Topic-icon Historical inquiry: the methodology

11 months 2 weeks ago #79 by Joan
Replied by Joan on topic Historical inquiry: the methodology
Reflection (2)

The historical researcher does not spend time and money on interviews, questionnaires or statisticians. Rather, research money is spent on visits to the archives scattered through our beautiful country. In the past two years I visited the University of the Witwatersrand archives, the McGregor Museum in Kimberley and numerous trips to the DENOSA archives in Pretoria. At the moment I am planning my next trip: to Bloemfontein!

First and foremost, archive visits require good communication. Inform the archivist of the type of information and/or historical documents you are looking for. I find that archivists are friendly people, passionate about their collections and eager to share it with researchers. Sending an e-mail that confirms the date and time of your visit and explains the topic that you are interested in gives the archivist time to retrieve the documents from the archive. So you can start reading soon after you entered the reading room.

Plan the trip to the archive carefully; especially if long distance travel is required. And this is where the cost of historical inquiry becomes evident. The longer the visit to the archive; the greater the cost. For my trip to the Bloemfontein archives I have to pay for airfare, overnight stay, transport in the city and food. Access to the archives are free, but the travel cost and the researcher's time can be expensive.

The time required to read through the primary sources, reflect on its content and make notes is more than you think. Make sure that you give yourself enough time with the sources - you might not be able to visit again.

Treat the archive material with respect: carefully page through the fragile documents and do not make any pen or pencil marks on it. The archivist will inform you of the rules: some allows you to take photos or make copies; others might require that you read and make your own notes - with a pencil; on your notepad. ;)

Also make sure that you have a tried and trusted method of ordering your notes and copies (if you are allowed to make some). Which document comes from which folder - and what is the historical context? Otherwise you might end up with a pile of notes and no way to accurately make reference to it.
1 year 2 months ago - 1 year 2 months ago #77 by Joan
Few nurses consider history as a research topic. Historical inquiry is therefore a methodology not often used. When I am in the company of fellow researchers, the general response to me conducting historical inquiry is something in the line of "so you just read old stuff and then statistics and no interviews...easy!" :ohmy: Explaining history and its research methodology to nurses is challenging.

In this topic I will reflect on the nature of historical inquiry and the research work required if one wishes to engage with this methodology.

Historical research does not require of the researcher to conduct interviews and/or spend time with a statistician. Rather it demands that the researcher has a in-depth understanding of the historical topic he/she wishes to explore. That requires hours, days and even weeks of finding reliable primary and secondary sources, reading their "version(s)"of historical events, reflecting on what was read - and then writing the narrative. The purpose of historical inquiry is not to re-write that which are already recorded, but rather to analyze, explore and explain historical events - all the while considering historical context. After reaching a new understanding of historical events, the questions that the researcher then should answer include:
How did these events contribute to forming today's society?
How do such new understanding assist us in deciding our future course of action?

In conducting the historical inquiry the researcher must therefore consider the his/her philosophical stance.
Last edit: 1 year 2 months ago by Joan.
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