As a medieval historian by training, I teach courses in ancient history, medieval history, early modern Europe and research methods. My interest in history began at the age of fourteen, when I read Josephine Tey’s classic murder mystery “The Daughter of Time,” about Richard III. Until then, I’d never realized that there were controversies and unsolved questions in history. I followed up by reading everything I could find about Richard III, and then I branched out to reading more widely about medieval England, which is pretty much what I did for the next thirty years or so. As a college teacher, I’m fortunate to be able to share my love of history with my students.
In recent years, I’ve also brought into my teaching more of my more local western Maryland history research, and especially nineteenth-century African-American history. Genealogy and local history are wonderful tools for teaching historical research methods.
In the fall of 2017 I taught a course at on exploring the history of plantations and the public presentation of plantations as historic sites, with emphases on Maryland plantations and on slavery. How should public historians portray the history of these sites and those who lived and worked there? Examining how our understanding of plantations has changed over time, we asked whether such sites are still viable and relevant today. The course covered sources of plantation history and included visits to a variety of plantation sites in Maryland and Virginia. We used nearby sites (such as Ferry Hill in Washington County and Rose Hill in Frederick) as laboratories and for projects. The syllabus for this course is posted here.
Reading Historical Handwriting:
Teachers and archivists encounter more and more students who have never learned to read cursive writing–not just historic scripts, but any cursive writing at all. Without this basic skill, they won’t be able to read any handwritten documents from the twentieth century or earlier. So in the public history concentration at Hood (a program that prepares students for non-classroom history professions), reading handwriting is one of the competencies we require. This syllabus is a very basic outline of a one-credit course I taught on the topic. Along with the syllabus, one principle I used was to work in roughly backwards chronological order; that is, we started with samples from the early tentieth century, worked back into the nineteenth (where we spent most of the semester), and eventually did some work on eighteenth-century scripts, which were the most challenging.