Assignments

First Homework Assignment

Hegel, G. W. F. Reason in History.

How does Hegel define the following terms

  1. Freedom
  2. Spirit
  3. Idea
  4. State

Devote one or two paragraphs to each definition.


Second Homework Assignment

The Bastille and the French Republic.

Write at least one or two substantial paragraphs in response to each of the following questions.

  1. Consider the documents and images from the storming of the Bastille on the Liberty, Equality, Fraternity web site. Do these documents support or contradict the interpretation of 14 July 1789 offered by Thomas Carlyle? Do they support or contradict the interpretation offered by Jules Michelet?

  2. What issues interest Georges Rudé in his analysis of the events of 14 July 1789? Is the evidence he considers different from that considered by Carlyle and Michelet in the nineteenth century?

  3. According to Christian Amalvi, how have past celebrations of the taking of the Bastille served the needs of various governing regimes in France? How successful have these states been in bending the history of this event to their needs?


Third Homework Assignment

Turner. Frontier Thesis.

Write at least one or two substantial paragraphs in response to each of the following questions.

  1. Summarize the essential features of Turner's "Frontier Thesis" in a paragraph or two.

  2. In "The Frontier as an Explanation.", Richard Hofstadter presents a number of criticisms of Turner. Which criticism do you find most compelling, and why?

  3. In her essay "Turnerians All...", Patricia Limerick Nelson suggests the following about the importance of Turner's work at the end of the twentieth century: "The familiar dispute — Was Turner right about the frontier? — has become trivial and arcane. The much less familiar question — Was Turner right about the present-day value of historical understanding? — remains the question of consequence." (p. 715) Why is this question consequential for Limerick in 1995? Would it have been consequential for Hofstadter in 1968?


Fourth Homework Assignment

Braudel. Mediterranean.

Write at least one or two substantial paragraphs in response to each of the following questions.

  1. State the thesis of Braudel's book.

  2. Is Braudel a follower of Hegel's philosophy of history, either implicitly or explicitly, or does he understand and analyze the past differently than the German philosopher?

  3. Do Turner and Braudel understand the interaction between the natural environement and human society in the same way? Discuss the similarities and differences in their approaches.


Fifth Homework Assignment

Discipline and Punish.
 
Write at least one or two substantial paragraphs in response to each of the following questions.

  1. ln Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault offers a history of prisons in the west in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The book, however, is not simply about the administrative details of penal reform in this period; Foucault is also interested in the changing relation between the state and the individual. According to the author, how do changes in criminal punishment provide insight into the larger issue of government/citizen relations?

  2. What types of evidence does Foucault use in this study? Should he have sought out other sources? Cite a specific example from the text to support your claims.

  3. Would you say that Foucault is a Hegelian? Why or why not?

  4. Would Braudel say that this study is an example of event-oriented history, of the foam riding the crest of the waves? Would he situate the phenomena studied by Foucault at the level of conjunctural or structural history? Or is Foucault's methodology so different from that of Braudel that comparisons are inappropriate?


Sixth Homework Assignment

The Return of the Anecdote?
 
Write at least one or two substantial paragraphs in response to each of the following questions.

  1. What are the benefits of Robert Darnton's historiographical method (a detailed study of a discrete, well-documented incident)? Do you find this approach more satisfying than Braudel's emphasis on long-term structures? (Remember, Braudel would dismiss the "great cat massacre" as the "foam on the waves" of the historical ocean.)

  2. What, in your view, is Mah's most damning critique of Darnton's essay? Do you find that Mah's work invalidates Darnton's essay?

  3. List three questions that the "coachman's bare rump" documents prompt you to ask. We will discuss your questions, the documents, and interpretive strategies in class.