FALL 2008

GS G19

Wed 2:30-4:25




Professors Hyams and Strauss


This and not the paper handout is the authoritative version of this prospectus.
Please check here regularly.

Office Hours:
Prof. Hyams  MG 307 (5-2076, 257-3168)     Wed 11 – 12 noon; Thurs 1:30 -2:30 pm
Prof. Strauss MG 324 (5-6743)                    Tues 1-3 pm, Thurs 10:30-11:30 am


Readings to Acquire:

Berman, Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (1983)

Carretta, Equiano the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man (2005)

Cohen, History in Three Keys The Boxers as Event, Experience, and Myth (new edn., 1998)

Harris, Rethinking the Mediterranean (2005), 1-42   

Horden and Purcell, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History (2000), 1-5, 7, 9-49, 123-152, 172-173, 175-190, 224-230.

Hyams, Rancor and Reconciliation in Medieval England (2003)

Parker, The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800 (2nd edn., 1998)

Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings. Social Politics in a Progressive Age (1998).

Shapin, A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England (1994)

Smith, The Gender of History: Men, Women, and Historical Practice (1998)

The “Abraham Debate

In addition, other short readings are required, as detailed in the schedule of weekly assignments. All the above are available on reserve in Olin 301; please treat them as if use was limited to 2 hours, as it would be if on undergraduate reserve in Uris.

We also have other means to make materials available via:    Web links
                                                                                            Reserve in Olin 301] = [
                                                                                            Electronically through the Online Catalog = [

This course is designed to offer incoming graduate students the opportunity to observe how historians use sources, define problems, structure research, organize arguments, write up their results, and disagree with colleagues. We will be using books and other materials illustrative of various approaches and problems across fields and specializations. The general idea is to help you students to select the kinds of approach and technical equipment that best suit your research areas and temperament. You will also certainly observe how historians (and all other scholars) copy and borrow from each other, sometimes with more profit, sometimes with less. (This paragraph is adapted from one crafted by Professors Norton and Hull in 2007!) Our hope is that you will be able to use the course to start making your own choices of method, approach, and the nuts and bolts of research, and that the end result will be that each of us will eventually write history with rigor, integrity, and imagination.

Each student will be expected to have read the materials carefully by the class and to participate thoughtfully in the discussions as well as carrying out the following assignments.



1.         Short “report” (max. 250 words or 1 side of TS) on readings for Weeks II-X, perhaps consisting only of pertinent questions you want to discuss in class. This will not be graded beyond an S/U basis. To be submitted by class-time, so that one of us can continue the dialogue later.

 2.         Short paper (3-5 pp.) on points of historical technique noticed in your reading of one or more of the works assigned and read during Weeks II-VIII, to be submitted at the class in Week IX, October 29. (Please send it to Hyams as a WORD file, and put it in MG 450 in hard copy for Strauss.)

3.         Introduce session one week with a short talk (a maximum of 10 mins.) on the main reading (book). You can focus on your perceptions of its contribution and/or any of the following: how the book was reviewed, how it has been used since (use the Web of Science: Arts and Humanities Citation Index, best approached through the Library Gateway), the accuracy of its foot-noting. The discussion leader can then conduct the first hour of the class the way he or she wants it.

4.         Substantial essay (c. 20-25 pp.) on a topic of historiography or research methods of your choice (to be cleared with one of us) due in 2 copies (hard copy to Strauss, electronic to Hyams) at our last session in Week XIV.

 All written assignments to be submitted in duplicate, please, hard copy to Strauss, and WORD file (ATTACHment) for Hyams. You will be graded on Assignments , 2-4, as also on your overall contributions to the class.


Each student in this course is expected to abide by the Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity.
Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the student’s own work.



I.          Sept 3               Introduction(s)

II.         Sept 10             The “Abraham Case”

Some may be interested to read a recent paper of a Cornell colleague on comparable academic controversies in neighboring "disciplines".
Cf. Sidney Tarrow, "Polarization and Convergence in Academic Controversies", Theory and Society (2008 online first) [E]

III.       Sept 17             Carretta, Equiano the African;
                                    Idem, “Olauda Equiano or Gustavus Vassa: New Light on an 18th-Century Question of Identity”, Slavery & Abolition 20 (1999), 96-105

IV.       Sept. 24            Cohen, History in Three Keys

                                                Rosnow, “Inside Rumor”, American Psychologist 46 (1991), 484-96 [E]
                                                CREDIT AND BLAME By Charles Tilly reviewed NYT 8-15-08.
                                                “Black Swan thesis”: http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/ & http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassim_Taleb.

V.        Oct 1                Hyams, Rancor and Reconciliation

Hyams agonized over and rethought the notion of Feud after completing the book. 
T.H. Clutton-Brock and G.A. Parker, “Punishment in Animal Societies”, Nature 373 (1995), 209-16 [E] is a piece that should be
quite very thought-provoking to historians of vengeance, which only came to my notice after the book was in print                                            

VI.       Oct 8                Class ends 4 pm for Yom Kippur

                                    Smith, The Gender of History

                Smith, "Gender and Historical Understanding," in Lloyd Kramer, et al., eds. Learning History in America. (Minneapolis: 1994) [E]
                Judith Bennett, History Matters : Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism (2006) HQ1121 .B424 2006


Oct 11-15

VII.      Oct 15               Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings.

VIII.     Oct 22               Horden and Purcell, The Corrupting Sea, 1-5, 7, 9-49, 123-152, 172-173, 175-190, 224-230;
Harris, Rethinking the Mediterranean, 1-42;

                              B. Shaw, "Challenging Braudel: A New Vision of the  Mediterranean," Journal of Roman Archaeology 14 (2001): 419-453;
F. Braudel, Memory and the Mediterranean (New York 2001) ix-xx, 3-16


IX.       Oct 29              Shapin, A Social History of Truth

Lance Davis, "And it will never be literature-- The New Economic History: A Critique", Explorations in Enterpreneurial History 2nd s. 6. 1 (1968), 75-92
reprd. Swierenga (ed.), Quantification in American History (1970), 274-87
Geoffrey Hosking, "Trust ansd Distrust: A Suitable Theme for Historians?," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society , Volume 16, December 2006, pp 95-115

"Nullius addictus judicare in verba magistri" (Horace) = "Not compelled to swear to any master's words.", from which came the Royal Society motto, "nullius in verba". But cf. the Earl of Rochester's epitaph on Charles II!


1968X.         Nov 5               Parker, The Military Revolution

                                    Brian M. Downing,  The Military Revolution and Political Change: Origins of Democracy and Autocracy in Early Modern Europe  (1992)

XI.       Nov 12             Peter Hirtle (Library) on Copyright Questions

                                                Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosensweig, Digital History at http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/copyright/index.php , the chapter on "Owning the Past?"
                                                Roy Rosenzweig, "Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past" Journal of American History (2006).

Dr. Hirtle expects to use as his text K.D. Crews, Copyright law and the doctoral dissertation : guidelines to your legal rights & responsibilities (Ann Arbor, Mich., c1992). For the second hour, we should all keep an eye out for source citations etc. and excuses for their absence in readings of previous weeks.

XII.      Nov 19             Berman, Law and Revolution

                R.H. Helmholz, “The Character of the Western Legal Tradition: Assessing Harold Berman’s Contribution to Western Legal History”, and perhaps
                J. Witte, “A New Concordance of Discordant Canons: Harold J. Berman on Law and Religion”, both from The integrative jurisprudence of Harold J. Berman, ed. Howard O. Hunter (Boulder CO, 1996)                                        

Nov 26-Dec1

XIII.     Dec 3                Final Discussion


            Dec 7-10          STUDY PERIOD

            Dec 10-19         EXAM PERIOD

E&OE, PRH/BSS, 8-08