We have set down in this book the basic rules and principles of historical study that a student should bear in mind as he enters upon his first college history course. In our experience as college teachers of history, we have found that students need to be informed on the nature and methods of history as a distinct intellectual discipline, and we have tried to communicate this information in as direct and practical a way as possible.
We have no only set before the college student the standards of excellence one should strive to attain in historical study; we have attempted to show, step by step, how to reach these goals. We have presented the methods and principles that appear to have the widest consensus among academic historians, and we have sought to avoid extreme and idiosyncratic opinions.
1. A Commitment to Excellence 1 Why Study History? 1 Prerequisites for Studying History 7 2. A Matter of Definition 17 3. The Materials of History 22 4. How to Use Primary Sources 39 Basic Rules and Considerations 39 A Practical Exercise in the Explication of Primary Sources 47 5. How to Read Secondary Sources 92 6. A Practical Lesson in How to Read a History Book 106 7. Excursus on Auxiliary Disciplines 130 For Students in Survey Courses: How to Use a Textbook and Take Lecture Notes 130 For Potential and Beginning History Majors: Planning an Undergraduate History Program 135 For History Majors and Potential Graduate Students: Ancillary Materials and Disciplines 139 8. Forms of Historical Communication 148 Examinations 149 Book Reviews 161 Papers and Essays 165 9. Shaping and Historical Essay 169 Creative Historical Thinking 169 The Nature of Historical Proof 176 10. Research Techniques 181 How to Use the Library 181 Research Note-Taking 196 11. Historical Prose 204 The Qualities of Style 204 Problems in Expository Writing 211 12. Two Student Papers Critically Examined 230 13. Historiography and the Philosophy of History 242 Historiography as a Formal Subject 242 Main Trends and Problems in the Philosophy of History 253 Index 263