What type of historian are you?



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What type of historian are you?

  1. What is the purpose of studying history?

    1. It is learning about facts and events to discover the truth.

    2. It is about examining attitudes in the past about what people thought happened.

    3. It is about re-discovering the lives of ordinary people who were powerless and who lived through that time yet have been forgotten.

    4. It is about learning how various figures and events throughout the past shaped our country today.

  2. Why did the Soviet Union collapse in 1991?

    1. Economic decline, growing national independence movements, and a belated programme of piecemeal reform weakened its authority, dissolving itself after a failed military coup.

    2. Isn't the real question whether it marked the 'end of history' and pave the way to a postideological global consensus?

    3. People power, as oppressed citizens across its states began to demand civil rights and freedoms and a democratic vote.

    4. Superior western military power and free civil institutions, as well as the charisma of Thatcher and Reagan, forced the USSR to admit defeat in the Cold War.

  3. When considering an unfamiliar historical source, what should one first ask?

    1. What events are being described, what are the opinions of the author, what caused these events.

    2. What attitudes are contained within the text, and what does this textual analysis tell us about the period being studied.

    3. Who is the author of this text, and what was their role within society, and what does this tell us about different sections of society at this time.

    4. What is this source talking about, and what was their role within society so that we can tell whether they knew what they were talking about.

  4. The English Civil War can be basically understood as...

    1. A series of British wars between Parliamentarians and Royalists, resulting in the king's defeat and execution, in what was called 'the world turn'd upside down'.

    2. A series of discourses between about the ideological foundations and possibilities of the modern British state.

    3. A revolution of popular anger across England against unfair taxation, a repressive church and monarch, and a new desire for equality.

    4. The misguided Charles I attempting to enforce his divine will upon parliament, resulting in the unlikely ascendency of Oliver Cromwell.

  5. How can oral histories aid the work of the historian?

    1. Depends on the speaker. They are more susceptible to errors than written sources, so treat with care. If it's a load of old blokes drooling about their childhoods, then bin it.

    2. Their language and choice of words reveals a hidden history of new meanings for the historian to analyse and uncover.

    3. Oral histories are the voice of those who lived through history, giving a voice back to those who have been unjustly forgotten, opening up new interpretations for the historian to examine.

    4. If it's from someone important, it's interesting, but don't take it too seriously. Otherwise, walk on by.

  6. What role does sex and sexuality play in history?

    1. Difficult to determine, as many extant sources could not or chose not to express sexual experiences. But through marriage customs and folk literature, it can offer something.

    2. What role does history play in sex and sexuality? It is everything, especially when censored or unspoken.

    3. Non-heterosexual and trans people, as well as countless other powerful people, have been systematically omitted from mainstream history. It's our task to tell these other histories.

    4. Except where it concerns monarchs, leaders and influential courtesans, very little. An all-too modern preoccupation.

  7. What causes enabled the Industrial Revolution to occur in Britain during the 18th and 19th centuries?

    1. The Agricultural Revolution, enabled by the Enclosure Acts, modernised the British economy, along with advances in science, technology and engineering that enabled Britain to fully harnass her natural resources.

    2. The rise of empiricism and empirical thought, which gave a scientific basis and justification for what the ever-prospering middle classes were doing.

    3. The control of the means of production and the raw economic capital of the country by the landed gentry and ruling classes, empowered by the land enclosures which displaced millions of people off their land and into the factories where they depended solely on their labour to avoid destitution.

    4. The ideas of great men who transformed Britain from being a divided, even backward nation, into the most powerful country on Earth, where the sun never set on the Empire and half the Globe was red.

  8. What should a historian do if a source contains 'bias'?

    1. All sources contain bias to an extent, and historians should always note the nature of it this when using them.

    2. All historians contain bias to an extent, and histories should always be interrogated in relation to who has produced them, knowledge-production discursive conditions, and purpose.

    3. The problem of bias is often used to dismiss sources not constructed in 'authoritative discourses'. But oral histories, political works, folk literature and religious works tell us a good deal about the hidden and neglected lives which produced and consumed them.

    4. Burn it. Unless it's biased in favour of important historical figures of national interest.

  9. What is 'proper History'?

    1. Historical events, based solidly on the basic premise of using examples and facts.

    2. Is there such a thing as proper history?

    3. 'Proper History' is the history of ordinary working people and their lives, conveniently forgotten by those in positions of power and authority, and rescues those consigned to what E.P. Thompson termed 'the enormous condescension of posterity'.

    4. The study of great men and their actions which shaped 'our island story'.

  10. Should history provide a cultural or moral role for the public today?

    1. Historians should strive only to produce what is closest to objective, accurate and fair historical knowledge. Let others decide its moral or cultural role.

    2. History is the myth that produces the public.

    3. Histories are already framed by a dominant cultural and moral public discourse of the 'nation', 'man/woman', 'black/white', 'us/other'. The question is not whether they accurately reflect an experience of the past, but in whose interests they are reflected for.

    4. Yes, but only to the extent that it stirs the young to emulate the great men and deeds of the past, and love of one's national achievements.


Mostly A’s:

You tend to be an empiricist historian. You interpret historical events and history firmly by the study of events, causes and effects, consequences and legacies, providing an account of the period as close as possible to a reconstruction. You give great emphasis to primary sources over any secondary sources, and aim to piece together an account of the past which is as close to the evidence as possible, untainted by theory or bias. Facts exist objectively in the world, and history is both the science and craft of finding the sources of these facts, and presenting them in the most objective case.

Empiricist historians include Geoffrey R. Elton, Arthur Marwick, and Quentin Skinner. You can watch Quentin Skinner discussing his work here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gH-NxQmf87k.

Mostly B’s:

You tend to be a postmodernist historian. Postmodernists are sceptical of easy explanations, or 'grand narratives' of history. Traditionally written history is therefore a product of a field of power relations which reflects the biases of its times and its writers. Rather than emphasising the events and their causes, there is a tendency to evaluate the sources themselves, giving a close textual reading to see what they reveal about attitudes of the time, the idea being that interpretations are as revealing (if not more so) than the facts themselves. Postmodernist historians include Michel Foucault, Keith Jenkins and Hayden White.

Find about more about postmodernist histories in this short film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKDTRsp9FLc

Mostly C’s:

You tend to be a 'historian from below'. You are interested by the stories not of kings, queens and rulers, nor of economies and countries, but the stories of ordinary people and their struggles in the face of political, economic and social oppression throughout the ages. Instead of looking for official accounts of what happened, 'historians from below' are interested in the versions of ordinary people, either through diaries, unpublished written accounts, or oral histories. This incorporates a range of approaches including postcolonial history, gender history and Marxist historians.

Historians from below include Christopher Hill, Edward Said and Sheila Rowbotham. Take a look at Sheila Rowbotham talking about her motivations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSETamygZtQ

Mostly D’s:

You tend to be a 'top-down' historian. This means that you are focused entirely on the great battles and achievements of monarchs, generals and other heroic individuals. As this consists almost exclusively of men, this is sometimes known by the pejorative term 'great man theory'. You tend to believe in a grand explanation for history as a form of national progress and right, be it in the British 'island story' to empire, or the American 'manifest destiny' to remake the world in its own image. The stories of those who were not directly involved in fashioning and shaping major historical events are shunned as 'irrelevant'.



Top-down historians include Thomas Macaulay, David Starkey and Niall Ferguson. Take a look at the characteristics and limits of the top-down approach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ka4PmYMApFE.


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