Page:American History Told by Contemporaries, v2.djvu/55

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No. 10]
27
By Pupils and Students

work up, from the material in this volume, the condition of slaves, or of colonial schools ; or the dealings of the colonists with Indians ; or the methods of raising troops for the Revolution ; or the early American navy.

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10. Use of Sources by Students and Investigators
 

TWO theories of historical teaching contest for the field of education through history : the first, or English method, aims to ground students in well-chosen secondary books, which they are to read, assimilate, and compare, and the divergences between which they must note, though they have not the means to reconcile them. Even in English universities only the most highly-specialized historical students use sources as an essential part of their study and training.

The opposing method expects some knowledge of the original material. The student's work is based upon some rather brief text-book or combination of books, but from all students collateral use of sources is required. The English method may be compared to an orderly ship canal, going straight to the end, with an ascertained depth of water, but always shallow and confined : the other method, to a natural river abounding in deep pools, and joined by a multitude of branches which one cannot explore, with many unfordable places, but winding among human habitations, and giving glimpses of human life.

To facilitate study through sources, a variety of written exercises have been devised, for which students gather and compare original evidence on important points. The merits of this system have been set forth above (Nos. 8, 9). Though applicable at all ages, the use of sources becomes more and more valuable, however, as the student advances ; and when he reaches the highest stage of the student's work, — the preparation of materials for a thorough-going account of some episode or period, — sources are the reservoirs from which he must draw most of his knowledge.

Such a collection as this book contains may serve as a beginning to the ambitious student ; but it will have accomplished less than its design if it do not lead him to wish for the full texts from which these extracts are taken, for additional information on some one question which interests him, and for that acquaintance with original material and the methods of using it which gives a student at once an insight into past times and a power to reproduce them before the minds of his readers.