Professor Laura Smoller

MW, 3:05-4:20, SUA 102D

569-8389; SH 604K

Office hours:  M, 10-11, Tu, 2-3, and by appointment


HIST 4309.01:  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 13

Introduction to the course



January 15

What do we think we know about the witch trials?







January 20

Martin Luther King holiday

Look at table of contents of Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Western Tradition (ER)


January 22

What is history? What are the questions?

Arnold, pp. 1-14; Benjamin, pp. 110-14; Levack, pp. 1-29. Choose a question for focus.






January 27

Demonstration: Research tools (Karen Russ). 

Benjamin, pp. 117-29; Levack, pp. 30-73.  Bring copy of article on your question from Encyclopedia of Witchcraft.


January 29

Database searches.

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






February 3

History has a history

Arnold, pp. 15-57; Benjamin, chapter 1; Fudge, "Traditions and Trajectories" (ER)


February 5

Citation quiz (open book)

Bring Benjamin!!!!!!






February 10

Evaluating web sources

Benjamin, pp. 67-69, 122-23, 131-32; Levack, pp. 134-74


February 12

Locating and working with primary sources

Arnold, pp. 58-79; Benjamin, pp. 36-45, 64-67, 129-31; "The Persecutions at Trier" (ER); "The Persecutions at Bamberg" (ER)






February 17

"Mining" a book or article

Levack, pp. 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 or PDF on Blackboard before class.


February 19

Book reviews; trolling for and evaluating arguments

Arnold, pp. 110-123; reviews of Ginzburg, Ecstasies (ER). 






February 24

The Annales school

Clark, "The Territory of the Historian" (ER); Febvre, "Witchcraft:  Nonsense or a Mental Revolution?" (ER).  Book review due.


February 26

Looking at a "classic"

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






March 3

Gender, I: the historiographical essay

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


March 5

Gender, II

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






March 10

Gender, III

Roper, Oedipus and the Devil (ER). 


March 12

Gender, IV

Bailey, "The Feminization of Magic" (ER)






March 17

Gender, V

Monter, "Toads and Eucharists" (ER)

Turn in list of "canon" on your question.


March 19

Gender, VI

Voltmer, "Witch-finders, Witch-hunters, or Kings of the Sabbath?" (ER)






March 24-28

Spring Break

Work on annotated bibliography.





March 31

Mechanisms and causes, I

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


April 2

Mechanisms and causes, II

Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (ER).  Annotated bibliography due.






April 7

Mechanisms and causes, III

Kieckhefer, European Witch Trials (ER).


April 9

Mechanisms and causes, IV

Larner, Enemies of God (ER); Levack, pp. 204-52







April 14

Mentalitˇs; cognitive patterns, I

Arnold, pp. 94-109; Stephens, Demon Lovers (ER)


April 16

Mentalitˇs; cognitive patterns, II

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





April 21

Were there really witches? I

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



April 23

Were there really witches? II

Bever, The Realities of Witchcraft (ER); optional--Forum: Contending Realities (ER)






April 28


Kunze, Highroad to the Stake (ER). 


April 30

History for whose purpose?

Barstow, Witchcraze (ER)










May 5

History for whose purpose? II

In-class film: The Burning Times; Gibbons, "Recent Developments"






May 12

Research prospectus due by 1:30 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 Benjamin's Appendix A for an example of an annotated bibliography.  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 Benjamin, ch. 10, 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.

Benjamin, Jules R.  A Student's Guide to History.  12th ed.  Boston and New York:  Bedford/St. Martin's, 2013.  ISBN-13:  978-1-4576-2144-4.

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.


Learning objectives:  At the end of this course, students will be able to


Students with disabilities:  Your success in this class is important to me, and it is the policy and practice of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to create inclusive learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have a documented disability (or need to have a disability documented), and need an accommodation, please contact me privately as soon as possible, so that we can discuss with the Disability Resource Center (DRC) how to meet your specific needs and the requirements of the course. The DRC offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process among you, your instructor(s) and the DRC. Thus, if you have a disability, please contact me and/or the DRC, at 501-569-3143 (V/TTY) or 501-683-7629 (VP). For more information, please visit the DRC website at   


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 Academic Integrity and Grievance Policy, Section VI, Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Behavior, Student Handbook.  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.