History 585D: The Scale(s) of History—Delineating Frontiers of Space and Time through Historical Research

Instructor: Neil Safier
Section: 201

Term: 2
Meets: Wednesdays 3:00-5:30pm

How do historians choose the appropriate scale at which to carry out their research projects, understood in both spatial and temporal terms? How have these ideas about scale changed over time? By reading a broad range of secondary sources that deal with this broad yet essential question to historians, we will compare and assess the choices scholars in a variety of fields have made about the scope of their research, and the practical and theoretical implications of staying small or going global. Large-scale geographical spaces that we may examine include: the Arctic; the Atlantic; the Indian Ocean; the Pacific; and the Mediterranean. We will address themes such as borderlands, diaspora, frontiers, place, and space and will question and query the recent enthusiasm for global history and its correlative “connected history”. Readings will be determined in conjunction with student interests, but will likely include the following: Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms, Fernand Braudel’s The Mediterranean, James Scott’s The Art of Not Being Governed, Marshall Sahlin’s Islands of History, and Hugh Raffles’ In Amazonia. Students from disciplines other than history, including but not limited to anthropology, geography, and literature, are both welcome and encouraged to take part. Participants will be expected to be engage in weekly in-class discussions, circulate short responses to their colleagues, and write a substantial paper that will entail primary or secondary source analysis.