Unit 2: The Craft of History

In many ways, this unit is the heart of the course. Each week, we will explore using a different type of primary source, or a different approach to history research / methodology. Tuesday will be the discussion day for a reading, Thursday will be a lab or workshop day giving you a chance to practice applying the week’s approach or source base. Please bring laptops on Thursdays throughout this unit.

Here’s a quick overview of the unit –

Reading links and files for the Tuesday assignments are found in Blackboard –> Content –> Unit 2

In Paper #2 (due Nov 7), you will choose a topic that could be investigated by practicing what we’ve done in these “labs” and craft a well-organized, evidence-based historical paper …
• using the same type of sources as one of our labs … or …
• using the same investigative technique as one of our labs … or …
• using the same analytical methodology as one of our labs … or …
• using one of the unit’s assigned readings as a model

In other words, you will take what we have read or done in one of our in-class labs and APPLY it in a new context to a topic of your own choosing, and for which you need to do your own independent source research and analysis. I strongly encourage you to choose a method or source base with which you are less familiar, or which represents a stretch outside your comfort zone. The purpose of this paper (and the entire unit, really) is to take a risk, explore, and experiment.

Historical Thinking for Thurs Sept 12

Historical thinking is the “historical habits of mind” that trained professional historians possess and are trying to pass along to their students. Stanford professor Sam Wineburg points out that “the kind of textured interrogation that comes automatically—-but not naturally—-to historians is a very special skill.” Therefore like any skill, it can be learned, improved, and taught.

What does that “textured interrogation” look like? What are those habits of mind? What *is* historical thinking?

Before clicking on the links below, take some time to articulate and write down what YOU think the mental processes and foundational concepts of “thinking historically” might be.

Here are several different formulations for historical thinking created by different educators. Take your time reading / viewing through them.


What Is Historical Thinking? (National History Education Clearinghouse) – 7:41 minutes
Why Historical Thinking Matters (History Matters) – skip the polls by clicking the Next Arrow – approx 10 min

Historical Thinking Concepts (Canada Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness) – take the time to explore all 6 sidebar links to each concept
What Does it Mean to Think Historically? The 5 C’s (AHA / Carnegie Teachers for a New Era)
History Discipline Core Competencies (AHA / Tuning the Discipline Project)