Draft Syllabus for HIS 4135

For those who enjoy syllabi, here is a draft of the syllabus for my fall course on Canadian historiography. Suggestions/ideas welcome!

History 4135A Fall 2014

Seminar in Canadian History – Canadian Historiography – Historians Interpret Canada’s Past

Course Description:

This course examines the ways Canadian historians have studied Canadian history in the 20th century. Through a thematic approach, students will explore the evolution of Canadian historiography. Major issues such as Canadian historians’ treatment of the Second World War and nationalism will be examined as well as case studies like historians’ response to Canada: A People’s History. Through the semester students will discover various interpretations of the past and how contemporary concerns play a role in historical investigation.

Required Texts

All materials available online.

Course Evaluation:

Participation: 20%

Seminar Leadership: 10%

Critical Analysis: 20%

Presentation: 20%

Term Paper: 30%

Participation (20%)

A successful discussion depends upon the participation of everyone. Therefore, you must read the assigned articles and come prepared to engage in a thoughtful/analytical discussion. The grade will be determined not only by the quantity of your contribution, but also on its quality.

All students are permitted to miss one class without penalty. Please note that this does not apply to classes where an assignment is due or during presentations. All other missed classes without proper documentation will result in a loss of grades.

Each week you must submit a question related to the readings prior to class. Questions should be open ended (i.e. no ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions) and can be related to any or all of the readings. Questions must be sent to me by email no later than 10:30 AM each week. All questions will be incorporated into the class discussion.

Seminar Leadership (10%)

Each week a different student will be responsible for leading the discussion during the first half of the class. This means introducing the material to the class and initiating the discussion. This can be done through a variety of ways – don’t be afraid to be creative.

You will be graded on your preparedness, familiarity with the material, and ability to initiate a discussion.

Dates will be determined at the first class.

Analysis (20%) Due October 21

For this assignment you have two options:

The first option is to write a critical analysis of a historical museum exhibit currently on display in Ottawa. You can select either a permanent exhibit (First Peoples Hall at CMH or the Second World War at CWM for example) or a temporary exhibit (the Empress of Ireland at CMH or the Barbara Ann Scott exhibition at City Hall).

In analyzing the exhibit you must consider the intended audience, the exhibit’s intended message, possible interpretations, what it tells us about Canada, how it fits with the academic literature on the subject, and the style in which the exhibit is presented. While you should discuss specific elements of the exhibit in your analysis, the piece should consider the exhibit in its totality.

The second option is to write a book review of a major work in Canadian historiography. Choices for books should be approved in advance, but here are some options:

Berger, Carl. The Writing of Canadian History: Aspects of English-Canadian Historical Writing: 1900-1970. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1976.

Cook, Ramsey. Canada, Quebec, and the Uses of Nationalism. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1995.

Letourneau, Jocelyn. A History for the Future: Rewriting Memory and Identity in Quebec. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.

MacMillan, Margaret. The Uses and Abuses of History. Toronto: Penguin, 2008.

McKay, Ian and Jamie Swift. Warrior Nation: Rebranding Canada in an Age of Anxiety. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2012.

Romney, Paul. Getting it Wrong: How Canadian Forgot their Past and Imperilled Confederation. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.

Rudin, Ronald. Making History in Twentieth Century Quebec. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997.

The review needs to provide an exaplanation of the book’s content and thesis while also exploring how it fits within the existing historiography. Please note that a review is not simply a description of the book, but rather a critical examination. Therefore, an assessment of the book is a vital component. Some questions to consider include: What is the thesis? How does the author present the material? Is the argument compelling? Is the material presented in an engaging way? How does the book fit within the existing literature? Would you recommend the book to somebody interested in the subject?

For both assignments, you will be graded on the quality of the writing (grammar, structure, style) as well as your analysis of the piece. These should be five pages and are due in class on October 21.

Presentation (20%) – Last two weeks of semester

For your presentation you must compare and contrast two Heritage Minutes. You may select any minutes you wish to analyze. In your presentation you will show the minutes and then discuss their content.

Questions to consider when putting together your presentation: Why was each minute made? What message do they hope to convey? What is the target audience of each minute? Why were these events selected? Are the depictions accurate/fair? Do they attempt to foster a specific national narrative? Do they complement each other? Do they contradict each other?

You will be graded on your analysis of the material as well as how effectively you convey the material to the class.

Presentations will be the final two weeks of the semester and presentation dates will be determined during the first class.

Term Paper (35%) Due December 9

Your term paper must provide an analysis of a historiographical issue in Canadian history. This can be a profile of a prominent historian, an analysis of a major historiographical theme, or an examination of a debate within Canadian historiography. Regardless of choice, the topic must be related to the study of Canadian history in the 20th century.

Your paper will be graded based on its analysis and thesis/argumentation of the topic under study. Additionally, it will also be assessed for its style, structure, and grammar. The paper should be 10-12 pages. Papers are due December 9. I will hold office hours during class hours. Papers turned in after that period will be considered late.

Alternatively, I am open to ideas for another major assignment. It must be related to Canadian historiography, but doesn’t necessarily need to be a paper. Please note that all such assignments need to be approved in advance.

Late Assignments

Grades on late assignments will be reduced by 5 per cent per day overdue, including weekends, and will not be accepted if they are more than ten days late. All assignments are due in class and assignments turned in after class ends will be considered late. Extensions will only be granted in exceptional circumstances, and must be requested, where possible, before the due date, and must be accompanied by relevant documentation. The instructor is not responsible for assignments that are handed in outside of class and office hours. The office where I am holding office hours is a shared space. Do not turn in assignments by sliding them under the door. All assignments must be handed in directly to me.


Plagiarism is a very serious academic offence and carries penalties varying from failure in an assignment to suspension from the university. (www.uottawa.ca/plagarism.pdf) All assignments must be your own.

Bibliographies and Footnotes

It is important that bibliographies be standardized and that they contain certain relevant information. Entries for bibliographic entries must be placed in alphabetical order. Annotated entries should contain a brief description of the book’s content and relevancy. Marks will be deducted if the bibliography or footnotes are improperly formatted. Students should consult the Chicago Manual of Style for information regarding proper citation methods, which should follow this format:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s