Skinning your Own Apes: Researching from Primary Sources

E. C. Ambrose

An article in the Stanford magazine this month talks about a new method of teaching history to high schoolers using primary source material, having the teens read several documents about an incident and draw their own conclusions based on the information people had or understood at the time, and building critical thinking skills. Good stuff! This turns out to be a very effective way to get students involved in history–and also helps to bring the people of the past to life.

Many authors of historical fiction, or historically-based fantasy don’t do this. They read some basic history texts, secondary sources of the kind where a historian or general non-fiction author has assimilated and rearranged some information and presented it in a pleasing and intelligible form. Those sources can be a great place to start. They give you a solid grounding in the place or time you’re interested in, and can…

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