University of New Mexico, Fall Semester 2016

History 491:  Historiography


Professor E. A. Sanabria


Final Paper Assignment


A full 30% of your course grade will derive from your performance on your final paper due, which will be in due on Tuesday, 13 December 2016, by—and no later than—NOON.  You may deliver the paper in person (though I will be proctoring an exam that morning) or get the paper into my History Department mail office (Ground Floor of Mesa Vista Hall) by Noon.  Earlier submissions are welcome and appreciated as I have to read your papers lickety-split in order to figure out your final grades as expeditiously as possible.  This final paper is in lieu of a final examination for this course.


The paper is an historiographical essay on a topic of your choice, but it must showcase, to some degree, skills, concepts, methods, etc. that you have learned from our seminar.  It must be about 2500 words long (approximately 10-12 pages) not including your bibliography, which should adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style documentation style, in a normal 12 point font with no more than 1 ¼” margins, double spaced.  If you decide you must quote at length from a book or article that informs your paper, separate the more-than-four-lines-of-text passage from the text of your essay, and single space the passage.  Refer to the course syllabus for examples of how your footnotes or endnotes should look like or search for Chicago Manual of Style from


In this paper you should show in detail a concrete aspect of the course as well as your critical insight and both research and writing skill.  Ideally, I would like you to have selected a topic for your historiographical essay or annotated bibliography by Tuesday, September 13th when I ask you to email me with your proposed topic, and/or you visit me personally in office hours to discuss your topic.  I am happy to provide you with reading suggestions, if I can, but it is imperative you get a jump on this assignment from the get-go.


You are to prepare an historiographical essay, which will require a good measure of additional reading on your part on the topic of your choosing, but most importantly will allow you to showcase your ability to gather, examine, and evaluate materials pertaining to a particular subject.  You are required you to seek out 7 to 10 different sources for your evaluation.


Historiography is the study of the ways in which historians have interpreted the past.  Knowing how to read and evaluate the work of other historians is also a very important skill in addition to holding the key to how historians agree, build upon, disagree, etc. in their interpretation of events, people, and/or concepts of their study.  For example, some historians have made and developed the argument that the leadership and legislation of the Left-Republican/Socialist coalition  that was in control during 1931 to 1933 is to be blamed for the outbreak of the Civil War.  Other historians, however, have made and developed the argument that the Spanish Civil War was an inevitable result of the political and cultural fracturing of the nation which began in with the Napoleonic Invasion and Occupation of 1808-1814.  These differences in interpretation reflect the varying approaches that historians might take to their subject as some historians might be primarily interested in social, cultural, political, economic, legal, or intellectual history.  They might approach their work from a Marxist, Freudian, feminist, or post-modernist perspective.  Such backgrounds and interests affect the ways in which a historian explores and interprets the past; thus, historians interested in the same historical event might examine different sets of sources to answer the same question.  As the abovementioned Mary Lynn Rampolla writes:


“For example, in studying the causes of the French Revolution, Marxist historians might focus on economic and class issues, while intellectual historians might concentrate on the impact of the writings of philosophies (a group of French Enlightenment writers) on the political thought and practice.  Moreover, since the historian’s work is embedded in a particular social and cultural context, historical interpretations and methodologies change over time.  For example, the growth of the civil rights and feminist movements in the 1960s led to a greater interest in African American and women’s history.” [1] 


So an historiographic essay is one in which you, acting as an historian, study the approaches to a topic that other historians have taken.  You are essentially writing an history of the history of the topic of your choosing.  You are to identify, compare and evaluate the viewpoints of several scholars.  You should begin by reading critically the texts containing historians’ interpretations (especially introductions and conclusions to books and articles) as if you’re preparing a book review of the source, but it is important that your historiographical essay not be a series of book review that you glue together.  Rather, you should synthesize your material and construct an argument in support of a thesis.  Rampolla, again, cites the following example:


“Historians have held dramatically different view about the importance of European colonial rule in Africa:  Marxist historians, along with others who focus on economic issues, have tended to see the colonial period as an important turning point, while cultural historians have maintained that the impact of the West on the ancient cultural traditions of Africa was superficial.”[2]


Although I hope you know you shouldn’t pass on the writing of another author as your own without fully documenting your source, I suggest you skim this example of an historiographic essay prepared by Stanley G. Payne: 


Stanley G. Payne, “Fascism and Right Authoritarianism in the Iberian World—The Last Twenty Years,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 21, no. 2 (April 1986), 163-177. 


Which can be accessed at:


As you may know you can use and access the database directly from any UNM computer terminal.  If you want and need to access jstor from your home or laptop computer, here’s how you do it:


Go to

Select the letter “J” from the databases grid

Select Jstor

Enter your UNM user id and password

[1] Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History, 5th Edition (Boston:  Bedford St. Martin’s, 2007), 36-37.

[2] Ibid., 38.