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The Historical Imagination

Image of a face on a black background with colourful lights swirling around them

Like a good chef, a historian requires fresh ingredients to create a palatable narrative. As historians “prep” for writing, they gather together viable sources, choose chronological plotlines, frame episodes and events, distinguish truth from fiction, weigh different perspectives, and select the literary tropes of tragedy, melodrama, etc. to recount and narrate a version of the past – a past that is based on choices and which produces different outcomes. The most important ingredient, some would argue, is the historian’s imagination, which gives form, consistency and purpose to the narrative. In this course, we will focus on the individual “ingredients” that historians use to construct historical narratives and ultimately gain a deeper understanding of what constitutes “History.” Weekly discussions will be based around core readings and seminar members will give two oral presentations based on short research assignments related to the week’s theme. Students will write a “research” paper and create a viable primary document (for instance, a diary, a ledger, a criminal trial, a freedom suit), while also documenting the sources consulted and steps taken to produce the given document. There will also be a take-home 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.