This course website will serve as the home base for all of our work. Here you will find the course schedule, explanation of assignments, and the sources and datasets we will be using throughout the semester.

Instructor Information

Jen Andrella
Email: andrella@msu.edu
Class Location and Time: On Zoom, Mondays and Wednesdays 3-4:50pm
Zoom Office Hours: Wednesdays 4:50-6pm or by appointment

Course Description

In this course, we will learn how digital methods, tools, and publications can help us ask and answer questions about the past. Digital history is a branch of practice under digital humanities, a community of disciplines that integrates digital methods into collaborative,  quantitative, and often open-facing scholarship. At the most basic level, digital history has two goals: to include digitally-assisted methods within the historian’s craft, and secondly, to engage how digital methods challenge or transform our understanding of the past. Whereas humans might read the past one way, computers might “read” it quite differently.   Broad topics that will be covered include content management systems, metadata, data analysis and visualizations, text analysis, geospatial analysis and mapping, podcasting, and public-facing communication. 

Thematically, I have selected the history of slavery in the United States as the content area for the course. We will explore this history and the rich digital work that has been done on this topic. We will also use primary sources and datasets related to slavery to produce our own historically-informed interpretations.

As an introductory course, it is okay to have little digital experience and only a basic familiarity with American history. If, at any time, you are confused or are struggling with the material, please make use of my office hours or email me to set up another time to discuss the course and related issues.

If you are looking for a general overview of U.S. history, I recommend consulting The American Yawp, a free online U.S. history  textbook available at: http://www.americanyawp.com.

Required Texts/Materials

  1. Calvin Schermerhorn, Unrequited Toil: A History of United States Slavery (New York: Cambridge   University Press, 2018 [reprint: 2019]).
    Also available on reserve in the library and free as an ebook.

2. Tiya Miles, Ties that Bind: The Story of an Afro-Cherokee Family in Slavery and Freedom, Second Edition (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015).
Also available on reserve in the library and free as an ebook.

3. A computer that runs a full version of Mac, Windows, or Linux operating system.

NOTE: Devices such as ChromeBooks (running ChromeOS), iPads (running iOS), or Microsoft Surface Go (running the “S Mode” of Windows) will not allow you to install certain software and programs. Although you can deactivate “S Mode” to use the full version of Windows, you cannot reverse this and return to “S Mode” after the course ends.

A Note on Covid-19

Fostering a safe and flexible learning environment for students is my first responsibility. HST 251 is synchronous, meaning that we will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3-4:50pm(EST) over Zoom to discuss class readings and to give digital skills tutorials. If you are currently living in another time zone or are in a situation that will make synchronous classes challenging, please let me know so we can make accommodations. This course is designed to be as flexible as possible to not create any unnecessary stress, but also to help you receive the most out of this class. All of the class meetings will be recorded and hosted on MSU MediaSpace for the length of the semester so that you can revisit a topic or tutorial. 

To encourage engagement  in the course, I would prefer that you have your cameras “on” while we are in class, but if this makes you uncomfortable, it is not necessary. Please also make use of the Zoom chat box or the “raise hand” icon during class to ask questions.

If you experience pandemic-related (or other) disruptions to your ability to participate in this course, please discuss them with me regardless of what point in the semester they arise. Please also visit the last menu tab of the class website for pandemic and other health-related resources that MSU offers to students.