To each eye, perhaps, the outlines of a great civilization present a different picture. In the wide ocean upon which we venture, the possible ways and directions are many; and the same studies which have served for my work might easily, in other hands, not only receive a wholly different treatment and application, but lead to essentially different conclusions.
History is not an accumulation of information, the sorting of dates, names and events into some kind of chronological order. Memorizing information is no more “doing” History than memorizing the Periodic Table of Elements is “doing” Chemistry. Rather, history is the analysis of those dates, names, and events by students of the past; it is a method. That method, which can be applied to any time period and any geographic setting, requires analysis of evidence – going to the sources of the period being studied – and it requires persuasive argumentation – effective speaking and writing that convinces an audience that a particular analysis has merit.
Hence, the departmental decision that every course will require students to analyze primary sources, synthesize secondary sources, and express their ideas in written and oral form. Hence, too, the departmental emphasis on internships and travel; handling documents and artifacts, going and seeing the land- or cityscape where events happened – this, too, is “doing” history.
Hence, as well, the senior seminar. Students majoring in history at Hastings College will be asked to demonstrate each of the skills described above by writing a senior thesis. In the process, they will define and then ask a fundamental question about an important historical problem. They will then research that problem, analyze the consequent data within the context of extant historical theory, and write a persuasive interpretive account that explains historically the nature of that problem in answer to the central question.
They will truly “do” history.