The writing of history reflects the interests, predilections, and even prejudices of a given generation. - John Hope Franklin
Of the genres presented through these modules, none are as underused as historiography. For many years historiography was the playground of the professional historian addressed and utilized primarily in graduate level history classes and rarely if ever employed in the 9-12 classroom. Perhaps this is because historiography can be complex. The very definition seems confusing - "the history of history." This history of history is generally presented in one of two ways - as a thematic historiography (works from different authors around a central topic or theme) or as an oeuvre (all works by a single author). Beyond that there are also nuances of historiography that complicate just what it is and how we use it in understanding history. To gain a basic understanding of historiography and just what it is, check out this link to find a definition and some central historiographical questions that might clear some of the confusion. Once we understand what it is and why it is important, we can begin to unfold how we might use this vital historian's tool to help provide depth to our students' understanding and appreciation of history.
Each age writes the history of the past with reference to the conditions uppermost in its own time. - Frederick Jackson Turner
Importance of Historiography in Teaching History
One of the great questions that confronts any student of history is the historical objectivity question. As Neil Munro argues, "Careful study and analysis of the present, or by extension of any event or point in the past, can therefore reveal aspects of the more distant past, and can go some way to explain the nature of that event or point in time." Said differently, we can learn about the past (or at least someone's presentation of it) by understanding the present, and with historiography, the time period in which the history was written. This is why teaching students historiographically as well as historically is crucial to their intellectual development as a student of history. As with historical narratives and graphic representations, historiographical analysis allows students to see the depth of history behind the presentation of supposed facts. When coupled with primary document analysis, historiography presents even further evidence to the young historian that history is an interpretive discipline and not just a collection of dates, definitions, and events.