At a Glance

Center for History and New Media and Stanford School of Education

An Introduction to Historical Thinking and Reading

This Flash movie begins by introducing history as a subject of study that requires thinking and asking questions. It then uses a case study about the opening hostilities in the Revolutionary War to show and explain historical reading and thinking. The movie includes historians thinking out loud about two primary source documents regarding the shots fired on Lexington Green on April 19, 1775.

Viewers simultaneously see the text and the comments and questions that historians make in response to that text (slides 5, 7). Longer, additional examples of historians thinking aloud and analyzing these documents are also available (slides 6,7). The narrator uses these examples to introduce and clarify four kinds of questions that historians ask: sourcing, contextualizing, corroborating, and close reading. With ten consecutive mini-episodes, the movie permits users to control the pace and choose to review or skip particular segments.