History must involve people.
History is about people. If there are no people,
there is no history—maybe
science or technology, but no history.
If you believe the subject of history is all
about memorizing dates, dead peoples' names,
places, and events, you are in for a
surprise here ... possibly a pleasant
surprise. As Eric Garneau puts it,
"... history, like basically every other
discipline under the liberal arts umbrella,
is based in critical thinking, not
fact-checking. Historians need to be able to
process different arguments, texts and
interpretations and formulate a cogent
argument for their own reading of important
is without a doubt the grandest narrative Not
only is there an uncertain future, but a past that
is packed withf unanswered questions,
undiscovered events, and great men and women whose
impact upon our lives is passing unnoticed. The
greatest and most expansive literary works are, by
comparison, a mere series of events taken from a
thin slice of human history.
As with most academic school
subjects, history can rarely be taught in its most
exciting forms. There are exams to pass and courses
to complete with good grades and on schedule. Such
situations preclude the barest of genuine
appreciation for history.
you are visiting this department because you need
some help with a history class, you are wondering
what it is like to study history in college, or you
want to brush up on your past experiences with the
study of history ... you are quite welcome here.
There is much you can do.
But there is something much more
here for our
and, of course, those who are feeling this sort of
odd "itch" to do something with history.
passion for history is built around an abiding
fascination with the story of humanity, we applaud you.
Enjoy! But if your passion is not well defined, or
perhaps disfigured by your experience with conventional
history classes, you might discover a way to find some
History is not about verifying
History is about asking questions.
It's all about asking questions --
the right kinds of questions. For example, it
takes about thirty seconds of web searching to find that
the United States defeated Great Britain in a gunship
battle in Lake Erie as part of the War of 1812. Facts,
names, and dates come streaming forth on the computer
monitor. It's no big deal to uncover the facts of this
dramatic story. But here is a questions begging an
on earth did the combatants get line-class
battleships onto Lake Erie? Battleships belong on
the high seas and saltwater harbors, not in a
shallow, virtually landlocked (because of the
Niagara Falls) relatively tiny freshwater lakes?
If you really care about history,
you don't simply blow off the question with a
guess. It grabs onto you, and you can't make it go away.
You locate His Majesty's shipbuilding records for the
time. You pull up the maps of the time, and
recheck your facts on the history of the
battle and its precursors.
Simple questions seems obvious only once
they are asked. And there has to be hundreds
of thousands of such questions buried in the records of
human existence. Explore your favorite place and era ...
put yourself into it. Find one of those questions and
spend as much time an energy necessary for finding
and verifying an answer. Then blog the paper you prepare
on the subject. You don't need an academic stamp,
"proper" credentials, or peer reviews. Once you put up
the blog, the discovery is yours, and the date
stamp establishes your priority. (Of course, you'd
better make a responsible job of it. Screw it up, and
you will suffer from one of two extremes: Either
your paper will get no attention at all, or it will get
the kind of attention from the history buffs that buries
your reputation for a very long time).
History as we learned to hate it: