What is history diagram


The description of history as ‘an argument without end’ is not that helpful in describing to students the process of making history. The diagram above is useful when talking with students about what is involved when ‘doing history’ and can encourage further discussion and understanding.

The diagram is four interconnected steps labelled Historian/You, Questions, Traces of the Past, and Evidence linked to a central term History.

The first step is the historian (you, the student). Without the historian there is no history. The next step is the question(s) that the historian is attempting to answer. These question(s) direct and drive the historian towards an understanding of the past. The third step on the diagram are the traces of the past. Because historians cannot physically get to the past they rely on traces of the past as evidence to build a picture of the past – the fourth step.

All four steps help form an historian’s historical interpretation or narrative – or history – at the centre of the diagram. Underneath the term history is an illustration of a human brain symbolising the different relationships that happen when we ‘do history’.

Wānanga | Discussion

  • Before showing them the diagram, get students to brainstorm what they think history is.
  • Create a T-Chart (two-column table) on what is history and what is not history.
  • Show the ‘What is history’ diagram and compare it with their ideas.
  • Interrogate the diagram as you explore each step. Students can modify questions after considering evidence and narratives shift in response to further evidence.
  • It is a basic diagram you can change and challenge. Adapt it for your class. With younger students, talk about history rather than ‘historical narratives and interpretations.’ You may choose not to include the brain.

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