Writing Problems
Tues 19 March: Troubleshooting in your Research (or, Solving the Unsolvable)
* bring a one-page description of a research or interpretation problem you’re having to class for discussion (note: this assignment is ungraded but still required!)
Thurs 21 March: Strategies for Writing a First Draft
* read Storey, Chapter Three (Writing History Faithfully), Chapter Eight (Writing Sentences in History), and Chapter Nine (Choose Precise Words)
* handout on free writing
Week 12: First drafts, continued….
Tues 27 March: Introductions and Conclusions
* Booth, Craft of Research, 183-240
* receive first draft evaluation assignment
Thurs 29 March: no class, individual conferences with me
Week 13: First drafts, concluded
Mon 2 April: Exchange First Drafts by 5pm
Tues 3 April: First draft discussions in class
*bring your evaluation of your own paper and that of your partner to class
*receive revision assignment
Thurs 5 April: no class: Spring Recess
Week 14: Towards a Final Draft: Revising content
Tues 10 April: Writing a plan for revision
* Storey, Chapter Ten (Revising and Editing)
* bring a draft of your revision plan to class
Thurs 12 April: no class, individual conferences with me
*bring a clean copy of your revision plan to your meeting with me
Week 15: Towards a Final Draft: Revising Style
Tues 17 April: Style!
* Booth, Craft of Research, 263-282
* bring a problem paragraph to class with you
Thurs 19 April: The Perfect Word
* Barzun and Graff, The Modern Researcher, 193-234
* bring your partially revised draft to class with you
Week 16: Final Drafts
Tues 24 April: Form over function (just this once)
*look over your footnotes, especially
* bring Turabian, A Manual for Writers to class with you, as well as
a working copy of your final draft
Thurs: What is Microhistory, revisited
*FINAL DRAFT DUE AT BEGINNING OF CLASS