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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 2

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Michael Gauvreau

Email: mgauvrea@mcmaster.ca

Office: Chester New Hall 625

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24130


Office Hours: Tuesday, 12:30 - 2:00 p.m.

Course Objectives:

This course aims to strengthen critical and analytical skills by initiating students into the work and thought-processes of historians.  From its origins, historical thinking and writing revolves around the framing and asking of questions, and our fundamental aim is, through a close analysis of how historians have thought about and debated the American and French Revolutions, to encourage students to undertake and independent historical inquiry project which aims at assessing the ways in which historians have posed questions of their evidence, engaged in scholarly debate with other historians, and have contributed to an ongoing reformulation and refining of previous questions, or generated new questions about the past.  Following a brief introduction to the concept of historiography, we will apply these more theoretical insights to a number of major historical problems within the culture of the eighteenth-century Atlantic world.  The third part of the course focuses upon researching, writing, presentation, and reflection upon your own engagement with the Revolutionary Age.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Texts:

Mark Gilderhus, History and Historians

T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution

Gary Kates, The French Revolution:  Recent Debates and New Controversies

Method of Assessment:

Marking Scheme:

Participation:  20% (based upon ongoing weekly contribution to the seminar)

Oral Presentation:  10% (each student is responsible for the presentation of one of the seminar topics – Weeks 3-9.  Presentations will be limited to 20 minutes (max).  The emphasis will be on developing your ability to identify the questions historians have posed, the methods and types of evidence that they use, the questions that they ask and the debate that is generated.  You will then be asked to lead the discussion by posing a series of questions that you have framed on the basis of these debates.

Short Written Assignments:  20%.  Each student will write 2 1000-word essays (4-5 pages) due Feb. 10 and March 3.  These will involve a critical assessment of Timothy Breen’s influential interpretation of the origins of the American Revolution (Feb. 8); and a critical assessment of the extent to which the French Revolution was the expression of the bourgeoisie (March 3).

Major Historiographic Essay: 40%.  This will be a longer discussion (4000 words, 15-20 pages) assessing the nature of historical writing on a topic chosen by the student.  Because the “Age of Revolutions” was not limited to the experiences of America and France, you are free to write about events and themes within, broadly speaking, the “Atlantic World” (encompassing Western Europe and Europe’s American colonies in both North and South America) between 1760 and 1848.  You are free to draw upon phenomena that are either political, social, intellectual, or cultural, or a combination of several or all these elements.  Essays will be presented and discussed in the last three weeks of term.  Later in the term, I will draw up a schedule of presenters and commentators.  You will need to submit (electronically) one copy of a draft of your essay no later than Friday, March 20.  Major Essays Are due One Week following your presentation.

Presentation and Critique of Major Essays:  10%.  Each student will be responsible for an oral presentation of their major historiographic papers (10 minutes) and a commentary upon the paper of one of their colleagues (5 minutes).  The role of the commentator will be to critically assess the argument, methodology, and evidence of the paper they are analyzing, and suggest lines of interpretation that might be fruitfully explored.


Attendance at, and participation in, weekly seminars is mandatory.

Students are strongly advised to retain a xerox copy of any written work submitted for a part of their mark.  Late essays will be subjected to a penalty of 5% per day (weekends included).  All assignments must be submitted electronically and it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all hardware and software is in working order.

Extensions or other accommodations will be determined by the instructor and will only be considered if supported by appropriate documentation.  Absences of less than 5 days may be reported using the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF), available at www.mcmaster.ca/msaf/ .  If you are unable to use the MSAF, you should document the absence with your faculty office. In any case, it is YOUR responsibility to follow up with the instructor immediately to see if an extension or other accommodation will be granted, and what form it will take.  There are NO automatic extensions or accommodations. There will be no rescheduling of any examination, seminar, or presentation for the purposes of personal travel. 

If you miss your seminar presentation or major essay presentation due to illness, you will have to make up the grade through the option of submitting a 1000-word (4-5 pages) critical analysis of a historiographic problem of my choice.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Topics and Schedule:

 Week 1 Jan. 6:  Introduction

Week 2 Jan. 13: Introduction to Historiography
Mark Gilderhus, History and Historians, 86-125.
R.R. Palmer, The Age of Democratic Revolution, 3-20. (reserve)
Gordon S. Wood, The American Revolution: A History, xxiii-xxv, 3-4, 27-62. (reserve)
Robert Darnton, “What Was Revolutionary About the French Revolution,” in Peter Jones, ed., The French Revolution in Social and Political Perspective, 18-29. (reserve)

Week 3 Jan. 20:  The American Revolution – Old Ideas?
Bernard Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, 1-21, 94-143. (reserve)
Eliga Gould, The Persistence of Empire, 106-147. (reserve)

Week 4 Jan. 27:  The American Revolution – A Problem of Imperial Integration?
T.H. Breen, The Marketplace of Revolution, xi-xviii, 33-101, 235-293.

Week 5 Feb. 10:  The American Revolution – A Radical Phenomenon?
Gary Nash, The Unknown American Revolution, 88-149.
Robert A. Ferguson, “The Commonalities of Common Sense,” William and Mary Quarterly, 2000, 465-504. (JSTOR)
Winthrop Jordan, “Familial Politics:  Thomas Paine and the Killing of the King, 1776,” Journal of American History, 60 (1973), 294-308. (JSTOR)

First Short Assignment Due!!!!

Feb. 17:  Reading Break – No Class!!!

Week 6:  Feb. 24 Enlightenment Origins?
Dorinda Outram, The Enlightenment, 1-10.
Robert Darnton, “The High Enlightenment and the Low Life of Literature in Pre-Revolutionary France,” Past and Present, 51 (1971), 81-115 (JSTOR)
Roger Chartier, “Do Books Make Revolutions?,” in Peter Jones, ed., The French Revolution in Social and Political Perspective, 166-188. (reserve)
Keith Baker, “Public Opinion as Political Invention,” in Jones, ed., The French Revolution in Social and Political Perspective, 131-166. (reserve)

Week 7 March 3 A Bourgeois Revolution?

Second Short Assignment Due!!!!!

T.C.W. Blanning, The French Revolution:  Aristocrats vs. Bourgeois?, 1-48.Colin Jones, “Bourgeois Revolution Revivified:  1789 and Social Change,” in Gary Kates, ed., The French Revolution, 87-112.Sarah Maza, “Luxury, Morality, and Social Change:  Why there was no middle-class consciousness in pre-Revolutionary France,” in Kates, ed., The French Revolution, 113-130.

Week 8 March 10 Gender and the French RevolutionLynn Hunt, “The Many Bodies of Marie Antoinette:  Political Pornography and the Problem of the Feminine in the French Revolution,” in Gary Kates, ed., The French Revolution, 201-218.Suzanne Desan, “’War between Brothers and Sisters’:  Inheritance Law and Gender Politics in Revolutionary France,” in Kates, ed., The French Revolution, 219-253.
Dena Goodman, The Republic of Letters:  A Cultural History of the French Enlightenment, 53-89. (e-resource)

Week 9 March 17 The Counter-Revolutionary Turn in France and AmericaT.C.W. Blanning, The French Revolution:  Class War or Culture Clash?, 62-69. (reserve)
Suzanne Desan, The Family on Trial in Revolutionary France, 249-82. (e-book)
Lynn Hunt, “The Band of Brothers,” in Ronald Schechter, ed., The French Revolution, 236-262. (reserve)
Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty:  A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, 53-94. (e-book)
Rosemarie Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash, 115-147.    (reserve)

Major Essay Drafts Due Electronically, Friday March 20!!!!!!

Week 10 March 24:  Class Presentations

Week 11 March 31:  Class Presentations

Week 12 April 7:     Class Presentations