Course Description

United States History

HIUS 1501

Introductory Seminar: Making History Public

Spring 2016
This course will examine where history comes from by looking closely at a variety of forms of U.S. history.  We will begin with scholarship – which provides what might be called the “basic research” that a great deal of history ultimately draws upon.  Over the course of the first four weeks, we will read a dissertation, a monograph (the first book that most history professors publish that comes out of the dissertation) and synthetic work by a more senior historian farther on their career, and finally, a book written by a preeminent historian that has broad popular appeal – the kind you might even give to your parents as a birthday gift and they might even read!
In the middle portion of the course we will read and view material that draws upon scholarship to teach history and to display history at public sites to an audience (captive and voluntary) that need or wants to learn more about history, and we will read popular history written by non-scholars – often journalists.  In the last portion of the class, we will discuss popular historical films, radio shows, podcasts, historical fiction, video games, and comedy, most likely ending with an episode of Drunk History.  We will invite scholars and public historians to visit the class on occasion, to discuss their work.
The overarching question that we will explore over the term is what is lost and what is gained as history is made public?  We will also explore the boundaries between history and fiction, history and social science, and history and popular culture. Throughout, we will seek ways to make authoritative history more accessible.  Students will be required to write an eight hundred word essay every week that responds to a prompt about the reading/viewing assignment.  In addition to these weekly assignments, students will write a ten to fifteen page paper that suggests ways effectively to make history public, or design and produce a project or exhibit that achieves this end.
The class will be a discussion class and participation will be highly valued (and rewarded.)  Participation will account for 50 percent of the final grade.  The term paper will count for another 25 percent, and the weekly essays will count for the final 25 percent.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
Department Contacts