Response Paper: Define History

As we get into our first full week HIS290, I’m going to have you think about a deceptively simple question: What is history?

As I’ll suggest in our first class session today, it’s not the same thing as “the past.” And as John Fea argues at the beginning of Why Study History?, “history” approaches the past differently than other academic disciplines — and differently than other “past-related practices” or postures common in American culture.

So here’s the prompt for this week’s response paper, which is due via Moodle no later than 5pm on Thursday, 2/9.

How would you define “history”?

Don’t jump to writing your paper! First, prepare:

  • Read the assigned chapters in Fea (ch. 1) and McKenzie (introduction and ch. 3). Pay attention to how they define history — or, in McKenzie’s case “thinking historically.”
  • Complete your scheduled interview with a Bethel history professor. Be sure to spend some time asking how they understand what’s distinctive about history as a way of studying/thinking about the past. (here are suggestions for questions)

Okay, now you can start writing your 300-word response paper for Thursday afternoon. Begin by drafting a definition of “history” that is no more than 25 words long. Put that at the top of your response, then devote the remaining 275-some words to explaining your rationale for that definition.

There’s no right answer here; obviously, 25 words will force you to focus on certain aspects of history and not others. But however you craft and explain your definition, it should be clear (a) that you understand the difference between “the past” and “history” and (b) that you’re responding to what you read from Fea and/or McKenzie and what you heard from the faculty member you interviewed.

This response will be due on Moodle no later than 5pm on Thursday, Feb. 9th. (Unlike later response papers, this won’t turn into a blog post. But I’ll use your responses to prime in-class discussion on Friday afternoon. And unlike the response you wrote for earlier today, this one will not be pass/fail; I’ll grade it according to response paper expectations.)


One thought on “Response Paper: Define History

  1. Pingback: How You All Defined History | Intro to History

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