I started my historiography class today. I announced to the students that I would teach them how to think like an historian. Tall order – but doable. First of all, it’d better be doable, or my job as a history professor is rather pointless. But doable also because I have seen it happen. The secret is not a hard one, though one it took me a couple of semesters of teaching classes like this to catch on to. You can tell them the steps of critical analysis from an historian’s point of view all day long: “Examine the kinds of sources the author uses; think about the kind of language the author uses to describe different subjects; think of these two different books as conversation – are they arguing, saying the same thing, what?” And many more such questions. You can tell them to ask these questions all day long, all semester long, and you won’t get much of anywhere. You have to show them. You have to lead them by the hand, example by example, until it sinks in. With some, it’s a slow osmosis, while for others, it just clicks one day, and you can see the wheels suddenly start to turn. Anyway, I plan to post on some of these issues in coming weeks. Blogging about historiography – yeah, that’ll get me to the top of the Technorati rankings!