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One curiosity after another

New Yorker pieces written by a professional historian

Posted in Children's Literature, Creative Nonfiction, Government, History, Parenting, Research, Sex ed, Writing | Comments Off on New Yorker pieces written by a professional historian

These are written by Jill Lepore, who has written academically about King Philip’s War and slavery in 18th-century Manhattan, among other topics.  She started an English major, went into American studies, and is now the chair of History and Literature at Harvard.  So she’s as academic as you can get – but also is a great example of how historical research training can allow you to comment well on a host of other topics in the non-academic world.   Note how these pieces aren’t precisely history – they use history to illuminate a interesting topic. on Tea Parties, Boston and otherwise On writing about George Washington On the invention of parenthood On sex education On children’s...

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Nonfiction writing

Posted in Creative Nonfiction, History, Writing | Comments Off on Nonfiction writing

Historians, perhaps more than many kinds of academics, often find themselves in the role of public intellectual, needing to translate ideas gained from their scholarship to others.  Having studied our nation’s development and character, historians get asked to lend perspective on current events.  Whether this happens in flagship publications or in conversations over a family BBQ, the study of history lends itself to non-academic conversation.  You’re likely to need to develop your skills communicating your understandings of the world with non-historians; you might even find you enjoy using your skills in this way.  Many of us came to history in part because we loved the stories of our past; historians tend to love narrative.  This assignment helps you retain your instincts for story – which I can tell from your writing that all of you have – while developing...

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New Yorker Article example

Posted in Activism, Creative Nonfiction, History, Social Media, Writing | Comments Off on New Yorker Article example

Although you can browse around in the reporting and essays section for more examples of the kind of article we’re talking about, this week’s essay by Malcolm Gladwell uses history to ask questions about modern social activism, Facebook, and...

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Colorado River Drying Up

Posted in Environmental History, The West, Water | Comments Off on Colorado River Drying Up

A seven-state negotiation will decide if Arizona and Nevada get even less of the water still left....

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Background reading in American History

Posted in History, Research, Western History | Comments Off on Background reading in American History

Taking a course in regional history can be tough if you don’t have a strong undergrad background in US history.  If you don’t, or you just want a quick refresher, here are some suggestions: — for a good grasp of the major events and peoples in American history, taking a look at a balanced survey textbook like Out of Many is a good idea.  Read through the table of contents.  Do you remember most of it?  If there’s an area that seems unfamiliar, read that section.  If you plan to continue studying American history, or teach it, having a textbook on hand is very useful.  Everyone forgets what, say, the Lecompton Constitution was from time to time, and having a reference to go to will help with your work in many classes.  If you can’t find one in the...

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Archives and Expectations

Posted in Anxiety, Gender, History, Native America, Native American, Parenting, Western History | Comments Off on Archives and Expectations

When my oldest was nearly four, and I was getting used to having his brother around too, I used to worry. I know Big Guy so well, thought I. He’s so much like me. It’s like I understand everything about him. But this Boo-child…he’s different. He’s not so much like me. I don’t know how I’m going to understand him. He’s opaque to me. What do I do? Now Boo is four, and Big Guy is eight, and Big Guy is opaque to me. He won’t tell me about his day; he won’t tell me what he’s thinking. Not until he bursts into angry tears at some parental or fraternal injustice do I know what he’s feeling. And I’m 100% sure there are lots of other feelings in there I’m not allowed to know about. I haven’t a clue...

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