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 Learning Our Community's American Lore

Doing History: What Historians Do

Historians, Students and Teachers Doing History--Version: January, 2005

Choose | Locate | Examine | Interpret | Understand context | Draw conclusions | Present

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Understand historical context (contingency)  
What historians do when they "do history" What students do when they "do history" What teachers do to help their students "do history"
  • Make connections between the document and its times.
  • Characterize the historical period (e.g., The early twentieth century was characterized by the rise of professional expertise)
  • Use words like "reflect" and "suggest" to connect the document to its times (e.g., This document reflects the early twentieth- century rise of professional expertise.)
  • Study the historical period within which the document was created in order to characterize the historical period with a few words (e.g., The 1920s was a time of...)
  • Connect the document to its times (This document reflects…)
  • Learn about the technology that created the source and the strategies for authoring and reading such sources.
  • Help students to consider historical trends and movements that contextualize political and social interests evidenced in the sources.
  • Help students consider the technology used to create the source (students could do this by creating their own work in the same medium, for example: writing, painting, sculpture, photography, film).

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