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Introduction to Historiography

Image of a painting of a young lady holding a large book.

This seminar is designed to introduce history majors and medials to the idea of historiography, taken as both the writing of history and the study and analysis of that writing. Topics will include the following:

  1. The different meanings of the term historiography
  2. The history of the practices of researching and writing history both in the Western world and globally
  3. Seminal ideas about historical processes
  4. How present-day issues and concerns can influence the writing of history
  5. The work of select prominent historians from antiquity to the twentieth century
  6. Key concepts in historical thought
  7. Historical errors and fallacies
  8. The use of counterfactual thinking
  9. The ethics of historical practice
  10. How historical works come into existence
  11. The process of peer review
  12. Alternative approaches to the past

The course will include what may be described as practical elements (including visits to the university archives and special collections), and discussions of how and why the historical “discipline” or profession is organized institutionally in the ways that it is. Students will learn how to develop a bibliography, search for sources, evaluate and criticize a historical article, differentiate among historical arguments and positions, summarize historical arguments concisely, and conduct a formal presentation in front of their peers. A great deal of emphasis will be placed on clear writing and on in-class engagement with assigned readings. To that end, the course requires multiple shorter assignments of graduated length, rather than the conventional full-length research paper you might expect in other courses.  Attendance at and participation in seminars is essential.

Tentative Evaluations

Please Note: All components of the course must be completed in order to pass the course, including class participation.


  • General Participation

Fall Term

  • 800-word profile of a pre-1900 historian
  • Group presentation on your historian
  • Midterm test on Module 1
  • 800-word article review

Winter Term:

  • Paper proposal and partial bibliography
  • Oral presentation and defense of draft research paper
  • 6-page paper on a topic from Modules 1, 2, or 3
  • Final exam

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.