Category Creative Historical Thinking

Croquet History

Some images from the county histories of western New York from the 1870s.

A 19th Century Waldo

Browsing through those 1870s county histories for New York and I discovered this guy, a kind of 19th century Waldo, was a frequent stand-in for the artist. Some amazing sketch work in these volumes by the way.

Metal detecting and material culture

When I was much younger, I interned for 4 months at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. It was about that time when I discovered “material culture” as a field of study. As a historian raised on a steady diet of old papers, I couldn’t make much sense out of material culture. It seemed to me […]

A Forgotten Genre of Photography: The Family in Front of the House in late 19th century U.S.

Get the kids, the horses, the cats and dogs, buggies, tractors, and a painting of grandpa. The photographer is here, and it’s time to gather in front of the house for a family picture. I first encountered this genre of photograph when I was doing research for my first book, Veneklasen Brick, in 2004.  In […]

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 […]