HST401 Senior Seminar: History and Interpretations


Spring 2003                                                                            Classroom: AD208

                                                                                                Time: Mon. 3:30-6pm


Instructor: Dr. Pingchao Zhu

Office: 315 AD (Administration Building)

Office Phone: 885-7166, or 885-6253

Office Hour: MWF 12:30-1:20pm, or by appointment

Email: pzhu@uidaho.edu

Website: www.uidaho.edu/~pahu


Course Description

This is a course on the theories of history.  The primary purpose of this course is to introduce to students major important theories in history and for students to learn how to apply these theories to the study of history.  Students will be reading works from scholars of various time periods in history, learn how they examined historical developments and came up with different interpretations.  It is important to know that study of history is not just about learning what happened in the past, it is about understanding and interpreting these past developments.  Theories on history from the early thinkers such as Edward Gibbon, Jules Michelet, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Leon Trotsky, as well as some contemporary scholars are introduced to better our understanding and interpretation of history.  The course is designed to a discussion forum.




1) Fischer, David Hackett, Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical

             Thought, HarperCollins Publishers, 1976.  

2) Tuchman, Barbara W, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, Random House,


3) Toews, John, ed. The Communist Manifesto: By Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

             with Related Documents, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999.



1. 6 short response papers                                  40 points each

2. Comparison Essay                                        100

3. One book Review                                        100

4. One in-class presentation                                60

5. Attendance Minus                                         -10 for each class missed after the first



Short Response Papers (2-3 pages), these are writings on the assigned readings in this course.  Students are expected to identify author’s approach to history and comment on such an approach, useful or otherwise, in the study of history. 


Comparison Essay Students are to choose THREE articles from Academic Journals on any subject/topic of your interest and write a comparison essay:  Your are required to do the following:

--compare different arguments in the articles over the same issue;

--compare how authors use different sources yet come up with similar argument, or use the same sources and come up with different conclusions;

            --analyze the validity the arguments in all three articles; support or attack one view or the other.

The three articles must be from Academic Journals and discuss issues in an academic fashion.  The comparison essay is expected to be 6-8 pages in length, double-spaced, and typed in 12 font.


Book Review on The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, by Barbara Tuchman.  In addition to the review of the book argument, students are required to identify how the author, as a self-trained historian, examines history.  How different is her approach from other “professional historians” in terms of interpreting history and do you like her perspective?

The review must be typed in 12 font, double spaced, and between 5-6 pages in length.


Late paper without legitimate reason will receive points deduction.


Group Presentation (ca. one hour), 2 students in each group.  Choose one of the topics

on the course schedule and prepare to do an in class presentation.  The presentation

should include the following:

            --an introduction to include lifeline of the individual(2), historical background of

the event; 

            --a list of question for class discussion;

            --presenting possible opposing sides of opinion and use historical evidence or examples to support or attack the validity of the theories; 

--prepare to answer questions from the class, based on the reading and research by

members in the group;

The presentation will be evaluated and graded by the class.


Attendance & Participation, since this class meets once a week and we will lose 3 Mondays due to holidays, it is important that students try not to miss class throughout the semester.  After the first class meeting, each class missed, without legitimate reason, will cost student 10 points minus. 


Grade Scale

            A=500-450   B=449-400   C=399-350   D=349-300   F=299 and below


Academic Honesty

This instructor requires the entire class to follow the Policy of Academic Honesty from the University of Idaho.  Attached to the course syllabus is a copy of the UI policy on Academic Honesty.  Finding of violation of this policy in student’s course assignment will result in “0” grade for the assignment, and possibly an “F” for the course.  Please read the policy carefully and follow it to the letter.  The instructor will not negotiate this university policy in any way.


Course Schedule

Week 1            Jan. 15, (Class begins on Wed.)

                        No Class


Week 2            Jan. 20

                        No Class, National Holiday


Week 3            Jan. 27                       


                        Questioning History

                        Reading: Fisher, Chapter 1


Week 4            Feb. 3

                        Guest Speaker

                        Finding Truth in History                 

                        Evidence & Interpretation

                        Reading: Fisher, chpts 2 & 3


Week 5            Feb. 10

                        Historians’ Tasks

                        Edward Gibbon

                        “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”

                        Reading: Fisher, chpts. 4-6, Package: Edward Gibbon

                        **The First Response Essay due


Week 6            Feb. 19

                        No Class, Presidents’ Day


Week 7            Feb. 24

                        Old Regime vs. Revolution

                        Lious the 14th & Absolutism

                        Glorious Revolution

                        Reading: Fisher, chpts. 7-9; Package, On the Old Regime


Week 8            Mar. 3

                        The French Revolution


                        The Use & Abuse of History

                        Reading: Fisher, chpts. 10-11; Package: Michele & Nietzsche

                        **The Second Response Essay Due


Week 9            Mar. 10

                        Industrial Revolution

                        Vision of Dickens & Marx

                        Reading: Toews, Intro., pp. 63-96, chpts. 6-9, 14, 21

                                        Package: Adam Smith


Week 10          Mar. 17-21, Spring Recess, No Class


Week 11          Mar. 24

                        The Russian Revolution

                        Communism vs. Capitalism

                        Trotsky & his Theory

                        Reading: Toews, The Communist Manifesto, chpts. 1-5, 10-13, 15-20, 22

                                        Package: Trotsky’s Theory

                        The Third Response Essay Due


Week 12          Mar. 31

                        The American Revolution

                        Features of American Democracy

                        Reading: Package, Constitution & Democracy

                        **The Fourth Response Essay Due


Week 13          Apr. 7


                        Ideology & Practice

                        Lenin’s Theory

                        Reading: Package, Imperialism

                        **The Comparison Essay Due


Week 14          Apr. 14


                        The Prince



                        Reading; Package, Totalitarianism

                        **The Fifth Response Essay Due


Week 15          Apr. 21

Communist Revolution

Chinese Revolution

Nationalist movements

Reading: Package, Communist Revolution

                Tuchman, The March of Folly


Week 16          Apr. 28

                        The Cold War

                        U.S. Foreign Policy

                        Schools of Thought                  

                        Reading: Package, The Cold War

                                        Tuchman, The March of Folly

                        The Sixth Response Essay Due


Week 17          May 5

                        World System


                        Third World issue


                        Reading: Package, World System

                        **The Book Review Due