Teaching with Tools

One of the classes I will be doing next semester is History 200, Introduction to History, which is our methods course for majors, usually taken when they are sophomores. This time I will be using Cohen’s History in Three Keys as the monograph we all read together. I picked it first because it is a good read,1 second because he is quite open about explaining how historians create a book like this, what their goals are and what problems they face, and third because it is a book that is easy to tie into non-China things. Most of these students will not end up ‘concentrating’ on Asia (which is fine) and I don’t like to get too Sinocentric on them in this class.

Cohen’s book is about the Boxers, which means that it connects to all sorts of issues about Imperialism and Colonialism and Missionaries and Cultural Contact and all that. Plus lots of people wrote stuff about it in English, so it is easy for the students to do a bit of primary source research. The tool I will be using for that is Diigo which is social annotation software that allows a defined group of people to “add” comments to any document on the web. Ideally we well be able to read and comment on a set of documents “together” in a big group (two sections of 20 this time) just as we would do in reading a document one-on-one, and they will learn how historians read primary sources and what we get out of them.  Any advice on how to pull this off is welcome.

One of the things we will be reading is Twain’s To The Person Sitting in Darkness which is more about American imperialism than the Boxers, and maybe something from Weale’s Indiscreet Letters from Peking and then turn them loose in the NY Times Archive. Do any of our readers know of any good (translated) European or Japanese accounts of the Boxer events, the siege, etc?

  1. by historian standards anyway. Some of them will get very frustrated by his unwillingness to Just Tell The Damn Story, but part of the purpose of the class is to introduce students to some of the other things historians do 

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