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History Research Papers: Can They Fit With Prof’s Politics?

history-research-paperHistory research papers were once fairly straightforward. The student demonstrated that they knew who did what to whom; when and where, and hopefully, why. Now, students must often deconstruct historical documents and events in terms of their hidden meanings, often in accordance with a tacit political ideology.
 
This transforms research papers in history into a new challenge. Although it sounds manipulative, there is something to be said for reflecting back to the professor the political stance they espouse.
 
How to give professors the history research papers they want:
 
In readying oneself for a research paper in history, listen to not only the historical events that the teacher recounts, but the emphasis and tone of their presentation. Try to get clues to the political leanings of the instructor before writing anything. If you can diagnose where their sympathies lie, you can at least acknowledge them, if not suggest agreement with them, in your history research paper.
 
Lean left:
 
It is not stereotyping to note the very common political flavor in academia of left-leaning socialism or frank Marxism. For decades, Marx’s dialectical approach to the study of history has underpinned much of historical analysis. The inevitability of class warfare informs everything that these professors observe about the past.
 
If you wish to produce a history research paper that presses all the right buttons in such a professor’s mind, then you need to make references, however oblique, to Marxism’s prediction of an ineluctable trend towards a proletarian-led state. Even if it is merely in noting that an event showed how much the proletariat was oppressed in a particular setting, you may garner points by demonstrating your comprehension of this world-view.
 
Lean right:
 
Another flavor gaining traction in recent decades is that of the right-wing social and fiscal conservative camp. This perspective tends to be a bit more subtle, but just as insistent that the world and history be viewed through this lens. In this view, the trajectory of the world and history should, and will, be ever-increasingly democratic governance and free markets. This is as surely an ideology as is Marxism.
 
Run away!
 
Then, there is the politics of race and gender to confuse matters. Unless you really understand these, avoid them entirely!
 
A clever student will avoid worrying about what is ‘right’, and simply shape their arguments to fit the professor’s inclinations…With perfect grammar and citation, of course!

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