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Approaches to Historiography

Historiographies come in many flavors depending on the writer’s agenda and the corpus of available secondary sources. A selection of historiographical approaches is listed below to serve as inspiration for your project.

The chronological approach:
This approach is particularly suitable for topics that have been central to the historical discourse over a long period of time. Take the rise and fall of the Roman Empire for example. Much has been written about this topic. The challenge will be to identify a set of monographs that best characterize changing interpretations over time.

The geographical approach: This approach is best suited for topics that have a large geographic reach such as the historiography of World War I. The challenge will be to identify distinctive national/regional approaches to the topic.

The school of thought approach: This approach works well for topics that attracted the interest of historians from multiple schools of thought. Take the example of British imperial expansion in the 18th century. Historians have produced a canon of works about this subject based on gender theory, race theory, environmental history, economical history, subaltern history, to name just a few.

The impact of a seminal work: This approach delineates and assesses the impact of an influential secondary work chronologically, geographically or theoretically.

Pick the approach best suited to further your argument.

Selected historical schools/approaches:

  • Social history
    The French Annales School was one of the early representatives of this trend.
  • Environmental history
  • World history
  • Economic history
    Marxist history may be considered as part of this school of thought.
  • Cultural history
  • Gender history
    Formerly known as Women's history
  • Subaltern studies
  • Ethnohistory
  • History of ideas
  • Linguistic history
jseibert Jutta Seibert
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Last Modified: 2017-08-22 11:25:21