History 317 Research Assignment
research assignment must be based, at least in part, on primary
sources - ie. sources that were created at the time the essay focuses
on. Good essays will be situated in one of the approaches to the
history of technology, key-actor, social construction, actor-network,
systems theory, etc. The research assignment may be an essay, a
website, a tour, a video, exhibit or other research project of
2,000-3,000 words or the equivalent. Group projects will be
copies of a preliminary outline and bibliography are to be submitted
in hard copy to the history office and one electronic. Two copies
of the final research assignment are due by 4pm Friday Novermber 9th,
hard copy and one electronic.
The final electronic paper is to be submitted through
must keep your research notes until the paper is returned and be
prepared to hand them in if questions arise about sources. The
penalty for late outlines and papers is 1% a day.
and footnotes should follow the UVic history style guide linked to
the course website.
you are citing a source that you have not seen but is mentioned in
one that you are using, you are citing second hand and use this
Second Hand: R.M. Galois, “The Indian Rights Association, Native
Protest Activity and the ‘Land Question’ in British Columbia,”
Native Studies Review
8 (1992), 1-34 in
Jeffrey Keshen, Age of
Connection: Readings in Canadian Social History (Toronto:
Harcourt Brace, 1997), 266-283.
are some topics to get you started. Others are listed on the Research
Assignment Link on the Class website. You will have to develop a
thesis or argument within these broader topics.
A description of the role that automobiles and other automobiles have
played in the history of your family. For example, you could explain
how the acquisition of a car represented change in social or
financial status, or a change in family size or requirements. The
main purpose is to illustrate, by way of a family history, the larger
changes in North American society over your lifetime, your parents or
grand parents. Students can interview family members and are
encouraged to include photographs. (thanks to Steve Koerner for this
assignment idea). You may see samples linked to the class outline.
Well done assignments will be archived with students’ permission.
a Car. Create your own design for a car and submit a drawing along
with a research paper which shows where it fits in auto history
showing the historic or other inspirations for the design and how it
differs from or is derived from other vehicles and why.
a Car; using the model provided by Michael Mahoney at
, choose a car make and model and “read it” and write what you
discover about the ideas of the designers, the technology of the
builders, the assumptions about the users.
automobile (or a particular brand/model) in American art, literature
one or two decades and argue how the automobile has affected:
American house design, urban design, eating habits, education,
vacation habits, courting habits, etc….
Victoria history to automobile history. The British
is now on line to 1910 and will be a great new source:
a history of one or more early automobile dealers or gas stations in
about the transition from horses to cars in Victoria.
at the impact of automobile tourism in Victoria.
a history of the first cars or car races in Victoria, first fast
First Automobiles in Victoria.
and why did Victoria shift from driving on the left to driving on
of Victoria’s drive inns, drive inn theatres or motels.
early US newspapers are online and fully searchable for the period
1880-1910. See http://www.loc.gov/chroniclingamerica/index.html.
Do a paper that looks at the American reception to the automobile
or compare the response on the east coast, west coast, and mid west,
for ie. What can we learn about the attraction to, the resistance
to, the health benefits of, the danger of… the auto in these years.
A few major newspapers are on-line for longer periods - New
York Times (1851 –
2003), Washington Post
Street Journal (1889-1999)
which would other projects.
about the history of the use of automobiles for rituals in North
American life: coming of age, graduation, marriage, death.
did famous women drivers like Emily Post, Edith Wharton, and those
who made well-publicized transcontinental journeys in the early
decades of the twentieth century affect the relationship of women to
the car. Investigate one or more of these women drivers and, if
possible, the news coverage accorded them. What was significant about
these women as drivers, and what effects did their driving have on
attitudes to women taking the wheel? Alternatively, investigate the
role of the automobile in the campaign for women’s rights, and
especially women’s suffrage (the right to vote) in these same
a decade and analyze the advertisements for cars from a popular
magazine of the day, or compare two magazines. What messages are the
ads conveying? Do they tell us anything about gender or racial
expectations about car buyers? Be sure to pay attention to both the
text or spoken material of the ad and its pictures or visual
1964 uprising in the Watts district of south-central Los Angeles
began when police pulled over a black woman suspected of drunk
driving. Twenty-eight years later, south-central L.A. erupted again
after the acquittal of four police officers charged with beating
African American motorist Rodney King during a traffic stop.
Investigate both of these events. How did race and cars come together
in each? What do they reveal about “driving while black”?
Sugrue argues that “Black popular culture appropriated the
automobile—as both a symbol of the American ‘good life’ and as
a sign of a distinctive, separate black culture.” Analyze one or
more of the examples he cites—Motown performers and songs,
“blaxploitation” films of the 1970s, in the work of African
American rap or hip-hop artists—or select one of your own.
a period, early 20th century or 1970-80s and make an argument why the
electric car was displaced by the internal combustion powered car.
the history of the Interstate system—when was it conceived and for
what reasons? how was it paid for? who determined where the
interstates would be?—and some of its effects in greater detail.
a period and investigate how American automobile
culture/design/manufacture compared to that in another country in
the same period.
have Asian car makers cars become so popular in America and when did
this trend begin?
an argument about how Ford’s were designed based on interviews with
the design team available at http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu
the depiction of factory work in a movie—such as Charlie Chaplin’s
Fritz Lang’s Metropolis,
Curtis Hanson’s 8
Mile, Paul Schrader’s
Ron Howard’s Gung
Ho, or Jonathan
accounts and experiences of a real-life workers.
Mexican artist Diego Rivera created a group of murals called Detroit
Industry for the
Detroit Institute of Arts in 1932-33 including scenes of the Ford
River Rouge Plant. Analyze his depictions of autoworkers, autowork,
and machines. What characteristics of the work are portrayed? What
are conditions like inside the factory? What seems to be the
relationship between the workers and the machines? Among the workers
themselves? How are bosses, foremen, managers, owners portrayed?
someone who works or has worked in factory. How does the nature of
that person’s work tasks and routines, relationships with other
workers and with foremen, ways of coping with the work, etc. compare
to the experiences of autoworkers found in biographies?
made the “Treaty of Detroit,” the five-year contract that Walter
Reuther and the UAW negotiated with the Big Three automakers in 1950
so significant? What was the impact, both short- and long-term, of
this contract? Was it something that either side came to regret?
is the current state of automation in the automobile industry? How
extensively is automation, including robots, used? For what tasks?
What effect has automation had on the number of jobs, production
costs, productivity, etc.?
the most recent contract between the UAW and the Big Three. What were
the central issues? Did they include automation and any of the
related issues (production standards, wage rates, job tasks, job
classifications) in dispute at Brook Park in the 1950s? How were they
resolved? Were the negotiations contentious or smooth?
generally resisted government-imposed requirements to install as
standard equipment two of best known safety features on cars today:
seat belts and air bags. Select one of these and investigate its
history. How, why, and when was the feature developed? How did it
come to be standard equipment in cars? What role did the auto
companies, governments, and advocacy and citizens’ groups play in