What is -- and How to Write -- a Historiographical Essay
(c) Muskingum College, Department of History, 2005
Historians do not always agree about how to interpret the events and people that they study; this leads to multiple explanations, which at times, are diametrically opposed to each other. As students progress into upper-level courses in the Department of History, they must move from the mastery of facts and analysis of primary sources encouraged by lower-level courses to a richer and deeper understanding of how history is written and the fact that events and ideas are open to interpretation. Within History 420 (Readings in History), students then move into another level of explanation, where they read intensively on a topic and provide their own historiographical explanations for a series of events/ideas.
Therefore, historiography can be described as “the history of history.” What this means in practice is an exploration of a specific topic, and how historians have explained events or people over time, i.e. how their explanations have changed due to their own worldview and/or ideological bent, due to re-interpretation of previously-viewed sources, due to the availability of new sources, previously unexplored, and/or due to the application of different questions and/or methodologies to sources. Revision of prior interpretations of the past is an implicit and important element of historiography. It requires students to not only be able to explain the different schools of thought or interpretations but also potentially to develop their own explanations, based on their assigned readings. The focus of a historiographical essay is not on the event or person itself; rather, it is on the interpretations of the event or person. Process:
1. Read and analyze multiple works independently on the same topic (assigned on weekly or bi-weekly basis), including an exploration of the sources that the authors utilize or do not utilize...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document