Teaching Thursday: Propositions for the Study of History
A series of Parisian park-bench, NoDak hipster, propositions for the study of history. These were prepared for an introduction to my Graduate Historiography class next semester. They are meant to be points of departure for broader discussions into the links between historical epistemology, social responsibility, method, and practice.
Propositions for the Study of History
1. History is a form of social activism.
2. Reading, writing, presenting, and teaching history requires thought.
3. Historical thinking is both the product of the texts (of various kinds) and how we read texts (of various kinds).
4. Texts (sources) are socially constructed.
5. The historian uses various tools to interpret sources.
6. These tools are socially constructed. Some would say that they have a kind of agency. Most would say that tools exert an influence on the work that they do.
7. One of the historians’ tools is method (which we sometimes call theory).
8. Theory is not a single thing: it is a blanket term for method, methodology, epistemology, historiography, ideology, and even procedure that makes historical thinking possible.
9. Many theoretical positions require a historian to make clear how they approach a text or a historical problem.
10. By making obvious the relationship between texts and the act of “doing history” we make our work as historians visible and open to critique.
11. To many people, the more that history is critiqued (as a method), the more it appears to be either common sense or wrong headed.
12. Skepticism of the historical methods undermines the basic disciplinary structure of the field.
13. Most people in the world do not value the work of historians even though they should. This is our fault.
14. Skepticism toward the historical method may lead to the end of history as a discipline.
15. People will continue to study the past.
For the real Teaching Thursday post, go here.