The purpose of this course is for you to produce a significant history research paper based largely on primary sources, though you will use secondary sources as well. Primary sources are the writings, art, artifacts, etc of the period you are studying; secondary sources are histories (books, articles by modern writers) written about that period.
The writing of a history research paper of this sort requires a good deal of time and preparation. Do not imagine you can leave it to the last or near-last minute. In class, we will talk about the nature of historical research both from a theoretical standpoint and from the standpoint of nuts and bolts.
The theme of this semester’s course is “Memory and History.” We begin by reading Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past, a powerful reflection on the production of history through the lens of the Haitian Revolution and its aftermath. As we prepare to produce our own works of history, it is important to reflect upon the silences that enter into the sources we preserve, the archives we use, the narratives we construct, and the histories we share. Memory, both individual and collective, deeply influences and is influenced by the histories that we tell. Through the examples of the building of a palace, the commemoration of a voyage, and a democratic revolution, Trouillot demonstrates the power that comes from interpreting the past and the responsibilities we owe to the present and the future.
The paper you write for this class may be about any time period in history, so long as you can read the primary sources in their original language or so long as you can find the principal primary sources in English translation. Although the theme is fixed, it may be interpreted in many different ways.
Chicago has some phenomenal collections of primary sources. Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections, the collections of the Harold Washington and Newberry libraries, and Loyola’s Women and Leadership Archives (WLA) are good starting places. Loyola has also made a significant commitment to the acquisition of electronic databases of primary sources, such as Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO), Nineteenth-Century Collections Online (NCCO), and Early American Imprints. (To see more, go to http://libraries.luc.edu/databases). A number of non-subscription archives, such as the Library of Congress, Europeana, Gallica, can be found on the web.
Because of the focus of this course, there will be no lectures and most classes will be occupied by discussion. There will be numerous “library weeks” in which the class will not meet as a group. These are not “off weeks” but rather times to work intensively on your paper. One semester is a very short time in which to produce a major paper, so use these “library weeks” to their fullest. Sometimes students will meet individually with the instructor during the class period. At other times, students will report on their work to the class as a whole, in order to share their work and to get reactions and critiques from all members of the class.