Professor Mark Connelly on 'Historiography'

Head of School, Professor Mark Connelly, shares his recommended reading and gives an insight into ‘Historiography’.

An important aspect of studying History at University is engaging with Historiography. Studying the historiography of a subject means thinking about the ways historians have explored their subjects, themes, and topics. It means reflecting on the approaches used and whether similarities and differences can be detected. This often means going beyond the historian to consider the society and culture at the time and place of writing and the availability of different sources. It means studying the History of History. To get you started on this process, why not think about a history book you have found particularly engaging or inspirational. Ask yourself some questions about it:

  • What do you know about the author?
  • How did the author frame the work? For example, has a chronological or thematic approach been taken?
  • Does it privilege a certain perspective? For example, does it mainly focus on those with power such as monarchs, presidents, prime ministers of other leading political figures?
  • What effect does this have on the main conclusions or arguments made?
  • Do you think the work in any way reflects the time and place in which it was researched and written?

You could also think about a favourite film, documentary or television series dealing with the past. Is it trying to persuade you to interpret the past in a particular way? Are there heroes or villains in it? How are they presented and why do you think they are portrayed in that manner?

Another exercise you can try is to consider your favourite museum. How does it present History? What materials does it use? Why do you find it so engaging and memorable?

Do you think there are differences between ‘the past’, ‘heritage’ and ‘History’?

Recommended reading

Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice (London: Arnold, 2000)
Stephen Morillo (ed.), What is Military History? (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013)

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