The Dramas of Haymarket

This series of assignments is from my "HIS 260: 19th Century U.S." course. This is an intermediate-level course. Most who take it are history majors or minors. Both are required to take one or more U.S. survey courses (HIS 258-261). As a result, many students take the course as a way of completing a requirement in their major or minor field. This explains the emphasis upon evaluating source materials in the initial assignments. The culminating assignment focuses upon the ways in which historians organize narratives. Intermediate students are just beginning to appreciate the kinds of choices historians make. This assignment has proven helpful in getting them to think about these matters in a more sustained and nuanced way.

Carl Smith's The Dramas of Haymarket, like his Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory, is an outstanding site. Smith has supplied cogent background discussions and collected a fascinating range of primary materials. As with other ambitious online sites, students need a guided tour before being sent off to work with it. Hence the full class day devoted to exploring one section of the site in common.

The Dramas of Haymarket

The Great Chicago FireApr. 20: Haymarket Prologue—Carl Smith, who organized this site and wrote the text, is a pioneer in using the Internet to do what he calls “serious history.” An earlier effort of his, also with the sponsorship of the Chicago Historical Society, on the Great Chicago Fire, has won numerous awards. We will “read” this site as we would a monograph. We will work our way through the Prologue in class and then divide into teams to look into the so-called “acts” of the “dramas.” Each team member is to submit notes one hour prior to class exploring 2–3 primary sources you find significant, puzzling, and/or enlightening. Briefly explain what the source is, who created it, how trustworthy you find it and why, and what questions it leaves you with.

Apr. 22: Haymarket Acts I and II

Apr. 25: Haymarket Acts III, IV

Apr. 27: Haymarket Act V and Epilogue

Apr. 29: review of The Dramas of Haymarket—In his Introduction Carl Smith discusses at length the appeal of the drama metaphor he employed to organize the site; he also notes several potential limitations. In this review you should assess how well the drama metaphor works. Papers should not exceed 750 words.

The Dramas of Haymarket