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ERIC Number: EJ791696
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Nov
Pages: 14
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
Bringing Ordinary People into the Picture
Shedd, John A.
History Teacher, v41 n1 p25-38 Nov 2007
One of the most challenging problems faced by teachers of history is how to give voice to the vast majority of people who lived in the past. People's knowledge of history tends to center on the great and important because they are tied to extant written records, almost all of which were produced by and/or about people of high stature in society. For a long time, historians assumed that the little people of days gone by would always remain silent to them, since they left behind so few writings to examine. And, among some European historians at least, a bias in favor of the elite perspective was summed up in the phrase "the inarticulate masses," a term that was still in use as late as the 1990s. This essay cites examples from early modern European history to assert two broad conclusions. The first is that ordinary people are anything but inarticulate. If one wishes to know what people believe, feel, need, or want, all he or she has to do is ask them. As such, teachers need to find ways to get around this shortage of writings from ordinary people so as to help their students see that the human past was made by everyone and not solely by the few in power. The second assertion presented is that, despite the paucity of surviving written records left by ordinary people (resulting in a lack of detailed information about them in classroom textbooks), teachers can use supplemental secondary resources to help their students understand how people of low social status functioned in society, and even how they shaped their own worlds. (Contains 26 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A