Browse Methods

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

A woman kneels and holds a piece of stone at an archeological site

Analyzing Material Objects

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. This module developed by historian Daniel Waugh explores how historians interpret material objects to better understand the past. Examples of objects include Turkish water jugs and Byzantine coins among others.

Title page of The Voyages and Adventures of Ferdinand Mendez Pinto

Primer: Transnational History

Transnational History encompasses all history that transcends the national level. As a field within the discipline of History, it arose out of dissatisfaction with what was called “methodological nationalism”: the assumption in most historical inquiry that the nation-state is the main building block of history.

Primer: Defining World History

World history is the study of the past at the global level. World historians use a wide spatial lens, though they do not always take the entire world as their unit of analysis.

Primer: Tasting and Hearing the Past

Experiencing the full spectrum of world history involves all the senses. World historians not only use their eyes to see what happened; they not only read or otherwise examine written and visual evidence. Tasting or hearing the past can offer unique insights into familiar and fundamental dimensions of another time and place.

Title page of A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture A Native of Africa, but Resident Above Sixty Years in the United States of America Related by Himself

Primer: Global Microhistory

In 1791, the commander of an East India Company ship commented on the interplay between macro-level political and economic forces and the decisions and actions of seemingly marginal actors: “Forgive me for mentioning the circumstance which I do, to show, amongst numberless other instances, how a splendid act of government may be linked with the conduct of obscure individuals, separated even fro

Thumbnail image of Immigrant Crossing Road Sign

Primer: Migration and Diaspora in World History

The phenomenon of migration is as old as the evolution of human beings, which predates even the concept of world history. The interlocking relationship between human evolution, migration and the diaspora is best understood through the migratory nature of humans; a significant epoch in world history.

Sketch of nutmeg

Primer: Commodities

Commodities are raw materials or basic goods that are produced, transported, traded, and consumed. They are interchangeable, anonymous and are conventionally traded in vast quantities. While scholars have studied commodities like oil or coal or silk for decades, the bulk of this work was oriented around a single stage or link in a wider commodity chain.

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Students’ Guide to “Reading” Primary Sources on the History of Children & Youth

How do you study the history of young people? What can primary source documents reveal? What limitations do they pose? What light can the history of young people shed on the past? This essay aims to serve as a guide to finding, interpreting or “reading” primary sources on young people from ancient civilizations to the present.

Analyzing Commission Records

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. In the video below, historian Meredith McKittrick analyzes sources from a commission hearing conducted in southeastern Nigeria in 1930 by British colonial officials.

Analyzing Manifest Records

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. In the video below, Wendi Manuel-Scott analyzes manifest records from the SS Atenas. This ship sailed from Kingston, Jamaica, to New York City in 1920.

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Analyzing Census Data

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. In the video below, historian Mills Kelly discusses the data from the 1910 census of the Hapsburg Monarchy. The census data was collected for most towns and cities throughout the Monarchy every few years from between 1880 and 1910.

Analyzing Literary Sources

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. The video below features writing from a 14th century lai. Lais are short, poetic romances written during the Middle Ages in Western Europe. These stories were written and shared orally among nobility.

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Analyzing Oral Histories

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. This module is based on a series of oral history interviews conducted in the mid-1990s. The interviewees were Palestinian women who grew up under the British Mandate and were active in the Palestinian Women’s Movement.

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Analyzing Inquisition Documents

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history.. In the video, historian Joan Bristol analyzes records from the Mexican Inquisition, a tribunal created in Spain in the late 15th century to prosecute people who committed crimes against Christianity.

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Analyzing Paintings and Prints

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. In the video below, historian Brian Platt analyzes two ukiyo-e woodblock prints from the Tokugawa or Edo period in Japan (1600 to 1867) created by the artist Utamaro in 1802.

The Prophet Muhammad and A’isha

Analyzing Religious Texts

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. In the video below, historian Sumaiya Hamdani analyzes a Hadith. Hadith are reports about what the Prophet Muhammad said or thought. They provide Muslims with a sense of how Muhammad applied the guidelines of the Koran to daily life.

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Analyzing Travel Narratives

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. In the video below, historian Tom Ewing analyzes John Ledyard’s journal of his travels along the North American coast in the late 18th century. Ledyard, born a British subject, became an American citizen after Independence.

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Analyzing Personal Accounts

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history.. In the video below, historian Merry Wiesner-Hanks analyzes two personal accounts written by women living in northern Germany in the 17th century. The first is a diary written by a Jewish merchant, Glikl of Hameln.

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Analyzing Official Documents

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. In the video below, historian Dina Khoury analyzes two official proclamations by the government of the Ottoman Empire.

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Analyzing Newspapers

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. In the video historian Jack Censer analyzes an 18th-century French newspaper, Le Courrier d’Avignon, and an image of the reading public in France around the same time.