Historiography

First we will learn and understand the idea of historiography.  In order for you to do well in this course, and on the AP Exam, you need to have a working understanding of historiography.  You will have opportunities to work through this discipline as we read and interpret both primary and secondary sources.

Historiography - What is it?  Webster defines it as:
the writing of history; especially :
"the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particulars from the authentic materials, and the synthesis of particulars into a narrative that will stand the test of critical methods"

It is those critical methods that you need to understand so you can interpret the history we study in your own way and bring that understanding to the classroom.  We will be using both primary and secondary sources to accomplish this task.




 Historiography - An example:
A primary source is an artifact of a particular point in time. In the 1850s, for example, many slaveowners in the United States kept diaries and journals about their day-to-day activity. The historian Kenneth Stampp looked at these documents for information about the life of a slaveowner in the 1850s, and also derived information from them on the life of the slaves on the plantation. He used the documents as primary sources. The book he created, The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South, is a secondary source, a work produced through the analysis of primary sources. If another historian argues that Stampp's history ignores the economic history of slavery, or that Stampp's work overly emphasizes one aspect of slave life, then this historian is using Stampp's book -- originally produced as a secondary source -- as a primary source, an artifact of study. This new work which criticizes a secondary source, is a work of historiography.



Some of the basic questions considered in historiography are:

  • Who wrote the source (primary or secondary)?
  • For primary sources, we look at the person in his or her society, for secondary sources, we consider the theoretical orientation of the approach.
  • What is the authenticity, authority, bias/interest, and intelligibility of the source?
  • What was the view of history when the source was written?
  • Was history supposed to provide moral lessons?
  • What or who was the intended audience?
  • What sources were privileged or ignored in the narrative?
  • By what method was the evidence compiled?
  • In what historical context was the work of history itself written?

Historiography - Your assignment:

We will be working on this the first few days of school.  Below are the materials you will need to read and be ready to discuss in class.  Please be sure to read all the articles as there may be a pop-op on it.


The Human Record by Andrea and Overfield
- This 20 page article helps you understand the reading and interpretation of primary source documents that will be a large portion of what we do over the term of this course.

The Hawaiian Creation Story - Each culture has their own understanding of the creation of the world.  We will be comparing this with the Judeo-Christian version.

Genesis Chapter 1 - As written in the King James Bible, often recognized as the official version by many denominations of Christianity such as Protestants, was translated for the Anglican Church in 1611.

The Iroquois Creation Story - A northeastern Native American Tribe's story of the creation of the world.

The Zuni Creation Story - A southwestern Native American Tribe's story of the creation of the world.

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