to syllabus

Historiography and Historical Methods

Week I discussion questions


Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 3rd edition (Boston:  Bedford/St. Martin's, 2001).

Pages 1-13.

How does Rampolla (R) define the subject of history study?

What three reasons does R give for studying history?

According to R, what is the purpose of this book?

According to R, what kinds of questions do historians ask?

What is the difference between "historical" questions and other kinds of inquiry?   What is R getting at by stressing "context," "causes," "continuity" and "change"?

How does R explain the reasons why historical interpretations change?

What is the difference between a "primary source" and a "secondary source"?  Give explains of each.  Is the distinction always clear-cut and simple?  Explain.

According to R., do primary sources always "tell" the truth?  Explain.  How can historians evaluate the quality of their sources (R suggests three ways)?

According to R, do all secondary sources agree?  Why not, and how can historians evaluate the quality of other historians' work?



Ernst Breisach, Historiography:  Ancient, Medieval and Modern, 2nd edition (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1994).

Pages xi-4.


According to Breisach (B), what basic questions drive this book and why is a book of this sort necessary?

What does B tell you in the preface about the basic organization and approach of the book?


What fundamental question does B pose in this introduction?  How does he answer the question "does history still matter?"?

Does B think that people can live entirely in the present?  Explain.  How does he use this idea to justify the study of history?

For B, is history only about change?  Explain,

How does B link the issues of change and continuity to the function of history/historians in the history of Western civilization?  And how does he use these issues to explain why historical interpretations change?

So again, what questions is B trying to answer in this book?  What is his aim?