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Making History

This year I am teaching on the module 'Making History' (HI175). If you are in one of my seminar groups, make sure to check this page for readings and suggestions.

My office hours are: Thursday, 12-14, H0.23. I would be grateful if you let me know via email if you intend to come to my office hours.

For all written work, please make sure that you follow the Style Guide used by the Department. Avoid poor scholdarly presentation. I have also written a sheet with some tips to help you write more scholarly essays. They are generally very easy to follow, so I would encourage you to take a look and act upon them.

Here is my response to the feedback on the seminars(Word Document). Here is the response to feedback from the module convenors(Word Document).

The schedule for student presentations(Word Document) is now up. Hand-outs with full references will be expected.

Here are my general comments on the first essay: this sheet will give you some useful pointers for your future essays. There are also some examples of good footnoting. Also, here is the handout(Word Document) I distributed in class with advice for the first essay: this sheet also contains the mark-scheme.

Week 9 - Race and the New Politics

This week we are studying the role of race and immigration in British society and politics. There are three primary sources, and two secondary readings: I suggest you do the secondary stuff first to help you in your reading of the primary materials. When you're going through the readings, please think about the question: what was new about views on race during this time, and what was a continuation of former trends?

From this, you should start thinking about whether the late 1970s and 1980s marked a shift in political culture, was the beginning of 'new times'? The Stuart Hall reading will help you do this.

To assist you in your discussions of race and immigration, could you all please bring along an image (photo, cartoon, billboard, whatever you think useful) or, if you're feeling super adventerous, a contemporary song (just the lyrics will do) which you think will help the debate.

One final thing: there are some very interesting 'Further Readings on the New Politics' towards the bottom of the Moodle page, on some topics which you might not have formerly considered to be worthy of historical study. If you are interested in all this contemporary history stuff, those readings would be a very good way to extend that.

Week 8 - 1979, Feminism, and the Crisis of the Left

You've all got essays due in, so not too much reading this week. Nevertheless, you will have to do these tasks to be able to follow the seminar (and the lectures, for that matter), so make sure you get down to it.

There are four readings this week. Please read all of the Letters Page from Spare Rib, it's only a page. As for the issue of Labour Briefing, this is longer: please make sure you read the first four pages thoroughly, and then look through the rest of the issue, paying attention to which stories are covered and the ephemera (i.e. the adverts, the images, etc.). For both of these documents, also consider them as objects. What is the 'material culture' of these documents? How would they be used and disseminated? What role would they have played in people's lives? So, think not just about what they tell us, but also about their particular social context?

There are also two pieces which have a more historical bent, by Lynne Segal and Eric Hobsbawn. These texts combine analysis and politics, sometimes in complex ways. Consider whether we can separate these two aspects of the texts, and whether this is at all useful. Again, issues of how academic work can be politically engaged, and what this adds, are central.

Week 7 - Contemporary History, and 1979

This week we'll be focusing on the question: what is contemporary history, and what are its benefits and its issues? The first two readings on the Moodle page will help you formulate some idea of a response to that query. The curious case of 1979 (no, before you ask, I was not there) will also be a helpful example, and the second two readings on the Moodle page will help with all that. Please note that the Stuart Hall article is available online if you search for it. The E.H.H. Green article is rather long and dense, so be careful not to get hung up on the details, but rather to think about the author's methodology and their argument.

It is certainly worth noting that the previous block will be very useful for considering the cultural position of contemporary history in our society, so don't neglect the excellent discussions we had over the first half of the term.

If you find this topic interesting, or if you are into the history of the USA, then you might like to check out the thoughts of intellectual heaveyweight and notable bowtie wearer Arthur Schlesinger Junior.

Week 5 - Public History 2 - Uses (and Abuses) of History

Plenty of complex ideas floating around this week, and they all seem to come back to that familiar question: what is this History stuff all about?

The Theodore Schieder article is a tough one, so make you get a sense of the argument, and try not to get bogged down in the details.

With the Brian Wilson piece, make sure to get a good look at the comments.

We'll also be discussing the use and abuse of history, and considering how we deal with the very contested terrain of the past, so please do bring thoughts on what history can do to protect itself from the grubby mitts of those who would do it harm.

Week 4 - Public History 1 - Television

This week is about the presentation of history on television. There are various readings on the Moodle page: please make sure that you read by Erin Bell and Ann Gray, and by John Corner. These should give you some of the tools to consider how history documentaries work. To this end, I would also like you to watch a televised history documentary (on iPlayer or wherever you find one which interests you). It does not have to be a recent documentary.

Consider the question: what is this documentary trying to do, and how does it do this? You should not only think about what is said and shown on screen, but also about how it is said, and how it is shown. How does it work as a piece of television, and how does it work as a piece of history?

We shall also be consider the social and cultural role of televised history, including historical dramas and historical comedies, so have a ponder on this as well.

Week 3 - Film and Literary Sources

This week is not just about how we use film and literature as ways to research the past, but also about how we might use film and literature to represent the past, and about the kind of arguments they might allow us to make. Film-makers and writers may have different intentions to historians...but is there anything about their approaches which we might find useful in our own endeavours?

There are three readings on the Moodle page: please read at least two. You have also all been asked to watch Paul Greengrass's 2002 film, Bloody Sunday. Please make sure that you do watch this, and consider this question: what is the film trying to do, and how does it do this cinematically? So, not just what happens in the film, but how is it presented? Think about cinematography, editing, acting, the whole experience.

If you have examples of films or books which do particularly interesting things with the past, or, even better, are interesting representations of the process of researching and writing history, do bring them along.

Week 2 - Oral History

Ah, oral history. Let's get talkin'.

First up, there are three readings on the Moodle page. Please try to read all three, but make sure you get your teeth into the Kathleen Blee. Think about: what is new about oral history? What are its advantages...and what are its dangers?

As I told you in class, give oral history a go for yourselves. Ring a relative, question an acquaintance, corner a colleague. You can either do it all formally, with notes and pre-arranged questions, or do it much more informally, just seeing where the interview takes you.

One final task: have a listen to this oral history interview. Make sure you listen to the first minute to see how the interviewer sets it up, and from 18.00 to 23.00. After that, have a browse. What kind of relationship is established with the interviewee? What is discussed in detail, and what is brushed over? Who directs the interview?

Week 1- Sites of Memory

I am aware that you have essays due in this week, so I shall keep this reading list short. Please make sure you read Pierre Nora, ‘Between Memory and History'. It is not an easy text, but it is a very important one.

Aside from that, please read at least one other text from any of the key readings. If none of those texts interest you, then feel free to have a look at one of the articles by Jan Assmann, Kerwin L. Klein, and James M. Mayo.

In total, you should read at least two texts. Think about the difference between memory and history, particularly with regards to how they are used. Why is memory a tempting thing to study? And what can history add to the academy-wide discipline of Memory Studies? In fact, are there better ways of studying memory in other disciplines?

If you forget to do the reading, it will be a) deeply ironic, and b) a shame. So make sure you get reading.

Week 10 - Ego-Documents and Self-Fashioning

There are two readings on the Moodle page: one by Levi, one by Zemon Davis. I would like you to read both. In addition, I would like you all to read: Stephen Greenblatt, Renaissance Self-Fashioning (Chicago, IL, 2005), pp. 1-9. You can find those pages here.

I will not be asking you to do presentations (despite what the Moodle page says), but we will be discussing questions of the shaping of one's own identity. Please bring along examples from the early modern and modern period. I will be asking everyone for examples of peoples' self-fashioning.

We shall also be discussing the next essay, all about work with sources, so bring along any questions you have about that.

Week 9 - Utilizing Resources like the 'Old Bailey Proceedings'

First of all, get your good selves onto The Old Bailey Online, and have a good look around. Bring a case you found particularly interesting with you to the seminar. We'll discuss how we can best use these often fasinating records to write history.

In terms of the reading, I would like everyone to read: J.A. Sharpe, Crime in Early Modern England 1550-1750, Themes in British Social History Series (2nd edn, Longman, 1999), ‘Definitions Methods and Objectives’; and: William Beik, Urban Protest in Seventeenth-Century France: The Culture of Retribution (Cambridge UP, 1997), Chapter Three- pp. 49-72. The article from Beat Kümin is very short, so have a look at that as well.

Crime in the early modern period is a fasinating topic, and if you feel particularly inspired, there are some excellent extra readings on the Moodle page.

I should note, and I speak from previous experience here, that getting yourself arrested for an early modern crime is NOT an acceptable reason to miss the seminar.

Week 7- Approaching an unfamiliar period through the book/film of Martin Guerre

For this week, make sure you watch the film, The Return of Martin Guerre. It's being screened on Tuesday between 19.00 and 21.00 in MS.02. Go to a cafe or a pub afterwards and discuss it. If it's an early-modern cafe or pub, I shall be heartily impressed. If you are unable to attend the screening, find some other way to watch the film. Please think about how the Martin Guerre operates as a film, what it's trying to as a film, and whether it works as a film.

Have a look at the extracts from the Zemon Davis' book as well, and think about how it compares to the film. Leaving aside the historical scholarship, do you find them convincing as ways of representing the past? How about representations of History (that's big H)?

Also please have a look at Randolph Stern's 'The early modern muddle'. There's a fair amount of jargon in here, so don't worry if some of it flies over your head. The argument is pretty clear, and our previous week on the problem of time should be helpful (you'll probably ntotice that he is delightfully cruel about the Annales school). Please decide whether or not you buy the Stern's argument, and come to the seminar with one good reason why.

Week 5 - Historical Debates: Divergence

This week is all about the debate over why some countries developed in different ways. At the centre of this is Kenneth Pomeranz's The Great Divergence (Princeton, 2000). Rather than reading the book, it would be more useful to read some reviews, so please read the one by Parthasarathi on the Moodle page, and this one by Peter Purdue. The other key text is Niall Ferguson's Civilization (London, 2011). This one you should read: there is a link to the intro on Moodle. There are also links to three reviews of the book: please read the one by Duchesne and one other.

Throughout all of this, please think about the following questions. What are Pomeranz and Ferguson trying to do, and why? Are they successful? What are the implicit arguments made about History in the books and the reviews: i.e. about which themes are important to study, about which factors have the biggest impacts on societies? At the core is the question of why different societies develop in different ways, i.e. what is the motor of change? Think about that.

Niall Ferguson is, as you may well know, quite an outspoken figure. If you have an idle moment, maybe look up his television appearences.

Week 4 - The Problem of Time

As ever, get your teeth into the core texts, Jerry H. Bentley, “Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History” The American Historical Review, 101.3 (1996), pp. 749-770; David Northrup, “Globalization and the Great Convergence: Rethinking World History in the Long Term,” Journal of World History, 16.3 (2005), pp. 249-267. Both are very much available on the Moodle page. There's a fair amount of content, don't worry about that, just look for and critique the argument. Ask: is this useful? Does it help us? Why/why not?

Also, I would like you to have a dig around the Annales School, who have been very influential in thinking about how and why we do history. What was their view of time? Which problems did they raise, and did they solve them? And another pertinent question might be: why have so few people heard of them?

I would also like to have a little chat about this Guardian article, on ten of the worst years in British history. All rather artifical, I'm sure we can agree, but does this approach of extracting years from the past like slabs of fine, marbled cheese add anything to our understanding of the past and of history?

Finally, for those of you who are feeling adventerous about the whole space thing, I recommend (well, a colleague in Film Studies recommends) Daniel Rosenberg's Cartographies of Time, all about timelines and graphic representations of history. Just pages ten to fifteen should suffice for a good taste of this text's flavours. You can have a browse here.

Week 3 - The Problem of Space

Please read the core texts, available on the Moodle page:

M. Lewis, 'The architecture of continents', in Martin W. Lewis, Kären E. Wigen (eds), The myth of continents : a critique of metageography (Berkeley, 1997). Ch.1, pp.21-46 (this is a long piece, so don't get too bogged down in the details; instead, look for the argument and the issues which Lewis presents).

Alastair Bonnett, The Idea of the West, introduction pp 1-13 (also have a look at this book review to get an idea of Bonnett's other projects).

Please consider what kind of problems space presents for historians, and how severe these problems are. Consider how these spatial questions link to our discussions of global history. In addition, look at the spaces and geographical areas studied by historians, both in the Warwick Department of History and elsewhere. How have these changed? Which areas, spaces and places have gone in and out of fashion? Be sure to bring examples.

Week 2- Historical Traditions and Global History

Please critically read the core texts: Peter Claus and John Marriott, History: An Introduction to Theory, Method and Practice (Harlow, 2012), pp. 233-253 (ch. 12 ‘Global Histories’); and, Frederick Cooper, “What is the concept of globalization good for?”, African Affairs 100 (2001): 189-213. Links to these articles are on the Moodle page

Also, please consider the following three questions which will begin our discussion: 1. What is history for? 2. Where is history? 3. Whom is history for? These questions are deliberately open-ended, so feel free to interpret them in your own ways.

My groups are:

Friday, 12-13, H3.03

Friday, 13-14, H3.44

Thursday, 9-10, H4.54

Thursday, 10-11, R1.03 (this is in the Ramphal Building, NOT in Humanities)

This is a link to the History Undergraduate Handbook(PDF Document). On pages 48 to 51 you will find the Style Guide, so turn here for questions on footnotes and bibliographies.

In the meantime, enjoy this picture of me peering behind a door, an image which is in no way a metaphor for the mysteries of historical enquiry.


If you suspect that any information on this page is wrong or if any of the links are broken, please let me know in the comments.