Category History Methods

Review of William Caferro, Teaching History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2020)

This book might be categorized as a memoir or more precisely a set of reflections about teaching history. It is only secondarily a guide or how-to book about teaching history. Caferro has been teaching history at the university-levl for 35 years. He graduated from Yale, began his career as an adjunct teacher, taught for a […]

Review of Richard Bell, Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped Into Slavery and Their Astonishing Odyssey Home (Simon & Schuster, 2019)

In the summer of 1825, five free black boys were kidnapped in Philadelphia and sold as slaves in the South. Each had been lured to a ship at the harbor with promises of good pay to help unload fruit. The con man they followed was an African American, John Purnell, who earned high wages working […]

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 Self-Lynching Slave or a lesson in textual criticism?

A peer-reviewer suggests I consult a certain digital history website. The website no longer exists. God damn digital humanities. Anyway, looking further at the guy who supposedly built a great website in 2018, I find this text from 1767 and an attempt at explaining it: Is he serious? Is this actually his interpretation (below) of […]

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 […]

An extensive list of books on history methods/ philosophy of history

This is by no means a complete list of all books on History Methods and the Philosophy of History, but it is a complete list of all such books that I own. A few years ago I may have owned only a dozen or so books in this field, but my collection grew as I […]

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 […]

Book review: Robert Tracy McKenzie, A Little Book for New Historians: Why and How to Study History (InterVarsity Press, 2019).

Book Review: Robert Tracy McKenzie, A Little Book for new Historians: Why and How to Study History (InterVarsity Press, 2019) This is a well-written but fairly standard history methods book with an interesting Christian and conservative perspective.  Like dozens of authors before him, McKenzie begins with a definition of history that draws a distinction between […]

Where did 2,500 missing African Americans go? Or were they never there in the first place?

In a previous post, I questioned whether there was a large African American migration to Washington County NY in the first decade of the 19th century, or if this was actually some kind of census anomaly. Could over 2,500 free African Americans move into and out of a rural county in one decade and be […]

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 […]