|Dr. Neva Specht and her students visit Poplar Forest, Virginia, the summer home of Thomas Jefferson|
History majors at Appalachian State University will learn the craft of history by practicing appropriate exercises that increase incrementally in difficulty and complexity from level to level. Essential to this is the understanding that history is a discipline and a practice, not simply the acquisition of a body of knowledge. Nothing in the following outline of the craft of history is meant to suggest that students will not simultaneously acquire a vast knowledge of the content of history.
History is as much about process as it is about factual information. History is the study of change over time, of changing societies, of the causes of change, and of the results of change.
History is vital to educating anyone. History is not social studies; it is the narrative of human experience. History embraces time, and no other discipline does that. – Nick Thimmesch, Los Angeles Times
At the heart of history is historical method. In other words, history is something that one does. It involves locating, evaluating and using evidence to reconstruct and understand the past. It entails asking useful questions and then finding out where and how to find the answers. This includes being critical of the evidence found–are the sources genuine and, even if they are, is the information valid? Even honest answers can still be wrong. Once it is determined what evidence is credible, it must be organized into a larger, logical whole that can be clearly communicated to others. In short, historians find evidence, evaluate it for authenticity and bias, establish its historical context, determine what it all means, and communicate their findings to others. Not surprisingly, this method of investigation and reporting has been likened to detective work (see, for example, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time).
...advice for would-be stockbrokers: go to college and be a history major. Learn perspective. It’s a valuable asset. In our business, you’re assaulted daily and minute by minute with information. The problem is to sort through it and make long-term decisions based on short-term information. – Carol Kleiman, Chicago Tribune
Many professional-level jobs in business, industry, and government are filled by people who must use precisely these skills, (e.g., analysts of all kinds, marketing specialists, managers, and of course detectives). Persons with historical training frequently have more aptitude for these jobs than others.