History 200 – “The Historian’s Craft”

Welcome to History 200, the gateway seminar for all History majors at Boston University!

The calling of the historian is to explore the past, critically analyze it, and reinterpret it for the present. The set of skills cultivated by historians is a crucial asset in our complex world. Interpreting information, assessing it, and presenting it with intellectual integrity and flair are skills that you will learn in this seminar, and that you will take away in your future professional life, no matter what your path will be.

This seminar is offered in multiple sections every semester, and it is taught by faculty in different historical fields. While each instructor selects a particular set of materials, there is a unique and common purpose to all sections: to learn how to think and write as a historian. This seminar is thus more about the WAY historians produce historical scholarship and use primary sources, and how you can analyze them and use them to write your own interpretation; and less about a specific subject matter. The sooner you take this seminar (normally not later than in your sophomore year), the better you will be able to read, think, and write successfully in your other history courses.

Through a gradual sequence of weekly written assignments and class exercises, you will learn:

  • how to critically understand a historical argument while reading, and how to construct your own argument in your writing;
  • how to find and sift through historical sources and scholarship in traditional printed form and in electronic media;
  • how to present the results of your historical research effectively, both orally and in writing.

These are some of the skills you will develop:

Reading Skills:

  • evaluating evidence
  • analyzing primary source documents
  • distilling, assessing, and comparing secondary sources

Research Skills:

  • developing research questions and topics
  • finding books and other sources in the library
  • using databases and internet resources
  • compiling a bibliography

Writing Skills:

  • narrative style and clarity
  • writing analytically
  • quotes, citations, and notes

Oral Skills

  • effective presentation

Please explore the links below. They offer access to a list of books assigned by our instructors in the past few years; to some sample syllabi of recent sections of HI 200; and to the History Department Writing Guide. You may want to check with individual instructors for the specifics of a HI 200 seminar section you intend to take, but these links will give you an idea of the seminar’s scope.

Sample of books assigned by HI 200 instructors in recent years

Recent HI 200 sample syllabi:

History Department Writing Guide