Spring Semester 2013 (MW, 3:15-4:50; STE 332)


Edward Gibbon

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)


Dr. George Dameron (Department of History)

Office: Library 306/ Office Hours:  Wednesdays, 10-12, and by appointment

Phone:  x2318/Email: gdameron@smcvt.edu

Web page:  http://academics.smcvt.edu/gdameron/



This four (4)-credit upper division seminar will analyze and discuss in chronological fashion selected models of historical literature and historical thinking from Antiquity to the Modern Era. It will also fulfill the requirements for the History major and the History minor in the “electives” category.  Study of these texts will focus on themes, methodologies, and approaches to the past, not on the memorization of facts and details.



"The Historian's Craft" is an upper-level seminar designed for juniors and seniors who have had at least one other History course.  In particular, the course welcomes History majors who have not yet begun their senior thesis as well as those who plan to attend graduate school.  Seminar meetings will focus on discussion of assigned readings, and the study questions posed at eCollege will help guide that discussion.  Each week a student will begin the conversation with a very brief presentation (questions or comments) on the assigned reading for that seminar. Students will also complete a research paper associated with a historiographical or methodological topic associated with the readings of their choice, make an oral presentation of their research conclusions to the seminar at the end of the semester, and report orally and in a written format on two of the reading assignments.  Because we meet twice a week and focus on assigned readings, attendance at every meeting is expected.  There will be a short (5 minute) break in the middle of every seminar session.


Students who miss more than two seminar meetings will write a short (two-page, ungraded) response paper responding to the study questions for every future seminar meeting that they miss.



Junior or Senior standing and at least one History course, or permission of the




The aims of the course are the following:

·         to analyze in a chronological fashion selected model texts of ancient,

medieval, and modern historiography;

·         to explore by way of textual analysis some of the principal theories

regarding the nature of historical change;

·         to examine various analytical methodological approaches to the study of the past from a historical perspective;

·         to investigate the manner by which historians have interpreted the

primary sources available to them;

·         to improve skills in writing and critical thinking,

·         to provide students who may consider graduate studies with a solid grounding in historical theory and methodology,

·         to offer students a solid foundation in historiography before they take History 410,

·         and to fulfill one of the requirements in the “electives” category of  the major and minor.



1) assigned readings, attendance, a short, ungraded narrative about a significant event that shaped your past, and participation in seminar discussions (20% of final grade);

2) a 15 to 18-page research paper due on May 1 (a Wednesday, 40% of final grade);

3) a prospectus and bibliographical essay on the research topic due February 27   (10% of final grade);

4) oral presentation to seminar of research results at end of semester on either April 29 or May 1  (10% of final grade);

5) two short (2-4 page) essays on the assigned texts (20% of final grade; 10% each of the two essays on assigned texts), due on January 30  and February 13.


The Paper

The paper is due on May 1, the last seminar meeting of the semester. There may be a half a letter grade penalty (5 points) assigned for every day the paper is late.   The paper will follow the required methods approved by the Department of History of citing primary and secondary sources (MLA or Chicago Manual of Style), and it must also include a formal bibliography.  History department policy requires students to use footnotes or endnotes in the proper format.  In-text citations (notes within parentheses inside the text) are unacceptable. For information on citing sources and creating bibliographies, see Paper Assignment Guidelines (at my web site) or “Citing Sources” at the library web site.


 Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense.  According to the Policy on Academic Integrity included in the Student Handbook and Code of Conduct and posted online, plagiarism is the presentation  of “another person’s ideas as your own, by directly quoting or indirectly paraphrasing, without properly citing the original source. This includes inadvertent failure to properly acknowledge sources.” The penalties for plagiarism can range from receiving a failing grade for the plagiarized assignment to receiving a failing grade in the course.  In some cases plagiarism can result in suspension or expulsion from the college. 


Documented Learning Differences

Students with learning disabilities (documented by the Office of the Liaison for Students with Special Needs, Ms. Toni Messuri) will receive special accommodations where appropriate.  Please see me if you would like to request such arrangements.



Required texts for purchase:  


Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  NY:  Penguin USA, 2001.  0140437649.  


Mark Gilderhus.  History and Historians: an historiographical introduction.  7th edition.  Prentice Hall, 2009.   ISBN-10: 0205687539 ISBN-13: 978-0205687534


Herodotus, The Histories (New York:  Penguin USA, 2003). 

ISBN 0-140-44908-6

Moore, R. I.  The Formation of a Persecuting Society, 2nd edition (Wiley-Blackwell ) ISBN-10: 1405129646 ISBN-13: 978-1405129640

James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom (Oxford 2003).  ISBN-10: 019516895X ISBN-13: 978-0195168952

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale (Vintage, 1991).  ISBN-10: 0679733760 ISBN-13: 978-0679733768



On Reserve in eCollege (Doc Sharing) or online:


George Dameron, “Becoming invisible:  the role of economic history in medieval studies and in the historiography on medieval Italy,” in Medieval Italy, Medieval and Early Modern Women:  Essays in Honour of Christine Meek, edited by Conor Kostick (Dublin:  Four Courts Press, 2010):  25-38.


Michel Foucault, “Madness and Civilization,” in The Foucault Reader, edited by Paul Rabinow (1984):  123-167.


Ibn al-Athir, “The First Crusade,” in Reading the Middle Ages, edited by Barbara Rosenwein (Peterborough, Ontario:  Broadview, 2006), 296-300.


Marx, “The German Ideology”  (excerpts at the Marx-Engels Internet Archive)


Giambattista Vico, “The New Science,” in The Essential Historiographical Reader, edited by Caroline Hoefferle (Upper Saddle River, N. J., 2011), 48-50.



Seminar Schedule:


January 14 (Week One):  Introduction to Historiography

·         Introduction to syllabus

·         Screening (and discussion):   “Paradise Lost 3:  Purgatory ”


January 16 (Week One):  Beginnings and Ancient Historiography

·         Discussion of “Paradise Lost 3:  Purgatory” (continued)

·         Discussion about short narrative on significant historical event due (how has this significant historical event shaped your life, and has your interpretation of the significance or meaning of that event changed over time?)

·         Gilderhus, Chapters 1 and 2


January 21 (Week Two):  Ancient Historiography

·         Herodotus, book 1


January 23 (Week Two):  Ancient Historiography

·         Herodotus, book 2


January 28 (Week Three):  Ancient Historiography

·         Herodotus, book 6


January 30 (Week Three):  Ancient Historiography

·         Herodotus, book 7

·         **First Essay Due**


February 4 (Week Four):  Ancient Historiography

·         Herodotus, book 8


February 6 (Week Four):  Medieval Historiography (Christian and Muslim)

·         Fulcher of Chartres, History of the Expedition to Jerusalem (Internet Medieval Sourcebook)

·         Anna Comnena, The Alexiad (Books 10 and 11)


February 11 (Week Five):  Early Modern Historiography

·         Gilderhus, chapter 3


February 13 (Week Five):  Early Modern Historiography

·         Gibbon, prefaces, chapters 1, 2

·         **Second Essay Due**


February 18 (Week Six):  Early Modern Historiography

·         Gibbon  3, [4-6], [8-14] 

·         **Library Visit**


February 20 (Week Six):  Early Modern Historiography

·         Gibbon 15, [16-21]; [36-38], “General Observations,” 39


February 25 (Week Seven):  Early Modern Historiography

·         Vico, The New Science (at eCollege)


February 27 (Week Seven):  Modern Historiography

·         Gilderhus, chapter 4, 5

·         Prospectus and bibliographical essay on the research topic due


March 4 (Week Eight):  Modern European Historiography

·         Gilderhus, chapter 6

·         Marx, “The German Ideology”  (online)


March 6 (Week Eight):  Modern American Historiography

·         Ulrich, 3-101


March 11 and 13 (Week Nine):  March Break (no seminar meetings)


March 18 (Week Ten):  Modern American Historiography

·         Ulrich, 102-203


March 20 (Week Ten):  Modern American Historiography

·         Ulrich, 162-261


March 25 (Week Eleven): Modern American Historiography

·         Ulrich, 262-352


March 27 (Week Eleven):  Modern European Historiography

·         Moore, Introduction, chapters 1-3


April 1 (Week Twelve):  Modern European Historiography

·         No seminar (Easter break)


April 2 (Week Twelve):  Modern European Historiography (make-up)

·         Moore, chapters 4, 5, and Bibliographical Excursus


April 3 (Week Twelve):  Modern European Historiography (no seminar)


April 8 (Week Thirteen):  Recent Historiography

·         Gilderhus, chapter 7; Foucault (online at eCollege); Dameron


April 10 (Week Thirteen):  Recent American Historiography

·         McPherson, Prologue and chapters 1-6


April 15 (Week Fourteen):  Recent American Historiography

·         McPherson, chapters 7-12


April 17 (Week Fourteen):  Recent American Historiography

·         McPherson, chapters 13-19


April 22 (Week Fifteen):  Recent American Historiography

·         McPherson, 20-25


April 24 (Week Fifteen):  Recent American Historiography

·         McPherson, 26-28, Epilogue


April 29 and May 1 (Week Sixteen):  Seminar Presentations

·         May 1:  **Seminar paper due**