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Historiography Essay Titles

Note: the exam format for 2018 will change. There will be no longer A,B,C sections.

Also, remember that it is a 'seen' exame which means you will receive the exam questions a week in advance.

But you are still welcome to use the questions below for any formative/assessed essay.

Questions on Specific Text/Historian for Essays

  1. What was the impact of the Enlightenment on History-writing in Europe?
  2. Would James Mill have written a better history of India if he had known Indian languages?
  3. Describe historical thinking in colonial era India.
  4. Assess the significance of style in Ranke’s historical writing.
  5. If Ranke ‘rejected Sir Walter Scott’, what was he rejecting?
  6. Was Leopold von Ranke a Romantic?
  7. Describe von Ranke’s ‘Ideal of Universal History’. Discuss its relationship to the local and the universal in the historical thinking of EITHER Karl Marx OR Max Weber.
  8. Describe Iggers’ and Wang’s ‘history of Leopold von Ranke in the world’. Account for any deficiencies in their argument.
  9. What did Karl Marx mean when he asserted that ‘the social revolution of the nineteenth century can only create its poetry from the future, not from the past’? (Eighteenth Brumaire, Section 1).
  10. How was The Eighteenth Brumaire revisited on its 150th birthday?
  11. ‘Where Hegel started with philosophy, Marx started with people’s experiences’. Discuss.
  12. ‘Simplicity supplies the key to the secret of the unchangeableness of Asiatic societies’ (Marx, Capital, Vol.1, xiv, s. 4). How typical was Marx’s historiography of India?
  13. Discuss the ‘Marxism’ of any twentieth-century historian or theorist of history [state the person clearly in the title].
  14. Why is Walter Benjamin’s ‘On the Concept of History’ still regarded as an important text?
  15. Can Walter Benjamin’s understanding of History be described as Marxist?
  16. What is a 'historical fact'?
  17. What is class consciousness for Marx?
  18. Was Weber anti-Marx?
  19. How did Weber approach the problem of causation in history?
  20. What does Weber understand by rational capitalism and how does it differ from Marx's ideas?
  21. What does Gramsci mean by hegemony? How does it work?
  22. ‘The science of men in time’ is how Marc Bloch described the practice of history. What did he mean?
  23. ‘With their examination of mentalité the Annalist historians furnished the historical profession with a new mode of reconstructing the past’. Discuss.
  24. ‘It is undeniable that a science [like the historical science] will always seem to us somehow incomplete if it cannot, sooner or later, in one way or another, aid us to live better’. (Bloch, Historian’s Craft) Discuss Bloch’s view of the historical enterprise within society.
  25. There are many English-language educational and media websites devoted to the work of Annales historians. Make a selection of them, and give an account of the ways in which a twentieth-century ‘historical school’ is presented to twenty-first century reading publics.
  26. The Making of the English Working Class ‘has come to be seen as the single most influential work of English history of the post-war period’ (John Rule, DNB entry for E. P. Thompson). Why?
  27. Drawing on the resources of advanced options and special subjects, discuss whether or not there is still ‘a Thompsonian legacy’ in historical studies.
  28. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of micro-history.
  29. Discuss any historical case-study you have read. Is the case-study approach the same as the micro-historical approach?
  30. What was cultural about ‘the New Cultural History’?
  31. Is Foucault's still disturbing for readers today as it was for readers in the 1970s and 1980s?
  32. What does Foucault mean by biopower?
  33. Is Foucault still valuable today?
  34. ‘A challenge to the conventional Western interpretation of the non-Western world’. Is this an adequate description of the impact of Said’s work on historical scholarship?
  35. Describe ‘the reception of Edward Said’ by historians and others.
  36. What – if anything – was original about Subaltern Studies?
  37. To what extent is it possible to hear the voice of the subalter.
  38. ‘It is now men (and masculinity) that are truly hidden from history’. Discuss.
  39. Discuss the view that Judy Walkowitz’s City of Dreadful Delight is ‘about stories, not about history’.


Part B-style general questions

(note: you should answer such questions comparatively, not focusing on just one historian or thinker.)

  1. Why study historiography?
  2. What is a ‘historian’?
  3. Is history a ‘science’?
  4. History is closer to literature than to science.‟ Discuss.
  5. Is History primarily about the past or the present?
  6. What are the implications of E. H. Carr's claim that ‘only the future can provide the key to the interpretation of the past’?
  7. Is total or holistic history possible or desirable?
  8. Describe and discuss the historical enterprise of any one society, past or present, that you have studied during your degree course.
  9. What counts as a historical source?
  10. Is there any difference between a historical ‘fact’ and historical ‘evidence’?
  11. ‘The idea of what is considered “valid historical evidence” has changed considerably over the past two centuries.’ Discuss.
  12. ‘The science of men in time’ is how Marc Bloch characterised history. What did he mean? Introduce other historians’ conceptions of time in answering this question.
  13. ‘The writing of history tells us more about the historian than about the past.’ Do you agree?‘
  14. “Time” has no agreed meaning for historians.’ Discuss.
  15. ‘History from below invariably romanticises popular culture.’ Discuss.
  16. Is history, as it is written, inevitably relativistic?
  17. Is it true, as George Orwell claimed, that those with power in the present control the past?
  18. Has history ended, as Francis Fukuyma claimed?
  19. Can the writing of history be politically neutral?
  20. Does political history have a future?
  21. How and why has cultural history become so important?
  22. ‘Modern history can only be conceived in relationship to the nation state’.’ Discuss.
  23. ‘Since the early nineteenth century, historians have been engaged in a continuing debate with the heritage of the Enlightenment.’ Discuss.
  24. How should history be taught in schools?
  25. Why should governments fund historical research?
  26. What is the value of popular history? (You may answer this in terms of television history, film or drama.)
  27. Why has family history become so popular in modern Britain?
  28. Why was Marxist theory central to twentieth-century historical scholarship?
  29. Has the historical writing influenced by Marx been good history?
  30. To what extent has gender as a category of analysis changed the way historians conceptualise identity and experience?
  31. ‘History as a discipline has been and is highly Eurocentric.’ Is this true?
  32. ‘Postcolonialism forces us to re-evaluate the whole history of Britain in modern times.’ Discuss.
  33. How important has the history of the non-Western world been to the shaping of Western historiography?
  34. Are postmodernist views of history plausible?
  35. Was postmodernism a serious ‘challenge to history’ in the late twentieth century?
  36. Has the linguistic turn produced good history writing
  37. Visucal and material culture is important to history writing. Discuss.
  38. Neuroscience can help us to write better history. Discuss.

  39. Did you think the material and visual turn enrich history writing?
  40. 'Historians should stick to literary sources. They are the only way to access the past objectively'. Discuss.