What Do Historians Do?
Here are interviews with six different historians. They describe what they love about history, how they define history, details about their job, and how the study of history can change people's lives.
One important thing to know before you listen is that historians have traditionally divided the human past into two periods: history and pre-history. Pre-history refers to the time in any society before written records existed. History, as a discipline, focuses heavily on evidence recorded in the form of writing. This presents some complications in a World History course, since some parts of the world had written records 5000 years ago, whereas writing didn't exist in others until 500 years ago (or more recently). People without writing interacted across regions, migrated, and exchanged ideas and goods with others. In some places - where people who used writing wrote about their neighbors who did not use writing - we can access a one-sided written record. In other places, we have archaeological and biological evidence of interaction, but no written evidence.
As you listen to the interviews, note how each historian defines history. What types of evidence do they use to construct an understanding of the past? Also, see if you can pick out ways each historian speaks directly or indirectly about historical thinking skills.