Friday: History Teacher Tips

One of the things I’m trying to do more of is include primary sources in my ninth grade class, and my seventh grade class.  I’ve known for a while that you can download Julius Caesar, Herodotus, Thucydides, Cicero and other writers from ancient history on the Project Gutenberg website, or from their related/sister site, Distributed Proofreading. It’s only this year that I started downloading lots of ancient books, and storing them in Microsoft Word, Pages, or .pdf files, though.

If you know the section you’re looking for, you can copy/paste excerpts; but in some ways it’s more satisfying to turn the whole book into a downloadable .pdf you can put on your school website for free.  This way you can find excerpts relevant to your teaching, and slice-and-remix the text to your heart’s content  (I’ll be posting some of mine over the course of the summer, to show you what I’m doing).

We classical history teachers are not used to this idea, of course.  The text is the text, inviolate and pure, and we have to accept what the text is.  Stuff, rubbish and nonsense!  Nonsense, I say!  There are numerous authors from Late Antiquity whom we know only in excerpts from quotations spoon-fed to us by their Christian and better-connected opponents, who wrote lengthy dissertations by borrowing long bits of the poor heretic’s work and then trashing them.  How dismaying to discover that forum-trolling is thousands of years old; it just used to be done by letter and papyrus pamphlet instead of e-mail.

Here’s the tip: buying books of primary sources used to be expensive, and you got lots of texts that you don’t actually use or have your students read.  Create your own, and use or to publish your own.

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