Gender and the Practices of Scientific History

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Bonnie G. Smith, "Gender and the Practices of Scientific History," American Historical Review. 100:4 (1995) 1150-76.

Bonnie G. Smith states in "Gender and the Practices of Scientific History," the predominantly male influence in the field of History and the relatively informal nature of historical teachings in days past. She asserts that the dawn of the 20th century saw a general change of attitude in regards to historical education. The concept of history being open for interpretation as opposed to being a set of indisputable facts is in many ways similar to scientific methodology. She supports this claim by noting the shift in the field from relying predominantly on written works to the more widely interpretive scholarly seminars. Although professors of history still rely heavily on written accounts, the ability to discuss motives and interpret history allows understanding of the true history behind simple historical facts. By allowing students to present their interpretations of history, and often times defend their theories in the face of criticism, a greater discovery of the past is possible. The seminars of new were very different in contrast to the public lectures common in the past. Many argued that seminars by their very nature were only appropriate for men, stating that women were not suited for seminary work. This opinion was present even in coeducational institutes. Both in practice and in theory, seminar-centered education was a masculine endeavor. Smith further points out the importance of archival research, citing many instances supporting the importance of using authentic sources from history from which to derive the truth. By comparing sources from the same era one is able to more accurately defend their assertions about the past.
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