The Digital Past

History 390, Summer 2017


Welcome to History 390, The Digital Past. In this course you will learn to do history using digital tools. This course — which satisfies the university’s IT requirement — teaches the fundamentals of information technology by applying them to practical historical problems. Although this is an upper division history course, no background in history is required. Throughout our semester, you will use the technologies and strategies we learn in class to explore some aspect of Boston’s history between 1890 and 1925. The resulting final research project will be an online exhibit that showcases the skills you have learned in this class.

Boston, in many ways, exemplified the changes in American cities at the turn of the century. Rapid urbanization, technological changes, increased immigration, and changing gender and racial roles all created dramatic change in the city of Boston between 1890 and 1925. Focusing on one city creates a coherent historical theme for the class but also allows students to explore their individual interests and allows us to take advantage of the large amount of digital material about Boston available online.

Over the course of this abbreviated summer term, you will learn how to find, interpret, and analyze primary sources on the web as well as how to put them into context with secondary literature. We will create, manipulate, and interpret datasets.You will create visualizations and analyze documents using digital tools. You will also learn how to effectively present both visual and textual sources on the web as well as how to write and publish effectively on the web. This class prioritizes learning by doing, and most weeks we’ll learn a tool and use it to analyze a historical problem.

In this course you will:

  • learn the history of Boston between 1890 and 1925.
  • create historical scholarship using digital resources and tools, and
  • publish on the web