Sunday, July 5, 2015

Primary Documents and Your Class

It seems that many of our students think that history is what is in our textbooks, when they need to be shown that they are the careful work of many historians and often have a distinct point of view.  So adding primary documents to your history class can provide some relevance and show how hard it is to write our past history.

For example, right now I am reading An Empire on the Edge: How Britain Came to Fight America .  It is different than most revolutionary stories as it tells it from the British perspective and argues that the war was essentially a long term prospect that could have been avoided, but once it started was already a lost cause for our colonial mother.

At any rate it mentions that Boston had five newspapers, when a city its size normally had one.  One of them was the Massachusetts Spy.  You can see an original copy here and blow it up large enough for you and your students to read.

Along those lines here is a WashPost article arguing that Southern writers have succeeded in getting textbooks to state that the Civil War was over states' rights and not primarily slavery.  Considering how our textbooks can sway people one way or the other this would be a great discussion to have in class. 

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