Houlbrook, Matt: being a one trick historian

Houlbrook, Matt

On being a one trick historian‘, The Trickster Prince, 29 June 2015

The author looks at why he always ends up writing the same sort of history.

Habits shape and constrain how we work as historians. From the rhythms of the working day to the seats in libraries and archives we claim as own, our working lives are shaped by repetition and routine. This is as true of the ways in which we think as much as the practices of daily life. In this sense habits are necessary, but also get in the way of thinking imaginatively, creatively, and differently about the past.

There is an alternative, however.

At its best, writing history is like teaching history: it should push you out of your comfort zone, make you uncomfortable, raise questions you cannot answer – and do not even know how to begin to answer. Turning these new tricks might make us think and do history differently.

He looks forward to different questions steering him towards different materials.

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