Exploring History on the Web


In this chapter you will learn about:

  • The genesis and development of historical websites
  • How these sites have exploited the advantages of the web discussed in the introduction
  • The ways historians have gone about translating their work to the web, through examples both large and small
  • The genres of historical websites, with an eye toward defining yours

nly the brashest among us would set about composing a work of history without reading some comparable historical works first. Writing history requires that you first immerse yourself in the styles, conventions, and methods of historical writing and that you understand the different genres of history books, whether scholarly monograph, popular narrative, textbook, or reference work. The same holds for those who want to create history museum exhibits, make history films, and teach history classes. History website authors, however, have not always followed this simple rule, especially in the World Wide Web’s first decade. Before you begin creating online history resources, you need to take a good look around the aggregate of history-related websites that we are calling the History Web. This chapter will get you started, pointing out some highlights to spark your imagination. But like any guidebook, it can only tell you where to begin your own explorations; armchair readers of a Paris Baedeker don’t know the city like those who walk along its streets. (For that reason, this chapter is probably best read with a computer in front of you; links to the sites mentioned in this book are listed at http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/links/.)