What is History? Methods and Debates
(LSE, 2016/2017, 2017/2018, HY 241. Taught jointly with Dr Imaobong Umoren)
What is history? How and for what purposes do we study the past? What kinds of debates and controversies result from historical study? The purpose of this course is to provide undergraduate students with an introduction to these important issues. We will discuss the history of history from ancient times to the present and how it has changed as an intellectual pursuit over the years. We will think about different types of history – for example, international history, intellectual history, social history, economic history, cultural history or the history of religion – and we will discern their different concerns and priorities. We will analyse some of the most important themes in modern historical study: empires and colonialism, war and conflict, nationalism. We will outline different ideological frameworks for conducting historical research, for example Marxism, postmodernism, and gender studies. We will debate some of the key philosophical questions surrounding historical research: for example, how historians determine facts, and whether or not historical study can ever be truly objective? Finally, we will look at different ways of presenting the past., from traditional history books to museums and TV history.