History 680 Richard H. Immerman

Spring 1998 Gladfelter 923

Tuesday 7:45 pm O: (215)204-7466

TUCC H: (610)645-5436



The writing of international history--defined for our purposes primarily as diplomatic and military history--is fraught with difficulties and dangers. Highly interpretive, it lends itself to emotionalism, presentism, and didacticism--in other words, subjectivity and prejudice. Then there is the problem of sources (collecting evidence). Managers of the nation's security and their agents tend to hold their cards closer to their vests than we scholars would like, committing few of their innermost thoughts to writing and treating he paper trails revealing policy formulation and implementation as secrets of state. Those thoughts and deliberations that they do write down often remains classified; indeed, key documentation may have been destroyed. Finally, narrowing the focus and parameters of any examination can be daunting. The student of any nation's international relations must consider the roles, actions, beliefs, and perceptions of external governments, individuals, and constituencies, not to mention unofficial participants to the policymaking process or other non-state actors representing domestic interest groups. And there are the contributions of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). In short, the good international historian must find the means and methods to study the political, intellectual, cultural, social, economic, and psychological factors that influenced a country's behavior toward and interaction with at least one alien society. The challenges that inhere in the field are formidable, and because they are, they are exciting and potentially rewarding.

By selecting this seminar, you have all accepted this challenge. My intention is to provide you with the opportunity to strut your stuff. You will each engage in projects based largely on primary source material. Some of your projects will be driven by your specific area of interest or expertise, or by the parameters of your thesis or dissertation. Others of you may, at least for the moment, have more ambiguous purposes. Whatever the case, the end result should be a 30-40 page paper which proves your mettle as a researcher, analyst, conceptualizer, synthesizer, and writer. My hope is that you will not be satisfied should I reward your effort with an "A", let alone any less complimentary grade. Your objective should be a publishable article.

Regardless of your particular circumstance, in choosing your topic you must take into account the resources available in the vicinity, or logistically within striking distance, necessary for a credible product. A surgical strike on one or more archive, manuscript library, etc. is encouraged. Sometimes a little ingenuity and imagination can overcome geographic and financial limitations, but not always. If you are contemplating prying loose classified material by filing requests through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), forget it. You may succeed, but only after years of patience and frustration. Therefore, you must make haste in not only choosing a topic, but also in determining whether you can gain access to sufficient material in a very short span of time. The guide (incomplete) to sources I have distributed should be of some assistance. In addition, of course, there are also numerous data bases available through internet. Do not forget that foreign language sources as well can potentially be extremely helpful. Feel to consult with me, my colleagues in history or any other department, and the Library's staff, at any stage. John Kennedy, the reference librarian at Paley who works with government documents, will greet you with open arms when you come begging for help. No project should be undertaken without my approval.

Pangloss was wrong; we do not live in the best of all possible worlds: The size of this class and length of the semester impose severe constraints. Fortunately, several in the class have already devoted time to their papers, and even dove into their research. Their reward will be their exploitation. Today I will ask for three (maybe four depending on class size) volunteers (or I will volunteer them) to serve as guinea pigs. By next class, February 2, each will be prepared to treat the seminar to an oral presentation of his/her project proposal. We will repeat this act with three or four students each subsequent week through February 24, which will allow each of you to play a featured role.

What I will require as preparation for the presentation is a written precis or abstract--it need not be more than a single-spaced page or two--that states to the extent possible defines the topic and suggests a tentative argument. To be more specific, it should focus on the questions the paper will address, why anyone should care about the answers (i.e., the significance), and the materials appropriate/available for arriving at them. Ultimately you will use this abstract as the basis for your paper's introduction. Bring to class a sufficient number of copies of your precis for distribution to everyone. If at all possible (and it should be at least for those of you presenting in latter sessions), attach to the precis as an appendix a working/preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary sources (with copies also provided for all in the class). Be certain to consult Turabian's Manual during this process. I will expect all of your bibliographies, notes, etc. to conform its style.

The oral presentation (about 15 minutes) should expand on the precis, explaining why and how you decided on this topic and arrived at the list of potential sources. A short historiographic review will therefore be essential. In many cases (contingent on topics), the essays in America in the World, edited by Michael Hogan, will help in sharpening the questions and placing the paper within the current historigraphy. You will want to stress how and why your paper contributes to the extant literature and ongoing debates. Following your presentation we will collectively provide you with feedback. I will use this opportunity, moreover, to provide some helpful hints on, and warnings about, the "art" of conducting research. As soon thereafter as possible you should make an appointment to see me. I will want to check on your progress and offer whatever suggestions I can before you begin the actual research and writing. If given enough lead time, moreover, I may be able to solicit answers to your questions from scholars who have greater expertise in your subject area than I (imagine that). Consequently, it will be in your best interest to see me sooner rather than later.

Although you should not be at all bashful about stopping by my office, calling me by phone, or contacting me by e-mail over the next month, there will be no formal sessions of the seminar on March 3, March 10 (Spring recess), and March 17. During this "interlude" each of you will be feverishly going through the material you have collected and collecting more--secondary as well as primary--and committing whatever you can to paper. I would strongly advise you to plan now to devote a good portion if not the bulk of the semester recess for this purpose--this will probably be the best time to schedule whatever travel your research requires.

When we reconvene as a seminar, the fun will really begin. Beginning on March 24, three of you each class will orally present what you've done up to that date. By "what you've done" I mean a draft, however rough. At the rate of three students per week, the last presentations will be April 14. (This schedule may need to be extended to April 21.) The implications of this schedule are obvious. On the one hand, the earlier presentations will be based on a very rough draft. On the other hand, those of you who present later will have less time for revisions.

I will want a copy of your draft, regardless of the shape it is in--delivered in person or by to either my home or office--no later than 3:00 on the Thursday prior to your presentation. I need to be able to read it carefully prior to the class session. Plan on speaking for no longer than 20 minutes. Hence assuming you will want to read from your draft, you should condense it accordingly for this exercise. If you do not keep your presentation to the time limit, there will not be ample time for discussion and constructive criticism.

Sometime within the week following your presentation you should meet with me again. I will return to my marked-up copy of your draft, answer you last-minute questions, and present you any additional marching orders. Because final papers will not be due until Friday, May 8 (I hope you'll all be able to present them to me at my home and then stay to celebrate--more on this to follow) even those who present on April 14 (or April 21) should have sufficient time to incorporate my and your classmates' suggestions into you submit your opus in its final form. Suffice it to say, In addition to conforming stylistically to Turabian, it goes without saying (but I will) your paper should be sound grammatically and free of typos or misspellings.

Required Texts

Hogan, ed., American in the World

Turabian, A Manual for Writers, 6th ed.