Browse Methods

Investigate world history approaches to analyzing different kinds of primary sources.

Image of the Mahabodhi Temple: a stepped pyramid with round dome-shaped structure (stupa) on top

Analyzing Travel Records

In a way, all historical thinking and all historical writing deal with travel accounts. They do not necessarily involve the physical removal of historians’ bodies to distant Image of Aztec Warriorlands, but they require historians to engage with different interests and perspectives in the world of the past, which some scholars have likened to a foreign country.

A detail of the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting two horsemen in battle

Analyzing Primary Sources on Women in World History

Traditionally, historical writing focused on elites and often rendered women invisible unless they were queens or empresses.

Map of North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand outlines the lands that surround the Kimihia and Hakanoa Lakes.

Primer: A Global History of Higher Education

Histories of higher education tend to focus on a single institution – the university biography – or address the subject within the context of the nation-state.

The page of a diary with hand writing on it

Analyzing Personal Accounts

Personal accounts, including memoirs, journals, diaries, autobiographies, and life histories, are important historical sources that help us understand the human condition. These are the stories we tell about our lives that usually portray a larger picture of a life in historical context.

Photo of handwritten letter. Transcription and translation on source page.

Primer: Transnational Mobility and State Formation

Modern nation-states and transnational mobility – the movement of people, things, and ideas across borders – are two important subjects for historians to study. They are two fundamental features of the modern world and have influenced one another constantly over the last several centuries.

Two photos of men wearing western suits with number 8 and 9 under their photo

Primer: Borderlands History

Borderlands history studies the making and crossing of borders. While the term “borderlands” has no fixed definition, it can refer to spaces of encounter between different peoples and political entities.

an icon of a document. beneath it are the words view document.

Analyzing Official Documents

Official documents produced by governments, supranational organizations, courts of law, and more are abundant in supply, but can be intimidating and confusing to approach. They are often filled with language that seems convoluted, emotionless, and highly technical.

Close up of Manilla on Philippines map

Primer: Global Urban History

Urban history is a rich subfield of historical scholarship that examines life in urban spaces, how communities within cities interact and coexist, as well as the process of city formation and urbanization. Since cities date from Ancient times and also exist throughout the world, they also provide a valuable lens for world historians to make connections across time and space.

Typed letter

Primer: Intellectual Exchange

Ideas do not confine themselves to national borders, and thus intellectual exchange provides an invaluable lens for exploring world history. Tracing how knowledge develops and ideas spread requires a close analysis of exchange of ideas across regions — sometimes across large distances.

Gold sculpture of a bird with it's head turned backwards

Primer: Technology

Technology, broadly defined, denotes not only transformative innovations but the whole spectrum of tools, skills and artifacts with which human societies construct their worlds. The impact of technology is symbolic and social as well as material: artifacts have meaning; ways of making and doing embody beliefs and values, identities and relationships.

Map of the earth showing areas where lights can be seen from space at night

Primer: The History of Globalization

Globalization, defined here as the integration of an interdependent economy that simultaneously enhances cultural exchanges relying on the mobility of people, animals, plants, pathogens, objects, and ideas, is a useful concept for exploring connections across space and time.

Posada Broadsheet

Analyzing Newspapers

A newspaper is a publication intended for a broad audience that appears regularly, often daily, and claims to contain factual accounts of recent events. Usually newspapers are published with the intention of making a profit. Frequently, their factual content is accompanied by advertisements and nonfactual material intended as entertainment.

Thumbnail of Mau Mau scouts

Primer: Rewriting of Sub-Saharan African History

The history of Africa, and especially Sub-Saharan Africa, has often been presented from a Eurocentric point of view. This essay by scholar Mariana Gino traces the efforts by Black intellectuals around the globe to re-center Africans in the narrative of African history — an important primer for teachers of world history.

Analyzing Music

Everywhere you go, there it is.

Map of the world with colors indicating the level of judicial independence in each state's constitution.

Primer: Comparative History

Comparison is used in many different ways in world history, both implicitly and explicitly.

Geologic clock with events and time periods noting the formation of earth and development of life.

Primer: Big History

Big History is an approach to world history that takes as its subject the story of the whole of the Universe, from its creation, 13.8 billion years ago, in the Big Bang. It describes the creation of stars, the forging of new types of matter in dying stars, the formation of the first planets and moons, and the emergence of life on at least one planet, the Earth.

image of gender roles being portrayed

Primer: Gender in World History

Gender history developed in the 1980s out of women’s history, when historians familiar with studying women increasingly began to discuss the ways in which systems of sexual differentiation affected both women and men.

Stellar diagram features a drawing of a ship surrounded by Chinese characters

Primer: Oceans

Oceans, which cover approximately 70 percent of the earth’s surface, have played a crucial role in shaping human history. Using oceans and seas as a unit for analysis is, however, a relatively new framework for historical analysis. The traditional units of historical analysis include civilizations, continents and especially nation-states.

Close-up image of an early modern Islami Carpet

Primer: Transcultural History

Broadly, transcultural histories include those historical contexts and processes brought about by circulation of people, objects, and knowledge through travel, trade, migration, or globalization.

Graphic of a tree crosscut showing rings

Primer: Environmental History

Environmental history lends itself particularly well to a world history framework. Environmental processes do not limit themselves to national or cultural borders. The climate, for example, has always been a global system. Environmental history may also consist of unusual sources and feature "archives" that exist in the natural world.