Against the generic use of sources in history lessons

Clio et cetera

I have written before about some of the difficulties involved in getting pupils to act as ‘mini-historians’. Historians go into archives to work with sources forearmed with (usually quite an extensive) body of substantive knowledge, which helps them know where to look, what to look for, and what they are reading means. In the more basic versions of the ‘new history’ movement that became popular in the 1980s and 1990s in British schools, pupils would be given sources from which they were expected to build their knowledge of the past but, as numerous critics within the profession have pointed out, ‘death by sources A-F’ became do detached from what historians do that it lost its very raison d’etre.

The response to this from some circles is to reject the use of sources completely. I do not agree with this as I think there are a range of good reasons for…

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