Historical Biography (HIST*4030) | College of Arts

Historical Biography (HIST*4030)

Code and section: HIST*4030*01

Term: Winter 2018

Instructor: Karen Racine


Course Synopsis:

The famous nineteenth century British historian Thomas Carlyle championed the “great man” theory of history; he once observed that all history can be reduced to the biography of great persons. In contrast, Karl Marx believed that deep structural economic change was the actual motor force of history; in his view, the lives of individual people do not matter much.

This course will examine the changing attitude of historians to the biographical project itself, and will consider the reasons why biography as a genre has come in and out of favour over the generations. Students will learn to identify historiographical schools of thought related to biography as a genre, and will gain more practice identifying ideological biases in their sources.

This course is also intended to showcase the senior student’s abilities as a historian. Students will select a subject for your biography, compile an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources, write a persuasive essay, and then present the work to student-colleagues at the end of the semester.

Course Outcomes:

1) To improve your practical skills of research, persuasive writing, critical analysis and oral communication.
2) To gain further insight into the discipline of history and its methodology.
3) To gain exposure to the complex issues involved in writing a historical biography.
4) To learn more about the specific experiences and significance of a person’s life.

Methods of Evaluation and Weights:

Description of topic and initial annotated bibliography - 10%
Journal article worksheet responses - 5%
First Draft of 8-10 pages - 10%
Peer Edit #1 and 2 - 10%
In-class presentation; participation and preparedness - 10%
Final Research Paper - 55%

*Please note: This is a preliminary web course description only. The department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description. The final, binding course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester.