11 January 2012

Goodbye, Hello, Historianess

With this, my 400th post at the URL, I announce that I am moving Historianess to a new service.

You can find Historianess now at http://historianess.wordpress.com/

Please join me (and Pepper the Crazy Cat) there!

(This site will be deleted in six months.)

19 August 2011

Welcome to Sex, Lies, and Depositions

Since the good folks at Phi Beta Kappa were interested, I'm posting this! I've taught versions of the course before.

Prof. R. Goetz History 486 Spring 2011 (Office Hours Mon 10-12) rgoetz@rice.edu

Sex, Lies, and Depositions
(Microhistories of Virginia County Court Records)

Court records are fascinating sources for understanding the ordinary and extraordinary experiences of early Virginians. The surviving court records of Northampton County, Virginia are full of amazing stories of libel, slander, theft, attempted murder, fights, great escapes by servants and slaves, rape, and illicit sex. They are also full of the more mundane legalities of everyday Virginia life: petitions, suits for the collection of debt, probate of wills, and the registration of cattle brands. These seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century records are by far the best source for hearing the echoes of the voices of ordinary Virginians; nowhere else can historians find the words and experiences of planters, both wealthy and poor, indentured servants, African slaves, free blacks, and women, both married and unwed. In this course students will read in these records and produce a 20-25 page research paper based on a court case or set of court cases, learning as they work the historians’ craft of researching and writing about the past.

Required Readings:

• John Ruston Pagan, Anne Orthwood’s Bastard: Sex and Law in Early Virginia (Oxford University Press, 2003).
• Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Seventh Edition) (University of Chicago Press, 2007).

Expectations and Grading Scheme:

There are a number of writing assignments, both graded and ungraded. Every piece of writing you do in this class will help you write the final paper, so even though most writing assignments are “worth” only a small percentage of your grade, they make producing your final paper much easier. Therefore, I do not recommend skipping them. Additionally, you will have three individual conferences with me during the course of the semester. Although these are also ungraded, they are specifically designed to help you with the research and writing process. I do not recommend skipping those either.

* 1st short writing assignment 5%
* 2nd short writing assignment 5%
* annotated bibliography 5%
* proposal 5%
* narrative history assignment 5%
* comments on partner’s narrative 5%
* outline 5%
* first draft evaluation 5%
* comments on partner’s first draft 5%
* revision plan 5%
* First Draft 20%
* Final Draft 30%

You will note that there is no percentage for participation. This does not mean, however, that your presence in class and active involvement in our discussions is not expected. Many aspects of your work rely on collaboration with your classmates, and so unexcused absences harm everyone in the class, not just yourself. I take attendance at each class; after three unexcused absences your final grade, based on the percentages listed above, will fall by one letter grade. Your grade will fall by another letter grade for each unexcused absence after the third. That means even the perfect A student will fail the course after six absences. So, the moral of the story is…come to class!

If you are sick or have a personal emergency that requires your absence from class, please provide the appropriate documentation and I will excuse you. You may come to office hours or make an appointment with me to discuss material you missed.

I will NOT accept late papers. Papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date (unless otherwise noted)…not halfway through the class, not at the end of class, not slipped under my office door sometime after the start of class. Only illness and personal emergency are suitable excuses for turning in a paper late with no penalty. Papers turned in late without verification of illness or personal emergency will receive a grade of ZERO.

If you are traveling on the day a paper is due for an athletic event or other college event, you must make arrangements with me to turn in your paper before you leave. I do not accept emailed papers (as we all know, attachments sometimes get lost—there is no substitute for a hard copy!).

All assignments in this course are covered by the honor code. You may NOT work together on writing assignments or on the final paper.

Any student with a documented disability needing academic adjustments or accommodations must speak with me during the first two weeks of class. All discussions will remain confidential. Students with disabilities should also contact Disabled Student Services in the Allen Center.

Week 1: Introduction
Mon 22 August: Course Introduction, What is Microhistory?
* handout: “What is Microhistory?/Reading Guide to Anne Orthwood’s Bastard”
Wed 24 August: Primary and Secondary Sources
* Pagan, Anne Orthwood’s Bastard, pps. 3-80.
* receive first short writing assignment (primary and secondary sources)
Week 2: What is Microhistory?
Mon 29 August: Argument and Interpretation in Microhistory
* read Pagan, Anne Orthwood’s Bastard, 81-150
* first short writing assignment due
* receive second short writing assignment (writing about argument)
Mon 31 August: What is Microhistory, all over again!
* Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, “The Significance of Trivia” Journal of Mormon History vol. 19, no. 1 (Winter 1993), 52-66. (in class handout)
* Jill Lepore, “Historians Who Love Too Much: Reflections on Microhistory and Biography” Journal of American History vol. 88, no.1 (June 2001), 129-144. (online through JSTOR)
* second short writing assignment due
* receive York County Microfilm Assignments
* handout “Reading Virginia Court Hand”
* explore online resources for transcription assistance
Week 3: Defining a Topic

Wed 7 Sept: Library Scavenger Hunt (meet in our classroom)
* Booth, Craft of Research, 283-311. (handout)
* handout “Generating an Annotated Bibliography”
*Be wary of the web! Separating the useful from the useless

*resources of the week: JSTOR, America: History and Life, Academic Search Complete, Virginia Index.

Week 4: Topics and Sources
Mon Sept 12: Topics→Questions→Problems
* Turabian, 5-35.
* receive county court record presentation assignment
Wed Sept 14: The Parts of a County Court Record
*bring a printout of your case(s), a preliminary transcription, and Anne Orthwood’s Bastard to class with you
*receive annotated bibliography assignment

*resource of the week: The Oxford English Dictionary Online, 3rd Edition

Week 5: Interpretation, interpretation, interpretation
Mon Sept 19: Thurs 29 January: County Court Record Presentations; Transcribing
*schedule individual conferences with me (bibliographies)

Wed Sept 21: Source materials and inferences
* read Storey, Chapter Two (Interpreting Source Materials) and Chapter Four (Use Sources to Make Inferences) (handouts in class)
* final court record selection due, bring a clean photocopy of the actual records and your transcription to class with you (note: this assignment is ungraded but still required!)

*resource of the week: Minutes of the Council and General Court

Week 6: From Research to Writing, part I
Mon Sept 26: Taking and organizing notes; Importance of Citing Properly
* read Jacques Barzun and Henry F. Graf, The Modern Researcher, Chapter Two (The ABC of Technique) (Handout in class)
* Turabian, 36-47.
* Warren Billings, “The Cases of Fernando and Elizabeth Key: A Note on the Status of Blacks in Seventeenth-Century Virginia,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser. vol. 30, no. 3 (July 1973), 467-474. (JSTOR)
Wed Sept 28: February: arguments and proposals
*write three-five sentences that you think represent your argument to class with you (again, not graded, but crucial!)
* receive formal proposal assignment

*resource of the week: the oeuvre of Warren Billings

Week 7: From research to writing, part II
Mon Oct 3: Formulating arguments
*Turabian, 48-61.
*be ready to think about what “warrants” mean to solid argumentation
*bring your revised three-five sentence argument to class with you
*annotated bibliography due
Wed Oct 5: Formal Proposal Presentations
*3-5-page formal proposal due

Week 8: From Nothing to Something: First Drafts
Wed Oct 12: Writing narrative, or, what really happened?
* read Narrative Techniques for Historians (handout)
* receive narrative history assignment
*Meet with me, Wed-Fri to discuss proposals

Week 9: First drafts, continued.
Sun Oct 16: Exchange narrative assignments with your partners by 5pm
Mon Oct 17: Uncertainty in historical narratives
* meet with your partner, discuss narrative history assignment
* bring a clean copy of your narrative history assignment, plus your comments on your partner’s work to class with you
Wed Oct 19: To outline or not to outline, that is the question
* Storey, Chapter Five (Get Writing!) and Chapter Six (Build an Argument) [handouts]
* Turabian, 62-81.
* receive outline assignment

Sun Oct 23: Exchange outlines by 5pm
Mon Oct 24: Brainstorm your outlines in class
Wed Oct 26: no class; private meetings with me

Week 11: Research and Writing Problems
Mon Oct 31: Troubleshooting in your Research (or, Solving the Unsolvable)
* bring a one-page description of a research or interpretation problem you’re having to class for discussion (note: this assignment is ungraded but still required!)
Wed Nov 2: Strategies for Writing a First Draft
* read Storey, Chapter Three (Writing History Faithfully), Chapter Eight (Writing Sentences in History), and Chapter Nine (Choose Precise Words)
* handout on free writing

Week 12: First drafts, continued….
Mon Nov 7: Introductions and Conclusions
* Turabian, 102-108.
* receive first draft evaluation assignment
*receive First Draft FAQ
Wed Nov 9: no class, individual conferences with me

Week 13: First drafts and Revision!
Sun Nov 13: Exchange First Drafts by 5pm
Mon Nov 16: First draft discussions in class
*bring your evaluation of your own paper and that of your partner to class
*receive revision assignment
Wed Nov 18: Writing a plan for revision
*Storey, Chapter Ten (handout)
* bring a draft of your revision plan to class

Week 14: Towards a Final Draft: Revising content
Mon Nov 21: No class, individual conferences with me
Wed Nov 23: No class, THANKSGIVING

Week 15: Towards a Final Draft: Revising Style
Mon Nov 28: Style!
* Turabian, 109-119.
* bring a problem paragraph to class with you
Wed Nov 30: The Perfect Word/Form over Function (just this once)
* Barzun and Graff, The Modern Researcher, 193-234 (in class handout).
* bring your partially revised draft to class with you
*look over your footnotes, especially.
* bring Turabian, A Manual for Writers to class with you.


06 May 2011

Parson Weems and David Barton--Traveling Salesmen/preachers

I have a fondness for the absurd, and there are few things more absurdly enjoyable than the collected writings of Mason Locke Weems. Parson Weems, as he dubbed himself, was not actually a parson, but rather a printer, traveling books salesman, entrepreneur, and fabulist of the highest order. He had an eye for opportunity, making his name (though his fame was unaccompanied by fortune) by publishing his masterpiece, A History of the Life, Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington (1800), a few weeks after his hero’s death. The good parson circumnavigated the southern United States peddling his biography of Washington—I say “biography,” but Parson Weems’s writing hardly meets the modern definition. Weems has the dubious distinction of being the originator of the story of little George chopping down his father’s prized cherry tree, and then owning up to his sin by piously intoning “I can’t tell a lie, Pa, you know I can’t.” Parson Weems made that story up out of whole cloth, as he did so many others about Washington and his other subjects (Francis Marion, Benjamin Franklin, and William Penn).
Weems had a habit of recreating the colonial and revolutionary American world for his readers, and he did it, I think, to show readers a lost world of religiosity and virtue, and to urge them to begin that lost world anew. Weems was a prophet of the past as well as the future, fashioning each to suit his vision of what America was and would be yet again.
Weems was much on my mind this morning, since my twitter feed and email inbox overflowed with the New York Times story about David Barton. Mr. Barton, the Times tells us helpfully, “is a self-taught historian who is described by several conservative presidential aspirants as a valued adviser and a source of historical and biblical justification for their policies.” I have long familiarly with Barton; he has been a thorn in the side of progressive educators in Texas for decades. (I myself am the product of public education in Texas.) Barton, autodidact and spiritual advisor, is also the founder of Wallbuilders, a dominionist organization whose goal “is to exert a direct and positive influence in government, education, and the family by (1) educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country; (2) providing information to federal, state, and local officials as they develop public policies which reflect Biblical values; and (3) encouraging Christians to be involved in the civic arena.” Barton sees the hand of God clearly in the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and in the country’s early history, and he also sees a present in which secularists and atheists are destroying the fabric of God’s kingdom on earth. In a well-publicized controversy last year, Barton was hired by the Texas State Board of Education as an evaluator of the state’s social studies curriculum; he billed himself an “expert reviewer” (though his formal education, from Oral Roberts University, is in religion) and offered factually, er, unreliable recommendations to increase schoolchildren’s knowledge of the virtue and religion of the founding generation.
I have long thought that Parson Weems, nineteenth-century fantasist, and David Barton have much in common. Like Weems, Barton criss-crosses the country selling his version of the past to all comers. Like Weems, Barton excels at cherry-picking quotes from the hallowed Founders, often folks like George Washington, to suit not the art of historical inquiry, but rather to bring about a future that matches the past—or the past as he remembers it to have been. David Barton’s American history is untainted by nastiness—it is a peaceful place, inhabited by industrious, pious, Christian white people who brought the light and wonder of God to the new world. In return, God granted them a biblical Republic and His protection—a protection that Barton darkly believes will soon be withdrawn if the United States does not change course. In this past, there was no violence, imperialism, slavery, or racism. Such blemishes do not become a vision of the past perfect.
Weems looked upon the past in similar terms, creating a history that would be a model for the future. Weems, writing about Washington’s virtue: “And truly Washington had abundant reason, from his own happy experience, to recommend Religion so heartily to others. For besides all those inestimable favours which he received from her at the hands of her celestial daughters, the Virtues; she threw over him her own magic mantle of Character. And it was this that immortalized Washington. By inspiring his countrymen with the profoundest veneration for him as the best of men, it naturally smoothed his way to supreme command; so that when War, that monster of Satan, came on roaring against America, with all his death's heads and garments rolled in blood, the nation unanimously placed Washington at the head of their armies, from a natural persuasion that so good a man must be the peculiar favourite of Heaven, and the fastest friend of his country. How far this precious instinct in favour of goodness was correct, or how far Washington's conduct was honourable to Religion and glorious to himself and country, bright age to come and happy millions yet unborn, will, we confidently hope, declare to the most distant posterity.”
David Barton might have written something like that, perhaps in a less flowery way. And Barton would have found a way to work supply-side economics into it, but the sentiment is the same.
Weems and Barton, prophets of the past and the future. Their concerns are the same, though separated by two hundred years: that the nation is losing its virtue, its religion, and its place in God’s favor. The “most distant posterity” they both fear, will lose God’s blessings and squander the Founders’ efforts. Yet that past remains a mystery for Barton, as it did for Weems. As Barton told the Times, “We haven’t had the time to read through even 5 percent of these things,” he said, opening a sheaf of 18th-century newspapers. “You never know what you’ll find.” And I wonder what would happen if Barton read, truly read, those newspapers. Is he prepared for what he might learn?

15 May 2009

Friday Cat Blogging with Pepper the Crazy Cat

I'm feeling very zen today. Mom rescued another kitty. He's living in the bathroom and I am pretending not to care.

14 May 2009

On Leave!


15 June 2009
*finish proposal and table of contents

30 June 2009
*rewrite of Chapter Two (Converting Indians, Converting Europeans)

31 July 2009
*rewrite of Chapter Three (The Rise and Fall of the Anglo-Indian Christian Commonwealth)

31 August 2009
*finish research for the new Chapter One

30 September 2009
*rewrite of Chapter One incorporating new research (Title TBA)
*draft of historiographical piece buttressing more sensational claims in Chapter Eight

31 October 2009
*rewrite of Chapter Four (Faith in the Blood)

15 December 2009
*rewrite of Chapter Five (Baptism and the Birth of Race)

BREAK 15 December 2009-15 January 2010

15 February 2010
*rewrite of Chapter Six (title TBA)

15 March 2010
*complete research for new Chapter Seven

15 April 2010
*new draft of Chapter Seven (Becoming Christian, Becoming White)

1 June 2010
*rewrite of Chapter Eight (An Empire of Christian Slaves) and new draft of supporting historiographical article for separate publication

15 June 2010
*draft of Epilogue (Towards Christian Abolitionism and Scientific Racism)

15 June 2010-15 July 2010 BREAK

1 August 2010
*draft of introduction (Christians and Heathens in the Atlantic World)



27 February 2009

Friday Cat Blogging with Pepper the Crazy Cat

I make my triumphant return to Friday cat blogging with this portrait! Mom has a new digital camera to replace the old broken one. She told me she really needed the camera so she can take pictures of documents (she is going to someplace called England to look at these document things) but so far she has just been laying on the floor taking pictures of me. Aren't I cute?


12 February 2009

Happy 200th Birthday Mr. Charles Darwin!

And, Mr. Lincoln, too.