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Interpretations of the causes of World War 1

What's behind historical interpretation?

Helen Snelson

Cartoon from The Chicago Tribune

The study of historical interpretations is the study of how and why history is constructed about an event. It is about the context in which history is written. It is therefore be about shedding light on the way history is created and on the period or individual responsible for its creation. There are diverse types of historical interpretation. These can be divided into the following categories: academic, educational, fictional, popular, personal. In this activity students study examples of each type of historical interpretation. They learn to study them carefully, to ask questions about how they are constructed and to understand how audience and purpose shapes the way an interpretation is formed. They will consider the relationship of the interpretation to the evidence and the relevance of the time and place in which it was produced. Finally they will produce their own plan to demonstrate their understanding of the selection and construction of historical interpretations.