Introduction to American Historians

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As you read through Chapter 1 in Couvares, which schools of thought most attract and repulse you? Are there particular theories and methodologies that strike you? Explain why. Are there thematic sub-fields - such as gender, economics, political, military, environmental - which most interest you and how do you think they will fit (or not fit) into the various schools discussed herein? We also read William Bradford's Of Plymouth Plantation. This is both a work of history and a primary document in and of itself. We often group writings like his as the "Providential School." Please analyze the ways in which Bradford's ascribing of the hand of God in the history of Plymouth shape the narrative he presents. Does recognition of God in writing history lead to inappropriate bias, or can it have a place in objective historical inquiry? Would there be the significant differences if an atheist Bradford had written Of Plymouth Plantation? Explain.

This week our class was required to read Chapter 1 in Couvares. The first Chapter focused on four different stages that American history has passed through: the providential, the rationalist, the nationalist, and the professional. The providential school of thought in American history consisted of using God to justify man’s actions. The providential historians “viewed the story of America as an extension of the history of the Protestant Reformation.” The second school of thought listed was the rationalist. The rationalist historian emerged after the European Enlightenment made its way to America. With the arrival of the Enlightenment, “a new class of intellectuals, influenced by Newton, Locke, and the French philosophies, had come to see history, like the physical universe, as subject to natural law.” The third school of thought mentioned was the nationalist one. The school of the nationalist historian “increasingly believed that races possessed different inherent capacities and viewed the rise of America as the...
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