The second section of the paper is historiographical. It requires you to reflect upon the question ‘how do historians make history?’ This question can be approached both from below – how are sources used in historical writing? – and from above – what theories are there about the way in which history should be approached? (Indeed both approaches can be considered at the same time, given that particular approaches to history often privilege particular sources.) The focus of this section is therefore on the great variety of ways in which history has been and is written, in terms of different subject-matter, sources, motivation, context and genre. Underlying the question ‘how is history written?’ is that of ‘why?’ The writing of history must itself be historicized. History itself does not display a “whiggish” tendency to perpetual improvement, nor does historiography, and the latter must be considered as the product of a particular historical context. While much of the focus will naturally be on recent work, the questions set in this section of the paper will also enable you to discuss forms of historical writing over the last two-and-a-half millennia.
As with the first section, much of the material for your answer in this section of the paper will originate in the work you have done elsewhere in the course: your experience of deploying sources and approaches in writing a dissertation and extended essay; your observation of how sources have been used by other historians (particularly in Further and Special Subjects); and the range of different approaches in the many articles and books you have read for all your papers. Historiographical awareness is a crucial element of all the papers you take, and you should be reflecting on the nature of historians’ approaches and their sources throughout the Final Honours course.
You will also receive some specific teaching for this section, so as to learn more about different schools of, or approaches to, history: their particular historical context, interests, methods, influences, forms and sources. Note however that serious reflection on historiography is a good deal more than mere generalised reproduction of textbook accounts of (say) the Annales school or “whig” history. Reflection on the writing of history, like reflection on history itself, stems from engagement with specific cases and sources. The basis for success in this section of the paper is to read major works of historical writing for yourself (most obviously as an extension of your work in other papers), whether it be Herodotus or Foucault. In this way your answer can cite and engage with historical writing and/or sources in authentic detail.
Here again there will be twenty questions in this section. The following list suggests a range of subject areas which the examiners might address. However, no specific topic is guaranteed to come up in any particular paper:
- Material Culture & Archaeology in historical writing
- Geography and Environmental History
- Space & Urban History
- Economic and Quantitative History
- Structural Social History
- Cultural History & Historical Anthropology
- Literature & Narrative
- Gender, Sexuality and the Body
- Visual Sources & Methods
- Oral History
- Sources for the Self
- Intellectual History
- Political History
- Postcolonialism & Ethnicity
- Global and International History
- Statist and National Traditions
- The Classical Tradition
- Philosophy of History
- Genres of historical writing
- Religious Historiography