Module 4: Historiography
Historiography is the study of how historians research and disseminate historical analysis and content.
The discipline of history is made of many subdisciplines, each with its own methods, context, focus, and agenda. Take a look at the image of the window on this page for example. Each of the panes show the same view of the building across the street, yet no two panes in this photo reflect the same image.
This is a good way to think about historiography. Historians may look at the same historical moment, context, and even the same sources, but their research questions, methods, and positionality all influence the appearance of the final product. As in the upper panes of this window, those final products might focus on top-down narratives from institutions, or historical structures. Alternatively, other historians focus on human agency and bottom-up social history like the lower panes that reflect people. There are also historians who use a mixture of methods and draw on several subdisciplines to make their arguments (see the middle panes).
Historiography is the analysis of the various factors that shape historical research and is a key part of any project. After all, we need to know what historians have already studied and argued before we can build on, adapt, or refute those arguments. Listen to or view one or two of the following overviews of historiography:
Emily Blanck, “Historiography, What is it?” Rowan University (2017). (6:11 minutes)
Includes the video “What is Historiography” by Kyle D. Stedham, Florida State University.
Emily Blanck, “Historiography, the History of Writing History,” Rowan University, 2017. (12:31 minutes)
Grant Hurst, “What is Historiography?,” The Casual Historian. (3:18 minutes)
Jason M. Kelly “Introducing Historiography,” Practicing History Podcast (2019) URL: https://jasonmkelly.com/practicinghistory/2019/6/17/practicing-history-podcast-episode-2-introducing-historiography
Resources on Historiography
- Amanda Goodsett, “HIS 299 Introduction to Historical Studies Research Guide,” Michael Schwartz Library, Cleveland State University.
- “Historiography,” Writing on History, Queens College, CUNY
- Dunn, Ross E., Laura J. Mitchell, and Kerry Ward, eds.. The New World History: A Field Guide for Teachers and Researchers. University of California Press, 2016. ISBN 9780520289895. (CSU Students access it via this link New World History)
- World History Association (in particular see the WHA blog, Pandem-Mondus)
- Library Guide: Historiography, University of Rhode Island
- Doing History Podcast, Omohundro Institute. URL: https://doinghistorypodcast.com/
- Nathalie Kouamé, Éric P. Meyer and Anne Viguier, Encyclopaedia of Historiography: Africa, America, Asia. Presses de l’Inalco, 2020. https://books.openedition.org/pressesinalco/21819