HIS logo Assignments for HIS400
"Seminar on the Atlantic World"

Copyright by Jim Jones, 2014

What's New?

Apr. 29: I revised the description of the in-class presentation assignment in line with what we discussed in class on Monday, April 28.
Apr. 15: I corrected the date for the final exam (to Wed. May 7) to compensate classes missed due to snow.

Go to the syllabus    


Reading Summaries - due Mon. 2/3, Mon. 2/17, Wed. 2/26, Mon. 3/31

This seminar includes specific reading assignments, and requires you to do additional reading to complete your final project. It is always a good practice, when you read something, to take notes and then, after you finish, add the following information to your notes. For these four (4) assignments, I do not need to see your notes on the reading, but you must submit papers (worth up to ten (10) points each) with your answers to these questions about the assigned reading:

1) What did you read? Provide a complete, properly formatted bibliographic citation for the reading.
2) What was the reading about? Write a paragraph that describes its subject and the author's approach.
3) What did the author conclude?
4) What does this reading explain about our seminar topic on the "Making the Atlantic World"? In other words, how is it relevant to our course?

Your paper must confirm to the following MECHANICAL REQUIREMENTS -- type-written or laser-printed on white 8.5" X 11" paper with one-inch margins, using 13-point Courier, Helvetica, Times Roman or Arial font. DO NOT add a cover page; instead type your name, the date and "HIS400" at the top of the first page, skip a line, and then begin writing your assignment. Use the Chicago Manual of Style to determine the correct formatting for everything else.

Everyone must submit a summary for the readings due on February 3, February 17, February 26, and March 31. You may also turn in up to a maximum of four (4) additional reading summaries for up to 20 extra credit points (i.e. 5 points each). All summaries are due at the beginning of class on the day that the reading they cover is assigned.

Lead Class Discussion - date to be assigned by professor

Everyone is expected to lead the discussion of the assigned reading once during the semester (see below). To earn all 10 points, you must read and understand the assigned reading, devise 3-4 questions about the author's topic, argument and relevance to the Atlantic World, use your questions to direct the discussion, and be prepared to respond to questions raised by other members of the class.

Date Discussion Leader Reading
Feb. 10 Maria "Migrations and Frontiers" by Alison Games
Feb. 19 Alex "From Servitude to Slavery" by Michael Guasco
Feb. 24 Tom "The Slave Trade's Apex in the Eighteenth Century" by Timothy R. Buckner
Feb. 26 Steve E. "The Plantation Revolution and The Industrial Revolution, 1625-1775" by Richard B. Sheridan.
Mar. 3 Amanda "British Marketing Enterprise: The Changing Roles of Merchants, Manufacturers and Financiers, 1700-1860" by Stanley D. Chapman
Mar. 10 Brian "The Nineteenth-Century Black Atlantic" by Aribidesi A. Usman
Mar. 12 Max "The Black Atlantic: Theory, Method, and Practice" by Douglas B. Chambers
Mar. 26 Doug "Rêves d'Empire: French Revolutionary Doctrine and Military Interventions in the Southern United States and the Caribbean, 1789-1809" by Philippe R. Girard
Apr. 2 Dom "Introduction: Atlantic Ambiguities of British and American Abolition" by Joseph C. Miller
Apr. 7 David "Images of Africa and British Slave-Trade Abolition: The Transition to an Imperialist Ideology, 1787-1807" by Ralph A. Austen & Woodruff L. Smith
Apr. 9 Inna "The Thin White Line: The Size of the British Colonial Service in Africa" by A. H. M. Kirk-Greene
Apr. 12 Craig "Independence Movements in the New World" by David Cahill
Apr. 16 Eric "The Diasporic Dimensions of Caribbean Nationalism, 1900-1959" by E. G. Iweriebor and Amanda Warnock
Apr. 23 Andrew "The Cold War in the Atlantic World" by Carol Anderson
Apr. 26 Steve N. "African Independence Movements" by Joel E. Tishken

Some "pointers" about devising questions: Open-ended questions like "What did you learn?" or "Did you like the article?" risk getting useless answers like "I learned how to spell Barbados"; "The article was too long"; or "I learned more about the slave trade and how important it was." Yes or no questions like "Was this article relevant?" or "Did the author prove his/her case?" generate one-word answers but do not lead to further discussion. Your assignment is to lead a discussion and you must devise questions that get people talking, not about what they liked or disliked, but about what the author researched, what sources they used, how s/he used those sources and what s/he concluded. That requires questions that seek comparisons with other things we know (either from this class or other history classes), explanation of the logic used by the author, and analysis of the reliability of that logic -- did the author pick "the right" facts and connect them logically to draw his/her conclusion? What does the author's conclusion add to our understanding of the seminar's main topic, the Atlantic World.

For example, one of our discussions concerned an article entitled "The Plantation Revolution and the Industrial Revolution." Open-ended questions produced comments like "I didn't like the article because the author didn't mention the Industrial Revolution until the end, even though it was in the title." A better question might be "Why did the author put the Industrial Revolution in the title of this article?" and, if this doesn't produce intelligent discussion, back up one step and ask "What was the Industrial Revolution?" That should enable everyone to draw on knowledge from other classes, and once there is agreement on that, follow up with "What was the Plantation Revolution?" An answer to that will draw out details from the article which you can analyze with questions like "Does [name of source] provide adequate information with which to conclude [name of detail in the author's argument]?" Once there is concensus on definitions, you're ready for "How were the Plantation Revolution and the Industrial Revolution linked?" Note that this is essentially the same as asking "what was the author's conclusion?" only you narrowed the question by asserting that the conclusion involves the two types of revolution and the relationship between them.

The other area from which you should develop useful discussion questions is that of the article's relevance. After you've determined what the article is about, ask for ideas about how the article is relevant to the Atlantic World. This may require some discussion about the definition of "the Atlantic World" and will certainly entail some discussion about what aspects of the Atlantic World are addressed by the author's conclusion.

To summarize, ask questions that require explanations rather than opinions or lists of items. Organize the focus of your questions in a hierachy that ascends from definitions through arguments, conclusions and relevance. Finally, whenever you ask a question, be prepared to ask it in a different form if no one volunteers an answer. If the second version also fails, ask a lower-order question (i.e. definition instead of argument, argument instead of conclusion, etc.) to get things going, and then try your higher-order question again.

Ancestor Research Paper - due Wed. 2/12

Find out when, where and why your ancestor(s) came to the land that lies west of the Atlantic Ocean (i.e. somewhere in North, Central or South America). Begin by talking to your oldest relatives to see what they remember, and then search the Ancestry database at the WCU Library to confirm and add details. Then, for up to 20 points, write a paper that explains who your ancestors were, when they arrived, from where they started and where they arrived. Finally, offer your best guess about why they crossed the ocean.

For example, my mother recalled that her grandfather came from northern Germany, and his gravestone gave his year of birth as 1863. Using Ancestry and other on-line sources, I learned that he was born in a village in a marshy area of Lower Saxony in northern Germany. He was the last surviving child of a father who lost his first wife during childbirth, 11 of 18 children who died before they turned 12, and 6 more children who emigrated to either Australia or the United States. Besides a harsh climate and bad drinking water, his village had less than two hundred inhabitants, and he was apprenticed to his father, a saddlemaker. By the time he left in 1880, emigration from ports like Bremen and Hamburg was well-organized. I suspect that he lived in a pretty grim place with few opportunities, so he followed the example of his older half-siblings and left as soon as he could.

Your paper must meet the mechanical requirements (see above) and should include reference notes that cite your interview(s), any documents that you consult (such as family bibles, naturalization papers, death records, etc.) and the original source of any data that you find at the Ancestry database. (Note: if all of your ancestors were native Americans, ask professor Jones for an alternate assignment.)

Research Project Proposal - due Wed. 3/5

For up to 20 points, submit a paper that meets all of the mechanical requirements (see above) , names your topic and describes how you determined it by narrowing down the seminar topic -- the Atlantic World -- by discipline (politics, economics, society, religion, philosophy) and subdiscipline (ex: for politics, you could look at administration, conquest, leadership, or anything that sheds light on how some people gained and held power over others).

For example, if you were interested in how railroad construction in Senegal affected the Atlantic World, you could narrow that down in many ways. One would be to look at the economics (discipline) of the Atlantic world. Depending on the subdiscipline that interests you, your research could examine the results of transporting resources by rail (subdiscipline: trade), the impact of the wages paid to people who built the railroad (subdiscipline: labor), the results of profits or losses to investors in the railroad (subdiscipline: finance) or something else. You could also consider the railroad in the context of politics (discipline) by looking at its use to support colonial conquest and/or administration (subdiscipline: military), as a training ground for colonial soldiers (subdiscipline: education), or as a means to enrich industrial interests that supported national politicians (subdiscipline: elections). An interest in philosophy (discipline) might lead to a paper on how colonial peoples received the European concept of time, speed or distance. There are many other possibilities.

Your paper must also show that you have begun your research by naming an article or book in which you found relevant information about your topic, and a source of primary data which you will examine in order to draw an historical conclusion for your final paper and presentation. Make sure to describe the information that each source contains which that is relevant to your topic. For the above example, a primary source might be "Deux campagnes au Soudan Francais, par le Lieutenant-Colonel Gallieni, de l'Infanterie de Marine, 1886-1887, 1887-1888," in Le Tour du Monde, vols. LVIII (1889) & LIX (1890), since Lt. Col. Gallieni was in charge of railroad construction in Upper Senegal (modern Mali) during the period 1886-1888. One secondary source is A. S. Kanya-Forstner, The Conquest of the Western Sudan (Cambridge University Press, 1969), which describes the use of the same railroad to supply French troops during their wars against Africans in the Niger Valley.

Draft Research Project - due Wed. 4/16

For up to 40 points, submit a draft of your final paper that conforms to the mechanical requirements (see above) and addresses a specific topic, presents a historical argument, and shows evidence (using reference notes and not just a "list of sources") of research that goes beyond the assigned readings for the class. Your draft will not lose points for formatting or typing errors (but you will be expected to find and correct them before submitting your final draft). Your grade will depend on the sophistication of your conclusion, the soundness of your argument, and the depth and relevance of your research.

Final Research Project - due Wed. 4/30

Submit the final version of your research paper (worth up to 40 points) on paper at the beginning of class, and via email by the end of the day. Like the draft (and all other assignments for this class), it must conform to the mechanical requirements (see above). Your grade will depend on the extent to which you corrected weaknesses from your draft, and corrected spelling, grammar and formatting errors.

Research Project Presentations

During the two class days on April 30 and May 5, everyone will have a chance to present his/her research and earn up to 10 points. Papers will be organized into groups with common themes while the rest of the class will provide an audience. Each group member will have one minute to explain his/her topic and conclusion. Then members of the group will discuss the theme of their group (see below) and what their research can contribute to our (the entire class) understanding of the theme. Members of each group should be prepared to take questions from the audience.

The Groups

Wednesday Apr. 30 Monday May 5
Theme: When did “the Atlantic World” come into existence?
Presenters: Max, Craig & Doug
Theme: The industrial revolution in the Atlantic World
Presenters: Inna, Eric
Theme: Forces that pushed and pulled people
Presenters: Brian, Amanda, Dominic
Theme: Was the Atlantic World inevitable?
Presenters: Tom, Steve N., Andrew
Theme: The globalization of taste
Presenters: Steve E., Alex, Dave
Theme: The final exam
Presenters: everyone

Final Exam

The final exam, worth 20 points, will take place in our regular classroom on Wednesday, May 7 from 3-4:15pm. You will receive a blue book and, using either a blue or black ink pen, write an essay on the usefulness of "the Atlantic world" as a way to understand history. Your grade will be determined by the extent to which your answer demonstrates knowledge of the Atlantic world and familiarity with historical method (hypothesis, analysis, conclusion).


Copyright 2014 by Jim Jones