“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.”
Abraham Lincoln, December 1, 1862

“Who controls the past controls the future:
who controls the present controls the past.”
George Orwell, 1984 (1949)


Required Text

  • Zachary M. Schrag, The Princeton Guide to Historical Research (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2021) [JSTOR]

Additional Readings

  • 1619 Project, intro by Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times, August 19, 2019. [WEB]
  • Eric Alterman, “The Decline of Historical Thinking,” The New Yorker, Feb. 4, 2019 [WEB]
  • Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, Dickinson College (2013-) [WEB]
  • College History Projects, Dickinson College Archives & Special Collections (1998-) [WEB]
  • Anna Dickinson, Perils of the Hour (1864), Knowledge for Freedom seminar (2022) [WEB]
  • Dickinson & Slavery, House Divided Project at Dickinson College (2019) [WEB]
  • Erica Armstrong Dunbar, “George Washington, Slave Catcher,” NYT, Feb. 16, 2015 [WEB]
  • Gardner Digital Library, Cumberland County Historical Society (2016-) [WEB]
  • Lincoln’s Writings: The Multi-Media Edition. House Divided Project (2015) [WEB]
  • Jennifer Schuessler, “His Martin Luther King Biography Was a Classic,” NYT 6/4/19 [WEB]
  • Slave Stampedes of the Southern Borderlands, House Divided Project (2022) [WEB]
  • Moshik Temkin, “Historians Shouldn’t Be Pundits,” New York Times, June 26, 2017. [PDF]
  • Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “The Living Mother of a Living Child”: Midwifery and Mortality in Post-Revolutionary New England.” William & Mary Quarterly 46 (Jan. 1989): 27-48 [JSTOR]
  • Underground Railroad Online Handbook, NPS / House Divided Project (2023) [WEB]
  • Unofficial Teacher’s Guide to Spielberg’s Lincoln, House Divided Project (2013) [WEB]

Critical Essay

On Monday, February 27, students will submit a 4-6 page typed, double-spaced essay offering a critical response to the Dickinson & Slavery initiative.  Essays should identify some of the most compelling elements of the project as well as areas that might need improvement or greater development.  Students should cite a variety of primary and secondary sources using Chicago-style footnotes. Additional information will be available on the annotated assignment guidelines at the course site. Essays will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

Research Journal

On Monday, April 3, students will submit two research journal entries (2-3 pp. each or 500 to 1,000 words each), posted PRIVATE at the course website, detailing their efforts to find relevant sources for an investigation into one of the figures highlighted on the biography project list.  The first entry should focus on the search for primary sources at local archives (Dickinson, CCHS, or AHEC) and within online databases.  The second journal entry should focus on investigation of secondary sources obtained through library and digital research.  Each entry should include Chicago-style footnotes and a properly formatted Chicago-style bibliography of works consulted (at least six sources per entry).  All entries should include at least 2 to 3 images, properly captioned and credited.  Students may also choose to embed short instructional videos where relevant. Entries will be graded on research effort, depth of analysis and quality of prose. Late research journals will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

Biography Project

The highlight of this semester will be a multi-media biography project that analyzes a forgotten or misunderstood person from Dickinson or Carlisle history.  Students will begin by drafting a 10- to 12-page research paper (due on Wednesday April 19 –REVISED) that describes the life and times of their subject as well as offering an assessment of how the college or local community should better commemorate this figure.  Students will then revise and transform their draft essay into a teaching website on the free platform Weebly (due on Thursday, May 11) that will include a short biographical film, an interactive timeline, and a proposed wayside marker for the historical figure.  Projects will be graded on research and design efforts, depth of analysis, and quality of prose. Late submissions will be penalized 5 points per day.


Grade Distribution

Class Participation                            30 percent

Critical essay                                      20 percent

Research journal                               20 percent

Biography project                             30 percent


Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 1/24 Methods & Expectations
Thursday 1/26 LAB:  Henry W. Spradley Dickinson & Slavery: 2019 Report
Tuesday 1/31 Defining History & Historical Thinking Schrag, ch. 1-2 + Alterman, Temkin
Thursday 2/2 LAB: “Lincoln” and Hollywood “Lincoln” (2013) movie guide
Tuesday 2/7 Getting Started Schrag, ch. 3 + 1619 Project dialectic
Thursday 2/9 LAB: Martha Ballard’s Diary Ulrich article
Tuesday 2/14 Understanding Historiography Schrag, ch. 4 + Dunbar op-ed
Wednesday 2/15 LECTURE:  Erica Armstrong Dunbar 7pm, ATS
Thursday 2/16 LAB:  Tom Torlino Carlisle Indian School + Wiki
Tuesday 2/21  The Politics of Evidence Schrag, ch. 5
Tuesday 2/21 BELL LECTURE:  Chris Bilodeau 430pm, Denny 317
Thursday 2/23 FIELD TRIP:  House Divided studio Dickinson & Slavery:  Our Research
Monday 2/27 Critical essays due By 5pm via email
Tuesday 2/28 Types of Sources Schrag, ch.6- 7
Thursday 3/2 LAB:  Underground Railroad UGRR handbook + Slave Stampedes
Tuesday 3/7 Finding Sources Schrag, ch. 8-9
Thursday 3/9 FIELD TRIP:  College Archives Journals:  Clarke, Miller, Reiersen, Stout + College History Projects
Tuesday 3/14 NO CLASS (Spring Break)
Thursday 3/16 NO CLASS (Spring Break)
Tuesday 3/21 Close Reading Schrag, ch. 10 + Schuessler
Thursday 3/23 FIELD TRIP:  CCHS (21 N. Pitt Street) Gardner + Journals:  Donoghue, Forte + articles: May 22 + Oct 5
Tuesday 3/28 Making History:  Research Schrag, ch. 11-12
Thursday 3/30 LAB:  Best research practices Journals:  Goldberg, Solnit, Wingert
Monday 4/3 Research journals due By 5pm by post
Monday 4/3 PFLAUM LECTURE: Penny von Eschen 7pm, Althouse 106
Tuesday 4/4 Making History:  Basic Writing Schrag, ch. 13
Thursday 4/6 LAB: Anna Dickinson Dickinson (1864), KFF seminar
Tuesday 4/11 Making History:  Storytelling Schrag, ch. 14
Thursday 4/13 FIELD TRIP:  Walking Tours Dickinson & Slavery / Civil War Carlisle
Saturday 4/15 WERT LECTURE:  Jonathan Holloway ATS, 7PM – 8PM (required)
Tuesday 4/18 NO CLASS
Wednesday 4/19 Draft project essays due By 5pm via email
Thursday 4/20 Making History:  Style Guide Schrag, ch. 15
Tuesday 4/25 Going Public Schrag, ch. 16
Thursday 4/27 LAB: Building websites Student Hall of Fame
Tuesday 5/2 Student presentations Project drafts
Thursday 5/4 Student presentations Project drafts
Thursday 5/11 Biography projects due By 5pm via email