Introduction to History

Course Description:

This course is designed to give first year students a basic understanding of the nature of history as a branch of knowledge. It will examine the philosophical and epistemological issues that influenced the growth and expansion of the discipline of History. It will deal with such basic questions as ‘What is history?’ and also discuss various approaches to history. Especially, it exposes the students to the most updated knowledge on the subject of history so that they will be quite prepared to follow courses both on specific cases of histories in Sri Lanka and other parts of the world and more advanced courses on conceptual issues involving historical investigation.

Learning Objectives:
This course will introduce first year history students to basic concepts, debates and themes in writing and reading history in order to make students aware of the way in which the interpretation of the past has become an issue of contemporary political, social and cultural life.

Learning Outcomes:
At the end of this course, students should be able to

• Understand the problems and issues involving historical enquiry
• Read critically the texts which describe the past against the backdrop of the questions
raised and concepts and theories introduced during the course
• Evaluate history writings critically

Course Content:
1. History, past and society
• What is the difference between the past and ‘History’?
• Can the past be reconstructed?
• Why do we need knowledge about the past?
• Facts, sources and the reconstruction of the past
• Time and Space in history
• Society, ideology and history
2. Various approaches to the writing of history
• Pre-nineteenth century notions of history
• Nineteenth century notion of history
• Marxism and Historical Materialism
• New history and Annales School
• British and Indian historians of Post World War II era
• Subaltern Studies
• Linguistic Turn and Post modern approaches to history

3. Modern Sri Lankan Historiography
• Evolution of Modern Sri Lankan Historiography
• Colonial administration and investigating the past
• Discovery of Pali chronicles
• Ideological needs of the Indigenous elite
• Institutionalisation of the Modern Sri Lankan Historiography
• Beginning of Modern history writing
• History of Sri Lanka as a popular discourse

Midterm Test 20%
Midterm Assignment 20%
Final Exam 60%