How do you guys learn about a historical period?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
21,827
SoCal
Curious about how other people learn about a certain historical period? Do you take notes or passively read/watch documentaries. Maybe another method?
Through various ways: Books (through Google Books, the Internet Archive, et cetera), websites (HarpWeek, Wikipedia, et cetera), newspaper and magazine articles, and films/movies/documentaries. :)

Wikipedia is great for a useful summary and overview of various topics, IMHO. However, please make sure to check the sources there in order to be sure that they are indeed reliable. If they are reliable and you want more information about a topic, you could try directly accessing these sources. :)
 
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Mar 2019
1,812
Kansas
It often takes reading several books before you start to get a filled-out understanding of a given topic. Seeing different viewpoints helps to give you perspective and form your own views.
And you know you are getting somewhere when part way through a passage you catch yourself silently telling the author he is an idiot lol
 
May 2019
7
Australia
Thanks guys for all your varying responses. I'm currently studying The Ancient Near East and my first secondary source which I'm using as an introductory to the topic is a book called 'A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC(Blackwell History of the Ancient World) 3rd Edition. I chose that book cause it was recommended by lots of people when I researched for sources to learn about this particular period of history. I'm also planning to use a varying collection of other resources such as documentaries and other books. In terms on secondary resources the only secondary resource that I know of that would be worth the effort reading is the "Epic Of Gilgamesh", if I find other secondary resources that are easily translated and the worth the read I will use them as well. I plan to study this topic thoroughly for at least a year and maybe one day even visit some of the ancient Mesopotamian sites. I plan to write down extensive notes as I go through.
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,889
Portugal
Thanks guys for all your varying responses. I'm currently studying The Ancient Near East and my first secondary source which I'm using as an introductory to the topic is a book called 'A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC(Blackwell History of the Ancient World) 3rd Edition. I chose that book cause it was recommended by lots of people when I researched for sources to learn about this particular period of history. I'm also planning to use a varying collection of other resources such as documentaries and other books. In terms on secondary resources the only secondary resource that I know of that would be worth the effort reading is the "Epic Of Gilgamesh", if I find other secondary resources that are easily translated and the worth the read I will use them as well. I plan to study this topic thoroughly for at least a year and maybe one day even visit some of the ancient Mesopotamian sites. I plan to write down extensive notes as I go through.
When I read a book, I also like to know who the author is. In the case of “A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC” is Marc Van de Mieroop, a history teacher at Columbia University. This allows me to see the books that are written by professional academic researchers, peer reviewed and that usually know what they are talking about and separate them from the ones written by guys that are just passing by a theme that is trendy.

Here is a short review of the second edition: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.05.06. Reading a couple of reviews also allows us to have an idea of the acceptance of the work in the Academia.
 
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Edric Streona

Ad Honorem
Feb 2016
4,471
Japan
Books, books, books, books and books.

Documentaries might introduce an era, event, war or great person to me but I’d buy/borrow books to learn the details. Even documentaries miss out/edit/gloss over details for time constraints.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,870
Blachernai
When I read a book, I also like to know who the author is. In the case of “A History of the Ancient Near East, ca. 3000-323 BC” is Marc Van de Mieroop, a history teacher at Columbia University. This allows me to see the books that are written by professional academic researchers, peer reviewed and that usually know what they are talking about and separate them from the ones written by guys that are just passing by a theme that is trendy.

Here is a short review of the second edition: Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.05.06. Reading a couple of reviews also allows us to have an idea of the acceptance of the work in the Academia.
Absolutely, and I agree completely. When you're starting to get into the nitty-gritty, I think it's also worth noting where someone is in their academic career. Older, established scholars can get away with writing complete rubbish books, although it doesn't happen all that often. Scholars just starting out tend to write more aggressive books, since one needs to make a splash to have any hope of landing an academic job. That said, first books are usually good because they've been worked over. First they were a dissertation, which a supervisor (ideally) worked closely with the author on. Then they had to pass a dissertation committee, before getting re-written (in the Anglophone world; usually a lot less re-writing in French and German academia!) to satisfy a publisher, who then peer-reviews it again. The cost is that this all takes a long time, but the Anglo-American tenure system tends to require a second book shortly after the first. Hence why so many second books in English are disappointing in comparison to the first.
 
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Sep 2014
941
Texas
Curious about how other people learn about a certain historical period? Do you take notes or passively read/watch documentaries. Maybe another method?
I've always been obsessed with Sparta. Started with the old movie about the 300. I read everything I could find on it, but not in order. Then I read the classics on them. I pay little attention to modern revisionist history. Read Thucydides, Herodotus, Xenophon, etc. Even the plays that were popular told me a lot. You start with generalities and then move on to specifics. Once you get the specifics, the generalities become meaningless.
 

specul8

Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
3,379
Australia
Curious about how other people learn about a certain historical period? Do you take notes or passively read/watch documentaries. Maybe another method?
Read books, have a note book nearby and take notes and cross reference with thin pieces of card 'bookmarks' - I used to dog ear and write in the books ... that can result in pure chaos !

Then I might do some side reading according to those notes .

I will occasionally watch docos and look stuff up on internet , but to get to the real meat, hunt out new books and recent publications (when I say books, I dont mean Von Danniken , Stchen, Hancock, etc . ) .

Eg . Fav subject is ancient Central Asia . I have been reading up on it, mostly on internet, which included the great UNESCO published book on it - pdf. But to get right to the heart of my interest, this recently arrived ;

Origins of the Bronze Age Oasis Civilization in Central Asia

Also I have used other resources, eg. I have found google earth very valuable , to understand certain movements and developments. In my early Central Asian and 'Oxus Civilisation' studies I often examined the land form, deserts, ranges, rivers, shift in rivers , etc . According to this new book. some of my speculations have been shown to be correct .

Fascinating stuff - how did Lapis Lazuli get from Afghanistan to ancient Egypt ? And there is a hint , if you are fascinated by your subject, learning is easier . Also, having a range of things you are familiar with ; geography, climatology, archeology, linguistics .. actually, the whole 'anthropological bag' .

As you get older, it gets easier, as you have a large internal database to draw from.

One should never think they get to an age where they are too old to learn something new .
 
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Reactions: Medri Bahri
Feb 2019
863
Serbia
First and foremost: Books

It is the best, most comprehensive way to study history. If you plan on conducting original research, form your own publications or specialising in a topic primary sources are a must, however they are not necessary to form an understanding of a historical topic. Secondary sources are good for both studying history but also necessary for research as they give context and narrative to historical events as well as give opinions of the individual authors who wrote them

Documentaries are good to give some insight and descriptions on topics but often not enough to actually give proper, in-depth material. Many times documentaries also have some political or other agenda and are not too reliable.

Websites and Youtube videos are of varying quality and credibility as anyone can make anything. Most are unsourced , poorly researched etc. even if accurate and also simplify too much to give proper understanding and often leave many things out. There are some exceptions to this but they are rare. I can list dozens of bad ones with many subscribers, visitors etc. and few actually good ones. Another thing books and some sites have over these Youtube videos and poor sites are citations where you can look into sources used and decide for yourself whether or not the material is accurate.

Opinions of common people (Such as us right here.) are good to discuss and understand history from many different view points but aren't recommended for primary research. You can always ask someone here to answer a question or give a source but you should always look into it yourself.

Finally, and I can't stress this enough: Critical Thinking

Many people take information at face value. Never do this. When wanting to understand history you should always use many sources, read many books, watch many videos, view many primary materials etc. and based on all that different and likely conflicting info you collected form your own opinion.