Associate Professor of Government Erica De Bruin and Clara Harding '23 co-authored an article published in the summer/fall issue of Political Science Educator, the newsletter of the American Political Science Association's Education Section.
Their article, "Teaching Undergraduate to Work with Archival Documents," describes an assignment De Bruin and Harding developed together to introduce students to working with archival materials, an important source of data in political science research, as well as understand the sources of U.S. policy on the use of nuclear weapons.
The assignment was developed for Nuclear Politics, a new course in the Government Department, which De Bruin taught for the first time in spring 2023. In developing the assignment, Harding read through hundreds of historical documents related to the Cold War crisis over control of Berlin, 1958-1962, to select a smaller set for students to work with.
De Bruin and Harding then asked students to draw upon these documents to evaluate competing explanations for the decision-making of U.S. officials during the crisis. The project was designed to help illustrate the strengths and potential pitfalls of working with archival materials. After the course was completed, several students reported that it had made them think more critically about what constitutes evidence of motivation in the historical record, as well as how to grapple with uncertainty and conflicting evidence.
Their work to develop the assignment and co-author the article was supported by a Faculty Innovation Grant from the Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center.