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How to Study History

How to Study History

Norman F. Cantor, Richard I Schneider

ISBN: 978-0-882-95709-8 January 1967 Wiley-Blackwell 274 Pages


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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