Course Syllabus

HISTORY 204:  Introduction to Historical Methods
Matthew Pinsker
Dickinson College
Fall 2017
Tue / Thu 1030am
61 N. West St.

“I get curious about a problem and start reading up on it.”

–William H. McNeill

Required Book

  • Gaddis, John Lewis.  The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Featured Resources

Essays, Op-Eds, Projects

  • Allison, Graham and Niall Ferguson. “Why the US President Needs a Council of Historians.” The Atlantic (September 2016). [WEB]
  • Ayers, Edward, “Interview: American Panorama.” August 9, 2017. [WEB]
  • Bombaro, Christine and John M. Osborne. Forgotten Abolitionist:  John A.J. Creswell of Maryland.  Smashwords E-Book, House Divided Project, 2015. [
  • Carnes, Mark C. “Shooting Down the Past: Historians vs. Hollywood.” 2004 [WEB]
  • Digital Scholarship Lab (Richmond)
  • Foner, Eric. “Confederate Statues and Our History.” New York Times. 20, 2017 [WEB]
  • Grossman, James. “History Isn’t a Useless Major.”  LA Times. May 30, 2016. [WEB]
  • Guldi, Jo and David Armitage. The History Manifesto. Cambridge UP.  [WEB]
  • Isenberg, Nancy / Andrew Burstein. “America’s Worst Historians.” Salon.  8/19/2012 [WEB]
  • Kamanetz, Anya. “The New, New Framework for APUSH,” NPR, August 5, 2015 [WEB]
  • Pinsker, Matthew. “Lincoln Theme 2.0.” Journal of American History 96 (Sept. 2009) [WEB]
  • Seefeldt, Douglas and William G. Thomas. “What is Digital History?” Perspectives on History. May 2009. [WEB]
  • Slotten, Martha C. “The McClintock Slave Riot of 1847,” Cumberland County History17 (2000): 14-35. [WEB]
  • Temkin, Moshik. “Historians Shouldn’t Be Pundits.”  New York Times, 6/26/17. [WEB]


Book Review

By Thursday, September 28, students will submit a short book review (4-6 pages) of John Lewis Gaddis’s, The Landscape of History (2002) which focuses on assessing the value of his insights for the 21st-century history classroom.  Students should summarize the key historical thinking points from his Oxford lectures while also choosing one or two issues to analyze in depth.  Essays should be formatted in a Word document with a title page, and Chicago-style footnotes.  To prepare for this effort, students will be posting draft comments at the course website for each assigned reading from Gaddis. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

Research Journal

Students will be required to post a total of three research journal entries at the course website (10/13, 10/27, 11/10), describing their experiences in seeking information and insights relevant to the stories of a graduating class of students at Dickinson during the years between 1840 and 1880.  All History 204 participants will be assigned a class from that period. The first entry (posted by Friday, October 13) should describe the process of collecting relevant historical documents from within the College Archives and must include at least one original transcription effort.  The second entry (posted by Friday, October 27) should detail research efforts within both digitized and microfilmed newspapers covering reactions to major national or local news event from the assigned class year. Finally, the third entry (posted by Friday, November 11) should provide an annotated bibliography of at least six (6) modern secondary sources (including both academic journal articles and monographs) that relate to a single theme or person connected to the assigned class.  Each journal entry should occupy about 600-800 words (or 3-4 pages).  The narrative posts should include properly credited images and (where relevant) hyperlinks to outside sources.  The final entry on secondary sources should follow standard guidelines for an annotated bibliography in the Chicago style. Late entries will be penalized up to 5 points per day.

Multi-Media Exhibit

By Wednesday, December 13, 2017, students will be required to build an online multi-media exhibit inspired by stories from their assigned Dickinson College class.  Exhibits may approach the topic from almost any perspective, covering either selected events from their assigned year or individual stories of their assigned class, but students should illustrate their plans in a 6- to 8-page draft paper sent by email to Prof. Pinsker no later than Friday, Dec. 1 (counting for one-third of the overall exhibit grade).  The draft should identify and fully describe the topic, providing a descriptive title, demonstrating thoughtful research, and using Chicago-style footnotes to identify sources. The online exhibits should incorporate revised work from earlier in the semester, including especially the draft papers, but now in a format designed specifically for classroom use.  The goal of the exhibit should be to offer high school or undergraduate students an effective and thought-provoking multi-media vehicle for learning more deeply about Dickinson College and the broader nineteenth-century history beyond its campus.  Students should build their exhibits using the free online website platform Weebly.  Each website should include at least one image-based slideshow, one custom-made map or timeline (using free platforms such as Google Maps, Timeline JS or Storymap), and one embedded original multi-media effort, such as a short video or a well-produced podcast.  Exhibits may also incorporate multi-media elements from external sources, but students must acknowledge and properly credit all of those sources.  The best exhibits will provide well-written and well-produced multi-media content that illustrates an important nineteenth-century theme or topic in a way that inspires high-level historical thinking.  The best projects will be incorporated into public exhibits and displays from the House Divided Project. Late projects will be penalized up to 5 points per day.


Grade Distribution

Class Participation                  20 percent

Book Review                             20 percent

Research Journal                    30 percent

Multi-Media Exhibit                30 percent


Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 8/29 Methods & Expectations What do we owe?
Thursday 8/31 History from a Dickinsonian Perspective Dillon, Spradley & Lippincott
Tuesday 9/5 Narrating Time & Space Gaddis, chaps. 1-2
Thursday 9/7 Understanding Complexity Gaddis, chaps. 3-5
Tuesday 9/12 Perspective & Empathy Gaddis, chaps. 6-7
Tuesday 9/12 Lecture:  Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz ATS, 7pm  //  VIDEO
Thursday 9/14 Tailoring Representation Gaddis, chap. 8
Tuesday 9/19 Close Reading Gettysburg Address
Thursday 9/21 NO CLASS
Tuesday 9/26 Classifying sources Isle of Wikipedia
Thursday 9/28 NO CLASS // Book reviews due By 5pm (email)
Tuesday 10/3 Research Trip:  College Archives, part 1 Chronicles + Digital Museum
Thursday 10/5 Writing Lab: Openings & Thesis Statements Useless Major?
Tuesday 10/10 Research Trip: College Archives, part 2
Thursday 10/12 Writing Lab: Using Quotations Council + Pundits op-eds
Friday 10/13 Research Journal (archival docs) due By 5pm (post)
Tuesday 10/17 FALL PAUSE
Thursday 10/19 Research Trip: Historic Carlisle Slotten
Tuesday 10/24 Research Trip: CCHS (21 N. Pitt Street)
Thursday 10/26 Writing Lab: Data, Mapping & Visualizations Digital Scholarship Lab
Friday 10/27 Research Journal (newspapers) due By 5pm (post)
Tuesday 10/31 Research Trip:  Library (Christine Bombaro) Creswell + Search and DBs
Thursday 11/2 Writing Lab:  Citation and Chicago-Style History Manifesto
Tuesday 11/7 Research Lab: Historiography Lincoln Theme 2.0
Thursday 11/9 Writing Lab:  Historians and Plagiarism Worst Historians
Friday 11/10 Research Journal (bibliographies) due By 5pm (post)
Tuesday 11/14 History Wars in the Classroom APUSH
Thursday 11/16 Digital History Thomas and Ayers articles
Tuesday 11/21 NO CLASS  
Thursday 11/23 THANKSGIVING
Tuesday 11/28 Hollywood v. History JSTOR / Carnes
Tuesday 11/28 Honors Presentation: Sarah Goldberg Denny 317, 12pm
Thursday 11/30 Documentary Filmmaking An Outrage + Lynching
Friday 12/1 Draft Papers due By 5pm (email)
Tuesday 12/5 Monuments & the Problem of Memory Foner essay
Thursday 12/7 Lessons & Legacies
 Wed.  12/13  Multi-Media exhibits due  By 5pm (via email link)