Long-time history buff looking to take my game to the next level, so to speak. I am interested both in writing historical/alt-history fiction and maybe doing some podcasts on historical phenomena I find interesting, but I have no formal training as a historian and am curious what those with an actual historiographic background would say are driving questions in the field that are often overlooked by non-historians.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a request for reading material, not a specific question about history or historiography. – Tyler Durden Jan 20 '16 at 19:29
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    Edited question to remove the reading material context and ask members for their perspectives directly. – user242007 Jan 20 '16 at 19:34
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    We've discussed this in meta and collectively decided that we wish to discuss historiography. Moreover, I think that discussion of this topic would generate a useful reference question that we can cite in response to questions that neglect historiography, and to users who don't understand the difference between history and other disciplines. – Mark C. Wallace Jan 20 '16 at 19:58
  • historical, and especially alt-historical fiction is outside of the list of topics discussed here. – Alex Jan 20 '16 at 23:47
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    Historians ask "what alternative views or theories are there?" Non-historians tend to be satisfied by one explanation that's the first they hear / most popular / textbook / bias-matching. – Semaphore Jan 21 '16 at 6:12

From what I have observed professional Historians seek to create a narrative that explain specific events that are recorded. For instance one of my professor's looks at the social status females Jews in Perugia during the Middle Ages. She is seeking to tell a story that represents them, their beliefs and views. Also she looks at what external factors shape their world, like geography, climates but also how Christianity would have influenced their lives. Many historians understand that the discipline of history is purely speculative, nothing definitively happened, because the past theoretically does not exist. Historian look at primary sources, and secondary sources and try to answer different questions, new questions, and even propose new claims, about what might have happened. The Essential Historiography Reader by Caroline Hoefferle, and Why bother with History? Ancient, Modern and Postmodern Motivations by Beverly Southgate are both excellent sources that I highly recommend to any one looking to ask the bigger questions about history.


What distinguishes Historians from non-Historians or Historical "Enthusiasts" from "Non-historical enthusiasts", is the topic of Time, specifically, The Origin of things; where things were rooted and how to better understand the present-(and possibly the future), with such a past and prior perspective. The historically minded person, is, a temporally oriented who anticipates the comprehensive examination and questioning of a civilization's earliest beginnings.

If one is absolutely uninterested in learning and asking about foundations, beginnings and origins, then one is ultimately unqualified from becoming a Historian or even a History buff/"enthusiast".

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