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42.461 Topics in European History: The Stalin Era
Professor: M. Hickey Office: OSH 130 x-4161 email@example.com
Office hours: T-Th, 2:00-3:30 Wed. 4:00-6:00
LINK to Bibliography form examples
Navigate this syllabus:
Common (required) readings
Graded assignments (overview)
On attendance, missed deadlines, missed oral reports and late papers
Graded assignments (directions)
This is a reading-and-discussion seminar on the history of the Soviet Union during “the Stalin Era,” roughly the period 1927-1953. During this time period, the Soviet regime implemented a program of mass industrialization and forced collectivization of agriculture. It was during this period that the regime’s use of forced labor, violence, and terror all reached their apex. It was during this period that regime control over culture reached its most elaborate development. This was also the era of World War Two, the onset of the Cold War and the establishment of Soviet domination over Eastern Europe. During these crucial decades, internal developments in the Soviet Union had a profound impact on the rest of the world.
We will survey the basic elements of the political, social, and economic history of the Stalin era as well as Soviet foreign policy during this period. Our first six class sessions will be devoted to discussion of common readings on the history and historiography of the Stalin era. The remaining sessions will be devoted to discussion of readings on topics that each of you will chose.
Each of you will identify a special seminar topic on which you will conduct individualized readings. Ideally, these topics will cover the entire Stalin era. (For instance, you might read about the history of state terror under Stalin, about private life during the Stalin era, about Soviet relations with the United States, etc.) Your goal is to develop a detailed understanding of your topic and a solid understanding of its historiography (although you may also decide to read some primary sources). You will present in-depth oral reports on your individualized readings. This way everyone in the seminar will develop a special area of knowledge while at the same time learning about the topics pursued by the other students.
Course grade scale: A = >92; A- = 91.9-90; B+ =89-88; B = 87.9-82; B- = 81.9-80; C+ = 79-78; C =77.9-72; C- = 71.9-70; D+ = 69-68; D = 67.9-60; E = <60
Common (required) readings:
Ward, Chris. Stalin’s Russia. Second edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Paperback ISBN 0-340-73151-6 $29.95
Davies, Sarah and James Harris, editors. Stalin: A New History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Paperback ISBN-13: 9780521616539. $32.99
Individual readings based upon bibliographies tailored to your interests. You will read the equivalent of at least three additional books.
Graded Assignments (overview):
Class participation. Grade based upon quality of participation in discussion of common readings (weeks 1-6). 10 percent of course grade. Participation grade drops by 10 percent with each missed class session except in cases of excused absences.
Compilation of a chronology for 1918-1953. See linked directions below. Due week two. Pass-Fail assignment. 5 percent of course grade.
Compilation of a special topics bibliography. See linked directions below. Due week five. Graded on thoroughness (90 percent) and attention to proper form (10 percent). 10 percent of course grade.
Two précis papers on common readings. Report #1 due week 6; Report # 2 due week 7. See linked directions below. Graded on the accuracy of explanations, logic and clarity of exposition (including grammar). 5 percent each; total of 10 percent of course grade.
Three individualized reading oral reports. See linked directions below. Due dates will vary. Graded on quality of preparation, accuracy of explanations, ability to respond to questions. 5 percent each; total of 15 percent of course grade.
Three individualized reading written reports. See linked directions below. Due on the day of your oral reports. Graded on accuracy of explanations, logic and clarity of exposition (including grammar). 5 percent each; total of 15 percent of course grade.
Final written report on individualized readings. See linked directions below. Due at final exam session. Graded on quality of preparation, accuracy of explanations, logic and clarity of exposition (including grammar). Total of 35 percent of course grade.
On attendance, missed deadlines, missed oral reports and late papers:
Since this is a night class, every class session is equal to an entire week of class meetings. Because of the nature of the course, there will be three weeks when we do not meet as a group (I will be available for individual conferences on those evenings). Therefore it is essential that you attend all scheduled class sessions. I will consider as excused absences only medical and other emergencies that can be documented. If you cannot attend class for some reason, I expect you to contact me in advance if at all possible. Your class participation grade will fall by 10 percent for each unexcused absence.
We have set deadlines for approval of topics and reading lists for this course. Your class participation grade will fall by 10 percent for each missed approval deadline.
You will be scheduling three oral reports. If you do not attend class and present your oral report on the day scheduled, you will fail that assignment.
Each of the paper assignments in this course has a due date. The grade for any paper will fall by 5 percent for each business day that the paper is overdue. Unless otherwise indicated, papers are due in class during our scheduled meetings; if you do not attend class (if you have an unexcused absence) but turn a paper in during that day (or, horror of horrors, if you leave it for me in my mailbox or under my door during our class session), I will treat that paper as one day late.
Explanation of Assignments:
Be sure to follow the numbered directions for all assignments and to read the HELP sections for the first two and the last assignments!
Attend every scheduled class session having completed the readings for that week. Participate in ur discussion of readings. Grade based upon quality of participation in discussion of common readings (weeks 1-6). 10 percent of course grade. Participation grade drops by 10 percent with each missed class session except in cases of excused absences. Participation grade also drops if you miss deadlines, etc. (see above, "On attendance")
Chronology Assignment (Due week two):
Using textbooks and web-based sources, construct a chronology (a basic time-line, but in outline form) of the major periods and most important events (in particular those that were turning points) in Soviet history between January 1918 and March 1953.
1. Your chronology should be broken into the major chronological periods that historians use to discuss the Soviet period. Figuring out what these are is first part of your assignment! So, what are the 4-5 main “periods” into which historians of the USSR divide up the years 1918-1953?
For instance, you might find that many historians refer to the period January 1918-March 1921 as the Russian Civil War period. (Note that there is a lot of debate about when that Civil War began and when it ended!) So, you would have a heading designating this as “chronological period.” For example:
January 1918-March 1921: Russian Civil War
2. Once you have figured out how historians divide the first 4 decades of Soviet history into periods, your next task is to figure out what main developments, events, or turning points took place during each period. CONCENTRATE ON 1927-1953!
Beneath the headings for the periods that cover late 1927-early 1953 (and only for those periods), you need to indicate the general dates of the most important events, developments, or turning points, with a very short sentence fragment to clarify the meaning of your entry.
EXAMPLE: if I asked you to focus on the period 1918-1921, you might include this:
January 1918-March 1921: Russian Civil War
9 January 1918: Lenin orders the disbanding of the Constituent Assembly, Russia’s first democratically elected national assembly
March 1918: Russia and Germany sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which ends the war but turns over large portions of the former Russian empire to the Germans.
But remember, I am asking you to focus on 1927-1953 (so do not “fill in” details on the major events for the periods before 1927)! Concentrate your attention on what historians consider to be the key developments and events for the time span between late 1927 and March 1953 (the later date being the month that Stalin died).
3. Try to keep your chronology to about 3-4 pages (typed, single spaced, 12 point font).
4. MAKE COPIES of your chronology (one copy for each person in class and one copy for me). We will distribute these and “compare notes” in class on week two.
This assignment will count for 5 percent of your course grade. It is a pass-fail assignment. If you complete the assignment correctly in a responsible fashion (in other words, if you really do the assignment instead of just throwing something together), you will get full credit. If you don’t do the assignment in a responsible fashion, you will not get any credit.
So, how do you figure out what the basic “periods” of Soviet history were?
First, look at the way that the authors and editors of our common readings (Ward, Davies and Harris) have organized the material in their books chronologically.
Next, look at the table of contents of several basic “textbooks” on Soviet history. You can do this in the library, or even on-line, since sites like Amazon.com let you look at the table of contents of a lot of books! Here are the names of authors of some good textbooks on Soviet history: Ronald Suny; Geoffrey Hoskings; Michael Kort; Peter Kenez; Martin Malia; John Thompson; Richard Stites. You also can try this using histories of Russia that cover longer periods—like the famous textbook by Riazanovsky or the new massive 3-volume Cambridge History of Russia (volume 3 covers the Soviet period). Try looking at the table of contents of several textbooks and compare the way that these authors (and others) organize their books. That should give you a good idea of the general periodization of the Stalin era.
Also, there are some very good websites on Soviet history that include useful chronologies. But you have to be careful with these. Some websites are designed by non-historians and reflect a poor understanding of Soviet history. Other websites list as major “events” only things that are of particular interest to the website’s author. Even good websites sometimes have odd elements in their chronologies: for instance, the BBC’s on-line chronology of Soviet history has some very useful information, but it refers to everything between 1922 and 1941 as the period of “collectivization and purges”—not a very accurate or useful way of ordering the information!
How do you figure out what the major developments, events, or turning points are for 1927-1953?
First, read the chapter titles of our common required readings (in the table of contents). That should give you some sense of the main themes for this period.
Second, skim through the Ward book, the Davis and Harris book, and relevant chapters in at least one of the textbooks you found. (We have several relevant basic Soviet history textbooks in our library, and in a pinch I can loan you a textbook for a few days). You will notice that certain dates and events stand out as more important than others.
You might also notice that some textbooks have extensive chronologies that list key developments and events (Ronald Suny’s textbook, for example…). So do some websites, but keep in mind what I said about websites in the previous paragraph!
Compilation of a special topic bibliography. (Due week five.)
You will compile a formal bibliography of secondary sources on your chosen seminar topic.
1. Before you do this assignment, you must formulate a special topic on which you would like to conduct individualized readings. Ideally, these topics will cover the entire period of the Stalin era. (For instance, you might read on the history of state terror under Stalin, private life during the Stalin era, Soviet relations with the United States, etc.)
2. You must discuss your topic with me, either in person or by e-mail. I must approve your topic. I will not grade any bibliographies on topics that I have not already approved.
You must obtain approval of your topic by the end of week three of the semester.
3. Once you have approval, your task is to compile an extensive bibliography of secondary sources on that topic. You must confine your bibliography to scholarly books and/or research articles published in scholarly journals. We will discuss what constitutes a scholarly book/scholarly journal article in class. You can include secondary sources written in any language that you can read.
4. Unless there are special circumstances—for instance, you chose a topic on which there is very little literature—your bibliography must include the equivalent of at least fifteen books (that is the minimum acceptable length). I will count four scholarly articles as the equivalent of one book. The largest portion of the grade for your bibliography will be on its thoroughness, so it is in your interest to identify as many books and articles on the topic as possible.
5. Your bibliography must be in correct bibliography form (i. e., authors’ full names, with last name first [period]; the full titles of books, in italics [period]; full publication information, with the city of publication [colon], the name of the publishing company [comma], and the year of publication [period]). We will discuss bibliographic form in class. This assignment is due in class on week five.
Your grade on the bibliography will be based on its thoroughness (90 percent) and proper form (10 percent). The assignment accounts for 10 percent of your course grade.
So, how do you find information on relevant books and articles?
First, start by looking in the bibliographies, footnotes and lists of suggested readings in the Ward book and in the Davies and Harris books—are there titles listed that would be relevant to your topic?
Next, use keyword and subject-heading searches to look for books in our own library. If you find relevant books, then look at their bibliographies—are there more titles listed there that are relevant to your topic?
Be very clear on this: you must go beyond the books that we have in our library! We have a small library with a limited budget, and we don’t have many of the most important books on this period!
So, you also have to use the library databases (e.g., WorldCat and Historical Abstracts) to search for books that we do not have in our library. Again, keyword searches and subject-heading searches are the best way to do this. Once you find search terms that “work” well for your topic, things will go more smoothly.
After you have used the library databases, you might do a search for keywords or subject terms at Amazon.com, Barnes and Nobles’ website, etc. Sometimes books that are brand new will appear on these sites before they have been catalogued for library databases.
You also should try a Google Books search—this might turn up references to other books that you missed, and some might be available full-text on-line. And do a Google Scholars search.
To locate articles in scholarly journals (besides those listed in the bibliographies of books), use Historical Abstracts and also try searching Project Muse, EPSCO and JSTOR. You will also find some articles with a Google Scholar search (but not as many as you will using library databases).
You also might want to check to see if anyone has posted an on-line bibliography with titles on your topic…
Two précis papers on common readings. (due weeks 6 and 7)
You will write two brief summaries of the arguments of specific essays (chapters) in Davis and Harris, Stalin: A New History. For Report #1, which is due in class on week 6, you must pick one chapter from chapters 2-7. For Report # 2, which is due in my office by 6:15 PM on week 7, you must pick one chapter from chapters 8-14. Both papers must be double spaced, in 12 point font.
1. At the top of your paper, list the name(s) of the author and the title of the essay (chapter).
2. In the first 1-2 paragraphs, explain the main argument (thesis) of the chapter. Be sure to focus on the argument (don’t spend your time describing the topic!). Your goal is to sum-up the argument (the thesis, the author’s main idea about the topic), so that anyone with more than a casual knowledge of the subject would understand.
3. In the last paragraph, if possible explain how the author’s argument fits into the “typologies” of interpretations of the topic presented by Chris Ward in Stalin’s Russia.
Your grade on these two papers will be based on the accuracy of your explanations and the logic and clarity of your exposition (including grammar). 5 percent each; total of 10 percent of course grade.
Three individualized reading oral reports. (weeks 8-14)
You will pick three books (or two books and four articles) from your bibliography and report on them in class. We will schedule your specific reports as the dates grow nearer, but the general due dates are: Oral Report #1--weeks 8 and 9; Oral Report #2--weeks 11 and 12; and Oral Report # 3--week 14.
1. You must pick three books (or two books and 4 articles) by three different authors from your bibliography project. You must get my approval for these books before you begin reading! You can do this in person or by e-mail. The deadline to get my approval is by the end of week 5 of the semester.
Do not limit yourself to books in our library!
Make it your goal to pick three of the most important books on the topic. (Remember, these must be scholarly books or articles in scholarly journals, and you can substitute 4 articles for 1 book.)
2. Read the books in the order that you plan to report on them. You will report on one book on week 8 or 9; one book on week 11 or 12; and one book on week 14.
3. Your first two reports should be twenty-minute presentations (we will devote ten additional minutes to questions about your report). Your third report will be a ten minute presentation (with five minutes additional for questions).
4. Your first task in the Oral Report is to explain the topic that the book covers. Although everyone in class will have some background from our common readings, you cannot assume that everyone knows about your topic. So, based upon the book on which you are reporting, be sure to explain the most important events and developments, with careful attention to the names of people and institutions and the dates of events and developments.
I encourage you to use handouts, outlines, visual aids, etc., but be sure that they are directly relevant and that they add to your presentation instead of distracting from it. Remember, it is what you are saying that is important (not how good you visuals are)!
5. Your second task in the Oral Report is to explain the argument (thesis) of the book that you are presenting. Be sure that you tell us the name of author, the full title of the book, and where and when it was published. Then sum up the thesis (the main point that the author makes about the topic) in a few sentences.
Most authors will make clear how they think their thesis differs from what other historians have argued before—be sure that you explain what the author thinks his or her book is adding to the historiography (what do the authors think is new or important about their book).
(You will do the same thing in your written report—see below—so you can use the written report as a guide for your presentation).
6. Your third task is to explain how the book is organized. Is it chronological or thematic? It is a good idea to do a very brief chapter-by-chapter summary. How does each chapter contribute to the author’s thesis? What is the main topic of each chapter, and what is the most important information in each chapter?
7. Your final task is to explain how the author’s thesis fits into the historiography. To do this you can:
(You will do the same thing in your written report—see below—so you can use the written report as a guide for your presentation).
8. Be ready to answer questions about the book!
The grade on your presentations will be based upon the quality of your preparation, the accuracy of your explanations, and your ability to respond to questions. Each report will account for 5 percent of your grade, with a total of 15 percent of course grade.
Three individualized reading written reports. (Due with your oral reports)
You will write three short papers explaining the arguments of the books on which you present oral reports. These should be 2-3 pages long (double spaced in 12-point font).
1. At the head of your paper, provide the correct bibliographic reference for the book.
2. In the first 2-3 paragraphs of the paper, explain the author’s thesis (main argument) in detail. You do not need to summarize everything the author says about the topic—just focus on explaining the main argument! You should also make clear what the author thinks he or she has done that is “new” or that revises or challenges previous interpretations of the book’s subject.
3. In the next-to-last paragraph, explain how the author’s thesis fits into the historiography on this topic. To do this you can:
4. In the last paragraph, explain what you see as the main strengths or weaknesses of the author’s thesis. Is the argument logical and convincing? Has the author used evidence in a way that upholds their argument? Has the author considered other possible arguments about the topic (deciding this will become easier as you read more about the topic)? Explain!
Notice—I am not asking if you “liked” the book or if you thought that it was “easy” or “hard” to read; I am asking you to approach this as a historian and focus on whether the author has really made his or her case well.
5. If you quote or paraphrase a specific passage in the book under “review,” then you must indicate the relevant pages in the text of your paper using a parenthetical citation. [Put the page number in parenthesis like this: (p. 24); put the parenthesis after the quotation marks but before the period. Put the period for the sentence after the parentheses.]
6. If you quote or refer to a sentence or passage from any source other than the book under review, you must provide a footnote or endnote reference to that source. We will go over this in class if you are unfamiliar with footnote/endnote form.
The grade for these papers will be based on the accuracy of your explanations and the logic and clarity of your exposition (including grammar). Each paper will account for 5 percent of your grade, with a total of 15 percent of the course grade.
Final written report on individualized readings. (due at final exam period.)
Discuss the historiography on your topic and how it fits into larger discussions of the Stalin era. The core of your paper will be a discussion of the three books on which you reported. The minimum length of this paper is 8 pages, double spaced in 12-point font. You must provide endnote references to all sources discussed in the paper.
1. In the first 1-2 paragraphs of your paper, briefly explain your topic. (You can use your notes for your Oral Reports to organize this part of the paper.)
2. In the next paragraph, state a thesis about the main patterns in the historiography on your topic. What have been the main arguments about the topic and how have these arguments changed over time?
3. Then in a series of paragraphs, explain the arguments of the three books (or two books and 4 articles) that you read on your topic. Pay attention to who wrote what and when. Be sure to explain the thesis of each book or article.
Also be sure to explain what aspect of the historiography each author was adding to, revising, or challenging.
An excellent paper also will explain how the arguments in the three books related to the arguments of other major books and articles. (Remember, you have compiled a long bibliography on your topic).
4. In a paragraph or two, based upon what you have read this semester, explain how the historiography on your specific topic fits into the broader context of historiography of the Stalin era. Did the books that you read fit into any specific “schools” of historical interpretation?
5. In your last paragraphs, explain which arguments or schools of interpretation regarding the Stalin era you find most convincing and why.
Your grade will be based on the accuracy of your explanations and the logic and clarity of your exposition (including grammar). This paper accounts for 35 percent of your course grade.
To do this paper very well requires going “beyond” the three books that you read. Pay attention to what “your” three authors had to say about other books and articles on the topic. Most historians are explicit in discussing how their work compares to and contrasts with what other scholars have written. Be sure to consider relevant discussions in the Ward book and in the Davies and Harris book.
Also, it is a very good idea (hint! hint!) to look up book reviews of the other books that were listed in your bibliography, so you know what those books argued. There is nothing wrong with looking at essays on historiography by other historians or at book reviews—just be sure that you cite all the sources you have read!
Weekly schedule of assignments
Any changes to this schedule will be indicated in updates to this syllabus.
Ward refers to Chris War, Stalin’s Russia.
Davies and Harris refers to Sarah Davies and James Harris, editors, Stalin: A New History.
Week I (16 Jan): Discussion of syllabus and course assignments
Week II (23 Jan): Chronology Assignment due. Overview and discussion of basic chronology of the Stalin Era.
Week III (30 Jan): Discuss Ward, front matter and Chapters 1-4. Deadline for approval of topics.
Week IV (6 Feb): Discuss Ward, Chapters 5-7 and Conclusion.
Week V (13 Feb): Discuss Davies and Harris, front matter and chapters 1-7. Bibliography due.
Week VI (20 Feb): Discuss Davies and Harris, chapters 8-14. Précis paper #1 due. Sign up for days and times for Oral Report #1.
Week VII (27 Feb): Précis paper #2 due in my office by 6:15. No class session. I will be available for conferences during this class period (by appointment).
Week VIII (5 March): First round of Oral Reports. Written report papers due for people who present today.
SPRING BREAK IS BETWEEN WEEKS VIII and IX: No class 12 March.
Week IX (19 March): First round of Oral Reports. Written report papers due for people who present today. Sign up for days and times for Oral Report #2.
Week X (26 March): No class session. I will be available for conferences during this class period (by appointment).
Week XI (2 April): Second round of Oral Reports. Written report papers due for people who present today.
Week XII (9 April): Second round of Oral Reports. Written report papers due for people who present today. Sign up for time slot for Oral Report #3.
Week XIII (16 April): No class session. I will be available for conferences during this class period (by appointment).
Week XIV (23 April): Last round of Oral Reports. Written paper reports due in class.
Week XV (30 April): The University has declared this Weds. a reading day.
Week XVI: Final paper due at scheduled final exam period.