American History Told by Contemporaries


Use of Sources

IN No. 1 above, the educative value of source material has already been considered, but some suggestions may be made as to the best method of applying such material to the use of schools. Upon this subject, practical introductions written by secondary and normal teachers will be found in the Source-Book of American History, prepared by Albert Bushnell Hart. The same question is also discussed in the Report of the Committee of Seven, pp. 101–110.

The teacher may employ such a volume as this for his preparation, by carefully going over the chapters in connection with the text-book used by the class. In many cases the extract is sufficient to give a fair idea of the writer, of his point of view, and of the incidents which he witnessed; in other cases the extract may be extended by using the full work from which it has been taken. The purpose, in both cases, is that the teacher’s mind may be full of a mass of illustrative incident and additional detail, which may be used to freshen the class-room work and to leave a clear impression in the minds of the pupils.

School pupils may find aid in this collection of sources by doing topical work which will lead them to appropriate parts of the selections; or by reading specified pieces in connection with their daily lessons; or by reading in class as an exercise some of the many pieces which have a distinct literary merit. It is of course not expected that from such a collection as this any pupil will derive all his knowledge of American history.

Older students may absorb the larger part of a collection of extracts; for, while many writers and many fields of history can be brought within the compass of such a book, the extracts are intended to be typical of a large body of material. For example, there will be found below accounts of social conditions in New England (No. 11), in the middle states (Nos. 15–17), and in the South (No. 13). There are quotations from public speeches (No. 121), from diaries (Nos. 19, 79), from debates in conventions (No. 75), and from the debates of Congress (No. 189). Wherever any historical student is dealing with a great field he must sometimes accept the principle ex pede Herculem. Once under way, mature students will be led from the less to the greater: they will seek to extend their knowledge of the writers so briefly represented; they will make themselves masters of a part of the literature here hinted.

The general reader may find this book useful by reading it in connection with some approved narrative which will give him a proper perspective. Channing’s Students’ History of the United States, McLaughlin’s History of the American People, or some of the other recent brief histories, will take but a few hours to read, and will furnish a mordant to fix in the mind the relations to each other of the extracts in this volume.

The libraries are glad to have readers interested in the body of literature which was created for the delectation of Americans; and perhaps this volume may create a little run upon some of the forgotten yet inspiring writers of a century ago.


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Chicago: "Use of Sources," American History Told by Contemporaries in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1902), 4. Original Sources, accessed January 26, 2023,

MLA: . "Use of Sources." American History Told by Contemporaries, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 3, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1902, page 4. Original Sources. 26 Jan. 2023.

Harvard: , 'Use of Sources' in American History Told by Contemporaries. cited in 1902, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York, pp.4. Original Sources, retrieved 26 January 2023, from