Sex, Lies, and Depositions!

Very few changes from this syllabus’s previous iterations-I’ve had to change the end of the course to account for fewer instructional days in Rice’s new calendar, and we’re looking at a different county this time. Otherwise, this was such a success last time that it needed only a few tweaks.

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. The surviving court records of Northampton 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; nowhere 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.

Required Readings:

• Wayne C. Booth, et al. The Craft of Research (3rd Edition) (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
• 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, 2009).
• Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Seventh Edition) (University of Chicago Press, 2007).

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 20%
* 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 is 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 6 January: Course Introduction, What is Microhistory?
* handout: “What is Microhistory?/Reading Guide to Anne Orthwood’s Bastard”
Thurs 8 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 13 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 15 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. (in class handout)
* 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 JSTOR)
* second short writing assignment due
* receive Northampton County Microfilm Assignments
* handout “Reading Virginia Court Hand”
* explore online resources for transcription assistance
Week 3: Defining a Topic
Tues 20 January: Library Scavenger Hunt (meet in our classroom)
* Storey, Chapter One (Getting Started)
* Turabian, Manual for Writers, 29-32.
* Booth, Craft of Research, 283-311.
* handout “Generating an Annotated Bibliography”
*Be wary of the web! Separating the useful from the useless.
Thurs 22 January: Topics‡Questions‡Problems
* Booth, Craft of Research, 35-82.
* receive county court record presentation assignment
Week 4: Solidifying your Sources
Tues 27 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
*resource of the week: The Oxford English Dictionary Online, 3rd Edition
Thurs 29 January: County Court Record Presentations; Transcribing Helps/Hints
*schedule individual conferences with me (bibliographies)
Week 5: Interpretation, interpretation, interpretation
Tues 3 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!)
Thurs 5 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) (Handout in class)
* Booth, Craft of Research, 84-101.
* 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. (JSTOR)
Week 6: From research to writing, part I
Tues 10 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 12 February: Formulating arguments
*Booth, Craft of Research, 108-170.
*reread Story, 63-67.
*be ready to think about what “warrants” mean to solid argumentation
*bring your revised three-five sentence argument to class with you
*annotated bibliography due
Week 7: From research to writing, part II
Tues 17 February: Formal Proposal Presentations
*3-5-page formal proposal due
Thurs 19 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 23 February: Exchange narrative assignments with your partners by 5pm
Tues 24 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 26 February: To outline or not to outline, that is the question
* Storey, Chapter Five (Get Writing!) and Chapter Six (Build an Argument)
* Booth, Craft of Research, 173-212.
* receive outline assignment

Week 9: SPRING BREAK! Work on your Outlines

Week 10: Outline ‡ Draft!
Mon 10 March: Exchange outlines by 5pm
Tues 11 March: Brainstorm your outlines in class
Thurs 13 March: no class; private meetings with me
Week 11: Research and Writing Problems
Tues 17 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 19 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 24 March: Introductions and Conclusions
* Booth, Craft of Research, 232-248.
* receive first draft evaluation assignment
*receive First Draft FAQ
Thurs 26 March: no class, individual conferences with me
Week 13: First drafts, concluded
Mon 30 March: Exchange First Drafts by 5pm
Tues 31 March: First draft discussions in class
*bring your evaluation of your own paper and that of your partner to class
*receive revision assignment
Thurs 2 April: no class: Spring Recess
Week 14: Towards a Final Draft: Revising content
Tues 7 April: Writing a plan for revision
* Storey, Chapter Ten (Revising and Editing)
* bring a draft of your revision plan to class
Thurs 9 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 14 April: Style!
* Booth, Craft of Research, 249-269.
* Turabian, Manual for Writers, 119-128, 283-358.
* bring a problem paragraph to class with you
Thurs 16 April: The Perfect Word/Form over Function (just this once)
* Barzun and Graff, The Modern Researcher, 193-234 (in class handout).
* bring your partially revised draft to class with you
*look over your footnotes, especially.
* bring Turabian, A Manual for Writers to class with you.



3 thoughts on “

  1. Alas, they are not yet available online. I have students read them on microfilm and transcribe them.I do have a graduate student who is working on a critical edition of one of the most famous and involved of the court cases, but I don’t expect that to be available for several years.But, I could post some of my students’ transcriptions on the blog if there is interest out there.

  2. I use a reader in my early US survey and it uses a few transcriptions from Virginia and also Puritan court documents. They are kind of hard to read but the students really enjoy them. Thanks again. Looks like a great class.

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