Category Creative Historical Thinking

Assignments to turn students into historians

As a college student, I wrote a lot of history research papers. Research and writing are two essential tasks of a historian. However, when a class is only 15 weeks long, and when students are being introduced to a topic for the first time, it seems unfair and unproductive to assign them a 15 to […]

Counting pounds, shillings, and pence

I came across this back-of-the-page sketching in an 18th century collection the other day.  It is simple addition of sums in pounds, shillings, and pence.

Cycles within cycles: Viewing the Year, Month, and Day

This interesting image of a spatial view of time comes from a Guatemala friend. She explains that the year moves clockwise, and each month itself is comprised of weeks that move in a clockwise manner, and that days are themselves like small clockwise circles within those weeks. Ptolemy would be proud.

Memory and Spatial-Time Synesthesia

The documentary The Boy Who Can’t Forget contains an interview with a woman (Jill Price) who has an incredible memory of past events. Indeed, Price is burdened by the past. She remembers too much, and forgets too little. Not surprisingly, Price has some form of space-time synesthesia that helps her automatically structure her past in […]

Spatial Visualization of Time in the Voynich Manuscript

In the first chapter of my book Creative Historical Thinking (Routledge, 2018),I describe some of the different ways that we visualize time in spatial form. A common way of viewing the year is as a circle, divided into seasons or months (perhaps accompanied by the constellations of the zodiac). In my own synesthetic view of […]

Some daguerreotypes

I picked up a few daguerreotypes in reasonable condition and at a decent price ($20-$25 each) at an antique store the other day. Both cases had broken hinge, but were otherwise complete. The old man has some coloring added to his cheeks – something I have seen before, especially with later tintypes – but the […]

Willard’s Chronographer

I just discovered another interesting spatial visualization of time, this one from a U.S. history text used in elementary schools in the mid 19th century., Emma Willard’s Abridge History of the United States (New York: A.S. Barnes & Co), 1852. Like I noted in my post on Hillyer’s “Staircase of Time” Willard treats her diagram […]

The “Staircase of Time”

My new book, Creative Historical Thinking (Routledge, 2018), includes many diagrams showing spatial visualizations of time. One of my arguments in the book is that there are many ways in which we can visualize time. If we try to impose just one diagram, of say a timeline that goes left to right, or a cyclical […]

A Doctor of History Fixes Broken Stories

I generally try to avoid using the title “Dr.” instead of “Mr.” because I don’t want to be called upon in an emergency to have to save someone’s life. I can imagine it now:  the captain’s voice comes over the speaker system: “Is there a doctor on the plane?”  When no one comes forward, the […]

Shake out a book: A Library Exercise for a History Class

Here’s a fun activity for historians and students in history classes:  Go to your school or university library, open up old books and shake them out  (not literally shake them, you guys!). How many books might you need to shake out before you find a piece of paper?  Usually its about 20 or 30 books. […]