ESSENTIAL QUESTION What methods do historians use to help them answer questions about what happened in the past?

Primary Sources

• Primary source—something created by person who witnessed event – letters, diaries, eyewitness articles, videos, speeches, artifacts
Secondary Sources

• Secondary source—created after event by person who didnʼt witness it – books, paintings, media reports based on primary sources – appear after event and can provide more balanced view of event

Oral History

• Some cultures have no written records

• Oral history—unwritten verbal accounts of events – stories, customs, songs, histories, traditions – passed from generation to generation


Historian have to evaluate their sources:

Origin – what gives the source authority?

Purpose– why did the person create the source?

Value – how is this source helpful to someone studying history

Limitation – what problems might this source have for someone studying history?

Historians have their bias (definition: An inclination or preference that influences judgment from being balanced or even-handed.)

Selection bias – What the historian chooses to include

Emotional bias – Historian can use emotion to influence understanding


In class activity: Write up your personal history-which describes you. I would like it to be about 2-3 paragraphs and should include your entire life. You must include at least three primary documents to supplement your story.