This seminar offers a review of recent historiographical approaches within the history of science. Students read a wide variety of recent studies covering topics from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries. Emphasis is placed on the intertwining of epistemology with institutions in various settings.
All students are responsible for doing the assigned reading before each session of the seminar. In addition, students take turns leading a session of the seminar by presenting an overview of the reading (including discussion of major themes, as well as critiques), and presenting questions for discussion based on book reviews and other relevant sources. There are also two writing assignments: a book review (4-5 pages) of one of the books on the syllabus (due in class in Ses #5), and a historiographical essay (20-25 pages, due in Ses #8). For the final essay, students should select at least two books from the syllabus, read other works by the same authors along with contrasting works on the same topic by other authors, and situate the main books within the wider historiography.
One of the key skills that historians must cultivate is to be able to read large amounts of material quickly. This seminar is designed to help you practice this crucial skill. Reading loads are heavy for each session. You should practice 'active reading' (or 'aggressive skimming'). As you read, it is helpful to keep several questions in mind: Can you summarize the author's main thesis or argument? What kinds of examples are brought forth to bolster the main thesis? Upon what kinds of sources does the author draw? How does the main argument fit into the broader literature on the subject or within the field? Reading to answer these questions is more important than dwelling on particular details within a given study.