Scandals in History
What makes some scandals historically significant, and others little more than contemporary diversions? Why do some "stick" for centuries in collective memory while others fade away rather quickly? This research seminar for history majors will explore incidents of public wrongdoing and mass outrage both as shapers and catalysts of historical events and as windows through which we can view past societies and eras.
During the first few weeks we will read some theoretical and methodological material on the subject, followed by some monographic case studies (and sections thereof) by prominent historians on events such as the Salem witchcraft trials, the South Sea Bubble (financial corruption in the early 18th century), the Dreyfus Affair (anti-semitism in 1890s France), the Azef affair (mutual infiltration of police and terrorist cells in tsarist Russia), Watergate, and Enron.
The bulk of the semester will be spent on guiding students through the production of a research paper of 25 pages or so on a relevant topic of their choice from virtually any place or time in history up to the 1980s. The instructor will guide students through various stages of the work: framing a research question; compiling a bibliography; reviewing and summarizing secondary literature; interpreting a key primary source; drafting the paper. Work will be graded at several stages to ensure that students distribute their efforts evenly through the semester. Students are expected to engage in constructive critique of other students' papers-in-progress, and will be graded on discussion participation and peer reviewing as well as on their own research.