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HIS 427 - Dr. Jonathan Sarris: HIS 427 Assignment

Intellectual Biography

In HIS 427, you will be writing intellectual biographies about historians and analyzing and summarizing the work of these historians. 

  • Intellectual biographies offer insights into 1) the person’s life; 2) the intellectual and creative work of the person; 3) the relationship between life and work; and 4) the significance of the life and work historically. Ask yourself the following questions:  Why is this historian important? What has this historian contributed to his/her field? 
  • An intellectual biography places the individual and his work into context, describing the impact of the historian in his/her field, the impact that other historians and historical works had on her/his work, and the impact that world events and the individual’s life experiences had on his/her work. Was he/she a pioneer in a particular field? Was she/he part of an intellectual school or cultural movement? Was her/his work important because it represents something bigger, because it was utterly unique, because she/he made a contribution at a crucial moment in time, or for some other reason? Did the times or world events have an impact on this historian and his/her writing?

  • In addition to profiling an individual, placing him/her in context, and assessing his/her intellectual legacy, your intellectual biography should tell readers the conclusions you have drawn from reading this historian’s work. Summarize the book you read for this assignment and define the author’s major points.  Place the book in context.  How does it differ from books on the same subject that preceded or followed it.  In this sense, an intellectual biography is just like any other historical essay or exercise in critical analysis; you should formulate an argument and present evidence to support it.

HIS 427 Assignment

DUE DATE :         October 20

LENGTH:              300-500 words, typed, double-spaced

OBJECTIVE:         To write an intellectual biography of your assigned historian.

GUIDELINES:       To communicate the essence of your historian’s worldview.  This should include a listing of his or her most important writings, educational background, approach to history, ideology, and his status in the field.   Included in this summary should be a short summary and analysis of the specific assigned book you’ve been given by this author.  Students will receive more guidance on September 15, when we have a library research session devoted to this format.


The paper must meet the following criteria:

 1) You must use sufficient EVIDENCE in the form of specific examples from your readings to make your case.    

 2) You must cite your research consistently and properly. You must attribute any information that does not come directly from your own individual analysis/opinions.  Your citation format should follow the Chicago Style.

 3) You must follow the rules of good grammar and syntax.  Write in clear and cogent prose.  Proofread for spelling and other errors.  Avoid first person, passive voice, and inconsistent tense usage.  Organize each paragraph around a central theme.  Provide a conclusion in which you summarize and restate your argument.

 4) You must write your paper with cognizance of the NCWC guidelines on “plagiarism and cheating” in the college catalog.  Whether it is accidental or intentional, plagiarism is considered a cardinal sin in college.  At a minimum, plagiarized papers will receive a grade of “F.” Beyond this, plagiarism can result in failing the course or even suspension from the college.  If you have any doubt about what constitutes plagiarism, see the professor and/or the writing center staff.