Historical Methods (Comparative Historiography)

Home/ Historical Methods (Comparative Historiography)
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSLS3HS0014

Semester and Year Offered: usually Monsoon Semester.

Course Coordinator and Team:The course coordinator is the programme coordinator (PC).

Email of course coordinator:denys[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in(in MS 2017, MS 2018, MS 2019)

Pre-requisites: none.

Description. The course is an introduction to historical methods and a survey of historiographical trends of which today’s professional historians should be aware. The course serves to systematically familiarize research scholars with some established historiographical traditions (and debates about method) as well as some recent trends (e.g., the ‘postmodern turn’ in historical studies, Memory Studies). While many students will have become familiarwithsome of these patterns and trends already, most will have learned about them in the context of historiography of a limited sphere (e.g., medieval India, economic history) and will not have obtained an overall picture of interpretive strategies relating to political, social, economic, environmental, cultural and intellectual dimensions of the human past. While the assumption is that most students will be researching areas of Indian and South Asian history, the course draws attention to methods and practices that have emerged from other (‘non-Indian’) research areas but that are nevertheless relevant to the historical practitioner in India. Approaches pioneered by Indian scholars (e.g., Subaltern Studies) are also taught about. In each rendition of this course, 10 - 12 ‘topics’ are agreed on by the core History faculty to be taught by themselves and other scholars within or outside the university. Students are given relevant course readings and learning materials before each class (meeting once a week) and are expected to discuss them in class with the appointed teacher and with each other. Half way through the semester they submit their first essay (2500 – 3000 words) on a question given by any one of the course teachers; a second essay of similar scope is due at the end of the semester. Students may be allowed to revise and re-submit the first essay for a better grade.

Course Outcomes:

  1. Students will improve their skills in writing about scholarly debates and learn how to evaluate and participate in such debates.
  2. Students will improve their academic verbal communication skills.
  3. Students will apply the ‘taught’ methods to their own historical practice/thesis research.

Brief description of modules/topics:

  • Historical consciousness, politics and the Academy
  • Pre-modern traditions of investigating the past (Greek, medieval Christian, Islamic, etc.)
  • Positivism and historical research (legacy of 19th century)
  • The emergence of environmental history
  • Historical materialism
  • ‘The Annales School’
  • Ethnography and history
  • Neo-Marxism and postmodernism
  • Oral history and memory studies
  • Gender as a category of historical analysis
  • Approaches to comparative, transnational and global history
  • Historical narrative and the ‘Content of the Form’ (narratology)
  • Major 20th-century debates over history as science (certainty, determinism, perception)
  • Historical economics and historical method
  • Towards a global Subaltern Studies
  • Structuralism and micro-history (from ‘Annales’ to ‘post-Annales’)
  • Cultural history after the linguistic turn
  • As noted above, 10 -12 topics are chosen for each rendition of this course, depending on faculty interest and availability.

Assessment Details with weights:



Date/period in which assessment will take place



Essay 1 (topic essay: 2500 – 3000 words)

Half way through semester



Essay 2 (topic essay: 2500 - 3000 words)

At semester end



Reading List (indicative):

A comprehensive list of all readings used for this course since 2011 would be too large to provide here. No single historiography textbook or historical methods textbook is prescribed. The typical quantum of reading for each topic/course meeting is 100 – 300 pages: usually a few book chapters and 3 – 4 journal articles, but for some topics entire books are prescribed. Course teachers regularly change their ‘reading lists’ to reflect the most recent scholarly interventions and debates.