What's the best way of approaching the study of historiography?

Historiography is a term that in my experience unnecessarily frightens some people studying at A-level. In some ways it does represent a shift from simpler primary source based analysis, but in reality, the skills needed to successfully analyse a primary source are very similar to those used when analysing the historiography of a certain topic. Historiography is simply the History of 'History', or 'Historical Writing' to be more specific. Thus, history books and secondary sources essentially need to be approached as historical sources in their own right, and given the same level of interrogation as primary sources. This means looking at historical texts in their contexts, both compared to other pieces of writing about the same topic, and even wider changes in the world and in thought in the period in which the text was written. 

Therefore, in an essay about the historiography of a certain period of history, the events of that period end up being secondary. It is of course important to be clear as to the events, and to have an opinion on them yourself. However, in a historiographical essay, what you're analysing is the different ways in which a subject has been written about in a historical way, not writing a history of the subject itself. This was, for me, the main difficulty with getting to grips with writing about historiography, not allowing myself to get distracted with my own views on a period. After all, in a historiography essay you're writing your opinion on the secondary texts, and that needs to be more prominent in your writing.

Answered by Ronan V. History tutor

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