How Do Historians Develop Interpretations of Texts?
Texts are “doing something”—that is they are purposeful,
they are written with intent.
Points of view make a difference in how one interprets
For example: Nathaniel Bacon’s Rebellion
In Bacon’s thinking
Contemporary perception—that is, by those who were present
Interpreted through subsequent, outside analysis over time
Interpretation is never free from the reader’s presuppositions
Try to understand the relationships between texts
(primary sources) and the ‘reality’ they depict.
“Right” and “wrong”— is a naïve and inadequate way to read sources
Historians think about history differently
They see themselves as detectives, often unsure about what happened, what it means, and often unable to agree amongst themselves.
Product of Scholarship--Journal articles, books
In developing your own interpretation of documents and texts, you must be aware of and evaluate competing interpretations of documents
Challenge is to develop engaged reconstruction of the world/events referred to in a text
Evaluate interpretations of documents and events
Revise and improve your interpretations by repeated reference back to original document(s)
So, What Are You, As Student Historians Doing?
Scholarship (analysis and interpretation) vs. “Finding Things” and assembling them
As you construct your own interpretation, you must demonstrate through your research that you have engaged primary texts, and the arguments, disagreements and conversations of scholars (in their their attempts to construct meaning of events over time)