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Historical Methods: Gender, Sexuality, and Activism since the 1960s




Admissions requirements

Birth of the Modern World, or Introduction to Gender Studies, or permission of instructor.


This course offers an introduction to the theories and methods of history as a field of knowledge. As in past iterations of the course, our theme for the block will be “Gender, Sexuality, and Activism since the 1960s” and students will take up independent research projects related to this broad topic. This year, however, our shared course readings will focus somewhat more narrowly on the history of LGBTQ social movements in comparative and transnational perspective. Students will learn about (and have an opportunity to research) the diffusion of LGBTQ identities and social movements across Europe and beyond, from the 1970s to the 1990s. We will also examine how LGBTQ activists interfaced with states, international bodies, and international legal regimes—as well as with one another. As such, the course is likely to be interest to students in HD, WP, and IJ.

We will begin with an exploration of what distinguishes history from other disciplinary ways of knowing. We will touch upon various historiographical traditions, with a particular focus on the unique contributions of historians of gender and sexuality. From here, we will critically examine the ways historians have written about our chosen theme. Working with a handful of example essays, we will consider such questions as: the words historians use; their narrative style, sources, methods, organization, and framing; their assumptions about historical causation and human nature; and their application (or avoidance) of social-scientific theory.

We will also work with primary sources. First, we will get experience locating such sources, using online and archival repositories. Then we will hone our skills of analysis. What methods should we use to interpret documentary, visual, or oral evidence? Why, where, when, and how were various sources created, circulated, and received—and why does it matter? How can we read for and interpret silences and omissions? Why are certain sources collected, while others evade preservation?

Along the way, students will pursue independent projects in which they will apply historical methods and theories to their own research questions. They will gain experience in narrowing down a topic, devising a research question, synthesizing historiographical literature, identifying and interpreting a body of sources, managing notes and data, and, finally, putting it all into writing. In this respect, our seminar will function as a workshop, where students will present on their progress and share ideas about the challenges, joys, and frustrations of historical research. We will also be taking field trips to area historical archives, and will host at least one or two visiting speakers who will tell us about their work. Students will be encouraged to work in multiple languages, maximizing the language expertise in our international classroom.

Course objectives

Overall, this course will help you develop 1) content knowledge about the history of LGBTQ social movements in transnational perspective; 2) familiarity with the historiography of gender and sexuality; and 3) practical skills in historical research.

Successful completion of the course will enable students to:

  • identify the various aims and methods of historical scholarship, with a particular eye toward the themes of gender and sexuality

  • effectively navigate online and archival repositories of primary sources

  • skillfully analyze and synthesize both primary and secondary sources

  • devise and justify the design of a substantial research project

  • practice the skills required for writing a capstone proposal in history


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

This is a research workshop demanding active class participation and substantial independent reading beyond the syllabus.


  • class participation (15%)

  • weekly research journal (30%)

  • preliminary proposal (15%)

  • final project (40%)


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

Reading list

Readings will be made available via Blackboard.


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Ann Marie Wilson