Talk: Digital Detectives – Bridging the Gap Between the Archive and the Classroom

About 5 years ago, when I first started teaching, I led a small seminar group of 1st year history students. In the final class of the year we had a chat about how things had been going – whether they’d enjoyed their first year at university; if there was anything that they’d been struggling with; how their experiences compared to what they’d expected a history degree would be like. They were mostly fairly positive, in a shrugging, non-committal kind of way. However, after a bit of prodding one of the students said something interesting – something that has stuck with me ever since. “No offence”, he said –never a particularly promising start to a sentence – “but I’ve been a bit disappointed. I thought I was coming to university to learn about history, but all we do is talk about historians.”
This complaint – “I want to learn about history, not historians” – has stuck with me for two reasons. Firstly, I didn’t do a particularly good job of responding to him at the time. It was one of those questions that just caught me a bit off guard, like the time a student put his hand up in the […]

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