Research Project (and book review assignment)

In recent years, historians have paid particular attention to travel accounts and guides as historical sources.  Narratives of travel often tell as much (or more) about travelers than about the places they visit, but accounts also often prove important in defining those very places both internally and abroad.  In particular, many historians have addressed the role of empire and imperialism in travel writing:  constructing narratives of travel in some ways expresses power, imperial or not, over the subjects of that narrative.

The Russian case is a peculiar one.  Travel narratives provided the first images of early Russia to Western audiences, and in some ways those very early narratives affected many later images, as well.  By the nineteenth century, too, Russia’s empire was a peculiar one.  It was undeniably an imperial power, with control over vast lands and many peoples.  But it was an empire that also, in some ways, felt itself colonized by foreign ideas (as one mid-century nationalist put it, “as India is to the English, so Russia is to the Germans”).  Therefore, travel narratives written by Russians themselves or by foreigners visiting Russia should provide a source of particular interest.

In your research project, you will examine some facet of Russian imperial history using travel narratives (Robarts Library has many in its stacks, yet more are available online, either through the library’s website or through Google Books) as primary sources. 


First, by Friday, October 11, you should have read (and reviewed) a scholarly monograph that deals specifically with travel narratives as sources (a short bibliography is here, but if you find another book, you’re welcome to read and review it).  The review is due electronically at 5pm that day.

Second, you should start thinking about your final research paper by this point of the term.  Therefore, by Friday, October 18, you should be able to pull together a one-page research proposal.  A proposal should identify a general topic, a set of research questions, and a list of several primary sources you may use for your paper.

Finally, your 12-15 page research paper is due on Monday, December 9, at 5pm, electronically.

One last thing: I HIGHLY RECOMMEND Booth, Colomb, and Williams, The Craft of Research as a resource for conducting research and writing research papers.  Not everything will be useful for this project, but they way it outlines the basic tasks of research  is extremely useful, and even insightful.