History (HIST) 390

The Historian's Craft (Revision 1)

HIST  390  cover image

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: None. Completion of at least one 200-level history course is strongly recommended.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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This course aims to help students understand what history is, what it means to be a historian, and how to write history. It is intended primarily but not exclusively for history majors in order to prepare them for the advanced study of history in senior courses. The course provides a brief “history of history,” that is a tracing of the writing of history over more than two millennia. Beginning with the Classical Age, the course examines how historians in the past and present have conceptualized history. It analyzes how historians have worked, with respect to the sources they use, the kinds of writing they produce, and the ways that they construct their arguments. The course considers the impact of interdisciplinarity on the work of the historian, as well as reviewing the many different varieties of history produced by historians, including political, cultural, and social history. The course also explores schools of historical thought, such as feminism, Marxism, and postmodernism.


  • Unit 1: A Brief History of History: From the Classical Age to the Middle Ages
  • Unit 2: A Brief History of History: From the Renaissance to the 20th Century
  • Unit 3: What Is History?
  • Unit 4: How Historians Work
  • Unit 5: The Varieties of History
  • Unit 6: Further Varieties of History


To receive credit for HIST 390, you must complete all of the assignments, achieve a minimum grade of 50 per cent on the final examination, and obtain a course composite grade of at least D (50 percent). The weighting of the composite grade is as follows:

Activity Weighting
Assignment 1 20%
Assignment 2 25%
Assignment 3 20%
Final Exam 35%
Total 100%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

Students must complete 3 essay assignments and a final exam to complete the required course work. Two of the essay assignments are each weighted at 20 per cent of the final grade, and one of the essay assignments is weighted at 25 percent of the final grade. The examination is weighted at 35 per cent of the final grade.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Benjamin, Jules R. A Student’s Guide to History. 11th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2010.

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Landscape of History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Other Materials

The course materials include a reading file. Students will access all other course materials online.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, June 5, 2009.