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ERIC Number: EJ1014026
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-May
Pages: 20
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Atoms, Honeycombs, and Fabric Scraps: Rethinking Timelines in the Undergraduate Classroom
Denial, Catherine J.
History Teacher, 46 n3 p415-434 May 2013
Timelines are a regular feature of almost all history education. Teachers and students create them on chalkboards, white boards, and an increasing number of web-based programs that allow multiple users to collaborate on a timeline's shape. Textbooks offer timelines to accompany the material they cover--chapter-by-chapter, students are told which important events merit inclusion on such a chart. Timelines are without question, deeply useful. They help students create order out of a mass of information, map the context that surrounds a particular event, and assess cause, effect, and correlation. Yet timelines can also be limiting. They can rarely capture multiple perspectives on a single event, and they tend to elide the question of authorship--a timeline seems to simply be rather than being tied to a person, or a group, with a particular view upon the past. Timelines suggest a certain completeness--especially the versions presented in textbooks--that is at odds with the fragmentary, interpretive work a historian undertakes. It is hard to construct a timeline that adequately shows the influence of ideas over hundreds of years, or which can connect events happening thousands of miles apart. Timelines privilege a Western linear vision of time over alternate explanations, and, too often, timelines are also dissociated from a sense of place, existing with little reference to landscape or environment. This article discusses the use of timelines in undergraduate history. The author discusses her thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks of using timelines during a workshop course on the history of the U.S. west that she taught at Knox College in 2012. She presents several examples of how students in the workshop responded to the assignment of creating timeline replacements. (Contains 4 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A