Major Seminar

Scandals in History

What is it that makes us regard certain public events and revelations as "scandals"?  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 explores incidents of public wrongdoing and mass outrage both as shapers and catalysts of history and as windows through which we can view past societies and eras.

For the first few weeks we will read conceptual material on scandals, as well as some books and book excerpts on events such as the Salem witchcraft trials, the South Sea Bubble, the Dreyfus Affair, the Tuskegee experiments, and/or Watergate. We will watch and discuss at least one historical film about a scandal.  Using these sources we'll develop a list of questions, issues, and methodological approaches for studying scandals that will guide you as you produce your own original research paper of 25 pages or more on a topic of your choice (from any place and any period up to the 1980s).

The instructor will guide students through various stages of the work:  framing a research question; compiling a bibliography; surveying available secondary literature; interpreting a key primary source; drafting the paper.  You will be expected to engage in constructive critique of your classmates' papers-in-progress. Your grade will take into account not only the quality of your final product but  your progress at various intermediate stages, as well as discussion participation.

Because writing an original research paper in History is not a small or simple task,

you will be strongly encouraged to spend some time during the summer identifying a topic area and beginning exploratory research so that you'll get a running start when the semester begins.

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