HIS 721 ☙ University of Miami ☙ Fall 2017
Mondays, 10:30am-1:00pm in Ashe 621

Professor: Dr. Karl Gunther
Department of History, Ashe 611
Office hours on Wednesdays, 10:15am-12:15pm


Graduate historiography courses take many forms. Some survey the development of historical scholarship from antiquity to the present, while others consider prominent themes and topics in recent historical scholarship. These are both valuable approaches to historiography, but this semester I have decided to adopt a third approach by organizing the course around major conceptual and methodological questions about the practice of history. Put another way, in this course we will critically examine claims and arguments about what history is, why it should be written, and how historians should go about producing it. By the end of the course, students will hopefully be able to offer sophisticated answers to these questions that will guide their own scholarship. We will examine some classic problems and debates in the field (e.g., "the objectivity question”) as well as more recently arisen discussions about the relationship between the sciences and historical scholarship, the consequences of digitization for historical practice, and the ways in which historians should engage with other disciplines and the public.


All of the readings for this course will be available via Richter Library, either as hard copies on course reserve or as electronic resources (links provided below). Many of the books are quite lengthy, however, and it will be difficult for everyone to share the physical reserve copies, so you may wish to purchase some of the readings.


Your grade for this course will be determined by the quality of your participation in seminar (40%) and three 2,000-word essays (20% each). I expect your essays to draw on the course readings (and you are welcome to draw on additional reading as well), but they are not to be review essays that simply summarize competing views. I am expecting thesis-driven essays that make a claim, offer a persuasive argument for that claim, and defend the claim against the strongest possible objections.


  1. Is history anything other than just a species of fiction or ideology? Due 10/23.
  2. What is a key conceptual question about the practice of history that emerges from the readings assigned between October 23th and November 27th? What is the best answer to this question? Due 11/27.
  3. What do you think about Nancy MacLean's Democracy in Chains and the controversy it sparked this year? Due 12/18.


8/21. Introduction

8/28. Overview

  • Daniel Woolf, A Global History of History (2011)




9/25. Objectivity

  • Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The ‘Objectivity Question’ and the American Historical Profession (1988)

10/2. History & Literature

  • Hayden White, Metahistory (1973 or 2014, either is fine)

10/9. Interpretation, Meaning, & Context

  • James Tully (ed.), Meaning & Context: Quentin Skinner and his Critics (1988)

10/16. Objectivity Revisited

  • Thomas Haskell, Objectivity is Not Neutrality: Explanatory Schemes in History (2000)
  • Ethan Kleinberg, Joan Wallach Scott, and Gary Wilder, "Theses on Theory and History" (2018)

10/23. Archives

10/30 Microhistory

  • Carlo Ginzburg, Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method (1989)
  • Edward Muir & Guido Ruggiero (eds.), Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe (1991)

11/6. History & Social Theory

  • William H. Sewell, Jr., Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation (2005)

11/13. Deep History, Big History


11/27. Periodization, Breakthroughs, & Turning Points

12/4. Digital Humanities & Digital History

12/11. The Future of History?

12/18. History, Politics, & the Democracy in Chains Controversy

  • Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America (2017)
  • Read these summaries of the controversy and as many critiques and defenses of the book as you can
  • Paper #3 due