French royal ordinance from 1666. (Image by Prof. Jeffrey Ravel.)
This subject is designed to give 21H majors and minors an introduction to the methods that historians use to interpret the past. We will focus on two areas: archives and interpretation. In our work on archives, we will ask what constitutes an archive. We will visit one or two local archives, speak with archivists, and assemble our own archive related to life at MIT in 2003. Once we have a better understanding of the possibilities and limitations of historical archives, we will turn to the task of interpreting archival findings. We will discuss a series of readings organized around the theme of history and national identity in various parts of the world since the end of the eighteenth century.