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HIST 260: Historiography and Research Methods

Context on writing annotations

Annotation - worksheet

Information for Annotations

In addition to a Chicago-style bibliographic note, each of your annotations should contain:

• An analysis of the author’s credentials

• Paraphrase of the author’s thesis

• How this item relates to your specific project

Is this historian a participant, observer or uninvolved in your specific debate?


Will This Source Work?

Many interesting and knowledgeable sources will not work for this project.  Sources should be:

• Written by an historian (PhD or equivalent). If your author is NOT a historian, you must include a justification for why this source is appropriate for a discussion of a historical debate.

• At least 10 years after relevant events (20 years is even better)

• Contain lengthy footnotes and/or bibliography

• A secondary source, not a primary source (no first hand accounts, memoirs, diaries, letters)

• No reference books like dictionaries or encyclopedias

Use these very sparingly:

  • Multiple works by the same historian
  • Popular histories written for a general audience
  • Works in related disciplines (i.e., political science, sociology)
  • Textbooks, surveys, or popular biographies

Annotation Examples

Clark, Christopher. Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600 – 1947. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2006.

Christopher Clark is an Australian historian of Germany. He is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge. His large history of the Prussian state, Iron Kingdom, is the current standard text of general Prussian history. His main goal is to challenge the sonderweg (“special path”) theory of Prussian-German history, and to show that later historians have applied exaggerations to German administration from the eighteenth century onward. I will use this text as my main source for factual information on Prussian history, while also as an example of the modern rebuttals of the old theories on Prussian bureaucracy. Clark is an observer of my debate, though his arguments are crucial to the modern phase of the debate.


Fitzpatrick, Sheila. The Russian Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Fitzpatrick is a Professor of history at the University of Sydney and was a Professor at the University of Chicago. An ending that appears to contradict the rest of the evidence in her argument hides Fitzpatrick’s thesis. Nonetheless, Fitzpatrick supports that the Russian Revolution had its basis in a popular uprising. She cites soldiers’, sailors’, and workers’ active rebellious tendencies for the cause of the uprising. Additionally, she uses factory committees and the July Days to show support for a revolution that was outside the control of the Bolsheviks. The confusion arises when she admits that the Bolsheviks did take over without a majority or even plurality in the Constituent Assembly vote. She does manage to explain this vote through an analysis of the countryside’s influence, but then she also admits that the Bolsheviks only claimed to represent the working class. Nonetheless, the working class does not qualify as a band of individuals that conducted the coup, and her support for a popular uprising is overwhelming. I will use her support of the popular uprising to explain the social historians perspective. Her reasons differ from that of Suny, so her evidence and his will form a basis for this part of the paper. Fitzpatrick is most definitely a participant in this debate.


Safran, Janina N. Defining Boundaries in Al-Andalus: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Islamic Iberia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013.

Janina Safran earned a Ph.D. at Harvard University and is an Associate Professor of history at Pennsylvania State University. Safran uses legal and political documents in order to analyze the legal relations between Jews, Muslims, and Christians in An-Andalusia. She argues that, although there were cultural and legal distinctions between Muslims, Jewish, and Christian individuals in Islamic, there was a blurring of these distinctions as Muslims, Jews, and Christians intermarried and participated in business and cultural exploration together. This book will be helpful to my research as Safran draws on an interesting set of sources: legal documents. It is also interesting that she uses these documents in order to show the gradual shift toward religious toleration. Because she is arguing that there was a certain amount of boundary-crossing in the judicial system as a result of religious coexistence, Safran is a participant in the debate.