Writing History to the Public


In this week reading of “The Presence of the Past” By Rosenzweig and Thelen, and “Public History Writing” by Thomas Cauvin, the readings note how people preserve history, and how we use it in our everyday lives. In addition, Thomas Cauvin, explains how writing to public history can be challenging.

In April of 1994, the Indiana University center conducted a survey of 808 people on their experiences with the past. Many people today do not realize how much history they are participating in. We participate in history when we, look at “photos with our family, take photos or videos to preserve memories or even when we write in a journal or diary,” (Rosenzweig, Thelen, 4). For most people, they do not tend to realize that “family reunions” and spending Christmas with the folks are all a part of human documenting and preserving this family history,”(Rosenzweig/ Thelen, 4).When a 32- year old “Physical Therapist” was asked by the surveys of Indiana University, about “how he feel connected to the past at holidays,” they noted that “ your grandmother and great-grandmother. Bring a part of their traditions and so forth into the celebration.”  (Rosenzweig, Thelen, 6). However, in another instance when Respondents to the survey were asked, “Respondents felt the most unconnected to the past when they encounter it in books, movies or classrooms.” (Rosenzweig, Thelen, 7). In addition, when African American respondents were asked about what they trust as far as historical information goes, they retorted by noting that “they distrust historical information from schoolteacher then white European American do.”  (Rosenzweig, Thelen, 13). So how do historians create, a history that people can trust and connect to?


In Thomas Cauvin’s book “Public History” he notes that, when writing history for the public, many “popular historians often aspire to write in a novelized form, so that the reader can experience and feel the subject’s life and times” (Cauvin, 115). Thomas Cauvin remarks, that “it is always very important for public historians to provide a style that does not deter public attention.” (Cauvin, 117).  Thomas Cauvin explains that when writing for the public you must immediately hook the reader. Cauvin clarifies that “you have no more than 10 seconds to hook a busy reader. (Cauvin, 118).  In addition, Cauvin advocate that you keep at least “70 percent of the words in your piece should be one syllable long. Two-and three-syllable words should make up the bulk of the rest.” (Cauvin, 118). Keeping your words sample and hooking your audience fast will help you to keep and maintain your audiences. However, Cauvin doesn’t just advocate sentence structure and wording, Cauvin also promotes intense research, Cauvin advocates research because it “offers readers an intellectual challenge as well as an entertainment” (Cauvin, 120). In addition, another way to hook your reader or audience is to write in “first person” point of view, to provide a feeling of connection with the character.” (Cauvin, 120).

There are many aspects that go into creating well-rounded historical texts. However, writers and authors must keep in mind the style in which they use to create their projects. Writers also need to be able to hook and keep the attention of their audience and so they feel more connected to history.


One thought on “Writing History to the Public

  1. Hi Ashley! I liked how you connected the two readings together, and provided detailed information from each text! The quotes you provided were really helpful to make the connections to the readings! Great job!


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