Ambuske, James

New Course in General History

Digital History

Computing technology and digital applications have changed the way that professional historians practice their craft. Thanks to digitization efforts, many archives and books are accessible to scholars and the public alike from the comfort of their homes. Tools such as MapScholar or Neatline enable us to geo-reference historic maps and use timelines to tell visual narratives of our spatial past. The relatively low cost of digital editing tools makes possible new documentary editing projects once unthinkable in the days of letterpress editions. Smartphone apps permit us to take walking tours of lost landscapes. And linked-open data enables us to created sophisticated databases that bring together historical figures and their experiences in new and compelling ways.

This course offers graduate and undergraduate students in the humanities and computer sciences the opportunity to produce scholarship using digital technology. We will spend as much time thinking about why and how we should use technology to advance our knowledge of the past as we will be using digital tools to do so.

The course will also expose students to professional development opportunities and career options in digital history specifically and the digital humanities more generally.

Weekly readings will include works on digital history methodology as an emergent “field.” We will also evaluate examples of digital historical scholarship, including cartography projects, documentary-editing projects, digital archives, and the tools used to create them. Along the way students will have the opportunity to develop a familiarity with a variety of tools and practices as they think about how digital technology does or can shape their own research interests.  Guest speakers will visit to discuss their own experiences with these issues.

Both undergraduate and graduate students will complete several written reflective assignments, write a professional review of a digital project, and make small (but meaningful) contributions to existing digital projects.

Undergraduate students will work closely with the instructors to create a final digital project. Graduate students will work with the instructors to pursue a final project that benefits their M.A. or Ph.D. theses. 

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Seminar in United States History

King George III's American Revolution

King George III’s American Revolution

In 1783, the Treaty of Paris ended George III’s reign as America’s final king. He presided over the expansion of British America beginning with his ascension to the throne in 1760, only to see it divided through imperial civil war and secession two decades later.

This research seminar course uses George III and a new digital archive of Georgian Papers based in Windsor Castle and King’s College London to explore the king’s critical role in shaping the politics and culture of the American Revolutionary era. We will use him to examine several important aspects of the American Revolution and Early Republic, including the rise and fall of royal authority and culture in the American colonies, the cartographic challenge of mapping British America in the 1760s and 1770s, the art of portraiture in the British Atlantic world, the experiences of people living on the fringes of empire during and after the War for Independence, and enslaved Americans’ pursuit of freedom during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

During the term, we will read and write as much about George III as we will people living in North America, Great Britain, and the spaces between. We will read on average about 250 pages each week, including books or articles by historians as well as primary sources written or created by contemporary authors like Catharine Macaulay, George III, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine. The majority of the reading will occur early on in the semester so that we can establish a foundation for our research papers. We will also listen to several podcasts featuring historians discussing their craft as we think about how to identify promising research topics, how to ask good questions of our primary sources, and how to form our ideas into persuasive written arguments.

Students will conduct one primary source analysis, write a short book review, make small (but very important) contributions to a digital documentary editing project, and write a 15-20 page final essay on a course topic of interest to them. Along the way we’ll visit a physical archive at UVA to examine rare historical materials and work with the new Georgian Papers digital archive, featuring documents few people have seen since the eighteenth century.

This course fulfills the second writing requirement.

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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
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