This is an archived course. A more recent version may be available at

Theories and Methods in the Study of History

As taught in: Fall 2003

Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr. waves from the cockpit of the Enola Gay.

"Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., pilot of the ENOLA GAY, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, waves from his cockpit before the takeoff, 6 August 1945." (NWDNS-208-LU-13H-5) (Image courtesy of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.)


Prof. Peter C. Perdue

MIT Course Number:

21H.991J / STS.210J



Course Features

Course Highlights

A number of samples of student assignment submissions may be downloaded. In addition Prof. Perdue's reaction papers are available as lecture notes for the course.

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to acquaint you with a variety of approaches to the past used by historians writing in the twentieth century. Most of the books on the list constitute, in my view (and others), modern classics, or potential classics, in social and economic history. We will examine how these historians conceive of their object of study, how they use primary sources as a basis for their accounts, how they structure the narrative and analytic discussion of their topic, and what are the advantages and drawbacks of their approaches.