410: Paper #2

History 410: Paper #2, Fall, 2019

For this assignment you will write a 750- to 1000-word essay on establishment of American democracy during the period from 1765 to 1810. Every good paper starts with a good critical question. A good critical historical question cannot be answered with just a yes or no, or a fact or series of facts. It does not just elicit an opinion or hinge on a subjective moral judgement. A critical question examines ambiguity, leads to more questions, provokes discussion, requires careful and skeptical reading of texts, requires contextualizing and interpretation of relevant historical facts, could be answered in more than one way. Choose one of the following questions as a starting point for your essay. Make sure you understand the question as a critical question that is answerable using evidence from class readings.

1. Develop an argument about the relationship between the American Revolution and the adoption of a new frame of Government in 1787.

2. Looking at the United States around 1800, develop an opinion about the extent to which the revolutionary generation of Americans fulfilled the promise of 1776.

You are making an argument and so must support it convincingly with facts while acknowledging important contrary facts. In A Short Guide to Writing about History (a book most history teachers at Exeter owns), Richard Marius writes:

Historians and others use argument to take a position on a controversial topic. It can be said that every essay contains an argument in that every essay is built around a proposition that the writer wants us to believe. Yet in common usage, an argument is part of a debate, a dialogue between opposing views--sometimes many opposing views. Arguments include exposition, for they must explain the writer's point of view. An argument also seeks to prove that other points of view are wrong. Arguments are most interesting when the issues are important and all sides are fair to each other.

Thus it is important that you summarize opposing points of view fairly and completely. "Treat your adversaries as erring friends, not foes to be slain," Marius advises. "Always admit weakness in your argument and acknowledge those facts that opponents might raise against your position." For more on writing an argument go here.

Final papers should be turned in at my classroom by the end of classes on the due date. Include a heading with your name, the word count, and the number of the prompt you are answering. Papers should be typed and double spaced, with wide margins. Number the pages.