— Mae D'Amico, History in the Making

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History 299: The Study of History

History and the Social Sciences: the Longue Durée by Fernand Braudel is a paper that focuses on how the social sciences need to come together to reach a broader conclusion about presumably, human history.  He states that because all of the social sciences are so interconnected that they cannot be seperated even if the vying fields are trying extremely hard to distinguish their own position and research.  For example, economics would do well to study a broader span of history due to the cyclical occurrences that perpetually ebb and flow in known societies.

Fernand Braudel speaking.

Braudel seems to be basing his paper off certain research questions.  Why are the social sciences so seperated?  What relation do they have to each other?  How does distance in the long term (longue durée) and shorter time periods differ when applied to social sciences?  How can the social sciences be brought together better?

Braudel’s conclusion is that he does have a point and that point is all the social sciences can and should be brought together to see some broader picture that he never really outlines clearly.  Through this compilation of social sciences, the longer, broader aspect of history will be made clearer–somehow.

Although I admit that Braudel has an interesting point to make, I personally wish that he would make it a little clearer with some sort of solution to the problem he is posing.  It seems almost as if he is sitting in an ivory tower somewhere philosophizing without giving any clear solution.

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Thesis

Modern historical consciousness has only been developed and practiced in the last 500 years when historians realized that God should not be written in as a deciding factor of events.

Research Questions

When did historian stop putting supernatural beings in their historical writings?

How did The Prince as a political writing influence later historical writings?

How did needing to draw from history for examples like in the Protestant Reformation influence modern historical writings?

What were the effects of the scientific revolution on the study of history?

As the English Enlightenment developed and divided, how did its philosophers shape the study of history?

How did philosophical history from Germany contribute to the forming of the modern study of history?

Why is Ranke the “father of modern history?”

Conclusion

Modern history can be used for simply the study of history, political history, or philosophy.  Marx used the philosophy of history as a way to wage a revolution, but that is just an extreme case of the use of modern history.  History as it is right now is preferably studied for its history and philosophy left up to the philosophy majors.

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Good Primary Sources

In the grand scheme of history, The Dust Bowl is a relatively recent event and because of this there are a lot of good primary sources.  Of course there are always pictures.  Another primary source I have found are the folk songs of a Dust Bowl survivor, Woodie Guthrie.  Woodie Guthrie, like all the pictures of The Dust Bowl, Guthrie’s songs were trying to raise awareness of The Dust Bowl and its migrants.

Bad Primary Sources

I have been lead to believe that all primary sources when it comes to writing a history paper, are good things.  The only example of a bad primary source that I can think of is the book that my prof. was displeased with because it was a secondary source that had primary sources in it.  The book Environmental Issues in American History: A Reference Guide with Primary Documents by Chris J. Magoc is exactly what the title says it is, a secondary source with reference to primary sources.  Although there are good primary sources in there, the sources could have been chosen and others left out because of bias.

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Book Review

The book review I found of my monograph California and the Dust Bowl Migration was written by Maurice E. Dance a professor of economics at California State University for the journal Monthly Labor Review in 1973.  The brief reviews summarizes the main points of the book very nicely.  Walter J. Stein writes a history of all the western migrants in the 1930’s and how they changed California agriculture.  The western migrants came to California with the vague dream of a better life and when they got there they found discrimination, hunger, and sparse seasonal work.  The book creates a coherent study of a very little known period of history.  Here is the review.

Article Review

The article review I chose was written by Keith Windschuttle of the website Free Republic.  His article is titled: Steinbeck’s Myth of the Okies (Another Archetypal Liberal Myth Debunked).  By just reading the title I could tell that this review is pretty biased against liberals.  What Windschuttle has to say is pretty interesting however.  He points out that a lot of what Steinbeck wrote in his book The Grapes of Wrath is exaggerated or simply not true.  I look forward into investigating more in depth whether the Joad family was indeed in the wrong place to have been experiencing severe dust storms.  Although this article is not very good as a source, it does draw from an interesting source, American Exodus by James N. Gregory.  Most of the “facts” that Windschuttle is drawing from is cited from this book.

 

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Our professor recently introduced us to the academic Facebook and had us make accounts.  We are too look for relevant articles and post them on our page.  This is what I found, “Myths and Contexts in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath” by Gabriella Tóth.  This paper looks into Steinbeck as an American and epic story writer.  It also writes about Steinbeck’s other novel based in Salinas California, East of Eden.

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Dust Bowl refugees making their way to California.

1.  How did Steinbeck write The Grapes of Wrath?  Related: what was the inspiration?  What was his research?  What was the reaction to his book?

2. What did Steinbeck get right in his research?  Related: what did he overlook?  What did he exaggerate?

3.  Who else was effected in the Oklahoman/western migration of refugees to California?  Related: what happened to the other migratory workers, ie Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Eastern European?  When did the migration start and when did it end?  What was the eventual fate of the Okies?

4.  What did the Workers Progress Administration document about this migratory event?  Related: what about the salvation army and the red cross?

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Worksheet on Choosing a Topic

  1. Briefly describe the library research that you did towards choosing a topic. Include at least two reference books that you used and three library card catalog subject headings that you found useful.
For my topic I was hoping to investigate whether John Steinbeck in some ways created a historical myth about the Oklahoma people’s plight in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath written to represent a typical Oklahoman family during the migration to California and the life they found there.  The library has proven to be very useful for sources.  There are numerous books on the Okie migration to California.  The Dust Bowl, California, Migration, and Oklahoma are good subject headings to look through.  I also hope to research more on Steinbeck and the reception of The Grapes of Wrath.
  1. Briefly describe the internet research that you did. What words did you google successfully? Name at least one useful website. Do not include web based library card catalogs in this section.

The internet search has been patchy.  Due to the fact that The Grapes of Wrath is a fictional novel there is a lot to say on the book both in a literary sense and a historical sense.  This webpage I found “The Dust Bowl Migration” will be very useful.  It seems to be a self-promoting webpage to a Professor at Washington University, James Gregory.  The page shows his books very clearly which I will look up in the library.

  1. You should talk to at least one member of this history department about your topic, or at least an expert in your field. Name that expert and briefly describe his/her comments.

I met with Professor Moon who was not totally behind my paper topic.  She pointed out that what I’m trying to propose would be difficult because I am trying to point out that a work of fiction is historically inaccurate.  I respect her opinion but I disagree.   Historical fiction writers should be held accountable for writing things that are historically inaccurate.  Steinbeck wanted to portray the average Oklahoman family in his novel and he did it beautifully but there were things that were exaggerated or simply wrong.

  1. You must have a primary source for this paper.  Provide any pertinent information on that primary source including website and/or call number

 

  1. Are enough secondary sources available on this topic? Tell me a bit about what you found.

There are quite a few secondary sources on my topic.  Most of them are not so good, just descriptive books on what it was like in Oklahoma and California but others are better.  My Monograph is spot on and looking on google scholar there are many more sources from the library that I am going to look into.

  1. Finally, describe your conversations with me about your topic and how your topic has evolved as a result.

The conversations I have had with Prof. Al-Trikriti have been beneficial.  We realize it will be difficult to try to compare a novel to real historical facts.  Novels are just that, novels.  Fiction and melodramas for those in search of history but with a need a relatable story behind it.  I am one of those people who need the story and therefore I feel able to also dig for the facts and the flaws.  As how my topic has evolved, I realize that in some ways the plight of the okies was just unfortunate timing.  There is something to be said about how the wage rates would have gone up if it were not for the influx of okie migrant workers.  There were factors that were coming into play that not even Steinbeck could have seen because only those looking back can trace the correlations.

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There are right and wrong webpage sources.  Anyone can post something on the web and this could be a good or bad thing.  On the one hand, the web is a great place to find almost unlimited information.  On the other, the web can be wrought with wrong information or willfully biased.

Here is an example of a good webpage that is relevant to my paper topic: http://www.weru.ksu.edu/new_weru/multimedia/dustbowl/dustbowlpics.html.  This webpage has primary source photos and is from an educational organization.

Here is an example of a less good webpage: http://www.americaslibrary.gov/es/ok/es_ok_dustbowl_1.html. The information is not bad, but it is very vague and not very scholarly.  If one were to use it, it would just be for background information.  Books and articles that are peer-reviewed are ideal.

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Edmund S. Morgan

From the article The Puritan Ethic and the American Revolution by Edmund S. Morgan, I am assigned the task of trying to describe Morgan’s thesis, research question, and conclusion.

Thesis: “The movement (the American Revolution) in all its phases…was affected, not to say guided, by a sent of values inherited from the age of puritanism.”

Research question: in what ways did the remnants of Puritan ethics from the people who settled large parts of America affect the people who participated in the American Revolution?

The book in question.

Conclusion: a very large part of the Puritan outlook on life was through the idea that God punishes and rewards based on frugality and restraint of the believer.  When God is pleased He rewards, and when He is angry he takes away.  To be a good believer one must be frugal and always hard working.  Puritans distrust prosperity because it may be a test from God to see if the believer will stray from His path.  Due to this outlook, when the British government was oppressing the colonists many years after the Puritans settles America, the colonists simply reacted as if it were another test from God.  The colonists were not guided by the Puritan ideals, but affected by them through a sort of cultural legacy left by their ancestors.  The colonists had or wanted to show that they had virtue.

 

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Okie family migrating to California in an old pick up truck with all their kin and belongings.

The monograph I chose that correlates with my intended topic beautifully is the book California and the Dust Bowl Migration by Walter J. Stein.  Before I put complete faith in this source however, I will do a simple background.

1) The author:

Although google is not infallible, there is really nothing on the author other than that he is a professor.  There are no wikipedia articles, no odd blogs, nothing.  In the book, there is no about the author and he gives nothing away in his preface or acknowledgments.  In the acknowledgments there can be found a lot of thanks to professors and universities or their help with his research.  He thanks The University of California,  The University of Winnipeg, and The Canadian Historical Association.  From all this I can gather that even if I can not find intimate details about Stein’s profession, I can at least assume he did extensive research on the subject he wrote this monograph about.

2) Publishing Company:

The publishing company for this book is Greenwood Press Inc. is a publishing company based in Westport, Connecticut, and London, England.  It is a educational and academic publishing company that prints works mostly by scholars and teachers.  This particular book is part of the Contributions in American History series, number 21.

3) When the book was published:

This book was first published in 1973, then again the same year, and then in paperback 1974.  There is no indication of the edition other than that it was published in 1973 and is hardback so I would assume it was a second printing of the book.

4) Relevance to paper topic:
This book is very specific to my paper topic.  The book is about Oklahoman’s and their migration to California and then the history of what happened to them when they got there.  From the first chapter, “In Oklahoma I busted– In California” I trusted to the last chapter, “The Failure to Organize the Okies” it focuses mainly on the Oklahoman’s and their exodus to California.  Furthermore skimming the index, there are many pages that are under “Steinbeck” which means Stein even references The Grapes of Wrath specifically in this book.

5) The Preface:

The preface is not exactly “the author’s moment to shine” in this book but a brief history of California; its history of migrant population and workforce.  If there would be any biased opinion that shows through the preface it would be the Stein’s confusion as to why California so rejected the Oklahoman’s when it was historically built up by a constant inflow of immigrants.  The Oklahoman’s were even white protestants as opposed to their migrant predecessors from various racial and religious backgrounds.

6) Impression from skimming every first and last page of each chapter:

This monograph is very specific to my paper topic and will be a great help in my research about whether Steinbeck created a historical myth of the Okies in his novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

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