How To Read A History Book

How To Read a History Book:

I studied history in grad school.  One of the most helpful courses I took was on the topic of historiography with Prof. C.T. McIntire.   He had the followng analysis guidelines written on the blackboard and would work through history books with our seminar group, helping us to analyze historical argument.

History Book Analysis Guidelines:

1. Topics – what’s it about, title, chapter, headings

2. Theses
a) time – periodization
b) factors – what’s proposed re topic?, argument

3. Main Categories – terms, concepts, metaphors, definitions, effect on argument

4. Source – what and how are they used?

5. Achievement – success, contribution

When reading a history book do an “inspectional reading” first (1-1.5 hrs) (time yourself on this)

For further analysis, ask these questions:  Is this book really about what it claims to be?  What biases are there? What has it left out? Is it a comprehensive and many-sided discussion or has it excluded significant elements?


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