This class is a research seminar, but it might not look like you’re used to. You should know a few key things about it.
First, the work you’ll be doing in this class is not primarily for academics. Many, if not most, of you will not end up in an academic job, and so if you have a career in history, you’ll likely be developing history for the public. Therefore, you need to practice creating historical content for non-historians and non-specialists.
Second, the work you’ll be doing in this class will have a digital component. Don’t be afraid! You don’t need any prior digital experience in order to succeed in this class. But you do need to be willing to try things, fail, and try something else. This is the heart of digital work: iteration toward a goal. The more you’re willing to be creative, the more success you’ll have in this class.
Third, the work you’ll be doing in this class is collaborative. I’m not going to force you to collaborate on your final project, but you may do so in groups of up to five people. But you are going to be collaborating on other portions of this course. No historian works alone, no matter how much they say they do. And nearly every historian works better when they receive feedback from their peers. So that’s what we’re going to do.
Fourth, the course will be a mixture of synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities. Neither of these parts is less important than the other; I expect full participation in both the sync and async bits.
What is the format of this class?
This is a 100% remote class. This means that you will interact with me and with your classmates online only. I will not be available for in-person office hours at any point during the semester.
This is a mostly synchronous class, though. We’ll be using Zoom for our class meetings every week. There will be a few weeks that you may or may not have to attend class, but you should plan to be available every Tuesday from 7:20-10:00pm. If that isn’t possible, that’s ok—I’d appreciate a heads-up if possible, but I fully understand that life happens.
What do I need in order to make this class work?
This is, at its heart, a discussion class, so you’ll need access to all the readings. However, I’ve made sure that all the books and articles assigned are available online either openly or through the library.
You’ll need a computer in order to succeed in this class—it is, after all, a digital history class. It would be useful if you had a GMail address but I’m not going to force it. It would also be ideal if you had headphones that you can use during class, and an external microphone (which could be attached to your headphones), just so it’s easier to be heard by your colleagues.
Why does this class exist?
This class exists because I care a lot about the antebellum military and I think you should too. You can’t understand the early days of the United States without at least a little understanding of the military. Also, I’m a naval historian by discipline, but I’m a digital historian by praxis. I study the First Barbary War, and you’ll probably hear a bit about that throughout the semester.
This class is also designed to help you gain some real-life skills that historians might need out in the wide world. I’ve never been anything but an academic myself, but military historians are, for the most part, not academics. They work in government, in museums, in the military itself, and in the private sector. So we’re going to be prioritizing innovative ways of telling stories that can reach audiences that a typical military historian might encounter—in other words, the public!
Hopefully, you’re also going to get to hear from some fantastic historians who are working in the field of military history, both academics and non-academics. One of the beauties of the online format is that we can talk to many people who would ordinarily be out of our reach. I hope you’ll learn a lot from them.