Some notes on selecting a topic for the historical project:



Project 1: Archival/ Historical

            See the syllabus for due dates.

            Specific information and requirements for the proposal and the paper are posted on my website,

            The assigned readings from this class are all from Davidson and Lytle's marvelous textbook After the Fact.  The key to a successful historical project is the additional reading that each student will do.  The more time you spend in the library and in the archives, looking at sources, hunting down citations from bibliographies, and trying to make sense of different perspectives, the more successful you project will be.  Each chapter of After the Fact discusses one event or controversy or trend in American history, with a substantial bibliography.  Davidson and Lytle's book will help you learn how to think like a historian:  what is the evidence?  Who was the author and what was his or her intended audience?  What kinds of filters of censorship, self- censorship or bias do you need to consider?  In some ways, a good historian is like a homicide detective.  The historical record provides clues and witnesses, and the historian has to figure out 'who dunnit' and why.

            The goal of the project is to find at least 2 sources (at least one of them primary) that describe a particular political, social, or historical event.  Students will explore how the different sources provide different or overlapping perspectives on the event.  You may choose any kind of historical event (political or social in nature) you like, but the event must be pre-1975.  Written reports will be evaluated based on creativity in finding sources, imaginative use of sources, and on a theoretically grounded analysis of what the sources mean.  Final reports should be 7-12 pages in length.  The project proposal should be a 1-2 page explanation of what historical event you plan to examine, with a preliminary bibliography of the availability and suitability of sources.



            Stanford library has at least 4 different branches that you will need to know about

            1) Green library.  See the reference librarians with questions.  Also see Green library librarian Aimee Morgan Green library has newspapers and magazines on microfilm, and the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, which can help you locate magazine articles about a certain subject.  The newspapers are useful for getting the dates and names and places of events- start with the printed newspaper indices.  Famous figures may have their papers published in edited volumes, and these would appear in Green (Booker T. Washington's papers, for instance, are here).

            2) Green library special collections.  Green library has a small special collection room, but this room has some collections that may be useful or interesting, like the papers of Huey P. Newton, Project South, and the Civil War Diaries.  See

            3) Hoover Archives.  The Hoover archives has one of the world's great collections of materials on 20th century politics, war, and peace.  The Hoover archive librarian Carol Leadenham <> is eager to help students, and looks forward to responding to your inquiries.  I have a list below of research ideas provided by a prior Hoover archive librarian, which are listed below under 'choosing an historical event..'

            4) The Hoover library (separate and distinct from the Hoover archives).  Librarian Paul Thomas, looks forward to helping students find cool materials.  The Hoover library specializes in 20th century materials on war, conflict and revolution.  They have, according to the librarians, lots of material on World War I (including US reaction and, supposedly, dissent) as well as the Spanish Civil War, the Chinese Revolution, the Nuremberg Trials, WWII Japanese Internment in the U.S. including newspapers published in the internment camps.  They have, apparently, a big collection of newsletters published by all kinds of groups.  See


            Choosing an historical event to study:

            One way to find a historical subject is start with one of the chapters in After the Fact, since these have good bibliographies.  If you choose one of these subjects, however, your analysis must go beyond what is in the text.  You also need to figure out if the Stanford libraries have the primary sources you want.



* Slavery, reconstruction and the WPA's freedpeople project (interviewing ex slaves)

* Jacob Riis and the photographic history of the slums of New York

* The US government's attempts to break the beef trust and regulate the food processing industry (under Teddy Roosevelt)

* The murder trial of Sacco and Vanzetti

* The great depression, the dust bowl, and the great migration to California

* The US decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan

* Watergate

* Vietnam


            Materials and Ideas (from circa 2004) from Elena Danielson at the Hoover Archives:


* There's a Poster collection, with 20K to 30K posters, and photos of posters with translations.  (the textbook chapter on Riis' photos would help to frame the question of point of view, subject, and focus)


* There are some great materials on the Russian Revolution (1917), including the diary of Frank Golder, who was there.


* There are some great materials on Japanese internment.  There are letters from interned Stanford students to their Stanford professor.  There are photos.  Think about the issue of censorship, noting that the newsletters from the camp (which are in the Hoover library) were censored, and the photos carry the censor's marks.  There are also materials from pro internment California politicians, like Lilian Baker.


* There are some holocaust collections, or more specifically post- holocaust remembrances, translated.  There is also a collection of papers of Jon Karski, who was a refugee from the Warsaw ghetto and miraculously escaped and came to the U.S. and tried to impress on Roosevelt the dire situation, and was met with empty and blank silence.


* There is a 'survey of race relations' consisting of interviews with immigrant Chinese and Japanese.  The  textbook chapter on the interviews with former slaves (which examines the wildly different interviews that the same person gave to two different interviewers) might help here.


* Letters home from GI's in WWII, which had to pass through a censor's filter.  There is also General Stillwell's diary from WWII.


* From the 60s, there is a New Left collection, and there is a collection of papers from Sidney Hook, who in the 30s was a scion of radicalism but by the 60s was a more conservative voice of the establishment.