Historiography for the layman

#1
Like I said in the intros forum, I would have quite liked to pick up a history minor before I finished my degree but it just wasn't possible. The point is that I've read quite a bit of popular history, and have some familiarity with academic work, but have never really looked at historiography in a serious way. My question is what do people think would be a good starting point for getting a better understanding of historiography for someone who most definitely doesn't intend to do anything academic or write seriously?
 
#2
Like I said in the intros forum, I would have quite liked to pick up a history minor before I finished my degree but it just wasn't possible. The point is that I've read quite a bit of popular history, and have some familiarity with academic work, but have never really looked at historiography in a serious way. My question is what do people think would be a good starting point for getting a better understanding of historiography for someone who most definitely doesn't intend to do anything academic or write seriously?
There's a Canadian text called Intro to Historiography (It has a picture of a magnifying glass on the front) that is quite general and easy to read. I know they sell it in university book stores, I doubt its in Chapters or anything like that though. The easiest way to learn is to study the person that created the historiography approach. Want to know the Marxist historical approach? Read about Marx and read thing by Marx. Same goes for Voltaire and the rest.
 
Nov 2012
1,621
Pax juxta probitatem
#3
Currently writing an essay a month, sometimes 1200 words, I found this resource on Historiography helpful and useful. I particularly like their comments on Presentism. They also say; "the underlying sentiment of historiography is one of skepticism. This is due to the recognition that historians do have agendas and do select sources with the intent of "proving" certain preconceived notions. History is therefore never truly "objective," but always a construct that presents the historian's view of things". Writing on History at Queens College
 
Mar 2011
2,060
Florida
#4
For me it was developing 117 interactive Google Maps of Historic Events for my blog MyReadingMapped that enable users to digitally experience a historic event themselves by zooming-in on the details, ruins, geographical features, and a push pin plotted timeline that is cited by either a eBook quote and page reference or an online link to a reliable source. The users gets to experience the event further with the associated Google Earth KML files of Google Earth KMZ Movie files that enable them to walk the explorer route from location marker to location marker. Or, they can find the easel location of famous landscape paintings in Google Earth.

To do this I had to research over 40 eBooks of famous explorer expeditions, using eBooks written for the most part by the explorer him or her self. It meant researching hundreds of ancient ruins, sunken ships, train and plane crash sites, disease outbreaks, WWII Battles, the American Revolution and Civil War, undersea phenomena, environmental disasters, and immigration trails. I even collaborated with the living Royal Geographical Society explorer, Mikeal Strandberg, on two of his explorations.

By no means am I a Historiography expert, but my maps a have been accepted by those who are. For example, my Lewis and Clark map has recently become a referral from the National Education Association (NEA). My site has received a high Moz Domain Authority Ranking of 95 out of 100, a Domain MozRank of 8.87 out of 10, a Domain MozTrust Ranking of 8.82 out of 10. You can only get these high ranking if you have high quality inbound and outbound links from such authorities as universities, government offices, Wikipedia or other quality online resource.

This is a very good way to learn history because you get to put it into practice. You get to compare the online contradictions like I did and try to figure out what really occurred. I found situations where the generally accepted map of David Livingstone's Source of the Nile River Expedition does not match the actual events in his book.




Livingstone's Source of the Nile River Expedition in Google Map
 
Aug 2012
34
#5
My question is what do people think would be a good starting point for getting a better understanding of historiography for someone who most definitely doesn't intend to do anything academic or write seriously?
Read: What is History? by Edward H. Carr (ISBN-13: 978-0394703916). It's short but is a very good primer for historiography as well as methodology. If you want to dig deeper, take a stab at some of the work by R. G. Collingwood.
 
Apr 2011
1,286
Melbourne
#6
To be honest, you'll never really grasp, let alone get historiography by doing history as a minor. And that's okay. A lot of graduate students don't even quite understand much of it until later. The problem lies with the theory behind historical analysis: models of Whiggish or Marxist thought might be simple to understand, less simple to apply - there are inevitably all sorts of variations in reality, depending on the school or field of historical study - but the real issue is with more recent thought. As an aside, it mightn't be wise to think of it as historiography per se, because essentially differs from field to field (the French Revolution has an almost impossible historiographical terrain, whereas something like Belle Époque studies might only have a few different contentions - I simplify, of course). But historiography in its sense of method of historical analysis can be nearly fully comprehended, to a certain extent; the difficulty for most people is, as mentioned, with the linguistic then cultural turns of the 20th century in humanities in general, which have increasingly focused historians' attentions on discourse and language as opposed to content, or empirical study. It's had its backlash in all manners of ways (neo-liberal, neo-Marxist, or post-revisionist generally, etc. depending on the topic), and there've obviously been subsets of interdisciplinary-based theories for some time now (post-colonial, gender, psychoanalysis, etc.), to even now perspectives from emotion (though that has been harder to qualify, evidently). There are some magnificent works on these, many being published on the linguistic turn, especially during the 90s, though rather dated by now.

To tell the truth, most understanding of historical 'schools' (loathe as I to use the term) comes from understanding elsewhere. If you've delved into philosophy, literary theory, sociology, economics and so forth, their models have provided much of the framework around existing historical analyses.
 
Mar 2011
2,060
Florida
#7
To be honest, you'll never really grasp, let alone get historiography by doing history as a minor. And that's okay. A lot of graduate students don't even quite understand much of it until later. The problem lies with the theory behind historical analysis: models of Whiggish or Marxist thought might be simple to understand, less simple to apply - there are inevitably all sorts of variations in reality, depending on the school or field of historical study - but the real issue is with more recent thought. As an aside, it mightn't be wise to think of it as historiography per se, because essentially differs from field to field (the French Revolution has an almost impossible historiographical terrain, whereas something like Belle Époque studies might only have a few different contentions - I simplify, of course). But historiography in its sense of method of historical analysis can be nearly fully comprehended, to a certain extent; the difficulty for most people is, as mentioned, with the linguistic then cultural turns of the 20th century in humanities in general, which have increasingly focused historians' attentions on discourse and language as opposed to content, or empirical study. It's had its backlash in all manners of ways (neo-liberal, neo-Marxist, or post-revisionist generally, etc. depending on the topic), and there've obviously been subsets of interdisciplinary-based theories for some time now (post-colonial, gender, psychoanalysis, etc.), to even now perspectives from emotion (though that has been harder to qualify, evidently). There are some magnificent works on these, many being published on the linguistic turn, especially during the 90s, though rather dated by now.

To tell the truth, most understanding of historical 'schools' (loathe as I to use the term) comes from understanding elsewhere. If you've delved into philosophy, literary theory, sociology, economics and so forth, their models have provided much of the framework around existing historical analyses.
Having just read the above, I now understand why so many people hate history. That is not to discredit what was said because there is truth in it. But, the sheer complexity of what was said is so over my head that it makes the 117 interactive maps I created of historical events seem meaningless despite the fact that they are based on facts and the personal writings of those involved. One would think by this that the historical analysis is more important than the facts. If so, how do we commoners know the difference between fact, myth, and predetermined or distorted historical analysis as part of some propaganda or political agenda?
 
Apr 2011
1,286
Melbourne
#8
I'm not so sure about 'political agenda', but yes, the linguistic and cultural turns and accompanying 'critical theories' et al haven't always been so nicely accepted. I'm ambivalent to certain areas, myself, but research inevitably needs to be done with consideration to theories from Habermas on the public sphere, etc.
 
Aug 2010
15,468
Welsh Marches
#9
I'd recommend R.G. Collingwood's 'Idea of History', it really does make one thing what history is all about and what a historian is doing when trying to reconstruct the past.
 
Aug 2012
34
#10
I'd recommend R.G. Collingwood's 'Idea of History', it really does make one thing what history is all about and what a historian is doing when trying to reconstruct the past.
The irony of course is that The Idea of History was published posthumously. :zany:

As I stated before, Collingwood is necessary for a deeper understanding of historiography but E. H. Carr's book is short and is a good primer. Especially since the OP was asking for a good "starting point".
 

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