Category Creative Historical Thinking

Why its OK that you don’t remember anything you were supposed to have learned in History Class

In homage to the Routledge “Why it’s OK” Series I present: “Why its OK that you don’t remember anything you were supposed to have learned in history class.” (1) There’s a good chance that much of what you were supposed to have learned was wrong. The best-known work on this issue is of course James […]

Was it really JKF? Why did Men Stop Wearing Hats?

An article by Adrian Wooldridge in the Economist’s 1843 magazine credits the 20th century decline in hat-wearing to two main causes: soldiers returning from World War Two bucking formality, and the influence of our President John “hatless Jack” Fitzgerald Kennedy. Both explanations are part of the story, to be sure, but they are far from […]

1827 was a vertical year

In my book, Creative Historical Thinking, I consider why people conceive of time in different shapes, and what effect this might have on how we shape chronologies, how we write and think about history, and how we communicate with each other. Spatial representations of time can be idiosyncratic, but they also have a social, collective […]

Historians “Show Your Work”

I never liked it when a math teacher told me to “show my work.”  What do you mean, “Show my work?”  “I answered the problem in my head. There is nothing to show.” Sometimes, however, showing your work as a historian can be a useful exercise, especially as a form of pedagogy. Students need to […]

Virginia Tech Presentation

Last week, I drove down to Blacksburg Virginia to give a presentation about my new book, Creative Historical Thinking. The program that invited me did a short write-up. Here are some pictures. How to date a picture by counting the stars on the flag. This one is a trick though – sometimes frugal Americans carried […]

How (not) to write a thesis statement

Too often I see history books with arguments of the nature:  “x also shaped y.”    They are usually written like this: “Early Virginian society was not only shaped by economics but also by gender relations” or “the American Civil War also had international impact.” I respond typically by uttering “that is not a thesis”, as […]

Creative Newspaper Editor

When the editor of the South Carolina Gazette wanted to describe the “join or die”  snake then in use in newspapers in Pennsylvania, he had to improvise because he didn’t have a printing block with the image cut on it. The result was something that would have made Lawrence Sterne happy: the use of text […]

Space-time visualizations without a flux capacitor

I’m on tour at various regional colleges, giving presentations about my new book, Creative Historical Thinking. I try to make these presentations interactive, with a number of historical thinking exercises for the audience. One point I have been consistently trying to make is that the ways we conceive of time can fundamentally differ from one […]

Time, where did you come from, where did you go?

Time flows up and down, or in a circle (a nautilus perhaps); it flows from left to right. Where time comes from, and where it goes, depends on the observer. Every time I present my work on spatial conceptions of time, I ask students to draw their own examples. Not everyone has an image that […]

The Weekly Pill Planner: Design and the Importance of Spatial Views of Time

I’ve been writing about all of the interesting ways in which people visualize time in spatial form: images of the day, the week, the month, the year, and story lines. I think that spatial visualizations of time help with memory, and that they help make us better at remembering the past and preparing for the […]