What Makes A Good Historian

For my individual learning project I have been on the tracks of learning about the different disciplines associated with what a historian might teach in a classroom. I want to take a step back from that for a little bit and just think upon what makes a good historian. Thinking of my past history professors and even some of my high school teachers, they all have a slightly different style. Although they all seem a little different, college professors all have about the same ideal. Take a stance.

History, for college professors at Chadron State College atleast, is about thinking for yourself. How one person saw history is not exactly how another person might view it. Yes, history is about learning from your past, but what viewpoint or total outlook on the events may be different from person to person. Whenever we read an article or a book we always pay special attention to how the author argues a point. That is the point of emphasis. To come up with a stance on your own and original ideas can be difficult at times but sit down and think hard enough on it and it will come to you. I have tried this many times and did not really have a stance until I had enough information.

History in high school is more about learning the events and how one event led to another. High school history was about context of the situation and what it meant in the whole scope of all of history. Teachers may have their biases a little bit, but not nearly as much as in college so far.

A question was asked of four prominent historians and that was “what makes a good historian?” These historians names are Thomas J. Nettles, Mark A. Noll, Herman Selderhuis, and Doug Sweeney.  There was a variety of answers but the one that appeared in all of their answers was the ability to explain or understand the significance of an event in the scope of the past. This is important because it outlines why we study history in school, and that is to understand relevance of the past to either repeat it for beneficial purposes, or to not repeat it.

Mark A. Noll had one statement I did not agree with in the article which was that you should avoid debunking the past. This is not true to me because you should always have your facts straight and you should have your own opinion, but based off of only facts, not guesses.

What is a Good Historian?

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