Assignment 4: Putting the Historians on TrialWith your understandings of both the Haymarket historians and the raw material from which the stories of the Affair are sculpted, we’ll bring some closure to this week’s sites by placing the historians themselves on trial for how they have depicted the Haymarket Affair.“Let the voice of the people be heard!”
—Albert Parsons, before his execution
1) Spend some time going back through the Haymarket Affair’s earlier Discussion Board prompts. Take note of what you and your classmates have said about: the ink-on-paper historians, the findings from the archives, and how the hypertext history treats those artifacts perhaps differently than the traditional historians.
2) In a brief, formal essay (1-1.5 single-spaced pages/approx 500-750 words) (note: contrary to what might be decades of habit, single space within paragraphs, double-space between paragraphs) persuasively argue for whether or not you believe that depictions of the Haymarket Affair from either a traditional historian or the hypertext history have done a fair job in representing history.
You should enter into this essay with an air of testing out the claims (the hypotheses) of the experts—the historians that we’ve read. Our goal will be to determine, on the basis of material in the archives, whether or not the historians have got the story of the Affair right.
In your essay, you’ll want to narrow the historian’s claim or claims that you’re placing on trial. Carefully and precisely articulate what claims of your historian you’ll be dealing with. For instance, you might assert that Wischmann offers a particularly sympathetic view of August Spies but that based upon your analysis of his testimony this is an unwarranted position. Or, you might confirm a sympathetic view of Spies based upon an analysis of his autobiography.
Base your essay upon your interpretation and analysis of two or three historical artifacts from either the Chicago Historical Society or American Memory digital archives. When you confirm or deny the claims of a particular historian, do so by directly referring us to a specific artifact found in the digital archives. Show us the evidence.
Please identify the specific locations of the selected items by collection and description or by direct URL link so that others may easily view them.
Consider the following questions as ways in which you might develop your essay:
- Do the claims of the historian agree or disagree with your findings from the digital archives? Why or why not?
- Does the historian seem to be more subjective or objective in his treatment of the Haymarket Affair?
- If he’s overly subjective, where do those biases come through in his writing? If he’s mostly objective, what establishes that sense of credibility?
3) When you’ve completed your essay, post it to the Discussion Board (note: contrary to what might be decades of habit, single space within paragraphs, double-space between paragraphs; this will make viewing on the discussion board easier) . Take the time to read through the conclusions of your group members, and respond to at least one (preferably one that hasn’t had a response yet).
- Which of the two formats we examined—the traditional, linear narratives of Suskind and Wischmann versus the hypertext Dramas of Haymarket—offer a better understanding of the Haymarket Affair? Is it better because it’s more objective? Because it tells a better story? Because it’s more accurate? Because it stands up to our reality-test based upon what you’ve found in the archives?
4) Consider writing an addendum to your essay after you’ve read through some of your classmates’ essays and responses. You might particularly attempt to resolve any discrepancies between you and a classmate if you come to different conclusions about the same historian.
“All is well, Mother. Seven to be hanged, and one 15 years. All is well.”
—Judge Joseph E. Gary