Unit 1 Assignment Sheet


Assignment 1. Why Study History?

  • Spend some time familiarizing yourself with this course website.
  • Please fill in and submit this course questionnaire. [LINK]
  • Frank Stricker, "Thinking About the Uses of the Past," The History Teacher 25(3), 293-312. [PDF]
  • PG, chapter 1.
  • Optional:
    • Margaret MacMillan, "The History Craze," excerpt from Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History. [LINK]
    • David Kennedy, "What History is Good For," New York Times, September 16, 2009. [LINK]

Questions to Consider [LINK].

Assignment 2. Navigating the Course Website

  • Spend enough time navigating the course website to feel comfortable with it.
  • If you have not yet done so, fill in and submit the questionnaire. [LINK]
  • If you did not do so last year, sign up for a MyJSTOR account. For instructions, go to our class TigerWeb page.
    • You can also access the JSTOR signup through the library databases page listed on the Library Portal on TigerWeb.
  • To be turned in: [Make certain your name is on each page you hand in.]
    1. A printout of the graphical front page of the New York Times from the day of your birth. [Hint: a pdf works best. You can find the correct database through the links on the "Trinity School Library Databases" handout that can be found at the Library Section on TigerWeb. This is a copy of the New York Times from the day of my birth. [PDF]
    2. Type out the full bibliographic information, in proper Chicago Manual of Style format, for 3 articles obtained through JSTOR on the following topics, respectively (a total of 3 citations):
      • Puritans in Massachusetts Bay Colony
      • Slavery in the Chesapeake before the Revolution
      • Creating the Constitution
    3. Go to the National Archives, "Our Documents" website and spend some time exploring the site. Download a PDF of the image of the "Patent for Cotton Gin" and bring it to class.
    4. Bring to class a download of the History Department's policy on what constitutes excessive help--sign and date it at the bottom to indicate that you have read it.

Assignment 3. Intepreting the Past: From History to Historiography

  • Francis G. Couvares et. al., "Introduction" in Interpretations of American History: Patterns and Perspectives, Vol. 1, 8th Edition, (New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009), 1-24. [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What is "historiography?" How is it different from "history?"
  2. What are the "phases" of historiography in America according to Couvares?
  3. What is unique about the past 4 decades? Why do you think history has changed so much during the lifetime of your parents?
  4. What does Couvares mean by their contention that "history is part craft, part polemic, and part science?" Do you agree?
  5. Is there such a thing as historical truth? If you don't think there is, does that mean that history is fiction?

Assignment 4. The Rise of the New Social History

  • Lawrence Levine, "The Unpredictable Past: Reflections on Recent American Historiography," American Historical Review 94 (June 1989), 671-679. [PDF]
  • To be turned in: Think about our current culture and how it has changed since your parents were your age. Think of one example of how has the emergence and acceptance of the New Social History over the past several decades has affected a particular aspect of American culture In a single paragraph, identify this change and explain how it embodies America's acceptance of the New Social History. As always, please type up your response to the assignment.

Questions to Consider [LINK].

Assignment 5. The Critique of the New Social History

  • Gertrude Himmelfarb, "Some Reflections on the New History," American Historical Review 94 (June 1989), 661-670. [PDF]

Questions to Consider [LINK].

Assignment 6. Case Study--The Debate over the National Standards for American History

  • Skim Gary Nash et. al., History on Trial, Ch. 1. [PDF]
  • Lynne Cheney, “The End of History,” Wall Street Journal, 10/20/94. [PDF]
  • Lynne Cheney & Gary Nash on Good Morning America.  [PDF]
  • Barry W. Bienstock, “Everything Old is New Again: Social History, the National History Standards and the Crisis in  the Teaching of High School American History,” Journal of Social History[Special Issue: Social History and the American Political Climate - Problems and Strategies] (1996 Supplement), pp. 59-63. [PDF]
  • Skim the National History Standards for Grades 5-12 [LINK]
  • H-Net Posting by Joyce Appleby on the National Standards Debate. [PDF]
  • Try to take a look at at least two if not all of the following:
    • Jonathan Zimmerman, "All History is Revisionist," Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2006. [PDF]
    • Joseph Kahn, "Where's Mao: Chinese Revise History Textbooks," New York Times, September 1, 2006. [PDF]
    • HNN article on history of Textbooks and History Standards [LINK]
    • VoteIQ's extended discussion of the Texas Textbook Controversy [LINK]
    • Announcement of grants available for "traditional history" as a result of the Higher Education Act of 2008 [LINK]
    • Patricial Cohen, "Conservatives Try New Tack on Campus," New York Times (September 21, 2008). [LINK]
    • Kelly Field, "Conservatives Claim Some Victories in Democratic Congress's Higher Education Bill," Chronicle of Higher Education (August 6, 2008). [PDF]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What are the various positions staked out in the 1994-1996 standards debate?
  2. Why do you think this became such a big deal at the time?
  3. Do you think that history standards for high school students are necessary?
  4. If so, what should the standards strive for and who should determine what they are?
  5. What responsibilities or obligations does the teacher of a history course have?
  6. Should there be a difference between how American history is taught and how other history is taught?
  7. Would it be different if you were at a public school?
  8. Is it important that certain aspects of a state's history is taught if you live in that state? How about region?
  9. Is there such a thing as “unbiased” history or a history not informed by ideological preconceptions?
  10. Is there any significance to the fact that similar issues recently came up in Florida and Texas?
  11. What does the effort to revise Chinese history in China tell us about the role history plays in a nation?

Assignment 7. Summing Up Recent Historiographical Change

  • Review all of the readings from the Unit
  • Come to class prepared to  discuss the following propositions.

Propositions to Consider:

  1. The history that high school students learn should emphasize “the individual greatness that has flourished within our political system and in our representative institutions.”
    Adapted from Lynne Cheney
  2. “[Many] have reckoned that history ought to judge the past and to instruct the contemporary world as to the future. [But the real aim of history should not attempt to] yield to that high office. [History should] merely tell how it really was.”
    Adapted from Leopold Van Ranke?
  3. “Each age tries to form its own conception of the past. Each age writes the history of the past anew with reference to the conditions uppermost in its own time.”
    Adapted from Frederick Jackson Turner?
  4. “…for careful students of historiography, disagreement is more interesting than agreement could ever be, for the conflict holds the secret to understanding not just the past but, just possibly, the present and future as well.”
    Adapted from Francis Couvares?
  5. “…there can be no real sense of the whole without exploring the parts, without understanding…the consciousness and actions of workers, women, ethnic, religious, racial, and national minorities, immigrants and their progeny, who participated in a myriad of separate geographical, occupational, fraternal, and religious communities that together constituted the larger society.”
    Adapted from Lawrence Levine?

Assignment 8. Historical Essay Writing

  • PG, 4, 6 & 7. Focus on Chapter 4.
  • Examine the following Powerpoint on Citing Sources [LINK].
  • Here is the link to the Unit 1 Essay [PDF].