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Welcome to Sex, Lies, and Depositions

Since the good folks at Phi Beta Kappa were interested, I’m posting this! I’ve taught versions of the course before.

Prof. R. Goetz History 486 Spring 2011 (Office Hours Mon 10-12) rgoetz@rice.edu

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, learning as they work the historians’ craft of researching and writing about the past.

Required Readings:

• John Ruston Pagan, Anne Orthwood’s Bastard: Sex and Law in Early Virginia (Oxford University Press, 2003).

• Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Seventh Edition) (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
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