Closer Readings Commentary

Global Encounters for National History Day 2016

Last month we investigated how to find and use high-quality resources to help you start "exploring" your 2016 NHD project. This month we’ll focus on “encounters”. As NHD's Education Director, Lynne O’Hara,  notes in her very helpful introduction,

Exploration, of course, almost always leads to encounters—with different peoples, unfamiliar environments, and new ideas. Encounters are often unexpected and unpredictable, and they reveal much about those involved.

EDSITEment “the Best of the Humanities on the Web” offers great resources to help you craft a powerful project.

Try a simple EDSITEment search

To begin, try searching within EDSITEment for one of this year’s suggested topics, such as the Lewis and Clark expedition. Unlike a Google search, every one of the items that comes up contains rich, deep, historical content, vetted by scholars and master teachers for accuracy and usability. Moreover, using EDSITEment saves research time without neglecting the essentials questions and sources. 

Here are the websites and lesson and features you would find with a simple search. [Note: W=website; L=lesson; F=multiple resource page]:

How EDSITEment adds value to your project

EDSITEment is one of the best places on the Web for reliable historical context, the area critical to a successful NHD submission and the one in which students have the most challenges. It also provide authentic and significant primary sources and well-researched secondary sources that help you thinking critically about the material.

  • EDSITEment resources are designed to give you ways of framing open-ended questions about your subject as well as the historical and intellectual context to help generate ideas;
  • You will also find precise references for your bibliography.

Digging deeper: Athens and Sparta at war

 Let’s start with a challenging case. Suppose you’re interested in ancient Greece and are intrigued by the NHD suggestion that you consider how “the political, social, and cultural differences between the Athenians and the Spartans... affect the way the Peloponnesian Wars were waged.” That is a topic that might seem college-level, yet it can be successfully tackled if the right type of sources are used.

Several of EDSITEment’s World History resources open the door onto the bitter and deadly rivalry between the city-states of Athens and Sparta, a rivalry that led to the destructive Peloponnesian War.

  • First of all, The Greeks offers the kind of informed contextual overview that will help you understand the differences between the city-states and the reason for their rivalry. Under the Educational Resources tab, look for “The Two Faces of Greece: Athens & Sparta”  and scroll down to find an incredibly useful table comparing differences between the two rivals.
  • You might go to the Perseus Project, a website with an unrivaled treasury of Greek and Latin classics in English translations (as well as in the original languages), to find another valuable overview of Greek history, with several chapters on the war
  • The Perseus Encyclopedia offers an introduction to the Athenian general Thucydides, who wrote the classic history of the war as it was taking place.  
  • And finally, Demos provides a very informative short essay on the Athenian leader Pericles and the growth of democracy before, during, and after the war years.

Armed with these resources, you would be in a very good strategic position to complete this project successfully.

Global Encounters via Chronicling America: 

One of EDSITEment’s vetted websites, Chronicling America, an initiative of the NEH and Library of Congress, is a database of over 10 million pages of digitized newspapers from 1826 to 1922. This database offers day by day reporting on the Great War (1914-1918), and permits you to research why and how this was really a World War by investigating either the battles fought outside the European theatre or the contributions of millions of colonial peoples who engaged in fighting. The impact of the war on the Middle East and India, for example, were enormously significant for the rest of the century.

And remember: any student project that uses Chronicling America will be considered for a special prize.

Further help with suggested topics and EDSITEment recommended resources