Fall 2020 - HIST 300 D100

Historiography (4)

Class Number: 3402

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Tue, 11:30 a.m.–2:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units, including six units of lower division history.



Examines the conceptual problems involved in the historian's attempt to apprehend the past. Focuses on the nature of historical knowledge and explanation, and to the broad systems and patterns in which history has been conceived.


“One has assigned to history the office of judging the past, of instructing the contemporary world to the benefit of the future. To such high offices this [book] does not aspire. It just wants to show what actually happened.”  -- Leopold von Ranke

“History is a set of lies agreed upon.”  -- Napoleon Bonaparte

“The very ink with which history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” – Mark Twain

“The dogma of woman’s complete historical subjection to man must be rated as one of the most fantastic myths ever created by the human mind.”  -- Mary Ritter Beard

“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”  -- James Baldwin

As the various quotations above suggest, there is no single definition of history, the subject of what historians study. How and why have the study and writing of history taken the forms they have? Can we account for what has caused these forms to change over time? This course is chiefly concerned with historiography, which takes as its subject not the past but the ways in which historians have researched, interpreted, reconstructed, and represented the past. We will examine some of the theoretical and practical dimensions of historical research and writing and evaluate historians’ responsibilities, both intellectual and ethical, which are critical to their profession. In doing so, we will engage with a broad range of questions and subjects from multiple contexts, and think about historians as researchers, instructors, and members of a profession contending with issues germane to both academia and the broader public. We will consider questions of evidence, causality, theoretical framework, scale, choices about narrative and analysis, and methodology.

Please note that almost all teaching at SFU in Fall 2020 will be conducted through remote methods. Enrollment in this course acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. History 300 features a mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities. Because of the significance of this course for the Honours program and this year’s cohort of students, synchronous activities are embedded in each week of the semester. Students will be expected to engage in live activities with the instructor and each other for one to two hours per week for the first six weeks of the course, and for about an hour for the remaining six weeks. (Please note, there will be a week-long break in early November.)

Synchronous (live) Course Components include weekly class meetings (via Zoom or Blackboard Collaborate Ultra), student presentations, and the essay drafts, which will be completed and discussed in scheduled synchronous class-time.


  • Participation (Glossary Contributions (10), Presentations x 2 (10), History in the News (5) 25%
  • Department Colloquium/Lecture OR Faculty Profile 25%
  • Analytical Essays x 2 - Draft (20), Final Product (30) 50%



Jeremy D. Popkin, From Herodotus to H-Net (2nd edition, 2020) 

Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (available online through the library)

Plus various readings made available on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/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


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).