Fall 2015 - HIST 400 D100

Methodology (4)

Class Number: 5926

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 9:30 AM – 1:20 PM
    AQ 5118, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Admission to the honors program in history.



An advanced seminar on historical methods. Focuses on the identification and analysis of sources in preparation for writing the honours essay.


This is an advanced seminar course on historical methods. In this seminar course we will focus on the identification and analysis of sources in preparation for writing the honors essay. In the seminar we will study methodologies that underpin traditional archival history and the cutting edge tools of recent history.

We will study a broad ranging history of the conception and development of the theories that have guided archivists in their work from the late 19th through the early 21st centuries. Narrated through the controversial thread of archival appraisal theory, we will see how archivists have engaged with theory through the tension between keeping records that reflect objective history "as it happened" and subjective decision making in the archive. Through an interpretive reading of archival theory, distinct periods emerge, with each paradigm contributing unique responses to difficult archival, historical, and theoretical contexts. We will also study “recent history” – a Show More Show Less phrase that seems like an oxymoron. Yet historians have been writing accounts of the recent past since printed history acquired a modern audience, and in the last several years interest in recent topics has grown exponentially. With subjects as diverse as Walmart and disco, and personalities as disparate as Chavez and Schlafly, books about the history of our own time have become arguably the most exciting and talked-about part of the discipline.

Despite history’s rich tradition and fluid popularity, historians have engaged in relatively little discussion about the specific methodological, political, and ethical issues related to writing about the distant and recent past. In our seminar we will explore explore the challenges of writing histories of events where visibility is inherently imperfect, hindsight and perspective are overly lacking, and historiography has developed problematically.

Today’s historians encounter exciting challenges that are both familiar and foreign to archival scholars of a more distant past, including suspicions that their research is not historical enough, negotiation with living witnesses who have a very strong stake in their own representation, and the task of working with new electronic sources. We will consider a wide range of these challenges. We will question how , alongside the archival document, sources like television and video games can be better utilized in historical research, explore the role and regulation of doing oral histories, consider the ethics of writing about living subjects, discuss how historians can best navigate questions of privacy and copyright law, and imagine the possibilities that new technologies offer for creating transnational and translingual research opportunities.

This seminar is geared to equip the student with the intellectual tools with which to research and write an excellent honors essay.



From Polders to Postmodernism: A Concise History of Archival Theory [Paperback] John Ridener (Author), Terry Cook (Foreword)

Doing Recent History: On Privacy, Copyright, Video Games, Institutional Review Boards, Activist Scholarship, and History [Paperback] Claire Bond Potter (Editor), Renee C. Romano (Editor)

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html