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Unit 1: Redefining World Society and Culture

Lesson A: Thinking Like a Historian

Opening: Studying History

picture of herodotus statue

Statue of Herodotus [1]

Herodotus is considered the first professional historian. He wrote a historical inquiry into the causes and events of the Persian Wars and he used the term 'historia' to describe his writings. Historia translates as "to learn through research, to inquire."

Why study history? There are lots of reasons. History is full of interesting stories. If you think of your favorite books or movies, chances are they are somehow based on a story of something that happened in the past. History helps you better understand the world today. But studying history is also important because it teaches you the skills you need to be successful in high school, college, and in any career you choose. These skills will help you make sense of a world in which you are constantly exposed to large amounts of conflicting information and messages from new technologies every day. When you learn to "do" history, you learn to think critically and solve problems.

Notebook Icon

Written Activity - Notebook

In your notebook, respond to the following question:

  • Think about your favorite detective movie or television show. List all the things that the detective did to solve the case.

Look back on the list you just made about what your favorite detective did to solve the case. Which of the following things did your favorite detective do?

Like a detective, a historian must gather, sort through, and interpret evidence from the past to put together the story of what happened and its importance. This story is called an interpretation. Historians do not agree about what happened in the past. Each historian examines the evidence and comes to his or her own conclusion or interpretation.

Your job as a student of history is to examine the evidence, including the interpretations of historians, and "do" history for yourself. To do this, you will need tools called historical thinking skills.


Page Notes:

[1] Source: This image from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Herodotus_Massimo_Inv124478.jpg is in the public domain.