Advanced Seminar in History and Historiography

Course NameAdvanced Seminar in History and Historiography
Course CodeHIS401 / HIS600
DescriptionThe course begins by examining broad trends in 20th century historiography. Sessions 2 and 3 look at two classic controversies in British historiography: the twin assault on the “Whig” conception of history launched by Herbert Butterfield and Lewis Namier, and the questions of free will and determinism in history arising from Isaiah Berlin’s critique of E. H. Carr, and the further controversy over the purpose and utility of historical study between Carr and Geoffrey Elton. Session 4 looks at the more recent dispute occasioned by Richard Evans’ moderate defence of empirical history against the challenge of postmodernism. Session 5 and 6 examine two key rival schools of social history: the French Annales scholars and the (predominantly British) school of Marxist historiography. Session 7 looks at A. J. P. Taylor and the controversy surrounding his 1962 revisionist tract The Origins of the Second World War. Taylor’s importance lies in his dominance within British historical scene in the mid-to-late 20th century, despite his eschewal of any form of theorising. Taylor is a reminder of the enduring relevance – and relative imperviousness to theory – of diplomatic history. Just before the midterm break, Session 8 explores the concept of collective memory in relationship to the memory of the Jewish Holocaust. Session 9 examines cultural history, through the work of the pioneering historian of culture Jan Huizinga, author of The Autumn of the Middle Ages, and through the later work of George L. Mosse. Mosse made major contributions to the study of fascism, interpreting fascism – against prevailing historical and political science orthodoxies – as essentially a cultural revolution against the liberal bourgeois order. Sessions 10 through to 14 return to a number of the key methodological challenges of post-colonialism, ethnological history, Kuhnian approaches to the history of science and postmodernism, focusing on the work of a number of key thinkers: Edward Said; Keith Thomas; Thomas Kuhn, Michael Ruse and Michel Foucault, along with the work of their manifold acolytes and critics. Specific topics examined will be the Orientalism; the new perspectives brought by feminism and cultural anthropology to the interpretation of the Early Modern “witch craze”; the mid-19th century Darwinian Revolution as a scientific “paradigm shift,” and the impact of Foucault’s Discipline and Punish on the study of institutions and of Stalinism. The final session will involve book reports on several the most famous examples of 20th century “microhistories”: The Return of Martin Guerre; The Cheese and the Worms; Montaillou and The Great Cat Massacre.
Learning OutcomesBy the conclusion of the course, students will:
– Be familiar with four of the most important methodological debates in British historiography in the 20th century: the debate inspired by Herbert Butterfield’s Whig Interpretation of History; the famous Carr-Elton-Berlin controversy of the 1960s; the arguments over Richard J. Evans’ moderate critique of postmodernism, and the early 1960s controversy surrounding A. J. P. Taylor’s iconoclastic Origins of the Second World War;
– Have examined the three most significant schools of social history of the 20th Century: the French Annales School; the Cliometric movement and (British) Marxism;
– Looked at the work of two cultural historians: Jan Huizinga and his pathbreaking Autumn of the Middle Ages; and George L. Mosse’s re-reading of fascism as a form of cultural revolution;
– Studied a major scholarly dispute in the field of diplomatic history – the so-called “Taylor Controversy” on the origins of the Second World War;
– Understand something of the concept of collective memory through its application to the study of the Holocaust;
– Have examined the application of feminism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism and other strands of postmodern thought in the study of the Near East (Orientalism); the problem of the so-called “Witch Craze” of the early modern period, and the rise of the so-called penal society and its relation to the later Soviet Gulag;
– Gained some understanding of the Kuhnian concept of “paradigm shift” through examining the debates around the so-called “Darwinian Revolution”;
– Read and discussed at least one of the more famous works of microhistory: The Cheese and the Worms; The Return of Martin Guerre; Montaillou or The Great Cat Massacre.
SchoolSchool of Humanities & Social Sciences
LevelBachelor / Master
Number of credits (US / ECTS)3 US / 6 ECTS