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History Sources: Welcome

Historical Inquiry

Historical inquiry exposes a variety of threads, intricately woven together into the blanket of time, which we as scholars, are duty-bound to unpick in order to understand the present ... so that we can prepare ourselves for the future. 

Historical Inquiry

History allows us to question our understanding of why things are the way they are and the assumptions we make. It enables us to foster a long view of social, political, economic and cultural issues that we would not consider if we simply take for granted the so-called facts, which may simply be interpretations - and which are so easily found on the internet.

This guide introduces some of the historical collections available in print and online (both subscribed and freely available via the web).

In 1949, George Orwell wrote, "Who controls the past controls the future, who controls the present controls the past" (Nineteen Eighty Four).  Thirty years later,  Raymond Williams author of Keywords (1983) wrote, "history ...teaches or shows us most kinds of knowable past and almost every kind of imaginable future".  In Keywords, Williams looks at the etymology of words.  Through his study of the words, he shows us that  just as things come into and out of fashion, so do words and the meanings of these words change over time. It is recommended that all subjects, whether it is Mathematics or Science or English, benefit from historical inquiry.

What is historical research?

Historical research or historiography, 'attempts to systematically recapture the complex nuances, the people,meanings,events,and even ideas of the past that have influenced and shaped the present'.*

Historical research relies on a wide variety of sources, both primary & secondary including unpublished material. 

Primary Sources

  • Eyewitness accounts of events
  • Can be oral or written testimony
  • Found in public records & legal documents, minutes of meetings, corporate records, recordings, letters, diaries, journals, drawings.
  • Located in university archives, libraries or privately run collections such as local historical society.

Secondary Sources

  • Can be oral or written
  • Secondhand accounts of events
  • Found in textbooks, encyclopedias, journal articles, newspapers, biographies and other media such as films or tape recordings.

*Berg, B. L., & Lune, H. (2012).Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. (8th ed., International ed.). London: Pearson, 305.

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