Some questions to consider as you write a historiographical essay are: How has the historiography on this subject evolved over time? What are the different schools of thought on the topic, and how do they impact the interpretations of this subject? Why have different scholars come to different conclusions about this topic? You may find some of the information in our handout on literature reviews helpful.
is an online journal that publishes historiographic essays. If there is an essay on your topic, it can be an excellent place to start. Caution: if you do not find what you need with your first search, don't choose Edit Search, because you will then be searching all the publisher's online journals. Return to the starting point for History Compass to continue searching just within this journal.
Historiographical Essay on Slavery
For more than a century historians, political theorists, and social commentators have attempted to explain the absence of a robust, socialist party in the United States, capable of winning elections or framing political discourse. Over the last half century the United States has stood nearly alone in its lack of a viable socialist or social democratic party capable of meaningfully influencing national politics. There was, however, a brief period of limited success for American socialists at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1912 Eugene V. Debs, Socialist Party presidential candidate, received six percent of the national vote. In the same year socialists held 1200 public offices, sent one member of their party to congress, and had an impressive roster of 118,000 dues paying members. Then, suddenly, the Socialist Party ceased its expansion and receded even further into the backdrop of American political life. What happened? This challenging and persistent question has garnered a wide array of responses from historians who, from the 1950s to the present, have made it the subject of book length monographs, essays, and journal articles. These authors, while sharing a common focal point, have approached this question employing historical frameworks reflective of the age in which they were interpreting and writing history. An analysis written in the 1950s on the decline of the Socialist Party, for example, will not be the same as one written in the 1980s by virtue of the fact that the historical profession itself has expanded its repertoire and developed new theoretical "lenses" through which to interpret the past- a reality that becomes evident through the primarily chronological format I have used in this non-exhaustive historiographical essay. In spite of this diversity of lenses, the question of why socialism has failed, as well as what this failure says in broad terms about American life, were central concerns of these historians who blamed the Socialist Party's decline on party factionalism, externalpressures brought by World War One and the Russian Revolution, the appeal of mainstream reformism, lack of Leninist style organizing, and more. As socialists in the 21st century begin to reassess electoral and movement strategy, exposure to this work might serve to allow socialists, even in some small measure, to better analyze and contextualize the current and future state of the socialist movement in the United States