Historiographical Discussion: What We Know

Using your bibliography of secondary sources (those from the annotated bibliography assignment, plus anything that you’ve added since then), provide an overview of the existing knowledge on your topic. Structure your response in response to the following three questions. Each should take the form of a long paragraph.

What is the key historical context for your topic? Write a paragraph that provides an overview of that history.
What is the historiographical context? That is, what have scholars written about this historical context and your topic? Give the reader a sense of what questions researchers have asked, what methodological approaches they have used. Does there seem to be a consensus in terms of methodology and conclusions or are previous approaches and assessments at odds with each other? Does “the field” seem to have changed over time?
In what ways is our existing knowledge limited or incomplete? What do we still not know or need to know? Are there opportunities for taking a different approach, focusing on different sources, or asking different research questions? Or examining a similar problem in a different context?

While part of this assignment requires you to summarize the arguments of other scholars, try to move beyond individual summary and synthesize the key issues in the historiography.

Length: Approximately 1.5-2 pages, double-spaced. Length is less important than good synthesis. The goal is to digest and distill a lot of information (both to advance your own thinking and to communicate it to your reader). A version of “what we know” will make its way into your project proposal, so keep that future use and audience in mind.

Use footnotes and Chicago citation (note-footnote) format. No works cited page.

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