History 2133 - Fall 2002
Historiographic Essay: Primary Guidelines

First, I want to congratulate you all for reaching this stage in the course. This course asks a lot from each of you and I have found you all willing to put forth the effort necessary to succeed. It is for this reason that I know you will all do your best on this first essay for the course. Below you will find the guidelines for the historiographic essay broken into three portions: Objectives, Standards, and Hints.

Objectives: The historiographic essay has several objectives. The first of these objectives is for you to choose and evaluate the debate among historians concerning a particular historical problem or historical question of importance that you find interesting. Having evaluated the debate, you should write an essay in which you present both a synthesis of the debate and your analysis as to what has been achieved by the debate and what yet remains to be achieved. In attaining the first two objectives you should also put yourself in a position to put together a research presentation on your chosen topic which you could give in week 12 if you write your historiographic essay on a topic related to your research topic, which is objective 3 of this assignment. You must base your essay on one of the major sections of The Atlantic World in the Age of Empire, although you don't have to choose a section that we've covered in class.


  1. Length: The paper should be 6-8 pages in length, double-spaced, and written in a 12 pt., Times Roman or Courier font.

  2. Introduction: Your introduction, which should be no longer than a few paragraphs, must contain a thesis that presents both your main point concerning the synthesis of the debate you are analyzing and your main point as to where the debate should go from here.

  3. Synthesis/Analysis: It is difficult to say what the precise ratio of synthesis to analysis should be, but it seems to me that 2/3 synthesis to 1/3 analysis is a reasonable rule to follow. I will not hold you to this, but I would suggest that you be mindful of the relationship between synthesis and analysis in your essay.

  4. Conclusion: Should not just be a summary of what you have written in the body of the essay. It should bring together the main points and should leave the reader with a question to consider.

  5. Documentation: You must footnote using the Chicago Manual of Style rules, which are contained in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Revised by John Grossman and Alice Bennett (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1996).

As I am sure you can guess, I am strongly recommending that you write your historiographic essay on a topic closely tied to your research paper and your research presentation. If you do this the assignment will work for you and will help you write your research paper more effectively.