Course aims

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By the end of the course, you should be able to answer:

  • What is the practice of history?
  • Why might scholars take different historical approaches to similar topics?
  • What kinds of sources do historians use?
  • How do historians construct arguments?
  • How can we critique historical arguments?
  • How can we understand the practice of history through American disaster history?



Historical skills – by the end of the course you should be able to:

  • Link events and themes from the past with current events.
  • Clearly express ideas and arguments through writing and speech.
  • Read, digest and analyze scholarly work on American disaster history.
  • Locate, select and use primary and secondary sources
  • Use and critique others’ use of primary sources in making historical arguments.


Command of information – by the end of the course you should have:

  • Knowledge of the context for the disasters we discuss in class. This includes major political, social and economic events, movements and turning points during America’s “Gilded Age”
  • Familiarity with the most expensive, deadly and destructive disasters in American history.
  • Awareness of the different explanations and interpretations of American disaster history.