About the Course

This course stresses the analysis of what historians call "primary sources"--documents from the time period under study. There is only one book suggested, Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. But students will have to do extensive reading and writing for this course--there will be one 3-5 page paper, and three journals of 3-5 pages.

The course will place much less emphasis on memorizing facts, and more emphasis on interpretation--on making arguments about what the past means. Many of you will find the assignments frustratingly vague: your job, in this course, is to use the primary sources to make accurate arguments about the past. Your papers and journals must have evidence: they must quote from the material you have looked at. They must have a thesis—instead of simply making a set of observations, you must make an argument about what those observations mean.

Within those requirements, there is a great deal of room for creativity, for speculation, and for intellectual playfulness. The course will reward creativity and experimentation more than simple memorization.