Professor Laura Smoller

MW, 1:40-2:55, SH 408

569-8389; SH 604K

Office hours:  MW, 3-4 p.m. and by appointment



HIST 4390.03:  The Historian's Craft


            This course offers an introduction both to historical methods (how historians go about doing history) and to historiography (the study of the many ways in which historians have written about the past).  That is, we will think about the way in which historians produce what may be called "true stories about the past" as well as the fact that different historians have come up with various interpretations of, focuses on, and reasons for talking about the past.  And we will do so through an examination of some of the enormous body of historical scholarship about the European witch trials.   Students should come away with a sense of history as a discipline and a process, as opposed to simply a set of "facts" about past times.






January 12

Introduction to the course


January 14

What do we think we know about the witch trials?





January 19

Martin Luther King Holiday


January 21

What are the questions?

Arnold, pp. 1-14; Levack, pp. 1-29. Choose a question for focus.




January 26

Demonstration: Research tools (Karen Russ).  Meet in SH 403.

Levack, pp. 30-73.  Bring copy of article on your question from Encyclopedia of Witchcraft.

January 28

Database searches. Meet in SH 403.

Levack, pp. 74-108.  In-class search assignment.




February 2

History has a history

Arnold, pp. 15-57

February 4

Citation quiz (open book)

Bring Galgano!!!!!!




February 9

Different interpretations:  textbooks    

 Levack, pp. 134-74; Galgano, pp. 33-46.  In-class textbook analysis.

February 11

Working with primary sources

Arnold, pp. 58-79; Galgano, pp. 56-77; "The Persecutions at Trier" (ER); "The Persecutions at Bamberg" (ER)

February 16

The Annales school

Galgano, 1-16; Clark, "The Territory of the Historian" (ER); Febvre, "Witchcraft:  Nonsense or a Mental Revolution?" (ER)

February 18

"Mining" a book or article

Levack, 175-203; "How to Read a Secondary Source" and "Predatory Reading" (ER).  Bring Levack AND one article on your question available full-text on line (e.g., through JStor).  Post citation on Blackboard before class.




February 23

Looking at a "classic"

Trevor-Roper, "The European Witch Craze" (ER)

February 25

Were there really witches?

Murray, The Witch Cult (ER); Midelfort, "Were There Really Witches?" (ER)




March 2

Mechanisms and causes, I

Arnold, pp. 80-93; Behringer, "Weather, Hunger and Fear" (ER)

March 4

Mechanisms and causes, II

Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, pp. 535-69 (ER).




March 9

Mechanisms and causes, III

Kieckhefer, European Witch Trials (ER)

March 11

Mechanisms and causes, IV

Larner, Enemies of God (ER)




March 16

Trolling for and evaluating arguments

Arnold, pp. 110-123; reviews of Ginzburg, Ecstasies (ER).  Turn in list of "canon" on your question.

March 18

The historiographical essay:  Gender

Hodgkin, "Gender, Mind, and Body" (ER)




March 24-28

Spring Break

Work on annotated bibliography.




March 30

Gender, II

Ehrenreich and English, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses (ER); Harley, "Historians as Demonologists" (ER)

April 1

Gender, III

Monter, "Toads and Eucharists" (ER).

Annotated bibliography due.

April 6

Smoller absent.

Levack, pp. 204-52

April 8

Gender, IV

Bailey, "The Feminization of Magic" (ER)




April 13

Gender, V

Roper, Oedipus and the Devil (ER)

April 15

Mentalités; cognitive patterns

Arnold, pp. 94-109; Clark, "The 'Gendering' of Witchcraft in French Demonology" (ER) (Possible substitute reading TBA)




April 20

Mentalités; cognitive patterns, II

Zika, "Fears of Flying:  Representations of Witchcraft and Sexuality in Early Sixteenth-Century Germany" (ER).  

April 22


Kunze, Highroad to the Stake (ER). Historiographical essay due.




April 27

Transatlantic perspectives

Boyer and Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed (ER)

April 29

History for whose purpose?

Barstow, Witchcraze (ER)




May 5

History for whose purpose? II

Film: The Burning Times




May 9

Research prospectus due by 5 p.m.




Course requirements:


N.B.:  This is a discussion-intensive course.  Attendance at and active participation in all classes are both mandatory.  Three unexcused absences will result in the loss of one letter grade in participation, five unexcused absences will result in no credit for participation, and eight unexcused absences will result in a failing grade for the course.  If it appears that students are not doing the readings, I reserve the right to give reading quizzes without notice.


About the annotated bibliography:  Your annotated bibliography should list the most important secondary works addressing a given question (what I am calling the "canon") and make some meaningful comments about them (e.g., the author's argument, the type of or approach to history used here, and how the work is viewed by other scholars).  See Galgano, pp. 51-55 for more information and Galgano's Appendix A for an example.  Yours should include at least ten entries, with at least three being books and at least three being journal articles.  For each book in the annotated bibliography, you must look at three scholarly book reviews of the book (and include that information in the annotation).  All references in this course must be in University of Chicago Style (the "humanities style," also called Turabian style).  For a quick start, see Galgano, ch. 6, and


About the historiographical essay:  A historiographical essay identifies the most important scholarly work on a given topic (that is, those most influential upon and most cited by later historians; what I am calling the "canon" here) and imposes some order upon it.  For example, after deciding that the most important works on the question of the end of the witchcraft trials are the books of Smith, Jones, and Doe, and the articles of Moe, Curley, and Larry, you will want to put them into categories.  The most basic approach in chronological (starting with the earliest author), but you will most likely find that the works fall into camps or schools.  (Smith and Moe are economic historians; Jones and Doe prefer the "linguistic turn"; Curley and Larry are microhistorians.)  You may find a debate (Smith, Curley, and Doe attribute the end of witchcraft persecutions to the Scientific Revolution; Jones, Moe, and Larry, to the centralizing state).  You perhaps also will find a "hole" in the literature (e.g., none of these authors considers a change in climate).


About the research prospectus:  The research prospectus must include


Books to purchase:

Arnold, John H.  History:  A Very Short Introduction.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2000.  ISBN-13:  978-0-19-285352-3.

Fudge, Thomas A.  "Traditions and Trajectories in the Historiography of European Witch Hunting."  History Compass 4/3 (2006):  488-527.  (History Compass is an online journal:  If our library does not sign up for a trial subscription, you may download a copy of the article for $1.99 through the Blackwell site or directly at

Galgano, Michael J.,  J. Chris Arndt, and Raymond M. Hyser.  Doing History:  Research and Writing in the Digital Age.  Boston:  Thomson Wadsworth, 2008.   ISBN-13:  978-0-534-61953-4.

Levack, Brian P.  The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe.  3rd ed.  Harlow, UK, London, and NY:  Pearson Longman, 2006.


Note: All readings designated ER (electronic reserves) are available through Blackboard.


Students with disabilities:  It is the policy and practice of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to create inclusive learning environments.  If there are aspects of the instruction or design of this course that result in barriers to your inclusion or to accurate assessment of achievement--such as time-limited exams, inaccessible web content, or the use of non-captioned videos--please notify the instructor as soon as possible.  Students are also welcome to contact the Disability Resource Center, telephone 501-569-3143 (v/tty). For more information, visit the DRC website at  


History department assessment policy: The policy of the History Department is to engage students in the process of assessing courses in the department's curriculum. Department faculty and the UALR administration use assessment data to monitor how well students are learning both historical content and the skills of essay writing. At several points during the semester you may be asked to participate in this process by writing a brief essay in class or your instructor might submit one or more of your examinations for review by other members of the department. All assessment activities are conducted on an anonymous basis and any evaluations will be kept in strict confidence. When you are asked to participate in this process please do your best. Direct any questions regarding assessment to your instructor or the department chairperson


Classroom etiquette:  Please turn off cell phones and beepers before entering the classroom or set them to a silent alert.  In the rare event you must enter late or leave class early, please let me know in advance.         


Cheating and plagiarism:  Cheating and plagiarism are serious offenses and will be treated as such.  ("Plagiarism" means "to adopt and reproduce as one's own, to appropriate to one's use, and incorporate in one's own work without acknowledgment the ideas of others or passages from their writings and works."  See Section VI, Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Behavior, Student Handbook, p. 39.  Copying directly from the textbook, the Internet, or an encyclopedia article without quotation marks or an identifying citation, for example, constitutes plagiarism.)  Anyone who engages in such activities will receive no credit for that assignment and may in addition be turned over to the Academic Integrity and Grievance Committee for University disciplinary action, which may include separation from the University.


Copyright notice:  Copyright © by Laura Smoller as to this syllabus and all lectures.  Students and auditors are prohibited from selling notes during this course to (or being paid for taking notes by) any person or commercial firm without the express written permission of the professor teaching this course.