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How to Become a Historian – Historical Method

How to Become an Historian - The Historical Method - Historians' Skills

How to become a historian. The historical method. Historians’ skills. Historians discuss their profession in interviews & articles.

Academic job applications: five mistakes to avoid

Impress employers with your positivity and attention to detail, says our Cambridge expert on research jobs

Steve Joy, The Guardian, 2015

See the Menu at the top of every page for Directories of Free Online Fiction and NonFiction Books, Magazines, and more, on 400 pages like this at Century Past

Academic snobbery: local historians need more support

Local history is one of the most popular forms of history in Australia. Yet there is a yawning gap between the enthusiastic amateur and the academic historian. While some academic historians engage with local history, sadly there is an entrenched snobbery from the academy. From the other side, the enthusiastic amateur is too wound up with a parochial approach to local history and often doesn’t see the bigger picture.

Ian Willis, The Conversation 2012

‘The Academy Is Largely Itself Responsible for Its Own Peril’

Jill Lepore on writing the story of America, the rise and fall of the fact, and how women’s intellectual authority is undermined

Evan Goldstein, Chronicle of Higher Education 2018

An Argument for Continental History

Why does U.S. history, as it’s predominantly conceived and taught, start with the English colonies? Why does the narrative structure in which we embed US history unfold in an inflexibly east-to-west pattern?

Dr. Kevin Gannon, Teaching United States History 2015

Billy Smith, How to Organize Your Research – Podcast

Billy Smith, a Professor of History at Montana State University, joins us as part of our “Doing History: How Historians Work” series to lead us on an exploration of how historians organize and access their research.

Billy Smith, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 97

Chill Out. Political History has Never Been Better

A rejoinder to a New York Times Op-Ed by Frederik Logevall and Kenneth Osgood titled, “Why Did We Stop Teaching Political History?”

Gabriel Rosenberg and Ariel Ron, Lawyers, Guns & Money 2016

Day in the working life of a historian: Kate Evans

Dr. Kate Evans works for ABC RN’s Books and Arts and Books Plus programs. She has also worked on a number of TV history programs. She describes some of her work here.

Kate Evans, Australian Women’s History Network 2017

Delivering History through a Smartphone App: An Interview with Clio’s David Trowbridge

David Trowbridge, associate professor of history, is working on Clio, a web and mobile app that identifies a user’s geolocation to deliver historical information about the surrounding area through text, images, and video.

Kritika Agarwal, Perspectives on History 2016

Digital History and the Digital Humanities: The Current Debate

Digital History is an approach to examining and representing the past that works with the new communication technologies of the computer, the internet network, and software systems.” What does it realistically mean to practice and create digital history rather than, say, performing traditional academic research?


The Digital in the Humanities: An Interview with Sharon M. Leon

One episode in an 11-part series, ‘The Digital in the Humanities’. Sharon M. Leon is associate professor of history and director of Public Projects at the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason Univ.

Sharon M. Leon, L.A. Review of Books 2016

Ethics and empire: an open letter from Oxford scholars

A group of Oxford academics wrote this letter following the debate surrounding an article in The Times entitled “Don’t feel guilty about our colonial history” by Nigel Biggar. They express their opposition to the stance of Biggar.

The Conversation 2017

Experiments in Writing History

Headlining the jam-packed AHA18 session ‘Historians Writing Historical Fiction’, Laura Kamoie talked about the ways she finds writing academic history and writing historical fiction similar, arguing that “both attempt to link known facts and try to shape them into some kind of a narrative. Both make historical contributions, and both are meant to generate curiosity about the past.”

Elizabeth Elliott, Perspectives on History 2018

Face to Face with History

Practical details from historical sources may convince us that historical fiction is fact, but, warns Suzannah Lipscomb, such novels are fraught with danger for one in search of the past.

Suzannah Lipscomb, History Today 2016

Five minutes with Margaret MacMillan: On historians, politicians, and their duty to history

What is history for and is it dangerous when politicians use it to justify their actions? Can historians explain the past to the public when their careers depend on being published in ways that are inaccessible to non-academics? And how will the history of our times be written: is the “age of information” producing too many tweets and not much else?

Artemis Photiadou, London School of Economics and Political Science 2016

The Geography of History PhDs

The AHA’s “Where Historians Work” is an ambitious research project designed to track the career outcomes of everyone who earned a PhD in history from 2004–13 in the United States.

Dylan Ruediger, Perspectives on History 2018

Gregory Heyworth: How I’m discovering the secrets of ancient texts – Podcast

Heyworth is a textual scientist; he and his lab work on new ways to read ancient manuscripts and maps using spectral imaging technology. In this fascinating talk, watch as Heyworth shines a light on lost history, deciphering texts that haven’t been read in thousands of years.

Gregory Heyworth, TED Talks 2015

Hilary Mantel: why I became a historical novelist

‘Is this story true?’ readers invevitably ask. In the first of her BBC Reith Lectures, the double Man Booker prize-winning author explores the complicated relationship between history, fact and fiction

Hilary Mantel, The Guardian 2017

Historians Respond to Bill O’Reilly

Bill O’Reilly is at it again. Whatever merits the Fox News pundit may have as a commentator on current events, his endeavors in historical scholarship are less than stellar. Now he has publicly stated that slaves were well-fed and cared for.

Nick Sacco, Exploring the Past 2016

Historians Shouldn’t Be Pundits

Moshik Temkin, NY Times 2017

Historical Thinking in the Digital Age

This is the first of a five-part series on teaching history in the digital age.

Michael B. Smith, Process blog 2015

How Archives Work – Podcast

Historians research history in archives. But how do you gain access to one? And how do you use an archive once you find that it likely contains the information you seek? Peter Drummey, an archivist and Librarian at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Peter Drummey, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 75

How Historians Research – Podcast

“How did enslaved African and African American women experience slavery?
What were their daily lives like? And how do historians know as much as they do about enslaved women? Jennifer Morgan on how historians research history.”

Jennifer Morgan, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 70

The History of History Writing – Podcast

Historians rely on secondary historical sources almost as much as they rely on primary historical sources. But what are secondary historical sources and how do they help historians know what they know about the past?

Michael McDonnell, Ben Franklin’s World Episode 88

“History should teach humility”: Interview with James Grossman on historical sciences in the USA

In its annual meeting 2017, the American Historical Association discussed a wide spread of subjects, regarding many topics from different angles and times. We asked the Association’s President, Prof. James Grossman, about the impression the annual meeting left on him. He also told us about the situation of the humanities in general and the role of historians in particular under the current political circumstances in the United States of America.

Felix Stadler, L.I.S.A. 2017

How Historians Read Historical Sources – Podcast

Zara Anishanslin, an Assistant Professor of History at CUNY’s College of Staten Island, leads us on an exploration of how historians read historical sources by taking us through the documents and objects left behind by four everyday people.

Zara Anishanslin, Ben Franklin’s World

Home-schooled in history

A Pulitzer Prize winner’s calling seemed inevitable, but only in retrospect.

Eric Foner, The Pulitzer Prizes

I Met a Man Who Wasn’t There – Video lecture

Tudor statesman Thomas Cromwell was described by an eminent historian as “not biographable”. Faced with an intractable puzzle, can a novelist do better? Hilary Mantel, Author of “Wolf Hall” and its sequel describes her ten-year effort to pin her compelling and elusive subject to the page.

Hilary Mantel, The Huntington 2016

The Instrumentalisation of History

History is a dangerous thing. Parallels between contemporary events and history are all too easy to arrive at. In unskilled hands, historical events can be manhandled to seemingly deliver lessons and solutions to apparently intractable contemporary problems. This is ‘instrumentalising’ history.

Dr. Huw J. Davies, Defense in Depth

Interview with Edward L. Ayers, Civil War Historian

Edward L. Ayers, the president of the University of Richmond, has written 10 books about the Civil War, the South and American history. He also co-hosts the public radio program Backstory.

Stephen L. Petranek, HistoryNet 2011

Interview with Rebecca L. Davis, marriage historian

In her new book ‘More Perfect Unions: The American Search for Marital Bliss’ (Harvard University Press, 2010), University of Delaware historian Rebecca L. Davis explores the evolution of the uniquely American idea that successful marriages are essential not only for personal happiness, but also for the nation’s well-being.

Linda Lee, HistoryNet 2010

Ira Berlin, transformative historian of slavery in America, dies at 77

Ira Berlin, a historian who sifted through millions of documents to revive the voices of ordinary African Americans from the struggle for emancipation, and who helped demonstrate that slavery was a complex, ever-evolving institution at the core of American history, died June 5, 2018.

Harrison Smith, Washington Post 2018

Job listings for historians on jobs.ac.uk, 2013-16

Every year, universities across Britain and beyond place hundreds of advertisements on jobs.ac.uk seeking to appoint historians to academic posts. Although accessing this data is not easy and analysing is far from straightforward, recent listings do provide some potentially useful information about the state of the academic job market for historians.

Brodie Waddell, the many-headed monster 2016

Keeping the story in history

For two-time Pulitzer winner Alan Taylor, the New Social History proved to be a good tool for enriching American stories.

Alan Taylor, The Pulitzer Prizes

Lessons on the Craft of Scholarly Reading

Scholarly reading remains an obscure, self-taught process of assembling, absorbing, and strategically deploying the writing of others.

Joli Jensen, Chronicle of Higher Education 2018

Making Digital History Accessible

Stephanie Kingsley, Perspectives on History 2017

On the Writing of Contemporary History

When do contemporary affairs become history? What are the responsibilities and obligations of those who propose to write that history and of those who help to make it? One man’s view is conveyed in this elaboration of an address to the American Historical Association.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The Atlantic 1967

The Prospect of Global History – Video of Panel Discussion

How can global history can be applied instead of advocated? Discussion by panel.

James Belich, Elleke Boehmer, Richard Drayton, Hannah-Louise Clark, Univ. of Oxford 2016

Public Thinker: Jill Lepore on the Challenge of Explaining Things

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University, a longtime staff writer at the New Yorker, an accomplished essayist, and a public voice for producing historical work that engages with audiences well beyond the classroom. Her publications have attended to technologies of evidence and writing, to the craft of historical writing itself, and to subjects as wide-ranging as Wonder Woman and board games.

B. R. Cohen, Public Books 2017

The Requirements for the Historical Doctorate in America

A review by the historian’s professional association (in the U.S.) of the existing standards for entry into the profession, and a call for reform.

Ephraim Emerton, Annual report of the American Historical Association. … 1893, page 79. HathiTrust

A Research Workshop on Medieval Emotions and Contemporary Methodologies

What are the methodological and scholarly challenges of working in the history of emotions? What theoretical tools do we bring to bear on medieval emotions, and which have we tended to neglect? These questions guided the “Medieval Emotions and Contemporary Methodologies” research workshop held at Birkbeck, University of London, on 8 July 2016.

Rebecca F. McNamara, Histories of Emotion 2016

The Shape of History: Ian Morris, historian on a grand scale

Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education 2013

Theorizing Race in the Americas: An Interview with Juliet Hooker

Francisco Herrera interviews Juliet Hooker about her new book ‘Theorizing Race in the Americas: Douglass, Sarmiento, Du Bois, and Vasconcelos’, which will be released on May 1 by Oxford University Press. Juliet Hooker is Associate Professor of Government and African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a political theorist specializing in comparative political theory, critical race theory, and multiculturalism, and has also published widely on Afro-descendant and indigenous politics and multicultural rights in Latin America.

Francisco Herrera, Black Perspectives 2017

The Triage of Truth: do not take expert opinion lying down

Our thirst for knowledge sometimes leads us to imbibe falsehoods bottled as truth. The so-called Information Age is too often a Misinformation Age.

Julian Baggini, Aeon

Where Historians Work: Q&A with Alea Henle of Western New Mexico University

Katy Lasdow chats with Dr. Alea Henle, Head of Public Services Librarian at the J. Cloyd Miller Library at Western New Mexico University. The pair discuss the importance of “knowing your audience” as a historian and “self-knowledge” when it comes to thinking about next steps for a career.

Katy Lasdow, The Junto 2017

“You might just find the story of a lifetime”: archivists help to uncover our incredible history in Dorset

Two archivists are dusting off documents and breathing fresh life into Dorset History Centre. They are keen to share just why the centre is such an important resource for the community. It’s the key to unlocking millions of memories, from family letters to hundreds of years worth of official council documents.

Jennifer Rees, Dorset Echo 2017

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