The Nature of History

History 100D

Fall 2016
88 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
TTh 12:30-2pm
Although History is frequently classified as one of the humanities, many natural sciences, from evolutionary biology to climate science, also focus on historical change. How did these different disciplines evolve? Why are we all in different parts of campus? How do those histories shape contemporary practice, in the academy but also in public life? This course is a history of historical thought and practice in the historical sciences, from stratigraphy and historical source criticism in the 18th century, to climate history in the early 21st. Since the physical sciences have generally devoted themselves to the non-human past, and since most historians have confined themselves to the study of human events, we will be paying special attention to the philosophical and logistical challenges that the interaction of human and natural environments have posed for theory and research. Students will acquire an introduction to the evolution of historical method in different disciplinary traditions. Since we will be ending in present-day California, one of our goals is to help students acquire the sort of skills and knowledge that could be useful in policy as well as academic settings.  This course will fall someplace between a lecture and a seminar. Although we will have brief lectures, we will also have regular discussion and devote class time to problem-based instruction on student projects.