Essential info

  • Course: HIST390: The Digital Past, section 2
  • Time: MW, 9:00-10:15am
  • Location: Planetary Hall (formerly Science & Tech I) 224
  • Instructor: Dr. Abby Mullen

The boilerplate

In this class, you will learn to do history using digital tools. The course—which satisfies the Mason Core IT requirement—teaches the fundamentals of information technology by applying them to practical problems in history. You will learn how to do research online, but also how to put those sources in the context of other scholarly work. You will gather data, learn how to question it, analyze it, summarize it, and interpret it. You will create visualizations of datasets, including maps. You will learn how to present visual and textual sources online in web exhibits, and you will learn how to write and publish effectively online. Through learning by doing, you will gain both digital skills and the skills of a historian. This combination will be useful to you throughout your university career and in your future work. Our focus this semester will be on war in the antebellum United States.

In this course you will:

  • Learn the varied history of war in the antebellum United States, from the French and Indian War to the Civil War;
  • Create historical scholarship using varied tools and sources;
  • Publish historical scholarship on the web.

Because it is an IT course, this course will also meet the following learning outcomes:

  1. Students will understand the principles of information storage, exchange, security, and privacy and be aware of related ethical issues.
  2. Students will become critical consumers of digital information; they will be capable of selecting and evaluating appropriate, relevant, and trustworthy sources of information.
  3. Students can use appropriate information and computing technologies to organize and analyze information and use it to guide decision-making.
  4. Students will be able to choose and apply appropriate algorithmic methods to solve a problem.


This course’s structure is mostly based on syllabi from other HIST 390 instructors, most especially Lincoln Mullen and Mills Kelly. Assignments and ideas also came from Ben Schmidt, Ryan Cordell, and Cameron Blevins.