HIST2F90: Money & Power in the Atlantic World

NEW: Toolbox Overview

This page collects the Toolbox entries from the individual course lessons in one spot for easier review.

From "Introductory Week"

This course teaches you not only about the history of certain times and places, but also about the practice of history. To practice a trade, you need tools. Under this heading we will provide you with tools or exercises that will help you improve your reading, writing, inquiring and thinking in this course -- and we hope also in your life beyond the course.

This week (the Introductory Week) we will get you to acquire an overview of the principles of thinking historically. Historical thinking is a variation on critical thinking. To start learning about it, you should read the following introductions from The Historical Thinking Project (click on the links):

One of the purposes of the Forum exercise this week is to get you to think about your perspective as an interpreter of evidence about and from the past.

Module 1

From "Rulers and Subjects (1)"

Probably the most basic and important skill all historians practice is the analysis of primary source evidence. Therefore, if you've ever taken a history course in university before, you've probably already had some good practice with this skill.

This week you should think some more about use of sources and about the overall goal of a history education when you watch the following web video. Click here to start the video in a new window.

The webcast is by Sam Wineburg, an excellent educational psychologist in the United States. Wineburg is the author of a book with the intriguing title Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. In order to move beyond naive readings of source materials, Wineburg and many other educators recommend that you pay careful attention to the following additional skills when reading primary sources:

The webcast introduces these skills and explains their relevance to the process of historical interpretation. Watch the webcast before you post in the Forum this week, and make sure to take notes. When you read sources for this week's Lesson -- and for all remaining Lessons -- make sure that you pay attention to these dimensions of source analysis.

Note that a student at the beginning of the webcast refers to AP History, which is an American "advanced placement" exam that many high school students take.

From "Rulers and Subjects (2)"

In last week’s Toolbox you learned about the skills of primary source analysis. The resources provided by the web tutorial “Why Historical Thinking Matters” broke down these skills into 4 main parts:

In this week’s Toolbox, you will learn a little about a related skill that is important for primary source analysis, as well as most other aspects of historical research and thinking. That skill is chronological thinking.

Historians usually think chronologically (usually in stories or narratives). In fact, organizing evidence chronologically is crucial for effective contextualization, corroboration, and sourcing. A current example of the importance of chronology is found is the controversy in the American election campaign about when presidential candidate Donald Trump started opposing the War in Iraq in the early 2000s. What happened when? This seems like a straightforward question, right? Answering it in some cases can become complicated and even politically charged. That’s why it’s good to pay attention to and become good at clear, basic chronological thinking.

Most cases of historical chronology are not so controversial today, but they can be important nonetheless. For example, in this week’s Lesson we are comparing and practicing close reading of three sources from 1649. What order do you think the documents were written? The question matters, because writers in the English Civil War were responding to events and ideas that were changing quickly, and they were often responding to one another, sometimes in anger, and sometimes with charges that could lead to imprisonment or even death (Charles I!!!).

Be aware that the answer to the “simple” question of what order these three sources was written is not so simple. You can look for dates in the documents. That can help, for sure. The problem is that each of these documents had complex histories. This means that each was written in stages.

One main challenge for the Lesson is to find clues in the sources. The best clues will be passages in the sources. Dates in the text are potentially valuable, but they are not the only clues. Passages from the texts that discuss ideas or events that provide clues are also REALLY VALUABLE. Think like a detective. Ask questions about your evidence. When you do so, you are also thinking like a historian!

From "Agricultural Revolutions"

The main skill to practice this Lesson is the analysis of secondary sources. In effect, you'll be learning an important of source analysis that is related to historical thinking. We could call this "historiographical thinking". The section above provide you with more details about historiography.

A historical thinking skill that is related closely to historiographical thinking is the recognition and analysis of perspective. Not only can we analyze differing perspectives in primary sources from the past, but we can also recognize how people's perspectives (including our own) are complex and varied "today". This is of course also true of the writings of historians who try to make sense of the past. In this course (and in all your other history courses -- or courses on other subjects) practice comparing perspectives in all the sources you examine.

One further aspect of historical thinking that is worth reviewing for this Lesson is the skill of identifying continuity and change. After all, it is the issue of change that Kerridge and Overton discuss in their related but importantly different interpretations of British agricultural history. Note that continuities and changes can take place in the short, medium, or long term. In other words, our view of change depends on the perspective that we take. This is one of many examples of how the elements of historical thinking are interrelated with one another.

Follow the links in the two paragraphs above to read more about perspective, and continuity and change.

You can use the chart below as a rough guide to aspects of European and Atlantic World history. These chronological categories can help you think in general terms about continuity and change. Please be aware that the periods outlined on the chart are not "facts" but rather generally agreed upon headings for periods. In a way, they are short-hand for interpretations of lots and lots of sources.

Module 2

From "Tranfcribing (!) Early Modern Sources"

From "Europe's Empires Expand"

Before you read this Lesson's sources, make sure you review the Toolbox entries from the three Lesson's of Module 1. In the First Module you practiced the effective analysis of primary and secondary sources, and you also learned about the importance of paying attention to the different perspectives historians take when they analyze sources. Don't forget what you've learned in these Lessons. Your goal should be to build on your skills throughout the course.

In your Forum entries for this week's Lesson, you will continue to practice the analysis of primary sources. Pay particular attention to the
perspectives in each document. In a way similar to historians having different interpretations of the same questions, so too did people in the past have different interpretations of their worlds. You can consider questions such as:

You can probably think of other general questions that will help you to think about the perspective in any source. These are questions that are related to the skills of "sourcing" that you learned about in Module 1. To find our more about the general kinds of questions you should always have in mind when you consider a source's perspective, see the two Historical Thinking worksheets available through the link. The particular questions to think about for this week (in the Lesson above) will also help. Together, these general and particular questions will guide you as you look for differences (and similarities) in the perspectives of each primary source.

From "Early Modern Africa"

Because our focus for this Lesson is what, if anything, we can learn about early modern Africa from European sources, it is appropriate that we revisit the historical thinking skills that we practiced last week: the analysis of primary source evidence, and the careful attention to people's perspectives in the past. Another reason for revisiting these skills is that the links from the Historical Thinking Project website are working again. Please pay special attention to those links. Note that the text below is largely the same as last week's. Review is always important, and these skills are crucial for you to master.

In your Forum entries for this week's Lesson, you will continue to practice the analysis of primary sources. Pay particular attention to the
perspectives in each document. Just as historians have different interpretations of the same questions, so too did people in the past have different interpretations of their worlds. You can consider questions such as:

You can probably think of other general questions that will help you to think about the perspective in any source. These are questions that are related to the skills of "sourcing" that you learned about in Module 1. To find our more about the general kinds of questions you should always have in mind when you consider a source's perspective, see the two Historical Thinking worksheets available through the link.

From "The Slave Trade"

In past weeks we have introduced you to several of the concepts of historical thinking, and in particular, you have focused on the skills of working with sources. In addition to these tools for historical thinking, you should also understand the challenges of thinking about the ethical dimensions of historical analysis. The authors of the introduction to ethical thinking in history highlight what they call a "difficult paradox": historians try to understand the past lives of people in terms that are fair to those people, but at the same time the accounts of the past that historians create do make moral judgements about past people's actions and beliefs.

Read the short introduction to ethical dimensions of historical analysis. While you should not forget about "the depths to which humanity can sometimes fall" (as we acknowledge in our introduction above), your challenge for your writing and learning this week is to practice understanding slave owners and traders in their own terms. In other words, you have to try to avoid imposing today's values and beliefs on them, even though we cannot agree with what they did or believed.

From "The Columbian Exchange"

Module 3

From Workshop Introducing Voyant Tools

From "Indigenous Cultures," "Missionaries," and "Colonial Societies"

From "Settler Societies and Commercial Expansion"

This week's Toolbox entry introduces you to an important skill related to thinking historically: drawing inferences. 

Inferences are the best guesses that we can make, based on the available evidence. They are necessary, because we NEVER have complete and perfect knowledge of the past. In fact, most of our knowledge of the past is based on very fragmentary evidence. Like detectives, historians have to collect whatever evidence they can in the search for answers to questions that interest them, and once they collect the evidence they have to piece its meaning together like judges or storytellers.

How do you make strong inferences as opposed to plain and flimsy guesses? You use the skills of source analysis that we learned about earlier in the course ("Rulers and Subjects [1]"): close reading, corroboration, sourcing, and contextualization.

Before you post to the Forum this week, make sure you review these skills, and when you post you should try to practice making strong inferences. We're including them below for your convenience:

Probably the most basic and important skill all historians practice is the analysis of primary source evidence. Therefore, if you've ever taken a history course in university before, you've probably already had some good practice with this skill.

This week you should think some more about use of sources and about the overall goal of a history education when you watch the following web video.

The webcast is by Sam Wineburg, an excellent educational psychologist in the United States. Wineburg is the author of a book with the intriguing title Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. In order to move beyond naive readings of source materials, Wineburg and many other educators recommend that you pay careful attention to the following additional skills when reading primary sources:

  • close reading,
  • contextualization,
  • corroboration, and
  • sourcing.

The webcast introduces these skills and explains their relevance to the process of historical interpretation. Watch the webcast before you post in the Forum this week, and make sure to take notes. When you read sources for this week's Lesson -- and for all remaining Lessons -- make sure that you pay attention to these dimensions of source analysis.

Note that a student at the beginning of the webcast refers to AP History, which is an American "advanced placement" exam that many high school students take.

From "The Seven Years War"

Like last week, this week's Toolbox is about drawing inferences. The skills of inference drawing are really important, and each of you can improve your work in this area.
 

This page references: